Nico, where are you guys at right now?
Nico: We’re basically on a rooftop where we can see all of Manhattan, right on the rooftop of our rehearsal space.
So you guys share a space, or is it just for now, for this collaborative project?
Dave: Well, we just moved into this place in Greenpoint to rehearse for the live show.
Nico: Yeah, it’s our place.
Sounds nice. How did you guys first meet?
Nico: I was looking to start a band to play my first album live, and I asked one of my best friends, Will Epstein, who also ended up being the saxophone player in my band, who were the best musicians he knew, and he said: “This guy called Dave Harrington.”
So you must have had quite high expectations then?
Nico: Yeah, I guess I did.
How was your first meeting?
Nico: The first meeting was basically an audition, to see if I liked playing with Dave, and playing with the other two guys that were going to be in the band. And it went well. We jammed a little bit, and then I gave some pointers and I then I just said, “Alright, let’s try it.”
Sounds easy enough, especially since you had first started out as a producer because that didn’t require working with other people, right?
Nico: Absolutely. That’s exactly how I started. I guess what ended up happening is that after 5, 6 years – well, now it’s been really 8 years – of making electronic music every single day of my life, I just wanted to communicate. I wanted my music to be a little more human and have a human component. If I’m there in the studio with someone else, and we’re both playing instruments – and that’s how we’re finding ideas, as opposed to looking at a computer – that was so much more exciting. However, the main thing is this: you can get a very specific kind of noise out of a computer, but the type of noise and the type of capacity that you can get out of a guitar, which is essentially metal and wood, it’s very particular and amazing. I don’t play guitar, so it’s exciting to be collaborating with Dave.
What are your feelings about computers, Dave? Or do you only focus on guitars?
Dave: Well, when I first started playing with Nico it was actually the first time I had ever really played guitar in a band. I mean I’ve played guitar since I was a kid, but from a pretty young age I didn’t focus on guitar, because I was a bass player. I played mostly acoustic, upright bass, playing jazz. Later on I had some bands, I played keyboards, and I had, like, this band in college, playing noise music and free-jazz and such. So I’ve done a lot of different things. I had kind of dabbled in electronic music, but I didn’t really know anything about the tree that leads up to Nico’s work, whatever that is, and so when I first started playing with him it was exciting for me because it was all very new. I’m always kind of game for anything, and ultimately it doesn’t really matter: to me it doesn’t matter if it’s a computer, because in many ways it’s about the person, you know? For me, you can almost tell when you meet someone, so even before you play with them, you can tell if it’s going to work or not. I just felt that way with Nico. We have a relationship where we really understand each other, and we can kind of reach each other’s minds a little… you know, computer, synths, guitar – we have a dynamic, and that dynamic is rare. You can only get that with so many people on the planet.
It’s funny that you just said “you can read each other’s minds a little” – is that where the album title comes in: “Psychic”?
Dave: Yeah, very much. I mean it’s just the two of us here, working together, and in order to find the third thing, which is Darkside, which is the music, we kind of have to read each other’s mind. It’s also what comes naturally for us.
So did you stick to your roles – guitar guy/producer guy – while recording “Psychic”? Or did it change a lot while in the studio?
Dave: Well, I never sing, and Nico never plays guitar, and beyond that there’s a lot of room in terms of what we can do. Like, “Oh, this track needs an electric piano part, maybe I can come up with something. Or no, Nico, maybe you should do it.” So the way we’ve been working was very fluid and open. It’s not so much about I’m going to do this, you’re going to do that, it’s rather: between the two of us, we can kind of do whatever we want. We have these different-but-overlapping skill sets, so it’s more about trying out different versions.
Was the album done when you did the Daftside project?
Dave: Yeah, we actually did that right after we finished the album. And we did it really just because it was fun. You know, the last days of finishing an album, it’s very focused and intense – getting it mastered, the final mixing – and then when we’d finally finished it, we did this one remix, and it was so much fun and it was so easy; it was just such a different way of making music so that we kept doing more. It was so much fun.
Sounds like working on the album wasn’t so much fun. Was it hard work?
Nico: Yeah, it was a lot more difficult, and it took a lot more time. Remixing something is like a vacation. And doing your own music is really fun, but then you have to make songs, and that becomes a little more complicated. You also want to be honest with what you want to do, and that makes it a real job: You have to put your entire body and mind and soul into the project.
I see, and you’ve stated before that making music is always about soul searching for you. How much soul searching was working on this one, and what kind of answers – or lessons – did you find while searching?
Nico: The most important thing that we found, as musicians, is that Dave and I want to be friendly. We want to give people a chance… to understand. We want to make a nice home, and a nice door, so we can open this door and let people in. That’s the first and most important step, I think, to be friendly about it. Just to say: “Come into this house. There might be some dead bodies lying around, and the art might be upside down. There might be a flood in one of the rooms, but anyway: come into this house.”
Ha, first it sounded like a description of pop music: this friendly stuff… but are those bodies lying around hinting at the weirder and more experimental things you’re also drawn to?
Nico: Right, but what I want to say is that experimentation for experimentation’s sake is not interesting to me. Weirdness for weirdness’ sake is not interesting either. What is interesting is: having a door wide open for EVERYONE to come in, and then for them to realize that what is inside is a little more complicated than what they thought. And so, yeah, maybe the door is comparable to the door of pop music, but once you’re inside the house – which is the most important thing: that you go inside the house –, once you’re inside the house you realize that the house is going to burn in 24 hours or that there are some real troubles with the house.