Black Box Recorder

When the most dangerous thing in pop music is Christina Aguilera getting Dirrty in front of the kids of two fake Russian schoolgirl lesbian it's relief that Black Box Recorder are set to return. Few will forget the immortal lyric in "Child Psychology" of "Life is unfair, Kill yourself or get over it", which was promptly banned from daytime radio, or indeed the moment where they performed "The Facts Of Life" on TOTP's.

Following an imposed exile of 2 years following their previous record label, Black Box Recorder return this month with "Passionoia", an album which turns the whole electroclash scene on it's head. We caught up with Luke Haines to discuss the artifice of celebrity, pedophile pop and how his producer icons all carry guns.

Q: How does it feel to be back in a the world of pop - a world where the most dangerous thing is two fake Russian schoolgirl lesbians?
A: I've always been in it, but this record has taken a while to come out because of legal problems with the record label which basically when into receivership. In-between that I've been doing some stuff for a film soundtrack I did about 2 years ago and I did a Stealth Tour of that playing cinemas around the world - it's all pop music.

But pop music has always been this way. Some Russian Lesbians today... some pedophiles tomorrow. It's some gimmick really - I don't think pop music has ever really been that dangerous.

Q: As someone who has listened to Auteurs, your solo albums a couple of years ago with "The Oliver Twist Manifesto" and "Christie Marries Double Entry" soundtrack album - "Passionoia" is your most overtly commercial release to date. Would you agree?
A: I think we'd gone back and listened to the first album and even though it was a great record it's surprisingly down tempo. It hardly gets beyond 90 bpm so we thought we'd have one last stab at youth and exorcise those mid to fast tempo songs. It's very difficult to tell how people will react to it because the music scene seems to have all gone back to guitars at the time we've done an electro album. Maybe our timing is always quite strange, but we've never really thought about. The last Black Box Recorder album was pretty commercial and we've never really wanted to put anyone off with our sonic experiments and our sonic barrage...that's never been part of our armoury. It's always been quite an urbane pop thing.

Q: With "The Oliver Twist Manifesto" there were elements of it which were subverting the whole Dr Dre hip-hop style of the time. Were you trying to turn the whole electroclash scene on it's head with "Passionoia?
A: I think were always trying to turn pop music on its head really. A lot of the songs just came out that way and they were just the kind of instruments we had at hand. Other than it obviously being completely artificial anyway given that all the songs are character driven for Sarah to sing. It just seemed appropriate that we should go that way and I think it's the way that Bowie or Eno would have approached the record in the late 70s - you're just using the most current cutting edge studio technology to make the most contemporary sounding record.

I still think that Dr Dre is the best producer around so with "The Oliver Twist Manifesto" that is what I was looking for. And you're always looking to the best whether that is Dr Dre of Phil Spector...actually perhaps I shouldn't mention Phil Spector at the moment.

Q: How do you decide which tracks are going to go for Black Box Recorder and which ones for the Luke Haines solo albums?
A: Well that's kind of easy because we are specifically writing for Sarah. The only instance of that was an Auteurs song called "The Rubettes" which was originally a Black Box Recorder song and Sarah was quite upset that I nicked it for my own use. It was about the 70s and I think it was a little too old for her because she was barely born then and didn't make an awful lot of sense.

Q: Every project you've done has started off with a theme and then you've worked the songs around it. Lyrically what were you trying to get through on this record?
A: I think the whole thing is about artifice really. "The School Song" is a kind of  p*ss take of a Leonard Cohen song called "The Tower Of Song". It kind of about Leonard Cohen in the tower of song with Hank Williams just talking about writing we thought we'd turn it into the Black Box Recorder School Of Song which is a slightly stranger school of song which is less bother about the classics.

Things like Diana and Andrew Ridgely are completely about artifice and the pointlessness of celebrity. Maybe even staking our own claim to love the artificial because that's kind of what the album is about. The record is prescient because I think when we were making the record it was less about that. Even the song "Being Number 1", people have said it's about the whole Pop Idol thing but it was recorded and written a long time before that, but it's just these things have come to pass. But then you can say that, but things are just the same as they've always's just been amplified slightly.

"Passionoia" is out now on One Little Indian
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