Houston Calling

Ten Questions for Modulator

July 24th, 2004 · No Comments

Local electronic band Modulator is hosting the release party for their new EP at Walter’s on Washington this Thursday night (July 29th).

The band recently wrapped up recording their new EP with Ed Bueller, former keyboardist for Psychedelic Furs (and producer for Pulp, Suede, and Ben Lee), and is offering it to fans for the low low price of $3. Be sure to pick yours up.

I recently asked Julie and Tom from Modulator a few questions for Houston Calling. Thanks to Modulator for taking time to respond. Also, thanks to Nate from the Planetary Group for setting things up.

Ten Questions for Modulator

HC: How did Modulator get started?

Julie: After Grey, my previous band disbanded, I knew a few things:
1. I wanted to be in a band and write songs
2. I didn’t want to suck, and
3. To get 1 and 2 I was going to have to find some kick-ass musicians.

Rob was available because Japanic disintegrated. And Tom answered my
prayers by making himself avaiable when I called.

HC: What do consider to be your musical influences?

Julie: Kermit the Frog, The Beatles, Rogers and Hammerstein

HC: Your new EP, Don’t Hold Out On Me, is going to be released soon (for $3, no less). And one of your songs was featured on MTV’s The Real World in May. How was the recording experience? How was working with producer Ed Bueller? Did he help you guys in the studio a lot or just give you free reign?

Julie: Working with Ed was the most stressful, yet fun time of my life. It was a situation in which we had to employ all that what we had learned up until then, as well as learn new concepts on the spot, synthesize them, and then utilize them effectively. It was very taxing on the brain, but a wonderful musical and technical experience.

HC: Your music is electronic, without the more techno aspects one often finds in music today. In fact, it’s pretty poppy. How do you find the balance? What did you set out to do when making the record?

Julie: For years, I was a big fan of Howard Jones–a true pioneer of 80’s synth pop–who managed to balance his sometimes artificial sounds with a more organic feel to his music. I consciously try to accomplish a similar sound by writing the bulk of the songs on a piano or acoustic guitar, and then introducing the synths. Ed was very supportive of this methodology, and was instrumental in making the sounds as warm as they are on the record.

Tom: Techno music tends to be centered around a beat or some kind of electronic riff. There’s a basic repetitive figureand different sounds are layered on top. Julie’s stuff is written more traditionally–you have a melody on top of a chord progression. Even though the keyboards define our sound, you could still play our songs on any combination of instruments. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case with a lot of electronic music.

HC: What’s your best L.A. story?

Tom: Hearing Fred Durst “work” his way through Metallica’s “Fade to Black” while he was trying out a flying V-style guitar at Black Market Music. After a few misguided bars, he stood up, struck the classic “My Guitar is My Phallus” pose and asked the clerk (without a trace of irony), “Does this look cool on me?” — seemed like a nice guy though.

HC: I have heard your music described as many things- synthpop, Europop, and you have drawn comparisons to Kraftwerk and Hooverphonic. What is the one description that you hate to hear about your music?

Julie: Nothing really bothers us. It’s all subjective. But anything sorta not well thought out like a one-word description can be annoying, (’80’s’, or ‘fun’, or ‘sucks’).

Tom: I hate being compared to Stereolab–nothing against them, they are great.

HC: What’s your take on the state of the music industry? Are you for or against the MP3 “revolution”? How does Modulator use the internet as a tool for marketing the band?

Julie: The power shift occurring in the music industry has pressured the artist to go schitzo by acting as publisher and distributor, since it is becoming more difficult to get a record deal, while at the same time music lovers are more plugged-in than ever before and are actively hunting for new music on the web. We have free music samples on our website to make it easy for people to find out what we sound like, but at the same time we try to actually sell our CDs whenever possible since someone needs to pay the bills. It really is an exciting time to be a recording artist, and I love being part of the drama.

HC: If you could have any band cover one of your songs, what song would it be and what band?

Julie: The Carpenters (if Karen were alive) covering “Don’t Hold Out On Me”; Bjork covering “Avenger.”

HC: What are your plans for the rest of 2004?

Julie: Touring and songwriting.

What is in your CD player right now?

Julie: Serge Gainsbourg. Lil’ Flip.

Tom: Herbie Hancock — Headhunters
Miles Davis — Get Up With It
Tortoise — It’s All Around You
David Bowie — Ziggy Stardust
Flaming Lips — Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Be sure to come out to Walter’s this Thursday night to see Modulator open for Steve Burns. Be sure to bring some extra cash for merchandise (they have some kooky T’s). Visit the band’s website at www.modulator.org.

Oh, and one more thing:

The new album from Caviar (website | other website), The Thin Mercury Sound, is coming out on Tuesday, July 27th. Be sure to go buy your copy! Best Buy also has it here. Support the little guys. Also, if you listen to local radio (heck, even if you don’t) please request the new Caviar song, “On the DL,” here. Thanks.

Now Playing in My iPOD: Gun CrazyDropping Like Flies

Tags: Music