Urban Myth Club return to the dance music scene with a new album called 'Open Up' due for a late February release. But as their 2006 debut Helium sold over 10,000 copies (and counting) and tracks still pop up on the playlist on late night radio or in a down-and-dirty dive bar as often as they do at Hampstead yoga classes.
Some might say they've never been away but we caught up with Mark Desvaux from the band and found out more:
W&H: Where the hell have you been since 2006?
UMC: It's been manic! Where to start? A lot of the time has been spent in the studio on the follow-up to Helium. We have a serious problem with output... We were writing so some much stuff that when we took stock; there were ninety-four tracks in progress. We found ourselves working on them all, finding it hard to push some aside for later releases. Totally rubbish way of working as you are basically trying to write six albums simultaneously. Anyway, we managed to eventually let our favourite tracks bubble to the surface and the fourteen we've picked are going to be on the new album.
Outside of the studio, we've been promoting the last album doing loads of festivals - Glastonbury twice, Big Chill, The Glade, the totally bonkers Secret Garden Party and others. Lots of DJ sets too and doing some music for film / TV projects. I've also been busy supporting the international release of the album - it was great to see an Oz and NZ release last year.
W&h: What does 2011 have in store?
UMC: We're releasing the first couple of singles from the next album "Open Up" which is due out in March. Then it'll be festival season kicking in. Lots more DJ sets as well, as well as writing music for films. We never stop writing new material so whenever I get a spare second, the laptop will be fired up. Part of the fun of this is the unknown too - I'm always surprised at what turns up around the next corner.
W&H: You must be one of the few acts to get regular airplay on Radio 1, Kiss and Classic FM. Who do you think your audience is/how come you seem to appeal to everybody?
I guess the fusion of electronica, dance and cinematic in our music crosses lots of boundaries. It's one of those things I would never have predicted. It's must be a bit like your children leaving home - you're never quite sure where they'll end up but you are always pleased that they turned out alright. It's really great that the music has such wide appeal. I remember getting two bizarre emails a few hours apart - one was from a top DJ in Ibiza saying that I Feel It was going down a storm during his sunset set, whilst a presenter on Classic FM said they were going to play Spacewalk on their evening show.
W&H: Who is in UMC at the moment?
UMC: In the studio, Urban Myth Club is currently myself and Ian Sanderson along with a harem of females! On the new album, we have three female vocalists, two of which we have worked with for the first time - Jenni and Miz. They are all fantastic and we've always searched high and low for the most amazing, often undiscovered, singers for each new release.
W&H: Tell us about how you record together? And how do you get your sound?
UMC: Ian and I have devised a really interesting way of working which we started the first day we met online. We actually hooked up via the Sound on Sound music forum - a pseudo dating agency for music geeks. When we compared our album collections they were almost identical. We both have our own studios and as we don't live near each other, we started to send files over the Internet. A bassline here, a drum loop there, a top line synth hook. We established this rule that when one of us had a track, they could do anything they wanted to it - building on or stripping away stuff the other person had done.
It turned out to be a really great way of working - loads of creativity flowing without the arguments! Often when musicians work on their own, they can reach a point where they don't know where to take a track - there's a graveyard of millions of unfinished tracks out there in studios around the world. With us, if we ever hit that point, we can fire the track off to the other person. Maybe that's the secret of the Urban Myth Club 'sound' that people talk about?
I'm always amazing at where a track has evolved to when I get it back. It like, "Blimey, I'd never have thought of doing that with it". One of us tends to be the darker ambient guy the other is the upbeat big chords and hooks. It's like Ying and Yang. If Ian ever gets too dark or I get too poppy, we both give each other a slap!
We do get together for really intensive sessions throughout making the album, and loved to argue the night away over the right sounding of a high hat. I often wonder whether people really notice all the tiny details. I remember one night we were both fed up and getting nowhere with a track. We'd been arguing over something irrelevant and I was lying on the studio floor feeling flu coming on. We were working on a track called "Everything's All Right" and getting nowhere. We were listening to the track again and I was really ticked off. As a joke I said to Ian, "why not double the tempo right there, go on, whack a big beat down." To my surprise, he did, and it has turned out to be one of my favourite moments on the new album. Totally unexpected, but it just works. Sometimes, some great bits can come out of mistakes or when you are messing around.
We also work with a wide range of software, as well as playing live instruments. A lot of the guitar and bass you hear on the album is played by one of us. It's not all created inside the computer.
W&H: A little bird told us you went down a storm at Big Chill in 2006. Was this your proudest moment? Can you remember the event..?
UMC: Big Chill was probably the maddest gig - it was our third ever gig ever after Glastonbury and a low-key warm-up. Looking back, I am amazed it ever happened. Our vocalist had lost her voice singing along to Roisin Murphy the night before. Just after all our gear was set up on stage, smoke started pouring out of a generator and all the power went out, only for it to come on a minute before we went on. I then got stuck in a Portaloo backstage after we had been announced on stage. Our vocalist managed to get through the whole set, singing an octave lower! It was mad, but loads of fun. We found out after the festival that our CD had been the biggest selling one over the weekend, so I guess it went down okay. I still wonder how many people bought it and thought they'd got the wrong album!
W&H: We hear Justin Wilkes from Kiss FM had his first wedding dance to one of your tracks? Tell us about that- and will you have something new out in time for Valentine?
I found out recently that Justin is a big fan. He often plays tracks from Helium on his shows, but I was blown away when I heard that he and his missus had picked "I Feel It" as their first dance at their wedding. I mean what an honour. It is stories like that which remind me the real reason why we make music. I'll never forget another time when a girl emailed us to say that her best friend had recently passed away from cancer and that 'So Beautiful' had been a massive help to her when coming to terms with her loss. It puts everything into huge perspective when you hear stories like that, and I'm just so grateful that our music touches people in that way.
We've got a single release planned for Valentine's Day. I've always thought of it as the follow-up to 'I Feel It' which is our biggest hit to date. A lot of couples have told me that 'I Feel It' is "their" song. At that point, I tell them to not go into any more detail!
W&H: Tell us an urban myth about yourselves?
UMC: Great question. When we came up with the name, we never expected so many bizarre things to actually happen to us.
My favourite myth however is when we first started out - the whole collective was shrouded in mystery and there were rumours flying around that Urban Myth Club were made up of members of Massive Attack, Air and Royksopp. Then again, maybe it wasn't a myth?
W&H: People seem to nick your samples... tell us more?
UMC: Ian is one of the best sound designers you'll ever meet and has created hours of mad noises and beats. I'd often find him crawling into the drum of a washing machine armed with a mic and digital recorder. He's forever whacking things and eventually transforming them into everything from beats to ambient loops to zaps. They are really expensive to buy, but are a massive favourite with hundreds of artists from the Prodigy to Beastie Boys, the producer of Massive Attack, Madonna and Bjork to Jean Michel Jarre (he used so many samples Ian was credited on his album). I remember Ian playing me a weird hypnotic sound he created, only later to hear it as the main hook, pitched up a bit, on Lemon Jelly's 'In The Bath'. Some bands have taken these loops and used then as an entire intro. I've heard them on everything from the X Files Movie to Audi commercials to Blue Planet.
We create a lot of our own samples in our tracks too. If you listen to the lovely bell sound at the beginning of 'Breathe' that's actually me playing a glass ashtray with a pen!
W&H; You've remixed Creep. Who would win in a fight between UMC, Radiohead and G4?
UMC: Thom Yorke takes on G4, WWF stylee? Now that is something I'd pay to see! I don't know, Thom looks like he could be one of those guys who could be a secret black belt in Karate, either that or a secret lemonade drinker. I'm a pacifist at heart. The only time I got in a fight was at school. It was the last day of term, and as a treat, the whole school got to watch some action adventure space flick projected on the big wall in the school hall. Ninety minutes later, a barrage of testosterone-filled eight years olds were unleashed into the playground. I'm surprised they didn't call in the riot police!
Urban Myth Club website
New album 'Open Up' is released on TRL Music via Cargo in March 2011.