WE LOVE YOUR SONGS BLOG
Interview with the Elephant 12
Elephant 12 is a London based three piece band consist of Jerome (vocals), Robbie (guitar) and Miles (programming). We have interviewed Robbie here to better understand what there is behind their "unapologetic punk rock laced with a magnetic punchy electro". Enjoy!
Piotr (WLYS): First of all Id like to thanks for EP you sent me. I found it interesting, especially song called "Money Talks". It's kind of a song with a message...
Robbie (Elephant 12): Yeah, It got a message, this song features the singer from Asian Dub Foundation, it's a guy called Lord Kimo. It has a true message and lot of power. Money and power slave people.
I personally never been in this situation because I don't have much money. Money can change you. It's funny how money can dictate and change situations around. Your best friends change the attitude towards you, they are not your best friend anymore (laughter).
P: But you also have lighter songs, about having fun...
R: We can cover everything. We can write a song about fun like "Holiday" and wrote a song about Diet Coke. Some people say:
Oh, you wrote a song about Diet Coke!" But we are like: "Are you stupid?". They ask: "It's not about Coca Cola?". And our answer is: "No, its not for Coca Cola, bro" (Laughter). Every song got a different vibe. More less we just make people dance, we're not too serious, we are like not Rage Against The Machine, we are not politically involved in anything in particular. Elephant 12 is all about fun.
P: But your songs has second bottoms. As "Don't Wanna Dance"...
R: It talks about daily reality, especially that song you've picked. So many people they waste some much time about chasing a girl and do the effort like "Do you wanna do this? Do you wanna do that?". Don't Wanna Dance is a song about "Lets get straight to the point" (laughter)
P: It's funny, but on the other hand is sad, actually...
R: Even when you have a laugh, you can tell the truth at the same time. In subconscious way it's always a little bit truth involved. It's like a stereotyping people. You can't stereotype everyone or a nation, but there's always a little bit of truth in a stereotype. Anyway, it's all good, we all humans, it's all about humanity (laughter).
P: I was listening to EP and I realised that nobody before you played in this way.
R: We try to create something new, we try to mix different styles and make everybody happy, play to put together different styles. It's like some of the people who like rock music may like Elephant 12, and some of the poeple who like dance music or electronic music, or rap, or pop, might like us as well. We do incorporate mainly freestyle electronic pop and rock guitars. It could also go against you, because we get a little bit music industry attention, but they say: "We understand what you're doing", but they are scared to put our music out there on a big scale. They are like "We can't market it! What is it? What genre is this?" And our answer is: There's no genres. It's the Ipod generation. It's not like back in the days when you had blues, or jazz, hip-hop, etc. Today people are allowed to listen whatever they like to. I am the person myself who one day want to play some reggae, and day after I'm pissed off and I wanna play some Marylin Manson. And the other day I'm romantic and I play Chopin. Who cares? Every day has a different soul.
P: You said you like Chopin?
R: Chopin is always being romantic. In my family I grow up with my sister she was a classical music teacher. When I was like 12 I was bombarded from my brother was playing rock, Santana, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and all this stuff. In the other room was my sister playing classical music, so I was bombarded by the two different worlds of music. I became like a sponge, I absorbed it. I've approached both schools of music - both worlds. And I always like Chopin, lot of classical music, and also contemporary one.
P: In Elephant 12 you do similar thing: you mix music worlds...
R: Everything is mixed, the mainstream and music industry does invest only in kind of music they can make lot of money quickly out of. It does invest a little tiny percentage in something interesting, risky, something not everybody gonna understand. Nowadays so many people they are not into music much. They just want to be a part of phenomenal, part of something. So Lady Gaga is a new phenomenal. They've been brainwashed into that. To me Lady Gaga is not an artist, she is an entertainer. Although she might be very good in whatever she does - I'm not saying she's not good or anything. In fact she can play piano very well and she is good at using the media. But they are so many artists that are like just a package, a thing, a sandwich to be eaten before the date, otherwise it goes off. The audience, listeners have been brainwashed into that.
P: In Elephant 12 you want to do opposite and avoid this brainwashing mainstream?
R: No. We are not trying to do anything really, we just wanna to do whatever it comes, naturally. We don't really wanna compromise, although it's hard to survive. That's why so many bands changed completely the sound on the second album, for example. Because they've been told: "If you wanna be part of this, you have to change that and that, do this and that". And your soul has been robbed. It's almost gone. It's very hard to survive. They treat you like blank paper, like a blank canvas. You can't paint whatever you want. That's why people like Van Gogh, ended up and died poor.
P: Sometime changes kill bands.
R: Yeah that happens sometimes, when band tries to accommodate the industry. But they are some bands that never change in decades, they never followed any trends. Bands like Iron Maiden or AC DC they never changed their style, since day one. They are still playing the same bloody thing. Imagine when grunge came out, AC DC would sound grunge. It would kill them. Or Iron Maiden sounded like Nirvana. Same. You can't pretend to be someone that you are not. You can't bluff, because the next year is gonna be another trend or fashion you're gonna have to chase. It's good to reinvent yourself, like David Bowie did, but he still managed to be himself. He is a clever artist. He is in a position to do whatever he wants. Tomorrow he can do trade music and still be successful. He doesn't need to compromise. He is himself in any time.
P: Does Elephant 12 want to do same?
R: We not really the usual indie band. Lot of indie bands sound like Baby Shambles or The Libertines. So everytime people come and see us say: "What the fuck!" But people do react very well, dance around, they have a good time. We communicate a lot with a crowd, we like to put in a show. On our gigs people don't clap their hands just because they have to.
P: I have a problem with your music. I can't compare it nothing what was before... It's like new rhythm, different timing...
R: We've been told we sound a little bit like a Rage Against The Machine. Which is true. My guitar sound is a pretty much like one of my hero - Tom Morello's. But I put my playing into a different contest. If I wanted to make a band like RATM, I could have done it, but it is pointless, because it's caricature of your idol. We see lot of bands they copy of other bands. It's a big mistake that lot of artists sound like that band or the other band. You should try to take the influence, steal the sound and make it yours. That's what artist is supposed to do. Even back in 70's lot of hard rock bands stole lots of blues, but they still make it sound fresh, they pushed it forward. Like Led Zeppelin for example. That's the tricky part of being an artist, you can take style from Picasso, but you can't paint like Picasso. Take that and make your original stuff.
P: It's about personality, not only style.
R: Yeah, exactly. We don't wanna see you copying his madness. We wanna see your madness.
P: I got your EP but I'm in treat to get to know more music.
R: We got single "Turn Me Up", it's a free download. We got two more singles coming up. Also we are working with two PR companies in the States, where we gonna be playing gigs/showcase next year. We're gonna re-realise our EP, do an American special edition with 3 bonus tracks. It takes lot of effort, because we're financially supporting it and the money comes out of our pockets. We are pushing ourselves to breakthrough and see what happens.
P: The thing I can't get out of my mind is the elephant icon.
R: (Laughter) I designed that! You know it's kind of influence from the 80's "Space Invaders", it's a spaceship upside down, and it looks like an elephant. Yeah, it's our trademark. People can clock it, see the symbol and say: "Oh, it's Elephant 12".
P: Thank you for nice conversation and maybe it will be a chance to talk on the other occasion, when your album comes out...
R: Yeah, would be nice to have a full length album realised. Though we are completely independent. You never know, we might have our lucky break. We just do what we can. Maybe we gonna do an album, when we got some money to got into studio, we got lot of ideas...
P: I'm looking forward to that.
Interview by Piotr Balkus (@PiotrBalkus).
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