Jun 28, 2013
interview
The M Machine

Swardy, Eric, and Andy of famed trio The M Machine are a level-headed bunch of guys, sharing every aspect of the creative process from artwork to DJing. The boys recently spoke with us about their newest EP, how they choose designers to create their futuristic art, and why OWSLA is the powerhouse label that it is.

The M Machine - Schadenfreude (Original Mix) [OWSLA]
LessThan3: You used to release as Pance Party. What led to the change in name and eventual birth of The M Machine?
The M Machine: We released the very first music we ever wrote as a group under the Pance Party moniker. Like any artist though, as we cut our teeth and put in the hours, we started to see that some of our original sensibilities and preconceived notions about songwriting/performance/dance music in general didn’t exactly align with the territory we wanted to cover in our production. As we started to thoroughly plan for and design an album, we realized we weren’t rebranding Pance Party, we were starting a new project altogether.
LessThan3: Do you think being a trio poses more advantages or challenges in the modern EDM world?
The M Machine: It depends on the trio. The danger, generally, is in the division of labor. So for example, if you have one member of your group who is the DJ primarily and as such is less involved in production, what happens when you transition to a live show where his skill set is less necessary? The same goes for specific songwriting strengths. When an individual really only develops one specific style or technique, he remains relevant to the band only as long as they embrace that style.

Alternatively, we have made stubborn and significant efforts to be sure we each practice and contribute to all aspects of writing and performance. The upside here is that our influences and efforts are diverse and constantly changing–the downside is speed. As each member of The M Machine becomes more and more an authority on all aspects of music writing and delivery, the production process becomes more deliberate and measured. This can make short deadlines a serious challenge.

LessThan3: It seems like you guys are really into the Fritz Lang film, Metropolis. How does German Expressionism and Retro-Futurism factor into your music? Do these movements inspire you when you sit down to write certain songs?
The M Machine: It’s a two way street. We love Metropolis because it’s 85 years old and yet the sci-fi design sense is still mimicked today. Fritz Lang had this wholly unique foresight in that way. That said, it’s not like we saw the film and immediately needed to write a conceptual homage to it. Instead, we looked at the body of musical work we were amassing and realized the emotional sentiment of our music was very related.
LessThan3: You show a heavy focus on detailed visuals for album teasers and videos. Where do the ideas for these come from and who creates them?
The M Machine: Our favorite method of actualizing an M Machine visual starts with a long and thoughtful search for the right person. We’ve found that no matter how clear your direction is, the best results come from the best artists. We’ll sit down with someone and spout ideas for a half hour, but from there we tend to stress that we want him or her to run with it.

Swardy’s sister, Betsey, and grade school friend Owen are the co-writers for the digital liner notes that we released alongside our two part album. Both comic artists and extraordinary fiction writers, they made perfect sense for this project. It’s less like traditional liner notes and more like a short story, where each chapter corresponds to a track from the album.

For both Pt. I and Pt. II we provided an extensive outline of notes and plot ideas. Owen and Betsey interpret our caffeinated ramblings into cohesive prose with ease, thankfully.

LessThan3: We saw your music video for Tiny Anthem and thought of Interstella 5555, a favorite of ours. Are you guys fans of that project and did it influence you at all with that tune’s particular direction?
The M Machine: We are huge fans. However, it wasn’t until after the video was delivered that we drew similar connections. The Tiny Anthem vid was our first chance to bring the liner notes to life visually. We had big support from OWSLA at that point and were able to connect with one of our favorite animation houses, Augenblick Studios (known for Super Jail, Wondershowzen, Ugly Americans, SNL Digital Shorts, etc). Tiny Anthem is one of the oldest M Machine tracks, so it was a joy to see it get a proper video release on Skrillex, A-Trak, and Diplo’s collaborative YouTube channel, Potato.
LessThan3: How do you feel about Daft Punk’s sentiment of EDM currently being in an “identity crisis?” How do you, as artists, try to keep the genre moving forward?
The M Machine: We should weigh in on the record first. RAM is one of the coolest, most enjoyable album listens ever. It’s painfully musical, very psychedelic, and covers tons of interesting production territory. That aside, their commentary about EDM as a whole seems contradictory. You shouldn’t admit that you don’t listen to much electronic music anymore if you intend to make sweeping remarks about it all sounding the same. We would love to host Thomas and Guy so as to show them Andrew Bayer, KOAN Sound, Siriusmo, Mat Zo, Porter Robinson, Oliver, Robotaki, Digitalism, Lemaitre, Phonat, the list goes on.
LessThan3: OWSLA seems like a super tight-knit group of artists. What do you think differentiates it from other labels out there?
The M Machine: Skrillex. He is the American Busy P on 12 shots of espresso with a heart so big it’s scary. He’s an alien or a machine or whatever, and he’s teaching us all that it’s OK to be rich, famous, brilliant, and wild without losing your old friends, and without becoming a giant asshole. There are all-stars amongst us at OWSLA (both artists and execs), but we are bound initially by Skrill.
LessThan3: Up until this point what has been the one most satisfying moment of your careers?
The M Machine: It was at the end of one of our favorite shows. TOKiMONSTA, Zedd, and ourselves opened for Skrillex at Red Rocks in Denver. We played to roughly 10,000 people in what is arguably the most beautiful venue in the states. The moment that really stuck was after Skrill finished his set and jumped at least a couple stories out of his spaceship DJ booth. As he was landing on the stage, his tour manager, Robert, pushed all the openers onstage as well. It was the loudest applause, in front of the most people, set amongst all the pyro, confetti, and fireworks you can imagine.
LessThan3: Would you rather play a rave 1000 years past (current gear and setup) or 100 years in the future (contemporary gear and setup)? What location would you want to play in?
The M Machine: Future. Moon.
LessThan3: If the world were ending in LessThan3 minutes, and you had an iPod with every song ever made on it, what would you listen to?
Andy: Exit Music (For A Film) by Radiohead. Hopefully the crescendo peaks right as I go.
Eric: Ordinary World by Duran Duran. Best ballad ever written.
Swardy: Avril 14th by Aphex Twin.
LessThan3: Describe your sound in LessThan3 words.
The M Machine: Less than three? Ersatz Pop!
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