Q&A: Caribou's Dan Snaith
On Nine Inch Nails, Vinyl and Wall Street
You've got a PhD in mathematics. Shouldn't you be making a killing as a Wall Street numbers guy?
The perception within mathematics is that it's an extremely boring, soulless thing to do. I've had friends who have done it. To me, it's repulsive. But the possibility of Wall Street is there. It's an option for lots of mathematicians who can't get academic jobs -- or who just want to earn lots of money. That's an attraction, I guess.
So your new album is called Swim. And it was recorded at around the same time you were learning to swim. Coincidence?
Before I started taking swimming lessons, I had this idea I wanted to make fluid or liquid-sounding music. That's part of the reason the album is called Swim. But it's true, my wife got me swimming lessons for Christmas. I've always been an atrocious swimmer. And then, all of a sudden, I became an obsessive swimmer. I totally enjoyed this intense meditative activity. So that's pretty much all I did for a whole year, aside from making music and DJing.
Some critics are hailing Swim as a masterpiece. Others have described it as the most annoying thing they've ever heard...
I thought more people would be irritated by it. Come on -- it's kind of a weird record... I guess I don't really care, one way or the other. It's great for people to say nice things. I've been surprised by how many people actually like it.
Dance music has a reputation for being elitist...
That's true of any genre. My interest has always been in the exceptions, the people doing the weird thing on the periphery. The exceptional people. I really do feel dance is the most innovative area in contemporary music.
You obviously haven't been listening to Total Ibiza Club Anthems Volume Ten, then...
Well, dance can be quite rigid and codified to the extent that you have to fulfil certain requirements, in terms of beats and what have you. Once you satisfy those requirements, though, you can pretty much do anything you want. There's this weird Villalobos track that has a loop of a children's choir repeated for 20 minutes. It's sampled from some French prog music. And it goes on to become a massive club smash.
Do pop stars ever approach you to remix their songs?
Actually, just the other day, I was contacted by Trent Reznor [of Nine Inch Nails]. I've been listening to his music since I was a teenager. He wanted me to do a remix.
Presumably you leapt at the opportunity?
Erm... maybe it's because I work slowly. And the fact that we're literally on tour until 2011. Anyway, I couldn't do it. It was definitely surreal to be asked, though.
When you're DJing do you still use vinyl or have you graduated to a trendy MacBook?
I've always DJ-ed with vinyl. For fuck sake, I've got a room full of the stuff. But lately I've actually stopped. Lugging huge bags of heavy crap around... it was too much. Now I do the absurd thing of burning a vinyl onto an MP3 and then burning it as a CD.
Swim by Caribou has just been released. The band plays Electric Picnic in September