JD Samson and MEN came out with a new album in October 22nd entitled LABOR. Nina Chabel chat with JD Samson and asked some questions about the new record, involvement with Pussy Riot and possible future collaborations!
Nina Chabel (NC): How did JD Samson & MEN come to be and why did you call yourselves MEN?
JD Samson (JDS) The band started from Le Tigre; Johanna and I started writing music together. We started DJing and we needed a new name. It’s actually a funny anecdote of how we came up with the name MEN, we wanted to feel more self-empowered, like men do.
NC: Before forming MEN, you collaborated with Le Tigre. How is MEN similar/different from Le Tigre ?
JDS: It’s different because it ended being with different people. Both were really great and fun. I had a very good time working on Le Tigre. I’m very grateful for opportunity, which resulted in great collaborations.
NC: What are your favorite songs from the album, or something that you really want people to hear? Which ones are you more emotionally attached to and why?
JDS: I really like the song I don’t care. I feel like it’s a really good example, with a lot of thought and concept behind it. For example the song is about this reality of caring and not caring. I split the vocals so part of them are autotuned and part of them aren’t. I don’t know, I like that song a lot.
NC: Why/how did you pick the name LABOR for your album?
JDS: We wanted to talk about the idea that being in a band and the project has been work, both as artwork and the sense that it has been labor and we just wanted to talk about what it meant to have a job in an industry not necessarily doing so well and how hard you have to work for such little pay. It still brings up ideas of birth and feminism. We thought it was a compound definition of a word so we chose that one.
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NC: What is your songwriting process? Do you write everything yourself?
JDS: Every song is totally different actually so it’s hard to say. Sometimes I write the whole thing from start to finish, sometimes I’ll write it with somebody else in the beginning and finish it by myself or the other way around so it’s hard to generalize but I guess for the most part it’s a process of starting something and working more on it with other people until you kind of get to the place where it’s kind of finished… or you run out of time!
NC: The songs on this record feel more personal. What inspired you for the songs on LABOR?
JDS: I think I was alone a lot when I was writing this record. So it was really important for me to dig deep. I think I was reading a lot of psychoanalysis as well. So it was kind of something that felt like it made sense to me to write about at the time. I’m happy that it’s more personal. It feels like I wasn’t so stuck in thinking about my community; it gave me a sense of myself in my community.
NC: Which artists do you look up to? Which songs do you turn to for inspiration?
JDS: I really love Planningtorock, but for the most part I’m really inspired by my friends and the people that I surround myself with in New York, I think that it’s really awesome to be able to talk about work and be able to make work with other artists.
NC: I know that you’re a strong advocate for issues like politics and sexuality. Is it hard to incorporate them into songs? Do you sometimes feel like you have to force yourself to pass the message through? How did you incorporate it into the songs in LABOR?
JDS: I don’t think it’s hard, actually I think it’s easier for me to write about political stuff and for the most part it seems like that’s the point of what I’m doing so I don’t feel like I’m forcing it. On this record, a lot of the political songs are veiled into more personal songs but they’re still very political to me. Songs like Semenya, a song about Caster Semenya who was a South African runner. When she won, people didn’t believe that she was a female so she had to take a test to prove that she was a woman. That song is not shown under a very political perspective so some people might not even know what it’s about.
NC: How was the process of making LABOR different from your previous record, Talk About Body?
JDS: In the Talk About Body, we had about five different people working on the record with us. We were a bigger project and more visual art elements were incorporated and for the second record we found ourselves. Some people didn’t wanna tour, some people decided to start a family and we kind of started moving members and becoming more like a regular band. With those elements, the music became a priority and I think that we also spent a good amount of time of trying to find the right producers, which was something that we haven’t really tried doing before.
NC: How would you describe your evolution from having a more punk sound in Le Tigre, to evolving into a more techno/dance/pop sound with MEN?
JDS: I think part of it is becoming a more well rounded musician and part of it is just the idea that you get into new kinds of music and I’ve always been into dance music and as I became a DJ I became more interested in making dance music, so I think that was essential.
NC: Let me Out or Let me In is a tribute for Pussy Riot. What inspired you to write that particular song/why did you do it?
JDS: I spent a lot of time last summer working on trying to help Pussy Riot get press coverage in the US, to let people know what was going on. Here it the states there wasn’t much media attention. I wanted to bring attention to a situation that was really important to me. That’s how it started and I get I found myself really involved in trying to help them and get them out of jail and at the same time I was trying to write a record so it was really natural to me.
NC: What future collaborations are you looking forward to/we can expect?
JDS: I don’t know, I mean I write songs with other people for other people: I work for Universal Records, so that’s something that I get to do with a lot of different producers. I’m not sure. Right now I’m doing some music for dance performances and trying to kind of go back to my community and remember what’s it’s like.
JD Samson and Men play at Il Motore (179 Jean Talon W). Jan 25th. $15.