TV On The Radio singer speaks

With the release of 'Dear Science' Brooklyn group TV On The Radio finally breached the mainstream.

Honing their 'idea every minute' aesthetic into something a little more bite sized, TV On The Radio earned a wider audience without betraying their central beliefs. The band's most successful album to date, TV On The Radio then did the most unexpected thing possible - they went on a break.

Eager to take back his life, Kyp Malone began work on a new solo project. Titled Rain Machine, the Brooklyn singer over-dubbed his parts in the studio, allowing songs to take form after lengthy recording sessons.

Released last year, the first Rain Machine was a contrary affair. Stripped of electronic influences, the solo project replaced this with dense improvisation and increasingly obscure lyrical references.

Forming a band for a full Rain Machine tour, Kyp Malone breezed into Europe earlier this year. ClashMusic tracked him down for a chat...

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Where did the impetus to record a solo album come from?
Well you know I am a musician, and I am still really fortunate and blessed to be part of that band, TV On The Radio, just a part of friends making music together. But I have also enjoyed playing music either by myself or other people the entire time I’ve been in TV On The Radio. It’s not really a decision, it’s just that I’m a musician and I’m going to write music.

Apparently very little music was written out with the studio – is this true?
A good portion of it was written in the studio. But as that’s been the case with a lot of stuff that I’ve been involved with over the past few years, it just seems like a good place to write. It’s kind of easier for me to find that kind of isolation in the studio. I have other responsibilities, friends and family. If I seclude myself away some place then people respect the fact that I’m not going to answer that phone call or be constantly available to them.

Rain Machine diverges greatly from TV On The Radio, was this deliberate?
The fact that I played all the instruments, that certainly informed what the record turned into for better or for worse. Definitely, I know lots of people who can play all the instruments on there better than I can but I just wanted to see what it was like to make a record, actually a solo record. I am not in any way trying to compare myself to this artist, but Stevie Wonder and his record ‘Talking Book’ was a huge inspiration. I bought it for myself on my 22nd birthday, and he plays all the instruments on that record and I remember listening to it and thinking, I was just in disbelief that anyone could do that and emerge with something that complete. I didn’t want to make ‘Talking Book’ at all, but that’s partly where the inspiration to make the record came from.

Rain Machine - Smiling Black Faces

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Many of the tracks are quite lengthy, were they heavily improvised?
Sometimes I hear the word ‘jam’ and it has a negative connotation in my mind! It’s like the shit side of improvisation. Some of the songs were structured, you lay down the structure and listen to what else is supposed to be there. It’s not composition but it’s not really jamming. You don’t have the power of editing when you’re jamming. For me, composition has always been about writing with a four track or recording with Pro Tools on a laptop. Then you just layer things and take them away, layer things and take them away. A thing that happens a lot when I’m writing is that it’s just me playing against myself. It’s looser. Partially that’s what I wanted it to be and it’s partially just the way it came out.

The lyrics are extremely unusual, where does this love of words come from?
I like language. Touring Europe always reminds of how little I know about language. Just everyday situations where I’ll be dealing with people who speak multiple languages, whereas I barely have a grasp on the English language when it comes down to it. There’s a lot that of depth that language can’t convey but there’s still so much that it can. I feel like the more I know about it the more power I have to articulate my feelings. I have the OED in my house, and I clearly don’t know very many words when it comes down to it. Within pop music it’s not really encouraged to use big words. Making it as simple as possible is the idea, the most direct, emotional communication possible. I try to write some poetry within that as well.

Do you write poetry alongside the lyrics?
Oh no! I generally write with the idea that it’s going to go with some music. I stopped trying to write poetry per se with the disappearance of my last adolescent turtle neck and beret.

Why are you playing with a band live, as opposed to using loop pedals and samples?
I thought of that, and I’ve seen some people do that with a great degree of efficiency. But I’m not interested in that enough, or not proficient enough, to pull off a particularly tight live experience. Plus I really like what can happen when you’re playing with other people, I’m very much interested in what can come from that group dynamic, or group experience. I still see the album as being a solo thing performance wise, but live it’s with a band and I’m very happy to be a part of that.

Are you working on new material with the band?
We’re working on a little bit of new material, and depending on what time we have we’ll work on more. We’re interested in getting as far inside the material as we can, right now, plus we’ve never played in Europe before so we’ll see what happens.

How does it work live? Is there a lot of improvisation?
Well you know there’s definitely some adaptation of some parts in there, depending on how it goes live. There’s definitely room in some songs for improvisation and even for some jamming. I’ll just be honest and say that! But for the most part we stuck to the parts for the record, and the songs are as they appear on the record. I’m not particularly interested in replicating that perfectly every night. I get really bored with that, and a lot of the songs on this project I’ve been playing for three years and the only reason they changed is that I don’t want to play them the same every night. That way they’ll stay current. So the idea that they are now in their final version is a little absurd to me.

Rain Machine - Give Blood

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TV On The Radio – how long will the break last for?
Probably just shy of long enough!

Did you feel that there was a natural need for time apart?
Everybody went into it with the idea that we weren’t going to have to give over our lives completely, but then that kind of happened in a lot of ways for about six years consecutively. Things that took time which were outside of the band had to be put to one side and not dealt with. We need to have time to live our lives, otherwise all the potential joy of that very fortunate work can disappear. It can just be work, and nobody wanted that so it was time to take a break.

How does Dave Sitek selling his studio affect the band?
It changes things but there’s still a lot of studios in New York. I love California, as a place and so do a lot of other people in the band. I’d imagine we’ll spent time looking for studios in New York while also travelling to other places.

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