Toronto “has a pretty rich history of electronic music and is currently enjoying a huge electro-scene”, says Al-P, one half of electro-house outfit MSTRKRFT (as in Master Craft). The group rose from the ashes of dance/punk act Death From Above 1979. Jesse Keeler was bass player in that band while Al-P was producer on the record. Recently the guys have done remixes for Bloc Party and Wolfmother and their debut album The Looks is a dancefloor killer.
Was it a disappointment to see Death From Above come to a close for you – after having produced their album and seen how much they’d achieved in such short a time? Yeah it was. It was kind of different for me, being outside the inner workings of the band, because as a producer I can do anything. But I was actually really looking forward to doing the follow-up LP with them. I was doing a lot of mental preparation and collecting my ideas of where to go with it and it’s a shame we weren’t able to make another one, but that’s how things go sometimes. I’m having a good time doing what we’re doing now so I don’t have any regrets about it, but it was a bit of a shame.
But now you and Jesse have teamed up. Was that always on the cards, even while DFA were around? When we started MSTRKRFT we didn’t really think this was going to replace DFA 1979, we just wanted to make some tracks together and the timing was such that just as we started to pick up, the DFA thing fell apart. We just picked it up to get it going a little faster, and here we are now.
With so many influences, from Jesse’s rock, to hip-hop and house, did the record turn out as you had originally planned? I’m gunna have to say no to that because we didn’t have a real plan going into it. The only idea we really had was that we wanted a record that was all singles. So all the songs could stand on their own and be potentially released as 12 inches and people wouldn’t question the quality of the material. In that sense it fulfilled that expectation. But as far as content goes, we really didn’t have any idea. We’d just work tracks and see where they went and if it was good, great, but if not we’d throw ’em out ‘cos we only wanted eight tracks on the album to keep that level of quality up. But we probably had about 25 ideas for songs that we started with and then we paired it down on the record and I’m pretty happy with it. They have this really raw, almost out-of-control feeling to them because we’d put them together and as soon as they felt ready we’d mix them and then take them out and see how the crowds like them. That was our benchmark for whether or not a track would make it – if it got crowds dancing in the club. It was an interesting record to work on in that sense because we were writing the songs as we were producing it, which is always an interesting way ‘cos you never know what’s going to happen.
You’ve worked with Jay Z, what were you doing for the Roc? I used to work in New York as an assistant engineer at one of Manhattan’s biggest studios. See the thing is I say that once and it gets written down as “this producer worked with Jay-Z”, so he must’ve produced them. Well no, I was just an assistant engineer. I’ve been an assistant engineer to a lot of large artists but I don’t want to mention that anymore ‘cos then it’ll end up in a magazine that I produced a track for so-and-so and it gets a little funny.
You’re also drawing on some rave culture here. When you play a show can we expect the crowd in dummies, whistles and Madchester beanie hats? Ha ha, no. When we go out and do parties we’re DJing – we don’t rely on gimmicks. We just try to make hot selections and hot mixes and get people into it and really just provide a soundtrack for partying. We’re not there to be looked at ‘cos all we’re doing is putting on records and there’s not much to it visually. But we want people to come out and have a really good time, get drunk and go home with somebody and just party.