CUT COPY'S DAN WHITFORD
Interview by Vinnie Baggadonuts
Illustration by Debbie

AT SOME POINT DURING THE 1980S, WHEN THE MUSIC OF THAT ERA REACHED ITS ALMIGHTY, DANCE-WORTHY PEAK, SOMEONE DROP-KICKED A BOOM BOX INTO THE FUTURE. ALONG THE WAY, IT CAUGHT SOME OF MODERN ELECTRONICA'S FAT, FUNKY SOUND, AND LANDED IN THE ARMS OF AN AUSTRALIAN SONGWRITER NAMED DAN WHITFORD. BACKED BY HIS BANDMATES IN CUT COPY, WHITFORD IS COMMANDEERING THIS NEW RETRO SOUND INTO YOUR AIRWAVES AND EARDRUMS. VINNIE BAGGADONUTS GOT THE WHOLE STORY ON TAPE.

Vinnie: Whatís going on?

Dan: Not much. Doing interviews, hanging out.

V: Is it a whole day of interviews?

D: Yeah, more or less. We had a photo shoot in the middle, but, for the most part, itís been me talking about myself.

V: Did they buy you lunch at all?

D: There was a buffet-type thing at the photo shoot, so I had a plate of all sorts of meats and things. It was good.

V: Well, now you get to talk about yourself some more!

D: Alright! (laughs) Just what I wanted to do.

V: Great. (laughs) Okay. First thing I have to ask you is, when youíre creating your music, are you consciously trying to keep it fun?

D: Um... I donít know about that. I am having fun when Iím writing it, so maybe that reflects in its sound.

V: But you want people to have a good time when they're listening to it.

D: Oh, yeah. For sure.

V: Thatís one of the first things I picked up on when I first heard it. I just wondered if you made a conscious effort to keep the songs that way when you recorded them.

D: I donít think I kept it at the front of my mind when I was making the music. I just think of what I want to listen to, and then write that kind of stuff. When I finish a record, thatís how it always seems to turn out. I like stuff that has songwriting elements to it, and I also like stuff thatís sort of fun, and you can bop to it.

V: And you do a good balance of that. Itís not like you donít take the songs seriously. But you can be out there dancing while youíre taking it seriously.

D: (laughs) Thatís right!

Both: (laugh)

V: Now, are you just Cut Copy, or is your band now considered Cut Copy as well?

D: Yeah, for sure. I mean, thereís a lot more to it than that. To me, Cut Copy is a project. I do most of the songwriting for it. On past EPs, Iíve done a lot, then brought in people to play various instruments or do some vocals. But when I was putting this record together, I had this idea of putting together a garage band version of Cut Copy to interpret all the songs. Thatís sort of how the band came about. Itís one of those things where you have an idea, and it actually turns out to be a lot better than you ever imagined. And it stuck, so thatís how the band came to be.

V: I donít know when exactly the band came into the picture, but did they contribute to any of the songwriting on the new record?

D: Yeah. Like I said, about halfway through the album, I took my demos... Iíd written about six or seven tracks. Most of those were drum machine, keyboards, vocals, and stuff like that. At one phase-- and this is actually one of the reasons we did the whole garage band thing-- one of our samplers blew up. It was at a DJ gig, and we were playing with it on stage, when smoke started blowing out of it, and we had to get it repaired. So, it was out of action for about three weeks. So I thought, "Letís get a band together." Why not, you know? So, we had those demos, and started reinterpreting those songs live with the bass and guitars. And when it came time to finish the record, I had two different versions of the recordings, so I started taking parts from both of those, and putting them together.

V: Have you bumped into any of the people whoíve influenced your sound or record, and received feedback about it from them?

D: (laughs) Let me think. (pauses) I canít think of anyone who specifically influenced it. I mean, they hadnít heard the record yet, but I ran into the guys from Daft Punk. Theyíre, to me, certainly a big influence. Maybe not recently, but certainly in the last five years. Theyíre good to listen to. Iíd be curious to hear what they thought of it.

V: Are there any Eighties artists you listen to that youíd be interested in hearing from?

D: Oh, for sure. Itís funny you should say that, because the record company originally suggested, "What would you think of the idea of working with an Eighties producer, or someone like that?" And I actually thought it wasnít a bad idea. So, they had me get them a short list of people Iíd want to work with, whoíd worked on stuff in the past, like Blondieís producer, or Depeche Mode. People like that. I had the record company try and contact all of these people. Now, these guys hadnít worked for awhile, and we found out that most of them had run out of money, or were in rehab or a car crash, things like that. Itís kind of crazy.

V: Jesus!

D: Yeah. That was kind of a funny experience. I tried to get these guys, but the Eighties had kind of killed them off. So, I had to go with someone who was working more recently. A contemporary producer, you know? And Philippe Zdar from Cassius had produced the Phoenix record, which I really liked. He was at the top of the list.

V: How influential was he in molding the sound of Bright Like Neon Love?

D: One of the things he said right from the get-go was that he didnít want to change the feeling of the demos. It was a very conscious effort for him all along to not rewrite the songs, or anything like that. He basically took the stuff I wanted to do, and got it to happen, sonically. Like, to get the bass to really kick, and get the guitars to really scream out. Things like that.

V: Has anybody heard Cut Copy, then went to see you live and said, "Oh, I thought you were an actual Eighties band," or, "I was expecting you to be 46, and this was your reunion tour."

D: (laughs) Yes! Thatís happened a few times, actually. Even with previous EPs, especially in the United Kingdom, you know? One of the songs called "Rendezvous" has this Eighties bass line, and-- I donít want to say "German" vocals. Itís me doing the vocal, but I sort of sound European. (laughs) When Iím DJing, Iíll play it, and people will come up to me, asking, "Who is this?" Theyíre expecting it to be some German one-hit wonder from the early Eighties.

Both: (laugh)

D: Itís happened a few times. Weíll see what happens when this record comes out. I wouldnít be surprised.

V: You do sound like an Eighties band, but yet, you donít. Thereís something about the way the whole record sounds and feels, where you have to say, "You know what? They wouldnít do that in the Eighties." Thereís something really modern about it. Did you go into the studio thinking, "I like these sounds from years ago, and these sounds from now," and purposely try and meld the two?

D: I guess itís more like I learned from the Eighties, or something like that. You take the bits you did like, and leave the bits that didnít work, you know? Thereís a lot of stuff from the Eighties that didnít work, and Iím sure youíd agree with me.

Both: (laugh)

D: You take the stuff you like from the Eighties and use that, but also use stuff you pull from guys like Daft Punk or D.F.A., guys like that.

V: When you were a little kid, did you imagine youíd be doing this?

D: No. (laughs) Strangely enough. I liked music when I was a kid, but I wasnít a music enthusiast. It wasnít until I was a teenager that I really got into music. It was more just sort of a background thing when I was a kid.

V: What did you think youíd be doing?

D: Good question! I think I'd be playing Australian football or something like that, eh? But Iím probably too tall and skinny for that. Iíd get broke in half.

Both: (laugh)

V: Do you look forward to pulling in lots of cash, retiring, then having your own reunion in 20 years, like Blondie is doing now?

D: Definitely. (laughs) I donít know. Itíd be great to make a bunch of money doing this, because I really enjoy writing music and playing it. More recently, itís just been really good fun. If it ends up being a big moneymaking thing, itíll just be an extra bonus, I guess.

V: Are you very concerned with making it big in all the different national markets, or any specific ones?

D: Well, I think so. I think particularly in Australia, which is not the biggest market. When I was writing the record, I wasnít writing it with Australia in mind. I was thinking more U.S., and U.K., and the rest of Europe, Japan, and all those places. Itís something that you kind of hope for.

V: Is it hard to break into the market in Australia?

D: Yeah, in the sense that most of the hit groups in Australia are rock bands. Most of the records that are really successful are one-dimensional in style, you know? You could listen to bands like Jet or The Vines to see what itís all about here. Theyíre good and quite marketable, but not really unique at the same time, you know what I mean? Iím not saying that what Iím doing is unique, but youíre certainly not going to find many Eighties-sounding electronic records with indie rock on them like ours has.

V: Whatís your big musical dream now? Is there an ultimate thing you want to do with this?

D: Um....

V: And it can be as ridiculous as you want.

D: It would be cool to really get people liking the music. Maybe we could eventually do this crazy show with all our favorite bands, you know? Like Daft Punk, Sonic Youth, and New Order. Just this big, weird lineup of bands all playing at the same concert. That would be a pretty cool dream.

V: Right on. My last question is something just for you. Is there anything you want the world to know about Cut Copy that you havenít been able to say yet in all your interviews today?

D: Oh! (laughs) I feel like Iíve said everything.

Both: (laugh)

V: This is your chance to say the one thing no one has asked you yet.

D: Oh, man... (laughs) I think all these interviews have taken my soul away.

Both: (laugh)

D: Aw, man. I canít think of anything. My mind is totally blank!

Both: (laugh)