Daniel Fox (Gilla Band) and the Psychotic Monks Talk Language Barriers, a Shocking EMI Desk, and Pink Colour Surgery

The french post-punks catch up with their producer.

Artie Dussaux, Paul Dussaux, Martin Bejuy, and Clément Caillierez comprise the French post-punk band The Psychotic Monks; Daniel Fox is a producer and the bassist for the Irish post-punk group Gilla Band (whose latest record, Mostly Normal, came out last year on Rough Trade). Daniel produced the new Psychotic Monks record, Pink Colour Surgery, which was just released last week by Fat Cat Records — to celebrate, he and the band reunited on Zoom to catch up about the process of making it. 
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

Artie Dussaux: So, how are you, Daniel?

Daniel Fox: I’m good. I’m in the studio. I’m going on tour on Saturday, so I have a bunch of stuff I need to get done before I go.

Artie: You’re doing a recording session?

Daniel: I’m just doing some last tweaks on some mixes. So it’s the kind of day where you can stop and do an interview for an hour or whatever.

Paul Dussaux: [Laughs.] So the whole point is to talk about the recording of the album, right? 

Artie: I think it was for all of us, including you, the first time we had three weeks of recording and mixing in one session. It was very intense, but it was very interesting working this way — we had to make radical choices, that we had to be quick on. It was the first time we worked that way, and you gave us great advice during the the recording, like to avoid taking hours and hours going in circles.

Daniel: [Laughs.]

Artie: And that was very nice to just do music and choose what we feel is best in the moment.

Daniel: Yeah. It’s funny, because sometimes I’ve done long sessions like that, but never going to a different country to do it. So there was always a bit of a safety that you can kind of just keep going, so you’re fine. Whereas this, it would be prohibitively expensive for us all to go back to finish everything. So it was good in a creative way, but also kind of scary at the time. 

Paul: Yeah, a bit.

Daniel: But it was kind of funny. In retrospect, I was like, Oh, god, I hope I wasn’t a fucking tyrant about time.

Clément Caillierez: No, no. I mean, we know the work we were asking of you, you know, it was lots of work to do. 

Daniel: It was fun. You know, I hadn’t really thought about it until I knew we were going to be doing this, after we got the masters back and listened to it. It was big and intense and stuff, but I also thought it was really fun, because it’s a challenging, ambitious record from you guys, you know what I mean? There was loads of stuff — you guys have so many ideas, and specific ways that you wanted it to be. So it was challenging for me in a nice way.

Paul: That’s great, dude, yeah.

Artie: And the mixing desk was really challenging too.

Daniel: [Laughs.] They always are. The older they are, the more challenging they are.

Paul: You were getting electric shock by the stuff, like, two days before the end, and we were like, “Oh, fuck…” [Laughs.]

Daniel: Getting electrocuted off the patchbay.

Martin Bejuy: The desk has been sold. 

Daniel: I heard! I was shocked. It’s sad, I wonder where it is.

Artie: Yeah. I think it will be in good hands. I think they sold it because it [needed too much] fixing.

Daniel: I imagine it would be a lot of work. But it was such a cool desk. I don’t know if I’ll ever put my hands on an EMI desk again, there’s just so few of them. So that was a really nice experience to have, because it does sound really great. And I’m glad we went with that in the end, because the sound of it justified it to me in a nerdy engineer kind of way.

Artie: Yeah. The distortion was really nice. And one of my favorite moments of the session was when Manfred [Kovacic, owner of Vega Studio] came and he didn’t like the distortion of the desk — he heard the chaotic trumpet distorted and he was like, [puts his hands on his head] “Ugh!” [Laughs.] But we were like, “Yeah!”

Daniel: [Laughs.] It’s nice sometimes when you get a reaction like that — you kind of know you’re doing the right thing.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. 

Daniel: I was looking [at the record] and all the titles are different now. 

Paul: Yeah. We were doing everything at the same in the same moment — finding names, recording songs, and finding the cover.

Artie: And you gave us advice for the artwork.

Daniel: Oh, yeah, I kind of I forgot that. [Laughs.] I think my advice was probably just like, “Fuck it—”

Paul: “Just do what you want and you won’t regret it.”

Artie: It’s really good to work with someone with that energy, because we felt like sometimes we can work with people who [feel] in the middle [about things], and you were really pushing us. Like, “if you go somewhere, go to it, and don’t be in the middle.” And I think that’s really important for this album.

Daniel: Thank you. You know, it was kind of like vice versa in a way, because it was even if, say, we were trying to figure something out and it wasn’t quite right yet, you guys just wouldn’t give up until you had it the way [you wanted it] — and you might not know exactly what it was yet, but it was just like, keep going until it’s the right thing. And I found that inspiring, to just by fucking force of will keep going and not settle for something that you didn’t think was correct. I just thought that was very cool, you know?

Artie: Yeah. And I think personally, what was really magical to me was that I was a bit anxious to work with you because I was like, Oh, we don’t speak the same language and maybe we won’t understand each other. But I felt like we had the same musical references, and sometimes we didn’t have to speak words — like we heard a noise and we were like, “This one is good.” And that was really wonderful for me, because it was the first time I worked with someone like this, like the same musical language .

Daniel: Yeah, I didn’t really feel a language barrier at all, really. Because even sometimes, if you guys just needed to sort out some sort of internal musical arrangement thing that I didn’t really need to have any input — you guys were always very courteous about it, like, “Can we just speak in French? We’ll be fast!” It was kind of handy as well, you know what I mean? You guys could kind of separate out those things, which can be good.

Paul: Yeah, it’s faster for us to speak French. We like to be inclusive to the person we’re working with, but you’re right, sometimes it’s just faster.

Daniel: Yeah. When we were initially talking, you sent over a couple of records that you liked, or you thought was a good reference, and it was nice because — I like most of the things I work on, of course, but just looking at the list of records, I was like, I think I love most of these records as well. So it made sense. 

Paul: I am kind of glad that the album is released [and] we can move on to the tour, because it’s always very… “exhausting” may not be the right word. But it’s so much energy to just create this thing and then to make it right. I’m really happy to have it done, and to go on on tour and try to experiment with new stuff now.

Clément: Yeah, from [last] March to this February, it was really long time to have to wait between the recording.

Daniel: I guess it’s to do with manufacturing vinyl or something.

Clément: Yeah, it takes forever.

Daniel: It’s weird because it’s like this limbo period that maybe you feel like you’ve done the thing, but no one else has heard it yet, for the most part. It really drags it out. We had a similar thing.

Artie: I was wondering, how is it for you with Gilla, when you have your record ready and you [have to] wait? Is it long? Is it exhausting? 

Daniel: I guess it was a shorter wait than you guys had, because we probably finished them up close enough in time to each other. I think we did your record in March, and then by the end of April, we’d finished our record. And so when I got back, that was the main thing I was doing. But we also hadn’t really played most of the stuff live before, whereas your record, although there was lots of weird overdubs and experimenting, the bones of it was pretty worked out. So we had to just go figure out how to play a bunch of songs.

Artie: Is it the first album on which most of the songs were not played live before?

Daniel: Yeah, the other two were pretty much like some basic live tracking and a couple of overdubs or whatever. Whereas this, for the most part, was all kind of built in sections or whatever. So that was a new experience. And over the summer, we were doing festivals and things — so we hadn’t put out the record, but we weren’t waiting to tour. So I guess they were slightly different experiences.

Artie: I really think this album is quite different than the other two, and maybe that’s a little bit because of this. And by the way, we really enjoyed your last album.

Clément: It’s wonderful. I like the three, but this one has got something special.

Paul: It’s always tricky to record without playing live. I have these kind of regrets like, “Damn, if we could have just played it live, like, 20 times.” [Laughs.]

Daniel: I know what you mean. We had a similar thing when we went and learned a few tunes — you work out these little tiny details.

Paul: Yeah, that makes all the difference. 

[“Crash”] was released two weeks ago, and I was kind of like, “Yeah, this version is very cool, but I want to play it live now.” [Laughs.]

Paul: Well, thank you for having us and doing this interview. 

Daniel: Yeah. Good luck with the record when it comes out. Congrats!

Artie: Yes, thanks. 

Daniel: Keep in touch and I’ll talk to you soon!

(Photo Credit: left, Alan Dugga; right, Benedicte Dacquin)

The Psychotic Monks are a post-punk band based in Paris. Their latest album, Pink Colour Surgery, is out now on Fat Cat Records.

(Photo Credit: Benedicte Dacquin)