Pet Shop Boys Discuss ‘Electric’, Their Euphoric Summer Album: Idolator Interview
So let’s begin with “Axis,” which sounds a bit Giorgio Moroder. I recall you were going for that sound back with “So Hard” off Behaviour. Was there ever a point in your career where you considered working with him? NEIL: Actually, Johnny Marr mentioned to us that he’d met Giorgio Moroder, and he said, “Giorgio Moroder would like to work with you.” CHRIS: Hasn’t Giorgio Moroder just worked with Daft Punk? NEIL: He has. It’s funny, because when it was announced that Giorgio Moroder had worked with Daft Punk, there was a kind of brief conversation about what Johnny had said. And also, on our last album, Elysium, we actually considered approaching Nile Rodgers to produce it, because we met him at a festival in Japan. But then we heard that he’d been ill, so we didn’t. We ruled it out. Anyway, it’s great to hear that he’s back, and I think it’s great that Daft Punk have got both those guys on that record.
Pet Shop Boys — “Axis”
Stuart Price produced Electric. From a distance, that collaboration seemed to be on the horizon for awhile now. CHRIS: We worked with Stuart on the programming of the last show and also on this show, so we already knew that we got on well. We like the same things, so it’s a very natural thing for us to work with Stuart. It was effortless, really. When we were writing some of these dance songs, we clearly imagined Stuart producing them.
Neil, you mentioned the track “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct,” which contains what I feel is one of your most “up,” giddy intros. NEIL: It’s a sample of Purcell. It’s not a sample at all, actually. It’s being re-played by Stuart from the original sheet music.
Where did the idea for this song come from? NEIL: In terms of the lyrics, I read this novel from the late ‘80s by David Lodge called Nice Work, which is one of three novels he wrote set on a university campus in the Midlands in Britain — based on Birmingham, actually. And in that novel, a university lecturer in English has to shadow a guy who runs an old-fashioned industrial factory in Birmingham. In the course of this, the guy who runs the company falls in love with the lecturer, who he can’t stand in the beginning. There’s a great moment where she says to him, “Love is just a construct of Victorian fiction. It’s a middle class idea.” It just gave me the idea of the phrase “love is a bourgeois construct.” And that, for some reason, just suggested this story about a guy whose wife — or whatever, girlfriend — left him, and he’s led a very respectable bourgeois life. He’s seen where it’s got him, his wife leaving him, so he’s going to give up the bourgeois life and lie around and be lazy and read and not try hard anymore. But it all came from a paragraph in this David Lodge book.
A few songs, like “Inside A Dream” and “Thursday,” capture the excitement that comes with hearing brand new Pet Shop Boys music, but they also sound like instantly recognizable compositions from the two of you. Did you set out to reference sounds you’ve worked with before? NEIL: I don’t think we deliberately set out to do that. Some of that is probably Stuart’s influence. It was something we got into that we liked. Across the album — although I don’t know that it occurred to us until it was finished — there are a lot of bells. At the start of “Bolshy”; there’s a great bell line in “Inside A Dream” — it’s absolutely fantastic. In the mid-‘80s, we always loved the bell sound Madonna, particularly, used to get on her records in those days. I think also there’s a simpler approach. You can hear what each sound is doing. The bass sounds to me early-‘80s-ish. But we never at any point sat down and said, oh, let’s make a record that sounds early-‘80s. CHRIS: Actually, if you play it back-to-back with a record of ours from the ‘80s, it would sound completely different. But they’re sort of from the same place. A lot of the studio production techniques are very, very contemporary. You couldn’t even do a lot of the stuff that’s on this record back in the ‘80s. It really could only be made now.
The track “A Face Like That” off last year’s Elysium almost plays like a preview of Electric, given that it’s more up-tempo. Did you ever consider holding it for this album? NEIL: We could have kept it for this album. Andrew Dawson, who produced Elysium, really liked it. And also, “A Face Like That” has a very long, moody intro, which seemed to make it fit onto that album. But you’re quite right — it could easily be on this album. I’ll tell you what, EMI really liked “A Face Like That.”
It seemed that fans latched onto that song in particular, as well. Were you surprised at the reaction to “A Face Like That”? NEIL: I don’t know that I was really aware of it. CHRIS: I’m not aware of any reactions! [All three laugh] Actually one thing I don’t like now is that you can be aware of what people think of everything you do. You can’t do anything these days without comments everywhere from people. So I try not to look at all the comments on iTunes and stuff like that — because when you do, I wish that I could reply back, and we don’t have that facility to tell them what I think of their review! I’d make some horrible personal comments about them, as well.
I remember, Chris, there was a time when you were on Twitter — maybe about four years ago? CHRIS: Well, that’s why we came off it! [All three laugh]