“This is the most terrifying album to make,” admits John MacLean — a.k.a. The Juan MacLean — about his sophomore effort The Future Will Come (DFA Records).
“The first one is easy. It’s been lingering around for years. With the second, you’re really put on the spot; told to make an album. People more often than not disappoint their fans’ expectations.”
MacLean’s fears are unwarranted. Released in mid-April, the 10-track affair received instant praise for its unique amalgamation of indie rock’s natural warmth and dance’s infectious, upbeat rhythms.
Referring to his creation as “electronic dance-punk,” MacLean spearheads a rare faction of musicians uniting dichotomous musical genres by embracing their core elements: A live band and digital programming, respectively. The Future Will Come is one of the first dance albums recorded with an entire cast of musicians. Yet how does a post-punk guitarist noted for his history with ’90s indie rockers Six Finger Satellite translate into dance music innovator? MacLean blames ennui.
“I (became) disenchanted with indie rock by the late-’90s,” he grumbles. “It’d become uniform, collegiate and uninteresting. It lost all of its appeal so I thought it was better to quit and get out while I still felt good about it rather than linger on and become mediocre; do something disingenuous that I wasn’t happy with. I left music altogether until (friends) got me my first primitive set-up — a computer, sampler and recording device.”
Pulling from his rock history and embracing an inherent appreciation for electronics, The Juan MacLean was born, issuing debut effort Less Than Human in 2005. Tapping into his recording experience, MacLean injected authentic instruments into crafted beats, a then-revolutionary technique that is still unattainable to most today. Because of Less Than Human’s mysterious appeal, it — and thereby The Future Will Come — took off exponentially, the mousey MacLean fast becoming world-renowned to dancers and shoe gazers alike.
“In the dance world, people don’t make records that way,” MacLean reasons. “They aren’t making live-sounding records so we go in with this attitude of playing dance music live, adding live drums, bass, keyboard playing and percussion. We bring that expertise in the recording aspect. It’s emulated but difficult to achieve.”
MacLean projects that dance-punk bonds divergent sides of the musical spectrum because it brings together dance’s bouncy fun but offers the natural resonance of tangible instruments. He also notes that with indie rockers, The Future Will Come has been welcomed far faster than Less Than Human.
“This whole indie/dance crossover, the use of live instrumentation and vocals made it palatable for indie fans. It’s easier for them to understand and accept. It’s easy to forget that even in the early 2000’s, there was big divide. Dance fans went to clubs to hear DJs; didn’t have much to do with live rock music.
“Conversely, indie rockers didn’t want anything to do with club music, culture or dancing. At a typical indie rock show, you’d see people with their arms folded. The best show they’ve ever seen and they’re standing there. I do it a lot of the time myself though. I don’t blame anybody.”
Juan MacLean live
• Toronto: The Juan MacLean, touring in support of The Future Will Come, plays Tattoo Rock Parlour on June 18.