[Interview] MSTRKRFT: Jesse Keeler Speaks on Creativity
Ever since I heard the unforgettable track, "Heartbreaker," I have been a fan of MSTRKRFT's bombastic energy in sound. With an wide variety of skills ranging from saxophone to software, this duo, Jesse Keeler and Al-P, have wowed the listener, beat-maker, and dancer equally for many years. Their most recent work is aggressive and powerful while still inspiring movement. Bullet had the opportunity to ask Jesse Keeler some questions. Here's what he had to say.
You recently played a show in your hometown. How do you find playing shows at home different from shows abroad?
Home shows are usually stressful because of all the personal commitments and guest list nonsense, but apart from that it's no different. We don't play at home very often. It's not smart to play any one place too much really.
How did you meet? What’s the back story?
Not really sure. It's been 20 years at least. We were both in bands that played shows together. Maybe that's how but I have no specific memory of meeting.
It seems like you guys have a fairly aggressive tour schedule. Do you find yourselves able to work on new material while on tour?
We record everything when we play live. The final mix as well as all the individual channels on the mixer. So essentially, every live performance ends up doubling as a studio session for us. Much of what we do every night is improvisation, and many things we have happened on during the show will end up being on the next album.
Parts of your album, Operator, have an almost noise rock element to them. What was the inspiration for these more challenging sounds?
They aren't challenging for us. We come out of that music scene, so if anything it's been a bit of a reversion for us. Maybe the only challenge was not taking it too far in that direction.
Were there any specific reasons why there was such a long period of time between Fist of God and Operator?
We had forgotten about making records to some extent. We had been making music and recording, but it wasn't until someone suggested we make an album that we even considered it. Being creative just for the pure enjoyment of doing it is more fun than a situation where everything you create has some sort of purpose attached to it.
Fusing punk rock with electronic dance music is a somewhat unorthodox idea. What gave you the inspiration to make this marriage?
That's basically just who we are as people. Part Arab On Radar part Paul Johnson. Once you detach yourself from the idea that you're making music for anyone but yourself, there's nothing holding your creativity back.
Your modern day sets are filled with all varieties of gear. Have you always used so much, or has this collection evolved over the years?
The gear is always evolving to some extent, but yes, we have always been hardware based. The computer has been a great tool for us but never an instrument. I have great respect for people who can use the computer to be creative, but we can't work that way and be happy. Working with a mouse is like making music with one finger. Weird.
What would you say are your most interesting collaborations? Why?
How did some of your songs end up being featured on a number of video games and movies?
Someone we work with must be earning their keep. Not really sure how all that works but it's fun to play a game and hear your own stuff by surprise. I was playing Lollipop Chainsaw years ago and was shocked to hear one of our tracks come on. Was a bit distracting to be honest.
What do you plan on doing after this tour?
Making more music. DJing more. Becoming even bigger nerds than we already are. Getting gym memberships then not using them.
Photos by Ryan Purcell for Bullet Music