Dan Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never and Games is quite the young enterpriser. Between recording and touring, founding his own Upstairs CD-R imprint and doing A&R consulting for Hippos in Tanks, his track record over the past few years reads like a healthy reminder that success and creative integrity aren't mutually exclusive. Pitchfork reported Wednesday that Games, his ultra-smooth, "futuristic production team" with Tigercity's Joel Ford, has changed its name to Ford & Lopatin-- presumably, to preempt legal issues with a certain rapper on Interscope.
And now, these two Massachusetts natives and lifelong friends have founded their own imprint via Brooklyn's Mexican Summer, itself a subsidiary of Kemado. The label will be called Software and it's presently slated to release F&L's debut LP in early June, a Oneohtrix Point Never album in September, and miscellaneous goodies from Demdike Stare, Autre Ne Veut, Prefuse 73's Guillermo Herren, Megafortress, and Joel's solo project, Airbird. When we phoned Lopatin on Wednesday, he was sitting in the pair's brand new HQ: a state-of-the-art recording studio built by Kemado founder and producer Tom Clapp, which will double as an office and their very own control room.
AZ: So how did you and Joel link up with Mexican Summer?
Dan: Keith Abramson, the founder, wrote us an email inviting us to come over and see what was going on at the label. When we saw the studio, we got really excited. Having that space and the freedom to work without time restrictions or pay dates appeals to us, because it can take a lot longer than two weeks to do a record. Sometimes we want to jam for 12 hours straight. And I didn't want the pressure. Having a studio built into the label is kind of an old school model-- like Stax Records or something. It's just a rarity, like a vertically integrated label studio. It made us really stoked. No amount of money can replace having a home to make music.
AZ: And a built-in office…
Dan: …and a place to feel like home. It just makes you more productive and creative.
AZ: What other MS resources to do you have access to?
Dan: They will administer our label. I mean, I ran Upstairs CD-R from a blog. A blog! A fucking CD-R label. That is my qualification for having a label. I’m not qualified and I’m actually loving the administrative aspects of this because I am kind of intrinsically boring and logistics-oriented as a human being. So it's fun; I like it. But Mexican Summer really handles all the heavy lifting in terms of promotion, and lets us be producers.
AZ: Are you planning on producing the artists on your roster as well?
Dan: Joel and myself will be collaborating with artists via the studio, and everything that comes out will be a studio project. It’s a production imprint more than just a straight-ahead label. So we’re working very closely with the artists. And we’re working now with Al Carlson, who is our engineer. Joel’s known him since elementary school, and I’ve known him since middle school. He's a scientist.
[Joel Ford and Dan Lopatin; photo by Shawn Brackbill]
AZ: Is there a specific sound you want people to associate with Software?
Dan: Definitely. I mean, it’s an electronic label. It’s definitely geared toward what we’re calling digi-psych, CDM (Contemplative Dance Music), and popular noise.
AZ: Popular noise?
Dan: [Laughs] It’s more an attitude than a genre. Taking a convention as your starting point (pop or rock or whatever) and trying to morph it into something more in line with hybridization or alchemy. Starting with conventions and trying to find something weird in there, I guess.
AZ: This idea of a “vertically integrated label studio” seems like a break from the stereotype of the DIY bedroom producer. Which is interesting to me, because that’s how both of you started out, not to mention the artists you've enlisted.
Dan: It’s so unique in that sense. To basically give really pro studio reigns over to weirdo producers like us. People don’t necessarily think of the studio as the starting point for electronic music anymore, or think of it as being necessary. And it’s not; you can do it at home, and many people do. But it’s an interesting paradigm. When Tom Klapp built this studio, he did so mostly with rock bands in mind, for recording live groups. We’re using it for electronic music, which is part of the excitement for us. Trying to think of things in a more traditional rock way.
AZ: What kind of set-up do you have in the studio?
Dan: A 1974 Neve console, which has got a really rich, analog rock 'n' roll delivery and drive. Running synths and computers through it is really satisfying, and adds a nice layer of warmth. Then you have the actual live room, where the ceilings are super high, and you get rich reverbs. And then there’s a super reverberate upstairs room, which is where we attach amps and mic the amps and basically route what’s happening in the control room up there and then back down.
We’ve always wanted to experiment in this way, to cut up music that doesn’t want to be cut up. Matthew Herbert, he did that a lot. It’s essentially taking a lot from musique concrète, taking blocks and slabs of audio and rearranging them like big Lego pieces-- but the audio itself is taken from jams or improv from performances here. So the first step is getting people in here and getting comfortable and jamming for a while and capturing the raw audio, and then sort of rerouting it through a variety of different chemical reactions. Then we cut it up and move it around and create a sort of collage. We’re using tape, Pro Tools, but we have all of that at our disposal to mix and match and set back-to-back or on top of one another.
[Joel Ford and Dan Lopatin; photo by Shawn Brackbill]
AZ: Would you say that’s different from what you’ve been doing in your own music, as Games?
Dan: It's what we’ve wanted to do; like, we tried teasing it out for the EP. We’d do the jam and cut it up, but we’d usually be jamming one stereo track in Pro Tools and moving around blocks of sound with only the one track. So there were limits to it. So we’ve never had the freedom to isolate instruments and isolate drum sounds and think about things on a really granular level. It’s like, how do we use a rock studio, the ambience and grain of the actual room, to reinforce the music?
AZ: Speaking of Games, how did you settle on Ford & Lopatin for the new name?
Dan: Because we couldn’t really top Games. Because it was such a good name and we were so happy with it. It was like, what are we gonna do, be called like… The Deep Dreams? It makes more sense to be who we are as producers. And the live shows are more DJ-oriented anyway, so we might as well just be who we are. This is a just very unique experience, where the OPN record, for instance, will be produced by Games.
AZ: We were wondering if you'd changed it because it would be “too much” to be a band called Games on a label called Software...
Dan: [Laughs] It would be impossible to find anything about us. No, not related. The logo is kind of an homage to the Sierra [Entertainment] company, which made video games in the ‘90s. It’s that particular logo that resonated with me so much-- and the music in those games, the "Choose Your Own Adventure Approach" to things. I just feel more and more like my life is one of those quest games I played as a kid. Or just being an adult. You know, its like, "Emilie Friedlander: Quest Part 3" or "Dan Lopatin: Quest part 2," and you have your own inventory and you have your own world and you try your best to navigate through it, to get to the end. There’s something romantic about that to me.