THE JUAN MACLEAN with LCD SOUNDSYSTEM , ARTHUR BAKER , SHIT ROBOT , AD/D DJS , WILL MUNRO and KENNY GLASGOW at the Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay East), Friday (November 18). $25 advance, more at the door. www.addevents.com.
When John Maclean (aka the Juan Maclean) ended up teaching English to young offenders in New Hampshire, he thought his musician days were over. By the time he parted ways with former band Six Finger Satellite at the end of the 90s, Maclean was burnt out on touring and sick of music in general. Grappling with a cocaine habit that had spiralled into a heroin addiction, he checked into rehab, went back to school and threw himself into educating kids who'd gone off the rails.
The quiet life suited Maclean, but Six Finger Satellite's former soundman kept bugging him to make some more music. Turns out that soundman was one James Murphy, who eventually founded DFA Records and started LCD Soundsystem, the current kings of the modern dance punk genre.
Maclean finally gave in, and the Juan Maclean was born, a project that draws heavily on his love of early Detroit and Chicago dance music and also reflects the calmer life he's embraced since his days as a rock 'n' roll terror. Now that he's back on the music scene, Maclean's most surprised to hear what a huge influence his former band has had on the current generation of musicians and fans.
"You'd never have known it back then," Maclean recalls from the DFA studios in NYC, where he lives most of the time. "It's starting to seem a bit like Woodstock, where everyone wants to claim they were there. People were really angry about the synths, which were a much bigger deal back then."
Six Finger Satellite were exploring the now fashionable ideas of punk funk, but the Juan Maclean is much more laid-back and melancholy. While you can hear the influence of early dance music, the cold, detached machine soul of Kraftwerk is much more in evidence in his work. It's built around analog synths and drum samples lifted from old SFS recordings, and has a depth missing from many software-based electronic albums.
Maclean has a healthy cynicism about the music industry and the fickle tastes of hipsters. But having been through all this before, he's excited and happy to finally be in a position to benefit from it. These days, instead of late nights of drug-fuelled hedonism, his spare time is spent indulging his newfound video game addiction.
"It's so much easier now," he confesses. "I'm touring to a built-in audience that already likes what I'm doing. Before, it always felt like we were going to war when we went on tour."
Still, you can tell he sometimes regrets leaving behind the simple life in New Hampshire.
"I do miss teaching a lot, but this is my second music career, which is two more than most people get. I can go back to teaching later on, but no one wants to see me still doing this when I'm 50."