12 Rounds

Interscope’s 12 Rounds

by Jaye Barnes

My Big Hero is a tag-team assault by ATTICUS ROSS and CLAUDIA SARNE. Much of its MARILYN MANSON-on-sedatives creepiness is credited to many of the tracks’ flanged and sweet (but darn right chilling) slow motion vocals. Imagine RIFF-RAFF from “”The Rocky Horror Picture Show cutting an album entirely his own.

My Big Hero makes a good soundtrack to any of those days that requires you to stay locked indoors and within yourself. But its potency is unfortunately diluted throughout much of the album. The exponent of somewhat predictable “neo-Gothic” presentation, all too constant from track to track with limited exceptions: Thick, crunchy guitars, slow rhythmic pulses, the occasional music box, heavy on the keyboards and effect-laden background chaos. To their credit, ROSS and SARNE are good at influencing imagery.

Due to the nature of the music, extremely dark atmospheres, situations and emotions are the result. Sometimes the duo’s ability brings out something eerily beautiful. To feel anything in this age of disposable music is something to be appreciated.

A few bright spots come in the form of songs such as the haunting “Something’s Burning” and the psycho-circus of “Mr. Johnson Takes a Bow.” This is music for the darkened theater inside of you. You might know some of the plot points already, but if you need to escape to a cold, dark place for a little while, you might want to check this one out.

SHOOTIN’ THE HAY WITH 12 ROUNDS – Jaye Barnes and Casey Dunmore

LIP SERVICE’s Jaye Barnes and Casey Dunmore recently caught up with 12 ROUNDS at the infamous Chateau Marmont Hotel on the even more infamous Sunset Strip. Like their music, 12 ROUNDS’ members CLAUDIA SARNE and ATTICUS ROSS proved to be of many secrets, dimensions and full of some interesting surprises.

The L.A.-born CLAUDIA went to England (via a 3-year layover in Brazil) at the age of 6. There she studied piano and honed her songwriting skills as a writer for Warner-Chappell. ATTICUS sharpened his musical teeth as a frequent collaborator/producer with various bands in the U.S. and U.K. The duo initially met at a carnival through mutual friends and collaborated some odd years later. Fast forward four years… to the Chateau Marmont Garden Court, CLAUDE and ATT’ (or ‘CUS – depending on who ya ask) are very relaxed, open-minded, opinionated, full of ideas and downright entertaining even as they anticipate the release of their Nothing/Interscope debut, My Big Hero.

LIP SERVICE: This is a cool hotel.

CLAUDIA SARNE: Yeah, it’s AMAZING…I woke up the first morning and I thought, “I’m in L.A. Confidential”, and now I wanna dye my hair blonde. You know…come out FABULOUSLY. Course it was raining and disgusting.

LS: What was the last good film you both saw?

CS: I saw “The Butcher Boy” when I was in New York.

LS: We’ve been debating about “Kurt and Courtney.”

CS: Yeah, you know what? I’ve been debating that one too. Someone was telling me it was all about conspiracy theories… (KURT COBAIN ) was a fucking great writer…I think it just perpetuates the whole mystery as well and I think it was just a fucked up situation from the start. And very drug-fueled…drugs are depressing – especially KURT…a walking tragedy without a doubt and an accident waiting to happen.

LS: When you play live, do you have a band? Or is it just the two of you?

CS: No, no. It’s a six-piece band. Before, when (the two of us) were playing (live), I spent the entire time behind these keyboards, petrified to come out. This time it’s a much bigger venture – the whole thing. Now there’s a lot (more) technology based around our live set, so I’ve really stopped playing the keyboards live, apart from a couple of tracks.

LS: We heard the title track, “My Big Hero” on KXLU, a local college radio station the other day.

ATTICUS ROSS: There are a few radio stations that seem to be playing it. But [this particular song is] not meant to be played already.

CS: We just had these really cool mixes done by this underground band called SNIPER. They did a mix of “Pleasant Smell” and then TRENT (REZNOR, of NIN and Nothing label head) did a mix of (it).

LS: Where’s SNIPER from?

AR: SNIPER’s from London. They’re like BIG BEAT with attitude. But better.

CS: They’re much better. It’s like they have a slightly early 80′s sound.

AR: They should be arriving any minute now…the TRENT REZNOR [mixes].

LS: When did you first meet TRENT REZNOR?

CS: Well, we didn’t. It’s nice in a way (that) we haven’t met him. It’s like a sort of long distance admiration, which is great. We’re doing a New Orleans (REZNOR’s homestead) trip quite soon. It was hugely flattering to have him want to do a mix. That was amazing.

LS: How much input did he have on your record?

CS: None…That’s one of the reasons why we went with Nothing. We were basically being offered more control over what we wanted to put out. Visually as well as sonically in every single respect. You have complete control and you also have the ability to do what you really want to do and they trust you enough as artists to [respect that] we think we know what we’re doing. It’s nice to be given that much trust. I’ve been in situations where I’m literally fighting. I’m on the phone screaming. It’s always a fight to do what you really want to do. I’m not saying we’re a million dollar band. We’re not. But to be able give what you want – it’s a luxury.

LS: Who does most of the programming and/or songwriting?

CS: ATTICUS, by definition, is a programmer but I am a musician. We sort of do everything [together]. Alot of the time, I write the bare bones and then we come together. There’s a couple of tracks on the album where ATTICUS was fucking around with synthesizers and loops and I’d go and put a bass line down and then we work together that way. It just sort of depends on the need of whatever it is we’re doing. I’d say maybe 60% of the album is organic stuff we’ve actually written as an entity.

LS: Do you see any soundtrack opportunities up ahead? Listening to the album, a lot of tracks had a definite self-contained cinematic feel.

CS: It’s funny. Because people keep saying that to us…I don’t think it’s something we seek to do….some bands work in the studio and they have a film running all the time (for inspiration). We’re not like that at all. Our studio is very bare. I think maybe that’s why it does come out that way. You sort of make things dynamic. The whole album opens up and it’s a heartbeat. We get stuff from sound effects albums. We think it makes it interesting. Both of us are very into escapism and I think that’s why we make things so rich. We can get deeper and deeper and deeper into things. For me, it removes me, you’re in something that’s abstract. You’re within something you’re not.

LS: What gets the bug going?

CS: Anything. Everything. Nothing. It’s life, I suppose. The things that go on around you. Everything you see, feel, hear, touch, smell, eat…fuck. Whatever it is, it all contributes in some way or another. I found writing cathartic and generally therapeutic. It’s my own therapy, little safe-haven. That’s what I find inspiring. I think ATTICUS is the same…he sort of gets…lost. I can leave him (in the studio). I can literally go upstairs, playing piano for a couple of hours. He’ll be down there for 14 hours (experimenting) with a (rhythmic) beat. I wonder how someone can spend 14 hours with a beat! That’s what turns him on. I find that interesting but I’m easily distracted.

LS: So CLAUDIA tells us you’re the one that spends most of the time inputting and programming.

AR: Yeah.

LS: Did you do solo work prior to meeting her?

AR: No, I’ve been in various bands. I’ve worked with this band BOMB THE BASS a lot. I worked with BARRY ADAMSON alot, who’s a composer, he did “Lost Highway.” He’s a really talented guy. He’s from Manchester. He’s kind of gone through playing with loads of great bands. He started up a magazine when he was 16 and played with IGGY POP and [NICK CAVE and] THE BAD SEEDS and now he’s taught himself to score for orchestras. He’s got a new record which I produced some of and [here's] a new band I just did on Sony called NO JAHODA, who are pretty good.

LS: What kind of music?

AR: Quite teenage. There’s a lot of beats and then there’s sort of punk and stuff like that. It’s a good album. I was a freelance programmer for a period of time. The thing about programming alone, to me, is that there’s something very limiting about it. I’m into live music. I’m just really into it. Going to a show when a band plays…and I think that everyone’s always looked at , “Well, if you’re using programming, well then, you can’t have [the live] side of it.” But [for us] the music-making process is a combination of the two. There is programming, but it is very organic music as well. And in some senses…since we’ve been out here (in America) alot of people say it’s “the new thing” and there’s people ready for it. But in some senses, it’s actually quite traditional.

LS: We know about the SNIPER and TRENT REZNOR remixes. Are you aiming for Club play?

AR: In essence, I’m sort of on the whole “anti” aspect of, “Well here’s one record and it’s like this, but we wanna get it played in clubs, so let’s make it like that.” That wasn’t [our] intention. SNIPER are very much a band, but they operate in that field. So it wasn’t like, “Let’s get a club mix!” It definitely has beats in it, but it’s sort of different- not like your regular kind of thing. I’m always a bit “anti” that thing when someone (puts) out a record and the company thinks they need to get a drum’n'bass mix, a club mix, an ambient mix. And the other thing is [ours] isn’t going to be commercially available, so we’re not putting it out saying, “Look everybody. Come buy all this. And it’s all TRENT and NINE INCH NAILS and this and that and this…” I always fear it as well when you see a band remixed. And it’s got the name of the band this big [Micro-sized] and it’s got the remixer that big [Godzilla proportions]. I think there’s something wrong. It’s just a sort of corporate thing like how to milk something for the most money. But then again, the reality is that, at least in part, it seems to work.

LS: You’re in rehearsal now. How did you assemble your live band, with people you already knew?

AR: Three Americans, Three English people…yeah, people we know and people we’ve worked with in the past.. It sounds like a full band going for it. But then it’s got this complicated electronic backing thing, which should be really good…The one thing I’m hoping is to deliver something (to make) people go, “Wow! I haven’t actually experienced something like that.” Because our music rests so much in between, it hasn’t got its feet here or there. It think the live thing, again it’s not exactly a rock band but it’s not exactly whatever else. It’s sort of a combination. Some of it does sound quite aggressive live and then it’s also got moments which are very kind of seductive as well…So you’ll just have to come down and check it out.

LS: We’re looking forward to it. Thanks for your time.