Artist Interviews

Q&A: Cicada

By | Published on Thursday 18 August 2011


Critical Mass-signed pairing Aaron Gilbert and Alex Payne began working under their Cicada moniker in 2002, producing remixes for Depeche Mode, New Order and Editors prior to releasing their own eponymous debut LP in 2006. Second album ‘Roulette’ emerged in 2009, taking an electro-pop-propelled step away from the outfit’s purist dance origins.

Their latest long player ‘Sunburst’ seeks to readdress the balance, setting the guest vocals of Athlete frontman Joel Pott, Prodigy collaborator Shahin Badar and ethereal Icelandic singer Heidrun Bjornsdottiran against an alt-dance milieu of taut, muted synthwork and four-to-the-floor beats.

We spoke to Payne in a SSQ-stylee once before, but with ‘Sunburst’ out next week, we caught up with the duo again, and this time both Gilbert and Payne answered our predictable questions.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
Aaron: I first started out playing keyboards with the school steel drum band, my teacher Tommy Tucker was a really inspirational character and I just wanted to be like him I think. Later I was in a few bands playing guitar and stumbled into electronica along the way.

Alex: We first went into the studio together when I was running a label and we started working on remixes together. The rest became a logical progression and the records started selling, so we decided to continue!

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
Alex: I really wanted to get back to the ethos we had when we started – coming from the dancefloor. That doesn’t just mean heads down four to the floor, but music that is much more groove related.

Aaron: I think it’s been a pretty grim couple of years in the world and I wanted to do something that doesn’t take itself too seriously. So, there’s definitely some funk and house homages in there.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
Aaron: I’ve always liked melody, so usually I like to get the basic building blocks of a track down first before spending ages dwelling on what keyboard should be playing what sound, what drum sounds to use etc etc. I like to get something up and running pretty quickly, so that (in the case of an LP) I can tell if it’s going to fit with the album as a whole straight away.

Alex: I like to start with a concept of what type of track, stylistically speaking, we are going do. This often comes from us sitting down, discussing references, tempo, feel, or even an idea for a riff. After sketching that out we’ll try to get the right feel of the rhythm track, before building up the layers and writing the vocals.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
Aaron: There really are too many to mention here, but Blondie, Roxy Music, Fleetwood Mac, Parliament, and New York New Wave bands like The Bush Tetras spring to mind.

Alex: We share a lot of these and I could go on forever but I’d say things like Hendrix, Prince, early house, Cameo, AC/DC and Can. It’s a pretty broad palette!

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
Alex: Without wanting to sound clichéd, listen with an open mind and without any preconceptions as to what you are going to hear. Also, as outrageous as it may sound these days, listen to the album from start to finish.

Aaron: Thanks for taking the time to listen, I hope you give it a second and third listen.

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
Aaron: After you spend ages in the studio on a new album, I’m always excited and nervous to see how people react to it. I’m looking forward to getting out and about again, touring and DJing, before the cabin fever sets in!! I’m also looking forward to doing more remixes, which we have more time for now the album’s done and dusted!

Alex:  Yes, getting out and about more and doing more shows is definitely a priority; and it’s a good feeling when you have a new album which you’re really pleased with under your belt.