Russell Lissack speaks

Some people just can't sit still.

Bloc Party were one of Britain's hardest working bands, with five years producing three studio albums, a couple of remix collections and countless tours. Finally heeding their family's demands for a break, guitarist Russell Lissack decided that he just couldn't sit still.

Four walls were not for him, with the indie star almost immediately heading out on the road with fun time Northern Irish trio Ash. As well as this, Lissack firmed up plans for his transatlantic side project Pin Me Down, featuring New York singer Milena Mepris.

Deeply indebted to electronic music, Pin Me Down take Bloc Party's dance tendencies one stage further. Recorded piecemeal on either side of the Big Pond, the duo's debut album is an unexpected delight.

To celebrate, ClashMusic caught up with workaholic guitarist Russell Lissack as Pin Me Down go from theory to reality...

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How did you and Milena meet originally?
The first time Bloc Party went to America we played in New York and she was in a band who were on the same bill as us. We just kind of met up at the show, started talking and got on really well. We started jamming backstage, messing around with Weezer songs! Just playing random things, jamming on ideas. From the start we just seemed to get on really well.

Was getting on well a big factor?
There were definitely some mutual influences – like I said, we were both into Weezer. A lot of British bands as well. It was also that we seemed to have good musical chemistry with each other straight away.

In the past six months Pin Me Down have gathered a lot of momentum?
It’s just that this is the first time we’ve both been available to get things working. I’ve obviously been touring pretty much constantly with Bloc Party, and she’s been busy as well. You always end up in different company as well, so it’s been a real struggle to do anything together. Which is why most of the things we’ve done have tended to be done over the internet. Finding time has always been a problem. In November I finished touring with Bloc Party and we just started getting some ideas together, then we wanted to put an album out. We just really needed to find some time somewhere.

Did the two of you have an idea of what Pin Me Down should sound like?
It was much more organic than that. There were a couple of times when we spoke about it. Bloc Party played New York quite a few times, and whenever we did the pair of us would try and have a jam together to work on stuff. The majority of times I would come up with stuff while we were touring, then I would email her my parts. Things would progress over time. It was really rare that we would actually have time to sit down together.

Email collaborations are fraught with difficulty – did you find that it applied itself well to Pin Me Down?
In a way it did, because generally I had to write most of the music myself. I had the freedom to work in my own time on some instrumental tracks and she had the freedom to work on lyrics and melodies in her own time. I think we had enough faith in one another to not interfere in what the other one was doing. It was only once the song was finished, one we had completed our respective parts that we would analyse it. It was just kind of a different experience, writing with bands compared to working on your own.

Pin Me Down - Cryptic

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What necessitated the break from Bloc Party?
We’d been on tour pretty much solidly since 2004, so we’d been on the road for five years. It’s a long time, we were pretty tired. I love touring and playing shows and seeing the world but it’s pretty tiring. We’ve all got families as well, so everyone was eager to take time off.

Does that mean that Pin Me Down will only exist during the break?
There’s no a plan. Milena is at university as well, so there’s still an ongoing problem with trying to find time to do things. We’re in other countries as well. It’s always been a real battle to get things done for us. There’s not a massive game plan to get things done, we’re just taking things as they come with the little time we have to work with.

Where did the electronic influences on Pin Me Down come from?
It’s something that I’ve always been into, personally. I’ve always listened to a lot of electronic and dance music, ever since I was younger. Some of the songs from Pin Me Down are a few years old, we’ve just not performed them onstage. I’m maybe more into it now than I was then. It was definitely always a part of my influences.

Have you always been clubbing?
I went through phases. I started learning guitar when I was fifteen, sixteen but at the end of the 90s guitar music started to get really boring. I got more into dance music for a few years, going clubbing. That was more of an interest to me for a while, before guitar music got interesting again. The pendulum seems to swing every couple of years, one way or another. At the end of the day, guitar music has become quite dull recently which is perhaps why I’ve got more into dance. It’s always been something I’ve been into. If I’m in a club then I’d rather hear something I can dance to than a slow, boring guitar song. Personally that’s not what I think a club is for.

What kind of clubs do you mean?
At the moment I’m into more kind of electro stuff. It changes. Music is always progressing. At the moment that is definitely what I’m into. I’ve been working on a few remixes as well, that’s something I’d like to look more into as well when I get the time.

Will you be doing remixes for other people?
I might do. I’ve got a friend who is a producer and we’ve done a couple of remixes together recently. It’s definitely something I want to work on, and hopefully do our own material at some point. I’ve really enjoyed the remixes we’ve done so far, I’m really proud of what we’ve got.

Is the material written with the dancefloor in mind?
It’s definitely leaning more towards the dancefloor. It’s a fun album, I think. It’s quite summery, high energy. That’s something we always intended it to be, I think, we always wanted it be fun to listen to. Not that it’s not serious, but it is mean to be something you can dance to and enjoy.

Pin Me Down - Time Crisis

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How are live performances going to work?
We did a show in New York last year. Just like a one off thing. Basically we’d get some friends in – it would be a live band thing, rather than the two of us performing with a laptop or something. Sometimes it’s just really boring if you go to a gig and it’s just someone with a computer onstage. That’s just not an exciting night out. If someone’s got loads of lights and a great set up obviously that’s a completely different atmosphere. With a live act you can watch people perform and it’s more of a show.

You were on tour with Ash recently, how did that go?
We did a couple of shows in New York and Tokyo, and we’re about to do a UK tour now. It’s been really fun, as if goes. They’re really nice guys and I was a huge fan when I was younger. It’s a nice thing for me to do. They’re really fun guys, but they’re quite hard to keep up with. I’m going to try my best!

So why take a break with Bloc Party?
My wife wants to kill me! I’m not the kind of person who can sit at home and do nothing for a year. I love touring, and with Ash the tours are like crazy Bloc Party touring where we’re away for a year. It’s a nice relaxing schedule. I’m really looking forward to it, because I just get so itchy at home. I need to do something, so when the opportunity came up I grabbed it.

Pin Me Down's debut album is out now

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