Released on March 25 Miss Kittin and The Hacker’s Third Album is the much anticipated new studio album from the French producer maverick duo. It has been over twenty years since First Album came out under the wing of DJ Hell's International DeeJay Gigolo, which prepared the foundation of the so-called electroclash or new new wave genre at the turn of the millennium. Back in the studio together to put their chemistry under the test, yet keeping intact their signature sound and essence, Third Album is a genuinely crisp and modern version of themselves. The new full-length was officially premiered in Paris along with a special show at their hometown, Grenoble, including DJ Hell on the bill, to kick-off their celebration with friends who have been part of their trailblazing career. The European tour is underway including iconic venues such as Fabric, London and Razzmatazz, Barcelona next week Friday 13th May.
Third Album is your new studio album as a duo since the release of Two in 2009. Have you made this record in any different way than you used to, whether it is because of the new technology or how the world has changed since then?
Kittin: We talked about it upfront. Usually we just compose until we have enough for an album. This time, we couldn’t avoid questions about who we are today, what we want to say after 3 decades in music, in this new world. I think it’s a healthy process to wonder why we are still here today and why we do it. It brought us back to what’s essential, avoid creative pollution and focus on what we are good at.We also spent more time together at his studio, even though we still needed to finish work in our own place. I have my own recording process and equipment that requires time to edit, comp, and treat. Therefore, technology has changed from the first album when we recorded everything live, without even a microphone. I think the album just dropped last March 25. How long did it take to get it ready? Covid postponed it for 2 years. It was nearly ready before. Writing is quite fast, we know each other by heart. We took this extra unwanted time to prepare the release the best we could.
Hacker: When we did the second album, I remember we really worked separately, I was making the music in my studio then sending it to Caroline, she was doing the vocals herself in her studio. But for this new album it is a mix between this and the way we used to work at the beginning. Some of the tracks in the new album were made in the studio together. For instance, Ostbahnhof was the first track we made for this album just the way we did Frank Sinatra and the early staff. We were at my studio, I was playing Caroline some loops, and she was like "Ah, this is good, let's work on this". It was good to see that our collaboration process still worked in this environment. It was kind of a test, to see if we could still work together in the same room, do we still have this chemistry thing going on? It worked. Actually we worked pretty fast, it went very smoothly.
How long did it take to get the full-length ready?
Hacker: We started before the pandemic around Christmas 2019, I remember. We did a few more tracks like this, after Ostbahnhof it came Homme à la Mode and some other until the pandemic when we did some overdubs we made that apart, we didn't have any choice during lockdown. Then we met again in the studio with the sound engineer to do the final mix in Côte-d'Or.
Kittin: Michel recorded it in Grenoble, our hometown, where I came at the early stage of the process, listening to loops and ideas, shaping them and arranging. I recorded vocals at my place in the country, as I need calm and time for it. Recording and editing take time, exploring, etc. He would be bored by my side, the same way I would bother him in the sound design and mix processes. We exactly know what we have to do, our roles are perfectly clear, that’s how it is flawless.
Then you did not make the final mix yourselves?
Kittin: We did it for the first time with our friend Nicolas Masseyeff. Mixing is another talent that you have to learn precisely. I personally don’t have that knowledge, but I learn a lot from it, which was a great experience. Also, nowadays, you can’t release stuff straight from a machine without proper mixing like in the 90s, even though it sounded great already without. Sound became a huge part of our industry, to fit new platforms, new ways of listening, new sound systems.
Hacker: We wanted to have a professional sound engineer to get this done properly. Of course, I know a few things about it but I am not a professional sound guy like that. I was in the studio to direct Nicolas. I had an idea, how I wanted it in terms of sound. I wanted the album to sound modern but also that old school vibe that we have always had since the beginning. It’s very important for us to have these aspects.
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I think you succeeded in making that perfectly. As a matter of fact we did an interview together when you guys released Lost Tracks, around 2018. Back then I asked if you guys had in mind a new studio album together, both replied with uncertainty, What made you decide to do it?
Kittin: We always remain uncertain to protect our freedom. The same way our entity is uncertain. We never split, we never were totally together either. It’s a big side project so to speak.The decision comes slowly when we start missing each other, and it takes sometimes 13 years, even though we are friends and hang out regularly.
I love this new record. It keeps the entire essence of your sound whilst sounding fresh. Please, let me know about the process of making this record.
Kittin: It’s exactly what we hoped for. We feel fortunate to have been able to do that, we know it’s a chance after all this time to reach quality. That’s also why we need that much time between albums. We could release more, but it wouldn’t be that good, and you probably won’t be that receptive. Rarity is a treasure these days. We definitely focused on what we know best, what we are good at, and yet still find the experimental process that keeps us excited. I always try to do things I’ve never done before, like using different languages, topics, voice tones or effects.
What made you take this decision to release Third Album at Nobody's Bizzness?
Hacker: It is a Miss Kittin label. When we started to work on this new album we were thinking maybe to send it to some record label or a big company but then we realised you don't have to do that anymore, nowadays you can do everything yourself. It is great to work with Caroline, we are very effective together, we produce ourselves, pay for everything but at the end we have control of the entire process. We have control on the artwork, the release dates, on how we want to do the promotion, what we want to do, what we don't want to do. In terms of money it is more interesting for us too [laughs] if it doesn't work we can only complain to ourselves [more laughs]. The idea is to be free and to be in control, basically.
Kittin: It was the most convenient and best business plan to keep it our own. We don’t need a big label and we keep our freedom of decision.
Since your first full-length the music industry has changed dramatically. What do you like the most about where the industry is heading or what are the biggest challenges for artists right now?
Kittin: It’s always complicated to constantly adjust to the world of today when you are a veteran. But it’s a great challenge too. There are many more opportunities than before, and the day I say « it was better than before » I should stop this job. It was not better before anyway, we just keep the best memories and forget the rest. Doubt and insecurity are the biggest artists' issues. Competition as well. But I remind myself as artists we are all unique and can’t compete with each other, it’s not a race. I stay away from social media negativity and focus on the positive side, new artists, new ways of production, new ideas, without forgetting where I come from and what I am good at, keep on cultivating your singularity. And accept you can’t please everyone. Make choices you are in peace with. In the new album Caroline sings one track in French.
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I can't avoid mentioning your references to Kraftwerk but I guess there was something else behind this thought?
Kittin: I never liked singing in French because I don’t have enough distance with my own language. But I gave it a try, also because we don’t have to be understood anymore, and well, we are French. I also tried another language that I don’t speak at all, for the opposite exercise: taking advantage of not understanding a word, and using the music of it while still making sense. It’s a freedom I love, as I used to in English making charming mistakes. Language is another instrument the voice can use, exactly as tone, textures, effects.
Have you done any collaborations with other artists so far to remix any singles from Third Album?
Kittin: No. We don’t really like remixes. We prefer to keep our songs intact.
I think Michael has made some remixes for other artists, do you still enjoy it?
Hacker: Yeah, I still do it. I like it. Doing remixes is a cool exercise. Sometimes, I feel inspired and can do a remix in just a few days. I like it because you can extend yourself how to approach music. It is not yours so you can totally go in different directions. I enjoy it.
I'm sure artists look after you and your voice as a fellow creative when they ask for this.
Hacker: Absolutely.
Please tell me about the music video Ostbahnhof. What's the idea behind it?
Hacker: Miss Kittin did it herself.
Kittin: During lockdown, I thought about delivering something for social media. It turned into a video. I’ve never done a video before. It’s very DIY, I used archive footage of Berlin. It was also a chance to display lyrics with it. We both love the dark imagery and it reflects perfectly the spirit of Berlin, as an homage.
Are you planning to drop any new videos from the album?
Hacker: We are working on the video for the track 19 as we speak. If it works it's going to be a funny one. It is a song with a double meaning, it is about a bar I always go, my favourite place, so we were shooting in this bar with some friends and fans. We'll see how that works.
Is that in Paris?
Hacker: No, it's in Grenoble, where I live.
A few weeks ago you played in France with DJ Hell. Was this the launch show for Third Album?
Kittin: We just did the official launch in Paris before that. Playing in our hometown with Hell will be something special for sure.
Hacker: It was again in our hometown in Grenoble. Everybody was here, all my friends, family... everybody came. It was more like a celebration. We played in a big venue. It was really cool to have DJ Hell with us, he is part of our story. It was really cool, we had a really good time, and a terrible hangover the day after (laughs).
You started touring around Europe in mid April in Stockholm.
Hacker: It was really a cool party, Indie. EBM, Goth kind of thing. We really enjoyed it.
Is your live show performance or a DJ set together?
Kittin: It's a hybrid live set. We don’t like this term but we don’t know how else to describe it. We DJ instrumental versions, new and old tracks, unreleased as well. I sing over it, and Michel has a SH101 boutique synth to play sequences live too. We wanted to have a flexible set up to play everywhere anytime, clubs or festivals, and change the order of the songs whenever we want, without sacrificing the live experience. So far it’s working very well, we are happy with it.
Hacker: We call it a hybrid live set. Caroline is singing on the tracks. Instead of having computers we play tracks on a usb stick from the DJ set. These are instrumental versions of the new album, and the old tracks also. It’s like a DJ set but Caroline sings on it live and I play synthesisers live. It's really a mix between live and DJ.
I guess the more beat parts are recorded and the more melodic parts and voice are live.
Hacker: Exactly.
Do you have plans for more dates touring and playing the new album live?
Hacker: Yeah, it's coming, so far we've played around Europe in Madrid, Paris, Stockholm, Munich. Next will be Fabric London in May, and Barcelona Razzmatazz. We have a history with this place, I love Barcelona. We are really looking forward to that show, [as well as] probably Belgium and Germany again. We are playing some summer festivals in France. There are talks about touring North America and South American after the summer. We'll see.
Kittin: A lot. We'll keep you posted.
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