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Interview: Museum of Love

Longtime friends Pat Mahoney (of LCD Soundsystem) and Dennis McNany on their new band and very "un-DFA" record

by Nara Shin in Culture on 22 April 2014

NYC, Moogfest 2014, Electronic Music, Albums, DFA Records, Interviews, LCD Soundsystem

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While the much-loved LCD Soundsystem disbanded in 2011, drummer Pat Mahoney has hardly remained idle. In fact, the DFA veteran has literally become even more more vocal in his new collaboration with longtime friend Dennis "Jee Day" McNany (founder of Run Roc Records), going under the moniker Museum of Love. They've teased us with the release of their first single—the gritty yet effervescent "Down South"—nearly a year ago last June, and just uploaded the music video for "Monotronic" this month. What we can infer from the two is that we're in for something unexpected—a style that will require an entirely new set of dance moves that can keep down with the slower pace and building tension. CH met with the NYC-based duo to discuss their first live performance as a band (this Saturday at this year's Moogfest), their upcoming album (expected to release this August through DFA Records) and the fine game of squash.

Can you recall the (love) story of how you two met?

Pat Mahoney: When did we meet? We met so long ago we don't even remember.

Dennis McNany: We met 14 or 15 years ago? So I moved to New York in 1999, and my first gig was assistant engineer at DFA. Before there was a DFA, I was working in that studio with James and Tim, and I met Pat there because he would come in frequently.

PM: I would come in to make snarky comments and just be a nuisance; this was before LCD Soundsystem.

Fast forward to now; how was Museum of Love born?

PM: A couple of years ago, Dennis asked me to play some drums in the studio he was working in. We did a little session and then a few months later, he was like, "Hey, do you want to try to make some songs?" We were already buds, so we just started working. We made a remix together [Battles: "My Machines" feat. Gary Numan], made the first couple songs and it just gelled really beautifully. So we decided to form a band—as you do at that point.

As a duo, what was the composition process like in the studio?

PM: I sing everything. Dennis does the bulk of the writing, music-wise, but then we edit and arrange everything together and throw ideas around and strip stuff out and add stuff back in—it's a collaboration. We were in the studio with a ton of old synthesizers, I played drums on it, we shook things that make "shaky" sounds; we had horn players come in and string players come in. We compose on the computer [in Logic] but then we record instruments.

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And the album is now finished, so why are you taking your time?

DM: Call it a certain person called Jonathan Galkin. [laughs] He's holding us down until 19 August—street date.

Moogfest will be your first live performance together, so we'll be able to hear more of the album this weekend. Who are you bringing with you to play on stage?

PM: The guy who helped us make the record—Matt Shaw, the engineer at the DFA studio, Plantain—is playing various instruments and helping us out because he knows the record really well and really enjoyed making it with us. He's playing some keyboards, some bass guitar and some percussion. And Ahmed Gallab from Sinkane is drumming. And I'm playing in a project with him, a tribute to William Onyeabor, the Atomic Bomb band. He is returning the favor and playing drums for us for just this show, or maybe for a couple shows in New York.

And what instruments are you guys going to be behind on stage?

PM: A bunch of synthesizers, a microphone, a drum set, and the bass guitar—

DM: There'll be various instruments played.

PM: A whole pile of stuff... that can go wrong.

So you're all multi-instrumentalists.

DM: We had a great revelation the other night. We realized, in the rehearsal space, that everyone was playing an instrument that was somewhat foreign to them.

PM: It's like a punk rock band, we're all playing our instruments for the first time.

In the music video for "Monotronic," you guys play one intense game of squash. Is that a regular hobby?

PM: No, we'd never played squash before.

DM: I have a good friend, Andrew, who wanted to shoot the video and had this concept. So we went up to his place, and he actually has a squash court in his backyard and taught us to "fake" it. And then it got pretty competitive. [laughs] Pat won.

PM: No, come on! [laughs] I got hit in the face with the racquet. That's why you have to wear goggles; it's a dangerous game.

You guys are probably more comfortable in the DJ booth together than on the court. What's that one go-to song you have to play at every set?

PM: I've basically played out—I don't even think I can play it anymore—"Cheaters" by Teengirl Fantasy. We try not to play the same stuff all the time.

DM: Every set has been different and the cool thing is getting to surprise each other, which makes it a lot of fun. A lot of the fun of this project has been sharing a similar vocabulary and just getting to play for people, but playing for each other as well, is satisfying. So it's always trying to surprise each other or come up with new jams.

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In a lot of ways, it's a very un-DFA record. It's not a straightforward dance record; references are wide though hopefully sounding very fresh.
How would you describe the new sound you're trying to achieve with Museum of Love?

DM: The beauty of this is that we kind of made a really weird record that goes a lot of different places. In a lot of ways, it's a very un-DFA record. It's not a straightforward dance record; references are wide though hopefully sounding very fresh.

PM: It's filtered through our personalities. Like classic '90s hip-hop and we were thinking about Roxy Music and we were thinking about Terry Riley, all kinds of stuff. It was our way of saying, "Can we get into some of these spaces?" And this is the answer to that question.

Check out Museum of Love's first live performance at this year's Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina which opens tomorrow; the band will be performing this Saturday night, 26 April 2014, followed by Factory Floor at the DFA showcase. Mahoney will also be performing at "Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor" concerts in NYC, SF and LA starting 2 May 2014.

Portrait images courtesy of Timothy Saccenti, other images courtesy of Museum of Love

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Prefabulous World

Sustainable architecture and green building solutions with style from around the world

by Hans Aschim in Design on 22 April 2014

Architecture, Books, Earth Day, Eco-conscious, Green, Homes, Prefabrication

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As sustainability becomes a greater concern across all fields, advances in materials technology and design mean aesthetics are no longer sacrificed for a reduced carbon footprint. Just in time for Earth Day, "Prefabulous World" by Sheri Koones illustrates the stunning architectural capability of prefabricated materials in homes around the world. The book seeks to both educate on green building and also dispel the idea that utilizing prefabricated building materials makes for an uninspired, drab home.

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The ecological benefits of using prefabricated building materials are wide-reaching. With reductions in fuel usage and construction waste and improved energy efficiency, from a green building perspective, prefabrication (along with repurposing existing materials like shipping containers) is the route to the most minimal impact on the environment. Prefabrication encompasses a range of materials, building methods and of course home aesthetics. Perhaps the book's greatest value is Koones' ability to touch on the wide range of styles around the world—from the popular American modular method to the abundant use of shipping containers in Denmark due to the proximity of the maritime transport industry.

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Organized geographically, each entry contains detailed information about the house's construction process, floor-plan and efficiency system. Bearing in mind that making use of surrounding renewable resources is a key tenet to a green build, each house comes with a unique set of solutions to enhance efficiency. From maximizing solar energy to ultra-efficient, off-the-grid water heaters, the book is full of inspiration for green design solutions and presents many instances of green urban development. For example, the Archway Studios house makes use of abandoned industrial space—known as brownfield development. Hazardous waste and pollutants are cleaned up prior to constructions and existing structures are worked into the new property—in this case with a transformative, beautiful result.

With 300 pages of color photos, plans and useful insights from architects and sustainability experts around the world, "Prefabulous World" is available today, 22 April 2014, from Amazon for $25.

Photos by Hans Aschim

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Spring Gardening Gear

Our favorites across rare seeds and hydroponics to smart tools and watering cans

by David Graver in Culture on 22 April 2014

Gardening, Hydroponics, Plants, Seeds, Spring, Weeds, Pruning, Gear, Tools

Everyone can be a gardener with a little effort, proper scheduling and a dedicated plot of land. Whether or not you're interested in toying with orach or purple tree collards, or having your plants tweet, maybe this is the year you dig in. The following selections are great options—for inside or outdoors—that are effective, handy and even a little stylish.

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Strathcona 1890 Seed Collections

With a wide range of plant seeds, Strathcona selects from only trusted seed-growers, all non-GMO, non-chemically treated and all sustainably sourced. With inspiration as a motivation and a background in social change, the entire company represents a new wave of thoughtful DIY. And with options ranging from the simpler salsa garden for $19 and quick and dirty for $23 to the wildly imaginative edible flowers for $23 and rare and unusual for $28, you're guaranteed to find and grow something uniquely yours—even indoors.

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SmartSeeds

From Rainbow Carrots to the magnificent Blue Passion Flower, SmartSeeds offers to widest range of hard to find seeds, at extraordinary prices (many from $3). Founded by a master gardener and landscape designer, the origins of all the seeds are entirely transparent—even when they've been hunted from the furthest reaches of the world. These are seeds for people with patience and either an expertise or a want to become more experienced through research and observation. Either way, they are far from the average offerings.

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Nature's Source Plant Probiotic

An all-natural plant food, Nature's Source Plant Probiotic seeks to aid the growth of plants, for fuller, healthier results. Its components allow additional support for nutrient availability, breakdown and absorption and stimulate strong roots. The formula also coaxes plants into a new environment after being transplanted—minimizing shock and encouraging tolerance. Their full range of products are sold in stores; find the one nearest through their distributor listing.

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Parrot's Flower Power

One of the smartest devices for indoor/outdoor gardening, Parrot's Flower Power happens to be a Bluetooth plant sensor, accompanied by a free dedicated app. Utilizing a database of over 6,000 plants (cannabis included), the gadget registers all requirements for what you're growing, from water to sunlight, air temperature and more, and notifies you about necessary modifications. It's easy to set up and easier to use. Not to mention that it's waterproof and operates on AA batteries. It's available on Amazon for $60.

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Haws Watering Cans

With one liter capacity, this stunning handmade copper water can, by Haws is indoor/outdoor gem. It's stunning, but also functional; the long spout allows access into hard to reach places. It's top quality, made by a company that's been producing watering cans since 1886. Available for purchase online for $99 AUD.

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Jasper Morrison Oil Can

The Oil Can we found through Jasper Morrison's design shop—helmed by the acclaimed industrial designer of the same name, who's spearheaded globally successful projects for VItra, Alessi and Cappellini—matches out of the ordinary looks and a little extra functionality. While its design harkens back to oil cans of old, it's made of lightweight white plastic, and carries a total of three liters of water. The nozzle is also flexible and detachable, for full access to tricky roots. All of that and it's only £12 online.

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Terracotta Herb Markers

While browsing through Modern Farmer's web store, we fell in love with these Kaufmann Mercantile Terracotta Herb Markers. A set of eight labels, each marks where herbs have been set in the garden, though they're a nice touch to indoor pots. The set includes sage, basil, chives, thyme, tarragon, dill, parsley and rosemary—all made from English terracotta in Newark, England. The set retails for $18.

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The Ring Weeder

A smart design and very logical invention, The Ring Weeder slips on your index finger for prying up unwantables in densely packed or hard to reach places. Its split tip allows for access to whole roots and it's available in customized sizes—much like any other ring. At just $8, it's a very cheap and handy purchase for any green thumb.

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Kneelo Knee Pads

If you're going to get down on your knees, you might as well enjoy it. At only $35, the comfort offered from Kneelo Knee Pads, not to mention their two vibrant colorways, makes gardening a much easier experience. Anyone who tends an outdoor garden knows it isn't all done on your feet. They're soft, flexible (one size really does fit all) and composed of water resistant neoprene. The internal memory technology allows them to fit and stay fitting. They're also a very modern product from Burgon & Ball of Sheffield, England—a company that's been producing high-quality garden tools since 1730.

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Bulbo Light

The Italian artisans behind lighting company Bulbo have produced the best in single pot illumination. With Cynara they've developed an anodized aluminum and hand-varnished faience terracotta LED lamp for growing medium size plants, especially vegetables and kitchen herbs. The lampshade delicately umbrellas the leaves, emitting the best light for a plant's nutrition. Cynara can either be attached to an aluminum rod and placed directly in a pot, or securely hung overhead. The lamps are available online in Europe for roughly £128, or in store in the US.

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Click and Grow Herb Garden

An extension of their previous Smart Pot, the brand—utilizing NASA inspired technology—now has an entire Herb Garden. For at home gardening, this is one of the smartest options, as internal sensors measure all the conditions within the potter. It's as easy as plugging in and adding water, with the results being fresh basil, thyme and lemon balm. The Click and Grow Herb Garden sells for $100 online. You can also snag mini tomato, rocket and chili pepper refills for the Smart Pot iteration, for $10 each.

Check out our Cool Hunting Gift Guide for even more gardening and eco-friendly items.

Images courtesy of respective brands

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