Caribou, a.k.a. Dan Snaith, has cemented himself as one of the most innovative and respected musicians of our generation, and his close work with All Tomorrow's Parties demonstrates the reputation he has managed to build up over the past ten years. Beginning life as Manitoba, Snaith was forced to change the band's name to Caribou after Richard "Handsome Dick" Manitoba (stage name of Richard Blum) threatened a lawsuit, which lead Snaith to compare the situation to "The Smiths suing John Smith". However with this forced name change came the first of three critically acclaimed albums, The Milk Of Human Kindness, which then led to Andorra and his most recent release Swim. As Caribou enters another busy and eventful year, the 405 caught up with Snaith to discuss his excitement over curating his first ATP gig, his most important influences, and what we can expect from the fourth Caribou album. Hi Dan, how’s it going? I’m good thanks, just at home in London. I must say it’s fantastic to be talking to you today; I’ve seen you perform several times before. Your Warehouse Project gig with Four Tet was pretty special... Yeah! That Warehouse Project gig was a particularly crazy gig for us, it was really really great. It was incredible as it was such a dream line up, as the people we were playing with were people I wanted to see play, or were friends, or were people I admired musically. Getting to play in that sort of environment, where everyone was so excited, it really was amazing. What would you say was your favourite gig of all time, and why? Hmm, I was going to say that’s a really hard question, but it’s not. My favourite gig we’ve ever done, because it was the most unique for us, would be the gig we played at the Flaming Lips ATP gig in 2009 in New York. First of all, when I was growing up Flaming Lips were heroes of mine, and then over the years they’ve become fans and friends of the band and mine. So to have them to ask us to do this, with such a fantastic amount of resources, was amazing. Playing with Marshall Allen, who is one of my all time musical heroes, alongside a group of our friends, pretty much anyone who has every played with Caribou, it was just the kind of thing that felt like it’d never happen again. Speaking of All Tomorrow’s Parties, you’re due to curate your first ATP gig in December. Are you excited for it? I’m totally thrilled! Again, it’s one of those things that is a dream come true! The ability to take any musicians from around the world, and to try to get them to play on that day, it’s one of those things you always hope you’d get the chance to do. So when Barry from ATP asked me, I was like, ‘I’ll drop everything!’. In fact, in the second half of this year we were planning on doing pretty much nothing, except a bit of recording. However when Barry asked me I agreed immediately, so I’ve been brainstorming a long, long list of possible bands. In theory you have any musician alive and playing in the world to choose from, but the reality is which of those people can you get to play, and is it feasible to get these people you’ve dreamed about to play. To be honest I’ve been amazed so far, and we’ve only confirmed a small number of acts that are due to play. You’ve discussed artists that inspire and interest you, but which artist would you say has influenced you the most and why? Well the bedrock of my musical taste, and I’m sure this will be obvious in the ATP gig we are due to curate, is kind of spiritual free jazz musicians, such as Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane. It is their music that has most excited me during my life, and discovering that music for the first time made me realize music provided everything I wanted. It’s hard to single out one of those musicians, but it’s those range of musicians who I’d cite as my biggest influences. That’s why it was such an honour to play with Marshall Allen, and there are some people in that world of music that we’re asking to play our ATP. Not sure if they’ve been confirmed yet, but it’s definitely that sort of musician. You’ve mentioned you’re planning on recording again, and I’d love to talk about that a bit more. Of course! When you read all the reviews, and indeed listen to your three albums as Caribou, there is a consensus that there has been a great level of fluidity in your sound as it has developed. What can we expect to follow after ‘Swim’? I wish I could tell you, as I wish I knew myself. Actually, I don’t wish I knew myself! It’s very early on in terms of the new recording, and the process of each album is one of discovery. I only figure out how the album will sound as I work it out and progress with it, but I definitely want each album to sound different and act as a progression, or at least be distinct from previous albums. The whole joy for me lies in the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing, or what I want the album to sound like, and the excitement is in stumbling on something that you feel might work and points in the direction of the next album. So at this early stage, the sound of the next record is quite a malleable situation? I’m still very much excited by contemporary things going on in Dance music, and the ideas around Dance music production. It’s more likely I’ll carry on down that vain, as I feel ‘Swim’ is more of a beginning than an end, so it’ll pick up from where Swim left off. However I have no interest in duplicating that album or doing that album again! Looking at your tour dates over the next few months, it’s looking like a huge task! Have you got a particular day you’re looking forward to the most? Well last year I felt like we had played every possible gig in the world! In terms of this year, playing Glastonbury is always amazing, and playing Primavera is always amazing too. Then there are a couple of one off gigs we’re excited about, like the Berlin gig with Emeralds, and there’s a gig in Manchester with Battles. I feel like we’re doing less gigs than last year, but the thing that is exciting for me this time around is making each individual gig a special experience. Whether that means we’re curating a gig, or we’re playing at a special venue or festival. Your live performances form a great deal of your music, especially as the band is centered, facing one another during a gig. Is this a deliberate and continuing set up that we can still expect to see? Definitely, as the set up is necessary as we spend so much time communicating with one another to make sure we know where each other is as the track is evolving. I also like how it communicates that sense of intensity, and that the music is a result of a great collaboration. I think it’s a maybe an irony as the music I make on the albums is just myself in the studio, so you’d expect the live show not to be such an integral part, however over the years it has grown to be more and more important. It’s almost another half of the whole thing, as it’s distinct from the album but it’s just as important. For example, we don’t know precisely what we’re going to do for our ATP gig, but we’re already planning lots of ambitious things that we’re going to do for the first time. It’s something I’m really happy when the four of us play live, but I want to try more and more different things in the future. As we’ve discussed your plans to organize your own ATP gig, theoretically speaking, who would you love to have seen in performance? I’d definitely like to have seen Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane and Elvin Jones. I’d love to have seen Elvin Jones play at the Village Vanguard, and I’d love to see Can play in the early 70’s. I feel like I’m so excited about not only being able to curate, but also being able to see the bands we’ve chosen to play our gig at ATP. One in particular I’m excited about is The Ex with Getachew Mekurva, who is an Ethiopian sax player who is in his 70’s or 80’s, and he’s playing with The Ex who are a seminal punk band that started in the 80’s. They do this collaboration that really doesn’t tour that much, so I’m really happy to have them playing.
This interview was brought to you as part of the ATP Takeover Week on The 405. Full details on the takeover can be found here