"Where the hell are HEALTH?" it's a question fans of the Los Angeles outfit have been asking for over half a decade. Back in 2009 when the band dropped their sophomore LP, In Colour, they could lay claim to the title of most exciting band not only to emerge from The Smell's noise rock scene, but the wider alternative music landscape as they showcased a progressive stylistic shift into melodious, electronic territory while remaining faithful to the tectonic shattering brand of rock they'd displayed on their self-titled debut. Back then, a six-year wait for another LP seemed unthinkable, yet that's exactly what happened.

So what have HEALTH been up to? A lot more than most, actually. Opportunities can present themselves in strange ways and when the band went for dinner with a rep from Rockstar video games on the premise to discuss writing a track for the Grand Theft Auto series, it actually turned out to be something bigger. Much bigger. Looking for someone to score the latest instalment in their Max Payne franchise, the company headhunted the group and, 4 million worldwide game sales later, the rest is history.

Writing the soundtrack for a 25 chapter game is no overnight task, however, and it was only last month the band finally returned with 'NEW COKE', the video for which seemed to delight (hey, that's a cameo from Alice Glass!!1!1!) and disgust (if you've watched it need we need not explain) in equal measure. With Death Magic, the much anticipated 3rd LP, slated for release on August 7th, the 405 spoke with frontman Jake Duzsik about the new album, the process behind it and the making of *that* video.

You guys play London tomorrow but I know you were on tour in Europe doing some dates with Interpol a few months back. How were those shows?

Yeah, well it wasn't a full tour, we were in Europe with Interpol doing some support dates but we've been over here now for about 3 weeks playing Primavera in Barcelona and Portugal which were both awesome.

How was the reaction to the new material?

It went really, really well. It's part of why we agreed to do the Interpol tour - as well as being big lnterpol fans and getting the opportunity to see them play live every night while hopefully making some new ones of our own - we knew with those shows we'd get the chance to play in rooms that would be bigger with good sound systems where we would also get the chance to soundcheck and integrate the new songs with the old songs, thus allowing us to create a set where we can present all the material at the same time. I think we would have been overly stressed to try and come over and play a bunch of new tracks with a new set up in front of thousands of people at Primavera so that was the plan and it actually worked out pretty well.

Has the set up for performing live changed much to accommodate the new songs?

I mean it's not changed terribly. We're playing about five new songs as of right now. We're all fans of live music and while it's exciting when a band plays new stuff, it can be draining when they play a set that's just new songs, especially when they haven't released the record yet. We don't wanna be like "hey, we're gonna play our whole new album and you're not gonna know what any of these songs are yet" because currently 'NEW COKE' is the only new song we've put out there.

So was it in LA you recorded the new stuff?

Yeah, all of it was done in LA.




Did the process behind it differ much compared to HEALTH and Get Colour?

Yeah, it was very, very different. Obviously this record is more electronic and we've been moving in that direction. There are still drums, guitar and bass on it but there are a lot more electronic drums, instrumentation and weird sample stuff. So yeah, the first record we recorded ourselves in the snow with whatever resources we had available to us. The second one we done the traditional drums one weekend, guitars, bass and overdubs the next and then you spend your time mixing it trying to get it right. With this we wanted to make a record that was modern and relevant. That's not to say the others weren't, but it's just, in the amount of time we've been a band there's been a lot of innovations in music and so many of those innovations have been electronic which have changed the powerful nature in the way that you can present sounds. So we did whatever worked especially because in the time we had spent making music for the Max Payne 3 soundtrack we developed a lot of new additions to our sound palette which led us to working with different people in different studios. Some of it was done in our own studio which we put together for the making of Max Payne and then we worked in a studio in Hollywood with a producer named Andrew Dawson who mostly does hip-hop and was Kanye West's engineer for all of Kanye's albums.

After that we done some work with Lars Stalfors, a guy who we randomly met through our record label and who was formerly a member of the Mars Volta - although that has nothing to do with this album. It was fun to work with him at his studio because he came from the noise scene originally, so even though there's certain ways of making an album with more melodic ambitions than we've had before, with Lars we could use the same shorthand and he'd know if we were talking about some random LA noise band from 2007 because he'd be at the same shows as us.

Then we also did a collaboration on the intro track with Haxan Cloak who's based out here. When we talked to him he was visiting LA but we did that remotely. He would work on music and send it to us and then we would work on music and send it to him and that's how we made the opening track on the album. So yeah, it was definitely a different process this time.

I had read in a couple of interviews that this album was more melody driven and so I was a bit surprised to read of the collaboration with the Haxan Cloak - not someone who's work I'd usually associate with particularly accessible melodies.

Yeah, well I mean, we collaborated with him on the introductory track and the point of that was that it was really heavy and cinematic - which is a lot of what he brings to his music - but there is a lot more melody on this record and so when introducing the first song we wanted it to function as a mission statement where you get all the different things. So there's sort of big Hans Zimmer drums, which is something we've done for years and something he does really well, then we bring in a very direct synthesiser which demonstrates the electronic side of the album, but then I wanted the vocals to be pretty because the idea was to showcase in a shortened form that "hey, we're gonna do a bunch of different stuff on this album and it's gonna sound maybe a little bit different and more produced than our previous albums", so that track functioned perfectly as an opening statement.




Was it true you restarted work on the album on four separate occasions? Just how difficult an album was it to write?

You know, the funny thing is that it wasn't exactly a difficult album to write, it was more a case of there just being different phases of the album. Some of the songs were written right around the time where we stopped touring Get Colour and then came the Max Payne soundtrack, so after that we done some more songs and then again just as we were finishing the album. The writing was never so much the problem that caused us to take so long, we were just really obsessed with wanting the album to sound right. We were always confident in the songs but for us we've always tried to be a forward thinking band, meaning we don't want to repeat ourselves, but rather have each document stand aesthetically on its own as well as making a progression that we're proud of artistically. When we released Get Colour and I did interviews, people were like "this album sounds a lot more melodic and there's more songs, was that on purpose?" and it was, very much so. We want the records to stand as their own documents, I think it would be boring to have people being like "is that song from the first record or the third record?" because they all sound the same. We want the record to exist and be part of its own world. Music has changed in that you can have someone on their laptop in their bedroom making something which sounds fucking huge and bigger than something that cost $100,000 to make in a studio, which we were very aware of. Part of what's really exciting about music right now, particularly in modern hip-hop and experimental electronic music, is that sounds and soundscapes and can be so interesting. We really wanted it to feel produced in a way that we were really proud of.

Death Magic will be the first album you guys have written after doing the Max Payne score, which was obviously a massive undertaking. Do you think that's changed you as a band in anyway in terms of your approach and how you do things?

Well, I think everything changes you as a band, from your first international tour to actually releasing a record that people listen to or come to your show or review, so in that regard absolutely of course, it naturally would. It was an absolutely massive project, to undertake a year of making music for it. Our fans were like "OK, where the hell is the new record" as it wouldn't function for them in the same way a HEALTH record would, but in that project we literally wrote three to four albums worth of music in terms of the amount of hours of music that had to be generated. Of course, that music was of a more atmospheric nature, but we definitely learned a lot about how to create different kinds of sounds. In certain projects such as film soundtracks with minimal scores you can use the same sounds, but for this there are a lot of stories and a lot of levels which you're trying to aid visually. So yeah, the process of just having to write that volume of music definitely changed us as a band, in terms of how to expand our existing sound palette in ways that were effective without being redundant.

You touched slightly on film scores there, is that the sort of thing you guys would ever be interested in doing at some point? It would seem like a natural progression after scoring the video game..

Oh, absolutely. Of course. We're all film enthusiasts. I actually considered studying film briefly at University but ended up doing literature instead, and John went to film school. We make our own music videos and we have all had a close relationship with that so it's something that would really excite us. It's a difficult thing to do for a band financially with small independent films though, because financially it's hard for them to let you take time and actually live. In the United States, in the film studio world it's very differently regulated and is almost like the Wild West. There's a musicians union that does the score for Hollywood films and it's a very regimented old school idea. It's rare where you get these moments where you have David Fincher be like "I'm going to have Trent Reznor do a film score" and even then that's still Trent Reznor who has a very envied and storied career. We'd love the opportunity, and it wouldn't even have to be a major director, but rather a project we were excited about.

Sticking on the film/video theme, was the reaction to the 'NEW COKE' video how you expected it to be?

It was actually better than we thought. The reaction was extremely, extremely good, especially because we released that song just as a teaser. It's not like we're trying to say "OK, here's the big single", we just wanted to introduce something that would prepare people for the fact that there is going to a lot of different elements to this album and so far the response from our fans has been extremely strong. I think it helped we released it with a somewhat viral, disgusting video of people vomiting in slow motion. People also seemed to like that.




So it definitely was real vomit then?

What we did was used some food colouring and ate different food then after that you drink a gallon of milk as fast as you can and wait until you projectile vomit. It does work but it's just really unpleasant. After that we rented phantom cameras to shoot 1000 frames per second, the same kind where you can shoot a water balloon with a bullet and it can capture all the imagery. So yeah, there's no CGI or anything like that going on. It's real vomit.

You released the Disco remix albums for the self-titled album and Get Color, is there any plans to do one for Death Magic?

Yeah, we'd love to. We done it for the past two because it worked out and was really successful. We're already in the process of working on one for this, but it's just that it has to be good. We still really care about the remix albums and we want them to exist as actual artistic documents that we're proud of and are cohesive with proper sequencing that have an actual album feel. So we'll do it if we get enough good remixes. Right now, we're still in the process of asking people. We ask personally and we'll talk about them being a part of the creative process - not collaborating, but you know. To us it's about whether or not the piece of music is good. If someone sends us something that sounds jaded or uninterested then we don't really care if it's a big name or not.

If you could pick literally anyone to be on it, who would it be?

*Pause* I'm not sure, John would probably have a better answer for that. In fact for us it would probably be Burial, but he doesn't really do remixes unless you're Thom Yorke or something.

You mentioned John there and I know he's done the previous artwork, did he do it again for Death Magic?

Yeah, we've always done all the artwork. That's something that's very important to us. We started doing everything ourselves a) because we didn't have anyone else to do it and b) we're too controlling to let go of the reigns. We've always really wanted the artwork to stay consistent so that if you picked up the album and it didn't say the name you'd immediately know that this is the band HEALTH. I think we're always going to do it ourselves. I can't imagine, especially at this juncture, why we'd change who does it as it would just feel really unnatural.

Just to finish up then, are there any new bands or music you've been listening to lately you'd recommend to us?

We're big fans of a lot of the Tri Angle label stuff and as I said, we were big fans of the Haxan Cloak record. I'm trying to think of anything that's totally new. Jupiter was playing this drone band that are from here, Empty Set. It was this really aggressive, minimal kinda drone music but using sub-bass. They were really cool.


HEALTH's new album, DEATH MAGIC, is out on August 7th.