The 405 caught up with Unknown Mortal Orchestra band leader Ruban to discuss his major musical influences; blending lessons in authentic music making from Chris Knox and the psychedelic imagery of Frank Zappa.

Chris Knox

Chris Knox is a writer, musician, producer, cartoonist from New Zealand and is still a big influence to a lot of young people there. In the late 70s and early 80s he was in a punk band called the Enemy who were one of the first punk bands in New Zealand. He went on to form Toy Love, The Tall Dwarves and do his own solo records as well as record many of the early Flying Nun classics with just his reel to reel 4-track. When I was just a little kid I already wanted to do stuff like that and when I started playing in a band our only ambition was to sign to Flying Nun. It was probably Chris Knox who taught me that if you want to make music or art you don't wait for someone to give you permission or validate you. You just make it yourself. I visited Chris after he had a paralysing stroke a few years ago and hung out at his house for a few hours. He couldn't talk so he communicated by drawing in a little note book. More creative and funny in that state than most people at full capacity.

Jed Town

Jed Town is another hero from New Zealand. He's less known than Chris Knox but not really any less prolific or brilliant. He was in a band called Superette and later formed the Features and Fetus Productions which was further into industrial and experimental music but also had amazing songs. He's also recorded a lot of techno from the late 80s onward and does video art exhibitions all over the world. I played in a band he put together to play his old punk songs supporting John Cale. It was a really big deal to me! It changed my life.

Moebius/ Jean Giraud

When I was about 14 or so I discovered the art of Moebius and his series 'Le Garage Hermetique' and it sent me off on a tangent that I'm still on I think. I didn't associate the free form narrative and psychedelic imagery with drug culture or counter culture yet because I didn't get that stuff. I just understood it and wanted to be more like the guy who drew those pictures when I grew up.

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

I was 15 and started going through a bunch of records my Dad owned one day. I set up the turntable and picked out a few records to have a listen to. One of the records was called Hot Rats which I thought was a funny name so I put it on and the first track 'Peaches En Regalia' had this massive instant impact. It wasn't like anything the kids at school would know about, and somehow it was just way better. I played that one track over and over. I'd play it four times in row before I went to school and stuff like that. I think it changed my DNA or something. I still really like the early Zappa stuff, especially the first Mothers of Invention line-up and Hot Rats.

The band play the following shows in February in support of their new album, II, which is released on February 4th 2013:

  • February 2013
  • 5 – Cargo, London
  • 6 – Trixi, Antwerp, Belgium
  • 7 – Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 8 – White Trash, Berlin, Germany