Artist to Artist: Hologram Teen & James McNew (Yo La Tengo)
Long-time friends talk Stereolab, Yo La Tengo, exploring their experiences at their first gigs, musical inspirations and Ennio Morricone.
LA-based Hologram Teen aka Morgane Lhote is the ex-hey day Stereolab-era member gone solo. For many years she has worked tirelessly on her own material, releasing abstract tapes and EP’s which reflect an alt-pop influenced approach to electronica, funk, hip hop and beyond.
Her music is often bright and colourful, built to soundtrack, sun-kissed hazy afternoons outdoors. Her bright, airy sensibilities are communicated through fresh, zesty sounds which are as euphoric as they are intriguing and the music is paired with colourful cartoon based imagery emphasising a sense of youth and fun.
You're right we met in Nottingham... this was my first gig with Stereolab and it was awful!
Morgane returned to Ransom Note recently with a remix package from third album Day-Glo Chaos, in the hazy shape of Day-Glo Heatwave.
Morgane reached out to old friends for re-works which featured an all-star cast of producers. James McNew of Yo La Tengo fame was invited and invoked The Beach Boys with his version of Midnite Rogue – a slice of West-Coast-Cali-Electro-Surf. The pair are long time friends and this conversation spotlights their history as they explore their experiences at their first gigs, musical inspirations and Ennio Morricone.
Morgane: Hi James, we’ve known each other for almost 30 years so it’s kind of surreal to be interviewing each other now but here goes! When I first heard your beautiful remix, the 12-string electric guitar riff instantly reminded me of Ennio Morricone and his 60s soundtracks for Italian movies. Was it a conscious decision and has he been a big influence on you?
James: Hi Morgane! I know! We met in Nottingham – was it your first gig with Stereolab? I know it was the first night of the tour that YLT opened.
I love the electric 12 string guitar! It’s such a cool sound. I always loved how The Beach Boys used it, and the Velvet Underground too. I wasn’t thinking expressly of Morricone, but oh yes, I love his music.
Ok my turn.
J: I feel like I hear a lot of composers such as Morricone in your music, and also Bernard Fevre and Piero Umiliani. True?
M: Omg, you are right we met in Nottingham! It was my first gig with Stereolab and it was awful, lol. I was so nervous and my hands were shaking so hard that I could hardly play chords. I remember Georgia saying after the show that Yo La Tengo had played worst gigs than ours but that’s hard to imagine, lol.
And thank you for the comparison to Bernard Fevre and Piero Umiliani! I love them both although I never thought I sounded like them. I think my favourite composers are Fabio Frizzi and John Carpenter.
Have you heard Umiliani’s album “Continente Nero”? The percussions are amazing.
Okay my turn! This is so fun!
M: I know you are a huge Prince fan and in the 90s we collaborated on one track from your Prince cover album “That Skinny Motherfucker With The High Voice?”. Okay, tough question to answer but what is your favorite Prince song of all times?
J: I love them both. “Continente Nero” is great, but I really love “Tra Scienza E Fantascienza” under the name “Moggi.” He also did a lot of library music – does that type of music influence you at all?
Yes we did, thanks for helping me out. Ah jeez, I don’t know! “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” maybe? I like those ones that are weird and slyly funny and kind of sad, too. “Bob George” from The Black Album feels spontaneous and raw, like genuinely angry and mean but also funny. Prince’s 80s sounds were instantly identifiable. I feel like you have a deep love for 80s sounds and technology, do you agree?
M: Yes, I love that Moggi album! It’s probably my favourite of his too, the cover is amazing as well. I like library music especially the French Tele Music stuff. It influences me in that I sample those records sometimes (shh!)
This made me think of Bernard Estardy. Do you know his 1971 album “La formule du baron”? I think it might be your cup of tea. It’s similar to Pierre Henry and very cinematic and funky too.
Interesting choice for the Prince track! I love how he uses opposite pitch shifting on both those tracks: a higher register for his feminine alter ego “Camille” and a lower register for the demonic entity “Spooky Electric”. This is so fucking trippy, I love it!
Total change of topic but I remember you telling me that you are good friends with the cartoonist Jim Woodring of “Frank” fame. You are a talented artist in your own right. Is there a chance we could ever see you releasing a comic book or a book collecting your drawings over the years?
J: It’s pretty impossible to beat the Moggi cover art. Wow wow I did not know about Bernard Estardy. I owe you a sandwich. In 2014 I think, I did a 3-issue series of mini-zines of drawings, called “100 Wild Styles” but those are long gone.
M: Lol, you’re on for the sandwich.
Argh, maybe I can hunt one down online!
Well, thanks for catching up and nerding out about music with me, this was super fun!
To close out this friendterview, do you have any newer artists or bands that you recently discovered and would like people to know about?
J: Well yeah, now I’m Bernard Estardy’s #1 fan! You can put this in the interview also: your songs are really great. Your chords and melodies bring tears to my eyes.
M: Awwwwww!!!!! Yours too. I’ll cash up that sandwich next time I’m in NYC.