Random Facts With… Simian Mobile Disco


Woooo! It's Random Facts time again!

Stepping up today we have Simian Mobile Disco's Jas Shaw, a man who makes good records with the ease that most of us make toast. We could talk about how SMD's latest record Whorl was a genius bag of analogue techno meltdown, or we could talk about how he's crafted a back catalogue that has been on point for over a decade. We could even talk about how it feels to have inadvertantly given the shittest dance music movie ever made it's title (We Are Your Friends, fact fans). But, this being Random Facts, we've decided to talk about bird poo, buttercups and immortal lobsters instead. Everyone ready? Then let's begin;

So you’ve just moved down to Faversham, right?

I have, yes. I’ve shifted out! That’s actually partly why I’m late. It’s like a fucking endless task. Moving was fine, but in my naivety I just assumed… Basically we’ve got this barn right next door to where we’re living, which is actually bigger than the space where we’re living, and it’s entirely mine to turn into a studio and it’s fucking great! I am comprehensively loving it but it’s so much work. We moved slightly over a year ago and I originally thought that we’d be mixing Whorl in there – I was that naïve. I just thought we could bang a couple of walls down, put some stuff in and we’d be done in 6 weeks. Not true at all. So I've just been helping out and overseeing as best I can, which is pretty poorly to be frank. You know me; I’m not builder material!

Neither am I! I think we’re built from the same stock really aren’t we?

Yeah. We have other uses. There was one really hilarious moment where they were putting these RSJs in and there were six of them that they had to hang along the top and there were six guys moving them into place. So I asked them if they needed an extra hand and they just looked at me and went, ‘Uhhh, you’re alright mate…’ I was just thinking, ‘Yeah, fair enough.’

Sizing you up and down! My girlfriend and I are actually gravitating towards Margate as well, much to Ian – R$N editor's – dismay as he grew up in Kent and let's say doesn't have fond memories of the place. 

I think I just beat that rush but it seems like a lot of people are making that jump now.

It seems that loads of our friends have moved down there. We could go into this but London is just a bit fucked really.

You know what, it is and it’s not. I really find that the area that you’re talking about – Margate – reminds me of Hackney ten years ago.

That’s such an old dude thing to say but it’s true. It’s a bit rough around the edges and it’s a bit shit that there are no jobs but people are starting to turn that into something really interesting. They’re using it as a freedom to have more space and a freedom to make their own entertainment, which is kind of what people were doing before. Actually moving out of town has made me love London more and I think London is just about to turn a corner. Once the tube goes all night, all of sudden there will be somewhere that has never been on the radar before that’s cheaper. Who cares that it’s another 15 minutes or four stops on the tube? It goes all night, who cares?! End of next year there’s going to be a new cool place that no one has ever considered.

That’s a very good point actually.

I know it’s easy to get jaded with London because it does get on top of you and it’s fucking unfair how expensive it is. I think that the cost of it has really taken some of the shine off of it. You can’t do that thing like you can in Berlin where people take their time and see where they’re going; in London, people are properly grinding to make ends meet.

But let’s not forget, it’s the best city. It just is. There’s no getting around it. I know your flat is small, but you can walk out and you have London right there.

I agree with you. I really do love the place but I have a deep seated anger about it. I guess it is an old person’s view on things, but one of the guys who works here has had to live out with his parents for two years before he could afford to come and move into London. Even now he’s only managed to get a shoebox in Shadwell. Although, maybe it is the same as when we came here. Maybe I’m romanticising it…

I agree but you’ve got to bear in mind that I remember when I’d go to raves in Hackney Wick and even Shoreditch, area where there is now a flat that’s selling for a million quid. But at the time it was considered pretty rough. When we moved into Homerton, all our mates that lived in Dalston were like, ‘what are you moving there for you idiot?’

What’s nice about those areas is that they were really mixed and had a kind of artistic community and you could cycle into town and then the next step out is suburbia. So you’re not moving into a mixed, interesting area – you’re moving into where your parents lived. It’s not a particularly exciting prospect, and it does make me sad that that’s the case, but I genuinely do think that when the tube goes all night there will be a bunch of kids that go, ‘right, fuck this. We can’t afford to live in the cool parts of East London but we could live at the end of this tube line, let’s just do that.’

So long as there is the impetus for people to do that, it’ll happen.

You make a good point. I read an article today where everyone was saying how the Night Tube will be pointless if there aren’t any venues left, but you’re right – as it pushes out to the outer fringes people will end up gravitating towards those areas. Then you’ll end up with the same thing that happened around 30/40 years ago where the cities were deserts. Inner cities were essentially wastelands, which is what they’ll become again…

Wasteland is a bit strong, but I can’t remember a good reason that I went west of Kingsland Road. That’s doesn’t mean that it’s a wasteland; it’s just that it’s not of particular interest to me.

I’ll rephrase it. Ghost town.

People are moaning that they can’t own a flat in Islington but who fucking cares? There are other places to live. I think it’s easy to forget that the club music and electronic music that I love, and that you write about, is fringe music. This is not music that exists in Leicester Square. This is the music that exists in the parts of town that aren’t popular. There’s no reason that you should have a club next to a £1.5million flat. That’s fucked. 

Yep, you’re right. It isn’t a mainstream thing and creativity doesn’t tend to grow out of these sorts of areas. Faversham sounds wicked though mate.

It’s lovely. You can’t get good Vietnamese food though. I used to hate that a coffee I could drink in one mouthful was £3 but now when I’m in town I’m like: ‘Yes mate, bring it.’

If you’re ever in Margate there’s a great Sri Lankan place down there on Northdown Road.

Definitely. It’s just another area to explore. I’d sort of realised what a complete twat I’d become. We started looking at places in Essex and we were looking around and I was properly sniffy about it all but then you met the people and they were really self deprecating and nice. Then I’d go back to Homerton and everyone seemed like a bit of a prick in comparison.

I say that, but Homerton will always be home to me. But there was definitely a sudden turning point where, for me, places outside of London weren’t considered the edge of the world and that nothing exists beyond the M25.

Yeah, I think that’s a good thing. And again, the decentralisation to places like Bristol or Manchester is good as well.

I totally get that. It’s one of those things though where sometimes you have to be a little bit pushed to get it. If prices hadn’t shot up how they had and the area hadn’t changed I would have probably been quite happy cycling into premises every day. I loved it.

Yeah, exactly. I’m just going to make the most of it whilst I’m still here.

That’s the thing though. All my mates are still there so I can just crash on their floor.

Anyway, that was a nice introduction but I think it’s time to move on to some facts. This one’s not particularly social, but did you know that the brain doesn’t feel pain?

I think I did know that because, like a lot of people, I’m terrified of blood. I’m probably worse than a lot of people actually. But I saw this video of open brain surgery where they’re just dicking around in there and the person is conscious. Obviously they’re local anaesthetised, but the actual brain part isn’t. That’s pretty mad isn’t it? But someone could literally touch part of their brain and they could fall asleep, or even forget something. There’s something deeply creepy about that.

So we’re putting facts to each other now yeah?

Yeah, lets play fact tennis.

Great! So I was looking up some stuff and for some reason I just gravitated towards facts that aren’t true. Anti-facts I guess, and I also guess related to your brain thing – you can’t tell if someone likes butter by putting a buttercup under their chin. Obviously. But thinking about it, how did anyone ever get that bollocks past us? I did actually genuinely believe that for a bit.

So did I!

We must have been insanely gullible.

It’s like the way things get passed down from people, like folklore I guess.

Yeah, it is folklore. But I guess it’s like a kid thing, isn’t it? You just don’t question it but then I saw that and I suddenly thought, ‘Yeah, it’s fucking bollocks isn’t it. How could you believe that?’

Definitely not true. Banging your head against a wall burns 150 calories an hour.

That’s pretty strong. Don’t you burn basically 100 calories if you’re sat still for an hour though?

I’ve got a good nautical-related fact that I was actually told by someone that had done all but three days of a marine biology course. She told me this at an after party and it’s that Lobsters are immortal. She then explained how they’re immortal and I believed her. So I just looked it up, because I guess it was a good lead in, but it turns out they’re not immortal! Obviously they’re not immortal. Again, back to gullibility – I fucking believed it! Am I just really stupid?

That’s really interesting though as its kind of back to the folklore thing. Ian was just writing a piece about Colin Faver and actually interviewed Tim Taylor recently and he was going on about how he’s sort of been written out of Acid House and Dance music history but now that Colin has died he’s sort of become part of that folklore again, if you like. I guess my point being that, these sorts of things become folklore because it’s just down to whoever shouts loudest.

Yeah, it’s terrible that facts are that plastic. This next one is actually very similar to your folklore stuff – the egg came first.

Of course it fucking came first.

I thought about it for a while, and it’s definitely the egg. I know that this is not necessarily a fact, but if you think about it… If the chicken was to come first, the chicken would have had to change from pre-chicken into chicken during it’s lifetime and that definitely would not have happened, so it definitely is the egg. I actually sort of feel like we’ve just solved it.

I agree. It must have evolved from something in some way and morphed from something else that laid an egg.

Pre-chicken would have laid it, yeah, but I don’t understand how it’s taken people so long to figure this out. People use it as a thing that you can’t possibly know, but obviously it was the egg.

Apparently if you lift a kangaroo’s tail off the ground it can’t hop.

That is amazing. That’s really good. They’re vicious aren’t they?

Mate, you can’t run away as I’ve got your tail.

So really, if you’re in a fight with a kangaroo you’ve got to get round the back. That’s the way forward. I’ve got a really good fact now actually that’s really tenuously related to that – turtles can breath through their bum.

I don’t now how they found it out or whether you could suffocate one by plugging up it’s bottom or something… Again though, if you’re fighting a turtle then get round the back.

Seems pretty standard.

Yeah, pretty much. Although I’m guessing neither of us are going to be fighting turtles any time soon… It kind of works as a rule in any fight though I guess.

Did you know that birds don’t urinate?

That can’t be true. Although, actually, I remember having a conversation with someone once about bird poo and he was basically saying that the white bit in bird poo was still poo as well.

I’ve kind of substantiated that really but apparently urea and other water soluble stuff are pushed out with the faeces. Wow, this is getting pretty deep. Reptiles do the same thing do according to this but mammals have all kinds of extra plumbing. So there you go.

Good! Hippos produce pink milk. I fucking hate milk. I loathe it.

It makes me gag. In finding that out I was like 'bollocks is that true'. Like an idiot I looked it up and on the first page there were pictures of hippo milk. It’s disgusting. It’s everything that’s wrong with milk multiplied by a million. It’s really viscous and it just looks like a mixture of milk and blood. It’s just horrible.

Milk is just such an unpleasant thing. Especially drinking another animals milk. I’m not into it.

But that said, cheese – I’m 100% in.

I’m all over that! That’s fine.

I’m all over cheese, but milk can get fucked!

We’ve not really thought this one through but I’m totally with you on it.

Yoghurt is on the knuckle, but I feel that it’s still a goer. There’s just something about milk…

Yeah, there’s just something wrong about it.

We must just be more highly evolved. A lot of people that I tell this to can’t quite get their heads around the fact that I like cheese and yoghurt but not milk. Then I end up having to list all the dairy things that I do and don’t like and it ends up basically just being milk that I don’t like. Then they eventually go, ‘Yeah that doesn’t make any sense.’ You were straight in there though.

Yeah, I’m totally with you on this one. I’m not a fan at all. Did you know that your tongue has a unique print similar to your fingerprints?

That’s a really good fact that. So you could do some sort of biometrics with that then? You could just lick your phone to unlock it. It’d be a much more louche way to unlock your phone by just licking down the length of it.

‘Mate, can we just take your finger prints please?’ ‘No, I’ve cut them off.’ ‘Oh, well can you just lick this instead then please?’ That’s an interesting take on that. Your turn!

Okay… Bulls can’t see red.

They basically see in black and white. So there’s now this whole culture built around them seeing red and there’s even saying about it and it’s all absolute nonsense.

So the phrase ‘I’m seeing red’ is actually just more folklore…

Yeah, it’s just total nonsense.

They’re only irritated by the cape’s movement. Apparently the average persons yearly fast food intake will contain 12 pubic hairs.

Offt, that’s delicious.

You know what, I know someone that used to work in a sandwich factory for Tesco or something. But when you think about it, when you put a load of 17 year olds in a place with nothing to do where they’re going to be insanely bored, of course they’re going to put some stuff in there! Of course they are, it’s really fun! You’d basically just have competitions to see who could put the most interesting thing in a sandwich and get away with it. I’m surprised it’s only 12 actually.

I am too actually.

I think I’ve probably had sandwiches with 12 in to be honest.

It’s enough to make you not want to have a processed cheese sandwich ever again.

But, come on… I also know someone who worked doing the doughnut thing in the supermarket, the patisserie area. The way they do the doughnuts is that it’s basically a big doughy lump with no jam in to start off and you stick it on this spike and it essentially jizzes a load of jam into it. Then these guys, on their last day they were really bored and started hitting this thing loads of times and putting 2 or 3 doses of jam in each one. Then eventually they were putting 10 doses in these doughnuts and nobody complained, because who would right?

God, we’ve all had a terrible job haven’t we… We should have had a terrible job fact. My terrible job was working in the Welcome Break down in Gloucestershire. What a banger that was. We revisited it on the way up to Birmingham a little while back and it wasn’t pretty.

I basically worked in cold calling. It like one step off of cold calling though, trying to sell hoovers or some nonsense like that. You basically had to read a script to people and I was so shit at it. It was so depressing.

Things like that are good though because they make you strive to get out of them. I think doing a shit job is good to propel you forwards and give you impetus to keep moving.

Amazingly a lot of people at that job, and this links nicely to my next fact which is pretty good journalism I think, would go to McDonalds at lunchtime and buy shit loads of food and basically spend their whole wage there and then in McDonalds. It just never made any sense to me. But this links through, because apparently America has more public libraries than McDonalds. It might be out of date though…

That’s pretty good. It surprises me, but it’s quite an encouraging fact.

It’s bollocks isn’t it. Lets face it. It might have been true 20 years ago or something, but there’s no way that’s true now. Even if it is true though, come on?

It’d be interesting to see what proportion of the population went through each regardless and see how many people were going to libraries and how many were eating McDonalds in comparison.

That’s a PhD right there. You’ve just outlined an amazing PhD. Okay, maybe not an amazing one but an okay one.

Right, that’s it. I’m moving to Margate and doing my PhD in that. On the American tip, did you know that about 8,000 Americans are injured by musical instruments each year?

How does that compare with guns?

That’s a good point.

Guns don’t kill people, musical instruments do.

Apparently there’s 4.5 gun related deaths per 100,000.

And how big is the U.S. population?

318 million. So if I do some fantastic maths quickly…

Do it!

This is taking too long… But essentially it’s a hell of a lot.

So what we’ve kind of worked out there is that guns are more dangerous than musical instruments! Have I got that right?

Doing it in my head, I think it’s about 14,000 people are killed by guns each year. That seems unbelievable. I think we can safely say that guns are more dangerous. 

That one definitely isn’t a PhD paper, but’s it’s still worth noting that guns are more dangerous than musical instruments. Part of me is glad and the other part of me is a little bit sad that that’s the case.

Breaking news! Jas Shaw…

…says that guns are still more dangerous than musical instruments. Carry on as you were.

There’s your tagline right there.

That’s pretty good that one. Pianos are really dangerous though. This doesn’t really qualify as a fact but you know if you drop pianos they explode. It’s because of all the tension built up across all the strings.

I imagine that would hurt a lot.

I’ve never seen it happen but I suppose I could just look on YouTube. Although I think it’s the kind of thing that’s going to be better in person. It’s something that you’d have expected John Cage to have done, having a piece that involved exploding four pianos at the correct point in the piece.

There’s a periodic table of exploding pianos when you Google it.

I think we need more facts, although I’m running low on American-related facts. I did find this one though and there’s something quite nice about it, but there’s no dark side to the moon.

Of course there isn’t. Makes sense.

It’s nice isn’t it? There’s a certain kind of optimism built into that.

That’s a good fact non-fact, almost.

Sorry. I’ve just been giving you a load of non-facts, which is exactly not what you asked for.

That’s fine! It forms a conversation rather than babbling on about when you stopped playing vinyl and that you like using Traktor for this reason… It just gives you a break from repeating the same shit over and over again.

You must have had that conversation so many times…

I think it started with Carl Craig when he was out doing a thing with Space and they just told me he liked facts, and that’s when it clicked that that was a much better way of doing interviews.

I think I read that one! He was into it wasn’t he? He had a lot of facts and he hadn’t prepared it either had he? If he hadn’t looked on the internet then that means that he’s actually full of facts.

If by full of facts you mean connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi and looking on Google Facts, then you’re right! It’s just nice to connect with different areas. For example, the toothpaste Colgate, in Spanish, translates to go hang yourself.

That’s gold. I feel like that kind of stuff is decreasingly the case. When I first started touring I remember buying sweets that were called Shit or Fart or something like that, thinking it was pretty much the funniest thing ever. Now when you go into a service station and you walk through, it’s all kind of like someone’s come along and censored them all because it means cock rash in another language. It’s a shame really.

Or perhaps you’re going to the wrong countries? Or perhaps you’ve got a sweet malaise? I don’t know where that’s going…

I’ve literally got a sweets malaise!

Yeah mate, been there and seen that. It’s not funny anymore; I’m well past that. I’ve moved to Faversham now mate. Apparently the average woman uses her height in lipstick every five years.

That is disgusting. Where does it go? It must go into their bodies right?

They must swallow their height in lipstick like every ten years then… There we go, a good fact non-fact there.

So that means that there’s probably a market for low calorie lipstick. Do you want to sort it out? Lets go to into business. This is going to be enormous. 

Simian Mobile Disco’s low calorie lipstick.

Low calorie lipstick. How fucking depressing is that?

You haven’t done any branding until you’ve done low calorie lipstick.

That’s so sinister.

Now that’s a good closer. Banger.

Banger! Journalistic gold.

Just before you go, what's the plan for the next Simian Mobile Disco party?

I know I would say this as we chose the people but it’s going to be more techno than the previous ones that we’ve done but we’ve gone right in on that vibe this time.

It looks lots of fun and looks like it could be a first train back to Margate job for me. Do you just crash with people when you stay up here then?

It varies but yeah, usually I’ll just crash at someone’s house. Most of the time, someone is bound to want to come out so I just tell them I’ll put them on the list if I can crash at theirs! It tends to work out that way. One day though I’ll be stood outside XOYO at 5am hating my life that I can’t just get an Uber home.

First train’s not for another 2 hours yet… Cock.

Then you’ve just got to find an after party right?

Yeah, I think that’s part of the excitement. Kids have had it too easy for too long. They like knowing that they can get back easily these days. They need a bit of adventure again! On your bloody social media and your Uber.

Kids today.

I know right, kids today! They need a bit of adventure in ‘em.

I’ve got to say, I was chatting to someone who must have been going raving for like five or ten years ahead of me and we were talking about the first free parties that I’d ever been to and we caught the tail-end of calling a phone line and you’d go to some random space. They were saying that when they went out, they’d all take bog roll with them and, to me, that was such a weird concept! But he was saying that they’d probably be out for like 2 days, and it might even be in the woods or a random warehouse somewhere. Either way, they’re not going to be nice toilets so out of the group a couple of people would take bog roll and I feel that there’s this sense of DIY adventure there which I almost feel a little sad for having missed. Well maybe not, but I’m glad that it did exist at some point.

It’s good to know that there’s the dedication there. Maybe it’ll have to gravitate back to that.

Yeah. Eventually when everyone has been turfed out of London and we all have to live in random fields…

I have hope.

Back to bog roll!

Catch Simian Mobile Disco at XOYO on 18th September.