Le Cassette – An anniversary celebration of a synthwave classic
The synthwave community have a lot of artists and styles to pick from. hundreds of hours of tracks are available. With that comes the inevitable online conversations of’ what’s the best album of the genre?’ and ‘what’s your favourite artist of all time?’. Every single time I see those questions raised, multiple people write ‘Le Cassette’ and ‘Left to Our Own Devices’ – The 2014 album that has held its own in the scene for what is now 6 years.
Adam, Joe and James’s collective talents culminated in one of the most celebrated and enjoyed albums of the genre. An album that still to this day is considered a benchmark. So on this, the 6th anniversary of the release of LTOOD, Adam McNab and Joe Wood took some time to chat with Fakeman in their first ever written interview about how the album came into being, the meaning of that title, and how Adam was influenced by train announcer tannoys!
I hope you enjoy reading this one as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
PF: Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time. For those that might not know, can you speak a little bit about how Le Cassette came into existence?
AM: It started back in 2011 and was originally a solo project. I would just fuck about creating quirky tracks and see where it went until I came up with the drums and bass for “You Are You Are”. I’d keep coming back to it and add bits and bats and vocal melodies and I thought “this could be a decent track” but it needed a sprinkle of nipple dust (magic), so that’s when I approached James. I knew James from music college and from our pot washing days at this restaurant and knew he was good at production so I asked if he wanted to help develop the track. When we finished it, it felt great and decided to whack it on soundcloud and create a Facebook page and think nothing of it.
AM: At this time I was listening to the likes of Mitch Murder and…well just Mitch Murder! I admired his music and production and I thought i’d bite the bullet and ask for his opinion on the track. He shared it on one of the synthwave pages and I think that generated a lot of interest which I thank him for (thank you love). It was also around that time NewRetrowave was starting out too and they missed the last 5-10 seconds of our track off the video! Anyway it generated a lot of interest and we got such a buzz from it.
Bear in mind, we weren’t thinking of writing an album, just releasing the odd track here and there. A couple of months later I started to write the 2nd track which was “Tokyo Blues”. I was writing it whilst I was travelling from Huddersfield to London on the train. If you listen to the track you can hear the notes of when the tannoy comes on the train for the next stop in the chorus. Halfway through the project James thought it would be great to bring in Joe to the Le Cassette family as 3 twats are better than 2. It was great as we all had different styles that we brought to the table.
JW: I remember being asked to help mix it and do some general glitchy things which was where the ending came from.
AM: It wasn’t until “Arms of Mine” we thought we should do an album and it was at that point the synth ball started rolling for us.
PF: Synthwave back in the early days was a very different beast. Its explosion has brought some mixed feelings for many. What do you remember about the scene back in its early days?
AM: Aaaaah mate those were the good old days. The days when Rick Shithouse would grace us with his write ups of the up and coming and his synthively lavish reviews. I felt it was more of a family back then and we’d all support one another. I’ve lost touch with the scene as there are so many artists out there now.
JW: I listened to loads of Anoraak and Mitch when I joined just to try get an idea of the scene. Not even sure Anoraak is classed as synthwave as its from 2008, but I loved their synth work. I had Nightdrive With You (Adeyhawke Remix) on repeat.
PF: LTOOD is still considered one of the best synthwave albums of all time. What do you think it was about the album that made it so successful and to have such longevity all these years later and how do you feel about the status it has been given?
AM: Is it really considered one the best? Those are very kind words Mr Fakeman but me and the lads still can’t believe how many people still love and play the album. I think maybe it’s because it has so many tracks on it it there is something for everyone.
We never thought in a million years it would be this popular. I think maybe because it’s different to your standard synthwave music out there too. It’s a real head scratcher but we’re just so chuffing grateful that people love our music and love what we do.
PF: What was the writing process like back then? Were the tracks easy to put together or was it a long road to get it where you wanted it?
AM: I would initially come up with the ideas and then send them to the boys it elaborate on them. I don’t know if you notice, but I hated doing the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus. I loved to tell a story and take it somewhere to keep you second guessing like “Arms of Mine”, “This Is All We Know”, “I Will Show You” and “Radio”.
JW: There was a lot of back and forth on messenger, you’d send a 4 bar loop of an idea and the others would say yay or nay. Sometimes i’d setup an output from Ableton Live and stream it out to the others, so I could play a full arrangement we’d been working on and we could all work on it in realtime.
AM: When it came to singing, I was very much suprised to know that I did exactly what the late George Michael would do. I would just sing the notes but sing vowels and allsorts of weird words, just get the feel of the verse and chorus and then come back to it and write the song from the vowels I made!
Writing the tracks would take a long time as we were, and still are perfectionists, mate. Some tracks took weeks/months but the quickest I wrote a track was “This Is All We Know” which took me less than a day. At the end of the day I sat back and thought “fuck me where did that come from?!”.
When we released with Telefuture, he was the most patient bastard with us. If I was him I’d have pulled my hair out but Telefuture Records were the best and didn’t rush us at all. Here’s an easter egg for you, that’s where the name of the album LEFT TO OUR DEVICES came from – because he let us get on with it and trusted us to deliver and so we thought it was quite fitting. I think the next album will be called “It’s About Fucking Time!”
PF: Is there anything you would change about LTOOD now you’ve had a few years of having it out there?
AM: Sometimes I think we could have spent more time perfecting the sounds or I wish I had sung that certain riff differently, but then other times I think it’s fine the way it is. Who knows we could have overdone it and it could have sounded completely different.
I tell you what is cool though, listening to my initial demos and then listening to the final track with all our input. It’s amazing how much time we put into those tracks.
PF: For me the tone of LTOOD is much more of an homage to the smooth 80s masters. What were your musical influences back then and have they changed much over the years?
AM: We said this before on Beyond Synth with our Andy and it’s weird because we didn’t listen to much music when we did the album. I mean growing up i’ve always been inspired by Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins and 80s soul but when it came to the album we wanted to do our take on whatever 80s meant to us. And because there were 3 of us in the group we all had a different approach and flare.
JW: As I said previously, I was listening to Mitch and other new retro stuff, but most the time I was listening to actual 80s just trying to emulate the sounds, I remember Kano being a favourite of me and Adam’s.
PF: It’s been a couple of years since you decided to go about releasing LTOOD on vinyl. There was clearly a market for it among the die hard collectors and fans. How did you find the process of producing those with Playmaker and the creative around how you wanted them to look, etc?
AM: We’ve always wanted to release on vinyl and seen other artists release some amazing and colourful ones in the past and when Playmaker came to us to ask if we would like to do it, we jumped at the chance. Playmaker has been a fan of our album since release and he told us his ideas and colour scheme etc and it all sounded great and we just trusted him to do a terrific job and fuck me he did an amazing job. We didn’t have to change anything and we were so pleased with the result.
JW: I was really impressed, I’ve only recently got a record player at home, and the LTOOD is one of the better sounding records to play on it, nice and punchy.
AM: And he’s an absolute legend and such a nice guy. Word on the street is that he’s wanting to do a second press of the album for anyone that missed the first press.
PF: Do you keep much of an eye on releases and new artists that are popping up? Have you got any views on how ’the scene’ has developed?
AM: I used to love listening to new releases but there’s so many artists now doing the same thing that it’s hard to keep up now. A lot of singers are even starting to sound the same but now and again an artist or track will catch my attention but it’s few and far between now.
JW: I get most of my synthwave fix from Andy’s show. There are some amazing artists out there. I really enjoy the guys who go pure 80s sounding.
PF: What non synthwave music are you listening to nowadays?
AM: I dont listen to albums as such now, more playlists on spotify like general 80s, Jazz, Blues, classical. Anything really apart from Hard House and Techno! I fucking hate that shit! Always reminds of that shit advert in the 90s where they’d sing 0891 50-50-50 Hahahaha you know the one!
But I’m loving the Interstellar soundtrack at the moment and anything from kings of convenience. If you’re a Simpsons fan you’ll love Dankmus too.
JW: I quite like listening to Flume and the 1975’s new album has some interesting tracks on it. I’ll listen to most things as long as it has melody or some mental beat.
PF: What artists out there, mainstream or otherwise, that you would like to work with?
AM: That is a good question. Theres a few I’d like to work with in the future. I’ve always wanted to work with Mitch Murder but been to scared to ask just in case he never replied hahahahaha. One day me and Sunglasses Kid will finally make a track together. But at some point I’d love to work with Ultraboss, Nina, Ollie Wride and FM-84, Timecop1983 to name a few. I’m very grateful though to have worked with the likes of Jordan F, Pertubator and protector 101.
JW: Would love to work with BT, been a big fan for years and he has his own synthwave act now “All Hail the Silence”
PF: If you could write a sentence or two about how you would sum up Le Cassette – What would be?
AM: The band that need to hurry up and write some new bastard music! Just to let you all know we haven’t stopped making music. We are still here and buying our time. But on a serious note, I’d like to leave that question open to our fans because they’ve been amazing.
Le Cassette are Adam McNab and Joe Wood. If you STILL don’t own a copy of ‘Left to Our Own Devices’, you can pick up a copy on their Bandcamp page.
Do also keep a look out on Playmaker Media where you might be able to grab a repress of LTOOD on vinyl in the near future!
You can also pick up some great 80s and 90s-inspired threads at Adam’s Piccolo Joe clothing label.
Now you’ll need to excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.