theartsdesk Q&A: Pop Duo the Pet Shop Boys | New music reviews, news & interviews
theartsdesk Q&A: Pop Duo the Pet Shop Boys
Electronic pop institution talk Olympics, the recession and their new album
Do either of you play sport?
NT: I run. But jogging, it’s not really a sport is it? I don’t play competitive sport. I also swim. But I don’t swim competitively. Obviously.
CL: Well, I’ve got a table tennis table. It’s an Olympic sport! And I play tennis every now and then. I’d like to do a lot more really but we don’t really have very much time.
Your single “Winner” suggests that you caught Olympic fever. Did you?
The BBC have twice asked us to write the Eurovision song contest entry for Britain
NT: No we didn’t. We put out the song because it was evidently relevant and we knew that if we didn’t put it out when the album came out in September everyone would say, "Why didn’t you put out that song during the Olympics?" The song was written during and after the Take That tour last year. Every night we would leave the stadium and Take That would come on singing this song they had called “The Greatest Day”. Chris said, "Why don’t we try writing a mid-tempo anthem?" We finished it off in the autumn, but the truth of the matter is that, from my perspective, I was thinking about the Eurovision Song Contest. The BBC have twice asked us to write the Eurovision entry for Britain and we thought if we had the right song we might give it to them. When we started writing this it seemed to be like a Eurovision Song Contest song. The references to competing, in my mind, at the time, were about entering Eurovision and it coming from Kazakstan.
CL: They did rather well in the Olympics, didn’t they? They did better than Switzerland.
What’s in the name Elysium and how did you come to record with Kanye West’s engineer?
NT: Well, we wanted to have a name that suggested that this was a different Pet Shop Boys album. So we didn’t want to have a jokey, ironic title. In downtown LA there’s a park called Elysian Park and we went for walks with friends there, and that gave us the idea for Elysium. It seemed a very beautiful word. It touches on afterlife and death and paradise, all themes contained in the album. When we started writing we thought it might be right to make the album in LA, as we realised we'd like lots of smooth LA backing vocals on it. The last two Kanye West albums have been very electronic, and we became intrigued by the idea of trying to achieve a similar stripped-down electronic sound. We went through various credits and this name Andrew Dawson came up. When we looked him up, we saw that he had worked with Kanye but also he’d worked with a range of other artists from classical music to Drake.
CL: He’d also worked on Fun’s album.
NT: With the international number one act that is Fun!
The tempo on Elysium is a little slower than maybe we’re used to. There’s also a lot about growing up. Are you reaching a new stage in your career, or was this merely the influence of being in LA?
CL: It’s the infirm album. We should have called it Pet Shop Boys Infirm, a jokey title. We chose the songs that were slower. We have written some faster songs in this period but we decided to go for a more uniform feel throughout the whole album. Although there are a couple of fast songs. In fact “Leaving” is a fast song even thought it sounds slow.
NT: Even though it’s slow, it’s fast?
CL: Well, it’s definitely a slower mood.
NT: Chris wanted there to be no fast songs at all.
CL: I always want that.
NT: There are, of course, a load of fast songs lurking around that we are planning to finish off and record soon. We had 25 songs for Andrew Dawson in LA. It wasn’t our intention originally to record “Winner”, we were going to give it away, but Andrew said, "You really have to do this one." On the album I think it sits in really well. But “Winner” is not really that fast, is it? It’s quite slow. “Face Like That” is the stomper. Again we weren’t totally sure it was going to be on the album, but again Andrew wanted it.
Watch the video for "Winner"
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