By Chris Honnery
The opening gambit of Fischerspooner’s career was as spectacular as it was short-lived. The duo’s debut single, ‘Emerge’, signaled their arrival in grandiose fashion and came to epitomize the electroclash epoch. “When we started we were headed more for a career in the art world than pop music,” frontman Casey Spooner recalls. “To take my experience with experimental performance and be able to superimpose that over pop, all of a sudden it felt like I was doing something that had artistic relevance,” he continues. “I was reaching people that would never see those kind of ideas and often types who don’t like those kind of ideas, and something about that was so much more exciting and interesting than feeling like you’re toiling away unheard in isolation. That’s why all the negativity and all the confusion and anger that we were met with never hurt my feelings personally, because I knew what I was doing and I knew it wasn’t what people were accustomed to.”
The caustic backlash against electroclash followed soon after Fischerspooner had signed a multimillion-dollar record deal with Ministry of Sound. With the re-issue of Fischerspooner’s debut album, #1 (from which ‘Emerge’ was lifted) a relative flop for Ministry, the pair were promptly dropped from the label, an anathema, an exiled relic from a genre cast to the wayside, and Spooner and production partner Warren Fischer came “very, very close” to splitting on several occasions. “At that point everybody despised us and we were working in a very negative environment,” Spooner reveals. “We were sick of ourselves; it’s one thing to have an idea and people become interested in it all of a sudden and it takes off; it’s another thing to have an identity that you have to react against, to have things defined where before everything was so vague and open… Warren and I were not getting along, we couldn’t see eye-to-eye and it became a very abusive and unpleasant relationship. I was ready to move on.”
Despite the infighting, Fischerspooner released their sophomore LP, Odyssey, in 2005. While the album featured collaborations with David Byrne and postmodern philosopher Susan Sontag, as well as attracting remixes from the likes of Jacques Lu Cont, DJ Hell and Tiefschwarz, it was only a minor critical and commercial success, despite generally being acknowledged as an accomplished and mature progression from the first album. “#1 was basically made all in the same studio on Warren’s laptop with the same engineer, but Odyssey was a completely different experience,” Spooner elucidates. “All of a sudden we had access to the best studios, the best engineers, the most skilled craftsmen at making pop music… we were really excited about going out into the world, engaging with those people and learning as much as we possibly could from them.”
Following a stint in experimental theatre – “I get bored really fast,” Spooner deadpans – Casey and Warren reconciled and began working on their third album, Entertainment. “This has been an album of healing,” Spooner affirms. “Warren is a brilliant musician and I don’t think anybody else can beat him. As much as he drives me crazy, I also think that he’s the best.” After the strenuous recording process for the (appropriately titled) Odyssey, Entertainment was a chance for the pair to “stay home and do the things that we’ve learned” with the guidance of new producer Jeff Saltzman, known for his work with The Killers.
Aptly described in Stylus Magazine as a “carnival of techno delights,” Fischerspooner have always attracted attention for both their productions and the surrounding mystique. Their exploration of the veneer of pop culture, evidenced in Spooner’s playful and equivocal lyricism, is reflected in their infamous live shows, where the emphasis is very much on the spectacle. While some critics argue that the emphasis on style is at the expense of substance – citing events such as Spooner’s deliberate lip-synching on the #1 tour as ammunition to support their criticism – Spooner explains that Fischerspooner is an extension of the ongoing simulacrum that is pop culture, rather than a radical subversion of it.
“Pop music is this vacuous and superficial creative endeavour where you’re constantly recreating the same clichés over and over again. The way that it’s presented hasn’t changed that much in many years,” he declares. “We’re not doing anything less superficial than anyone else in pop… it’s all about that kind of gloss and image, but those things can become iconic, they can become powerful, they can become almost primal; so there is this thing where something as simple as dressing up and playing music and dancing can be looked at as disposable and shallow, but you can also look at it as a powerful thing that can travel through time and bring people together as an innate human urge to gather in a room and celebrate. If you think of that as dismissible and completely stupid then I think you’re missing a lot of the best parts of life.”
What: Entertainment is out now through Inertia.
When: Keep reading Deep Impressions for the inevitable tour announcement!