“I don’t think you can just make a new sound on your own. You have to develop that with an audience. They need to build up a context for the next thing,” says Sam Dust, the brains behind LA Priest. And few new projects arrive with quite so much context. Dust was - and still is, depending on how you view the situation - a member of Late of the Pier, beloved post-nu rave gems with an eye for flipping pop on its head. Their debut album ‘Fantasy Black Channel’ remains their only effort to date, and the group are up there with Jai Paul in there ‘where did they bloody go?’ stakes.
As LA Priest stands, it dives way further into oddball extremes than Dust’s previous day job. The night before speaking to DIY, he plays his first show in a tiny converted shed, housing thirty people. Samplers and otherworldly pedals sit atop a dancefloor that mimics his every move with unpredictable flashes. Walls are decorated with glow-in-the-dark cave paintings, and outside sits a hot tub which, if the show ended up going any longer, would have been filled to the brim with dance-ravaged punters. His set begins in a timid, stop-start fashion, but it finishes as an enlivened beast, more James Murphy or Simian Mobile Disco-stamped than anything LotP. “I saw some fans from six or seven years ago, and a lot of them haven’t really grown up,” he enthuses, the next day. “They’re eternal teenagers. And that’s kind of something we all share. I don’t think we’ll ever reach maturity, a lot of us. I think this would have been different if everything was happening in the ‘70s or ‘80s. Styles and tastes were changing so fast. What I’ve done is only possible because of this strange cyclical process. It’s somewhat static. We’re going round in circles, a little bit. But if things are like that, then you’ve got something to push against.”
What appeared to stop Late of the Pier, at least from Dust’s perspective, is expectation. “Every other band around us at that time was getting a load of shit for not having their second record out. It seemed really tough,” he says, referring to the Klaxons-led crop of glowstick-addled groups. “People were being very harsh on second records. That might have gone towards why we didn’t rush something. It took years to compile the material for the first Late of the Pier record. I prefer doing first records, I suppose!”
LA Priest’s ‘Inji’ debut is round the corner, and it combines newly-penned numbers with tracks half-formed some five years back. It’s an album that’s taken Dust from London to Greenland, where he studied a region’s “electro-magnetic” frequencies. In future, he wants to make records that “study a certain discipline,” Brian Eno-style, but for now he’s reintroducing himself to loyalists and giving himself a platform to experiment further. Regardless of how this project evolves, it carries a flavour of fun-first abandon that’s been missing even since Late of the Pier ignored demand and quietly faded out. “When I see people that are treating themselves as clones, that kind of upsets me,” he says. “One of the worst sides of humanity is that we seem to copy each other a lot, for social reasons. I’m just trying to battle against that.”
I take it you like to go to new places to open up your mind.
It’s all pretty natural for an artist to want to do that. It’s important. The way that the world functions, you have to have people doing different roles. You need people to do jobs that are more logical and repetitive. But for those people - music and art - who move creatively, it opens up their mind and gives them ways of thinking about where they’re going in life. It creates a lot more possibility. I suppose it’d be nice to think that you’re going out there and taking inspiration, when you have the privilege to do that. And it’s nice to think that you’re translating it for people. They hear it through speakers, experience it through videos. It’s about shaking people, a little bit. When I see people that are treating themselves as clones, that kind of upsets me, really. It’s not their fault. One of the worst sides of humanity is that we seem to copy each other a lot, for social reasons. I’m just trying to battle against that. If I don’t do that, as a musician, then who will? That’s a real letdown if I can’t do that.
So with this record, are you trying to do pop in a very different way?
I think I start off sometimes with a very difficult idea, one that might be tricky for people to get their head round. Some of the melodies or rhythms - they’re pretty out there. I’m not doing anything massively futuristic. There’s people doing a lot more than me. But there’s a lot in there that I don’t feel is just pop music. And then after that, I think well ‘Ok, this is really fun and a bit weird. Let’s push it further’. The aim isn’t to make it more palatable, but to make it hit as hard as possible. In the production or anything that I do, the only aim is to accentuate everything. The loud things are really loud, etc. That’s a bit of a simplification, but it works thinking of it like that, really. If a song’s just not working in that process, then I just leave it for a few months. Some things have been sitting around for ages. The oldest track on the record is four or five years old.
Do you always have these songs in the back of your head when they’re unfinished thoughts?
I forget about a lot of what I’ve written. And I’m not very good at recording. I’ve bought dictaphones several times, and I just never have batteries in them, I don’t know where they are. There’s a lot of stuff in my head that just comes back after years, when I start humming something. I’m lucky that these things come naturally.
Did you ever keep tabs on the thirst for a new Late of the Pier record?
I was pretty aware of that. I wasn’t aware, maybe specifically, with Late of the Pier. But you would just hear it about other bands. Every other band around us at that time was getting a load of shit for not having their second record out. So it was like, ‘God, it seems really tough’. People were being very harsh on second records. That might have gone towards why we didn’t rush something. It took years to compile the material for the first Late of the Pier record. I prefer doing first records, I suppose! But then again, in the process of finishing this record off, I was already thinking of all these plans for the second record, and things that you can do second time round. I don’t know whether it will happen, but I’d like to do a study in something. A bit like those Brian Eno records, where he’s studying a certain discipline. There’s a lot of stuff that I’d like to do, if I had the time. There’s another side of what I do that’s quite scientific and structured.
I’m looking at music as a science, as well. That’s really hard though. It’s not really a first record thing to do. If I’m doing the right kind of thing, the best outcome would be… there are certain artists that set themselves up for a real open-mindedness when it comes to the stuff they release. Fans have a lot of patience. They can do albums that nobody gets, but people still think ‘This person’s great’. I’m trying to think of an example. That’s what I’d like to do, is allow myself that freedom. I suppose somebody like Bjork. She can do whatever she wants. I can’t really force music. It never works. If I try and please even myself sometimes, I can’t make something to fit a criteria. So if I don’t set myself up so that I can experiment, then basically I’m endangering my own career. Because it’ll just get to a point where if people won’t accept anything but a certain thing, then I just won’t make it.
Photo: Emma Swann / DIY. Taken from the June 2015 issue of DIY, out now. LA Priest's 'Inji' is out 29th June on Domino.
LA Priest will play Field Day (6th-7th June), where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/presents for more information.