The Aussie drum ’n’ bassers-cum-stadium metallers set the record straight after the release of new album Immersion
They’ve sprung from seemingly nowhere (in fact Perth, Australia) to sold-out arenas everywhere in just six years, and fans of their in-your-face hybrid of drum ’n’ bass, nu-metal and techno-rock have bought more than 500,000 copies of their two albums. Pendulum’s colossal live show – a hi-tech, audio-visual spectacle – turns venues into gobsmacked rallies of the faithful, but the band have drawn criticism from non-believers, who think they’ve betrayed the drum ’n’ bass scene by signing to a major label. So who on earth are Pendulum? Singer-songwriter and producer Rob Swire was happy to help with our enquiries.
Is it reasonable to describe Pendulum as the drum ’n’ bass equivalent of Muse? That’s quite a good analogy and we did take quite a lot of influence from Muse’s live show initially, especially just before [second album] In Silico. We were watching all these videos and being blown away by how good they were live. We used to say that if we could be anywhere near as good live as Muse, then we were on the right path.
Is the massive, gee-wow scale of your live production as important as the music itself? I don’t think we really believe in minimalism [laughs]. We’re more a megalomaniac, wall-of-sound affair.
Given the scale of your success in a relatively short time, do you feel that Pendulum has become an uncontrollable monster? No, it’s never really felt like any kind of Frankenstein’s monster; if anything, it’s the opposite – it’s very controlled. We’re very ADD in what we focus our attention on, the kind of music we like and what we want to make. And that will change weekly – or daily – and then we’re on to the next thing. In a weird way, it’s calmly schizophrenic, which is what I like.’
With Immersion, you put some in-progress tracks online, inviting feedback from fans. Some may say you’re trying too hard to give people what they want… To be honest, any artist that says he doesn’t care what people think is either lying or doesn’t want to sell too many records. But the process of putting stuff online is to do with the fact that we’re so excited about it that we can’t wait for people to hear it.
Is the widespread, constant, almost depraved hunger for the new ever a problem? Initially, I found that quite terrifying, especially when the label are on at you about keeping the fans updated online. It’s not something I thought I’d like to do, but the more we got to do it, the easier it became. Although I quite like the fact that people don’t really know Pendulum as individuals.
Are you technology geeks? We are, yeah. I could never deny that. Technology is a means to an end, and something like the Z-tar [Swire’s Midi controller that’s played like a guitar] is practical, because if you stay behind the keyboards and do vocals too, it’s going to look a bit Elton John. But also, if you’re not trying to push boundaries and get hold of the latest technology, I don’t know why you’d bother having an electronic-based band. It comes with the territory.
The demonstrable ‘liveness’ of your shows is important, right? There are very, very few electronic bands who actually play live. The instruments they have onstage are not what’s coming out of the speakers; what’s coming out of the speakers is off a hard disk. With us, everything you hear is being played on the spot.
What’s a typical Pendulum fan like? You’ll find people of all ages at our shows, but the longer we stick around, the younger our crowd gets. I’m not sure what that says, but it seems to be the case. At the front you’ll get the 12-year-old dude with his dad, but you’ll also have a 40-year-old in a Metallica T-shirt. It’s so random, and that’s what I love about it.
What are your own music preferences? I didn’t think I liked prog, but apparently the kinds of bands I listen to means I do. I like Porcupine Tree [whose Steven Wilson plays on Immersion] and although I don’t like Yes, I like bands that have been influenced by them, such as Toto and Peter Gabriel. Toto’s musicianship is flawless and the production was amazing for the ’80s. It’s also their chords, their ideas… I love them.
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never even heard of Pendulum? My cab driver’s response is ‘electronic rock meets drum ’n’ bass.’ But that description is always accompanied by a bit of a cringe from me!’ Immersion is available now online.