Me, Myself, and iRobot | Juan Maclean

“[When I was younger], I had these notions that I was somehow created just that morning and implanted with someone else’s memories,” Maclean says. “I was a really paranoid kid…

 

 

Juan Maclean is thinking about Trent Reznor and having sex with a toaster. While working out details about a potential opening slot on tour with Nine Inch Nails (for serious!), PLAYBACK:stl is grilling him about science fiction author Phillip K. Dick, from whom Maclean draws particular influence when making music under the conspicuous guise The Juan Maclean. Considering the musician’s debut album, Less Than Human, which synthesizes Maclean’s glitchy inner circuitry into 2005’s most exhilarating dance record, this infatuation is not entirely surprising.

“[When I was younger], I had these notions that I was somehow created just that morning and implanted with someone else’s memories,” Maclean says. “I was a really paranoid kid…just that whole feeling of things not being quite right and, on a personal level, just not really feeling connected to whatever’s going on around you and not being able to figure out why.”

But how exactly does childhood alienation tie into to sex with toasters? “Shinning Skinned Friend,” one of Less Than Human’s standout tracks, depicts a love triangle between a man, a woman, and a robot, which Maclean pulled from a Dick essay that contemplates the adulterous implications of sex with humanoids, and consequently, toasters.

What’s most interesting, though, is how Less Than Human was almost never made. After slinging guitar in the ’90s for robo-punk rockers Six Finger Satellite, Maclean fled the music scene to work at a New Hampshire juvenile detention center. “I had literally sold pretty much all my music equipment and I think my entire record collection,” Maclean says. It took the urgings of Tim Goldsworthy and Six Finger Satellite’s soundman James Murphy—best known now as the production duo the DFA—to bring Maclean back to music. Although most know the DFA for its work with such acts as the Rapture and Black Dice, Maclean is intrinsically connected to the label’s vision—so much so that Maclean uses the “we” pronoun when discussing the production team.

“Everything we do at DFA, we spend probably an absurdly long time working with the stuff,” Maclean says. “But I think in the end it really translates mostly in terms of staying power and things still sounding interesting a year after they come out.”

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