13 April 2010


Sssen sort of exploded quite recently among my friend group, which led to them coming over to open for Beach House.  They're an awesome live electronic act from New York that really piqued my interest due to their awesome sound and performance.  We also share a friend my the name of Dan Obzejta, who actually made some album art for us last year (check the art HERE, as well as his awesome blog of mind blowing art HERE).  I got the chance to ask them a few questions, so without any further delay, we are proud to present our interview with Sssen:

Apes With Barrels: You find yourself on the, lets say Williamsburg bridge, and an army of barbarian hipsters are approaching rapidly from both sides armed with broken pbr forties. What's your next move?

Anthony Natoli: Blast Passion Pit and watch their confused faces as their anger suddenly dissipates and they start dancing ironically and exchanging high fives.

Alex Klein: Yeah, or use the imperious charm. It works really well on hipsters.

AwB: Cheetahs or gazelles?

A.N: Tigers.

AwB: We’ve got to ask. Sssen?

A.K: It's from Spirited Away, we really identified with the protagonist. A sorceress steals her real name and gives her a fake one, Sen. There's something about the surrogacy of it, the traces of loss, like spirit photography. So we digitized it and added a few s's...

A.N: ...It’s what I imagine an electronic whisper would sound like.

AwB: What are your musical backgrounds, and what piqued your interest in electronic music?

A.N: In high school Alex and I wrote pieces for piano and viola. (Me on piano, Alex on viola). I was always really into house music from a young age and once Alex started using music software we began to fuck around with electronic sounds and sequencing. I also had this synthesizer that I used to make beats on. We showed some of the things we had been working on to people and they liked it so we decided to keep going. Also living in New York and partying we started to listen almost exclusively to electronic music and we started moving more and more in the direction of dance and electro.

AwB: Care to describe what your live setup looks like?

A.K: We use two synthesizers live, a Korg triton extreme and a Kawai K4 from the late 80s that I circuit bent and makes really beautiful pad sounds or really fucked up bass growls. We use a native instruments Maschine for drum sounds, two microphones (one going through an effects unit one through a vocoder), and then a laptop running Ableton live. We also have a sidechain compressor and stereo exciter in our live rack to brighten up the sound and make it kick. We mainly use the computer as a sequencer and for effects - we send out midi tracks to the synths and then process the signals live. We've found its better to avoid playing back audio tracks unless absolutely necessary... we try to keep everything as interactive as possible.

AwB: I don’t get to ask this question a lot, but I feel like it applies to you guys more than most of the people I interview. What’s the inspiration behind your music?

A.N: For me, Sssen is about celebrating the ugly side of technology. It seems that people are interfacing more and more with machinery and computers and the result is an increasingly fractured way of experiencing the world. At a party last year I realized that I feel far more comfortable in a dark room full of dizzying hyper-bright strobe lights than I do on a sunny street, and I think a lot of people can relate. We're into computer junkyards, broken machinery, loose wires, empty parking lots, police sirens, L.E.D, neon ads with letters missing…you get the idea...

A.K: ...Yeah, I think part of our aesthetic is definitely in the inherent deviancy of dance music, the beautiful nihilism behind it. It's also really interesting to think about what's behind all the technological interfaces we use, for me that's the appeal of opening a synthesizer or drum machine and "corrupting" its perfect order. It's kind of like humanizing technology, dehumanizing humanity. Like Wall-E.

AwB: Describe your best and worst gigs. Were there any lessons you could take away from them?

A.N: Oh my god, we played a show last summer at this warehouse, Refuge, in Brooklyn that was EXACTLY the wrong fan-base for our music. All the dj’s before us were playing top-forty remixes and the crowd was drunk and loving it, and then we got on there and played some crazy shit and kids were like this is fucking weird I just wanna grind with my baby momma. Some drunk kid kept knocking over my mic stand and asking me to play Reggaeton, so I asked this muscled raver who was rolling hard next to us on stage to get rid of him and the guy launched him into the crowd and kept on dancing.

A.K: I think one of our best gigs was this other warehouse party at the 1896 that we had played a month before THAT fiasco. They were running super late so we didn't go on until like 3:30... but people stuck around and we got the whole floor moving. There was these really drunk kids who kept climbing up the walls and falling down. I remember for that show we had added an extra track in Ableton that just played the LOUDEST bass drum imaginable, looped, throughout the whole set. The bass drum would keep booming when the music stopped... and people would be like "WHAT!!" and keep bouncing up and down. The musicality of that trick is kind of doubtful, but what's more universal than a heartbeat?

AwB: What genre would you categorize yourselves under, if any?

A.N: Electronic is really the only thing that applies to us as of now. We’ll see what other labels we get as time goes one. Best case scenario, the hipster gods come up with some chic new ironic word to describe our genre.

A.K: I would say the direction we're moving in is kind of like electro-industrial... or I guess you could call it spook-house...

AwB: Tell us about your production process. How does a song start, how long do they take to complete, etc?

A.K: Anthony usually thinks more in terms of the chord changes and melodies and I usually mess around more with sounds and effects. Finding the right sound is hard, because sometimes you find something and you know exactly what to do with it, but usually it takes forever to create the texture that perfectly fits the emotions we're going for. Our production setup isn't all that different from our live set-up, but we're able to do more adventurous things when we're recording. Like for this new track we're working on, "Night Shiver," I used this MAX/MSP patch I created that triggers all these distorted vocal samples as pulses when you run an external signal through it. So we just screamed into the mic for 2 minutes and got all these amazing dehumanized voices bouncing around our ears, which we used as the intro sound for the track. It's a cool process but one that would just NEVER work live... too much CPU drain. As far as our long term process, we wrote all these songs in high school that we're still mining for material. So I guess you could say that some of the tracks have been in production for years.

AwB: Are you planning on getting into remixing, or just focusing on original compositions?

A.N: We definitely want to start remixing. We are at the point now where our equipment is consistently making gorgeous sounds and we want to start going headfirst into pure house/dance/electro for a while.

A.K: Yeah, it's only a matter of time. We have our eyes on a few projects, we really want to do a remix of Circus by Britney Spears...

AwB: Favorite electronic music concert?

A.N: Hard NYC in October 2009. Greatest fucking party ever. Despite the fact that I was rolling really hard the whole time, I can confidently say crookers and major lazer blew my mind.

A.K: I saw Crystal Castles play in rome last summer. As much as I hate them, they put on an a pretty amazing show... All the Italian hipsters went crazy, and the place ended up getting completely trashed... it was a night to remember.

AwB: If you could collaborate with any living artist…?

A.N: The Knife, Trentemøller, or Bjork.  [AwB: GREAT ANSWERS]

A.K Enya

AwB: What should we be expecting from Sssen in the near future?

A.N: Our Spook House EP (which is closer to album length) will be released soon. We’re in the process of making some music videos and collaborating with other artists to produce tracks and remixes. Other than that, we’ll be performing in NYC forever so if you feel like thrashing, come check us out.


Here's a video of Sssen performing their track If Your Head Is Empty live at Wesleyan University on March 27th while opening for Beach House:

 (More art from Mr. Obzejta inspired by Sssen)

I'll definitely work to bring them back for another show next year, except introduce them to my disgusting dance scene that's notorious for people having sex against the radiators in the venue. And now for some tracks (all 320):

If Your Head Is Empty - Sssen (Golden Banana)
God I love this track, when I heard it live I freaked out (yeah, that's my voice in the video).  Especially love the end.  Fun Fact: they actually hadn't recorded it yet and did so on my request for this post.  Most recomended to Electro and House fans

Taken - Sssen (Silver Banana)
Sick drums, and amazing track all around.  Haunting. Definitely take this one if you're not as into the whole Electro House thing.

Masquerade (Eyes Full Of Color) - Sssen
Kinda got that Italo thing going on with the bass, but just way more dirty.

Polaris - Sssen
Not really DJ-friendly tempo, but a very pretty. I love the chipy/video-gamey arpeggiated line.

Snowflake (Live Version) - Trentemøller
Since one of my all time favorite producers got brought up, I just had to post this.  One of the most beautiful/sinister tracks ever made, I can't even begin to fathom how much effort an undertaking like this must take, it's like the word "loop" isn't in his vocabulary.


ALSO (completely unrelated note)..

A big shout out to Electro Nirvana, a brand new blog that clearly reads us.  Glad to have you on board.


  1. BOOYAS these homies hold it down, good find mullman