Dance, Jesus, Dance: Russian Futurists Find God (Sort Of)

While searching for samples for the new Russian Futurists' album, hip hop LPs were frontman Matthew Hart's first source but he eventually found inspiration from a less popular genre. "I think it's pretty easy to take a song that is already a hit, sample it and make it a hit again. I try and take something that's really shitty and make it good," he explained. "I sampled a lot of religious music – Christian music. I have a huge crate of it."

- Dara Hakimzadeh
Photo by Sheila Busteed

posted December 17, 2007

Dance, Jesus, Dance: Russian Futurists Find God (Sort Of)

     With glowing reviews of his previous albums in Pitchfork, Spin, and the Guardian, Toronto’s Matthew Hart is optimistic about his next album, which is due out in the spring.

     Before his soundcheck at Zaphod Beeblebrox in Ottawa, the frontman for the Russian Futurists talked about the album but, as most artists do, maintained some artistic secrecy about the release.

     “I’m not consciously trying to do something different with it,” said the indie-pop musician. “I think it’s a bit more upbeat compared to what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years and there’s more percussive-heavy dance and hip hop stuff.

     “By nature, when I do songs, they end up being poppy and sunny-sounding and then when I write lyrics they always are depressing or sad,” continued Hart. “I think that’s the kind of music that’s the most timeless. Everything from Fleetwood Mac to the Beach Boys – they’re always about something sad.”

     While in high school, Hart said he didn’t really know many people and turned toward music as a creative outlet. “I had a brand new sampler and became super-isolated and started thinking, ‘I’ve got to do something with my time.’ As weird as it sounds, I’m really productive out of boredom. When I’m really bored, I’m recording,” he said with a laugh.

Russian Futurists Feature Article

     When initially searching for samples for the album, hip hop LPs were Hart’s first source but he eventually found inspiration from a less popular genre.

     “I think it’s pretty easy to take a song that is already a hit, sample it and make it a hit again. I try and take something that’s really shitty and make it good,” he explained. “I sampled a lot of religious music – Christian music. I have a huge crate of it.”

     The crate of “Jesus” tunes was a gift from a friend’s parents, given to Hart years ago, and then rediscovered for this album.

     “They’re from the ’70s so it’s really funky,” he said of the LPs, not wanting to give away any titles or artist names. “I haven’t cleared any of the samples so I don’t want to say too much.”

     During the past year, a subtle influence on Hart was the French electronic scene – a current hotbed for dance music.

     “I like a lot of the production that is going on over there. I really like Lifelike, Boys Noise, and a lot of Ed Banger stuff,” he said.

Russian Futurists Feature Article

     Not to be outdone by European DJs remixing songs for rock bands, Hart reworked the Shout Out Louds song “Tonight I Have to Leave It” and Stars’ “The First Five Times” in 2007.

     “I got asked to do one for Korn and I just wanted to do it because it would have been fucking hilarious to say, ‘I did a remix for Korn.’ It never panned out. I think it’s a challenge when someone gives you a song. Whether you like it or not, I feel like it’s a good challenge,” said Hart.

     In 2006, added exposure in the UK thanks to having V2/Memphis Industries release his compilation album Me, Myself, and Rye gave Hart extra time to focus on this album.

     “So many people in Canada still have no idea who we are,” he said about his band, but added that it doesn’t bother him. “Whether the music is successful or not, it doesn’t matter.”

     Hart likened creating music to any other bodily function and said that, for him, it’s a stress-reliever that has provided him the luxury to travel.

     “I don’t really think of myself as strictly a Canadian artist. I think of myself as someone who happens to live here. Wherever people are interested, I’ll go,” he said. “I’m just trying to do my thing and make songs that don’t sound exactly like everyone else’s.”