We have something for you… It’s a big basket of “Flowers For Dystopia.” Who is it from? Well, we’re going to let you know about that right now…
It seems they’ve been delivered courtesy of Les Techno, a New York City-area studio wizard and guitar czar who’s been a scene staple for quite some time. The song, the title track off of his new album, is a recent composition, motivated by the underlying tension of the current coronavirus pandemic. Somehow, someway, it all came to Les Techno in a dream, with the song discussing the need to connect with others while amidst the “objects” (the pandemic) that you are unable to see which ultimately prevents you from living your normal life. It’s a topical interpretation of a situation from which none of us are exempt, making it very easy to find a sense of commonality with the song.
Elaborating on the details behind the writing of “Flowers For Dystopia” and just what this dream was all about, Les Techno said, “This song came in a dream. I dreamed the live band was on stage at some dingy east village club, and I walked onto the stage, came to the mic and announced ‘Objects!… Objects!… Objects!’ and then I heard the underlying guitar riff that starts the song. So I woke right up, like at 3 am, ran downstairs and started recording it. It all came tumbling out: the whole tension over the COVID-19 virus… the lockdown, the masks, you could drown unless they decided you would get a ventilator. You know, virus particles, ‘objects.. that I cant see… Objects that want to hurt met… that we all breathe.’”
He continues, “Then there is the thing about who decides who lives and dies, these ‘wizards’ in gowns and masks quickly deciding… And this is all real, not in the dream. The vocal was just about the first cut: I was experimenting with what the lyrics would be, and luckily, did that while in record. (Always a good idea.) And the experiment became the take.”
Wow, that’s pretty crazy… Right? Les Techno has carved out for himself a pretty impressive career within the New York City punk rock scene, including stints with the bands Sim-Stim and Love Posse. He’s also recorded hip-hop tracks with legends including Run-DMC, Mobb Deep, and Onyx. Not one to tag himself within genres, he has also worked with the late Bernie Worrell of Parliament-Funkadelic and recorded reggae dance hall albums for Georgie Blacks. With such remarkable musical life, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to speak with Les Techno about “Flowers For Dystopia,” his songwriting process for the new album, and being productive in the age of coronavirus.
Your new single “Flowers For Dystopia” is quite an interesting track, and I think very topical. You said that this song actually came to you in quite a detailed dream. Do you usually have dreams that are this vivid?
“The dream was like I am walking on stage in some East Village rock club, the band is already playing the initial guitar riff. I walk up to the mic and, like an incantation, chant ‘Objects!,’ ‘Objects!’ Quite aurally vivid, so that is why I jumped out of bed and started working on it. It happens occasionally, and when it does, it’s a visitation of the Muse. You jump on it. I think the answer to your question is yes.”
Have you had other songs or song ideas come to you in dreams? And is it just song ideas, or can you actually wake up with melodies or beats in your mind?
“The other one that happened with is ‘Edge of the World.’ I woke up and heard that siren sound against a back-beat. Just like how the song opens… I mean I will hear things together, a beat with a bass line, a melody over a bass line.”
You seem like quite a versatile artist who’s capable of making songs in a variety of different genres. I like that you don’t limit yourself by staying within the confines of a genre. How do you typically write songs? With a guitar? In a studio with beats? Please tell us more.
“Thank you for the compliment. Some songs start in a variety of modes that come together. Take ‘What Ya Done’ as an example, The chorus popped into my head at a bus stop in the Bronx. I have no idea why, I just dropped the car off at a mechanic. Some other time, I was fooling with the verse chord progression on the guitar, fumbling with a melody and discovered it cleaved right into that chorus. The lyrics were more intentional, in the sense that I wanted to write something about these rich silicon valley billionaires and their special escape palaces in New Zealand. It seemed so silly to me, so the snarky lyrics popped out that mood. You can compare that to ‘Come Along,’ which started out as the verse groove, bass, drums and rhythm guitar through echo, and built up from there.”
It’s nice to see that you’re finding ways of being productive throughout this pandemic situation. Are you finding this to be a good time to be productive as a songwriter?
“That is hard to say. I wrapped up the album as the pandemic took off in the U.S. I was enjoying rehearsing the live act component of the project, but that project hit the brick wall. At the same time, I guess the lockdown caused ‘Flowers’ to pop out, and that came together really fast. It’s the last track composed for the record. I have done some dance remixes of ‘Flowers,’ but I haven’t settled into new songwriting yet.”
Tell us a little more about your new Flowers For Dystopia album. Is this more of a guitar-based album or do you mix it up a lot throughout each of its ten tracks?
“You could say there is a lot of guitar on the album, but that’s not all. Sure, I mean listen to the solo on ‘Song of the Materials,’ which I particularly like because it sounds a bit like Larry Coryell (my old guitar teacher) came for a visit. But I love the whole sound palette. It’s an album that attempts to explore the palette rather than hew to a single thing. I wanted to use industrial sounds to express an edge to it all. So you hear that on ‘Eye on You.’ You hear a reggae influence on ‘Is it Real’ while an ‘80s ish new wavy thing on ‘Come Along.’ The guitar is used as a sound source in a variety of ways, so I don’t know if it’s necessarily a ‘guitar-based’ album.”