This ran as the cover story in Drum Media the week Midnight Juggernauts The Crystal Axis tour hit Sydney. They’re playing Parklife this weekend, so thought it was worth bringing this interview out for a whirl.
It’s been a while between drinks, but Midnight Juggernauts are back with a new record to tour. Drummer Daniel Stricker talks battle wounds and bad diets.
It was only a few years ago Midnight Juggernauts were an inescapable musical force. A staple of every touring festival lineup, Dystopia blaring on national radio, they were at the forefront of an oncoming indie dance craze. Fast forward to this year and the band have since toured internationally with dance heavyweights like Justice, released sophomore effort The Crystal Axis and are returning home to showcase their new sound, an ambient layered record that redefines their notion of dance music.
When I get on the phone with an under the weather Daniel Stricker, the drummer is pragmatic about their change in sound and scene.
“The thing with Dystopia was that we started at the end of 2006, that’s four years ago, and even though this indie dance thing is big now, that came out at the very beginning of it before it got mega huge. We never wrote music because of what was big, it was just what we were into back then and this is what we’re into now.”
“We could have really easily written a really immediate record this time but it just wasn’t what we wanted to do for this album.”
Instead the band spent months recording The Crystal Axis after a strenuous touring schedule that saw them away from home for the better part of two years.
“While we were touring we became much more of a live band, just because we were playing so much and we were getting used to each other and kind of developed. We communicated much better, becoming better musicians.”
“We were all into the idea of making a very 70s sounding record, that changed and evolved, but the basic genesis of the idea was to make something a lot more live, a lot more like us in a room together, but still with all of these electronic elements but a fresh take on that.”
The tours that honed their live music skills took them everywhere from Glastonbury to Brazil and everywhere in between, opening for some of the biggest dance acts in the world today. The band remained in awe regarding their growing following here and abroad.
“We were playing for 2000 people in NY and same in LA, and as a first show, as an introduction to a place, it’s mind-blowing, and then you’re doing all the festivals as well. It was really just a surreal time. The first time you get to do that stuff, I mean it’s still amazing now… but when it’s the first time it’s really mind blowing, it’s like the first time you do anything. It was definitely some of the best memories I have in my whole life. Going to Fuji Rock and playing in Japan, and Coachella and all of those festivals, you definitely feel like you’ve accomplished something.”
Stricker has fond memories of touring on the back of Dystopia, including the more irksome moments. “My favourite moment was probably from Fuji Rock just because it was such an amazing festival, it’s this ski resort, like 5km long in a boundaried forest… you walk around at night, along these boardwalks through this forest and come out to a clearing, and there’s a stage and all of these markets, and everything is really clean, all of these Japanese people they clean up after themselves so there’s no rubbish anywhere and it’s just the most amazing setting on this mountain.”
“I remember I didn’t bring any money with me to the festival, I had my credit card or whatever but there were no ATMs, and as an artist you got given a meal ticket each day so that would be your dinner, but for breakfast or lunch or whatever else the only thing you got was pizzas, me and Andy from the band, we both didn’t have any money, so all we would eat all day was pizza for four days straight. By the end it was killing me but it was still pretty funny.”
Though the touring cuisine may leave something to be desired, Stricker sees the pay-off every time he steps out onto the stage. Ask him whether he finds the experience of playing in front of thousands of people every night nerve-wracking, and his response is suitable anecdotal.
“I’d actually never thought about this until the other day – this is quite random – we were in Chile, in Santiago, and they had this live band karaoke, and I got up with Daniel, who does our tour managing and stuff, and we sang this song but in front of maybe a hundred or two hundred people, and when I was there actually with a microphone I totally couldn’t deal with it, and yet I play drums really easily and I’m fine with the crowd and stuff, but I just couldn’t deal with it at all which is really weird.”
“It’s funny cause I was asking Vincent about it because he has to do that every night while I’m at the back, but at the same time I found when we play small shows it’s a lot easier cause you can connect with the audience and look at people in the crowd and connect with them and feed off their energy where when you play a festival a lot of the time it’s so disconnected. So it doesn’t kind of make sense what I’m saying, because I’m saying its great when you connect with people but when I was at the front of the stage I couldn’t deal with it!”
“I don’t know maybe I think it’s kind of good having the security in front of you like I have a drum kit that shields, maybe makes me feel unreal, like the wall between or something.”
Shielded or otherwise, Stricker has experienced his fair share of touring injuries and incidents, including some near misses perpetrated by his bandmates.
“We did a festival where Vincent, I had no idea he was going to do this, but he ran and bolted into the drum kit with his bass guitar and all I could see was this big guy running towards me with his bass coming at me, almost like a knife, coming straight for me and he went straight into me and we both toppled the entire kit over and it was so scary seeing this huge man coming towards you at full speed. But that stuffs always fun (laughs).”
Adrenaline drives the band live, and if Stricker’s gig wounds are anything to go by, their shows are bound to be dynamic when they get amongst the action.
“When we were in Nottingham in the UK and at the end of this one song I got up from the drums and I took a drum out into the crowd and started a big jam and I remember I jumped into the crowd and my drum was in front of me and it went straight into my face and it cut up above my eye so I was just bleeding from on top of my eye down all over my face and I didn’t even know. My friend Chris from the Bumblebeez was there and he was like ‘Dude you’re fucking bleeding all over your face’, and you don’t even know because you’re so swept up in the moment you don’t feel the pain. Yeah that happened.”