Robots in Disguise

An interview by Sheraz Qureshi fixed up by White Tiger Management, thanks!

" At the height of our disembodied digital era, two disguised femme-bots descend to deliver their funkpunk message to undiscerning humanoids inclined to the sounds of artful proto punk, exuberant electro-pop and new wave expressionism. SUE DENIM and DEE PLUME are Robots in Disguise, two perfectly harmonizing automatons programmed to create crafty left-field punk-pop and paying tribute as female counterparts to the rock stage personas of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, respectively. On guitars, xylophone, flute, and singing, shouting, throwing out DIY moves, RID entertain their audiences in a true old-skool retro style mixed with riot grrrl fervor with Dee's aerobic guitar solos and Sue's grooving bass lines dancing over poetic lyrics and chunky electronic beats. "

This might sound like a strange question to start with, but what would you be doing if you weren't in a band?

Crying… filing our press from when we were in a band...

The reasons why I ask, is that - you come across as being artists first and foremost, and I guess I was wondering what it was about the 3-5 minute song format that meant you choose it as the medium to best express your ideas.

Let me think about this… I suppose its maybe the other way round, although I do think there is an artist element to what we do for sure . I think we wanted to be in a band, and we wanted to make music, and then the performance art aspect of it all (if you can call it that) came later. We have both done acting, and we are both ' creative ' but none of us really did lots of art before being in the band. Although I did do about half of an art foundation course…

What happened with the Art foundation course?

I started doing it not so long ago, really bizarrely, id been in robots for a year - and I just realised that I didn't have the time for it

I suppose the follow up question would be regarding electro, as a genre what is it about it that appeals to you the most, and why do you think there is a stigma associated with it ?

A stigma? I don't know, I think maybe its because there is quite a lot of bad electro out there but then again there is a lot of bad anything,. Maybe its because there is such a big image thing within the electro scene, and people get wound up by it, and there are lots of accusations of style over content. I think that really winds people up. It often winds people up if people dress flamboyantly. And then if you don't back that up with good material then that's going to lead to a stigma. But then I guess a lot of music has a stigma attached to it. Like indie ?

I'm not sure if I’d agree, I mean the reason why I asked the question was partly because I thought there'd be a tangential discussion about how if something's got guitars in its instantly seen as more credible then someone who plays around with electro..

I know what you mean actually. I think it's to do with the lack of image, its very understated, they aren't seen as trying so hard. [they aren't] ostentatious...

Are Robots in Disguise ostentatious?

Well sometimes. But in a good way. We just think its fun dressing up. We want to have the aesthetic as a part of what we do.

Regarding electro, what is it about it that appeals to you the most? What led to you falling for it as a genre?

A lot of it was do with chris corner (our producer). He does all the drum programming and that kind of side of it - although we were quite involved in the production as well. In terms of ideas, he's the one who really kicked it into shape and - maybe if we had been with an indie producer it wouldn't have even been electro. It was kind of an accident in a way. Everything happened gradually with our band. We never would have called ourselves electro [at the start].

What is your opinion regarded gender and the way it is portrayed in pop?

Im not sure if I understand the question? I'm not sure what you are referring to as pop?

Well just popular music, and that can extend to indie as well..

In general I just think there is quite a sexist attitude, and an attitude that girls have to get their body out and on display, and we're definitely not about that.

Do you prefer playing live or being in the studio ?

Playing live, its just an immediate thrill !

What song do you like performing the most?

It varies from gig to gig actually. I do always really like to play 'girl' because there's just this real feeling of power… but it varies, there are loads of songs that are really fun to play at the moment because people are really getting into it.

Do you feel an affinity with someone like Karen from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.. ?

I've never actually seen her band live. But I like her style. And yeah - In terms of the fact we are all women in music, and she's supposed to be really good live. I've just never got round to seeing her yet, I know Dee has though.

In an interview with popnews in 2002 you are quoted as saying: " There's not enough music and entertainment in general that makes people feel good about or able to escape themselves. " Would you be able to expand on that a little, and is that a statement that you still agree with?

I think so. If this is talking about live music which I think it probably was. Because that's always been a thing of ours, we really want people to really enjoy the show. I mean obviously we want people to enjoy the record aswell, but in particular we want to make our shows different, and make them about having a party and everyone being involved. I mean we often get the audience to up to dance on stage with us. We have a lot of contact with our fans and our audience in the context of the gig... and I think its really important people go home thinking that that was the best night of their life…

You've had considerable success overseas (without the aid of the boosh?) my question is, in the light of your commercial success elsewhere, how important is breaking the uk to you?

Really important, because we are from the uk. But its been great basically having a chance to develop away from the judging eyes of the uk, because I think the music industry over here is much more cut throat in some ways, you don't really have the chance to develop, there is a pressure to succeed almost immediately, and then there is nowhere to go

What was it about the overseas experience that meant fans were able to connect in larger numbers then here?

Erm, I'm not sure if that's true. Do you mean at the time?


We were signed to a French record label and that's really why we went to France. And we had a network of support there and that really helped

Was it to do with how the music industry is organised?

Well one thing is that in France and in Belgium there are a lot of government grants for live music and stuff like that, and you can actually tour over there and maybe even come home with a bit of money - whereas it's really really tough here, you really get paid f**k all, or beep all ! sorry is this going out, does it have to be clean.

You can be as full of profanity as you like its fine !

I haven't probably said enough then !

It’s ok you aren't being marked on swear word content but you can feel free to make up for it if you like !

Yeah - I mean, its definitely a more pleasant experience in terms of the way you are treated by the promoters and the organisers in the rest of Europe then it is over here. There's more support, there's more respect for us, and there's less building up of bands to knock them down. But then in terms of the atmosphere and the fans it's great everywhere if you do a good show.

Were there any embarrassing band names that you considered before deciding on robots in disguise?

Originally. Robots in disguise was the only choice. We did have a really embarrassing title for the first album. Which was so pretentious it was unbelievable. Which was (and I cant remember if we thought about calling ourselves it aswell) but we were going to call the first album ' experiment diad'

What does experiment diad mean ?

Something to do with two… you see what I mean, I'd have to look it up in the dictionary myself ? does anyone have a dictionary ?

*frantic looking up of word in dictionary

An atom or group that has a valency of two…. A group of two !

What do you see yourselves doing in ten years time?

Still trying to crack the uk!

We'll probably still be on our 3rd album at this rate. I'm not really sure. Maybe we'll still be doing this, maybe not who knows? Sometime we kind of joke that we'll still be doing this when we are 80 and we kind of thought up names for all of our songs. Like turn it up - would be turn it down !

If both yourself and Dee were to appear on the Weakest link who would be the first to be eliminated?

Oh God, I'd never go on the weakest link ! I don't know It would be quite close… or maybe we'd just eliminate Ann Robinson instead and take over - that's more our style !

And finally, chips or cream buns ?

Chips !