Praga Kahn talks about new Lords of Acid album “Pretty in Kink”
By Bob Gourley | Published on June 10, 2018
Since emerging in 1988 with the club classic “I Sit on Acid,” Belguim’s Lords of Acid have gone through many line-up changes and incorporated a variety of influences into their hard electronic sound. For the latest Lords of Acid release, the crowd-funded “Pretty in Kink,” leader and founding member Praga Khan got the fans directly involved, allowing comments and feedback to shape the album.
How did the making of this album compare to your previous work?
Praga Khan: “The making of this album, for me, was completely different. It was great to have cooperation between myself and the fans. The fans were involved from the start, from the beginning of the recording up through the final mix of the album. The involvement went from choosing the title of the album, choosing the subjects of the songs, and asking their opinions about demos. They were really with me the whole time. It was interesting because I also asked them a lot of stuff, doing polls like ‘What’s your favorite Lords of Acid album?’ and ‘What’s your favorite song?’ It was very creative. I got a lot of feedback from diehard fans.”
Did any of the feedback surprise you?
Praga Khan: “I didn’t know there were so many people who had ‘Voodoo-U’ as their favorite album. I also thought it was going to be ‘Lust’ because that was an album that created a lot of stir. But ‘Voodoo-U’ is deeper in their hearts. That’s what I tried to do with this album, make a combination of ‘Voodoo-U,’ ‘Our Little Secret’ and ‘Lust.’ There are guitars in there, but it’s not as heavy as ‘Voodoo-U.’ It’s not as danceable as ‘Lust,’ but in a way, it’s a nice mix of these albums.”
To what degree did fan involvement make the album veer from your original idea for it?
Praga Khan: “It was a nice mixture. I had some stuff that I was planning, but on the other hand, they surprised me with their ideas. In a way, it’s what I had in mind. What I was planning to do was make an album that was slower in beats, like groovy, sexy songs. It ended up they really liked that. But I also kept in mind there were also people who were into Lords of Acid because they like the danceability of the songs. At the end of recording, I was really happy with the album. I felt really good about it. Most of the time, I’m like 60% satisfied, but now I’m at least 80%.”
You went on tour during the making of “Pretty in Kink.” Did that have an impact on the process?
Praga Khan: “That was one of the challenges I had. There was this tour in the middle of the recordings. Making an album is a creative thing; you cannot hurry it. Creativity sometimes comes at moments you don’t expect, and when you’re sitting in your studio trying to force it, it doesn’t come. So you always have to wait until creativity comes. For the album, I had 8 songs ready as demos before I went on tour, and then I did the rest after the tour. But the challenge was that normally when I make an album, I go in and lock myself in the studio, almost day and night, 24/7, to stay in the atmosphere of creating an album. But this time, I had to interrupt it because of the tour. There was also a lot of work that needed to be done to prepare for the tour. Rehearsals, projections, visas, a lot of stuff, so I had to put the album aside for about 3 months at least. After the tour, I needed time to decompress, so that took me another 3 weeks. It was like a 4-month interruption in the making of the album. But in a way it was good, because when I came back, I could listen to it with a fresh ear, and I took the time to redo stuff that I wasn’t completely satisfied with.”
What was the line-up this time around?
Praga Khan: “Most of the songs I make with Erhan Kurkun. He’s worked with Lords of Acid since the very beginning, but he doesn’t like to go on tour. So, sometimes he’s there, sometimes he’s not; it depends on how he feels. He’s a very good guitar player and a very creative guy. Most of the songs we wrote together, and then I headed the idea for this album. I brought in some guys whom I know from the Belgium scene. I had three rappers come into the studio. It worked out very well. I was really pleased when I heard the results. Then of course there was a new singer. She’s from Belgium, and for me, it was good to have someone from Belgium because in the past, when I’ve worked with American singers, it’s like a long-distance thing. They need to record it in LA and send it over. It’s always so much easier if you’re together in the studio. We had the time to record demos, go back home to listen to them and get into the song, and then record it for real. Plus, the thing with this new singer, Marieke Bresseleers—her nickname is ‘Little Bloody Mary’—of all the people I’ve worked with, she has the widest vocal range. She can go really high, she can go really deep, but still be very warm. It was nice to work with a singer who is classically-schooled as then you can do more.”
Has the evolution of musical technology had an effect on your creative process?
Praga Khan: “Yes, in the beginning, it was more difficult because we started Lords of Acid back in ‘88. The first song, ‘I Sit on Acid,’ was recorded using a Commodore C64. It was that long ago. Over the years, the biggest thing was the samplers getting better and better, having more sampling time and getting easier to work with. In the beginning, we just had a few seconds of sample time, but now we have hours and hours and hours of memory. In the beginning, when you worked on a bassline with the 303, you had to write the notes and then program it and hope it was in sync. It was not that easy, but nowadays, everything is so easy to work with and there are so many sounds available. There are so many soft synths and pieces of software. In a way, it’s good, but on the other hand, it makes it also more difficult because now you have so many sounds to choose from. In the beginning, the only sounds that were there were the sounds in the instruments that were available in the studio. You could tweak them, but now you have thousands and thousands of sounds. It makes it difficult because you have so much choice, so you keep looking for a better sound but sometimes, you lose that initial burst. “
Are there particular instruments or pieces of software you feel are particularly important to the Lords of Acid sound?
Praga Khan: “I go back to analog sounds. I’ve used the old ARP 2600 since the very beginning of Lords of Acid. It’s always going to be on Lords of Acid. When there are crazy sounds on the album, that’s where they come from. There are these Moogs that I really like. I know there are a lot of people out there who say you cannot hear the difference, but I can. When I listen to software that tried to recreate an ARP 2600 or a Moog, when I hear it, I can tell if it’s the digital one.”
While the technical limitations early on led to challenges, did they also have a positive effect in shaping your sound?
Praga Khan: “ ‘I Sit on Acid’ is a song that was recorded 30 years go, but when you listen to it, it still sounds amazing and it still sounds fresh, it sounds open. I think it also has to do with the limitations of the equipment we were working with. Back in those days, when you had a good sound, you stuck to that sound and then started to build on that sound. That’s what made the Lords of Acid sound back then. Sometimes, we had 2 or 3 or 4 layers or sound, but the first layer was the very good, thick analog sound. That’s where you start. But in the beginning, there was only the 909, the 808, the 303. We started working on the Atari [ST] and from there, we went to the Akai [samplers] to Steinberg and ProTools. The only difficult thing is that because you’re changing so many times from equipment, that when you try to recreate past material, it’s difficult. People ask me to do a remix of a song that was recorded in 92, but that becomes really difficult.”
As the only remaining member from the original line-up, was there ever any question as to whether you’d continue as Lords of Acid?
Praga Khan: “No, because some of the guys were going in their own direction, starting their own bands. I was the only constant in Lords of Acid. But at the end of the day, I always came up with the ideas and it was my baby. I always try to surround myself with good people, nice people, good musicians and people who are easy to work with and can also work with me together on the music. That is the most important thing. It also keeps me fresh, the ideas, because there is always other people involved, and I am open to their ideas.”
Now that the album is out, what is in the future for Lords of Acid?
Praga Khan: “There’s a new tour coming up, the ‘Pretty in Kink’ tour. I think it’s going to start in October. That last year was a lot of fun, touring with Combichrist. But this time, it’s going to be different because I want to concentrate more on the theatrical aspect of Lords of Acid. Last time, it was more of a rock and roll version of Lords of Acid. I’d go on stage with a lot of adrenalin, do the ‘Voodoo-U’ material and play as loud as possible and as fast as possible. But this time, I’m going to try to bring back the more theatrical side of Lords of Acid, work with a lot of props on stage and bring the sexiness back to the music.”See all interviews →