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Dan The Automator: Love Shack.

22 January 2002 | 1:59 am | Alison Black
Originally Appeared In

Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By is in stores now.

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It is an entirely appropriate that Dan the Automator should be at home in the city most associated with the now legendary Summer of Love in 1967; the year when peace, love and altruism briefly flared as youth's favoured values. Those were the times my friends.

Thirty-four years later, it's the summer of Lovage, Nathaniel Merriweather's extremely sensual and delightful soundtrack of Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By, on which he is joined by the always recognisable Mike Patton (Tomahawk, Fantomas, Mr Bungle, Faith No More) and the lead singer of the wonderful Elysian Fields, Jennifer Charles (oh, those bee-stung lips and Betty Blue orgasms and whispers), and a cast of other 'sexperts' including Damon Albarn, Afrika Bambaataa and Maseo. Nathaniel is, of course, Dan, or Dan is, of course, Nathaniel.

"It almost seemed necessary to do this," Dan says. "I mean, it just wasn't there anymore - and it should be."

We're talking Barry White, the classics from the Stax and Motown catalogues, and 'bon vivant extraordinaire' Jackie Gleason whose albums of surreal seduction music included Music For Lovers and Opiate D'Amour.

"Love records have existed for years," Dan says, "but there haven't really been any since the '70s so I felt I should make one. It didn't feel like people were attending to that side of music, and it was quite significant back then."

So why Mike and Jennifer?

"Jennifer, well, I'm just a great fan of Elysian Fields and I thought she had a great voice for this kind of record. I'll tell you, she's a great character. As far as the male lead went, I wasn't really sure who I was going to use, and Mike had been contacting me to produce his Peepeing Tom record. Anyway, he asked what I was doing and I said 'Producing this love record' and he said, 'You've got to give me a shot at doing it.' I was like 'Well, okay, but I think your voice is a little rougher than what I'm looking for but we'll give it a shot.' We tried one song and it worked really well so we kept going from that point."

Charles and Patton: she of the dark, breathless, jazzy, gothic atmospheres of Elysian Fields; Patton, brute or suave sophisticate. There is a similarity of character; a dangerousness, a willingness to take chances, to play rough and play dirty; to be silky smooth, velvety sensual. To be hard and soft.

"Yes, I think so," Dan says. "They are what they are but it was more a matter of it just made sense. They mostly wrote their parts to the music I'd already composed. I like what they did. I like it a lot. I was very happy with that. I'm very excited about the way it feels, the way we got that interplay between the two of them; the back and forthness of it."

There's also a lovely touch from Dan; he adds some real old vinyl-sound crackle and hiss to the mix that gives it just the right amount of roughness: it isn't too slick.

"It seemed to me that because everything was going to be so lush and big it needed to have a lot of crunch on the other side to give it that balance. These are songs with a lot of feeling..." he pauses, and chuckles.

Of course, the Automator is a busy man: Nathaniel Merriweather is just one project in a literal ocean - currently in production are a new Zach De La Rocha album, the second Handsome Boy Modelling School record (late 2002), an instrumental beat disc with El-P from Company Flow under the moniker Sammy’s Romanians and his second solo set.

"Lovage fits in as part of the Handsome Boy philosophy," he says. "The Handsomian Institute as we like to call it. We just look at life and love and handsomeness altogether. It's the love tangent of the handsomeness philosophy. Jennifer is definitely one of the handsome folk and Mike is a handsome gentleman. It all works it self out. You know what I'm saying."

He's laughing.

"The joy of being a producer is you can do so many things. All these things, these projects, aren't clear cut but I just go and do them and see how they fit. I've also been fortunate that people come to me with interesting concepts and I've come up with some of my own.  I'm just happy to be a part of so many interesting musical projects [from Medeski Martin and Wood and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to Gorillaz, Deltron 3030, Primal Scream and The Beastie Boys]. Collaboration is great because you get to work with new people and learn new things; bounce ideas off each other. Working on your own stuff is satisfying because you can do what you like and you aren't accountable to anybody. It's all great. I'm just happy to be working to tell the truth."

Love, love, love... love is all you need.