Like his touring partner James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, Juan Maclean started out as a hard rocker. Maclean played synthesizer and guitar in Six Finger Satellite, an angry group of men with a penchant for thudding robotic sounds.
Unlike many of their peers and like Murphy’s then-band Pony, they experimented with electronics. But Maclean’s current project is bereft of clinical beat hypotheses; it’s all shake-your-ass party music. Songs like “Give Me Every Little Thing,” off Less Than Human, have disco in their roots.
Disco, in all its hot pants glory, courses through Maclean’s musical world. It can be an icy place, inhabited by lonely science fiction characters. But robots need hedonism, too.
“Me and the drummer, Rick, were heavily into disco. And I think that reflected in the music. However, I don’t think people were ever making the connection that this tough guy menace was being fueled by the same culture that brought you poppers, reach-arounds and sizzling high-hats.”
Fast-forward to the dance floors of today, and Maclean finds his audience a mix between rabid beat freaks and trend-following neophytes not likely to have set foot in a Six Finger show. “When DJing, I could play shit ’80s records all night, and because it is happening in a certain context, people are winking at each other having a grand time (for the record, I would never do this). But throw a disco record on, and all bets are off. I think it’s a combination of bourgeois homophobia and people just not knowing what to do with it.”
Despite the periodic perils of his Jekyll and Hyde musical existence, Maclean loves to play. “The best thing about performing live is when people dance, when they are just lost in having a good time. They’re not worrying about work the next day or that they just caught their boyfriend in bed with their brother, or that their mother is sick, or that George Bush is leading us to Armageddon, that religion still exists, that they lied when they told you that you were special. Being a part of that with people is ecstasy in the true tradition of ecstatic experience.”
The Juan Maclean opens for LCD Soundsystem at the Cat’s Cradle Monday, Nov. 14 with Shit Robot. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and costs $17.