Three Trapped Tigers is a multi-instrumental, six-legged, six-armed and three headed hyperkinetic beast, who when not hanging out together are known as Tom Rogerson, Matt Calvert and Adam Betts. They make exquisitely produced noise-rock which perfectly balances mathematical dexterity and sweaty mosh-pit fun.
I spoke to Tom [pianos, keys, vocals] and Matt [guitar, synths, electronics] ahead of this year’s Camden Crawl. Read on for tips on how to butter them up with flattering comparisons, pushing your drummer so hard his arms fall off and the next Trent Reznor (the middle aged doyen of soundtracks version, rather than angsty smack head)
How are you guys doing?
Tom: Good, thanks.
Matt: Yeah, good ta.
Your first EPs were all numbers, and ‘Route One Or Die’ had some pretty opaque titles. Mogwai have said that their song titles bear no relation to the tracks themselves, is that the same with you guys?
T: They don’t literally mean nothing, they just mean nothing to us, or what they do mean is not important. That said, deciding the song titles was a lot more stress than we thought it would be.
M: I think titles like ‘Creepies’ are fitting though! It was one of the working titles that was never meant to stick but did. ‘Drebin’ is also tongue in cheek and not really the inspiration for writing the track. It just ended up being a ludicrous track so the title fits. Others, like ‘Cramm’ sound cool (to me) but are pretty arbitrary.
Was there a clear arc from your first releases to now, is there a conscious plan panning out?
T: I’d say there is a clear arc but it was probably sub-conscious. The EPs we kind of knew would end up on one disc. The album had to be different, a step up. So…there’s your arc. We make a lot of accidental music too!
M: There was a clear outline for the EPs but one way or another, they all ended being a bit different than planned – same with the album.
The album came together in the most organic way of all our material (as in, we rehearsed and could actually play it before recording it!) but it still veered off course a little. Which for me is fine.
Which other bands do lazy hacks compare you too (other than Mogwai, or Battles say)?
T: Hmm, I guess 65 Days of Static, probably. Some of the nice ones say Aphex or Lightning Bolt. I try not to read the lazy ones.
M: Lots of bands I’ve never listened to. Some fans at Brighton the other day mentioned Dillinger Escape Plan. I guess that’s a reference to… fast, loud drumming?
Those same lazy journalists often say TTT: ‘are IDM but played by a band!’ But you’ve got more humanity than that. Is that conscious choice, or the necessary outcome of the physically impossibility of playing stuff like, Aphex Twin at his most most drill’n’bass?
T: It was absolutely a conscious choice to keep it live – the whole point was to try to do something that is by its nature impossible, like Aphex as you say at his drilliest. Then see what happens at the point where it all breaks down. And what happens is that we all start shredding instead.
M: For the EPs I’d program drum parts that felt like ‘programmed parts’ in that they were quite jerky, like on ‘7’, or not the kind of thing most drummers would play like on the half time bits in ‘8’ or ’11’. Then they’d be learned by Betts and he’d have to accommodate them – luckily he’s a very capable drummer, which in itself pushes me to write more ambitious drum parts which in turns pushes him!
I think on ROOD it feels more like a ‘band’ band than the IDM rip-off approach, I think the material is more original. But I want to get back to that approach of pushing the instrumental playing from different angles, thinking outside the box.
I don’t want to ask you a boring ‘who influenced you’ question, but you’re obviously such an interesting jumble…
T: Chris Clark features heavily in my most-listened to on itunes, but then again so does Springsteen.
M: Recently it’s been Supersilent, Hudson Mohawke, Death Grips, plus some old stuff like Curtis Mayfield. Don’t think any of those bands (or even a genre like hip hop) have had a direct influence on TTT’s music…yet.
Betts and I occasionally go on binges of our favourite 90s metal and grunge.
You guys used to be pretty busy in other bands too. Any other irons in the fire, so to speak?
T: I don’t play with anyone else any more apart from the occasional session thing here and there. I do do some solo stuff on piano and synths, and I’m working on some other ideas for things.
M: I play in a band called MA. It’s got elements of ambient, dub, improv, glitchy electronica…. I don’t play guitar, mostly I just process the other players in the band. I really enjoy it.
I do stuff with the Heritage Orchestra, in May (with Betts) we’re doing a re-interpretive Joy Division project at the Brighton Dome. I’ve worked with UNKLE too, and I do some singer songwriter stuff with mates.
You’re quite cinematic, in an epic bombastic way. Do you have/use visual primers?
T: No not really. We’ve played in some places with visuals and it feels great. And we’ve had some amazing videos made for us. But we’re musicians: I don’t think any of us is particularly visual-minded.
M: I’d love to get into film soundtracking though. Trent Reznor style, haha!
Unless the venues get bigger, I think the three of us just trying to get through the performance (especially Betts) is enough of a visual spectacle!
This article originally appeared on Spoonfed on 25 April 2012