Interview with The Rapture

Thanks to their wingmen (AKA DJs and the revival of post-punk) indie rock and electronica first locked lips on the dance floor ten years ago. This magical make out session was to be the first of many as this genre fusion became the old-is-the-new dance music to sweep the clubs. Following in the footsteps of original new-wave crossover bands from the early 80s, one of the acts at the forefront of the current movement was the Rapture, who broke big with their dancified single ‘House of Jealous Lovers’. Today every indie band and his dog has a remix (or fifty) of their latest track made especially for the d-floor. While this has been happening for 30 years, it’s the Rapture who made it credible again. Soon they’ll be heading to our shores for Future Music Festival and we got to chat to the dude behind the saxophone, Mr Gabriel Andruzzi.

It has been a bit of a tumultuous time for the band over the last few years, with members coming and going. Bass player Mattie Safer left permanently and front man Luke Jenner even temporarily left in the wake of his mother’s death and son’s birth. It wasn’t all bad though, in fact Gabe says that a lot of positives emerged from the rubble. “By the time we wrote this record it was very beneficial,” Gabe says. “Luke left for a while to do some soul searching, and Mattie left because he was unhappy. By the time we did this record we’d all shed some pain, some spirit and extra weight. Relationships in the band were really good. We were talking about a lot of things and there was all this energy. It was really creative and happy, and we’re really proud of this record. It gave us grace, gave us peace.”

The discerning Rapture fan may have noticed that the latest LP’s cover is an image of Luke’s father surfing. After describing Luke as sometimes being a “wild card” and “full of surprises”, Gabe says that he and drummer Vito Roccoforte agreed to use the image as a favour to Luke. “He chose it because his mother passed away,” Gabe says. “Their relationship was estranged and after she passed he wanted to better his relationships with his family. It was kind of a grandiose gesture to his father. I agreed because his father seemed to have a rapturous look on his face, but I would have rathered a different cover.”

This all sounds pretty heavy, but some pretty funny stuff has happened to the band over the last few years too. For example, somewhere in the depths of Gabe’s hard drive is a version of ‘No Sex For Ben’ featuring Justin Timberlake’s vocals on the chorus. Say what? Well, while recording the track, JT was in the studio above producing the Duran Duran record Red Carpet Massacre (which on the d-low Gabe didn’t think was very good…) and came down to join the Rapture guys while recording the single. You’ve never heard it before because it wasn’t ever allowed to be released. “I guess we couldn’t get approval or whatever,” Gabe comments. “Even if you are paying for the studio time and he takes up three hours of it recording your song.”

Many would wave their hands and say it’s just another day in the life of a rock star, but Gabe says he doesn’t think of himself as one. “It was an amazing day. Getting to meet Timberlake was really cool and Duran Duran were like my favourite band when I was nine. Simon Le Bon is one of those musical superstars and Timbaland (who beat boxed on and helped produce the track) was one of my favourite producers for a long time.”

Admitting that my next question is really stupid but confessing I really want to ask it, Gabe tells me to “go for it.”

So *deep breath* were they disappointed when the biblical Rapture didn’t come last year? “Well, I wasn’t expecting it to,” he laughs. “I’ll be more disappointed if the world doesn’t end in 2012.”
We joke that if it doesn’t end, Nostradamus will be like an over-hyped band that crashed and burned. “Yeah,” he laughs. “Our goal this year is to play in Yucatan (the archaeological hot spot in Mexico) on some Mayan ruins. We had planned to announce the release of the new record for the May prediction last year. Leading up to the date we were getting loads of hits on our pages. And then we were trying to play a big show on the October date, the less hyped one, in New York but we couldn’t get the venue we wanted.” Sad face.

Getting back to the music, their ability to stay up with the kids and maintain relevance as a dance outfit isn’t because they’ve been keeping tabs on the latest music crazes. If anything, it’s the opposite. “Generally, I love early rock and roll, ’60s R&B and disco music,” Gabriel says. “We’re not always completely aware of our peers and everything that is going on, I’m not listening to all the new music.” The new stuff he is listening to is mostly dance, he says, but he describes it as the “more experimental” end of the spectrum. Not a dubstep fan, then? “No, not into dub step,” Gabriel affirms, saying that he heard a few songs a while back but didn’t really take to it. He doesn’t write off the harder dance scene though, talking about how he used to go to jungle parties and did really get excited about grime two years ago. The trouble with dub step, he says, is he doesn’t know how you dance to it.

Even so, dubstep isn’t the latest of the crazes to note. There’s also been a marked increase in saxophone featuring on records in the last twelve months. They’ve always been a saxophone band themselves (Gabe is the man) but some critics have called this album their most saxophone-y. “I don’t know what I think of it,” Gabe says. “For a long time I was ashamed to play the sax in a rock band. I’m a sax purist. I haven’t heard too much of the new music with it, but I’m definitely hearing it here and there.”

“I wasn’t planning on playing it on ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ but Phillipe (Zdar, the French producer for the album) was after a certain style. It wasn’t my style logic but it is a great instrument for me to play. Every once in a while I do cringe. There’s a funny reputation held onto from the ’80s. Some people love it because it’s ironic and fun but others love bands like Wham who used it a lot. I’m more into the experimental post-jazz, post-classical type of stuff. I know a lot of serious horn players that I’m embarrassed to even play in front of, but I love the sax.”

If you’ve seen the Rapture guys DJ, you’ve also witnessed Gabriel behind the decks, so he must also be enjoying the sax’s presence in the underground house scene, particularly as Rapture sets are pretty underground focused. “I play a lot of house tunes with sax in it. Like Son of Raw’s ‘A Black Man in Space’, ‘I Called U (The Conversation)’ and Moodymann does great sax. When I DJ, there’s always saxophone.” All we have to say to that is, Amen.

Originally published 27 February 2012 on

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