Button:Pusher is the new double album project by Kiran Shahani of Bitter:Sweet and The Supreme Beings of Leisure fame. (The two albums are called Never Look Back and Cross My Heart.) If you’re not familiar with either of those groups, chances are you’ve still heard some of Kiran’s work. For one thing, he’s done the soundtrack for numerous movies such as The Devil Wears Prada, Lipstick Jungle, Duplicity and Killers, among others. He’s also worked with several high profile artists including Marilyn Manson, Nat King Cole, and Wayne Newton. Suffice to say he can work with anyone and in any genre. With Button:Pusher, he meshes together everything from cabaret to chill out to dance to jazz to trip hop and the result is a wholly original sound that somehow manages to seem familiar and unlike anything you’ve ever heard before at the same time. Listening to it is like seeing a painting that uses colors you’ve known all of your life but in combinations you’d never expect to see together. It’s quite refreshing and the whole album is a wildly imaginative work of art. Suffice to say I had to interview Kiran about it.
Did you approach Button:Pusher like a double solo album or do you look at it more as a collaborative project featuring a whole bunch of female singers?
I started with the thought of it as a solo record But after working with the girls it really feels like a collaboration The girls would all work together helping each other with ideas when we were recording in London. Kelli (Sneaker pimps) and Kathrin (Belleruche) were a big help in helping me with some of the other songs on the album.
Did you write all of the songs on the album prior to working with the different female vocalists, or did you write the songs with the artists who were singing on them?
I would have a few tracks ready and then send them 3 or 4 ideas and let them pick which ones they felt some emotion to. I write the music and they all wrote their own lyrics and melodies.
Who was the first singer to agree to sing on the album?
Angela from TelepopMusik. We had worked together for years and had songs laying around so she inspired me to write with different singers and be able to put our songs out .
Were any of the singers particularly hard to chase down? Did you already know any of them?
I only new Angela, the rest was just reaching out to my favorite singers from the trip hop electronic genre. Most knew me from Bittersweet and Supreme Beings if Leisure so it was easy to get them involved.
You’ve worked with singers spanning quite a few different countries here. What studio(s) did you use to make it?
We worked at may different studios in London and New york and Los Angeles. Some girls we would fly in. I spent a few weeks in London working at Bonobos studio recording Kelli and Kathrine and alot of time on New york with Angela and Emily Wells
I know you’re also a musician, aside from being a producer and songwriter. What instruments do you perform on the album? I know you were the bassist in Supreme Beings of Leisure but I imagine you did much more for Button:Pusher.
Yes I played bass, keyboards and a little guitar. Also, all the drum programming. I did use some great musicians that I worked on the Bittersweet albums with.
There are quite a few horns on the album – were those all performed live or are they programmed? Either way, they sound fantastic, lively as hell, really.
Most are real horns then doubled with synth horns and and random sample hits .
Speaking of programming, what software, aps, etc, did you use in the making of the album? Some of the songs sound like they have a lot of loops so I’m guessing Acid Pro or Pro Tools.
I usually use Protools mainly. Sometimes I use Reason to do some programming, but mostly Protools
The double album features two sides, Never Look Back and Cross My Heart. Which song begins the second side? I’m guessing that side two begins with “A Tightrope Part 1.”
Yes “A Tightrope” starts album 2. The first starts with Sailing to the moon by Chloe Behrens.
Are there distinctive storylines that run through each half of the album? If so, could you give us an overview of each story? (I think the album, taking both sides in as parts of the same story, has a very chic “film noir” sort of vibe. It’s like someone took a film noir soundtrack and remixed it, making it sound super modern. Suffice to say I’m in love with it.)
Thank you . I was going through a break up with Bittersweet, so half the album was very dark and I’m generally a happy person. So, both sides came out different. That’s why we broke up the album in two parts. Depending on what mood you are in, both sides have a different purpose
When you were writing the new album, did you write the songs in the order they appear in on the album, approaching it as though you were writing a screenplay or novel?
No, we just all wrote and we didn’t plan on releasing a double album. It just ended up that way. We had so much material left over. I do like to place the songs in order to tell the story but that’s after the fact.
Did you start writing any of these songs with the lyrics first or are the lyrics more of an afterthought for you?
The girls wrote all the lyrics. I just give them the music and they feel the emotions in each song and just start writing.
The lyrics to “The Epic” are in French. Did you write those or did Lou Lou or someone else? Just curious! I know quite a bit of French, so I was thrilled when that song came on.
That’s all Lou Lou. I actually still dont know what she is saying but everything in French sounds beautiful. It was hard to edit since I don’t speak French. I hope it all makes sense.
How long were you in Supreme Beings of Leisure? Wiki makes it sound like Geri and Ramin fired everybody but themselves before making the second album. Are you still in touch with those guys at all today? Is there ever any talk about a new Supreme Beings of Leisure album?
No, we all left on bad terms. I was the one writing most of the music for Supreme Beings of Leisure. Ramin thought he was the mastermind so I left and started Bittersweet. We had great success with Bittersweet so it was nice to get a little sweet revenge.
How would you describe Bitter:Sweet’s sound? I’m especially curious about how it differs from Button:Pusher and Supreme Beings of Leisure. I’m listening to an album called GoGo from 2011 now as I write these questions. Is that you? If so, what language is it in?
GOGO IS NOT US . Bittersweet released The Mating Game in 2006, The Drama in 2009 and The Break up Ep in 2011.
Have you performed live as Button:Pusher yet?
We have done a few live shows. It’s a bit difficult with everyone living in different parts of the world. But we play live with 3-4 singers. It’s always different line up, so the show is never the same
Now a few questions from our random questions bank…
Do you know any foreign languages?
A little Hindi and Spanish.
What were some of your earliest influences that had a profound effect on your music and style?
Sam Cooke and old Bollywood movies my Mom used to watch.
What’s the most formal even you’ve ever intended? (charity, wedding, awards, etc)
Thanks to Kiran for completing this interview and to Leslie at Tell All Your Friends for arranging it!