"We tried to make 'festival weapons,' so when we play them, it's like throwing a million hatchets into the audience," explains Jesse F. Keeler, one half of DJ/production duo MSTRKRFT, describing the songs from the upcoming album, Fist Of God (to be released 3/17 on Dim Mak/Downtown). "When we play our own records, they need to be big." Indeed, when it came to following up their acclaimed debut, 2006's The Looks, MSTRKRFT looked to their experience behind the decks, spinning everywhere from packed, sweaty clubs to major festivals like the World Electronic Music Festival and Bonnaroo. "When we made The Looks, we hadn't started DJ-ing professionally," says Alex Puodziukas, the other half of MSTRKRFT better known as Al-P. "This record is more like what we'd play out in our sets." "Making The Looks was a debauched time," Jesse adds. "We'd go out and party every single night, then come to the studio at 1:00 pm. We're still going out every night, but around the world, which is a very different experience. It may sound arrogant, but from our DJ experience we've developed ideas about what people should be listening to." That's demonstrated by Fist of God's sonic evolution. Not only are the beats fatter than ever this time around, they also represent Al-P and Jesse's mutation of today's best urban music into MSTRKRFT's distinctively brutal club grooves. Throughout Fist, slamming cameos from the likes of John Legend, N.O.R.E., Ghostface Killah, E-40, Freeway, and Isis of Thunderheist all get MSTRKRFTED. "It wasn't a conscious decision to incorporate more of those sounds," Jesse clarifies. "It's just a reflection of where our heads are at."
According to Jesse, Fist of God's curveball nature was a natural progression: MSTRKRFT had no interest in exploring the trendy electro or New Wave nostalgia so prevalent on today's dancefloors. "Neither of us listen to cool music," Jesse claims. "We're more interested in Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Hank Williams or Robert Johnson." As such, Fist Of God proves not retro, but timeless. "We've never tried to make a 'now' record," Jesse says. "We like our music to be confusing as to when it was made-so it sounds new and old at the same time." To that end, Jesse and Al-P returned to dance music's classic roots, evidenced by the "Word Up"'s transmogrified Chicago booty juke and the updated Paradise Garage proto-house of "Breaking Away," featuring a soulful vocal from Jamal, singer for Toronto band The Carps. In exploring primordial club styles, MSTRKRFT found a connection to the immediacy of their punk roots. "Like punk, early dance music sonically sounds like garbage, but has ten times the feeling of most music today," Jesse says. "We wanted to get more of the raw Chicago-Detroit vibe in our music. That whole era of rap, hip-house and dance music resonates emotionally for me-it's my youth. It was pre-computer music, and much more emotional; the more modern intricacies and nerdiness distract from getting emotion across."
Probably the most massive riff on MSTRKRFT's new album is the insanely pounding title track, which works up an almost death-metal intensity. "We're always trying to be brutal and pummeling," Jesse says. "It's a good reflection of how our brains are deformed." "Making sure the rest of the songs live up to that title was also helpful," adds Al-P. Jesse claims the title comes from the name of a '70s-era synthesizer that is so big, it takes up an entire room. "It makes sounds that turn speakers into dust," he says. "I always liked that it was so big and loud, they called it 'Fist of God.' Like it, this record trying to do something that doesn't really exist-we're always trying to do what we haven't done already." MSTRKRFT has never in fact played by the fickle genre rules of the club scene-they've toured with everyone from John Digweed to Z-Trip, and remixed everyone from Wolfmother and Metric to Armand Van Helden and Usher-and they're not about to start. As such, Fist Of God creates a new lane, per standard practice. "MSTRKRFT isn't defined by form, but by substance," Jesse concludes. "Neither of us pay attention to what's going on in music: our goal is to have our own scene, like Sonic Youth. They do whatever the fuck they want, detached from whatever trend is happening, and people respect that. We spit in face of purists all the time. Our next record, we're going to do something completely different, so you'll have to rethink us again. So go fuck yourself-we just like music."