Unknown Mortal Orchestra
by / April 23rd, 2013 /

Interview: Incoming… Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Who are you and where are you from?

I’m Ruban Nielson (above, centre) from Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Not sure where I’m from. My mum is Hawaiian, my Dad is a Kiwi. Raised in New Zealand and I live in Portland, Oregon in the US.

Who are your favourite artists from your hometown?

I love a band called Fetus Productions. They were released on Flying Nun Records in the 80’s. They’re from Auckland, New Zealand. I live in Portland, Oregon and one of my favorite bands from here was the Wipers.

What’s it really like touring?

It’s amazing for some people, and it’s too hard for others. If you’re playing music you love playing (which we do) and the band is growing and being appreciated (which it is), it’s just a matter of doing your favourite thing for a living and travelling the world, which is a dream come true for us. It can be very tiring and overwhelming, and also there’s a lot of travel time, which you have to fill up with video games or reading or whatever you do, but there’s nothing like the feeling of writing an album and then playing it in front of people who like it. Also, when you enjoy hanging out with the people you’re touring with it can be a non-stop party.

What’s your favourite city/town/venue to play?

I’ve enjoyed playing the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. We sold it out a couple of months ago and it was magic. The other show we loved playing was the homecoming show. We played the Aladdin Theater here in Portland. It’s this beautiful old place that used to be a vaudeville theater in the 20s. Ever since I moved here from New Zealand I’d always thought it’d be an amazing place to play. Austin, Texas always treats us well too. Maybe too well haha.

What’s your ideal festival line-up?

Miles Davis hahaha.

Tell us a tour story…

I could, but then I’d have to kill you.

What has been your biggest achievement of the last year?

I think getting the band onto the next stage was a big deal. A lot had to change, and there were a lot of little spanners that were thrown into the works, but the band is the best it’s ever been and the people around us are incredible now.

What do you do to relax?


What are you reading?

Oh man, I’m starting so much and finishing so little. I’m halfway through Thee Psychick Bible by Genesis P-Orridge, The Way of the Tarot by Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, The Magick of Aleister Crowley by Lon Milo DuQuette, Supernatural Strategies for Forming a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group by Ian Svenonius.

How about TV, anything good on the box?

I just watch a few shows on my laptop. The same ones everybody is freaking out about: Mad Men and Breaking Bad and that kind of thing. TV drama is better than film these days I think. I’ll watch a film and often think that it would have been better as a series on tv. Like imagine if Looper was a show!

What’s the last thing you bought online?

Just bought a Mu-Tron II Phasor, like literally just won it on eBay while I was typing this.

Who would you most like to collaborate with if you got the chance? What is the worst cover your band has ever performed?

Beck Hanson‘s dad writes the best string arrangements. I’m desperate to work with Russell Elevado. Gabrielle Roth is another hero of mine.

Have you ever trashed your equipment? When and why?

I’ve trashed quite a bit, last time I trashed something was in a carpark. I was on mushrooms and I asked a girl what guitar I should use and she dared me to destroy whatever guitar I wasn’t going to use and like an idiot I did whatever she told me to do.

What website do you visit most? (discounting email, etc.)

Probably Twitter. Or Reddit. I have my own front page on there and it’s adjusted to my interests perfectly.

What is your favourite…

…album of the last year?

I suppose I like Kendrick Lamar quite a bit. That Foxygen record still sounds good. The last Grizzly Bear is great. The last Dirty Projectors. It’s hard to pick one thing when it comes to music. I’m really quite immersed.


There’s this song that Amber Coffman did with Diplo that’s really great. Dave Longstreth is playing guitar on it as well, I think.

…Lost classic song?

I don’t know how lost it is, but this morning I’ve listened to ‘The Root’ by D’Angelo probably seven times already. It’s playing right now.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra play the Academy 2 on Thursday, 2nd May and we have two pairs of tickets to be won. To enter, e-mail us at giveaway@state.ie by 5pm this Friday (26th April). A winner will be selected in good time, probably.