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Posted by Gabriel Filippa

Rat and Co recently dropped their latest album Third Law, a title referring to science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. The law outlines a robot’s duty to protect human beings from harm. We caught up with the band to discuss the threat of artificial intelligence, where to find a great sample, and what it’d be like jamming with a robot.

How did you guys become Rat and Co?

John Waller: It all started on Nicholson Street, Carlton.

Josh Delaney: I would just sit in my room all day, playing my tunes.

Nic Park: We were all living in adjacent rooms so we could hear each other’s music through the walls. Eventually, we started exchanging ideas and giving each other feedback.

Do you do most of your writing in Melbourne?

Josh: I do it everywhere. Maybe half of the songs on Third Law were written overseas, usually on public transport. Japan, Europe, or America. A lot of the songs were written when I was travelling through Japan.

You pull a lot of inspiration from Japan?

Josh: I think the surroundings really work for the kind of music I’ve been writing. I love how everything is so clean and orderly. It clears my mind.

Did you capture any natural sounds in Japan for the album?

Josh: I captured a lot of sounds from the mountains in the snow. More rural sounds than city sounds. Big cities like Tokyo and Osaka don’t really work that well for our music.

When did you start putting samples together?

Josh: I grew up on a farm in Victoria. There were lots of interesting natural sounds. Rain on the tin roof, cows in the background. These days I’m really into sounds from space.

You use samples from space?

Josh: I found a bunch of NASA sound recordings online. A lot of those big, rumbling, sonic sounds on the album come from the NASA library. All the samples have this real heaviness to them. It’s got all of their take-off’s and moon landings. It’s crazy.

There’s a lot of science-fiction elements to the album. Is there an overarching concept to the LP?

Josh: The idea that AI is taking over humanity is definitely a central concept. We’ve tried to open-up a dialogue about where we are right now as a society—our obsession with technology and our disconnection from reality. The opening track ‘A Place Called Home’ pretty much outlined the whole concept of the album for us. It describes the idea of AI waking up. As soon as we completed the track the rest of the album began to take shape.

Are you guys across the recent debates surrounding AI, like Elon Musk’s open-letter warning of AI’s threat to humankind?

Josh: Yeah, for sure. All the things he’s been mentioning lately really ties to the concept of The Third Law. Musk is worried about the human race because of the rapid and unregulated advance of AI technology.

So in tracks like ‘Error’, where you have two computers in conversation with each other, you’re attempting to flesh-out some of these ideas?

John: Yeah, it’s about AI’s awakening. But the track has a sense of vulnerability too. The AI is confused and unsure. The two computers are talking to each other as if they’ve been destroyed by something.

Would any of you buy a robot if it was on the market?

Josh: It depends on what kind of robot …

John: My mate has one in Norway. A gardening robot. It came with the house he bought. It runs and charges itself. It looks really weird. He’s kind of ashamed of it. It’s a bit lame. You want to mow your own lawns, don’t you?

I can see myself looking out the kitchen window being a little disconcerted.

Nic: “Should I let it in my home?”

Josh: I can’t quite think of anything I do in my life that I don’t somehow enjoy doing myself. Even if it’s just the most monotonous task. I’d be so bored if a robot started doing all the mundane tasks for me.

John: I’m big on that, I like doing my chores. Chopping the wood.

Nic: Fuck that, I’ll take the robot.

Josh: It would actually be really cool if a robot could learn the style of music you play and then jam back with you. That’s about the only thing I can think of that I’d want a robot for.

Nic: We’d probably just suck compared to the robot though, because it knows all music knowledge.

So if Third Law is AI awakening – what’s the next album’s concept?

Josh: It’s going a little bit more social politics level—bringing things back to the current times. It’s still yet to be defined, it’s very embryonic at this point. I’ll do a big write-up about the conceptual aims. As a listener, you may not pick up on everything we’re trying to convey, but that’s okay. The music always comes first and then the message second.

Well, good luck surviving the apocalypse lads.  

Josh: Thanks man, you too.

‘Third Law’ by Rat & Co is out now.

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