"that perfect point between melancholy and renewed optimism" TIME OUT
"bewitching, confounding and very often unique" NME
"Laika go where no other band dares to go" i-D
"classy headnodding stuff" Dj
"a choice blend of distinctive samples, and beautifully poetic lyrics" MOJO
Laika confound expectations at every turn. They’re not a rock band, but they play guitars. They’re not an ‘electronic’ group in the usual sense of the term, yet they meld and twist samples with the best of them. [Frequently Asked Questions]
Margaret Fiedler left her previous band, Moonshake in 1993 to form Laika with ex- Moonshake bassist John Frenett and producer / engineer Guy Fixsen who had worked with Moonshake on their early material as well as The Breeders, Throwing Muses and My Bloody Valentine. They then enlisted the skills of drummer Lou Ciccotelli ex of seminal noiseniks God and who also fronts percussion ensemble Eardrum.
Their debut Antenna EP was followed by an album, Silver Apples of the Moon,  The media were suitably impressed: The Wire called the album "a work of impressive genius", while Mojo described it as "the missing link between the avant funk of Can and the ambient jungle heard on London’s pirates." There followed a US tour with Tricky, a stint on 1995's Lollapalooza jaunt, and dates with a wealth of artists such as Stereolab, MC 900ft Jesus and Dinosaur Jr. as well as many headlining shows of their own.
They’ve contributed tracks to compilations such as Virgin’s self-explanatory Macro Dub Infection; Brian Eno’s Warchild benefit album, Antennae 1 (with Bjork, Tricky and Pulp); the Wire tribute record Whore; and Offbeat - A Red Hot Sound Trip for the Red Hot Aids Charity (alongside DJ Krush, Tortoise, David Byrne and Barry Adamson).
The second album, Sounds of the Satellites  was more melodic than its predecessor but as ever, the music was a sexually charged mass of urban psychosis and fluid rhythmical tension. Again the press raved about them and Thom Yorke asked them to support Radiohead on the UK stretch of their tour
Good Looking Blues  was the third album and brought together everything that Laika love : strong drum grooves, melodic bass, bluesy/rap lyrics, folk melodies, jazz/hip hop instrumentation, bass clarinet, trumpet and turntables. It was attempting to reflect an emphasis on live performance often lacking in other bands that use electronics. Based around the core 4 piece live ensemble, longstanding friends and collaborators Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey), Matt Barge (Spleen), Dj Danny Doyle and flautist Louise Elliott added unique performances to Laika’s heady mix.
The first single, Uneasy, was Jo Whiley’s single of the week on her Radio 1 lunch time show as well as Single of the Week in NME and Melody Maker.
The Good Looking Blues tour took Laika all over Europe and North America, playing to their largest and most enthusiastic audiences yet. Once a Laika fan, always a Laika fan, and this time they brought their friends! Radiohead took the band on a second tour with them in June 2000, this time playing in Ancient Roman Amphitheatres in the South of France and Gorgeous Piazzas in Italy. That's _Piazzas_, although the food was great too... A Whistlestop US tour was squeezed into Margaret's PJ Harvey schedule, following the summer festival madness in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the UK. A couple of free days in January 2001 were given over to a trip to Istanbul, Turkey where Laika played two nights to packed houses. All in all, Laika's best year yet.
2003 saw 2 new releases: the compilation "Lost In Space" covering the band's first 10 years and a brand spanking new album "Wherever I Am I Am What Is Missing". Wordy title, yes, but Laika's most simple and direct album to date. It does what it says on the tin folks. Longtime bass player John Frenett was replaced by Iain Ross and the band has never sounded better. Gigs in far flung places like Macedonia went down a storm and Laika have secured a place in the heart of Eastern Europe. Might be something to do with the band name???
The first half of 2004 saw Laika tour in support of their fourth album. Touring as a two piece across Europe Guy and Margaret worked harder than ever before. Wonderful shows were had in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Zurich (to name a few!) A full-band lineup toured Poland in May and will be coming back for more in 2005 - motorways or not!
2005 have Laika in a reflective mood. Writing and recording and generally trying to make ends meet - the fifth studio album will be released later in the year. Where it is going no-one knows but it will be an adventure for all involved. Check back here for more info.
Laika are : Margaret Fiedler : vocals, samples, guitar. Guy Fixsen : rhodes, guitar, samples, minimoog. Iain Ross : bass guitar. Lou Ciccotelli : drums + percussion
Frequently Asked Questions
Watch some vintage footage of Laika the Space Dog here
Read an interview with Margaret here
Read an interview with Guy here
Read a good interview for the technically minded here
Why did you call yourselves 'Laika'?
It means 'barker' in Russian. Laika was the name of the dog that the Russians sent into space in Sputnik 2 in November 1957. Check out this video footage of her. She was the first living thing to leave the planet. For us it made a good band name firstly because we liked the sound of the word and we liked the association with being 'out there' in terms of experimentation while at the same time being a warm furry organic thing. It was also a highly significant point in the Space Race/Cold War when suddenly America was shown to be apparently behind the USSR in technological terms. People assumed that nuclear bombs would soon be raining down on them from Sputnik 3. The other reason we like the name is that it was probably the most high profile animal experiment ever - Laika died up there in her capsule - and we are strong believers in animal rights and things that seem kind of obvious to us, like not eating them.
How do you describe your music in a phrase?
Any music that can be described in a phrase is a waste of space. We just make music that makes us happy and attempts to genuinely reflect the spirit, rather than the specific ideas, of the music that we love. Since we tend to like any kind of music that is well done and heartfelt, it covers a lot of genres. I guess we are basically a rock band who grew up listening to dub-inspired post punk stuff like Public Image and Joy Division, got bored and got into sampling and electronics in the early nineties, inspired by Hip Hop and Krautrock. Everybody else at the time was pushing the guitar to its' limits at the time (Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine) and, much as we liked that stuff, we wanted to find our own way. We got into Jazz via Can and then 70s Miles Davis. Anything else you hear in our music - we made it up!
What are your all-time favourite records?
Miles Davis - 'Bitches Brew' and 'On the Corner' (and basically everything he did in the 70s)
Public Image - 'Metal Box'
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - 'Doc at the Radar Station'
Eric B & Rakim - 'Let the Rhythm hit 'em'
Nick Drake - 'Pink Moon'
Can - 'Future Days'
Kraftwerk - 'Man Machine'
Beastie Boys - 'Check yr. Head'
John Martyn - 'Solid Air'
My Bloody Valentine - 'Loveless'
MC900ft Jesus - 'Welcome to my Dream'
Keith Hudson - 'Yabby U'
Tricky - 'Maxinquaye'
Joy Division - 'Closer'
Pixies - 'Surfer Rosa'
What's with the Space fixation?
It's just a metaphor for being experimental or 'out there'. It also has to do with escapism. As Sun Ra said, Space is the Place. Actually, we're kind of tired of that question now, so we've been making records without space-themed titles...
How do you recreate your music in a live performance?
Well for a start, we try to make each show special and not simply recreate the recorded versions. For that reason we don't use sequencers or tapes, as a lot of bands that employ electronics do. They must get so bored, just being 'slaves to the machine'. We trigger all the samples live, which means that we can change structures and arrangements on a whim and respond to the audience and the atmosphere. It also means that if someone makes a mistake we can recover without an embarrassing grinding halt! Sometimes those mistakes sound good and get incorporated into the song, which means that the songs evolve over the course of a tour. With our third album 'Good Looking Blues' we were able to use this evolution to feed back into the recording process, by writing, playing shows, rewriting and playing more shows and coming up with something that was made in a non-linear, recursive way. It's not that unusual for a straightforward gigging rock band, but it's rare for anybody using electronics to work that way. The live line-up is Lou Ciccotelli - drums, John Frenett - bass, Guy Fixsen - samples and guitar and Margaret Fiedler - vocals, guitar and samples.
What inspires your lyrics?
The music and life in general I guess. Occasionally political, although never overtly, they tend to be a personal take on the politics of the individual and relationships. The music always comes first and Margaret often ends up listening to loops of the songs for hours until she gets an image to start from. Her words are generally imagistic and have to have a sound as well as a meaning. She often draws inspiration from the earthy, beautiful language of Southern American writers like Zora Neal Hurston and Toni Morrison as well as blues lyricists.
Where do you get all those weird noises from?
We're always recording, in one form or another. Sometimes it's just sampling fucked-up old records from Salvation Army bins others it's wandering around the streets of some foreign city with a microphone, catching found sound. Sometimes it's not recording at all, sometimes it's just remembering the rhythm of a tube train or someone's conversation and using that as a starting point for a song.
What were your 10 favourite records of last year?
Radiohead - Kid A
Calexico - Hot Rail
Damon & Naomi - With Ghost
Rob Ellis - Music for the Home
Tied & Tickled Trio - EA1 EA2 (maybe this was '99?)
Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain
King Cobb Steelie - Mayday
Larmousse - Larmousse
Well that's 8... can't think of anything else that we liked...
What are your 10 favourite movies of all time?
2001: A Space Odyssey
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
Some Like It Hot
Join the Laika Mailing List Get info on releases and live dates in your part of the world.
Record Label (no longer current - for past releases):
Too Pure/Beggars Group
17-19 Alma Road
Publisher (no longer current, but licensing enquiries for older Laika tracks):
Chrysalis Music Ltd.
The Chrysalis Building
13 Bramley Road
CD Albums from our label: www.toopure.com
T-shirts : red grey black SOLD OUT
Good Looking Blues [A]
Black Cat Bone/Badtimes 12" [S]
Invisible Soundtracks [C]
Almost Sleeping [S]
Sounds of the Satellites [A]
Macro Dub Infection (Volume 1) [C]
Volume 12 [C]
Silver Apples of the Moon [A]
Silver Apples of the Moon (Ltd) [A]
44 Robbers/Coming Down Glass [S]
Antenna EP [S]
POP (Do we not like that?) [C]
[A] album [S] single [C] compilation
Note: You may want to save the mp3 file onto your hard drive by choosing to save the link from the context menu that appears when you either right-click (PC) or click-hold/control-click (MAC).
Please do not use MPEG encoders to unlawfully distribute copyright material
All songs © 1999 Fiedler/Fixsen. A DiSco* Production
Published by Chrysalis Music (worldwide)
Laika appear courtesy of Too Pure Records Ltd. London, England
OK, so it's not a new Laika LP but it's the next best thing! Guy is writing the music for a feature film. Take a peek... here
Almost 60 years ago Sputnik 2 launched little Laika the dog into space and into our hearts. Fast forward to 2015... Laika the band are taking a break with other projects.
Info on Guy and his work in music and film can be found at Guy Fixsen.
Margaret was touring in 2008/09 as Wire's live guitarist and recorded an EP entitled Strays with the band in 2010 but moved on in 2011 and began work on a children's album and (hopefully!) book. She's also making and selling (and teaching how to make) eco-friendly crafts - more details here: www.magsmcginnis.com
Margaret is an official "Daisy Rock" guitar endorsee! At this very moment she is most likely strumming her very own baby pink heart-shaped electric guitar. Please visit Daisy Rock and check out their great guitars.
TOUR DATES (updated February 2013):
Laika have no confirmed 2015 live dates.