Me are the robots: The Juan MacLean

by Glen Callender

Electronic dance music is often criticized for replacing human musicianship with the blips and bleeps of soulless computers. This doesn’t much bother “The” Juan MacLean, a seasoned electronica warhorse who, like his idols Kraftwerk, explores the dis/connections between man and machine as a central theme of his music. UQ Events interfaced with MacLean backstage before his energetic 45-minute set at Richard’s on Richards on June 9.

The Juan Maclean

UQ Events: On many occasions you’ve expressed an interest in becoming a cyborg. So how’s that coming along?

MacLean: Well, the technology is not there yet. I’ve always used a lot of android-type characters—I use them metaphorically to represent feeling like you’re not quite part of the human race, somehow disconnected from other people and not quite being able to relate to people emotionally. Blade Runner has always been a big influence on me.

That’s only ten years away now. Blade Runner is set in the year 2019, isn’t it?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Those characters, they don’t even know that they’re not human, which has always interested me.

Why do you feel disconnected from humanity?

I think it’s just the way I was born, really. Maybe it had to do with my family moving around so much when I was a kid. By the time I got to high school my family had moved 13 times or something. That could be a big part of it, of always feeling disconnected from people, of not being part of a group, an outsider, that kind of thing.

Being on the road keeps you disconnected, doesn’t it?

That’s funny, that’s what my mother pointed out. She said, “You’re just re-creating this all over again.” But now it’s what I’m totally comfortable doing, I always want to be on the road. Which I am most of the time, either DJing or playing live. I’m almost never home.


In spite of your inherent alienation from your fellow humans, you often choose to work with human musicians instead of machines.

Well, I like combining the two. That’s why I have a live drummer in the band, for example, and not using sequenced drums or a drum machine. Using only machines for everything ends up being too cold and locked-down and sterile. So it’s good traveling with a live band.

Finally, in your videos you have sexual relations with robots, as well as cybersex. And you’ve said that if you could have a female pleasure droid you’d prefer that to a real woman. Is this inclination increasing or decreasing with time?

Oh, I think it’s probably increasing, the more destructive relationships I leave in my wake. It’s getting more and more appealing.

With that, The Juan MacLean stepped onstage to do what he does best: turn dark themes of disconnection and alienation into the most infectious spectacle this side of The Andromeda Strain. Like Arnold, he’ll be back in the not-too-distant-future, so UQ Events advises you to see The Juan MacLean… while he’s still human.

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