John R Mirland has become one of the staple masters of driving, power noise, rhythmic noise mixed with serious techno savvy. We are grateful he took time out to talk to us about the latest Mirland album and all his creative outlets.
Welcome to the weird of Onyx, John R Mirland.
Thank you so very much for showing an interest in my music
Congratulations on Compromise Is Defeat (CID). It is truly a very attention grabbing album. How naturally does it come to you to mix such genres as techno, power noise and harsh noise?
It does come pretty natural the moment I start working on the beat I can immediately hear if this is going in the Mirland-direction or if it’s the groundwork for another project or artist.
I try to be in the studio as much as I can and just work. I’m very focused so I sit down with the keyboard or guitar and just start composing and usually I almost immediately know what the track is suited for:
The hybrid of rhythmic noise and techno/dark trance is a reflection of my own tastes and I wanted to compose evolving yet pounding music. So I’m very conscious about the variations and small details in the mix. The process is very much my own and I’m not particularly dogmatic with regards to what goes where to satisfy genre specific demands.
John, you wrote the album over a period of time and even some of the tracks have been played live. Why did it take nearly four years for CID to come into fruition?
I started working on the album just after the release of the “Antagonist” ep where I felt I’d really hit a spot with my sound. But you know plans sometimes don’t work out.
The gigs I played both around that time and later gave me an opportunity for testing very early demos of some of the new tracks. But at the same time I was composing and producing for Am Tierpark, Emergency Sequence, M73, Negant, Eisenwolf, Bitter Distrust, Mirland/Larsen and later also Gusten and Udpint while producing and remixing other artists too.
I do like to keep busy and have composed around 200 tracks the last 10-15 years of which I believe around 150 or so have been released.
But time went on and I kept working on the side with the sound design for what was to be “Compromise Is Defeat”. I guess at some point I had 30 or 40 demo tracks.
I prefer getting stuff done so I really needed to get this album done. I felt the demo recordings had something but I’d been deep in the process for far too long. So in the late summer of 2021 I finally sat down and dug into the selection and production of what would be “Compromise Is Defeat”. I recorded and mixed the final album over two months and then my dear friend Claus Larsen (Leæther Strip) did the mastering as he’s done for a lot of my releases.
For many, creating music comes from their current situation/politics/beliefs. When you compose music, especially for Mirland, what inspires you to create?
I don’t consciously search for inspiration. My mind is always racing and thinking about new ideas so I keep a lot of notes and record a lot of ideas. When I watch a movie I often make a note of certain interesting quotes or phrases. I believe some of my titles might suggest what lies behind the track but Iike to keep things open for interpretation. I think that’s one of the great things about instrumental music. It’s very much like abstract painting in that regard.
But a small key to the different projects might be: Mirland is often related to space, transhumanism and futurism. In Am Tierpark, Mirland/Larsen and Gusten Claus Larsen writes the lyrics so he defines the content and we never interfere with each other’s ideas. But very often Am Tierpark is about love/the loss of love. In Udpint I write almost entirely about war and in M73 it’s a lot about cold futures and dark erotica. My own lyrics are often written with the intent to create images.
One of your other projects is Eisenwolf… a mix of blackmetal and industrial. Do you think your love of black metal feeds into this use of harsh noise?
Eisenwolf was a side project of the now defunct Negant which also spawned the electro punk band Bitter Distrust with Michael Hillerup of Birmingham 6. I left all three bands a year ago actually.
But yes, I believe my interest in extreme metal in general blends into a lot of my darker stuff. I actually recorded a black metal mini album last year as Udpint and Claus and I released a punk rock album as Gusten.
But my use of noise and experimental sounds also stems from a very early band I was part of called VHS which was a pretty noisy and weird construction. And I’m a sucker for brutal energy whether it’s industrial or metal. But even Eisenwolf had melodic themes as opposed to just a wall of noise.
Mirland is very much a solo thing for you but you do collaborate with many other artists, especially other Danes in the scene for other projects? How do you approach your solo work compared to your collabrotative with say Negant or Eisenwolf?
I try to uncover the potential in any proposed collaboration and then present a few demo recordings for the others involved with the project. When I can’t see any more potential I put the collaboration on hiatus or leave. I don’t like to waste my own or others’ time.
When I work on my own it’s somewhat the same and I’m a firm believer that nothing is supposed to last forever and some projects only last an ep or album. And that’s absolutely fine. I have no problem with leaving a dysfunctional project.
You released on Claus Larsen’s label, Læbel and you have worked with him as Mirland/Larsen as well as producing and mixing each others music. Leæther Strip/Larsen is spoken in near reverance by many in the industrial scene, though those that know him say he is the biggest sweetheart. Did you find it nerve wracking to work with Claus in the beginning and have you found that friendship has grown exponentially, forging something a bit special?
Claus is a very close and dear friend and I consider him family.
When we work together it’s like we have a direct brain-to-brain connection and we’ve never argued even if we may not agree on everything. I’ve learned a ton from Claus. And we’re equally productive and creatively restless.
Which aspect of music making do you think you enjoy the most? As the performer, the producer or the mix master? Or is it a bit of everything that keeps the flame alive?
I love composing and producing and I’m not particularly interested in being a face or a character. I enjoy the stage not for the sake of being the center of attention but for presenting and interpreting my music in a different, loud setting and watching people’s response.
Who were the early musical inspirations that set your pulse running and made you think ‘I want to do that!’?
A: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’d like to say something cool and leftfield but actually I grew up with a very broad range of music from Pink Floyd to southern blues to classical, constantly playing at my parents apartment. So I’ve always been surrounded by music and I can’t remember a time not wanting to work with music but for many years my main focus was on painting and illustration.
What acts do you listen to now or find their innovation sucks you into their music?
Currently I’m working my way through a big stack of obscure metal releases on vinyl. But I’m also listening to a lot of newer electronic releases. I like the distanced coldness of Julia Bondar and Rue Oberkampf and the energetic techno of Anastacia Kristensen. I enjoy listening to my friend Kri Samadhi who’s a great psytrance producer. Italo Connection’s “Metropolis” album is an extremely well executed album and possibly one of the best synth pop albums in years. And the funky neo disco of Alexander Robotnick always put a smile on my face.
And then I keep coming back to an old release by a short lived doom/black outfit called Woods of Belial. It has this dark, gritty lo-fi sound that I’d never be able to do myself.
What is in store for John Mirland and all his many, many projects?
A: First of I’ll be playing in Copenhagen on March 5th as a double bill with Leæther Strip. It’s been so long! And then I’m currently working on the follow up to “Compromise Is Defeat” which I hope will be out this year. Working title is “Bastard”. There’s a new album from Am Tierpark out this spring which I believe to be the best we’ve done so far and an Italo disco single I wrote for a Danish singer. I’m also working on a new and so far secret space disco project. And maybe something from Gusten too.
Thank you ever so much for taking the time to talk to us!