December 17th, 2021 was when the EP Pieces was released by New Jersey band, PanicLift on MetropolisRecords. PanicLift are currently releasing a series of EPs, five in total and Pieces is the second in this series. JamesFrancis is the frontman of PanicLift whom have been around since 2006 and his live band is made up of DanPlatt (keyboards), BenTourkantonis (drums), CristianCarver (drums) and KenziBurke (bass).
There is something definitely grandiose about the first track, “DiseaseOfKings“. An amalgamation of synths, guitar and soaring vocals that feels a little raw, when the world is breaking around them and life has lost its colour and taste.
“FailurePrinciple”is a track that just instantly catches your attention. The synths just fly at you, exploding into shards of glass, that while pretty, are sharp and reinforces the message that stress without hope becomes a cycle of pain.
The last three tracks are mixes. GenCAB are back with a new album of their own, ThoughtsBeyondWords and have remixed “DiseaseOfKings” giving it a far more electronic flavour that swirls through your head. It is a given that any song mixed by Assemblage23 is going to be fairly stellar. TomShearer gives “FailurePrinciple” the treatment and I can see this doing so well on dance floors. Last mix is done by KALCYFR which is a thunderous dubstep and bass beast.
So it is a tight little EP with a great choice in guest mixers. Both songs are little gems and so now we wait to hear the next EP from PanicLift.
Purveyors of gloom and dead things that go bump in the night, VAZUM, are a very productive duo. It seems not that long ago we reviewed the album Rated V and now they have a new double single, that is not on the last album. “Gallows” is the name of the single dropped at the beginning of January and it is a double single in pixie point boots.
An eerie guitar swell that rolls into Sturm’s vocals, so is issued forth the warning to not to go to the Gallows, for a terrible fate will await you. Her voice is light and airy, bringing notice to the heavy done of the music, causing a sense of unease. The second song is the LostForestMix of “Gallows” with a wondrous far more synth spin which is equally spooky and a little electronically colder.
It is nice to hear gothic music that embraced both the more traditional guitar based music and evolving a more industrial sound as well. “Gallows” is an atmospheric deathgaze (goth +shoegaze) piece and dark synth affair you can indulge in.
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!
The 17th of January sees the release of the single “Decimate” from Matt Hart. This is from his Below The Terra PT.1 album, which is due this year. If you have been following Hart, you will know that he has been building up a story with his music. It is the tale of the Earth that has been visited by alien machines, who are hell bent on changing the surface of the planet to something much colder that suits them while also eradicating the humans. Though the humans have held on in small numbers burrowing down into the soil, looking for sanctuary.
A menacing start, that suddenly knocks the breath out of you and the voices of the mechanical overlords can be heard reporting control. The humans find the world so cold and no opportunity of reclaiming what has been destroyed. There is a wonderful layering of textures, between the driving guitar, the stellar synths and the pounding rhythm.
“Decimate” is possibly the point where the last of humanity looked at their planet and thought, we can’t stay anymore, it’s time to go. You cannot mistake the anger and loss the Hart expresses on the behalf of the survivors. As always, Hart gives us a dance floor track with instant appeal and one other appealing thing worth mentioning is that it was mastered by Krischan Wesenberg of Rotersand. So we watch and wait to see what happens is this apocalyptic cyber world of man verses machine.
Last year saw the release of the post-punk/goth EP, Beautiful Hell by Orcus Nullify. Kindly, Bruce Nullify answered some questions for us about the EP, his views on the last few years and his connection to Australia.
Bruce Nullify, welcome to thedarkside of Onyx. Congratulations on the new EP, Beautiful Hell.
Thank you, interviews are always a pleasure to do. I very much appreciate this opportunity.
Beautiful Hell was released in 2021 which included the singles Night Dance and Pandemonic, which were both released in 2020. How has American politics and a world pandemic shaped this EP?
It’s been very clear that citizen’s health and safety has taken a back seat to the Economy here in the US. Early on during 2020 there was severe negligence in doing what was necessary for safety. Initially it was a failure of the government to move all the chess pieces and do it quickly. And it was heavily political too. But even still, the pandemic has not ended and yet so many carry on as if it has. We are currently approaching one million deaths here in the US. It’s shameful and unnecessary.
There were a few months that I was at home quarantining during 2020. Most of the country was too, for even longer. The solution, or at least a mitigation to pollution became apparent. Cars were off the roads, and folks were working from home. It became clear in cities around the world this created a reduction in air pollution. The atmosphere had a break and it helped. But what happened by the hand of the Orange Beast? Reversal of environmental policies like ending the US’s participation in the Paris Climate Accord, and termination of the Clean Water Act. I didn’t realize exactly how poorly educated and ill advised so many people of this country had become. Then the Orange beast happened. Now I know.
Previously, you have independently released your work but recently have released with Australian label, Mantravision Productions, which is run by Ant Bannister of Sounds Like Winter and many other acts. How did you find yourself involved with Mantravision and release the last two EPs with them?
A few years back Ant did some radio shows on Mixcloud. I believe I reached out to him and we starting talking. We had similar tastes in music. He was also spinning some messed up stuff that caught my attention. We started exchanging music. I confess, at the time my sound wasn’t the best. I did my own production, which was beginner level. Ant, on the other hand has a lot of experience. He’s a kind person. He lets me do what I can and then takes it from there. It’s always exciting for me to get my songs back after he’s worked his magic. It typically goes to the next level or better. After, years of online friendship, I consider Ant to be my Brother from another Mother. And I do very much love Sounds Like Winter. I consider them an inspiration.
Bannister also lent his talent to programming the drums on Beautiful Hell which he also did on Death Hag plus you had help on production of one track by Pete Burns. How do you find these friendships/collaborations lend themselves to your music?
Ant is a member of the band now a days. He has contributed way too much to just be a collaborator. I feel very fortunate to have such great friends. Collaborations have been extremely beneficial to myself and I hope to both Ant and Pete. Collaborating, in my experience, should give you an extra perspective – whether it be a drum beat where you didn’t expect it, or stressing a particular frequency in the mix. It’s important in music to think about what it is you’re trying to make or say. I think adding an extra set of ears aids in refining that process. I would recommend collaboration to anyone trying to make music or art.
You have also been recording with Ant and keyboard player Colin Gallagher as Sequential Zero, another post-punk/goth band. How did this come about?
I believe Ant sent me a track, that he and Colin had been working on, and asked me what I thought about it. He added that he “saw a place for my guitar sound in it”. I was very excited to join. All three of us are putting our hearts into this. Ant said to me a while back that we have a strong synergy. I think that really sums it up well. I hope to join them on stage in Australia or here in the US some day.
Do you think living in South Carolina colours how you write your music ie folk lore etc?
Lol, I doubt it. At least not in that way. That’s an interesting perspective though. I need to pay closer attention to local folk lore. It’s a beautiful part of the country. I love nature. I moved here mostly, to get away from a more urban life. It can be truly energizing and lovely to live isolated in a forest. Without people in ear shot it’s been very easy to crank up the guitar or belt out some vocals late at night. People here do remind me almost daily that I’m that I’m different. Just today I had a guy ask me where I am from. I was born in New England. I do have a Yankee accent and I have no problem telling people what I think.
What music did you listen to when you were young and do you think your tastes have changed? Who do you enjoy listening to now?
My tastes have expanded some, but I still primarily listen to Alternative music. Today you’d find me listening to Sounds Like Winter, Burnt Souls, Kill Shelter, IAMTHESHADOW, October Burns Black, Kentucky Vampires, SENEX IV… There’s so much great music out there.
What is in store in the future of Bruce Nullify and Orcus Nullify….or maybe more colaborations?
I’m working on a few new Orcus Nullify tunes. I plan on keeping up with that. Might be adding another person to the mix. I consider Sequential Zero a full time gig. I’ve got ongoing work with them. So my schedule is pretty well full.
The UK band Rhombus dropped the album The Longest Day in November. A four piece band, whom were able to draw on the talent of a plethora of others, have been together for approximately a decade. They reside in a town in West Yorkshire called Huddersfield which was famous during the industrial revolution. Now you may ask why I would be interested in such a fact. Huddersfield since that then has fallen on hard times with reportedly 40% of the children who live there, considered living in poverty. It was something I noticed in the lyrical content of the songs that made me decide to investigate. Songs born of the North. Those that love New Model Army well understand that term.
We start with the Manchester Airport runway chatter of incoming and outgoing planes, wind speeds and estimated speeds with music ambient playing behind, before it all takes off (pun intended). “You Depend On You” is a piece about how in the end only you can define and choose your fate, as you cannot rely on others. A solid mix of electronics and guitars as well as main male vocal with female backing vocals that highlight the tune. I will never say no to a song that has a middle eastern tone to it and “Sodium Sunrise” has that Dead Can Dance influence at the beginning. The call to Ma’at is for the ancient Egyptian goddess of balance, order, truth and justice, to see what has happened to the Kingdom while sodium is a highly reactive metal, that is silver white in colour, mixing it with the light of the morning sun. The guitar work is striking. “Get Over Yourself” is not a very punk song but it does have that sentiment, especially with the intro line being, We don’t drink tea and we’re all out of sympathy. Don’t drink tea? How very! But then a pot watched never boils and the sentiment is that unless one stops wanting what others have, they’ll never achieve anything.
There is somewhat of an Asian tone before the guitars chime in on “Always Hope” just as the sun always rises, which leads into “No Victim” an ode to the need for stress to cause people to grow and not stagnant. The title track “The Longest Day” is a harkening back to the 60s almost, especially with the harmonization and is about trial by fire tempering the steel of resolve. It leads into the single “Magnificent“, which is the rolling love song. A blaze of guitar rings in “Not For Me“and a nice bit of what sounds like a Hammond organ in the musical break! The bleakness of the electronics and piano in “Another Way” in warmed up by the drums and hum of guitar which seems in complete juxtapose with the final track, “Love Is The Answer” unless you are looking at it from the view point that love will give you the ability to show others compassion. Rhombus are very emphatic that this is what can create more peace than hatred…and they are more or less right.
I have to say the the guitar work reminded me a lot of Gary Moore for some odd reason. That is a big compliment because Moore was an extraordinary player. Rhombus are very passionate about not only the music they play but obviously about what is happening in society and the world in general. That is a commendable thing in a time where it is easier to gain plays for cute songs than for political/societal observations.
Sea Lungs are a relatively new band from Melbourne. A union of friends in the gothic/post-punk scene who aren’t necessarily in the same room to make music. The single, “Piss Up A Rope” was released in December, produced and mastered by Ant Bannister (Sounds LikeWinter) of Mantravision. Andi Lennon (Sounds Like Winter) provides vox and lyrics, while Jarrad Robertson (guitar, drums) and Dase Beard (guitar, bass) created the music. A point of interest is that Jarrad is also a music blogger who writes good ‘stuff’ with his project Neptune Wakes…. I sense a nautical theme here.
Sea Lungs spin tales of Gin-soaked dockside demise. Bearing witness to the fall of a perverse empire and dancing to the sounds of the death rattle. – Bandcamp self description
Lennon’s vocals are so reminiscent of Rozz Williams, it’s a actually quite breathtaking. For a song called “Piss Up A Rope”, it is not mentioned once and is not to be confused with the Ween song of the same name. There is a torpid air to the beginning that belies the true angst below the surface. From the jangle of guitars to the near strangulation of one, it never falters in the quest to provoke you. CEO’s reap the money, bloated corpulence, while their workers earn virtually a pittance. The vocals cajole you and coerce you to open your eyes
Amazon are huge in the US and UK, with people even buying their shampoo online rather than going down to the local shops. Mega multi-billion companies that are allowed to reap the bounty that their workers never see and never seem to be taxed. So, it is thought provoking but also there is great musicianship that goes into creating such a song with passion. Really enjoyed this track and it will be interesting to see where Sea Lungs go from here.
Beauty In Chaos are one of the super groups to emerge in the last few years in the gothic/industrial scene and boast a plethora of very well know names. They are soon releasing their second album Behind The Veil but before that has happened, there has been a single lifted off it. Kirlian Camera’s Elena Alice Fossi is the vocalist on “Kiss Of The World” which was released December the 2nd. The common denominator for BeautyIn Chaos is guitar whiz MichaelCiravolo who is also a music producer and engineer, who has performed with the likes of Gene Loves Jezabel and Human Drama.
The slow burn at the beginning has the delicate guitar but the whole thing hinges on Fossi’s vocals drawing you into her world, until the spark that launches a fury of blooming sound, which repeatedly returns to the somber quiet. Though of course we know this can never last. The guitar solo is a lonely affair before lifting Fossi’s vocals again on a wave. Are these the words to a past lover or friend who has slipped into less than pure ways? It very well could be.
As I listened, something was poking my brain about what this reminded me of, Then it hit me. A rock opera. This song definitely has that big energy of something classical. Fossi still sounds so incredibly good and looks equally amazing. She is a talented lady writing this track, along with Ciravolo and Michael Rozon (bass/synths). Gothic rock for the modern era seems to be these collaborations which is changing the way the music sounds by giving it more diversity and this can never be a bad thing,
Deathline International have been around in the industrial scene since 1991, when they formed in California before releasing their debut album, Reality Check in 1993 on the label COP International. 2022 will see them drop the newest album, Pax Americana, 11 years since their fourth album Cybrid, but before that happens, we have been getting tastes of what is to come from the group in the form of singles. The latest is called “Parasite” which hit us in December of 2021. The current lineup for Deathline International is Th3Count (Christian Petke), SLam (Simon Lam), James Perry [Ashes Fallen], and John Fryer who has a curriculum vitae that might take some people several lifetimes to rack up. His most iconic band was This Mortal Coil and is a part of the super group The Joy Thieves, while riding solo as Black Needle Noise. As a producer he has worked with luminaries such as Depeche Mode, Fad Gadget, Nine Inch Nails, Die Krupps, Cocteau Twins and so many more.
The original single version is done by Fryer, the master of mixing and he has made this a far more sinister piece. The synths are just perfection as they roll over the words ‘only in America is it controversial for me to start the programme declaring that global warming is really happening‘.. There is the list of the four horsemen of the apocalypse of which humanity brings closer each passing day to the brink of no return by not finding ways to protect our planet. Pestilence, War, Famine and Death. There is the perfect mix of guitar versus electronic, all beautifully balanced and brutally laid before you with the bones of the future generations.
Stabbing Westwards are stablemates at COP International and the remix by Chris Hall is actually the first version of “Parasite” off the rank and it is so smooth, that Petke’s vocals ooze all over it like the Exxon Valdez. I like the fact it has retained the heavy electronic component and layers those elements with ease so that it just grooves along. They were not lying about the Sonic Assault remix. Electronic blasting beats full of anger and passionately promising to bludgeon you to death like the wide eyed harpy seal you might be if you don’t take notice of Sick Jokes emphasizing the end is nigh. It feels as if is it spinning out of control and imploding towards the end. Again Sick Jokes are signed to COP International
Yep. The production is spot on. The song is catchy. Three versions to keep everyone happy. A plethora of talent. Well that was easy. Listen to Deathline International, reduce your carbon footprint, recycle, re-use and maybe there is a chance to make things just a bit better than just being a “Parasite“.
The artist, Dave McAnally, is better known for his Ministry/Rob Zombie inspired act, The Derision Cult but this Chicago based musician also has a far more synth based project called .SYS Machine. .SYS Machine is the darker, quieter sibling, with a far more reflective soul. December saw the release of Graceful Isolation, which features five tracks and eight remixes, all created in a collaborative manner. We spoke to Dave about these collaborations, inspirations and how life is changing.
Welcome down the hole of weirdness that is Onyx, Dave McAnally of .SYS Machine.
December 2021 saw the release of Graceful Isolation and this title came out of the fact none of your collaborators ever met up in the same room. How did you pull it all together? With everyone having to work remotely- whether its music or in other work life- it’s probably easier now than its ever been to work remotely. For me, it was just a matter of making a list of people I’d like to work with and then with Kim and Gabe from Microwaved (who does a remix on here) we added to that list and I started reaching out! I’d say 80% of the people who I reached out to where into it and wanted to get involved. The other 20% was either just schedules were too tough to work or they were tied up with other things. So it was actually a pretty easy process to line up.
You brought some heavy talent on the album in the form of Kimberly Kornmeier of Bow Ever Down doing the vocals on three of the tracks as well as getting the likes of Assemblage 23, Spankthenun, The Joy Thieves, Miss Suicide et al to do some rather wicked remixes. How did you lure them all onto the project? Kim came about because she’d done vocals on my buddy Gabe’s track Save Me earlier this year and I was really impressed and it just so happened I had some instrumental tracks I’d been tinkering on that I thought her style and approach would be really interesting for. She was immediately on board and she’s really great to work with (she collaborates with a ton of artists so she knows how to deliver and mold what she does to the tracks).
I knew I wanted to do remixes, but one thing led to another talking with Kim and Gabe, and we thought of people who would bring some cool flavors to the tracks and then I just started hitting folks up. Sys Machine isn’t a big name or anything on the scene so I wasn’t really sure what would happen as far as interest. Nevertheless, Assemblage 23 and The Joy Thieves jumped on straight away which was awesome. Once that happened the ball just kept rolling. Not a whole lot of luring was involved! I suspect with people unable to play shows last year, bandwidth was freed up which helped.
The Derision Cult is your original project that you have been releasing music under since 2014 and 2021 saw you drop the album Charlatans Inc. in September before Graceful Isolation. Was it your intention to stay busy or did it all evolve naturally? It was a total natural thing for me! For a long time, I’ve always had a few projects going at once, and these two are my big ones. I work a lot slower than it probably seems on the surface. I’m one of those people that’ll start an idea, leave it alone for a month or two, and come back to it and maybe it’ll get finished. The Derision Cult tracks were marinating over the course of a year and a half and while I was working on that I was also doing things that ultimately became Graceful Isolation. By last summer, I was really excited about both and didn’t want to just sit on them for the sake of spacing out releases so I just kept on moving along.
I think my output will slow down going forward as I really found myself enjoying working with people vs. being a lone wolf. I’m happy to slow my roll and make time for other people to get involved and put more work into each release. But there’s always various things I’ve got cooking. I’ve got about 30 blues and acoustic jams I’ve amassed over the past 6 months that I would typically release as Jefferson Dust that are in various stages of completion that I’m always working on. Someday maybe 10 of those will be worth sharing with the public! Same is true for other projects.
.SYS Machine is very different to the far more guitar driven The Derision Cult. What prompted you to pursue this more electronic sound? Sys Machine has sort of been where all my science experiments go. I started putting things out under that moniker that were essentially toying with new synths, drum loops or whatever. All instrumental and not really songs in as much as they were soundscapes. In a way, it’s really just me exploring getting better with programming and all things electronic. Once Kim got involved, for me at least, Sys Machine stopped being a bunch of science experiments and started to congeal into something that felt a little more meaningful. So that’s where it stands now.
Derision Cult was and is an entirely different thing. I’m a thrash guitar guy deep down. Those riffs are part of my DNA going back 30+ years. So when I started that project, I had a very deliberate idea of what I wanted it to be and sound like and I’ve been evolving on that theme ever since.
You have spoken about how you were a heavy drinker for 25 years, then decided to give the habit up. Has that been hard to do and how has this changed your perspective on life, the music you create and the music scene? ya know it really wasn’t! And that kind of surprised me at how easy it was to just walk away from the booze. I just took stock of my life and health and what path I was on and made a decision. I think the key is actually TELLING people you’re going to stop. Like once I told my wife and friends then it was real. I’m really happy I did it. I feel better, I find myself less stressed out and I have more energy and time for things I care about– including music. It was really just the right time for me to leave that behind. I saw an interview with Billy Connolly where he was saying you can be wild and crazy in your 20’s and 30’s and it’s a lot of fun. But once you get into your 40’s it starts to be a little pathetic carrying on like you’re in a frat house. I believe that to be true. the other thing was pandemic.
I run my own businesses and I work out of my house so it’s not like I have a job to go to or anything. Boredom sets in and you’ll be sitting there like “fuck it, I’m not hurtin’ anybody!” and next thing you know, you’ve gone through a fifth of whiskey just watching TV or whatever. Once that started happening, I could feel my health starting to slide. I have had friends over the years who’ve died from things like liver failure and heart attacks and all that so I knew where this path would lead. I read that Alan Karr book about quitting drinking and that was pretty much that. Quitting drinking has definitely helped me live more in the moment. I find myself with a lot more time since my weekend mornings are free, I’m motivated to go hard all day long cos that “it’s 5 o’clock somwhere!” mindset is gone.
As far as music and art, I think it’s a lot easier to be realistic and objective. When you’re drinking or stoned or whatever, you can think everything you’ve done is the greatest thing ever. Not so much when you’re stone sober. As far as the scene, the thing that really surprised me is how little drinking really is part of people’s lives. I never really noticed that before. It might just be more evidence of how hard living I was compared to everyone else ha. That isn’t to say they don’t drink, but especially with artists I collaborate with, it just doesn’t seem like it’s as big of a deal to them as it might have been for me. By the way, I don’t mean any of this to come off as a “Drinking and Drugs don’t work kids!” type of rant – cos they do! It’s fun getting hammered and wasted. I had a great time living that life and don’t regret that period for what it was. But I’m definitely happier and more productive with where I’m at.
What bands were the gateway drug into industrial music for you? Heh, well I’m kind of weird like that. Psalm 69 came out around the same time Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction, Metallica’s Black Album, White Zombie La Sexorcisto and Anthrax Sound of White Noise were coming out so it just fit right in with what I was into at the time. I didn’t really think of it as a new genre or door to open. Of all things, I happened to be a big David Bowie fan back then too and I thought Tin Machine- or more specifically their guitar player Reeves Gabrels was a badass.
I knew of Bowie’s other gunslingers. I’d read that Adrian Belew was doing things with Trent Reznor and NIN so that got me curious– like “hey maybe these synth people can rock too!”. That was sort of my moment of truth. This was maybe 93 or so right before Downward Spiral came out – then later on Bowie and NIN went on tour together and it was like the universe all made sense! I was living in Iowa at the time and Chicago isnt’ too far so I got wind of what was all going on with Wax Trax and I’ve been into it ever since. So I guess you could say Tin Machine-Era David Bowie was my gateway drug haha.
Whose music do you enjoy now or blows your mind into thinking ‘I wish I had written that!’? I listen to a ton of things across a lot of genres. When I’m just hanging around, especially this time of year, I’m more blues and Americana. I think the new James McMurtry album is amazing– his turn of phrase and how he crafts stories in his lyrics always blows my mind. I don’t necessarily endeavor to write like him, but those storyteller songwriters are a master class in how to take a listener on a journey. The Reverend Peyton’s new album Dance Songs For Hard Times is absolutely excellent. My daughter really likes the Rev so we’re playing that around the house a lot.
Closer to home genre-wise, this probably sounds cliche, but I really like the fusion of blues and industrial on the new Rob Zombie. The Joy Thieves Album American Parasite is great- lot of energy on there and I have that on quite a bit. I’m digging the new Ministry album too! Love Jello showing up on tracks and I’m not sure if this is a popular opinion, but I think Al’s take on Search and Destroy was awesome. There’s some “Boy I wish I thought of that” riffs on there.
What is in store for you in the future with .SYS Machine and The Derision Cult, plus will there be more collaborations? Yeah man! I’m actually working on the next Derision Cult now. Sean Payne from Cyanotic and Conformco is producing and already I feel like it’s a giant leap forward just working with him and handing the reigns over. I really love the sci-fi/robotic feel to what he does and I’d love to fuse that with what I do. Very early stages but I’ve got some guests in mind for tracks. I can’t say who yet, but there’s one that if it comes together, it’ll be a total full-circle thing cos it’s such a blast from the past and a huge influence on me personally. So that’ll be my focus for awhile bringing that to life.
On the Sys Machine front I literally have nothing in the tank at the moment. I’d definitely like to work with Kim again and she’s up for it. She’s got her own album and projects and maybe in the next year we’ll be able to share music. But I’m really happy with how Graceful Isolation came together so I’d definitely like to continue down that path!