Eric Oberto hit the industrial/electro scene recently with two singles, with one spawning a remix release. Add to that, the fact that both were picked and used for both a horror TV series and horror movie, which Oberto also had roles in. Eric is no stranger to the music world either. In the early 90s, he was a member of the very successful industrial group Tungsten Coil. As you can imagine, the singles are dark and filled with gritty electronics, so with that in mind, we bunkered down for a nice chat, a cup of tea and waited to see if our time had come.
Welcome to the secret panic room here at Onyx Eric, where we like to rock ourselves to sleep after a day of dealing with the bright outside world. Do you like our fairy lights with nightmarish decor?
Thanks for having me! The fairy lights are a nice touch, and the nightmarish décor reminds me of my lair. It’s important to have the comforts of home when doing an interview. I must say that I do try to avoid the bright outside world as much as possible- that’s where you run into all those damn humans! LOL!
You have had synesthesia all your life, a condition that causes people to see music as colors. How has this impacted on your creating music? Does it enhance, impede or both?
Yes, it’s had a major impact on my music and life in general. First, I need to explain the degree of my synesthesia. For many people it’s an association of colors to characters, like if they hear the number 9- they see the color green (or something like that). My particular case is considered extreme; I see sound as moving three-dimensional colors, shapes, and patterns as I hear it (in real-time). It’s like having a second vision that’s going on in my mind simultaneously with the vision I process through my eyes. It’s a lot of input to handle at once!
Synesthesia is what really made it possible for me to write music. I don’t really understand music theory, the math of music, or anything like that. I paint animated musical pictures/films with the vibrant color-drenched pallet of mentally generated insanity. I know that’s a mouthful, but that basically how it works. It definitely enhances my music-making process.
As far as impeding goes, that falls onto the rest of my life. It has made traditional classroom style learning almost impossible for me. I also have dyslexia, and when you combine those two conditions together it’s almost impossible to concentrate long enough to input (and retain) information. Reading, taking tests, studying- all of it is a challenge for me. The reason that music works for me is because that kind of data input seems to take over my brain and it blocks out all the outside distractions. It’s as if the music and synesthesia combine into one euphoric experience that instantly becomes more important than anything else in that moment.
You have been in industrial bands since you were 16 years old, which lead to you being in Tungsten Coil, your first successful band. Can you tell us about your time with Tungsten Coil and how it affected your music?
Those were crazy times for sure! I was 18 when Tungsten Coil was formed, which was right after my first band- Reign of the Coven had broken up. It’s also at the tail end of my fight with cancer (synovial chondrosarcoma), which almost cost me my left leg and nearly my life. When you combined those elements together it created the perfect storm of drive and determination, maybe even obsession. I was an angry young man with nothing to lose! So, Tungsten Coil really became the vehicle to drive my message of “FUCK YOU” to the world. My future was uncertain, so I knew I needed to make my mark as loud and as fast as possible. I teamed up with John Miller and Tungsten Coil was born- Detroit style!
We took an aggressive approach by playing a bunch of shows right out of the gate, which included partaking in some big festivals and showcases (which included two major events @ at Club X in the historic State Theatre (now Fillmore Theatre) – Xtasy ’94 & The Nocturnal Fest, by Nigel Productions. Our efforts shook up the Detroit Industrial/Goth music scene and gained us a solid fanbase! The following year we made a surprise move to the live music capital of America- aka Austin, Texas. By 1996, we played our first Texas show at the infamous heavy metal club- The Back Room. This show put Tungsten Coil on the Austin, Texas music scene map overnight and launched us into the spotlight. Tungsten Coil became a staple of the Austin Industrial/Goth music scene. We showcased multiple years at the famous South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival. We gained a strong regional following through a relentless touring schedule over the years.
Tungsten Coil was featured in numerous music compilations, released multiple EPs, and two full-length albums- REACTIVE and ALPHA & OMEGA. Along the way we were nominated for and won multiple awards, including an AUSTIN MUSIC AWARD for BEST INDUSTRIAL BAND! Our final performance was a SXSW showcase at Elysium in 2008, where we shared the stage with Goth legend- Peter Murphy of Bauhaus. It’s a shame that Tungsten Coil’s heyday was before the current social media frenzy, because a lot of those great memories were never captured on film. Which also might not be a bad thing too, because of all the crazy/excess partying we did! We were just as hardcore off stage as we were on stage! My adopted saying was: “Born in sin, come on in!”, big props to Andre Linoge (my favorite villain!) from Stephen King’s- Storm of the Century. Anyway, it’s probably a good thing that some of those incriminating memories, stay memories! LOL!
You gave away music for a while to *checks notes* eventually create your own financial management company….. that seems awfully different to writing music. Did you enjoy the financial hustle?
It was a completely different life, and one I had never considered prior to living it. Yes, I did enjoy it! It was exactly the kind of life change that I needed at that time. I was 100% the underdog- I barely graduated high school, only went to a semester of collage, and had absolutely no experience in the financial industry. However, I did have a ton of common-sense life skills and business savvy because of my tenure in the music business. Money always made sense to me and once I understood the lay of the land, there was no stopping me. I really enjoyed the challenge of overcoming all the odds that were against me, it was a rush! I also liked being one of the good guys in an industry full of dishonest greedy pricks! I’m happy to report that during my career (which lasted over a decade), I never had one filed complaint of any kind! That’s rare in the financial industry!
I had my own financial management firm with a beautiful office in a high rise, and an awesome city view. I had the cars, the house, the suits, the money, and all that stuff. But after a while I lost my affinity for the business. I remember exactly when those feelings hit me. One day I’m looking out of my office window at a storm rolling in over the Dallas skyline, and I realized that I wasn’t happy anymore. I had already achieved all the goals I had set my sights on, and I had nothing left to prove to myself. I knew that I had to find my way back to music and find it fast! So, I sold the company to my business partner and never looked back.
You had the onset of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss which affected your synesthesia. How have you overcome this obstacle?
In 2021, I finally found a path to create music using my one good ear and filled in the gaps of the broken ear by making use of several modern computer software tools. These tools allow me to visually identify frequencies that I can no longer hear, and I’m now able to visually see the stereo field where sounds reside in it. I also discovered a device that allows me to independently EQ the left and right sides of my headphones. This device gives me the ability to boost all the lost hearing frequencies in the right ear; to fill in the missing gaps. The right ear is broken, completely distorted, and plagued with massive tinnitus. However, by amplifying all the frequencies independently, it tricks my brain into thinking that the correct hearing information is being received (even though it isn’t). The end-result is that it allows my synesthesia to kick back in somewhat, and I use my previous songwriting experiences to fill in the gaps. These amazing tools didn’t make me whole again, but they do provide a new path forward to pursue my musical dreams. Now, against different odds and obstacles, I’m writing the best music of my career (at least I think so). This hearing loss handicap has pushed me to continually prove to myself that I can create art no matter what obstacles get in my way!
Has this changed the way to listen to music, the way you compose or even the style of music?
Everything has changed! It’s been hard for me because I blindly relied on my ears for so much. One of my favorite things to do before I went deaf was to sit in the dark and listen to music with headphones on; the images that my synesthesia created were more exciting to me than any film I’d ever seen! Unfortunately, that wonderful experience is no longer a part of my life (so depressing). I can’t process the info in the same way anymore and my heart is breaking as I’m answering this question. Sigh… Let’s move on…
Your first solo single was the atmospheric Darkness Never Lies, which is also featured in the movie Amityville Cult. What is the premise behind this track and how does it feel having it in a movie?
It’s about the inner voice inside each of us, the voice of truth that attempts to thwart the lies we tell ourselves and others. Fear is the basic emotion that gives birth to lies. It’s about people going through their lives and telling people what they want to hear to avoid confrontation. Not taking risks for fear of failure, injury, or death, and not going against the grain for fear of rejection (you get the point). In daylight (or while living life), so many people just go through the motions, find meaningless distractions, and convince themselves that they are really living. However, at the end of life, in their final darkness, all lies will become final regrets- Darkness Never Lies!
It’s an awesome feeling to have a song in a film, especially when you get the entire credit scroll! People’s perception/treatment of musicians and bands can be a strange thing. You tell someone that you have a new song or album and the say “cool man”. You tell them that you have a song in an internationally distributed film that’s also available in Walmart, then they say “congratulations, I’m so proud of you”! Weird, right?
Eric, you are also a cast member in that same movie, and I read you are writing scripts and looking to produce/direct. Why have you decided to pursue these artistic directions?
An absolute yes! Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can compose music again, I’m climbing every Mt. Everest I can get my boots on! I’ve always wanted to do some acting and I love movies. So when that opportunity came up I jumped on it. Now I’ve thrown my hat into the ring in several aspects of the film industry and I’m loving it! I even started my own production company- Tungsten Coil Productions. I’m just about finished with the script for my upcoming film- Sleep. I’m so excited about this film, it’s a crazy mindbender of a trip! I’ve got my work cut out for me on this project though, I’m playing three roles, directing, producing, editing, and composing the score. We are hoping to start filming in the fall.
Erik Gustafson of Adoration Destroyed did an up-tempo remix of Darkness Never Dies. What was it like hearing your work through someone else’s ears so to speak?
It was awesome! Erik and I go way back; we played a bunch of shows together back in my Tungsten Coil days. He was in Terminal 46 and Lust Murder Box. I already knew firsthand what Erik brought to the table, so I had total confidence in his abilities. It was fun going through the process with him and I mastered the song with my producer- John Robert Craig. I’m very proud of the final outcome, it’s a banger for sure!
Closer Than Ever Before is your latest single release and again it is going to feature in a movie. I feel the theme for the track is about aging and getting closer to the end of expiration. Can you tell me about this track?
Yes, I’m stoked to have this song in the upcoming theatrical release film- Malibu Horror Story! It’s a badass horror film and it’s truly an honor to get placement for the entire credit scroll again. I love this film so much that I jumped on board the project as an executive producer as well.
Yes, you’re on the right track with your interpretation of the song. I’ve always been focused time passing by and running out ever since I had cancer as a kid. Facing your mortality as a kid will do that to you, and now being in your forties and starting over in the entertainment industry will make you hyper-focused on what time you have remaining as well. The message I wanted to convey in that song was this: Every second of every day, we’re closer to death. What are you doing with the time you are given and are you living your life to the fullest?
Are there plans for an album?
Right now I’m focusing on singles; it just makes sense to me at this point in time. The music industry today doesn’t appear to have the attention span for an entire album. Hell, it’s hard to get people to listen to an entire song without them being distracted by their fucking phones!
I do want to release some albums on vinyl after I build up my catalog with some more songs. I want to put out a series of vinyl with a few songs and a bunch of remixes on each release. Maybe a full album in the future, you never know.
If you were in a horror movie, what character would you want to be? The screaming victim but ultimate hero, the wise elder who knows the backstory but now is earmarked to die, or the evil stabby killer?
That’s easy, The Evil Stabby Killer!
What is next for Eric Oberto?
Right now I’m going to continue to release new songs and music videos every few months. I’m also going to keep pushing my way into the film industry in the forms I mentioned before. Finally, I’m going to focus on doing music for video games. I’ve got a few other tricks up my sleeve, but that’s enough of a workload for now!
Thank you for joining me in the room where no cursed things happened ever…. I think 🙂
Thank you for having me, I had a bloody terror of a time! As a final parting thought, I do think some things may have been cursed in this room. Just saying…
Dammit Janet! Breakout the sage!