Bunkering down with SPANKTHENUN – Interview

The Texan project, SPANKTHENUN (STN), has been around since 2020, an industrial machine born into a time of pestilence, and they have carried that badge of foreboding doom forward. This is not a test, and not everything was alright as they brought forth The Bunker Tapes I & II. From the very inception of STN, they have sort to bring variety into their musical creations by including feature artists, be this through vocals or remixes.

The band has been releasing a track a month since last year (2022), and the last of the trilogy of albums, The Bunker Tapes III, is nigh upon us. With the likes of Moris Blak bringing his stomach dropping industrial bass, the frenetic electronic energy of Extize or Komor Kommando’s (Sebastian Komor) dance sofistication, that just gives you a hint that the music is both exciting and like a punch to the head. On that note of my threatening you with a good time, we spoke to Eric Hanes about the band, the latest album, and the musicians they have worked with to bring you this mammoth industrial behemoth.

We are Onyx, and you are SPANKTHENUN. We welcome you into the cone of silence, where no one can hear you scream.

The band is from Texas, which seems to produce more than their fair share of harder edged industrial bands. How do you feel the scene there influenced yourselves, the creation of STN and is there something in the water?

Texas certainly has a long history of legendary industrial bands, many of them still active and touring today. We are even seeing a resurgence of some of the legendary acts in Texas, like unitecode:machine, Mentallo and the Fixer, Curse Mackey, and of course everything related to Al Jourgenson and Ministry. Today, there are a number of up industrial and dark electro artists in Texas, which is great for us. Artists like Circle Burn, Dread Risks, SINE, Mvtant, Dissonance, Solemn Assembly and Melodywhore are not only amazing to collaborate with and play shows with, they are also a great resource to tap into and talk about what is working and what isn’t in the scene these days.

The band name came from a conversation about nasty nuns that liked to hand out corporal punishment. Do you often get asked about the name SPANKTHENUN and have you had any bizarre reactions to it?

It’s pretty easy to be the one handing out the punishment, but who keeps the punishers in check? We have had some surprising reactions to the name. Mostly people love the name and react with great pleasure… but even this past week, there are people in this scene of dark music that won’t say the name or write it for fear of blasphemy… kind of surprising because this scene is built on pushing back on the norms. We did a remix for BATAVIA two years ago, and the voice over artist wouldn’t say the name for the commercial to promote the album. Instead, he said “I won’t say that name.” and that was put in the commercial instead… actually funnier that way. Either way, it is a name that people don’t forget and is easy to search for.

The premise of STN seems to be the core two members, and the ability to adapt and create around guest artists. What was the thinking behind this in regard to the project?

We were both great fans of industrial music and artists for years before we dove in with our brand of dark noise. So, we had quite a long list of artists we really admired and looked up to. When we started putting our first tracks together, we really leaned on other artists, some legendary ones like Claus Larsen (Leather Strip) and Scott Fox (iVardensphere) to shape the sound of our first tracks. We also had help from Tom Shear (Assemblage 23) and Colin Cameron (Slighter) on our first singles. We learned a ton from those experiences and really liked how they challenged us to be better, so we wanted to keep doing that. Now, we are working our way down that list of artists we admire and hope to work with all of them at some point.

Do you find it easier working with others and is it the challenge that you thrive on?

It is harder for sure, we know we can put out a great memorable track like DOMINATE or INDUSTRIAL BEATS, but it is the challenge of where collaborating can push you. Always learning and always adapting and growing… we can’t settle down on a sound or formula, and collaborating keeps that moving forward.

You have worked with a huge pool of musicians, so have you found this has led to some long-term friendships?

Definitely. It was also very timely since we delivered our first album at the beginning of 2020, right before the pandemic and the worldwide lockdown kicked in. We went from writing about a possible dystopian pandemic ridden future under Marshall law to living in one almost overnight. We immediately went to work online and figuring out Twitch and streaming. We were networking and collaborating just a few weeks into the global lockdown and writing new music too. It was a unique opportunity that we capitalized on and started reaching out and building relationships with everyone. There are certainly some important relationships that were formed, some long term ones for sure. We spent a good two years building relationships, and probably did it faster than if we had to do it in real life face to face… it also gave us a unique opportunity to reach a captured audience that was looking for something to do.

Since 2022, you have been releasing a single a month. How hard has this been for you to co-ordinate, especially with guest artists and remixers?

Most songs are a year or more older by the time the public hears them… sometimes we release them to a few select DJs, and their fans get to hear them earlier than everyone else. Sometimes, we randomly release a track on SoundCloud and then take it down a few weeks later… so you gotta be paying attention to hear it all. We originally planned on releasing the new album The Bunker Tapes VOL III at the end of 2022 but realized we still had singles from the last album to release, plus a collaboration with Isserley and one with White Noise TV to release. So we pushed the new album to 2023. But we really wanted people to start hearing the songs we were essentially sitting on. We were also looking at the landscape of the music industry and how people consume music these days so we wanted to do a release schedule that made more sense than just dropping a single and then a full album.

Another thing that influenced releasing every track on the album as a single, was the fact that we had remixed a club version of every track on the album and we thought it would be interesting to release all of the club mixes first before releasing the album version. The album version is very different than the singles and will surprise people. So we decided we would start releasing one track each month starting with the Moris Blak version of Blot Out The Sun, renamed to Blak Out The Sun in November 2022 and have been releasing a single each month… some with Grendel, Extize, Mechanical Vein, Terminal, Blak Emoji and Komor Kommando.

We have also snuck in a few extra random singles unrelated to the album, like the SynthAttack remix of our song Dance Fight or Die off our first album. That is a remix that was only available to a few DJs for many months.

December was an extra lucky month, with 2 singles. What happened in December and was it too much Christmas cheer?

We had been working on the Depeche Mode SEA OF SIN E.P. for a while and then when we brought in Tonschleifer to help with that we knew we had something unique and special and did not want to keep it to ourselves… so we did a surprise release on X-Mas day. That cover of SEA OF SIN has a very different sound for us and is a good example of the benefits of collaboration. We had worked with White Noise TV before and had been looking for something to work on with them and their producer Tonschleifer and thought that was a perfect song to work on.

Can you tell us about some of the wonderful musicians you have featured so far?

One of the great long term relationships we made during the early days of the pandemic was with DJ Scott Durand, a veteran of the DJ scene and well respected around the world… he is a walking encyclopedia of music knowledge. He introduced us to many of the musicians we are still working with today. He introduced us to Blue Ant and suggested we do a cover of Ministry’s Everyday is Halloween. He is great at putting the right artists together and also on to the right projects. So we went to work on the cover song, and during the process, we found ways to make the song our own, not just replicate it. We changed the cadence, the rhythm and kept what makes it special. As we were working on an uptempo hard dance version of the song, we knew we were going to do different versions of the track. At some point we thought we should also do a darkwave version of the track and Scott helped us connect with Lis van den Akker (Die Krupps, Grendel) and she dropped an incredible vocal for us to build a completely different chilled out version of the song around.

We have got work with some of the legends that we admire, like Empirion, Martin King, Grendel, Zoog, Mirland, and the list keeps growing.

You have Japanese noise musician, GUTENBERG, doing a remix of the latest single Chrome. It has this wonderfully languid droning and pounding rhythm, fleshed out with the vocals. How important is it for you to include a diverse range of industrial musicians?

It is incredibly important for us to have a diverse range of artists on our releases. Partly, we want more people to hear about some of these underground artists that we have been fortunate to discover on our journey. And if we can put them next to a well known name, then that is even better.

Sure, we want to work the big name artists on our list of artists, but if we can also surface those underground talents too, then we are doing something special. It is also about getting a different vision on the song too… hearing what a noise artist like GUTENBERG does with our song is more rewarding than writing the song itself. Or a hip hop artist like Blak Emoji taking a track like THIS IS NOT A DRILL and giving it a go can produce something incredible and new.

With previous singles having titles such as “Madman”, “No One Survives” and “Crushing Blow”, would you say the overall tone of the tracks so far released, err on the side of doom and apocalypse?

It is interesting, when the pandemic hit, we were already writing songs about doom and the apocalypse, it was a real challenge to decide how to proceed once it started to become a reality. We decided to double down on the doom and gloom and also start to take a position of an attitude of pushing back against the pandemic and not letting it dictate our lives like it was for so many people. Many of the tracks on this new album call out the people that don’t do anything and allow the nonsense to happen. We need to keep our leaders in check. So many casually make decisions that kill a million people. Many times, the decisions are about keeping power, and other times, it is pure stupidity and ignorance. We have been living in this real doom and gloom world that we continue to be told is getting worse. That is part of what leaders do to control the masses… they use fear. They use fear to get ratings and to sell commercials. Many of the songs on this new album push back on that attempt at control and push back on the fist of fear that is so easily used against us all.

“The Bunker Tapes II” was the last full-fledged album you brought out in 2021, however this releasing a single a month, is the foreshadowing of the new album, “The Bunker Tapes III”. Can you please tell us how many tracks will be appearing on the album and will some for the current remixes be included?

The Bunker Tapes III wraps up the trilogy of the Bunker Tapes with a modern approach to our style of music… we started with vol I focused on the 90s Belgium sound we love with acts like Wumpscut and Leather Strip. There are 11 unique tracks on the album, each getting a single release, each getting a remix or two. There will also be 6 remixes on the album as well, some new and some already released.

Will there be any other surprise artists appearing on “The Bunker Tapes III”?

We have a couple of unannounced collaborations that are coming in the next few months. One of our biggest collaborations so far is still a closely kept secret.

Is it going be a relief to have the album out and will you still be releasing a song a month once it is out there?

Most of The Bunker Tapes VOL III was written and recorded at the beginning of 2022, we have written and recorded a lot of music since then. We have a couple of different directions we can go after this album is released. We enjoy this build up to the new album, it is a lot of work but we like it. Releasing tracks once a month has grown our audience and also elevated the quality of the work we put out for visuals, graphics, and new merch. It also has improved our shows with better performances and visuals too. We have learned a lot in the last 7 months. The new songs we have been working on reflect what we have learned over the last 18 months, and we are excited to start getting those out, too. So it is possible that we start releasing those songs in 2023 too. We did start up a second project called CVRBON DECVY that is more Cyberpunk and Techno focused, we will be releasing a bunch of new tracks for that project too this year.

Are there any particular tracks or remixes that you particularly love hearing?

On the new album, the remix Moris Blak did is so in your face and is everything that makes a Moris Blak track great. I listen to that one and feel like we got one of the best Moris Blak tracks ever. The remix that Blak Emoji did is one we listen to all the time… he takes the industrial bass track THIS IS NOT A DRILL and does something special to it, he elevates it in a new way that is infectious. We have a remix coming from SET that we are particularly excited about. Our all time favorite is probably the ESA: Electronic Substance Abuse remix of our song SIN from our first album, we are planning a reissue of that one soon.

What bands influenced you into getting into industrial music and music in general?

Bi-God 20, Front 242, Front Line Assembly, The Cure, Bauhaus, Leather Strip and Wumpscut are probably the most obvious influences on us, but there are so many more. Often, new artists are influencing us more than anything else. We love discovering something new that no one has heard… it is a special feeling finding something new and being the first like or follow on their FB or IG accounts.

Who do you listen to now that gets your juices flowing?

We try to find something new every week to listen to. It can be something with an old school electronic vibe or it might be something completely off the wall, the new punk rock is the edge that something new and exciting captures. So many more people can make music now, that we expect to hear new things that haven’t been tried before… we want to find that. The most recent new find for us is an act out of Sweden called Majestoluxe, amazing blend of electro rock and industrial… very cool, their song COLD is brilliant.

You are planning a huge 3-day industrial festival, where STN is headlining, and you get to choose all the other acts. Who do you choose? You can choose defunct bands, and we will happily raise the dead to help you comply with your desired line-up.

First of all, these bands would all be headlining, and we would be the opening act 😊 Skinny Puppy and RevCo from the mid 90s would be amazing…and throw in some 90s era NIN and some Empirion.

After “The Bunker Tapes III” is released, what is next for STN, as you guys never seem to be without a project of some sort?

We can’t stop making music… and we have a ton ready to go now. We can go several directions next, maybe something more chill and goth, or more dark techno or something more out there and different. We mainly write for our live shows, so it really depends on what we want to do live, that will dictate what we do next.

No nuns were harmed in the making of this interview… they all thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Thank you for your time!

Music | spankthenun (bandcamp.com)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s