November 21st saw the Norwegian’s Dødsmaskin, release their sixth full length out on the ant-zen label. Based on the master and slave morality theory of Friedrich Nietzsche, the album is divided into two parts to represent both sides.
Have you ever started to listen to an album and had to instantly stop doing anything else, stunned into silence? Rare occurrence, but I found myself slightly slack jawed as I played the first 30 seconds to “Trusselbilde“, suddenly turning off the music thinking, ‘I must play this when I am alone, so I can turn it up as loud as I want!‘.
Okay, almost every track has a Norwegian title, but I don’t see the point of looking up the meanings, as the music will speak for itself and it most definitely does. “Trusselbilde” is the single and it is brutal. Super heavy rhythmic noise and yet there are these points of synth lightness where you can ‘breath’. It doesn’t seem possible and yet the noise grows and consumes, until it’s abrupt end. The sludgy “Døpt IBensin, Renset Med Ild“, feels ancient and full of portent, while “Imperium” is on the move, ready to mow you down. There is the perceived horns of war, hammers of destruction and waves of domination.
This is just the first three tracks off the album and that quality is throughout the whole release. Dødsmaskin are known for their crunchy rhythmic noise, but this release seems heavier and even darker, intent on searing your nerves and probing your brain with a javelin. If harsh rhythmic noise is your thing, then you must listen to Dødsmaskin and experience their album,”herremoral | slavemoral“.
MissSuicide is a one person project from Cologne of the dark electro/industrial persuasion. Demian’s (MissSuicide) latest EP is Herbivor, set free as of the 1st of October with guest artists. STAHLSCHLAG and GRENDEL.
A gypsy violin, ominous synths and a sound clip from Breaking Bad start the odyssey of “Persona Non Grata“. Dance beats enhanced by spinning synths. Like a tape in reverse, we are hit by the title track,”Herbivor“. There are dueling synths and the rhythmic signature feels like it is in constant flux, itching to fly free. “Präzisionsarbeit“, featuring STAHLSCHLAG, the maker of the rhythmic crunchy noises, just leaps out at you. Those static oscillations, tweaks and synths are great but the banging beats get the heart working.
“Ocelotte” is mentioned as a part of a video game sample and the track itself is dark and sharp. The GRENDEL remix “Herbivor” is most definitely geared towards the dance floor, with JD Tucker, tightening the synths and condensing to an almost science fiction flavour of sound. Sebastian Lohse (ex- Letzte Instanz, Die Feine Gesellschaft) does guest vocals on “De Profundis” which has been given the STAHLSCHLAG treatment. The remix has those tell tale sounds of Sünkler tweaking the track with his crunchy static, while Lohse’s singing is just the icing on the cake.
There are tracks on here that are going to to be club floor fillers but also, others that will truly tickle the taste buds of industrial connoisseurs. The mixture of styles between Demian and Sünkler, as well as Tucker, makes for very enjoyable listening. Be the Herbivor in the MissSuicide buffet.
You would have to say that those individuals that create harsh industrial power and rhythmic noise, are a pretty unique bunch, as they form strong and danceable music tracks. STAHLSHLAG is Sebastian Sünkler and he is also one of these amazingly talented humans. With the release of his latest album, A Zone Of Silence, we thought ‘hey, we have a few questions’ and we know the super lovely Sebastian was up for the challenge of answering those very questions. I have to say that Sebastian might have the coolest wife on the planet…..and if you want to find out why, then you better get reading!
Welcome dear Sebastian, to Onyx where all hopes and dreams can be built and perish.
STAHLSCHLAG has been around since the mid 2000s. What was Sebastian up to musically before your current project?
I started to produce music some years before STAHLSCHLAG. My first steps were kind of dark electro tunes in a project called Vicious Circle with German vocals. It was the time when I discovered so called trackers as software to make sample based music. A friend of my older brother showed Fast Tracker 2 for MS DOS to us and I was totally hooked and fascinated since using trackers is kind of nerdy programming music rather than produce in a more conventional way. I wrote two albums and also released them by myself but well it was more something I shared with friends. It was also a little different then because it wasn’t so easy to do self promotion on the web like we can do now. Also producing was more complicated in a way. I didn’t have money for good gear so I relied mostly on samples I ripped from tunes in tracker file format I downloaded on modarchive.org or I used free samples from download sites. Anyways this is how I started 22 years ago. I still work with trackers but they are modern now supporting everything I need. I just love the workflow to produce from top down in patterns putting the notes step by step and manipulate samples.
I always am curious about the scene in different countries. Where you are in Germany, what was the dark/industrial scene like when you first started out and what is it like now?
I loved my first years in the scene. I have been into it since I was 18. We had great Gothic and Industrial parties in Hamburg and awesome concerts and festivals, more than we have now. It was totally exciting. I also loved that we had many printed magazines to inform us about new music and I really loved to discover new stuff just by checking out CDs in a store. To me it was always mostly about the music and it is still like that. I think the scene here is still great. Many efforts to keep it alive even if it gets harder. COVID had a big influence on it. Small places and events closed their doors. But I believe the scene will always survive. We still have parties everywhere and the biggest European dark festivals in Germany. What I also love is the diversity in the scene in the past and now. Sure also the dark scene has its problems with weird people and idiots (like everywhere when people are involved), I still think in the end it is an open and peaceful group of people and we can be happy in Germany to have many ways to live it out.
What prompted you to start STAHLSCHLAG?
Well, the short answer is, my wife did. She asked me in 2006 to try producing music like Xotox or KiEw because she was totally into rhythmic noise and industrial. I can just say I wasn’t so much. I was more into dark electro and future pop. But well I gave it a try and STAHLSCHLAG was born. She also had the idea for the name. We produced an EP and two albums together. Fortunately Jay from the band reADJUST found our music on MySpace and recommend to a small label in Florida. It was the first home for our music and even if it didn’t work out well, the record label helped us to get noticed. I can also say that MySpace was the best platform to promote our music. I miss it. 😉
What is it about harsh power/rhythmic noise that you love and drew you into creating it?
I think noise is such a great creative tool. You can do so much with it and to me personally it has something very meditative. I can relax so well listening to harsh noise. For the rhythmic noise, I think it is just so powerful and is the perfect companion to any beat. I love how it just flows and even in my calmer tracks, I always need noise at least as textures. Noise is just wonderful.
This year has seen you release your latest album, “A Zone Of Silence”, 2 years after the release of “ALIVE!”. So we are just wondering….why do all the albums start with A?
The first albums I produced with my wife started with A. I found it interesting just to continue like that, always looking for the right word with A to describe the feeling and topic of an album. It is a nice little challenge.
“ALIVE!” was a stunning example of rhythmic noise. How hard or easy was it to write “A Zone Of Silence”?
It is actually always the same. I never have a real idea or plan when I start to work on new music. Everything can inspire me. Something I read, watched or listened to. Sometimes I just play around with sounds or produce something as a meditation. Making music is my escape from the world. It helps me a lot, kind of like therapy too. What really helps me too is that I never think about what’s trendy or what I should do next as a release. Of course I think you can always notice my sound but I don’t work by rules or genres. I do what I feel like and what I love. It was actually easy to write A Zone Of Silence because first I just planned it as EP with less tunes, all slower and darker but then I thought fuck it, I will mix styles on a new album as usual. I know that I tend to be diverse on every album but this is what I love. No rules, just doing what I am in the mood for.
There were hints in “ALIVE!” that your style was slowly changing to incorporate other sounds. Can you tell about these changes and how it affected the newest album?
One important thing to me is trying something new all the time. I love to challenge myself and since it feels like everything is possible now also in a technical view (so many tools, so many instruments, so much computer power), I don’t limit myself. In ALIVE! I wanted to combine cheesy synth melodies with noise just because I thought why not. I had the idea it would work well together. I did it already in the past but focused more on it on the album. A Zone Of Silence was a new challenge. I noticed that I love cinematic and tribal sounds more and more, so I decided to try to mix some of it to my typical STAHLSCHLAG sounds. In the end I will always do something like that because I never want to sound the same. It would just bore me.
This album sees guest vocalists, combining their vocal talents and lyrical skill with your music. Can you tell us about each of these artists and how they came to be on the album?
One of my other ideas to challenge myself was to work with vocals in my music and because I suck at writing lyrics I was looking for guest vocalists. I got such a big feedback on a post on Facebook and I really would love to work with all people who want to collaborate but well I would have to write many more tunes then.
The artists on the album are all amazing people, I knew before already. I met them all on social media and we worked together with remixes. I sent all demos for the album to them and they could pick a track.
Aly-x from Sublimenal Stimuli is such a great vocalist and she writes such great lyrics. She actually did two vocal collaborations for the album and I will release the second one on the remix release later this year. On this album you can hear her in Lost Dreams. She also did vocals for another unreleased song. So you will hear more of her in STAHLSCHLAG tracks in the future. Working with her is a dream. I just send her instrumental tracks and she gets inspired, writing lyrics and sending vocals back in a few days.
Chris from Morbid Echo did the lyrics and vocals for Crushed March. Morbid Echo is a great dark electro project from Hamburg, so he is kind of my neighbor. Working with him was so great too. He got the emotions and my idea from Crushed March immediately. He wrote the lyrics and sent me the recorded vocals in 2 days. Really so amazing and I am sure to work more with him in the future too.
Rick from Mikrometrik wrote the lyrics and did the vocals for Dawn of Man. Mikrometrik is a great dutch dark electro project. I have been a fan of it from the beginning. It was the same experience with Rick like I had with the other guest vocalists. Rick totally got the idea and mood of the track which I wanted to use as an opener anyways. I changed the track a little after Rick sent me the first version of his vocals. In the end we both made it just better. I think it is really the best tune I could imagine for the album.
The fourth collaboration is with Lena from Ultra. This collaboration is even more special. It is not just her perfect German vocals but also the music video which wouldn’t exist without her. Working with her was just awesome. Without her Doomed wouldn’t have this deepness. And I am very grateful for the video. She shot it and produced it. I was just there for three hours, doing what she told me. I am so proud and it was the right choice to release it as a single for the album.
What have these collaborations meant for you as far as your growth as a musician?
They mean a lot to me because they can give my music a final touch I couldn’t imagine before. Also the experience to work with other artists is always fruitful and some of the most important aspects to me in my life as an artist. I look forward to doing more of them. It also means that I have to think different about arranging my music which I already did on A Zone Of Silence. I wrote some of the tracks in a way to leave space for possible vocals.
There are themes throughout the album, Sebastian, which seem to be related to makind and their seemingly headlong plummet into trying to destroy themselves and everything around them, either through environmental destruction or war. What does it mean for you?
I am a pessimist or maybe a realist. We all know that our planet is in danger but we don’t care. We know that war is going on all the time but we don’t care. I can understand why it is like that. Not because we are all just evil or stupid but I still admit that it is frustrating to me. I think a lot about it, read a lot of philosophy to understand the world and people better but it is just surreal. What I believe is that we all could be more open and kind to each other to make the dawn of man a little better. I don’t believe it will get better in the future but maybe we can at least try not to be too selfish and destructive. The current situation is also one of the main reasons why I don’t have children.
Even with the industrial power noise, “A Zone Of Silence” holds elements that are ancient feeling, voices, chants and dark magical places of our ancestors. Am I correct in this theory and if so, why did you incorporate this into the music?
Yes, you’re right about that. I was always into mysticism and shamanism. I discovered it while I read a lot of philosophy books. I am agnostic and believe there is more out there. For the album I was discovering great instruments while looking for cinematic sounds. I found these ancestor sounds in some instruments and felt they would be the perfect addition to the sound I was looking for. To me they match great with the whole mood of the album. They give it some more darkness.
I love the vocal tracks but admit there are many of the instrumental ones that I am extremely fond of as well. I found “Signs” and “Spem liberationis” really sparked my interested. Do you have any favourite tracks off the album?
It is always not easy to answer this question. I can’t say I have favorites but Signs was actually the first track I wrote which had some of the mystical and tribal sounds. It was more of an experiment. So I think without it, the album wouldn’t be like it is. I really like all the tracks, I never put tracks on an album when I don’t enjoy them so much. I always have to feel them or I wouldn’t release them. I have over 300 unfinished tracks which I could finish and release but won’t feel.
You did a Twitch session for the release of the album. How much fun was this?
It was so much fun also because there were such great people there, celebrating with me. I am always so grateful, if other people enjoy my music too. I also had technical issues and maybe talked too much but I still got great feedback. It felt so good to do it.
What pieces of equipment do you rely on the most when recording?
I actually don’t record much, just notes from a midi keyboard for melodies. Most of my work is inside the box which means I do it all in my digital audio workstation (DAW), the tracker Renoise. I load samples into it like drum sounds or load virtual synthesizers and instruments and then do a lot of sound design like my distortions.
You put the album on Bandcamp for name your price and all money made from sales is going to the charity, Equiwent. Please tell us about Equiwent and why you chose them?
Equiwent is a small international aid organization for animals and humans. They work primarily in Eastern Europe to care about working horses and emergency care for all horses. They also care about the street dogs in Romania and run a free veterinary clinic there. Their project Equiwent helps people is a program to support children, poor people and people with disabilities in Romania. Romania is a very poor country in Europe. They also care about refugees from the Ukraine.
I support them because it is a small transparent organization. I believe in what they do and can follow their hard work on social media.
You do a lot of remixes for other acts. This must be something you enjoy doing and is it a great way to network with other musicians?
I always love doing that. Destroying the great music by others is so much fun. Seriously, it is really always a great experience. I enjoy most remixing tracks of other genres. It is always a challenge. And yes, it is an awesome way to network. I found great people just because of it.
I have to ask about your other project, In Tenebris. Although electronic, this is so different to STAHLSCLAG, far more ambient. Can you tell us why you felt the need to create In Tenebris, will there be another album and if so, because “Abyss” was the debut, will the next album also start with A?
In Tenebris was born because someone asked me to do a soundtrack for a lost places video. Well, he didn’t enjoy what I did for the video but I loved what I created. Slow dark atmospheric music, so I decided to write more of it. The track Thanatophobia on the new STAHLSCHLAG album is actually a track I wrote for In Tenebris but I thought it fits great there too. Producing such music is even more meditative to me so yes I will produce more and for sure release a new album too. I am also sure I can’t resist looking for a way to start the album name with A.
Sebastian, you are now an independent artist without a label. Does this make things easier or harder for you?
It is totally fine to me to be an independent artist right now. I want to stay like that for a while but you never know. It doesn’t change so much since Crunch Pod gave me all artistic freedom too. I always did a lot of the promotion by myself and in terms of success. I can already say that A Zone Of Silence is my most successful album so far. I got great reviews, videos for it and also sold it at most. I am so grateful and happy that I can reach other people with my music and that I have fans for many years already.
I believe XoToX are a big influence musically and you can hear that in your music, so what bands and musicians got you into the electronic scene?
My first experiences with electronic music are great artists from the 80s. I always loved synth pop but my first experiences with darker electronic music were bands like Funker Vogt, Suicide Commando, Apoptygma Berzerk at the end of the 90s. I felt totally in love with that kind of music and it didn’t change.
Who influences you now?
I think now I get influenced by every artist I work with. I am lucky because I get to know so much music which isn’t so well known just because I collaborate and remix. This is my biggest influence now because I have to deal with the music in a different way when I have to remix it. So it is a long list because I have done at least 60 remixes so far.
If you could choose a favourite band or song to remix, who or what would it be?
I remixed Xotox which is so amazing already. I think if I could choose I would enjoy to remix something more calm and destroying it. Something by VNV Nation or Solar Fake would be nice. Or maybe something from a total different genre. Doing a STAHLSCHLAG remix of a black metal song could be awesome.
What is next for STAHLSCHLAG and Sebastian?
I have several plans for STAHLSCHLAG. First of all one or maybe more remix releases with remixes of tracks from A Zone Of Silence. I asked for remixers on Instagram and Facebook and got a lot of feedback. If all artists really do it, I will get over 30 remixes. I also plan to release a new EP or album on my birthday on January 31 next year. I know it is pretty early but I have some more tracks ready and vocal collaborations too.
Plans for Sebastian are more about his PhD work. I really need to do less for STAHLSCHLAG to get more time. So I plan to do a break of new releases and remixes after my birthday. But I will still perform at online events and on stage and new music by STAHLSCHLAG will always come.
Thank you for being one of the super wonderful people in the industrial scene and doing this interview!
If not familiar with the industrial project 40 Octaves Below, then let me introduce you a resident of Vancouver, Drake Moore. The single “Splintered” came out on August 19th, with an epic four remixes by some fairly hard hitters in the scene today, before the soon to be released album, MetaVerUs.
“The song itself is a casting that calls for the guilty to come to Justice.” – Drake Moore
“Splintered” lumbers into being like a monster with frizzing electronics and Moore’s angry and distorted vocals railing against the general movement of popularising lies and untruths, seeking retribution. MATT HART is the first remixer and his version is cold cyber steel with casual disdain, while the Anthony (H) mix is pared-down, slinky and dirty sexy. The mix by Live Evil Productions is going into rhythmic noise territory, a ride that feels a little out of control and intense, leaving the last remix to Silence In The Machine which cleverly incorporates a far more synthpop edge to the track that spins and spins until you might become dizzy.
You feel the contempt in “Splintered” no matter the mix. Unbridled rage is palpable and the guest mixers have interpreted that in their own styles, which is always interesting to hear. The music video definitely conveys the horror theme to go along with the track… Halloween is just around the corner and remember that at 40 Octaves Below, no-one will hear you rumble.
It amazes me when I hear artists who can take fuzz and distortion, crafting it into something musical and even dancefloor ripping. Hamburg is home to Sebastian Sünkler and he is STAHLSCHLAG, a mind blowing project that creates electronic/industrial power and rhythmic noise. Literally music that slams into your cranium at full tilt, boring into your skull but in a fun way. August saw the release of STAHLSCHLAG’s newest album, A ZoneOf Silence.
“Dawn Of Man” is the starting point with Mikrometrik, as it lurches into being, crawling out of the primordial swamp, for what comes into being, mankind, will eventually destroy themselves, after reeking destruction on their environment. Rick Keiyer is Mikrometrik, whom counts down the end of days and man’s crimes, nicely nestled within the drone. The pace is stepped up, with Sünkler diving into the thundering power noise with “Profusion“, that rumbles along spewing forth an antediluvian sludge of sound, touched by mercurial synths of a god like being.
Lena Heiler of Ultra, graces her vocals on the single, “Doomed“, a track filled with oppressive atmosphere, a portent of catastrophe in the ever pushing rhythm and Heiler’s direct tone. The circular hammering of “Crushed March” draws you into the smashing electronics, while Christian Sander of Morbid Echo, sings you a savage ballad of onward movement, until you no longer can….broken bodies, broken souls. A march towards oblivion.
A change with “Signs” as we are granted cleaner synths with abrasive beats, “Deliverance” is so good with its dance beat maelstrom and what sounds like tribal chants within, like beams of light to give one hope in the dark. There is something about “Static Souls” that fair sends a shiver down my spine. It could be the mix of sweet synths over the heavier fuzzed out electronics but it feels intense.
Hunkering down is something ancient and forgotten in time about “Lost Dream“. Alyx Weaver of Sublimenal Stimuli, creates a whirlpool doubt and fractured conscious stream. You will move with “Stunde Null” with those static filled rhythms and electronics full of stardust. Behold the drums of battle that herald in “Always War 2022” slamming against the abrasive wall, and yet the battles continues with men’s thirst for conflict.
“Spem liberationus” has an incredible beginning and continues from there. Tribal and fierce, it reaches into the primitive parts of your psyche, bringing to the fore, the fight or flight anticipation of Germanic ancestors watching the Roman Empire invading. Eerily creeping through the cracks in the fabric of time is “Thanatophobia“. Shuddering and pointedly sharp with the possibility of archaic wisdom carried on the winds.
It is a near visceral response to this particular album. Sünkler really has reached a point that he can use electronics and programming to elicit an emotional reaction from the listener whilst painting pictures for your imagination. The last album, ALIVE, indicated that Sebastian was growing and changing his style, so the inclusion of vocalists have brought a new facet to STAHLSCHLAG’s sound and while there is still the rhythmic/power noise, a thoughtfulness of using less to state more. It is a beautifully crafted album which is name your price on Bandcamp and all monies are being donated to a charity. Get yourself A Zone Of Silence.
When you are a weirdo, you build community with other weirdos. So we are putting out the word that online monster munch, electro/industrial magazine, Brutal Resonance have launched their maiden ship of a podcast, streaming into the void of cyberspace, where someone can hear you scream and probably turn it into an epic industrial track.
That long haired hooligan, Steven Gullotta, captain of the good ship BrutalResonance, is looking to bring you commentary, new music, interviews and formatted shows to both inform and thrill the audience… but then, quite frankly, like it or not, this red headed renegade takes no prisoners and you will listen to the ‘good shit’.
Resonance has gone from strength to strength and in the last few years, become a record label as well, signing some very radical acts such as Her Noise Is Violence and HOSTILE ARCHITECT.
Has this peaked your interest because it should have. Knowing Gullotta, there will be screaming, f-bombs and a lot of laughing, along with a tonne of interesting music for you to ingest. So, support the scene and my only piece of advice is, don’t let this man near a didgeridoo…. it’s really obscene………
Jamie Blacker is ESA, also known as Electronic Substance Abuse, and we are going to talk about the album, Designer Carnage that came out on February 14th of 2022, on Negative Gain Records. But I will digress with a little background information first. ESA is a UK project that was formed in 2002 after Blacker, who had been involved in the black/death metal scene, started to experiment in and became drawn to the sound of harsh, rhythmic industrial noise, which he has in all essence become a relative master of. The first album was released in 2006, Devotion, Discipline and Denial, then releasing albums very regularly ever since.
Straight off the bat, “LaudanumDance” is like electrodes connected straight into the brain, sparking with glorious fuzz and beats. Like a fever dream, Blacker yells his discontent. Yet, hark it that a harpsichord? Classical piano which is a gorgeous oddity, played at a decent pace to be suddenly broken by the female vocal sample of Konstantina Buhalis and break beats, that descend into the stomach wrenching, bellowing tones. Those beautiful harpsichord keys again trill away, as they and the piano are played by Frederic Scarfone. Frustration and anger are swirling in the charged track “One Missed Called” which is about repression and fear stopping one from getting further in life. It is powerful with the female sample, of again, Konstantina Buhalis, screaming how much she fucking hates the person who puts her down. The rhythms circle and pounds down, enforcing the angst.
The use of noise and techno is near perfect in “I Detach“, when out of nowhere…ragtime music. Yes, weird and yes unexpected, but it works. The ticking of a clock, alien like electronic warbles, the ragtime and Blacker’s voice just culminate into this bizarre, dreamlike world of movement. The title track, “Designer Carnage” exudes electronic smut and grime. Fantastic! The music grinds while samples repeat the title. It speeds up towards the climax like there is no getting off this ride, only to drop you and drag you along again. Bara Hari is the guest vocalist for “Disruption Only” and it just pounds away. as a good, well lubricated industrial machine should. The rhythm is a drug that you can’t get enough of while in the static, you can hear angry voices. BaraHari joins in and it becomes something otherworldly while those hammered beats carry on regardless, stuck in a groove.
“Come And Find Me” again utilises that ragtime sound throughout in a myriad of stomping beats and electronics. A hallucination induced nightmare which translates to smashing yourself on a dancefloor. Curiously addictive and no we cannot get enough as it builds apon itself in a downward spiral. Saxaphone is by Matt ‘Chops’ Thompson and female vocals by Hellsea. For the track “Hyena“, all the vocals are credited to Pee Wee Pimpin, as he goes from cajoling to viciously snarling, the synths cackling as they track you down in your last moments, but what a way to go/ “Whom Then Shall I Fear?” features Pee Wee Pimpin, as he raps which works ever so well with the heavy electronics in the background. In fact, it is almost like listening to Public Enemy’s, “Bring On The Noise” but they were all industrialised and updated. It is an amazingly strong track.
There is something wicked and it comes this way in the track, “Vast Accept“. Off kilter and deranged, on a psychopathic mission only it knows. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security as it awaits to pounce while you are off guard with those techno beats. The final track is “Saturnalia“, which is full of blast beats, raging guitar and the deep, growling Blacker vocals, that start to fritz in and out. There are also these wonderful science fiction sounding synths and classic flamenco guitar by Frederic Scarfone, that lend themselves to a western touch, while Matt ‘Chops’ Thompson gives us that sleazy saxaphone. With wailing female vocals, it all crescendos, only to die away.
I knew this new album had come out but a friend, whom is also an industrial DJ, thrust it under my nose and declared that if I was to review anything this year, it has to be this album, Designer Carnage. In all honesty, he was completely correct. If this is not in people’s top 10 industrial releases for the end of the year, then I am going have to say that your taste might be in your arse. Jamie Blacker is able to experiment with so many different styles and mould them into something cohesive, with lashings of wicked heavy rhythms, filthy grinding electronics, inject music of past eras, whilst screaming near bloody murder at you. Really can’t much better than that other than you can dance to all of it. I dare you not to find yourself bouncing to the beats. You definitely need some Designer Carnage in your life, so let ESA be your dealer.
нашим друзям (For Our Friends) based in Hamburg, Germany, have putting together compilations to raise awareness and funds for the people of Ukraine. So far three compilations have been put together by them and we would like to draw your attention to the latest which is For OurFriends Vol III, There are 42 artists in this edition who all fall under the electro/industrial theme.
Of course with 42 acts on one compilation, so I am not going to review every song but I am proud to say I know some of the people that have donated tracks. From my hometown of Brisbane, the wonderful DirtFactory with their nihilistic cyber industrial track, “Violence” and RogerMenso’s Nyteshayde, whom I have known since I was about 19 with his slow burn, borne of war trauma number, “WhispersAndShouting“.
There is also Dogmachine, who I knew in the 90s, with their fantastic, angst ridden “Headwound” which was often heard at nightclubs, with KraigDurden as the lead singer, who went onto create Replikant and his track “Anaesthetic” appears, full of wandering synths as if in an induced dream.
But there are bands from all over the world such as the German maestro of crunchy rhythmic power noise, SebastianSünkler’sSTAHLSCHLAG, with “ShundeNull” along with another big, rhythmic noise act KiEw with “Mariupol, Ukraine“. In other words there are all sorts of goodies here. Transponder featuring LeætherStrip, Sven Phalanx with MissKitty and I could go on.
If this was put together as a regular compilation, it would be well worth buying, however what it stands for makes it much more valuable. Not only are you getting music you are going to enjoy and find new artists you never knew about but you are supporting a cause, helping those who, currently, are in dire straits, in the middle of a illogical and terrible war. Remember this is For Our Friends.
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!
Danish musician, composer and producer, John Mirland has released in December of 2021, his newest album Compromise Is Defeat after a hiatus from his solo project of nearly four years, his last album being Mechanic from 2017. That’s not to say that Mirland has been cooling his heels the last few years, finding himself releasing with his bands Negant and Eisenwolf plus collaborating with Claus Larsen of LeætherStrip as Mirland/Larsen. If that wasn’t enough producing and mixing music for a myriad of acts but he was still writing tracks for this album between 2018 and 2021.
The slow immersion of static and beats lure you in, then “Another Form” begins to speed up and enveloping you. Before you know it, the fabulous pounding techno rhythm and synths, mixed with power noise, invade your senses. So far, this is boding to be in the realms of other worldly. “Beg For It” is just mega crunchy, ear grating goodness and has a beat like a heart on adrenaline, until the angelic heavens open over a synth-scape dream. It ripples with light, while the static growls below. Electronic bees is the best way to describe the beginning of “Fuel” before the cracking beat. The sublime synths glide effortlessly across the jarring sea of sharp tempo. The wub wub is intense from the single “Defiant“, like a rubber ball bouncing incessantly in your head, compelling you to move and dance. There might be a slight reprieve before giving you a serving of techno goodness.
“Rust” is abrasive rhythmic noise that wants to take your breath away with it’s relentlessness. The oscillations push you on… towards what? The oblivion that comes with time maybe as time is forever pushing forward. With it’s raft of a-rhythmic beat signature, this is “Headless” that goes in and out of syncopation, backed up by the less crazed, “Generator“. For a more sedate paced piece, it is brooding and insidious. The electronic vocals are the heralds for an oncoming doom of ancient wrathful gods that then descends into minimal techno torment.The glass like smoothness of “So Cold” is just magic, both ephemeral and distant. The track “Torn” is a perfect example of that techno/industrial mix that I find the Europeans do well. The last track is “Wolf Among Sheep” and it is oppressive and dark as it, trance like, invades your very being.
Wonderfully mastered by Claus Larsen and released on the label, Læbel, this is really an album that should appeal to true connoisseurs of techno, power and rhythmic noise, especially those who adore Xotox. For me, you feel those rhythms deep within you, anchoring your feet to the earth but your soul wants to fly with the synth lines. It really is a remarkable talent. Those that know Mirland are already the converted,,,so get thy self some Compromise Is Defeat.