Interview with John Elliot of Dessau with the help of Ethan Novak of Acumen at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago on 12/1/95.


Jester: Tell me a little about the new EP, "Details Sketchy".

John: It's got some new songs, it has some tracks we've done before. It's got a stupid song on the end that's terrible. Fifth Column was really rushing me to get stuff out again and I ended up with an EP that I wasn't 100% satisfied with. I'm just hoping that when I put out a new album that is more new material that people will not overlook it. It is selling reasonably well. Fifth Column is saying that it's their fastest seller so far.

Jester: It think it is perhaps the way they marketed it. I hesitate to say it, but they really went all out on the name rape.

John: I know. All of the people whose names are on there really have very little to do with the album. Paul Barker had a right to be on their because he and I wrote a lot of those song together. Richard Patrick plays guitar on only half a song. So they put the Nine Inch Nail name on the package. I don't know if Richard has seen it or if Trent has looked at it and thought negatively about it. I just don't want to be looking like I need to use other bands just to sell my own records. Fifth Column wouldn't have released the album if they didn't think that people would buy it. Hell, even the rerelease of the on Mausoleum Records has a sticker on it. Al J. and Paul B. of Ministry. I'll take that though because they are on the album and they did do a significant amount of work. Paul and I wrote over half of the songs, Al played guitar on a number of tracks.

Jester: Does it make you want to release a new full length album sooner so that you can sell yourself and not sell yourself with other peoples bands?

John: Fifth Column wants to release my new album in April or May. Their game plan at first was to let the EP ride through into 1996 and have the new record come out in the spring. I feel honored that they want to release another CD so soon, but I also want to make sure that the other bands on the label are getting their fair share as well. Fifth Column only has a limited advertising budget.

Jester: I think that they are also struggling with distribution problems as well.

John: Sometimes I call Fifth Column and I get Jared on the machine advertising Dessau, Chemlab, and a bunch of other stuff. If I was one of the other bands on Fifth Column I'd be concerned that I was getting equal press. At first Fifth Column was all freaked out about this release on Mausoleum. They thought that Mausoleum was going to be riding on their coat tails and the average Joe who looks at Alternative Press ads for all of his music would buy the Mausoleum release instead of the Fifth Column release because of the advertising. I've never even heard of Mausoleum until I went down to my local K-mart and asked a guy who stocks all the music. Even if they do sell well, they can only release that old album once because it's my back catalogue. Fifth Column will be releasing all my new material. How many guys from Indiana can get a new lease on a musical career because someone releases their old material? I've been around since 1981. My only other release was on a small local label in Nashville, TN. What do you do when someone asks you, "Why aren't you more popular?"

Jester: I think a lot of it is finding the right label, the right sound, the right distribution, that video buzz clip on MTV, and then suddenly you can carry yourself instead of riding on the coat tails of others.

John: I think your absolutely correct. At first the Fifth Column and Mausoleum were fighting back and forth. The Mausoleum said that they wanted to avoid any confrontation, and they wanted me to put my blessing on the release and be involved with it.

Jester: Did Mausoleum have your back catalog under license and contact you?

John: I was on a label out of Nashville called Carlyle Records. It was a very small independent label, smaller than Fifth Column. So these people somehow contacted Carlyle Records to release my back catalog so by the time they contacted me it was like they wanted me to give it my blessing, sequence all the tracks and write the liner notes. They said that I knew all the credits and specifics that even the label didn't remember. At first, I was upset about it since I was on Fifth Column and that's my label. Then I went down and asked about Mausoleum Records at a record shop, and the clerk showed me a handful of releases. I don't see their ads, so I didn't know who they were or their distribution, I think that they are kind of a speed metal kind of label to be honest. So, I decided to do it because I didn't want to wait two to three months down the road and get the CD in my hands and ask myself why I didn't take responsibility for my old material. Why didn't I get involved with this? I didn't want to look at th

Nick: I think a lot of people accuse Ministry of selling out. They don't like anything before Twitch or after Land of Rape and Honey.

John: People like me grew up on the With Sympathy record and still enjoy it. I know Al doesn't like it, but at the time it was a good album. Land of Rape and Honey just blew my mind when I first heard it. To me its all still samples and guitars, even on the new material.

[ At this point Ethan of Acumen arrived. Ethan was going to be playing bass guitar on the remainder of the Dessau tour starting the following show. Brief banter occurred and introductions all around and the interview settled back down again.]

John: We were just talking about everyone blasting Ministry and calling them has beens.

Jester: I think a lot of it has to do with the time it takes for them to release an album. Two to three years between releases is a bit much. Focusing more back on you, what happened to the original members of the band besides you?

John: They just kind of were not into the direction that I wanted the new album to be going. They were not getting into it anymore and they decided to go their separate ways.

Jester: How much response have you gotten from the net community and what is your opinion of the Internet in general?

John: I think its cool, what a concept. Your review on the net was fine. I bet you didn't think I saw your review.

Jester: Actually, I sent a copy to Jay in DC so I figured you had a good chance of seeing it.

Ethan: I've only seen two posts on rec.music.industrial about Dessau. One said they sucked and they other said they didn't, and that was it.

Jester: I think a lot of it is that people haven't seen or heard from Dessau in five years, many of them don't even know who Dessau is anymore.

John: And then all of a sudden I get two CD's out.

Jester: How did you get involved Pigface for this tour?

John: I've known Martin Atkins since like 1981, and he called me up and asked me if we wanted to tour after hearing about the new album. We were not originally that excited about doing the tour. I like Pigface and all but I didn't want people coming to the show expecting that Dessau was going to be the same type of band. I didn't want to draw the wrong crowd and have them get upset with us.

Jester: How has the crowd been reacting to the tour so far.

John: It's been pretty good, I talk to people every night who tell me that they can't find my record. I kind of wish I got a few boxes from the label to sell along with the T-shirts so that the album got out to the public after the show.

[ The rest of the interview degraded slowly into old war stories, complaints about record distribution and the usual pre-concert banter between band members and is better off not being released to the public.]


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Last Modified: Monday, 24-Sep-2012 16:43:31 MST