Jester: How much different, musically speaking is the new album from your older material?
Christian: I think it differs mainly in production value. Our first album had a really raw and dirty sound to it. Half of it was intentional and half of it was unintentional. This new record is not necessarily cleaner but there is more of a definition of the electronics. Most of the electronics were not readily apparent on our first album. They are more apparent now. As far as a style change, we didn't intentionally change anything. We just utilized a different mood.
James: I think a large part of it was the first album was mostly written prior to the forming of the full band.
Christian: In the past people came into to the studio to play parts that were already finished. Mark was the only person that helped write any of the songs besides myself. This record is more of a culmination of everyone in the band writing and jamming in the studio.
James: We all were coming up with songs and ideas this time around. It was more of a collaborative effort. We were not as rushed to finish the album this time around in as much as we actually wrote three songs in the studio.
Christian: Writing music in the studio is totally different then anything we have done in the past. A few of the tracks had electronics and vocals that were added while in the studio as well. It worked out for the better because I have a tendency to rewrite lyrics as we are tracking a song anyways. Unless it is a song that we have performed live a few times.
Jester: How many of the newer songs have you performed live?
Christian: We have played a majority of them live. "Tear It All Away", "About To Break" and "12-10-48" were all songs that were written a few months after the first album came out.
James: The rest of the tracks were written in part in the studio.
Jester: What about the really short track, "Twig" that you wrote totally in the studio that was done totally without electronics?
Christian: That is a fun track. I listened to a lot of punk when I was kid and "Twig" is a total west coast old school punk track. We came up with four different rhyming schemes and mixed it up with random lyrics. The lyrics were recorded in very spontaneous way. We all contributed to the lyrics and James added backing vocals to it. The lyrics were effected in such a way that at one listen you might think I am saying one thing and when you hear the track again later, you think I am saying something else. There is a lot of really random and strange sounding stuff in that track. I'm talking about Federal Express, Avis Rental Cars, Flea, Deion Sanders, the name of Mark's next kid, and the chorus is the acronym of the track, the way it goes. For me I don't try to take myself too seriously, but lyrically I believe in what I am saying. So it is really goo to break that kind of tension and write a track that is totally fun and will always bring back memories.
James: The whole track was done in a way you could never do with electronics. It always seems to take longer to write a track with electronics and we wanted to write a track as fast as we could without anything to hold us back. It is almost a break from writing the same type of track.
Christian: We ended up not being tied to a sequence like we usually are. It gave us a lot of room to play around and work with when we play this track lie in the future. When we play it live, we could play it half time for the verses, and double time during the chorus, simply because it doesn't have any sequences.
Jester: Are these types of tracks any indication that you might be moving away from the concise synthcore definition of your music?
Christian: We are not intentionally moving away from electronics at all. It is entirely for musical growth. Half of the band has been involved with other projects for years and we all want to explore with our music. I think that people might hear something that we have done, and make a comment about how few electronics there are, but until they strip away all the guitars and live drums, they don't realize how much there really is present in the mix.
James: I know that we are in an electronic genre, and the reason we are on Re-Constriction is because of the style of sound that we exhibit but I don't think we try and focus entirely on that single sound. We also want to do other things as well. Karl, Mark and myself came from totally different musical background than Christian and John did.
Christian: The band is essentially five different people from five different musical backgrounds working together for a common goal. Some of it works within the synthcore context and some of it doesn't. They really aren't as separate as you might think. One of the things that originally drew me towards the traditional definition of industrial music was the fact that you could get away with playing any type of music you wanted and still be true to the genre. Now the genre has become a little more closed, so that if we wrote a track with all acoustic guitar and harmonica it would probably not be considered within the scope of the genre. As far as I'm concerned we will write and play anything we like, regardless of whither or not it fits within the genre label placed upon us.
Jester: Basically you have refused to be constrained by the petty labels that others have placed you in you because they were never accurate to begin with.
Christian: Exactly. Granted there are certain things we are not going to do but it is not because it doesn't fit into a genre, but because it simply doesn't make sense for the band to do.
James: Chase might not be that crazy about some of our new songs, but he will go ahead and release it anyways. He knows that there is enough material on our album to make us marketable to his listeners and he will just put up with the rest of the tracks. I think he understands where we come from and won't give us a hard time about it.
Christian: We do not fit onto any of the other Cargo subsidiary labels anyways. If you listen to the new album you will definitely know it was us. We have just moved into another musical phase for us.
Jester: Lyrically speaking, your vocals are usually intensely political. What motivates you to use the band as a soapbox for your political viewpoints?
Christian: There are things that I believe are wrong that occur in the world and I don't want to tell people what to do, or how to think, or what to be, but I want people to be aware of different situations that occur. The song "Wood" is about when you see something happening and you turn the other cheek and do nothing about it. A prime example of this occurred just the other day when a guy bumped into this sick homeless man and knocked his cup of change all over the sidewalk. The guy didn't even stop to help him pick it up, and that change might be the homeless guys food money for a week and no one helped him. The last line of the song is 'What if it was you'? I really can't deal with that type of complacency. It really scares me.
James: It leads to other things as well, most notably the feeling of helplessness and the inability to enact change. Everyone ends up with a very self centered view of themselves.
Christian: Another example about a year ago was this kid with a marker on a bus who was writing graffiti. I took the marker away from him because there was no need to deface anything on the bus. The kid started to call me out and I simply had to read him the riot act about why he should not destroy the bus and about all the benefits that bus offered not only to him but to the entire general public. Before I took the marker away from the kid, people were just trying to ignore it. As soon as I took that marker away from him and started talking back to his threats, a lot of people stood up for what I was doing and saying. So I think that this complacency is something that can be changed and all it takes is one person to change it and everyone else will follow.
Jester: So you are trying to bring about an awareness of certain issues to perhaps wake people up to see the things they have been blind about for years? Christian. Exactly. Be aware of what goes on around you and be aware of your impact on certain situations are. Be aware of any type of subtlety in your actions that might be derogatory of degrading. I see people everyday that just don't give a shit about how they act and it is really sad. I pretty much use politics to encourage people to just look around, think and do something if they are able. I want to encourage people into action because talking doesn't solve problems, action does.
Jester: Have you ever received any comments from fans about your vocals?
Christian: I actually get a lot of positive comments about our lyrics. Occasionally people comment only on the music, but I really enjoy it when people pay attention to some of the things I am trying to say. I think a lot of vocalists really do have something to say, and perhaps more people ought to pay attention and end up getting something positive out of it. On the last record, the politics were rather apparent. On this record the politics are not as blatant, but they are present to a greater extent than on the last record. Given ten songs on the last record, six of them were political and four of them we personal expression. On this record it is almost 90% political, but only 10% of them are obvious. If you are not aware of the situation being discussed in some of the new songs, you simply will not be able to understand it completely. I am a little concerned about that but not too overly concerned.
Jester: However you are at least using some of the tongue and cheek geek jokes on the title as well, with the new album "Divided By Zero".
Christian: It is just a little fun and a little reference to what I do at work every day. There are a lot of bands who use lots of version numbers and computer terms in their song, but it seems kind of boring to me because I see that every day at work. It is our little fun way of playing on people who try to be 'cyber'. We can also equate those titles to politics as well. "/dev/null" equates to nothing which is the current state of US politics today. The person with the most money is the one who gets elected. However those applications are almost after the fact though.
Jester: Did you choose the track that you helped Tinfed cover on the Operation Beatbox compilation?
Christian: I think that I didn't actually choose that track. Originally we were busy at the time so we could not contribute a track. So Chase suggested that I do vocals with Ray of Tinfed on "Looking Down The Barrel of a Gun" by The Beastie Boys. Tinfed did the music, and Ray, myself, and my guitar player Mark did the vocals. It kind of worked out well because the track is meant for three part vocals.
Jester: What about the Vampire Rodents track, "Dowager's Egg"?
Christian: Chase sent me a few tracks to listen to and I could pick one of those. He sent me "Dowager's Egg" and "Mother Tongue" and I chose "Dowager's Egg". I did the lyrics to that song by listening to the music over and over again until I came up with a set up lyrics that were spurned from listening to the track so much. It is about people with disease like HIV and AIDS and how the public perceives them, and about things that happen to them because of their disease. They end up being treated almost as lepers and that is a horrible thing to happen to someone. The disease, by itself it not that horrible, what is horrible is what society does to the people who have that disease. It also has some personal connotations as well.
Jester: Is that why you wanted to remake the track and put it on the new album?
Christian: I really like that song and I feel that the issue which the song discusses is an extremely important issue.
Jester: What about "Valentine" off Thugs'N'Kisses?
Christian: That song is from 1992. It is just one of those songs that we didn't that really didn't mean anything. Chase really liked that song, that we didn't think turned out well. Stylistically and vocally it was interesting but content wise it was pretty boring. It had a few unique vocal techniques but it was a song that was previously recorded that Chase liked, so we let him have it sort of reluctantly.
Jester: Of the five members in the band has anyone ever had any type of formal musical training?
Christian: I played the trumpet in elementary school and junior high. That wasn't necessarily being trained in music but it was being trained in how to play an instrument which did contribute a little. John played drums and keyboards in a jazz band in high school. For us that is pretty much the extent.
James: I pretty much played with bands and by myself. I did take some private lessons when I got my first drum set back in fifth grade. I did take some music theory in school but I never put it to much use because I never played a melodic instrument in the manner they taught me. I learned most of what I know in a rote way by playing with other people.
Christian: I think Mark, our guitar player was pretty much self taught outside of a few lessons as a child.
James: He was really into off time rock bands like King Crimson and eventually into bands like Gang of Four & XTC and then playing with us live.
Christian: James, Mark and Karl have all been playing their instruments for as long as twenty years. They is a greater level of performance because of those three. There are a number of subtlities that they have already worked through before that they have imparted to the rest of us to make things both easier and faster for us.
Jester: What kind of things do you do when you play live?
Christian: When we first started, we had been talking to Mark about having him play live with us, but he had never played with us before. So we did the first show with John and I on guitar. Then we added Mark, with John doing percussion and keyboards, and I was performing vocals. We did a lot of stuff with film and video stuff running behind us. We then decided to add a live drummer after we came to the realization of how powerful having a full band on stage really was. This lead us to search for a bass player as well. Now, our live performance has no props and we have no specific agenda each time we play.
James: It is not that we are against props or video, but we simply haven't put the time or money to do something like that.
Christian: We want to find someone we could pay to build us some type of stage setup that we can haul around with us, yet doesn't inhibit us from performing. There are certain things we just won't do like wear costumes, because we feel that detracts from the show. First and foremost we are a band and we play music, everything else is just icing on the cake.
Jester: Will you be touring and playing more shows one the album is released?
Christian: Definitely. We get good reception wherever we go. The next step for us is to make more people aware of our material to see us live. We are looking for the right opportunity and are testing the waters to determine where we will go next. We are starting to look into venues, time frames, expenses, and other preliminary planning issues.
Jester: So the shows here locally and in Seattle have just been more of a one time thing with little to no planning?
Christian: We do a lot of one times shows. Seattle is just
about as far as we'll go to do a single show. The only reason why we did that
show was because we had a show a few days later in San Francisco and we wanted
to check out the Seattle club and warm up. It was good for us to get all our
gear together and travel and work out all the kinks. All of our gear now is
geared for a live performances. It was a good test to load all of our gear into
a van, drive 1000 miles, play, and drive back, just to see how well we are
organized for a future tour. We got an idea of all the little incidental
expenses that show up when you tour. We've also done a few shows right in a row
to test our stamina as a band.