Jonathan Sharp is a ridiculously prolific artist in the industrial scene, being the taskmaster behind one of my favourite CDs *EVER*, Hyperdex-1-Sect, with Sevren Ni-Arb and Estefania from X Marks The Pedwalk, as well as Hexedene, which I had loved before I even knew it was remotely connected to Jonathan, New Mind, Bio-Tek, Gunhed, Tyrophex 14, Psionic and even used to be a part of Cyber-Tec, as well as others yet. He's easily one of the most talented and diverse people in the genre. Hyperdex-1-Sect "Metachrome", a smoother than smooth, techno-laden CD, was recently licensed for release in North America, by 21st Circuitry Records, as was New Mind's "Forge", giving the US and Canada a repeated barrage of Sharp's music. Hexedene, a crossing of gritty techno and industrial with leading female vocals, was released through Re-Constriction Records, cementing his place in the North American industrial arena. Bio-Tek was a bit of a harsher sound, without the techno influences, and his own distorted vocals being thrown about, and a new Bio-Tek album was just released called "Darkness My Name Is."
JP: With all of your different projects, I would think that the most obvious, and probably overasked question, is.. do you really think it's necessary? I suppose it's mostly for legal reasons and such, but Tyrophex 14 could have been a Bio-Tek song without changing a sound, for example. When collaborating, I can see the necessity for a new project. Hyperdex-1-Sect and Hexedene are probably your biggest side projects - or are they, by now, your biggest projects period?
Sharp: Necessary? Totally! They stop me getting bored and, yes, as you deduced, they let me circumvent recording resrictions. HYPERDEX and HEXEDENE - yeah they probably are bigger than NEW MIND right now, which to be honest is a bit grating...I spend vast volumes of time on NEW MIND, trying to do something creative and different - something thats basically cool to me. And these other two projects get a fraction of the time and run away totally sales wise. Hmmm.
JP: Even some of Hexedene reminded me of the harder techno-guitar tracks from New Mind, but with amazing female vocals put over top, and the guitar turned down a bit.
Sharp: Yeah there might be some similarity between HEXEDENE and some of the last NEW MIND CD as basically they were written and recorded at the same time and with the same people. It's the same guitar player on both albums.
JP: With this many projects on various different labels all over the place, are you able to live off your music?
Sharp: Can I live off music? No I can't. there have been times over the last few years when it's been possible, But right now, no. I have to have a regular job. What I make from music is going into new equipment at the moment so I need to work. It's a simple equation : work and buy new equipment or use the money I make to live on and not buy any equipment. So I'm afraid I have to work as I need new toys.
Dulling: Do you find it difficult to juggle a progressive social life with your musical professional life? Even I'm finding it really hard to do that, and I'm not nearly as busy, I'm sure.
Sharp: No it's not like I'm locked in this studio 24 hours a day. My "real" work, is pretty flexible and leaves me enough time to work on music and do other stuff. Yes I hang out with friends, go to movies, play Resident Evil 2 and so on.
J:Do you find that you've suffered in other ways by devoting so much of your life to music?
Sharp: No, I don't feel like my life has suffered because of the music.. totally the opposite.. I feel like it's opened so many doors and let me meet so many really cool people all over the world. But you also have to think of it as a discipline, maybe like writing : you know they say everyone has at least one book in them but it's the second one thats the real test. I remember seeing an interview with Bill Leeb and someone asking him the same thing - and what he said is very true :you treat writing and recording like a job, you go in and do it every day and six months down the line, yeah, you have a lot of music to release. But for me, music is something I've done for virtually as long as I can remember. It's something I do first and foremost for myself - getting the stuff out onto CD's, thats just a bonus. I can't believe how long it takes some other people to write though - or maybe I just write very quickly... true :you treat writing and recording like a job, you go in and do it every day and six months down the line, yeah, you have a lot of music to release. But for me, music is something I've done for virtually as long as I can remember. It's something I do first and foremost for myself - getting the stuff out onto CD's, thats just a bonus. I can't believe how long it takes some other people to write though - or maybe I just write very quickly...
Dull: Within the first couple weeks of you having sent me the Hyperdex-1-Sect CD a long time ago, I took it to one of the dance clubs here for them to play the X Marks The Pedwalk remix of 'Death Is Not The End.' I always felt that it could SO EASILY break into the dance music scene and blow away everyone there. Smooth male vocals to please the girls, beautiful soaring female vocals to please the boys, lyrics that are still sort of about love, and bodies and whatever, without being retarded and inane.. the dance beat, the uplifting piano. It and the XMTP remix of Mind (and 'Les Amants' to a lesser degree), have ALL the elements of a perfect dance song, yet it's a bit edgier, cooler, and overall, just BETTER. There were some people who kept dancing and the DJ said he liked it, but I couldn't believe that EVERYONE didn't keep dancing. Point being, I think it's just as powerful a dance song as it is a techno-industrial song. It lies RIGHT in the middle - often a dangerous place, it seems, as hardcore industrial people don't like this dance sound. I guess the fact that it ISN'T retarded is why they don't like it.
What would you think if Hyperdex-1-Sect started to get played in techno dance clubs or on NRG-Top 40 Dance type stations? A bunch of mid-rift exposed gay guys shouting "Conga!" isn't necessarily what I'm looking for, but there IS an intelligent audience somewhere in there. Until I see evidence that it wouldn't work, I refuse to stop trying.
Sharp: Well maybe it's different where you are, but here in the UK there are like really clearly defined sub-genres within dance and it basically fits none of them : it's not house, garage, speed garage, big beat, ambient, trance, techstep, etc. It wouldn't make it as dance music over here. I don't think it's really fair to call dance music retarded either - writing it is a whole other discipline - it's not about engaging peoples minds, it's about making them move. Seems to me that "industrial" music has started to pick up a lot of the trappings of dance music to inject a bit of contemporary feel into the genre and thats lead a lot of the people who listen to it to say that what they're listening to is superior to dance music, but industrial with dance overtones isn't dance music. It wouldn't work in dance clubs. It's not better, it's just different. I don't personally care if HYPERDEX should cross over, but as you can see, i don't feel it will. Though I'd love to be proved wrong and end up miming on The Grind. MTV here I come.
JP: Your collaboration with Sevren Ni-Arb for Hyperdex-1-Sect was all long distance, though, right? It's just such an incredible result of the combination of sounds, that it's hard to believe it could work so well without ever working physically together on it.
Sharp: The collaboration was over the phone actually - we spoke quite a lot, sent faxes and yes played tracks over the phone. What happened was that I had original versions of all the tracks completed - they were written as my part in the C-Tec album. So I broke them all down onto DATs and floppies, explained loosely what the idea and feel was and sent them to Sevren. So he got these completed tracks to take apart and do with as he wished. I asked if Estefania would sing as well and he just totally went for it.
JP: Did it work similarly with Hexedene, in that you wrote all the music, then he would put his own guitar over it, then she would do vocals, or did everyone have as much input into the music as yourself?
Sharp: No, that was different. I basically wrote completed songs minus vocals and guitars and sent them on tape to Katie and Ian, then we'd get together and record. If it was necessary to change anything, like extra choruses or whatever, we did. The guitars pretty much just follow the arrangements. I did the more thrashier guitar work and Ian did the more tasteful bits, but the songs were pretty much un-changed from the point I wrote them.
JP: Any new plans for Hexedene?
Sharp: Yeah, Katie and Ian were forced to bail from the project when they signed an exclusive deal for their own band. So, as I signed on for second albums, I'm casting around for suitable singers and Chase (Re-Constriction) and Seba (Side-Line) are helping me out here. I sent Maria (female vocalist for BATTERY) a couple tracks to work on. I've now also got Alexys from INERTIA / JONBENET looking at a couple of tracks as well. It could end up with maybe 3 or 4 different singers on the next album. We'll see.
JP: What's your next big work on? Next Hexedene? New Mind? With New Mind also being released here, I would think that it would be a good preparation for a new release, no?
Sharp: Next big work.. completing NEW MIND album 4. The "black Talon" EP just came out on O-Files 3 and thats pretty much a taster of what's to come. I'm also working on new HEXEDENE material, as well. In between that, though, I'm working on some other things.. I've been writing several new PSIONIC tracks for a possible EP and I'm developing some drum'n'bass / techstep tracks, some noise stuff...you know, I just never quit writing and recording. And right now I'm working on compiling a tribute CD to writer H.P. Lovecraft. I'm getting lots of people to submit material influenced by HPL... should be good.
Dim-Witted: Out of curiosity, do you think it's terrible of me to be so brutally honest sometimes in my reviews? I mean, I know I sometimes get a little sarcastic, which is just insulting, but I like to make reviews interesting to read even when you have NO clue who it is that you're reading about. I don't think I write good reviews, but I think my reviews are good. Heh. Even with your music.. I didn't find Bio-Tek to be an amazing album, but I thought there were amazing moments. Same as New Mind - though more amazing moments were on New Mind. But I was fairly jerkish when I trashed 'America KIA' (one of the songs from New Mind's "Forge"). But you know I mean no offense by it, because I've already expressed a greater respect in everything else you're doing. And my glowing reviews of Hyperdex-1-Sect probably makeup for anything bad I could have ever said about ANYONE'S music. Heh. But, do you think it's entirely counter-productive of me to say that I'm supporting all this music, and then in that same sentence trash a person's year of hard work within five minutes and only after a few listens ?
Sharp: Well, I do write sometimes for some e-zines and basically I feel really uncomfortable about giving bad reviews. I know how much time and energy people put into making music, how much shit you have to go through to get it released and then have somebody rubbish what you've done in two lines. That's pretty harsh. So on the occasions that I've disliked somethingI've tried to say what I though was wrong with it on a technical level and not just say, "It's crap." But, no, I thought your CUBANATE review hit the right note... hey - I like reading your reviews! At least if you dislike something you make the effort to say why. I don't agree with what you said about SUICIDE COMMANDO at all. I think there's considerably more in that CD than you gave Johan credit for. It's an album that continues to engage my interest several months down the line, which is more than can be said for a lot of the stuff coming out of germany right now. You trashed 'America K.I.A.' Damn. I must have blanked that from my mind...you bastard!!