Acumen Interview 10/28/94 Cabaret Metro, Chicago

Photos by AggroChik Copyright © 1996

As we walked our way into the Metro, I and the two unfortunate souls I had dragged along for company stopped at the ticket booth to get tickets. Just as I handed over the cash. Some guy asked if we wanted free tickets, and handed us three free tickets. Just my luck. We headed up stairs, suffered through some of a horribly atrocious band, and then found Jamie, one of the guitarists for Acumen. We chatted briefly, and he pointed out Jim Marcus of Die Warzau standing next to me (I'm such an idiot some times.) Jamie then headed downstairs to talk with the rest of the band, who were conducting an interview with Arc. About twenty minutes later, Jamie grabbed me from the crowd, and we made our way down into the bowels of the Metro dressing rooms. For the sake of simplicity, the interview was conducted with all four members of the band, whose comments I collectively put together under one section. So on occasion, you might here them referring to themselves, or the band as a whole, and you won't wonder if I was interviewing a bunch of raving multiple personalities. (I think the real reason I did this, was for the life of me, I can't remember the name of the lead singer. -00PS!)

Jester: I had heard a few rumors of you guys originating from Thud and people were arguing back and forth about whither or not you had been involved with Thud, or part of Acumen, being originally Thud.

Acumen: I've never head that before, we just hooked up with Fifth Column about six months ago when we were playing in this other band and we meet Jared, we did a show with Chemlab, a year ago, that's right it was a fucking year ago. Then we ended up signing with Fifth Column, but we've, I've never met the surviving members of Thud.

Jester: The funny thing is, I've heard both good and bad about Thud, from pick it up it's great, to don't even bother, it's the worse piece of trash you'll ever hear. So, I wasn't sure. I heard both sides, but people weren't of what it was.

Acumen: I didn't like it, it was pretty Ministry rip-off. It sounded exactly like Ministry. I heard the disc once, I didn't really like to much.

(at this point the drummer, and the rest of the band showed up and the interview really got rolling.)

Acumen: Have you ever listened to our stuff before.

Jester: Yeah, I heard you originally on the Thanatopsis compilation, with like 5-6 other bands.

Acumen: Did you know the people who put that together?

Jester: I know the guy from Manna-Machine originally sent me a copy of the CD, and then the guys from Culture War, prior to their break up sent me a copy. I also talked to Prime-Mover, and Burning Truck, both also on the disc. But that's where I first heard your music. But then friend of mine found "Transmissions from Eville" lying in the used bin at a local record store. The two tracks off the Thanatopsis CD were 'Cyberkinetic' and 'Gun-lover.'

Acumen: Wow!, that was a long time ago. Things are a lot different. That compilation came out a year after it was supposed too. If they had heard us now, they might not have wanted to put us on the compilation. We still use a lot of the same elements. We're pretty guitar heavy now, but not like Thud, it's not a Ministry rip-off.

Jester: How did you guys get involved with Fifth Column?

Acumen: Okay, it went like this. We used to play with this other band, and our first show was opening for Chemlab, so we talked to Jared. And liked the sound, and became interested. So they talked to us for a little while, then we didn't hear from them for months. Then they called back up a few months later, and asked for a demo song, and that they wanted to sigh us. Fifth Column had two or three other bands they wanted to sign at once, and we were among them. They signed all of us, and are releasing a bunch of stuff next week, POD, Haloblack, and the Chemlab remixes. And they said they would save us for after the new year. That never really got settled, until we opened up here for KMFDM at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago. The guys from the label came out and saw it and liked it. But I mean, we don't listen to much Chemlab around here. We, we listen to them because they come right after us on the compilation tape. (laughter) I wasn't even aware of them until Greg (drums) played with them, and then I met them. When we first heard of Chemlab, they were supposed to open for ClockDVA at the Metro about a year ago, and some rumor was started about them being from another country, and having VISA problems. (This ended up being true about Godflesh opening up for Skinny Puppy on the Last Rights tour, but I wasn't about to make them look stupid, yet) Before that we thought they were just weird, and had only heard of them via a compilation from Chase at Cargo. ( a bit of muttered conversation about the band's first encounter with Jared, which was asked to be removed from the interview). We just got Jamie (guitar) about three months ago, and had been playing together two years prior. We asked Jamie to join before we even knew he could play the guitar. At first he was just a techie, and then we asked him if he could play a guitar. He said, he could play a couple of licks, and he pulled out the acoustic, and learned most of the songs in like one day. We asked him to join the band, and he said sure. We suffered for three years playing bullshit gigs, little fucking dives, and Jaime comes along right as we get signed. The funny thing was when we started, we were always stuck back in the middle of a performance piece with gold, blood, and glitter. Back then we didn't have any idea what we were doing musically either. In fact we just sucked. The funny thing is, the level we used to play at is just like those two songs that were on the Thanatopsis disc. A bunch of machine stuff with singing over it. There are actual live drums, real guitars, and even slow parts.

Jester: On the new CD that is coming out in January, is it a re-release of "Transmissions from Eville", or is it totally new stuff?

Acumen: It's both. The majority of the songs are from the old record. They've all been re-recorded, with the exception of like two songs which we left off, and a few new ones. Everything has been totally redone, we kept seven songs, and added three more, so in a lot of ways its the same, and we just added a little extra. We wanted to keep a lot of the same songs, and we wanted to keep the name. Because if we would have changed the name, anyone who had the old album might see it as the same thing, because it had the same songs but it had a different title. So, we kept the same album title. It's a lot better. We did this in a weekend at home. I think they gave us like $50, 10 songs $5 a piece of something equally as stupid. So this time, we got everyone involved, and lock them in the studio for 2 days straight. It turned out well.

Jester: What is the deal with the second half of the last track on the old CD. It pauses for like twenty seconds after Gun-Lover 94, and turns into something totally different, and quite unlike anything else on the album.

Acumen: Okay, it was something we did, have you ever heard of H- Gun? When I used to work there, and they were putting out a compilation disc, we got a song on there, and then they got involved with all this legal shit, and it never appeared. So we kind of put it on the old album as sort of a hidden track and, way at the bottom of the CD liner, which unfortunately due to the printing, you can't read, it says "Track 9, ?, Ultraviolent" I thought it was going to come out. It's kind of like a bonus techno track, and you were supposed to be able to read that, but I guess no one ever did.

Jester: Where did you get the name, "Acumen"?

Acumen: From the thesaurus. I was seventeen, and I was looking up words, and Acumen came up. We used to make this awful electronic rave techno like stuff, because we just had a Casio keyboard. The voices we all like really high, and we used an English accent (laughter all around as the band compares themselves to Al. J. and the first Ministry album.) Any way's, it means, understanding. It's not like spiritual shit. Which was of course no way reflected of any of us, but the ideas that come across were that way. And no one had taken it yet. And it started with the letter A. Like AAA plumbers, AAAcumen. (laughter all around) Because all the names we were thinking of were taken or stupid, so we went with Acumen.

Jester: I noticed the title is "Transmissions from Eville", what exactly does Eville stand for? I'm sure it's not a town but is it?

Acumen: It was a town in the mind. It was two things, we were trying to make up slams on Exile in the Iville by Liz Phair. So we were trying to get the 'ville' at the end. We sat around for like two days going like ville this, and ville that. So, Liz Phair was cool, but there was so much buzz at the time about it. So that's where it came from, a sort of sick place in your mind which we consider to be a little town in the state of mind.

Jester: Suddenly you've become all deep.

Acumen: Suddenly? No, we've always been deep! (laughter)

Jester: What are you influences in both music and movies? For instance when you listen to the album, you here the most obvious samples from like "Prince of Darkness".

Acumen: Doesn't that suck? I think that sucks. On the new album there is a little box that thanks everyone from which we used a totally obvious sample. We wanted to tell people it was really obvious, and we were paying homage to it, so we gave credit to them. We're not trying to fool anybody, we just want to give credit. And I was thinking about this before, about what every song really meant, and a lot of it has to do with the movies that we've sampled. I think that a lyrics are based beliefs about what is going on in the world outside without trying to be obvious. Like, this song is about racism, this song is about sexism. Overall, I think everything we write is pretty much against the fucking system. So that's where a lot of it comes from, but there is a great deal of horror movie influence as well. You know, just because the fact that you said we got all deep, I never wanted people to think we were that were deep, but I wanted people to understand that we did think about our lyrics, and that it was important what we were saying. Then, on the flip side, there is all these cheesy horror stuff that has been done all before. We're not trying to copy all that stream on consciousness Skinny Puppy style, or a bunch of technology buzz words all thrown together. We're also trying to avoid the metal band approach of opening up a dictionary, and finding every word for blood, gore and torture as well. Their just talking about gore to talk about it, and we don't want to come across that way. I hope it comes across what were saying. Generally speaking you really can't hear the lyrics over the music, but on the new record.

Jester: Do you track the vocals before you track everything else, or vice- versa, or what do you do?

Acumen: A few years ago, at Wax Trax, they kept saying, bury the vocals, so we buried the vocals for the last two years, with the idea that your not supposed to understand what anyone is singing about. Then everyone started saying that they actually wanted to hear the vocals, so we brought them up. Now, I think they are way to far up. Gun-lover is probably the lowest.

(At this time Greg, the drummer showed up in the room, and introductions went all the way around again, as most of the rest of the band went upstairs to prepare for their set. Greg then took over the interview for me for the rest of the tape and garnered enough information about me to lock me up for cryptography violations.)

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