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Interview with Smith from Babyland - conducted by telephone for KPSU 1450 AM - 9/26/98

Jester: For the listeners who are not familiar with the band let us start with the origins of Babyland and a quick run down of it's membership?

Smith: Babyland is a performance based Electronic Junk Punk duo based in Los Angeles. We started in 1989. I beat on a bunch of metal percussion and Dan Gatto sings and writes all of the electronics. We are joined on tour with a third henchmen named Aardvark who aids with all the technical and business details.

We just finished out fourth record "Outlive Your Enemies" that is being released on our own label Mattress Records because no one can put up with our crap. We are really happy with this new album and are now touring in support of it around the West Coast.

Jester: I understand that you are very vehement about using older technology instead of more modern equipment on which to write your music. Why is that?

Smith: Tools are tools. We really don't have anything against modern tools or any particular preference to use old tools, but older musical tools are very good an aiding in writing very specific styles of music. The newer gear tends to have far too many features to be that useful. In some ways the most interesting sounds you can find are by going back and digging out an older keyboard, breaking it and tweaking the sounds to fit your needs.

Jester: Are you still using the old Macintosh SE as the core sequencing component for your music?

Smith: Yes. On stage we use an 1988 Macintosh SE. All the computer does is function as a brain to interface all of the MIDI signals between keyboards and drive the live sequences. For that it works great. It is also a very compact computer and can easily be replaced.

Jester: What can we expect from a live Babyland performance when you come to Portland?

Smith: We will be performing a 45 minute to an hour set. We expend an amazing amount of energy on stage. We try to have a good time and engage the crowd to do so as well. We do sequence everything live. There is tons of metal percussion. We are just going to a bang away on our gear. Each show is all about individual effort and we will try to give Portland our best. Having played at the Satyricon before in Portland, we know what to expect and should be able to pull off a good show.

Jester: Will you be utilizing any of the fire or sparks that were so predominant in previous Babyland performances?

Smith: We do like to use a little bit of fire and sparks. Last time we toured on the West Coast in 1996 we were using a great deal of fire onstage. Unfortunately we came down with a bad case of smoke inhalation every single night. It ended up becoming a drag because people came to the shows to see the pyrotechnics rather that our music. For a band putting out our fourth record, we want people to come to our show for the music rather than the bright lights. For that reason we will be shying away from these distractions in the future.

Jester: What were the circumstances that lead Babyland to leave Flipside Records?

Smith: In the case of Flipside Records, there were never any contracts. Yet, the label really helped us by releasing our first three albums. The label went through a great deal of changes in recent years including moving the focus away from the label and back into the magazine. They ended up being short on resources. So they were not in a position to help us out anymore, as a result it was time to move on.

We still have a good working relationship with the label and there is no bad blood between us. We decided to release our record on our own for the first time. That way we could be completely responsible for its success or failure and not have to depend on anyone else to help us promote our music.

Jester: What is the significance of the name of the new album?

Smith: I don't want people to read into the title too seriously, but in the last nine years of making music we have run into people with potent attitudes. After awhile, this controversial people seem to vanish from the scene and yet we remained. More important that surviving against these people is to survive against our own personal demons inside of us.

So it felt really good to survive all of the problems we experienced throughout the history of the band and to successfully release our fourth record. That is what it is all about. We want to access the positive future of bringing back the responsibility of our success back to ourselves.

Jester: Track 8 'Sophomore' on the new album seemed very out of place with an actual melody and singing instead of yelling. What motivated the structure and concept of this track?

Smith: The album conists of tracks that we wrote following the time period after leaving Flipside. Some of them are very melodic because they needed to be that way. Not everything on the album is something we perform live, but they are good songs to have on the record.

Jester: What is your favorite song on the new album?

Smith: 'Sophomore'. It is a song we are probably not going to perform live very much because it is so sad. It is different than the rest of the tracks on the album. It allows you to clear your palette halfway through the album. Ultimately, the song surprised us. That is why we like it.

Jester: Unlike a lot of bands, you choose to print all of your lyrics in the liner notes of your album. Why?

Smith: Yes. We do that because we felt that the lyrics are very important. Our chosen style of music often buries the lyrics in the mix of the music. So we print all of our lyrics so that people can understand them outside of the scope of the music.

Jester: Lyrically, you speak about rather mundane events and issues unlike a lot of bands. Why?

Smith: The things we feel most strongly about are the things we deal with every day. So in some ways, the root of all of our music are those items we have to put up with every day and can actually grip, feel, and conquer.

Jester: Chase from Re-Constriction Records has nothing but good things to say about you. What were the circumstances in which he asked you to participate on two of his early compilations, "Shut Up Kitty" and "The Cyberflesh Conspiracy"?

Smith: Chase is just a guy who has been slugging it out in the music industry since the beginning of whatever genre of music he promotes. Whatever you call what Chase does, he has been doing since we have been doing it. We both began about the same time and shared mutual respect with each and we both fought to survive and succeed in this field of music. I don't even remember the specifics of how we first met. He helped us out and we appreciate it.

Jester: You have performed a number of cover songs including Madonna's "'Burnin Up". How do you approach covering other musicians' material?

Smith: The whole point of covering tracks by artists like Madonna is because our music sounds nothing like hers. The final word on that cover is that it isn't a joke. it is not a gag. It is a really cool song with our own personal twist. All of our covers songs are not jokes. We take them very seriously.

We also did a cover of 'Back of Live" by Echo & The Bunnymen, which only appears on a hard to find compilation. The title is called "The Workers Comp" and you should try and find a copy.

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