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Interview with Battery, conducted by Kevin Congon, Club Arte, San Francisco, CA - 11/1795

Kevin: Could you give a little background on where Battery started?

Shawn: It started in about 1989 in Bennington college in Vermont. Evan, myself, and another chap were in a electronic music class. We found that we could get credit for starting a band, and doing music we wanted to do. That was the start of it, and we all had the industrial twitch. Then, after graduating, we moved out to San Francisco and Stewart (the other member) kind of fell out and wanted to spend time in NY and do 3D graphics. About the same time, we met Christian [Petke] from COP International.

Evan: And he was starting his label and we were his flagship band.

Shawn: And we were the first band to say yes [to signing to his label]. And probably the first group he asked (after Diatribe).

Kevin: What motivated you to move to San Francisco instead of Chicago or New York? Was it the musical scene?

Evan: We grew up here. Shawn was living in the East Bay and I grew up in Santa Rosa county, so it was a natural place for us to start.

Kevin: Did you look into the scene before you moved to see how it was flourishing?

Shawn: We did some research; the first impressions are incredible when you go to a club in SF. It's like "Oh, there's so much stuff, it's so big."

Evan: At the time no one knew of a stronger scene than Chicago, but we didn't want to live in Chicago, and we thought San Francisco was just as good as any other city as far as cities to play.

Kevin: How did you find Maria?

Evan: Our music before was non-vocal based, very much like Manufacture. With Christian's urging and things we wanted to do as well, we thought it would be nice to have a female vocalist. So, we started asking around; I asked my sister, who had happened to spend some time with Maria in London.

Shawn: When we met Maria it was just kind of an interview thing and she didn't actually audition. The actual audition was a show we were playing and she came up five minutes before the show and said "I'm going to sing on one of your songs." The sound was so bad, the guys didn't have the mic set up; but I was standing 15 feet away, and I could still hear her natural voice totally crossing the room -- she can sing.

Kevin: How does your song writing process go?

Evan: It begins with either Shawn or I starting a sketch, then the other person will help in working on it, and then we give a tape of that to Maria; then she'll listen to it and give feedback and go from there. Very rarely do we ever jam as a band. So much of the music is written in the computer that it wouldn't be feasible.

Maria: , do you have a lot of influence into the musical aspect of songs?

Maria: I don't have any knowledge of the programs used. I wasn't into making electronic music, but now I've gotten to the point where I can say, well this will sound better here, or can you arrange it like this? I can give my input and not feel like a total idiot. I record my own vocals as well. It [the song writing process] has gotten a lot more together; we all sit around now and talk about it more; it used to be I would just bring it and they would do whatever.

Evan: Usually, whoever writes the lyrics is the one who sings the song.

Kevin: Is it more of a first-come first-serve basis on who is going to sing the songs?

Maria: When we aren't recording for a long time, I'll just start writing things and I'll bring back six or seven songs and show both of them and maybe that will inspire Evan to write something based on that -- it always changes. Usually the best songs come when there is a really solid base and then I'll work it from there, whether I have an idea of what the words will be or not.

Evan: Sometimes the lyrics are running around, ones that haven't been put to a song yet and we will look at those and have group sessions and see if the phrasing works or if the mentality is working.

Kevin: Do you find a lot of the time you have the lyrics and are creating music from that?

Evan: Every now and then. It's not that way all the time, but it's not that way none of the time.

Maria: There's a lot of mutation in the song. It's always changing. It's not like we say, "Okay I'm going to write this song and here's the words." Something always changes, for the better I think.

Maria: , how long have you been singing?

Maria: Professionally, since I met up with the band. I didn't even sing in church. It just comes from loving to sing I guess.

Shawn: And she has a big Italian family, so you have to raise your voice.

Maria: I'm sure that has got something to do with it, everyone in my family yelled.

Evan: She took vocal lessons for awhile. A lot of urging and training from Christian as well.

Maria: I did wind up taking some lessons, maybe five or six, just to get over some stage fright and to learn how to breathe, which I didn't do well. That's why on the first album, the vocals sound strained and stuff; then I learned to do different things as far as breathing.

Kevin: Have you played a lot of live shows?

Evan: We've played a lot of shows, but they have always been sporadic.

Maria: We played two months in a row this year and that was a big thing. There is a European tour coming up in April.

Kevin: Are you getting any financial help from COP?

Maria: They are paying for it.

Evan: We're not going to be paying for anything. Tours are basically promotions; it's the best promotion, as they say.

Kevin: Do you feel comfortable with how you come across live?

Evan: For the most part, although it has sort of changed. When we first started as a band, we relied heavily on a lot of video work we've done and a lot of slide sequencing (since there was no singer), so we really tried to make a multimedia event out of it. As shows went on, it was more and more difficult to find spaces to accommodate these things and lugging around 15 televisions wasn't practical.

Shawn: Also, we were playing by rules that were stated by someone else --"we're an industrial band, we have to have videos."

Evan: We didn't believe in the rock'n'roll setup-- lights and fog. But there is an aesthetic quality that lights and fog have that is effective, as much as we can't stand it. And because we've played so much in the last six years, we've gotten a lot better at it.

Shawn: We have gotten a lot of scabs playing live; but then you just kind of get over it. We've all had our individual break-downs, either after, during or before performances.

Kevin: Do you find the audiences are receptive to you now?

Maria: Yes, especially in the last year.

Shawn: It's hard to tell whether it was the audiences or our perception of the audiences.

Evan: Before, there was no way of knowing if they even knew anything about us or knew about our music; but now we can sort of assume at least some of the people have heard our album, so we can assume they know the songs.

Maria: And that they are coming to see us.

Evan: It's a weird mentality for us to think that there's people who listen to our music and come to see us.

Kevin: Why is that?

Evan: Just because it wasn't that way before; it's a new experience.

Maria: Just the knowledge that our music isn't accessible and no one can get it. We don't assume that anyone has it.

Evan: We also made the mistake at a lot of live shows -- we were very much against being a DAT band, and we would lug our whole studio with usthe Mac, the sequencers, all the keyboards.

Shawn: And we came to point wondering why the hell we were doing that, because we were playing along with the sequencer, which really wasn't that different from playing along with the tape.

Evan: We wanted to be able to play as much as we could, physically. We do our best to do that. We used to have other musicians play with us live, but there really wasn't enough time to integrate them. And a let down of a show is that so much work goes into it already for such little return. You can work and rehearse for weeks to do a forty-five minute set for like 50 people at best, and you're wondering what it's all for. And to integrate another person into it -- they've got to learn the music, you've got to rehearse more, there's this whole other element. It's just a hell of a lot of work.

Shawn: It think we also came to terms with the music better and how to present it. We didn't feel like we had to have that extra percussionist and bass player and other musicians.

Evan: It's taken the same mentality as having videos or slides. We're putting another person up there to make it seem more like a real performance, but...

Maria: ...that's not what we're really about. We're not really a live band, we're more of a studio band.

Evan: Especially when you look at the way we're writing our music, it's not like we're getting together and jamming. If we were getting together and jamming, and that was the way our music was formed, we'd be more comfortable; it would make a difference in what we present in our live stuff now. What's interesting now is that once we write a song and play it live a lot, the song matures in a nice way; so actually jamming with a song and playing a song over and over for weeks -- by the time we actually put it down on tape, it's matured and has more depth to it.

Kevin: What was your reaction to the track listing problem on the "NV"?

Shawn: It was like, there has to be an error somewhere. First we realized the songs weren't in order according to the back of the CD, and then we realized the songs weren't in order period. There was an extra track that wasn't supposed to be labeled, it was supposed to have an index, but not an actual number.

Evan: So, if there is a repressing, maybe they will remaster it.

Kevin: What was your motivation in helping out with the Deathline International project?

Shawn: We share the same studio.

Maria: We were just around the studio and Christian asked us if we wanted to do some things on the album.

Kevin: I've read that earlier in your career you weren't accepted in the "industrial" scene in San Francisco. Have you gained more acceptance since then?

Evan: One, we wouldn't necessarily want to be coined as industrial, because that's kind of the close-minded mentality. On the second-hand, seeing articles in SF Weekly about the industrial-Goth scene, and naming off a lot of bands that don't play much and us not being on that list; it's like, I guess we're not really part of the scene. On that hand it's disappointing that we're not, but on the other hand, fine. I feel like we're completely out of it, we're not part of the clique, and there is definitely a clique where everybody knows each other and we're not part of it, we're not social.

Shawn: Also, we have day jobs that take up too much of our energy. We feel like we aren't a part of it, but we don't necessarily want to be.

Maria: But then, at the same time when we do play live, we get better and better reception every time. A lot more people are coming to shows, and a lot more people are coming up to us afterwards saying "That was really good".

Shawn: But there was a certain feeling that we didn't get as much respect as other bands and I don't know why that is.

Kevin: Do you feel it may be because your material puts in a combination of both industrial and gothic influences, yet you still go beyond the limitations of those two genres at the same time?

Evan: We would like to be. We want the CD to be expressive and we don't want to have a CD where the third song sounds like the eighth song -- how far can that really go?

Shawn: Another idea I heard was someone doing an article on bands who live their music like Electric Hellfire Club. We don't really live our music; but in a way we do, because all of our lives are very personal; it isn't very outward, it's more of an introverted thing, and I think our music is more suited to that. It's music to look into yourself, as opposed to just playing at a party and jumping around.

Evan: We definitely do a lot of the mixing and recording on the headphones, and there is definitely a headphone mentality to it; something you want to listen to on headphones in your room, with the lights down.

Kevin: What prompted you to play this CyberDen benefit?

Maria: We were asked. Kim (at COP) just said "I've got a show for you on the 17th".

Kevin: What prompted you do that remix of 'Go' on the album?

Evan: Popularity -- people liked it, it was a good club song.

Shawn: We liked it and we weren't going to see anyway in the near future putting it on a CD.

Evan: That ghost track on the CD is the remix of Go; it was a mix that Spawn and Count Zero did in one take and they loved it and we never found a place for it; so it was like "Oh, that's where we can put it."

Kevin: What was your inspiration for the song Manipulator?

Maria: The song Manipulator -- I really like singing those types of songs because someone could take those emotions into themselves. I think that's one of the songs that is really accessible, while the others are more internal, personal.

Evan: It's more of that I'm in a relationship, fuck you type of feeling. And it was also a good groove.

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