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Interview with Deathline International, Maritime Hall, San Francisco, CA - 7/12/97

Photos by Jester Copyright © 1997,1998

Jester: So what does the live Deathline International line-up look like now?

Count Zero: For now what you see here is probably a semi-permanent line-up. It all started with Spawn leaving the band to pursue his own music and me having to find a new keyboard player. In the end we ended up finding all new members for the live performances.

The only real problem is that we all live in very different places. Nial, who plays bass, is from Seattle. War-N, who plays drums is from Cincinnati. Angela, who plays keyboards, is from San Francisco. I am of course from Germany.

Kevin: Will Spawn being participating in writing anymore of the studio material?

Count Zero: No, he is now totally focused on his work with Battery and Influx. He decided that "Arashi Syndrome" would be the last Deathline International album on which he would write material.

Jester: Who is going to be replacing him as the primary programmer? Will the live band now take a more prominent role in composing new music?

Count Zero: To some extent we always used a variety of musicians. So in the future, it should always be just as easy because there us always a great deal of talent floating around the COP International studio. However we are definitely going to miss Spawn because not only did he write a lot of the music, but he was also the production engineer. It will definitely be a lot harder to find someone we can really trust to produce the next album.

The next album will definitely be a challenge. For the first time I will be writing a great deal of material in Germany. I would like to get started on it around the end of the year. I'd like to do more of a complete United States tour before then, but we'll see if that happens.

Jester: Are you going to tour in Europe?

Count Zero: Yes. We are going to start the tour on October 1st. The entire tour will be ten shows all over Germany. We are also working on dates in Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The live line-up that you see here will be playing all of the European dates.

Jester: On this new album, what does the title "Arashi Syndrome" mean?

Count Zero: It is a combination of a Japanese and German that essentiallu means 'Storm Syndrome'. We didn't really name the album until we were done with the album. We wanted to avoid naming the album after a song like we have done in the past with our singles so we were looking for something different. Spawn actually came up with the idea and I think it works really well.

Jester: I think the title meshes really well because you also use multiple languages in your lyrics for some songs on the album.

Count Zero: Actually that came about because sometimes when I am in Germany, I find myself accidentally talking to people in English and vice verse when I am here in America. So I wanted to try switching back and forth between languages in a song and see how it sounded. German lyrics seem to work really well for the aggressive portions of a song and the English lyrics work well for the more mellow sections.

Jester: Kim sent me a copy of the 'Wild Boyz' video to play on our video show. I was wondering where you came up with the concept for that video.

Count Zero: It is actually quite a long story. We wanted to do a video for the first EP we did quite some time ago. My roommate at the time was a gaffer so we had access to all this equipment. So we shot a whole bunch of footage in this desert like area near where I used to live. Unfortunately we never ended up using it for anything and it sat around for like 3.5 years. I also shot a variety of other video segments with a variety of directors over that same time period but they never seem to end up as a finished product.

Recently, I hooked up with this girl who said she could do a video for me. The timing was perfect because it was right at the same time as the release of the 'Wild Boyz' single in Europe. I was also fortunate to have gone to school with a guy who had access to an excellent post-production facility. So we were able to put together a great deal of the older footage and some new material rather quickly so that we could use the video as a promotional tool for the album.

Jester: On every Deathline International album there seems to be a cover song. Is there any particular reason why you always do that?

Count Zero: We started doing that because there were certain songs that we felt needed to be reworked. I also think it is a very interesting experience to do a cover because you have to analyze how someone else writes which is a very difficult learning curve. Then you have to add your own personal elements to the song because just doing a straight cover song is bullshit.

I also grew up listening to a lot of those songs as a youth. 'Troops of Tomorrow' was always something I wanted to do myself for years. We also did it two different ways. The 'Exploited' version on the "Wild Boyz" single is totally hard core, whereas the album version is very orchestral and melodic.

I know that the next album will not contain a cover song because I have done at least one on every Deathline International release. However I was asked by Torben from Offbeat Records to do a Billy Idol cover song, but that wouldn't be on any album. I think it is really interesting that labels are all of sudden jumping on these cover compilations. Of course, most of it is because it is a cash cow and you can make easy money.

I do think it would be really cool to pillage bands outside the genre like James Brown and do cover songs. Yet when we did a cover of 'Tainted Love' people thought we were covering Soft Cell when in fact it was Gloria Jones and Soft Cell was just the band who made it famous.

Jester: How did you first get involved with writing and composing music?

Count Zero: I used to be really into punk and funk metal. I came to San Francisco and I saw Faith No More before they made it big. I thought they were really good because I always enjoyed bands who had a really strong groove and a certain amount of aggression. At the time I really didn't like the current electronic dance music because it was really shallow and lacked any type of edge. So when I saw the funk metal scene I was really enthused.

I then fell in love with San Francisco and kept coming back to the city. One day I ran across this bad magazine and there was this full page advertisement for an Industrial show. I was listening to similar music at the time but I hadn't heard the term Industrial before. The show turned out to be a local San Francisco Industrial event with Grotus, Diatribe, and Consolidated.

So I went to the show and I was just blown away by Diatribe. I thought it was really amazing and I wanted to do something very similar to their style of music. Their music had a very electronic element that was very cleanly produced while at the same time it had a lot of the distorted edge that I enjoyed with metal. So pretty much immediately after the show I quit my previous band and was intent on starting up something new in the Industrial genre.

Jester: How did that evolve into a record label that now spans two continents and is going strong?

Count Zero: When I was involved with my previous band, we actually put out an album and I learned really quickly that releasing a record isn't that hard. So after I saw the show I walked up to Diatribe and told them they were great and if they wanted to put out a record, I was the person to help them out. Basically the label started right there on the spot. So when I went back to Europe I realized right away that I had to get distribution to survive. I was really lucky that I had the right contacts and the label just went on from there.

Jester: What is it like running both the label as well as being an artist on the label?

Count Zero: It is difficult. For me the priority is that I am a musician who just happened to start a record label. I am very, very selfish when it comes all down to it. The label is very cool but the band is my true devotion.

Obviously, there is a mild conflict of interest. I really want to tour and play live with my band but I also need to spend time promoting bands on my label. The whole recording process takes a great deal of time as well away from running the label.

For the label work, I just take time off from the band, head to America and do a lot of office work. Then I can focus all of my effort of the label instead of the band because for some reason I can never get any work done on the label when I am in Europe because I also run three other record labels over there as well.

Jester: What provoked the change of line-up for Deathline International?

Count Zero: At the end of recording the new album is became clear that Spawn and I had a conflict of interest and that I would simply need to move on and find other artists to help me out. I found Nial posting on the Internet, where the last guitarist we found through Guitar Magazine. That guy was real good, and he had even gone to the Guitar Institute but he didn't fit well with what I had in mind.

At some point I posted on-line again that I needed a keyboard player and got no response. So I asked Angela to play keyboards for us at the Seattle show in June and she agreed. She handled the live show really well and so I basically added her as a permanent live member. War-N I just found lying around the studio one day.

Kevin: Do you feel that you have a stronger reaction from European or American audiences for your band?

Count Zero: I think it is somewhat equal. In Europe they are open to a wider variety of electronic music. At the same time it is hard to find acceptance when we combine rock'n'roll and electronic music in Europe. Yet, I really want to make music in this style of music. However I can see where the European sentiment comes from because there are a lot of bands who are trying to do similar things who are just bad copies. Yet here in America, they seem to really enjoy the guitar crossover style of music and dislike the pure electronic stuff. So when I travel I can always make a comment that the grass is greener on the other side of the ocean.

This time around I am really excited about the new album. We have done amazingly well in Europe. We were on the singles charts in Germany for 5 weeks. In America we peaked at 5 in the RPM chart and 83 in the CMJ Top 200 which is mind blowing.

Jester: Whose idea was it to have extra vocalists sing the chorus on 'Troops of Tomorrow' when it is performed live?

Count Zero: When I used to do music in the German punk scene we had this drinking song. There were like seven people in that band and we all sang when we performed live. Yet in Industrial music you only have one or two people who sing. So I loved the idea of having a lot of back-up singers.

During one of our European shows the cops stormed the venue and unplugged the PA. Yet we still continued our set singing a-capella with the whole audience singing along.

So back when we were writing "Arashi Syndrome", Mike from Slave Unit, and Rey from Tinfed were helping out a lot with the album. Another friend of mine had also helped out with back-up on 'Troops of Tomorrow' in the studio. So when we went on tour with Slave Unit, it just made sense to have those guys sing back-up for that song.

Jester: What would you consider your favorite Deathline International track to be?

Count Zero: On the last album I really enjoy 'We Believe' because it has a funk thing going. It also go back and forth from being aggressive to being mellow several times throughout the track. The tracks that I like the most are those which mesh a wide variety of musical styles. That is what made "Arashi Syndrome" so much fun to write. Just because there were so many people involved with making the album, it was possible to pull together various musical styles and make it all work.

Kevin: Is Spawn going to be doing any production work for you in the future?

Count Zero: I don't think so, but he is producing the new Slave Unit album right now. I know that he wants to go more into the production thing. He is going go up to Seattle to do the next Razor Skyline and he is going to Europe to work on some other material.

Kevin: Why do you bring in so many guest artists to help you in the studio for your albums?

Count Zero: It was born out of necessity. COP can't possibly afford to fly everyone back and forth between Europe and San Francisco. So I used a lot of German musicians when in Germany and a lot of the COP artists while in San Francisco. I also think that by having a lot of additional people helping out, that we all learn more about the whole musical process and become better.

Jester: Anything else you would like to add in conclusion?

Count Zero: I want to stress that I really like lyrics and samples as a form of expression. There is one sample on the album that states, "You can stop me, but you cannot stop us all!" I feel that lyrics are a very important part of the whole creative process to me. They are not just words to me, which is why I do print them in the liner notes. I want to try and express things at a personal level in my lyrics and still be objective.

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