Interview with Mark Spybey of Dead Voices on Air conducted by Ashley Serotta & Randolph Williams of GoDaM! Governed by Electronics WMFO 91.5 FM Boston on 3/19/96

Randolph: Let's start off with talking about the new Dead Voices on Air album, "Shap", and what you were trying to explore with it musically.

Mark: It's rather a strange record in that there are a lot of short tracks on it. I don't really go into a project with a particular idea because first and foremost I am an improviser. When I started it I had this concept and idea of trying to explore my voice a little bit which was becoming more and more important mainly through my work with Download. It just happened that as I started to record this album about a year, it kind of manifested itself. I am not a person who particularly enjoys having concepts behind my work because I really want to explore that moment of spontaneity that is really crucial in music. I joke about the fact that I can record an album in about a day and unfortunately it is the truth.

Ashley: Is the Dead Voices on Air project a solo effort?

Mark: I was working alone on it. There is one particular track on there that also features my friend Zev Asher from a band called Roughage and Nimrods on it. He contributed a track that I kind of manipulated. When I was mixing that particular album down in Chicago, Martin Atkins was around in the studio a great deal, so he contributed drums to three tracks. He is only listed on one, be he actually work on three. There is also a guy named Curse Mackey from Evil Mothers. So Curse did vocals on a track as well. On the second day of mixing we also recorded an album called Spasm which was released on Invisible Records last year. It features myself, Eric from Lab Report, Martin, and Curse. That was a live performance. Thats real value for your money. I wandered down to Chicago and put two albums out at one time.

Ashley: The Spasm record just blew me away in the fact that you just started jamming and recording all at the same time.

Mark: In fact it took us a day to set it all up and we hand picked a number of people from Chicago. There were perhaps twenty to thirty people present. What is really funny, is that throughout that day Martin had been after us to do a track for a Wire tribute album. Which is really bizarre because Wire has always been one of my favorite bands going back to 1977. So we talked about it, and throughout the course of the live performance, we did a completely spontaneous Wire cover song. It actually ended up on the tribute album. Even more products came out of that weekend that I had ever anticipated.

Ashley: You definitely seem to be one of the hardest working musicians right now.

Mark: Well, what about Aphex Twin? He beat me there.

Randolph: Well we did say, "One" of the hardest working...

Mark: Thats right! The silly thing is that we can all go away and spend five years doing an album, but with Download for example, we've recorded two full length albums in less than a year. The last Download album maybe took us five to six week to write. There are ways of making music that are not terribly long and drawn out and don't involve massive studio intricacy. I am not claiming for one moment claiming to be a technically competent person myself. The simpler the better as far as I am concerned.

Ashley: Were you a trained musician as a child?

Mark: It goes back to when I was fourteen. I've always been interested in what you may call experimental music. Back in the seventies I was a big fan of Faust and Kraftwerk, and very obscure classical contemporary composers who are fairly commonplace now like John Cage. So I just started to mess around and assemble this extremely weird collection of sounds. I should add that this all happened in this very small northern English town so we did not have access to a great deal of avante-garde culture. It was just a great deal of messing around. Actually I worked on a project called Propeller that came out recently as well. I actually used some of the sounds that I recorded back in 1975 on it. It goes back that far, I'm afraid, twenty-one years. It's always been a real full time thing for me. I've gone through periods of making music and periods of not making music. The periods when I've not made music have probably been longer than those when I have. So I'm not trained. I started out life as a drummer.

Ashley: Did you ever go through a Rock'n'Roll period?

Mark: Probably. It only really came to fruition for me when I joined Zoviet France back in 1987. That is when I learned a great deal about what I wanted to do. Since 1992, I've been making music full time in addition to my other job as well. I actually work as a therapist in mental health.

Ashley: Has some of your music been inspired by some of the patients that you see?

Mark: Not really. I think that the two worlds are fairly dissimilar. The only connection that I have really made through it is the fact that being creative is very important and is also very important with the patients that I work with. So I have worked a great deal with the link of being creative and being healthy. That has been a kind of on going thing for me. My music is my number one drive now I must confess.

Randolph: What other current projects are you involved in right now?

Mark: The main thing right now is Download. Not to take anything away from Dead Voices on Air. Download has really been a full time band for over a year now. It is the main focus of cEvin and my attention. It is something that we want to enlarge upon. I hope that the new album does that as well. I think that the first album kind of kicked people on the groin. Suddenly we were coming out with all sorts of things. A musical Pandora's Box of sound mutations.

Ashley: On the two new albums available on Nettwerk, what should we be expecting?

Mark: Something very aggressive and hard. The whole process was very cathartic for us. We set about to record these about three months after Dwayne had died. If you like it was an end to a whole series of catastrophes that had plagued the whole Skinny Puppy camp for about three years. If you add all of those kind of feelings together with the feelings of people like myself who had been around during that time then it really came to fruition on the new album called "The Eyes of Stanley Pain". The album become some sort of creature that is just full of all of the ban intense feelings that we have as human beings. The kind of things that we put towards the side. People have have lived through these things and we have a great deal of material to work with. I really think music is inspired primarily through emotions and feelings. For people who are interested in Download, I think you can expect a sound that will be pretty damn hard.

Ashley: I heard rumors that Download will be touring later this year?

Mark: Yes, we will be touring starting in Europe on May 6th. We play in Vancouver two days before that as part of a music festival. We are in Europe for about a week and a half before we play. We are due to hopefully start touring the United States in July.

Ashley: That seems to be a long tour of Europe.

Mark: It is but we are going there for a week before we start to rehearse because we are working with Ryan of The Legendary Pink Dots. The other two members of Download are Ken Marshall and David Oglivie, as well as Anthony Valcic. Anthony will be doing the sound and the rest of us will be performing. The backing bands are Twilight Circus in Dub and Haujobb.

Randolph: Are you going to be bringing both bands back to the United States with you as well?

Mark: I hope so, but we haven't confirmed it yet.

Ashley: How much of the Download performance will be live versus pre-recorded?

Mark: For the most part we are improvisers, but we have a set list to work around. Through all sorts of interesting and complex paraphernalia we can do pretty much all of it live. If you could actually see Download live you'd recognize where a majority of the sounds originate from. There is a whole battery of extremely strange sounds that come from myself and cEvin. There is going to be a lot of Dwayne in the performance as well because there is a lot of Dwayne featured on the new album. It is going to be an extremely interesting show, the kind of thing that people will look at and be able to understand where today's music has suddenly arrived at. I think it is going to be intriguing. cEvin and myself did play live as Dead Voices on Air in Eastern Canada last year. In late October of 1995. It was a total of four dates, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and London. When we played live, we did a set of Dead Voices on Air and incorporated Download into it, probably around half and half. We just didn't tell people that we did it. It was really intense and we were working with film maker so we were able to combine music with film. It is very trance like. People were really fixated on what we were doing. Instead of slam dancing they were rigidly stuck to the ground. I think you can expect that with this new type of aggressive brunt sound on the new tour.

Randolph: Do you listen to a a lot of music outside of the Industrial genre?

Mark: I listen to way more music outside of it than in it. Industrial is a very funny type of kind of term anyway.

Ashley: I think it has outlived it's usefulness.

Randolph: Anything particular that you listen too?

Mark: I have been listening to a great deal of very minimal techno like Autechre. As well as bands like Main, who are working really on the edge in their genre. There is a lot of good stuff coming out of England of course. In that particular genre I listen to a great deal of the current crop of Industrial music. I really enjoy the Swans a lot, and I think over the last year they have proven themselves to be an incredible band. I saw them live a few times last year and they just blew me away.

Ashley: Do you listen to any other artists that people might classify as similar to music that you write?

Mark: I don't really. I just suspect that is just a little to close to what I do. I'll often come from recording and slam on some pop music sometimes. I have a really constant taste in music as well. I listen to a great deal of classical and contemporary classical music. I listen to a lot of free improvised music. If I were to say that I came from any particular style of music, I'd say that I came from the free improvisational school of music. Other bands that I have been listening to for years include AMM, Main, and Scanner. The beautiful thing about this genre and the most overlooked thing about is that we have to look for the past for clues as to where this music came from. When I came to America in 1992 I was rather depressed to see that heavy metal had taken over. Heavy metal in my mind was kind of a dirty word. Now days it seems to be kind of cool to make that kind of music and I don't understand it myself. The first wave of industrial music like Throbbing Gristle are just as exciting to me know as they were in the past. There have been great bands who have come up since then as well. I'm not knocking bands like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails who do a really good job at what they do. Take a band like Neubauten, you sit down and talk with them and they are completely knowledgeable about 1920 art movements like the Futurists and Dadaists. They even do videos which are carbon copies of strange Dadaist performances from the past. I really think that we have to look back to classical music to understand where we come from, because if we don't the music starts to sound flat and stagnant. Sticking within your own genre in like looking up your own backside. The Residents said something really interesting once, "Ignorance of your culture is not considered cool." That is very appropriate.

Randolph: Where do you see yourself in five years musically?

Mark: We'll probably be a heavy metal band. The next album we'll probably have to get the guitarist from Pantera involved. Actually cEvin and myself get together with guitar and drums. I really don't know. I hope that Download becomes bigger and better. Dead Voices on Air will always be my the sort of thing that I will continue with. The beautiful thing about music is that you continually meet new and interesting people. The collaborations have always been critical about the way my music has been developed. Meeting cEvin was like a blinding revelation to me. I wasn't aware that there was someone out there who was equally insane as I was. I is always nice to meet people like that and carry on that sort of delving and exploring music. Trying to make experimental music on the cutting edge. I absolutely believe now that within five to ten years the kind of music that we all are making is going to be commonplace. The kind of thing you just plug into your computer and download. So Michael Jackson, watch out! We're going to do some serious damage here!

[Interviews] [Sonic Boom]
Last Modified: