Interview with Chad Bishop of Idiot Stare, Club Arte, San Francisco, CA 11/17/95 by Kevin Congdon

Kevin: Could you give a little history on Idiot Stare, where it evolved from STG and why you felt the need to create this project ?

Chad: Well basically STG was going its own way musically to begin with. We released No Longer Human on our own by cassette in 1992 and we played live a lot in 1992 and things were starting to slow down. Along comes Rotten Records, and because there was a record company interested, we decided to stay together. We stayed together, re-recorded a bunch of stuff for No Longer Human and did a month tour. Then Rotten wanted us to continue touring and we couldn't afford it and there wasn't any tour support from them. So we went home and tried working on new stuff and we did manage to get Mad Drunk done for Chase at Re-Constriction for his Scavengers In The Matrix compilation, but that was the last STG song and was a struggle to finish. So we kept hammering Rotten with "When are we going to do another record?", because that was basically the only thing holding the band together at that point -- the fact we might get another record and Rotten said "Well we might give you $500 to do it, but you've got to promise us you'll buy a van and tour." Different members in the band were progressing in different directions musically; we weren't really hanging out like friends anymore, it was like a professional relationship between half the members of the band and the other half. So we decided to do our own things basically. There was a little grey area where STG was writing songs and trying to make things happen, trying to get this second record deal going. We were working on a couple of demos of new things and in that little grey area before STG broke up Idiot Stare popped up as a side project, which was supposed to be very Cubanate-inspired and very much inspired by the techno movement. Idiot Stare's first song is a remix of "The Power" on the Cinematic compilation and it was done by Mitchell (of Minus Sign) and it's very very trancy techno -- that was much more indicative of our original idea for Idiot Stare. It was going to be very trancy but still combine the heavy metal guitar; it was going to be much more trancy and techno than our album ended up. When STG broke up and Dave (our drummer) joined Idiot Stare, his songwriting influence came in and we started writing more songs than our original ideas of dance tunes. Mitchell got disenchanted with that and decided to press on with his band Minus Sign because he just finished his tape "Ground"; so he said "Okay I'm not going to be part of Idiot Stare". So he left and we continued working on our album Blinded.

Kevin: So who makes up Idiot Stare?

Chad: Bruce King (guitarist from STG) and myself. All the backup vocals on the album were done by James who played bass for STG in 1992. Jeff Tateman (from Death Industry) who also used to play bass for STG helped write the instrumental "Fade".

Kevin: So was Idiot Stare basically your and Mitchell's idea in the beginning?

Chad: The original ideas was Bruce, Mitch and myself saying we should do this side project because it will keep us busy, because STG was basically on hold until we had heard from Rotten. Bruce and I moved to Burbank and Mitchell lived closer to us than the other members of STG. So it was a lot easier working with him and we had a lot more in common with him musically at time too than we did with the other members of STG.

Kevin: Why did you decide to re-do Mad Drunk as an Idiot Stare song?

Chad: Mad Drunk was basically David Scott (the bassist on No Longer Human) and myself doing the music and myself doing the lyrics. The version on Scavangers In The Matrix has the lyrics as revised by Shane (the vocalist of STG at the time). So I decided this is a song I can re-interpret and it had only been released on that compilation; I figured it was more my tune than anything else, and since I was carrying a lot of that direction of STG with me I felt that would be good starting point for Idiot Stare as a tie-in to STG.

Kevin: You did the production work for Insight 23's release "Obsess". How did that come about?

Chad: Insight 23 was just going to make a demo and they had this friend with a studio in Simi Valley. They had heard my work with STG and I knew John through Mitch because they worked together. So John and I started hanging out a little bit and he asked me to produce their demo. Matt (Tibune?) was the engineer for the album (and also owned the studio); he is really amazing and talented. The level of quality of what he produces is a lot higher than a demo. So we show up the first day to record this "demo" and basically his attitude was "I'm giving you a real good break on the studio, why don't just make a record instead of wasting your time making a demo." I learned a lot from Matt because he is a really good rock'n'roll producer and knows proper micing technique and eq-ing principals and things like that -- and I knew how I wanted the album to sound. And I was fortunate as a producer that Insight 23 trusted me 100%. So it was real easy to work with them, because they would look to me and Matt, and we'd give them feedback or make decisions and let them know how the music was coming across. It was a lot of fun and both Matt and I learned a lot about the "industrial" thing.

Kevin: The guys from Insight 23 said you pushed them quite a bit and tried to get them to improve themselves. Did you view yourself as that kind of producer?

Chad: That was the idea. The first half hour of the studio time was, "Okay John this is what we are going to do to you guys - is that what you want to happen?" From that point on it was "your guitar playing was good, but it wasn't quite in time --do it again" until we figured it was perfect or at least as close as we could get it to how we wanted it to sound. So I don't know if they expected it; but it was also new to me, making people do that. So it was my first "in the producer's seat" role. It was a learning experience for me and for them, where we kind of learned off each other. And Matt came in really handy as an experienced engineer and producer , because he knew how to communicate better with the band on how to get changes out of them than I did.

Kevin: Have you done remixes for bands as well?

Chad: I did a remix of Disease for Insight 23 and I went bananas with the techno thing. It doesn't really have anything to do with them musically, it was just me going crazy techno-wise. I did a remix for 29 Died of their song "Helium", which they put on their record and that's a pretty techno/trancy mix. Right now I am finishing one for Society Burning, a song called "Waster" [which appears on their Entropy Lingua MCD]. I did a pretty radical mix of that too where I left the vocals pretty well in tact -- the music was kind of straight-forward metal-industrial stuff and I took a lot of that out and made it more distorted techno sounding, but it still sounds pretty industrial-dance. That's about the extent of my remixing so far.

Kevin: Do you enjoy doing remixes?

Chad: Yes, the production is great. It's one of those things where I have to go out of my way to do it, because I don't get paid to do it. I did the Society Burning work as a trade; I traded Chase's service list for my remixing work. I'm getting points on the record, but not much else.

Kevin: Does your remixing/production work help you out when doing stuff as Idiot Stare?

Chad: Oh sure. On the Society Burning track that I was just talking about, I manipulated some samples of a funk band with a really cheesy funk beat; I distorted it and looped it and kind of cut some parts of it and put it in backwards. I had never done something like that before with something really hideous like a funk beat. And it came out really cool and I realized you can really manipulate stuff. Especially when you're not working on your own things; you don't tend to be so attached personally to the music, so it's easier to just go and screw things up. When doing Insight 23, I had never really produced anything before, and we were in a real studio and I was let loose on all the producer's toys; it was like "how badly can we distort things" There are a lot of effects on that record, just because we were really experimenting with all those "toys".

Kevin: Are you heavily influenced or involved in the techno scene?

Chad: My "techno" side is real recent, maybe a 2-year old thing. I am definitely very much influenced by the whole "industrial" scene, but it's been about 4 years since I was really into that stuff. Now I'm more into Cubanate and stuff like that. But it's the same technique to come up with new wave or industrial or techno; you're just giving it a different feel and a different overall equalization. I'm not really into the techno ethic at all, the whole new age/peace thing. I like their music a lot and when I'm driving and I want to turn my brain off, I put in techno.

Kevin: Any specific groups?

Chad: Underworld is amazing, I love them. I'm really into N-Job, Prodigy. Sven Vath is one of my newer favorites, but he is more on the ambient side of things.

Kevin: There is a strong techno influence as well as a metal influence to Idiot Stare. Was that something you consciously tried to create to differentiate it from STG?

Chad: No, I would say it was just a by-product of the music we were listening to at that time. Once Idiot Stare became a real band, and when David and I were doing all the programming, we were basically just listening to techno or Cubanate - there weren't any new industrial records worth anything out, except Hate Dept. or Gracious Shades. So all the music was techno, there wasn't a whole lot of industrial about it. Bruce comes along and he listens to techno, but not nearly as intently as Dave and I do. So we had done basically a techno album and we tell Bruce, "put guitar on this," and he does what he knows, metal stuff. It sounds like we consciously came up with the idea to marry techno with metal, but it wasn't that brilliant; it was basically what we had the ability to do mixed with the influence of the records we were listening to at the time. Obviously a lot of the STG thing got carried forward because you still bring in all the Puppy and Depeche Mode influence with you, plus you sit down to write at a keyboard and you do what you know how to do.

Kevin: How do you come across live and what kind of reaction have you gotten from the audience?

Chad: We're pretty well-received; of course we've played in a couple shows where nobody is there and a few places when we're on too early. The most interesting show was when we opened for Fear Factory. We thought we were super-metal. People who don't like us come up to us and say "you have too much guitar" or "I can't dance to your music". So we thought we should just go play a metal gig. And we did and the audience didn't know what to make of us -- we discovered how "industrial" we really were. We played on the bill with three death metal bands and we thought we would just try and see what happened and it was fun. Then we opened up for 16 Volt and Clay People in October and it was a great show.

Kevin: How did you hook up with Ric Laciak to get your track on the RAS DVA compilation "There is No Time"?

Chad: E-mail and the Internet. When I first got my Internet account in 1994, I went nuts over r.m.i. talking about STG and I got a lot of response and I did a lot of interviews over the net. Then I went underground and then when Idiot Stare was finally done, it was pretty easy to find the STG fans on the net and say "here's the new one". And Ric had been a fan of the STG albums and told us he was doing this compilation and said "send me something." And we weren't even done with rough demos, but he told us when he was pressing and when we had to get our track in; we were the last track to be put on that compilation. He didn't even hear the song; we had sent him demos of "False Death" and "The Power", which were more from the Mitchell period, and because "Oranges" was the newest song we had written we just decided we would send him the new one.

Kevin: How did you hook up with John Bergin to do the cover for Idiot Stare and STG's "No Longer Human?"

Chad: Shane from STG had a small obsession with comic books and saw "Ashes" which is an old comic book of John's. Shane wrote him and just said "I really like your comic books." Then John sent Shane a huge box of a lot of his comics and some of his artwork and also sent a letter saying "I'm in this band Trust Obey." So Shane and John became like pen pals and when it was time to do a real cover for No Longer Human, he was a natural choice. So when we were done with the Idiot Stare album, we thought okay here's another STG link, plus he's a great guy. He can decipher what you're doing musically really well to an image, which is I wanted to do again for Idiot Stare. So I called him up and asked if he would do the cover for Idiot Stare and he said sure.

Kevin: Do you find managing the Bodybag label and web site is very time consuming?

Chad: For a while I didn't mind because I was doing more net than music. And when you first get on, you go crazy, putting samples and pictures on your site. But I got really bored of the net after awhile, and I left the web pages alone for like four months and I just updated it in the second week of November and re-did everything. It was a lot fun, but I was just getting too far away; because I work 40-hours/week on a normal day job and it's hard to be band guy and write songs and manage the record label and do the web pages. Basically I'm just in charge of everything by default right now for Bodybag. I don't really want to run a record company, I'm not good at it -- I can't call people during the day because I have to be at work, so I'm not the right guy to do it, but I have to. And I'd rather not make any money by putting it out myself then not making any money on an indie. But that could change; with the right indie maybe I'd have a better attitude; but so far the money hasn't been anything good enough to go for. Because of what happened with Rotten, where they assumed total control over our career as STG, we weren't ready to give up that power again as Idiot Stare, until we at least tried it on our own.

Kevin: So you don't see Bodybag productions releasing material by any other bands?

Chad: I would like to -- like helping Jeff from Death Industry put his stuff out, but it would basically be him putting his record out with his own money, but we would do it under the Bodybag name; because it would help him out and help us out with credibility and then I would just help him service it and we would place joint ads. I couldn't promise somebody "I'll shop your record and it will sell," because I can't do that with Idiot Stare. I can tell you what DJs to send them to and they'll get them and play them on the radio and you'll get on college radio, but I can't get you on tour and I can't get you played on a commercial station. Just as a fun thing for friends, I can see it expanding that way, but I don't think we make commercially viable music anyway and that's not the point.

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