Interview with Individual Totem - conducted by Kevin Congdon - The FENIX, Seattle, WA - 4/30/98 with comments from Stefan Herwig of Off Beat

Photos by Jester Copyright © 1998

Kevin: How did you come to be on Off Beat?

Stefan: They had been on a few compilations I had put out, and then they sent me a tape which was the first recordings of S.E.T.I. I was really blown away by it, so we put them on our label.

Kevin: Does the label treat you well and give you a lot of support?

Timber: Yes, Off Beat does a lot of good work for us and Stefan is the one who brought us to America.

Kevin: So Off Beat is basically paying for this US tour?

Timber: No, this tour is basically a promotion tour for us. It will personally cost us a lot of money, but we're doing it for the American listeners, because they have so much interest in our music, and spend so much time in sending us e-mail, and playing us on radio stations and then posting those playlists on the Internet. And there are many things happening on the Internet with regards to our band, so we decided to go to America and see this nice country. I really enjoy the people in this country and the cities are great.

Kevin: What was your reaction to such a great response from people from the US? Was it something you were expecting?

Mathias: We didn't expect it; we were hoping for a good response, but we weren't expecting it .

Kevin: Were you involved in getting licensed to Pendragon in the States or was that more of Off Beat taking care of that aspect?

Timber: I think the people from Pendragon had listened to our material, and asked Stefan if they could license our releases. We're very happy with Pendragon; they do a good job.

Stefan: Pendragon is actually paying the basic costs for this tour. We have costs on top of what they're giving us, but without them this tour wouldn't be happening. Individual Totem has not reached the sales yet where we could say that this tour would pay for itself. So it was a bold move for a small label to say "okay, we'll give you some money to get you over here."

Kevin: While your album S.E.T.I. had a very alien/space theme to it, this new album seems to be much more of a personal nature. Was this something you were intentionally trying to do?

Timber: I think some of it came from the samples we used. We were watching a lot of a particular program on television, and we sampled a lot from this program. And we liked this program a lot because of its premise. The sounds and atmospheres they use on this program were very inspiring.

Kevin: Do you get a lot of ideas and sounds from television shows and movies?

Timber: We're always sampling television shows and science-fiction programs.

Kevin: How did the idea of doing a remix war with Velvet Acid Christ come about?

Timber: One night Bryan Erickson from VAC called me at 2am in the morning and he played me his new songs for about 2 hours. Then he said he wanted to do a remix war with us, and I thought it was a very good idea. But right now we are very busy with the tour and he is busy doing a tour in Germany, so maybe we'll actually start it somewhere between August and October. However, we did do a remix for Gridlock for the song Retina that will be on an upcoming Pendragon compilation.

Kevin: What do you have coming up in the near future?

Mathias: We just did a remix for the band Float which will also be on that Pendragon compilation.

Kevin: Do you get satisfaction from taking other people's music and incorporation your own ideas and sounds into it?

Timber: We see Individual Totem more as a project. We encourage people to send us stuff, we encourage people to get involved with our band. We didn't do our cover design for our EP that will be on O-Files 3; we asked people to send us pictures and ideas to help with the cover design. This way we can include more influences in Individual Totem. It's not just us two in Individual Totem, we want to open it up to many different artists.

Kevin: What can we expect from a live show by Individual Totem?

Timber: Well first, we brought a lot of equipment from Germany.

Mathias: We play some songs from our first album, Aspects of Theories and Reality, some from S.E.T.I., and many songs from Mind Sculptures Flesh. We also have one unreleased song that will be on that Pendragon compilation, which we may play as an encore.

Timber: This is our first real live tour. We want people to concentrate on the music and the samples and how the sounds go through to the audience. We want to play most of it live, rather than on DAT, which is why we brought so many instruments. It's not really a "dancy" show; it's more about the sound and getting a good feeling, and the audience's reaction to me as a singer.

Kevin: How was the reaction to your shows in LA and San Francisco?

Timber: I got the feeling on stage in LA that the audience was very, very happy with our show. In San Francisco, there were some people dancing and they were enjoying it, but the audience was very different. It seemed like they were more in the mood of watching the show, and I didn't get the feeling that they were about ready to explode like I did in LA. But afterwards, we heard that people really enjoyed the show and the sound. And they were singing along as well.

Peter: What is the availability of your earlier demo tapes?

Mathias: We have some plans to remix the last tape, but it just takes some time. Plus I think Off Beat is more interested in getting new material from us.

Peter: Do you still have your TR505 from way back then?

Timber: Yes, I have it at home. I did some of the sound structures from Mind Sculptures Flesh on it, some of the melodic stuff.

Peter: You have been labeled by some critics as being Haujobb's evil twin. How do you feel about that comparison?

Timber: I get a little angry, as I'm sure many other bands do, when people say "oh they sound like Haujobb, or they're inspired by Download, or they sound a little like FLA." We try so many different things in our music, but we want people to know that Individual Totem is simply a project. I'm inspired by many things, anything from Visage to drum'n'bass.

Stefan: I think what the press should really highlight is the originality of the band. I think the press uses those descriptions simply to point out the direction, but what the press fails to do is explain what is original about them; what they do instead is state what part of the band sounds like some other band. Especially with a band like Individual Totem, who I think have their own original sound. Yet no one in the press puts into words what it is about this band that makes them special.

Kevin: That is something I noticed while listening to S.E.T.I., because you seemed to be creating your own sound by incorporating a number of styles such as techno and ambient along with electronic-industrial. Was that something you were trying to accomplish or is that just what came about when you were creating music?

Timber: We didn't focus on the idea that we were going to do a mixture of styles, it just came out that way when creating the music.

Peter: What is the song "Vince" from Mind Sculptures Flesh about? Is that song a personal one?

Timber: It has a lot to do with the melody. If the melody is sad, like it is in that song, then I feel sad; and lyrics like the ones I wrote for that song come out. Vince could be anybody, it's not our personal emotions. I just thought about a person who has had problems with a girl or a friend.

Peter: How did you come up with the name Individual Totem?

Mathias: I think it stands for all the things that everyone on this planet has, such as a god or spiritual being; someone you pray to. Everyone has their own Individual Totem.

Web: Is there anyplace to find the lyrics to your songs?

Timber: We'll probably put it on our website in the future.

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