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Interview with Gary Dassing of Mentallo & The Fixer - via telephone - 3/19/97

Photos by Jester Copyright © 1998

Jester: How did people react to finally see you perform live on last years tour?

Gary: I think people were just excited that we were even out on the road. The tour went really well and helped out a great deal with sales. Of course we ran into the usual problems simply because it was our first time on the road. We had to learn to make adjustments at every single venues we played.

We had decided to bring along bring along a huge light show on the tour, so the first thing we learned was that certain venues simply could not handle the power issues. Our first New York City show, we were not on stage until 3 am and we didn't even get to use our light show. The whole arrangement was rather high tech for a first tour so unfortunately we didn't get to use it for all of our performances. The tour had a sort of punk ethic to it. We all piled into a van with a U-haul and went from city to city. Our upcoming tour for the new album will go much smoother than the first tour. This time it will be run by a booking agency instead of being self booked.

I am really looking forward to this tour because when we first started Mentallo & The Fixer, it was never my intention to take the band on the road. I was sort of forced into the position of taking over lead vocals and performing them on the tour as a result. I really didn't want to be a vocalist and was very nervous about performing. Yet everyone really liked what I did on the last tour. Now I really don't have a problem with singing live, albeit I used to be really paranoid around large groups of people. It was hard to coax me to go out to a mail, let alone a club. So touring really has done a lot of positive things for me, so that is why I am really looking forward to the upcoming tour.

Jester: Are we going to see you perform in more cities on this tour?

Gary: Yes. Sometime in June we are going to go across the East coast and the Midwest. Then we will take a small break and then tour across the West coast and hopefully get as far as Seattle. Then we will take another break, and then finish up the tour in Europe.

Jester: Are you going to wait to until you release the new album before you start the tour?

Gary: The new album should be out in May and that is when we will hopefully start the initial tour dates.

Jester: Is the new album actually done?

Gary: No, it is still in the process of being written.

Jester: Haven't you been working on this album for quite some time?

Gary: I think a lot of people believe that simply because we haven't released a new album in two to three years, that we have been working on the new album for that long. However that simply hasn't been the case. We actually only been working on the album during the last six months. The reason why it has taken so long is because both Dwayne and I had a lot of personal issues and financial problems to deal with previously.

So during those issues, the band was placed on the back-burner. We were also in the process of redesigning our studio and having the whole thing sound proofed. Building a home studio really takes something out of a person. We have been investing in equipment for almost fourteen years and we have just now finally put together a real studio. However we are actually at a point where we have too much equipment. It has gotten to the point of even being overwhelming at times.

Jester: I've heard rumors that you have this museum of keyboards. How do you possibly use all that equipment in making your music and still be able to translate it effectively while touring?

Gary: I will be totally honest with you. There is no way we can reproduce every sound on our albums in a live setting. I remember as Benestrophe we probably had about nine keyboards set up during our live shows and they were all being run by a Commodore 64. We got sick of embarrassing moments like having power spikes happening during the middle of a song.

So now, a lot of stuff is laid down on DAT, nonetheless we do play live over it. It could just be a simply melody line or a complex bass line. Neither Dwayne or I are virtuoso keyboard players so we pretty much keep the live material as simple as possible to play. We don't put all of the music on tape because it proves to the audience that we really are playing live when we hit the occasional wrong note.

Even on stage I run all my vocals processors live on stage. I don't allow the sound guy to do it because most of the time they have no clue what I want my vocals to sound like. All of my vocal effects are usually spontaneous live anyways. I do that because we are a keyboard only band we have to have something to keep the crowd interested in our music. Dwayne could actually take a guitar up on stage because he is a guitar player by nature but we've never really felt the need to put guitar into a Mentallo & The Fixer track.

Jester: The new single sounds very different than older material. What brought about that stylistic change?

Gary: The new single was basically the first three songs we started recording for the album. The one thing I learned from touring was that DJ's refused to play a large portion of our material. One these new songs we wanted to have them at least played in a club type setting. However, trust me when I say that it is not an accurate representation of what the new album will sound like because none of the other tracks could really be used as single material.

To be honest with you I don't find myself listening to much of the current Industrial music. The only thing I do find myself listening to is some of the late eighties Industrial stuff. That is that the flavor of what the single is. While it may not have been the ultimate driving factor in the sound of the single it does play a large part in the composition of much of our material.

There is always a reason for the sound of our music. For example, a lot of people said that "No Rest For The Wicked" was a hard album. The reason it was so 'hard' was because I was writing about my sister being thrown into an asylum. It is something I rarely tell people but I don't really feel that kind passion anymore, so I no longer feel the need to write that kind of music anymore.

Dwayne and I both program the material. In the past I used to do all of the harder music and soft instrumentals while Dwayne wrote all of the mid-tempo EBM material. In fact he wrote two songs off the single, 'Light Year' and 'Other World Technology'. So when I wrote 'Stellar Cascade', Dwayne wasn't sure how the song would go over with the fans. Yet I really don't care how people are going to perceive that song.

I really do write this music for myself. However, I also realize that the fans are actually supporting me financially. So we do try to keep the underlying style the same and still push the musical envelope into new territories. We do that sound that our music to doesn't sound disposable. I think the album will represent that mind-set. However I do think some people will be a little freaked out when they finally get a hold of the album. A lot of the material on it will be very complex and in a totally different direction than on the single.

Jester: I noticed that on the single that you really only remix your own material. Are you still trying to avoid letting anyone else remix your material?

Gary: Yes, just for the fact that when other bands want to remix me, they only ask for your vocals on a tape. When we did the remix for Haujobb, they only sent us their vocals on a DAT and I was expecting for them to send all of their tracks on a big studio tape. That really isn't a 'remix' to me, it is really a Mentallo & The Fixer song with Haujobb's vocals.

I'd rather just leave our music in their normal format as they were intended to be. There are probably a few bands who I wouldn't mind remixing our material. Someone like Adrian Sherwood would take all of our original music and simply freak it out by using all of a studios effects library. He wouldn't feel the need to add any new material that might change the context of the original song.

Jester: Hasn't it ever felt odd to be working so closely with a sibling, or has it never really entered into your mind?

Gary: It definitely has it's plus's. Dwayne and I can have these huge fights, but when it all is over we know that the band will never break up simply because we have invested our wholes lives in it. That type of thing would never happen in a band that doesn't have such close ties. Eventually they would break up over some type of social or creative difference.

We were also never really encouraged to write music by our parents. I worked six years straight at one point, at McDonald's, just to save up for equipment. I didn't spend any of my money on clothes, food, or music. I was dedicated to saving all of my money towards equipment. Dwayne and I even had our own lawn mowing service for awhile. Eventually as royalties came in from album sales, we invested that money right back into the band. Once again, that simply would not have happened with anyone else but a sibling.

Jester: Are you happy with Metropolis as a label after all of the problems you had with both Simbiose and Zoth Ommog?

Gary: Yes. I think that being a domestic label has helped out a lot. They also have a great promotions guy working for them. He has done so much press work for us in the short time he has been with Metropolis. In fact the whole time we were on the Zoth Ommog label, we were not solicited for a single interview through the label. We had no idea what was going on over at the label. I don't want to bad mouth Zoth Ommog, but things we just not run properly.

So when Metropolis guaranteed us a certain dollar figure for advances and the contracts were laid out very clearly, it was obvious that we should change labels. Also being a domestic label helps out a great deal. In the past I simply could not afford to call up Talla every week to check on out status. Now, with Metropolis, they are very thorough about keeping in contact and they haven't repeated any of the mishaps dealt to us by prior labels.

Jester: Are you ever going to re-release "No Rest For The Wicked"?

Gary: Yes. Metropolis will be releasing a remastered version in June or July. However, there are going to be some differences on the re-issue. 'Telepath' and 'Narcotic Calling' are going to be cut because they were already released on "Continuum", and there is no need to release them again. Also, some of the tracks on the original version were either unfinished or I didn't intend to include on the album. One of the tracks was even an instrumental version of a Benestrophe track titleed 'Ritual'.

However, the new issue will have a full seventy-seven minutes of music on it. I will be adding a new track called, 'Vision', which is an old track of ours that was originally only available on the GPC cassette. I am also throwing in some older vocal tracks as well like 'Brutal Rapture', which was on the Cyberflesh Conspiracy compilation put out by Chase. The rest of the filler will be hard to get material that was originally only available on other compilations.

Also all of the Mainthesai and the Mentallo Meets Mainthesai will also be released domestically. The Mentallo Meets Mainthesai re-issue will have five extra tracks on it that were originally supposed to be on the Zoth Ommog release but were cut for some reason. In fact, that album was the breaking point in our relationship with Zoth Ommog. Some of the material they cut was some of the best material on that album. They cut a remix for 'Sacrilege', and a remix to 'Decomposed'. So when it gets released domestically it will be in it's originally intended seventy-eight minute format.

The most important thing for me has to always give the fans their money's worth. I have always tried have at least include seventy minutes on our albums because people have to pay outrageous prices for albums these days.

Jester: On "Where Angels Fear To Tread", you use a lot of Science Fiction and Horror movie samples. Will that trend continue on this new album?

Gary: While I don't try and dictate to Dwayne what he can and can't do, I did try to avoid sampled material on this new album. It is sort of a 'been there, done that' type of philosophy. I think at the time on, "Where Angels Fear To Tread", I think it was appropriate but not really for this album. If we do use them, they will be in more of a subliminal context or the sample has to directly relate to a song. We won't just be throwing in a sample just for the sake of it as in the past. In fact, the last two to three songs I've written for the new album rely solely on music and contain no vocals samples at all.

Jester: Are you responsible for all of the artwork on your albums?

Gary: Yes. The front and rear cover of "Where Angels Fear To Tread" were taken from pictures that hung on our walls as children. For "Revelations 23" we used an astronomical cover because Dwayne and I are fascinated with that subject. The artwork always seems to be taken from a certain piece of our past of present circumstances. However, we had nothing to do with the cover art on "No Rest For The Wicked", but everything that is going to be re-issued on Metropolis will have new artwork.

Jester: Will Dwayne be mastering the second RAS DVA compilation like he did on the first?

Gary: No. Ric Laciak has a mastering system set up now and will be taking care of it himself. In fact, Ric just talked to me and said that the new Benestrophe album, "Auric Fires", will be out at the end of March or beginning of April.

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