Interview with Jason Prost and Tony Smith of N.U.M. Factory in their studio on January 6, 1996 in Chicago, IL

N.U.M. Factory is envelope for the multi-faceted duo of Jason Prost and Tony Smith. Both together and with other artists they have six separate musical projects from across the entire electronic music genre. Their current projects include and are not necessarily limited to: hex80, drone, e.bola, interrupt, mindFluxFuneral, and Parallax Shift. I got a chance to venture up to one of their multiple home studios to talk with them early this year. In addition to all of their time spent involved with music they are also involved with a mid-range Internet provider located in Downers Grove, IL which was the home for the Sonic-Boom web pages before it went bankrupt. The interview opens with my startling naive critique of the decor in the studio.

Jester: Is this all original art in here? (referring to the studio)

Jason: Yes, Karen Zilly She does all of our artwork.

Tony: She did all the new covers on all the new demos. She is exceptionally good. A lot of her stuff has a very Hispanic or Mexican flavor to it.

Jason: I would consider her 'dark pop'. Her work is really good.

Jester: I think I have most of the artwork here on the older demos you sent me.

Jason: You don't have all of it, some of the newer stuff uses the newer art. We'll be giving you a tape of some of the new stuff before you leave today so you can get an idea of what we're working on currently. Then you can choose whither or not you want to review any of it.

Jester: What was the reason behind changing the name of 'virus' to 'mindFluxFuneral'?

Tony: It was because of Virus 23 actually. We didn't want the same name.

Jason: We had the name Virus, they had the name Virus 23, they were shopping around for a record label, we were shopping around for a record label. They got signed and became bigger hits sooner than we did. We don't want to have to walk in someone elses footsteps, we make our own, so we changed our name.

Jester: Have you ever done a live show with any of your various projects?

Tony: We've never really played out as a live band per se.

Jason: We played at very local music festivals. We've played as hex80 during Cyberfest. We've done interrupt three times. The first one was at Noise-A-Palloza in Ann Arbor, MI. We did a more ambient interrupt set for a graduate show at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Tony: We also played at a big open music show at Wicker Park. It's where people go and play a variety of local music in lofts across the city. That was one of our better shows. We ended up with a backdrop for the stage and we didn't even want one. They actually took all this garbage and shoved it in the back. We were standing right in front with these two stands for our equipment. The background summed up interrupt perfectly.

Jason: We played right in the middle of a pile of garbage.

Tony: It was a composite of noise and garbage, it was great. Other people like it, but to be honest sometimes I can't stand to listen to interrupt for more than five minutes at a time. It's cool though because I can play it for hours and hours, just not listen to it.

Jason: You've heard interrupt right?

Jester: Only on the review tapes for the RMI CD's. I've only received demos for hex80, drone, & mindFluxFuneral. I have heard e.bola, interrupt and Parallax Shift on the review tapes, but not on any demo release.

Jason: You have so much of our work that you haven't listened to yet. I'll send you a bunch of tapes later with a bunch of our stuff.

Tony: We have a lot of demos, we just don't have any of them made professionally. I really hate to send someone a Maxell tape with a J-card stuck in it. I can't to it. I like sending people finished quality work.

Jason: The sad thing is, the philosophy of making everything look really sharp still hasn't gotten us anywhere yet. We work really hard on making a really nice J-card, showing that we have a professional attitude towards production and I don't know what happens.

Tony: We never get a chance to send everything out.

Jason: Last time we sent out demos we got picked up immediately.

Jester: The last time we talked you said that you had sold over 6,000 copies of 'Countless Random Impacts' or is that number too large?

Tony: That number if actually kind of low.

Jason: We sold between 3-5,000 copies of the compilation according to Soundscan which is about 50% of the total music sales in the country. They distribute to the larger chain stores like Blockbuster & Tower. So we're estimating about 6,000 if you include all the underground shops.

Jester: I actually saw the CD here in Chicago over at Evil Clown on Halsted.

Jason: It's always nice to here when someone spots our CD. 'Countless Random Impacts' was an excellent first CD to release.

Tony: We showed off all of the bands.

Jason: We got to release music for three of the primary bands we had at the time. The response we got was tremendous. People from Germany, Australia, Brazil, called us. It wasn't released internationally. I don't know how they got a hold of it, but they did.

Tony: We had to do all of our own solicitation. I called Isolation Tank and they bought some of our CD's. I also called a bunch of other places that just do mail order, so I don't know if that was how people outside of the country got a hold of our release. I told them I was going to advertise all over..but.

Jason: We were really pissed off about our advertising.

Jester: I saw one print ad in Industrial Nation.

Jason: I was hoping that no one had seen that ad. The record company screwed us. For what it was worth it was definitely a good thing but I wish they would have given us a little more creative control. We worked really well with a company that is going to allow us to be involved with the entire process. A high level of professionalism. They wanted to put an ad in Industrial Nation. We would have given them the ad for free. You've seen our work, you've seen the stuff we've release. We do good shit. Instead they put this cheesy fucking ad in Industrial Nation instead of approaching us and asking us if we had an ad we wanted to put in the magazine.

Tony: They included the sample, "Tie me up, gag me and whip me.", on the ad.

Jason: (says sarcastically) Now we are a bondage band. People not expect us to be covered in leather and latex on stage and we spank each other. We're nothing like that. The label really fucked up, thats when the relationship started to go downhill. There was also a really stupid review in Industrial Nation of the virus release. It called us 'like Skinny Puppy in their prime'.

Tony: These guys suck. They are like Skinny Puppy. Everyone bought our tape because of that.

Jason: They said that drone was 'nothing more than a couple of drumpads'.

Tony: 'long drawn out sounds with drumpads'

Jason: 'it has no redeeming value and would probably be favorable on the dancefloor.' What kind of review is that?

Tony: They cut on hex80 as well.

Jason: There was a review in the same magazine for Alien Faktor. I've talked with Tom quite often, he's a really cool guy. They gave him a highly favorable review of his CD and compared it to Skinny Puppy. Talk about highly inconsistent reviews.

Tony: We get called a rip-off band and compared to Skinny Puppy in their prime and Alien Faktor gets a great review and also is compared to Skinny Puppy. What kind of logic is that?

Jester: You were mentioning earlier about another label being interested in releasing more of your music? Pavement Records I believe.

Jason: Yes, we sent them the new demos and they went nuts of it. The haven't decided what band they want to release, but they want to work with us. They don't know if they want to take two bands and re-release the compilation or not. That is what is great, we still own the right to the compilation.

Tony: We willing to release the compilation again for free we don't want any money for it.

Jason: In fact we'll put out any compilation for free, an entire Countless series for free but we're looking to get the band signed. They are interested in signing either e.bola or mindFluxFuneral. They are looking at us about which one was more marketable and which one we would prefer to sign.

Tony: The label really isn't into a great deal of industrial music.

Jason: I know the name of the label, but I don't know anyone else on the roster. I guess they got some local bands from Chicago.

Tony: As long as they gave us money we don't care.

Jason: We've already explained to them that we're most interested in having a strong promotional campaign. We have the production facilities. We have the ability to be able to do production on just about anything be it graphics, music, or video, for free. We can handle all the productions.

Tony: The guy whose studio we record in is excellent. I don't know if you've heard of After Midnight or Generation. Generation is like a heavy metal Ministry type thing.

Jason: The studio is really nice at least 75% better than ours. It has a gorgeous board. The engineer is very anal retentive when it comes to engineering. Tony and I are really good when it comes production but he is exceptionally good. He is the kind of guy who hears a hiss and knows exactly where it is coming from on the system by the sound of the hiss. It's nice having him involved with all of the N.U.M. Factory projects.

Jester: I think that distribution has been the majority of the problems with most of the recent industrial releases by labels such as Re-Constriction and Fifth Column. It seems as if every small label has had distribution problems with people like Caroline.

Jason: That was our problem. How are we supposed to prove to the local clubs that we're a sellable band if they can't even find out releases in the stores. If we go to the Metro and try to book a show, they want to know we can bring in a crowd to cover them.

Jester: Have you thought about trying to open for a band that comes into town?

Tony: We'll open for anybody.

Jason: We've tried to get gigs at the Metro or the Dome Room.

Tony: Wednesday night, $3, three bands.

Jason: We got a ding letter from them. It was a good letter, but. We aren't looking for a gig tomorrow, we're looking for a gig sometime down the road when someone needs an opening act and can't find one.

Tony: For example recently on the same bill as Acumen you had some band like the Lemonheads, or Lemon something who were this grunge band.

Jason: At the show that we went to, we went from this band who sounded like Green Day, to this band like Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Acumen. We would have opened for them and it would have been a better show.

Tony: I'd love to open up for anyone really.

Jason: We're working on putting together a stage show. That's why we put together the deal with Pound Records and had the compilation released to prove that we had a marketable sound for a venue.

Jester: Have you ever show the labels the scores that you got from the RMI #2 CD? That you had the highest ranking tracks on the Body CD?

Jason: No we haven't but that actually is a good idea.

Jester: I think it would show that you have a sound that the public likes simply by the scores alone. You would think that it would be an indication that people like your music.

Tony: You'd think!

Jason: Well we are looking for a drummer for our live shows. We really want to start playing. We want to tour.

Jester: What was the concept behind all of the menagerie of projects that you have?

Jason: To tell you the truth, we both have our own philosophy about why we work this way. As far as music is marketable, the one thing that I always hated is that you can get really involved in a band. The band releases a bunch of different albums, many of them sounding different. Then people bitch about the differences between albums. If we are working on a bunch of tunes and some of them sound different we put them under a different project name. If you would listen to Parallax Shift and then mindFluxFuneral, I don't think you would see any relation between the two. It just happens to be two different ways that we express ourselves and we have given each a different name.

Tony: Sometimes I'll be working on a Parallax Shift track which is total ambient and suddenly it will turn into a noise collage which is more like interrupt. I started doing Jazz music myself in the beginning.

Jason: I was doing New-Age, he was doing Jazz. We are both heavy listeners of early metal and punk doing the 80's. At the same time I was listening to Devo. We both have an eclectic palette of music that we've grown up in. I can't see us trying to merge our sounds together and put it all under a single name. Talk about over answering that question.

Tony: The simple answer is that is just happens and we don't know why.

Jester: Last question, Where do you get some of your samples from? Most of them seem starkingly familiar, and yet I've never been able to find the sources for any of them.

Tony: We'd like to keep it secret...we think it's cool to not know where the samples are coming from.

Jason: We try to make our own samples because we don't want to have to go through any kind of legal battle until we have a large enough record company to defend us legally in case anyone wants to sue us.

[Interviews] [Sonic Boom]
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