Interview with Sister Machine Gun at Club Soda in Kalamazoo, MI, July 15, 1995.

Photos by AggroChik Copyright © 1996

Jester: I posted to the other day to get questions from fans, and this is a question I got from your wife. She asked if you missed your beautiful wife and of course her pasta because road food sucks?

Chris Randall: Desperately would be the word your looking for.

Ed Finkler: That's some kick ass pasta!

Chris Randall: That's why I married her. (laughs all around)

Jester: Obviously Die Warzau had an influence on The Torture Technique. How much of a conscious effort went into making sure sounded like Chris Randall and not Chris Randall and Jim Marcus? How much of an effort went into making "Burn" NOT sound like the Torture Technique?

Chris Randall: Not so much conscious effort in as much as Jim Marcus was never there. I got married and stopped doing drugs and summarily was able to focus on my music. I was prepared for the whole thing. Whereas on TTT I'd come in and do some stuff and pass out, Jim would do some stuff, someone else would do some stuff and we were never really working in sync. Which is different from "Burn", which is a record full of songs that I wrote.

Jester: So do you feel it was better overall to be in control of the entire project as opposed to letting everyone work on the album in pieces?

Chris Randall: Well there are good and bad sides to both. TTT was a wacky record. It definitely had it's up and downs, it was jagged as a record because of so many different people making it. "Burn" sounds like I made it, it's my record, it's a Chris Randall record. That's the main difference I suppose.

Jester: Do you feeling that you have grown producing music outside of your own, like the Crocodile Shop album?

Chris Randall: That was a long time, in 1992, it just got released recently unfortunately. I've learned a lot, now I can go in and engineer entirely by myself whereas before I would have needed a lot of help. And when you know why something is happening it is a lot easier to make it happen or not make it happen. Before I didn't really know what was going on. it is a lot easier to make something sound the way you want it to when you know the sound works. Now that I've spent so much time with John Fryer I know a lot more about engineering and being able to produce a good product.

Ed Finkler: Do you feel it is easier to get your particular sound that way?

Chris Randall: Yes, because know I know how to make what I want to here rather than ask someone. I'm asking whatever engineer is working with me at that time to kind of make a sound, and they make it the way they hear it rather than the way I hear it. Now I can make something sound a certain way and it is a lot more coherent. I notice that a lot on the record. I tried to make the old record flow but all of the songs were so different that we just lumped them all together. The songs went in a certain way, but not the right way. I'd like to do it over. It's really impossible to not want to do a record over. But with "Burn", I am happy with it, I don't want to do it over. Maybe give it a few years, but right now I am happy with it which is something I wasn't with TTT.

Jester: Going way, way back. How did you get involved with L.A. Style?

Chris Randall: As soon as I heard way way back, I knew that was coming. (laughter all around)

Jester: I've never heard the full story before and I was curious.

Chris Randall: Well it goes a little something like this. I'll give you the Reader's Digest version. The guy that got KLF to move from Wax Trax to Arista. He had L.A. Style, a Belgian band, the band was really popular in Europe at the time and he thought it could work in America with a little U.S. influence added to the band. So he called Wax Trax and said he needed "A Young Trent or Al", was how he put it. The manager said that he had the boy for him. So on Thanksgiving day in 1992 they flew me to Belgium and I sat in the studios with those guys for three terrifying days and wrote a fucking song. It was ugly, but I did it. It certainly helped in the name recognition because I had already recorded Sins of The Flesh. It just took a little while to come out.

Ed Finkler: Was it bad because you hadn't meet these guys?

Chris Randall: It is one guy. He had never ever worked in the studo before. The way of these techno albums are put out nowadays are one guy sitting alone in his bedroom with a MPC-60 making a song. They are not used to working with someone else and I am a pretty opinionated person. He and I didn't get along real well. Arista was really supportive. I could have done a lot better, but the vibe wasn't there. Vibe is a very important part of making something. Arista just decided to make what they could off of it and they sold a million and a half copies. It is funny how these things work out sometimes. I ended up with a large chunk of change from that one. So that is the story behind L.A. Style. It was fun, and I got to bum around Europe for a few months and stay with Sascha and Amber, that was interesting to say the very least as he was recording Money at the time, but we had a good time overall.

Jester: I know you are on the Internet with the web pages and e-mail.

Chris Randall: Yes!

Jester: Have you seen the web pages?

Chris Randall: Yeah, I made them. I wrote all the copy, I just tell the guy what to do and he puts it up. That's the official web page because I did it myself.

Jester: What is the complete story about the cover for "Burn"?

Chris Randall: There really isn't a full story behind that. I was given the understanding that I could offer a certain amount of money for this contest. Then when I picked a cover I liked out of sixty or so, I told the kid that he win, and I took it to Wax Trax and said i told them to give him half up front like they do with any artist, and half of what I offered was more than I paid for the last cover which was done as a favor by Jim Marcus.

[brief intermission as Stephen Yates, the light guy, grabs his tools]

Chris Randall: So half of what I offered him was more than they payed Jim for the last cover. They think that well, we only paid this much for the last cover, why should we pay twice as much for the new one, even though it was still half of what you'd normally pay a cover artist. It was just weird. Record companies exist to make money. If they didn't make any money they would not be in business, as we all know. So, I hardly blame them. So we got someone who would do it for dirt cheap and actually did a wonderful job as you'll see when the album is released. It looks like of funny when you look at the little gif. You probably saw the Jesus one which was kind of lame but there is a new one which is very fresh. The whole thing together is quite a piece of artwork. The guy whose does the Skinny Puppy covers did a bunch of paintings for it. He is just amazing. I wasn't very pleased with the whole affair before, but I am pleased now. The whole thing was done very quickly, and well done at a very reasonable cost which makes everyone very happy.

Jester: Do you get what you want for your record without having to worry that TVT will not give it to you?

Chris Randall: It had it's up and downs. If they feel that they can sell something they will be behind it so hard, which is the case right now, if they don't think they can sell it, which was the case with TTT, they won't. They do their own thing but if they don't get a lot of feedback from radio and press, then they don't push it. That's as much my fault for giving them an unfocused record, I am not blaming them. TVT has a very sordid past, but I'm getting along with them fine. They've gone along with every cockamanny idea that I've had. They are treating me really well. The case in point is the first single of the new record called "Hole In The Ground" and they asked me if who I wanted to remix mix it, John Fryer of course, and they are flying into New York so i can do the vocals for it before sound check. This is unusual in my experience. I have always seen them do that sort of stuff for Sascha and treating him really well. The fact that they are doing this to me is to use one of their catch phrases, they are going "To Take this to the next level." Which is a big A&R phrase. I get along with everyone in the office really well. There are two entirely different positions of a musician and a businessmen trying to work together. They are completely at odds, but when it does work it is pretty fucking cool.

Nick: Was the Bobby Shea incident one of the downs?

Chris Randall: I do not want to talk about that. That is nobody's business but Bobby's, and is pretty much over and done with. He made a mistake and he paid the price and that is all I've got to say on the subject.

Ed Finkler: Are you going to be making a video?

Chris Randall: Hell yeah!

Ed Finkler: Is it going to be real cold again when you do it?

Chris Randall: We are going to do it again in the middle of November in the uptown theater just like last time. No seriously, I am hoping for a warmer locale, like the Badlands, but there is only so far I can take my record company. I want this full production with a helicopter and blimps.

Ed Finkler: You could do like Slayer and do it in front of the Pyramids!

Chris Randall: I am not going to push my luck and keep everything cost effective and I've been pretty successful at doing that. We're not a very expensive and I do not want to change that. But we're definitely going to do a video, we just don't know who will be doing it or even which song it will be. They have never had a lot of experience with videos in the past. Wax Trax bands have never had a lot of success without MTV, and without airplay you basically have a $20,000 masturbatory excess. A video doesn't really make a lot of sense if you can't get it on MTV which really is a fucking shame. That's the way record labels work.

Ed Finkler: Was Wired refused by MTV or was it just never played?

Chris Randall: They refused it. Interesting enough the new show with the band with the kids driving around, which is what I do professionally has Wired as the theme music. Go figure. However a very good friend of mine is now one of the programmers on MTV we we actually might stand a chance of being on it again. At the time of the Not My God video I was really good friends with Dave Kendall, with Wired, Dave Kendall wasn't there, and I was out of luck. This time I got a new friend there so maybe we can work something out, give him some T-shirts or whatever.

Jester: What was the reasoning behind the pre album tour followed shortly thereafter with the album tour itself?

Chris Randall: A couple of reasons. One, I had nothing to do. Two, I really enjoy playing a lot especially when we're good at it. We are trying to create a whirlwind of publicity and the fact that your sitting here talking to me at this very moment is a tribute to that fact. Basically it was because we wanted tour. In regards to Die Warzau, they could not initially tour with their new album. I'm not sure why, maybe it was because their manager wasn't any good or TVT didn't really know what to do with them. So I saw an opportunity for both bands to go out and tour and play a reasonably decent number of shows. Which is basically the idea and it has turned out to be a really good idea with the exception of it being this fucking hot. We just happening to be touring during the worst heat wave this part of the country has ever experienced.

Jester: The weather is apt for the album title.

Chris Randall: Exactly perfect, maybe I should have named the new album Freeze!

Jester: I noticed the tour is ending at the Double Door in Chicago at the Independent Music Festival was that intentional?

Chris Randall: Yes.

Jester: What exactly is the Independent Music Festival?

Chris Randall: It is the Independent Label Festival. It is similar to the New Music Seminar, a large number of indie labels getting an opportunity to promote all of their bands to a large number of influential people. A side benefit of anyone going to Chicago that week is they get to see a lot of good shows.

Jester: It is an entire week?

Chris Randall: It is four days, Thursday through Sunday. We're playing the headliner show because Wax Trax is the largest independent label in Chicago and we're the largest band with the exception of some band whose name I cannot remember but I understand who is quite big.

Jester: The only other band that I know of besides you that is playing in Chicago that week is Foetus on Saturday night.

Chris Randall: No that is not part of the Festival but I'll be there. Foetus is on of my favorite bands. In any case the festival kind of replaced the seminar when the seminar stopped existing. The festival is designed to solve a number of issues that seem pretty lofty but it seems to be going along pretty good. Our show is already sold out.

Jester: I noticed that the Final Cut, Tony Asrock in particular, dropped out of this section of the tour in order to prepare for the Double Door show, what exactly has been going on with the band, as we haven't seen or heard from them in three years since I saw them with Chris Connelly at this very same place?

Chris Randall: They have been making a record for that length of time. If you know Tony he is a mild sort of a perfectionist and it takes a long time to get some of that stuff right. I don't know if they will actually be playing the show, if they don't play we'll find someone else to play, even if it is Chris Connelly doing spoken word or some other band playing before we play doing something cool we're not exactly sure. Maybe Lick, or someone, but someone will play that show, hopefully The Final Cut. Originally it was Chris Connelly. It's hard to say, you can't predict Tony. He is an unpredictable guy. I would very much appreciate it if they would play but if they don't I can't do anything.

[I ran out of prepared questions and we kind of dorked around with stupid shit until Ed asked a very sarcastic question.]

Ed Finkler: Are tours basically titty and blow?

Chris Randall: Yeah! Constantly, all we do is titty and blow and get up for thirty seconds and play. Actually, none of the above. I could personally care less because I have all this homework my band manager has given me to do, but the other band members are kind of wishing for titty and blow which they are not receiving. Welcome to the wacky world of industrial music, if you don't like the band, stay home!

Jester: What is the deal with Jim Marcus's covers of naked women?

Chris Randall: Well, your about to talk to Jim I take it? Then you will understand. Jim is obsessed with sex. Go figure. I lived with him for awhile and I was constantly amazed. I don't live with him any more and I still am constantly amazed. But everyone has their own schtick. I play with computers, Jim plays with women.

Ed Finkler: Did Jim do the paddledick logo?

Chris Randall: Yes.

[The sound man came into the truck and we ended up on the topic of vocals]

Chris Randall: I learned a valuable lesson that it is all fine and dandy to do whispered vocals in a recording studio when you can deal with it, but in live situation you can't. Now our songs are actually a lot different live now because we have a live band. Drums, guitar, guitar, vocals, vocals. So it is a whole different band that on the album or any other tour with Sister Machine Gun that you've ever seen. It is a lot more powerful. You will be amazed. Last night even though it was 130 degrees under the light on the stage, we just slayed! It is a whole new beast.

Jester: So the turnout has been pretty decent for the two shows you've done so far?

Chris Randall: With the heat being so bad the turnout has been surprising. Everyone knows that the Reptile House (Grand Rapids) doesn't have any A/C but we still filled the place. A couple of show are sold out already. We're going to Canada tomorrow, and I don't have high hopes for that one. In general we're doing quite well. Double Door has sold out and D.C. is doing real well for ticket sales. Even thought the tour is so short it will be phenomenally successful and it will kind of remind people that we are there because we haven't played in almost a year.

Jester: Are you going to tour Europe with the album tour or are you going to stay in the U.S.?

Chris Randall: I don't know. We has distribution over there. TVT got us a licensing deal with a label whose name escapes me. We could tour, and American bands do very well in Europe. I get so much e-mail from Europe. Maybe a third of the mailing list is Europeans.

[At this point Jim Marcus knocked on the door of the van inquiring about dinner and was informed that he was doing an interview with us later and we continued on with the interview]

Chris Randall: It makes it very expensive to mail all this stuff to Europe. Which is interesting because when I was on London I went to Tower Records and they had a section set out for Sister Machine Gun and it was empty which means they sold all our product. It is only a minimal amount of our total records sales is done in Europe and some in Japan which we seem to do really well in for some reason. KMFDM is going to Japan and we're on the same label as they over in Japan. We are hoping to perhaps work that out, and Europe will of course follow. Me neck is killing me from last night.

Ed Finkler: My neck is always doing that when I goto a show.

Chris Randall: I haven't been on stage now for almost a year and I'm out of shape. We didn't really rehearse very long, just for a week and a half. My voice is still pretty dry even now. There is no amount of rehearsing that can even remotely simulate live performances. We had a really bad night last night, we had to sleep on a futon on top of the van. When we were pulling the futon out to put on the roof we broke into giggles because of the silliness of it. It wasn't normal giggles, it was a manical Damien like giggles. So we slept on the roof on a sweltering night just past Battle Creek in a rest area. I got maybe an hour of sleep and when I woke up my leg was hanging off the side of the van. The sun was beating down on my baseball hat.

Ed Finkler: How did you manage to perform Paul Revere last night at the Reptile House after passing out?

Chris Randall: I didn't actually pass out, my knees just gave way, but I continued on and didn't even miss a beat. I fell over basically the kids just pushed me back up and we continued. I almost threw up. It was just at that point where I had tunnel vision and everyone was having white outs. I came so close to throwing up in the middle of the song. At the end of the set I dropped my guitar went offstage and threw up over the fire escape outside. It was really hot easily 130 under the lights. Detroit last night was kind of the same thing but we were kind of prepared. We had towels soaked in ice water and drinks around the stage. But anyways, I wake up and my leg is fucking hanging over the side of the van. And I'm like "No fucking way!" because I didn't remember how I got up there. I was so tired and I was lying on a futon on the top of a van in Battle Creek, Michigan. What other job could put you in a situation like this. It took me a second to realize where I was.

Nick: Haver you gotten a place for the night already?

Chris Randall: Yes. Some large convention had rented a bunch of rooms at the Radisson and didn't use them so we got those. I didn't sleep at all. There was a guitar show inside and I bought a huge amount of classic equipment which my wife is going to beat me soundly for as soon as she finds out. I couldn't help it. It was all amazing stuff. So we're going to go back after this and head for Toronto. We were actually in a real hotel for eight hours just not the hours I'd normally be sleeping which is why I have these unsightly bags under my eyes. We were so mad. It only takes about two hours to drive from Detroit to Kalamazoo. It took us like three hours because we stopped at every hotel on the way over and they were full. There is apparently a hot air balloon festival, a jazz festival and a soccer tournament. So every single hotel between Detroit and Chicago is booked solid.

Ed Finkler: Actually if the show goes fast you can drive down to St. Joesph and catch Loverboy at the Venetian Festival.

[laughter all around]

Chris Randall: We'll be offstage at about 7:30 this time. We're not a self contained unit, each band doing their own thing, this time we're all together sharing the vans and the trailers. On the KMFDM tour one night we kind of packed all of our shit up and went to see Pink Floyd. Here we can't do that we're sharing all the same road people and equipment.

[I took a moment to get my album signed by Chris Randall and Ed piped in about getting Chris's personal copies a week or so before and Chris mentioned having a copy of the Japanese release.]

Ed Finkler: Does it have any special bonus tracks like every other Japanese release?

Chris Randall: No. It was interesting because I sent them a copy of the lyrics because they laws there that require the lyrics. The translated from English to Japanese for the liner notes. It is this little poster that goes inside the album that is really cool. It is all in Japanese with stuff about the band of which I have no idea. I did see stuff like Ministry and KMFDM appearing in places on the liner. Then they translated the lyrics back into English. The dual translation from English to Japanese back to English was a mess. The guy who translated it back to English doesn't have a great deal of command of our mother language. It was amusing to say the very least. I fucking lost it. Nothing, Krakhead, and Cocaine Jesus were the lyrics that they translated. I was going to sing the lyrics that they wrote on this tour but everyone would have thought that we were doing a different song. The way we do it live doesn't sound like anything on the album anyways. It is very slow and funky. Well I've got to get to work now guys.

[We all got out of the comfortably air conditioned van into the muggy air and let Chris get on his way to his sound check. Herein lies the end of the interview.]

[Interviews] [Sonic Boom]
Last Modified: