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Interview with Spahn Ranch - Satyricon, Portland, OR - 4/22/97

Jester: On the new album, "Architecture", you seem to use more 'techno' elements than on previous records. What brought about this change?

Matt: We have always written electronic music, To me all of it folds under the same umbrella. There . arc a lot of different subgeores of electronic music, and you can tack any name you want on them, but it all comes from the same equipment. Yes there is a definite change but I would attribute it to being bored with the old way of making music and desiring to do something different with a new album.

Jester: I noticed that you have a large number of slow songs on 'Architecture'. Was there any particular reason for the large number of slow tracks?

Athan: I think that when you listen to our older albums back when we used more guitars, if you pulled those guitars out of the music, it would sound rather similar to what you hear on the new album. We had some slower songs in the past and I think that Matt ends up writing those slow songs because be knows how much I like to sing them, Personally, I really like slower, more undulating songs.

Matt: There certainly wasn't any direct intent to write slower songs, it just kind of happened that way.

Athan: Whenever we write music, we always try to evoke a certain type of mood but that mood isn't ever put there because we want to write something faster or slower. The mood just sort of happens as we write the song.

Jester: On "The Coiled One", you seemed to have a rather consistent religious theme. However on "Architecture", there didn't seem to be any type of theme or motif Did you intentionally avoid making a concept album?

Athan: Matt and I had a long discussion about this. For this album we decided to make it just a collection of songs rather than striving for any type of theme. I tried to step away from the religious aspect as well. I really squeezed as much religion out of me as possible on the last album.

Matt: If there are real themes on the album, they would have to come from Athan because we both have out distinct roles in writing the music. I compose all of [he music and Athan writes all of the imagery associated with the lyrics. On, "The Coiled One", he had a lot going on inside his head revolving around religion. As for me, I am an atheist so there isn't much I could contribute to the overall mood.

Athan: This album does have a few very personal meanings but they are all over the place and there is no specific concept in mind.

Matt: We never really talk about what a song means when we write it. We go into the studio, record it, and I pay very little attention to the lyrics until later. A few weeks ago we got to talking about one of the tracks and I told Athan what I thought about it. Immediately he said that what I interpreted the song to be about was totally different than we he bad actually intended it to be.

Athan: Most of the time we are just too focused on completing the track or the album that details about how a track should be interpreted become irrelevant. Vocals always seem to come last when we are writing the album so that by the time they are written, their meaning is almost lost in the details.

Matt: I never question any of the stuff that he writes. I really enjoy all of the lyrics that bc writes so I never really sit down and tear it apart line by line trying to find some hidden meaning. So, often I really have no idea what the lyrics are really about. I'm sure there are several other tracks which I am really confused about as well.

Jester: On the video for 'Locusts', why did you choose such a violent theme?

Matt: We didn't choose the theme ourselves. The guy who directed the video came up with the concept. His name is Joseph Cons. He has directed a large. number of very big videos for bands like New Edition, Ice Cube, & Boyz II Men. Joesph really liked our record and wanted to do something for us. He was really into directing a film where he had creative control because usually he is forced to film stuff that is written by the artist. Usually stuff where a helicopter is flying over head, with the lead vocalist firing a gun and having some chick bouncing on his lap,

He told us that he would do a video for us if he could do whatever he wanted. We agreed and we gave him the small budget to make the video. Unfortunately we didn't know that he was going to make a snuff film. Seriously, thought it was really funny and very tongue in cheek, I got really sun burned the day we filmed the desert scenes but Athan wore a tutu which made it all worthwhile.

Jester: Who all was in the video besides the members of the band?

Athan: We actually had a few actors in it besides us.

Matt: He hired four people as extras for the video. Originally he just gave us a synopsis of the video and I thought it was something equitable. Of course it ended up looking like a Richard Kern film, which is fine except there are not that many places where you can air that video.

I think you have the edited version of the video. There is an original cut of the video that the record label freaked out about when they first saw it. They said that they could not send out videos that promoted rape. Not that rape really occurs in the video but people could misinterpret some scenes in the video.

Athan: We ended up taking a little bit of flack about the whole video. Apparently a few feminist groups were a little grossed out about the whole thing.

Matt: Even my ex-girl friend was a little grossed out when she saw it.

Athan: Matt and I have both seen our fair share of false snuff films. This video was obviously fake so that it wouldn't be taken seriously. Everything was done over the top. Yet we still ended with a certain amount of people who were still offended by the video. There were even certain cable shows that wouldn't air the video. Unfortunately independent videos with less, than a $500,000 budget have a limited number of places where they can be shown. So we end up black listed from cable shows and are forced to show our few friends the video instead.

Matt: Then we end up offending our few friends and we begin to wonder why nobody actually understand the video.

Jester: Yet it did get released on the "Industrial Revolution 2" video compilation.

Matt: Yes, the edited version got released.

Jester: You mentioned to me earlier that you were working on a new video for one of the instrumental tracks on "Architecture"? Are you still working on that?

Matt: We ending up scrapping that video. originally the video was going to be for a track that we liked. but it wasn't something we wanted to push with a video.

Athan: We ended up getting too close to the start of the tour to set up any kind of decent shooting schedule. So we decided to put it all on hold until the end of the tour.

Matt: We are still going to shoot another video, just not for that song. We have a few ideas, we just need to finish up all of the vocals when we get back before we start finalizing anything.

Athan: Unfortunately it is very difficult to decide what to do with videos these days because there are so few outlets for bands like us with small budgets, There are so few cable shows that will air the videos. First you have the large bastard video channels where Spahn Ranch would fit very well between Mariah Carey and Michael Bolton. Then you have the small college programs that seem to be dwindling in number. So what do you do with a video? for all intents and purposes, if Cleopatra didn't release retail videos, we would not be doing them at all. I would rather spend the money on something else.

Jester: With whom did you co-write the track, 'U Tell Em U' off the new album or was it a cover song?

Matt: I co-wrote that song with a guy named Raven. However, we did do a cover song on that album. 'Black Skinned Blue Eyes Boys', is a cover song which was originally written by The Equals, a sixties English pop band. It has always been one of my favorite songs and we had talked about doing a cover for almost three years.

Jester: Was that the first cover song you have done outside of the Cleopatra Records tribute albums?

Athan: Yes, I think you are correct.

Matt: We did try to do a cover of 'Heroes' in Mexico City a few times. This cover just really worked for this album so it seemed like the appropriate time to finally do it.

Jester: Does Cleopatra ask you to partake in their Tribute album or do they assign you a track to cover?

Athan: We are told about the tributes very early on and they ask us if we would like to contribute a track, They never assign us a track, we just pick our favorite track by Pink Floyd, Bauhaus, AC-DC, etc and do a cover of that particular song. We happen to live in the same city as the label so it is rather easy to get first choice on the songs we do covers for,

Jester: Is this the first tour you have been on where you haven't had another band tour with you?

Matt: No. This is the fourth full tour we have been on. The last tour with Electric Hellfire Club is the only tour we have been on with another band on our label. The first tour was a cattle call with a few other bands and the second tour was just like this current tour.

Jester: Who is responsible for all of the artwork for the album covers?

Athan: A few of the early covers were done by an acquaintance, of the band at the time. Recently we ended up going with a new guy named Tom. We end up using whatever artist is available and has a portfolio of material that we enjoy.

Matt: The mood and title fit the theme of this new artists so we went with him.

Athan: I end up being a control freak when it comes to the final presentation of the band so that is why I have been partially involved with some of the previous art direction. I want the album cover to be right so I really make sure we are all happy with the final artwork,

Matt: In the past we have had several covers which we have been really unhappy with. So we put our foot down this time and took a more active role in the whole process to avoid that problem.

Jester: Because you work for the label, does that give you any extra ability to control the final layout of your album?

Athan: No.

Matt: A lot of the bands on the label submit their own artwork and just as many let the label take responsibility.

Jester: Can you comment on the reputation of Cleopatra putting together a number of fairly shoddy cover art from very inexpensive an collections?

Matt: None of the artwork on any of the covers is done for free. All of the artwork is put together by someone who is paid very well for their work.

Athan: I think the label gets that reputation from the domestic reissue of albums originally released in Europe. If the European artists has 862 pages in their booklet, Cleopatra will condense that down to four pages- As a result the consumer is sometimes disappointed that the album is not the same as the import. This condensation of artwork is common across all labels simply because it is too expensive to reprint identical artwork for an album that has been on the market for several months overseas, When a label releases albums in such great volume like Cleopatra does, they will always disappoint a few of their customers. They simply cannot please everyone.

Matt: I think a lot of this negative press comes from people who have way too much times on their hands. I know pretty much everyone on the label and the only people that complain about the label are those people who either are not on the label or who have left the label over artistic differences.

Jester: I know that Matt did a remix of 'Panic in Detroit' by Christian Death. Have either of you done any other remixes?

Matt: I have done a bunch of remixes. I remixed two tracks for Christian Death, four tracks for the most recent Damned album, Pygmy Children, Psychic TV and a few others.

Jester: Do you enjoy doing remixes?

Matt: Yes I do. It's fun. The thing I like about remixes is that while the final output is like a collaboration, you don't actually have someone else leaning over your shoulder bothering you while you work on the track. I also like other people remixing our material. If I trust the judgement of other bands and respect their work, I like giving them free reign to rework our material.

Jester: Are you happy to be finally on tour again?

Athan: I am very happy to be touring again. I think touring is the only way to bring our music to certain sections of the country that would normally never see too much of this kind of music. Touring is a very natural progression to follow after finishing an album like we just did. We've played in front of fairly decent crowds for the first five shows and we still have around forty more shows to complete.

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