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Interview with Ned Kirby of Stromkern conducted via e-mail - 5/19/98

Jester: How did you contact get in contact Kodex/Sushia Light and end up with a record deal?

Ned: I actually got Kodex's address from a La Floa Maldita CD. It was my admiration for that project that prompted me to send a demo to Kodex. I didn't hear anything from them for months, and then one day I get a very short letter that said, "Would you like a record deal? Please let us know".

Jester: Have you found it difficult being an American artist on a German record label?

Ned: Well, it depends what you mean by 'difficult'. It's certainly more difficult to keep in touch with them, although fortunately I speak German so there's not so much of a language barrier. It has been extremely difficult trying to find a US license partner for Stromkern as well as the other acts on Kodex - I guess it reminds me why I went to Europe for a record deal in the first place.

There's just very little interest here for projects that don't fit neatly into a certain genre, which is how I see most of the Kodex bands - La Floa Maldita Still Silent, or even Erblast, they all sort of exist in-between styles. Nothing against OffBeat, but they seem to be the only European electronic label that can get licensing over here, and I think that's partly because there's a certain homogenity to the bands on the label that makes them easier to market, and therefore a safer financial bet, for a potential US licenser.

In a lot of ways I still see being with Kodex as an advantage, as the market for independent music in general and electronic music in particular - at least this particular style thereof - I think is a lot more successful in Europe, not just financially but in terms of audience support as well.

Jester: How many releases are you supposed to release through Kodex/Sushia Light?

Ned: The deal is for the "Flicker" mini-LP plus the option for the next release, if they want it. I'm contractually bound to give it to them. If they don't, I'm up the creek without a paddle, so to speak, or a free agent, to look on the positive side of things!

Jester: Are you working on any new material or a new release?

Ned: The new album, tentatively entitled "Dammerung im Traum", should be completed by June, but it probably won't be released until this Fall. I've done a few remixes for other bands - La Floa, Attrition, a US group called 162 - and there's a few compilation tracks out there that are awaiting release as well.

Jester: How was your material received on the three compilations you have appeared on?

Ned: The response to the track on Mind/Body III 'Konzentrationslagen' was pretty overwhelming at the time, at least for a 19-year-old kid. I still get comments about that track, actually. The track on Biotech 02 'Aussicht vom Rande der Nacht' was actually pretty instrumental in getting the deal with Kodex, a lot of people in Germany really responded well to that track. The Dion Fortune V track 'Metatron' was just a remix I did for them, they really like the original but wanted an exclusive version, so I did the remix for them. I haven't really heard much about that one.

Jester: How have people responded to your new material?

Ned: Pretty well on the whole I think. The only new material that's been previewed were the four tracks we recently did live. I think the more classical bent went over really well, which I'm quite happy about really, as that's sort of the direction the project is taking, at least in one sense. There's still some harder, purely electronic pieces as well, I've paid a lot more attention to sound design this time around so there's some experimental electronics on there also.

Jester: What movie does the heresy sample come from on 'Heretic'?

Ned: You know, I haven't the slightest idea. I got those samples from an excellent CD by a band called Each Dawn I Die, which is a Megaptera side-project. The liner notes said something about anyone being able to freely sample from this CD, so I did. I kept getting compared to Apoptygma Berzerk. I'd never heard them, but when I did, I couldn't figure out why, I don't really sound anything like them at all, to my ear at least. Finally someone sent me their track "Burning Heretics" and it all became clear. But I have no idea where the samples are originally from.

Jester: Why did you decide to cover Nick Cave's 'The Mercy Seat'?

Ned: I've always loved Nick Cave's music, and 'The Mercy Seat' was the only song of his that really made sense to cover in the style I'm operating in. I mean, I love 'Blind Lemon Jefferson' but it would have sounded a bit ridiculous with synthesizers and sequenced drumbeats, right? Musically and lyrically 'The Mercy Seat' was the best fit, it's also the first Bad Seeds track I ever heard so it has a certain nostalgia attached to it for me, I think.

Jester: How did you arrange to have Attrition remix 'The Mercy Seat'?

Ned: I got in touch with Martin in early '95, I've been a huge Attrition fan for many years and I finally just got up the gumption to write him. We hit it off pretty quickly, I sent him a tape and he said he'd be happy to do a remix, so he did. I did a remix of "Cosmetic Citizen" for him last year that's come out on a couple of compilations since, with a Spanish Gothic magazine and also on a 2CD compilation here in the States called "The Pink And The Black".

Jester: How did your first ever live performance opening up for Individual Totem proceed?

Ned: It went off really well actually, I was pretty pleased. No technical problems at all, the engineer was great, the monitors were fine. I was really happy with it. It was great playing with IT, they're really great fellows and I'm really happy to have done our first show with them.

Jester: I noticed that you played several new tracks at that show. Will they be included on a future release?

Ned: They'll all be, in one form or another.

Jester: Have you ever had any type of formal musical training?

Ned: I've had about fifteen years of formal piano training and maybe five years on the cello. I no longer take privately, but I try to keep my skills up to par, just for my own enjoyment really.

Jester: What made you decide to first get into composing and recording music? Why this genre of music as opposed to another?

Ned: I started writing in late 1994. I was DJing pretty heavily at the time, Electro/Industrial and Gothic stuff, and I was just getting bored. It all sounded the same, and none of it sounded very interesting. So I figured, if I was going to hear something I liked, I'd just have to do it myself. Turns out it's a lot easier said than done!

Jester: What is your favorite track on "Flicker Like A Candle"? Why that track?

Ned: What's my favorite track. Well, I guess I'm still rather partial to 'Heretic II', more than anything else. 'The Surgeon' isn't bad in conception but I really hate that version of it, the vocals in particular sound horrible. I've done a completely new and revitalized version of it that will probably show up on a Kodex label sampler later this year. Why 'Heretic II'? One of my major influences is hip-hop, in fact it's the only style of music I really pay a lot of attention to anymore, and that track shows more of that influence - which I've been trying to work in - than any other track I'd done at that point.

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