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Interview with Colin Schwen of Terminal Sect, conducted via telephone by Kevin Congdon - 7/21/97

Kevin: How would you say you've progressed from your older material to the new material on "Bread and Wine for the Dirt"?

Colin: Our production definitely improved. As far as the music style goes, I think we have sort of come into our own. We are deviating away from a lot of our influences.

Kevin: You got a lot of comparisons to SP on your first album; so do you feel people are starting see more of your band's own identity in the music?

Colin: Yes, and I think a lot of that has to do with the production. I think a lot of the elements people are hearing in the newer stuff were there in the older stuff, it just wasn't produced the right way. Everyone is commenting on the fact that there is so much more guitar; but there's actually a lot of guitar on the first one, it was just buried and you couldn't hear it.

Kevin: So it's just basically you and Howard Wulkan (the other band member) doing the production?

Colin: Yes, we self-produce everything and we have our own studio.

Kevin: There seems to be more of a funk flavour to this album as well. Was that something you intentionally tried to incorporate?

Colin: We'd been experimenting with using a live bass and using elements in the music that had a little more of a live feeling and that were poly-rhythmic. It wasn't really intentional, it was coming along that way. We just built on something we liked that we were hearing in the music. Actually, there are so many different styles of music on the record that it's basically a concept record; we tried to connect all the songs in one way or another, whether it was lyrically or with sounds. We also tried to experiment with some new styles and play around with the direction we wanted to go in.

Kevin: Is there a theme behind the concept?

Colin: Yes, there's definitely a theme behind the concept. The theme is basically the title of the album, Bread & Wine for the Dirt; which I guess is a fancy way of saying Ashes to Ashes. As far as the concept goes -- it's something I'd rather let people get on their own, sort of like an audio ink-blot test. You should get out of it whatever your own personality puts into it. You can touch people with your ideas, but if you can somehow pull peoples ideas out of themselves and touch them with their own ideas -- I'd rather do that.

Kevin: Who came up the idea and image on the cover and how does it fit with the theme of the album?

Colin: That was my idea. It has a lot to do with innocence and its progression -- the loss of innocence and then the ability to take innocence and eventually returning to innocence. The idea behind it is essentially: all the history, all the words on all the pages, everything that's built, everything that to us as Human beings seems so grand and eternal will eventually fall and be consumed by the dirt; it's the communion of the dirt, the bread & wine for the dirt. We try and take a spiritual approach to the whole record. We also try and get more of an analogue feeling and get away from the digital; we try to bring a "warmer" feeling to the music, and you can probably tell that from looking at the artwork; it's more organic.

Kevin: Your lyrics are fairly "social conscious", is that something you strive to bring out on the record? And what kind of experience/situation lead to the lyrics on 'Plastic Meat'?

Colin: There's a couple of songs on the record that are more intentionally political, but it's more just personal politics and I try and be broad about them. As far as 'Plastic Meat' goes -- it really deals with pornography from the male perspective; I know it probably comes across as being from the female perspective, but as a male it's pretty tough to deal with pornography from the female perspective, it's really just second-hand information. The song is more a matter of feeling a duality; from being a male and being fascinated by pornography, and at the same time realizing the consequences of pornography; and you're also dealing with free speech and things like that, and the prices that are paid to contribute to what is ultimately just an image. And having female friends and seeing what they go through, dealing with pornography or even just regular imagery on television -- that's sort of what the song is about.

Kevin: How did you hook up with Metropolis?

Colin: Dave Heckman (the label owner) solicited us. He had been watching us as we were developing on None of the Above, and he eventually gave us an offer and we were more than happy to take it. It's a really reputable label and Dave is really excited about what he does and the artists he is putting out. It seemed like a logical progression.

Kevin: Do you have tour plans in the future?

Colin: Yes, we're tentatively talking about going out in January, probably more of an East Coast/Mid-west tour.

Kevin: I've read in a few interviews that both of you are involved in other forms of arts (i.e, painting, multi-media, sculpting) How did you first become interested in the arts?

Colin: I've always been a painter/ drawer/ sculptor; I've always been interested in the arts. My father is an arts professor and he's a professional artist/sculptor; so from early childhood I had that influence around me. I had been going to school for painting for awhile; then I met Howard, who was a musician from Massachusettes, in a ska band of all things. We hooked up and started talking about music and art, and I mentioned to him that I wanted to start incorporating some audioscapes and soundscapes to go along with some painting exhibits I was working on. We kind of took it from there. We worked on some stuff for the exhibit, and since we had such a mutual interest in similar music, we wrote a couple of tracks. That's how the first two demos came about, which eventually became the first CD. It was kind of a slow "what happened" process, and before you knew it we had a band and we were cutting CDs.

Kevin: So are you concentrating more on the musical aspect of your life than the painting now, or do you equally share those two elements?

Colin: I try and equally share the two. But when I'm working on the music, I feel like I'm betraying my painting and sculpting; when I'm painting, I feel like I'm betraying the music. So I try to do everything at once and try not to get too burnt out.

Kevin: Do you incorporate your artistic inclinations into your live set?

Colin:We do a lot of things for the live set, from creating the props to shooting a live video that is syncopated to the whole show. We try and incorporate a lot of imagery and paintings that I've compiled over the years. A lot of the lyrics and the ideas behind the music are just extensions of my paintings. So we try and incorporate a lot of visuals to the show.

Kevin: Do you plan on doing a remix CD like you did with the "Gun Worship EP"?

Colin: It's possible, but we're really not sure. Honestly, I'd rather get in the studio and start working on new material. I feel like I have a never-ending wealth of ideas that never get realized. I think I'd like to get another full-length under our belt before we do another remix CD.

Kevin: How is it that you are able to create these relatively long songs (anywhere from 6 to 13 minutes long), yet still manage to make them interesting throughout?

Colin: It just seems like whatever the idea warrants is what happens; once it feels likes it's done, that's the length of the song. I know some of the songs feel like they have this extended remix sound to them because they're so long and have so many movements to them. It's to have the idea of the song sink in, so that the listener can contemplate the idea; and also to continue contemplating that idea while the song is still occurring, rather than having the song be over and the listener is still thinking about the idea of the song. It's almost impossible for us to create a typical radio-friendly three or four minute song, it would have to be intentional.

Kevin: How do you go about creating songs? Is it more of a case of one person working on most of it and bringing it to the other person or is it more of an even split?

Colin: With the new album it was more a case of one person coming up with much of each track; I'd work on an idea and bring it to Howard and then we would fine tune it together and he would give input and vice versa; he'd contribute guitar tracks to my songs and I'd contribute noise and vocals to his. We did work more independently on a lot of songs on this record, which probably has a lot to do with why there is more diversity to it. But we were also willing to put songs on this album that we normally would have thought didn't really fit in; we wanted to try a couple different styles of music and elements of music. We pretty much wrote what we wanted to hear at the time; we weren't necessarily trying to have every song sound like it belonged with all of the others.

Kevin: Does Howard do any of the vocals or lyrics?

Colin: No, that's something he's never gravitated towards in this project; it was just I did the vocals and lyrics, period. He definitely has some input on how some of the vocals are structured in some of the songs, especially the ones he's created; he'll give me feedback on what I'm doing and give suggestions.

Kevin: You've mentioned that you enjoy more experimental Industrial music. Does that have some influence on your work?

Colin: It definitely had an influence; there is no way you could say it didn't. Anything you hear has an influence on you. We were definitely influenced by the greats. When you get back to the Skinny Puppy comparisons -- it never bothered us; I always felt it was an honour if we were going to be compared to that band. I always felt they had the most integrity and they were the most interesting and they did the most to "push the envelope."

Kevin: Have you done any more production since you did the production work on the Neuroplague cassette "Aborted"?

Colin: I haven't done any, but Howard has done a couple of things --something called the Beat Market CD, which I think is just a CD of drum loops. And I think he worked with a couple other friends of his. I'd rather spend my time writing my own music than producing other people's music.

Kevin: Are you pretty good friends with the guys of Neuroplague?

Colin: Yes, I'm really good friends with them. We're kind of putting together a project with them tentatively titled The Wreckage; it's going to be more of a hardbeat, in-your-face, extreme edge Industrial kind of thing. It's going to be me, Gus & Matt (from Neuroplague), and my friend Chris Ghiraldi. And I have another side project with Chris called Angry Sun, which is kind of like the Cure meets Skinny Puppy; it's more guitar-oriented, but not in the riff sense, it's more textural. It has a Cranes feel to it, but more electronic and a lot more noise and more elements from Industrial music.

Kevin: Besides Terminal Sect and your other two side projects, are you working on anything else music-wise?

Colin: Yes, I just got a project signed with Dave of Metropolis. It's a solo record called Porcupine Defense and the album title is tentatively called "Splinter"; I think that's what I'm going to go with and that should be out in October. The project name is a lyric from the song 'Sanctuary' from the Bread & Wine CD, but it's also a title of a painting I did a long time ago, which might appear in the artwork for the CD.

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