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Interview with Thine Eyes - Barley Mill Pub, Portland, Or - conducted by M.C.Death - 3/22/98

Photos by Jester - Copyright © 1998

M.C.D.: How do you feel about having Doppler Effect Records release "Christian Sex Loops"?

Tanner: It's good to have a sugar daddy.

Laird: It's a lot of fun. It's nice that we're releasing an album with somebody who I think of as being the same size as we are-not a lesser label, but not somebody that's too big-or we're gonna get too swamped.

Tanner: And very supportive.

Laird: And this can only reflect well upon our band.

M.C.D.: How does "Christian Sex Loops" fit into the evolution of the Thine Eyes sound?

Laird: We've finally gone nuts.

Tanner: But then ... we came back.

Rian: It's newer. (everyone laughs)

Tanner: It's not as old.

M.C.D.: You guys are so insightful.

Laird: I think, actually, this is the first time we've ever done something that really is cohesive that has a sound throughout the whole thing that we can really easily latch onto ...

Tanner: ... that's not boring.

M.C.D.: I thought that previous Thine Eyes releases always all came across to me as being cohesive, but "Christian Sex Loops" seems to have a different level of cohesiveness to it.

Laird: I think we've definitely focused.

M.C.D.: Do you feel that old-school Thine Eyes fans may feel alienated?

Rian: The sounds are all still there.

Laird: Yeah, I think there's definitely a possibility, especially since we've lost the paired male/female vocals. A lot of people responded to that, but you know, a lot is like what? 10-20 people? I'm not too worried.

Tanner: It's much sillier than it used to be. We used to be more Goth.

M.C.D.: In the past, Thine Eyes has been associated with the Gothic movement ...

Laird: But our music has become a lot better, so if we've alienated a few people, we'll certainly catch up with more people, just for the fact that the music's much better.

Tanner: The drama is still there, and people responded to that.

Laird: Lots of elements that many people caught onto definitely are still there, like the cinematic sort of feel to the parts.

M.C.D.: Speaking of evolution, how has songwriting evolved within the Thine Eyes camp over the last five years?

Tanner: Well, we're living apart, so it's gotten kind of separate.

Laird: But at the same time ...

Tanner: ... there's this bizarre co-evolution that ...

Laird: ... when we were writing in Portland, it didn't matter. I think Tanner has learned a lot from me, and I certainly have learned a lot from him. And it would just get to the point where one person would open his mouth and the other would interrupt, and say the exact same thing right at the same time, as far as what needed to be done with the song. Oh, "We need to take that part and reverse it and add a little chorus and make it go 'wah-wah' back left and right ... "-and, "Shut up, that's exactly what I was going to say!"

Tanner: Rian's gotten a little more involved, with sound design and production.

Laird: The music's a lot more farty now. (everyone laughs)

Tanner: Thanks to Rian.

Laird: Anything that sounds farty, Rian did it.

M.C.D.: Rian is responsible for the overall flatulence of the Thine Eyes sound?

Rian: That's right. And the general smelliness.

Tanner: Actually, not even the flatulence, but sort of the wet poopiness.

Laird: Hmmm. Boy. (Laughs) Makes you want to go right out and buy this album now! (everyone breaks into laughter)

M.C.D.: You guys have gone from more Gothic-oriented male/female vocal sound to more flatulent-sounding music over the last five years, and that is definitely an improvement and an evolution in the Thine Eyes creative process, right?

Laird: I was really happy to read a Bjork interview once where she described her music as "farty," and that just made me happy. Yeah, sure. A lot of synth music's going to sound like an airlighted fart.

Tanner: And also we can now accept funk bass lines now, which I think is phenomenal considering that over three years ago, we would have scoffed at it.

Laird: Three years ago we had a big hang-up about percussion. And we wanted to put it in and yet ...

Tanner: We were afraid of it.

Rian: We didn't want to have a consistent drum loop.

Tanner: We felt like it was too much of a crutch, which I think was our academic background speaking. We thought that percussion was dumb.

Rian: But I think the fact that it changed so much made it hard for some people to listen to us.

Tanner: I still have that problem with Industrial music. I mean, a lot of it, especially some of the younger bands rely on those tacky presets-type riffs which feel ... I don't know ...

M.C.D.: ... like drum machines?

Tanner: Yeah. They feel like drum machines.

M.C.D.: When I listen to Thine Eyes songs and their back catalogue. I notice the lack of drum machines in the music.

Laird: We don't own any drum machines. Actually I have one. It is sitting under my bed and it has been for about two years. We haven't used it since "The Ascent." Since ...

Tanner: ... seven years ago.

Laird: That is one thing we have always enjoyed, sampling a lot of sounds and using those in percussive ways. You'll notice more and more that we're using percussive sounds, but we're still using a lot of strange and bizarre sounds-hacked, tweaked, destroyed sounds-in a percussive way. We've just learned to let the rhythmic element of the songs take the attention that they deserve.

Tanner: I'm almost more afraid of melody now than I am of percussion.

M.C.D.: How have technological advances within the Thine Eyes camp affected the sound of the band?

Tanner: Clarity. Quality.

Laird: Yeah, the Akai sampler (S2000) sounds so pristine and clear. Very nice. A tighter sound.

Tanner: You know, I've always thought of what we do as being sort of like a high-tech, low-fi-or hi-fi, low-tech, because we have those high-tech things, but our production is still really sort of base. And I like that. I mean the quality is a little bit dirty, and you can hear the fact that we're not working with four ADAT machines.

M.C.D.: Have all these technological changes within the Thine Eyes arsenal changed the songwriting process, or even the ideas about what songs to write?

Laird: Yes. I think that one thing that we tried to do when we were using the Future Music Oregon studio in Eugene was to resample our own music-"Paved In Skin" was very much resampled and resampled and resampled. So we're taking portions of our music and using them as instruments. We still do that tons. And I think that now with the Akai and with the digital music production, we're doing that to an even greater extent.

Tanner: The software's gotten a lot more interesting. And a lot more bizarre. So we could do some pretty wild stuff with software that you couldn't do years ago. It used to be all about mixing and maybe compressing and EQ-ing.

M.C.D.: What are some of your favorite software and hardware tools that you guys have been using aside from the Akai sampler?

Tanner: Recycle, SoundHack, Pro Tools ... and MetaSynth, I think, is going to become a favorite because it is incredible!

Laird: Virtual Drummer. (Laughs)

Tanner: Yeah. Virtual Drummer is this great, stupid little program that this guy Jon Nichols wrote as a shareware thing. It's so great. It's just a drum machine.

Laird: It uses the sounds that are built-in on a Mac, so that it's doinky and little and stupid.

Tanner: And fantastic.

Laird: It's great. Dork beats. A great way to make dork beats.

M.C.D.: Do you guys find it encouraging that the demand and the popularity of Thine Eyes in the underground have kept up in the last five years despite the lack of availability of an album proper in the U.S.?

Tanner: I have a confused sense of it, because I don't feel like we really are well-known, but whenever I read a review of us that appears on a compilation, people write things like, "legendary" and "well-known." I don't know.

Laird: Even Ken (Holewczynski, of Magnetic Resonance) with his new record label, has in the past, "brought lesser-known bands to the status of being 'on a (compilation) CD with Thine Eyes and Sphere Lazza.'"

Tanner: Maybe it has to do with longevity. I don't know.

Laird: Like, "(a compilation featuring) Wumpscut and Thine Eyes ..."

Tanner: Okay. Without putting an album out? Sure.

Laird: Actually, the weirdest thing was when somebody compared us to Aurora. There was a CD review of Aurora, and the reviewer's like, "Well, they kind of sound like Thine Eyes." What the heck? (everyone laughs)

Tanner: Jester does that. He used us for a basis of comparison a few times. I read some review recently where he said, "The only band that I could compare this group to is Thine Eyes." I don't remember what band it was.

Laird: (to Jester) What band was that? (everyone laughs)

Jester: When you've written over a thousand reviews in the last six years, I am not going to easily remember which review that was.

(A brief interruption occurs as waiter brings food for all of us. Momentary chaos reign as tasty morsels are bitten/chomped by everyone.)

M.C.D.: How does Thine Eyes fit in the scheme of the local Industrial scene?

Tanner: We don't. Except we just appear on compilations and we're friends with most of them.

Laird: We know a lot of the people who play out.

Tanner: But not being a performing act and not really socializing a lot ...

Laird: ... it's not like anybody would say, "Oh yeah! That's the big Portland band!"

M.C.D.: What would be the word to describe your genre?

Tanner: ALCOHOLICA! (great big laughter from everyone)

Laird: Flaccid house.

Tanner: But of course Rian doesn't drink.

Rian: You guys will drink enough for me though.

Laird: Alcoholica and then flaccid house. They kind of go hand in hand.

Tanner: Our other famous slogan-"stupid music for smart people."

M.C.D.: What artists have you been listening to and have been influenced by recently?

Tanner: Autechre.

Laird: Anybody on Warp Records.

Tanner: And Reflex (Records). Plaid. In a big way.

Laird: The new Plaid is sweet!

M.C.D.: There's been over two dozen tracks written between the releases of "From The Taunt" and "Christian Sex Loops". Do you guys think that some of those tracks which didn't make it on the album will ever see the light of day in the form of an official release?

Laird: I'd like them to.

Tanner: Me too. I think if "Christian Sex Loops" does well, then hopefully ...

Laird: ... I think that "Christian Sex Loops" is definitely a stronger first foot forward as far as a U.S. release is concerned, but the other ones are certainly ...

Rian: It might be harder for people to see the transition, not having listened to the stuff before.

M.C.D.: Were there a lot of decisions that went into the process of figuring whether a song was going to make it on "Christian Sex Loops" or not?

Laird: Yeah.

Tanner: We had four versions of the album.

Laird: At least. It's gone through many changes. Hopefully, it's for the better. I think so.

Jester: I'm glad that 'Vaseline Machine' is on it. I like that song a lot.

Tanner: Really?

M.C.D.: You guys used vaseline in the recording process? (everyone laughs)

Tanner: Always.

Rian: Well, it is about sex.

Laird: In the recording process? No. Well, we used it for ... well. Wow! What a juicy pepper! Check it out! (Laird holds up the pepper garnish which came with his burger sandwich) (everyone breaks into a hysterical fit of laughter)

M.C.D.: (After regaining composure) Your formative years' work was done down in Future Music Oregon studio. FMO has gained a lot of attention over the last few years, including a strong web presence. Do you guys feel that Thine Eyes has contributed a lot to the ascension of the FMO organization?

Tanner: Not a lot.

Laird: We did something. We presented at SEAMUS (an academic electronic music conference), so we've done something for them. But they've got bigger names than 'Tanner and Laird.'"

Tanner: They had Jeff Peyton, who is an extremely well-established and a very active musician here in Portland, among many others.

Laird: We were very happy to be amongst that crowd ...

Laird: ... for a while, but then we kind of needed to do our own thing on our own terms.

M.C.D.: Do you guys feel that you've learned a lot of fundamental aspects and philosophies of Thine Eyes during your work in the FMO program?

Laird: Yes, but I don't think we've learned any sort of songwriting techniques there, except that Dr. (Jeffrey) Stolet always pushed us to just be crazy-ass, weirdo, motherfucking bizarre.

M.C.D.: How do you guys feel about the underground Industrial scene in general?

Tanner: I don't really pay much attention to it, except for the people that I know.

Laird: I haven't kept up with it as much as I used to. I just wonder about how much new material is really coming out of the real hardcore Industrial scene. There is a lot of stuff that I like, but ...

Tanner: ... I've kind of lost interest in the sound, but there are some other Industrial musicians that started out in the genre, but have branched out.

Laird: Like Black Lung.

Rian: Yeah. A lot of really good musicians, I think, have started doing other things, doing other kind of music.

Laird: Industrial music is really at a turning point right now. Wax Trax! Records is dead, Skinny Puppy has broken up, and I think a new sound has yet to be defined.

Tanner: Well, it may be true in Industrial, but musicians from other camps have created new sounds.

M.C.D.: So do you think that Industrial seems, in that case, a former shell of what it used to be?

Laird: No. I think it's younger. I think there's more people. It's more accessible as far as being able to write Industrial music nowadays.

Rian: It still feels like an echo of previous bands.

Tanner: It feels to me like most of the people I know who are doing it haven't really developed much of musicianship. With some exceptions, but ...

Laird: There's some really great stuff going on. Like in Seattle, I'd really like to go out and see Noxious Emotion, but it's definitely their sound, a very beat-driven, very heavy, Teutonic sound, something that I'd definitely have to be in the mood to go see. And if I don't want to see that, I don't enjoy it so much. But when I do, they're great! They're one of the bands that are doing it really well, and they're really accessible. Maybe it's because those two guys are so nice and everything, that I say they're "accessible," but you know, maybe because I'm in the scene, but I seem to know more people who are in Industrial bands now than I did five or six years ago, even though I've been listening to Industrial music since I started writing. That's one thing that I enjoy, is that you could associate with somebody. A lot of friends that I make will have similar musical tastes that I do, and a lot of times you're like, "So what do you listen to?" But nowadays, it's almost like, "What kind of music do you write?" And that's a really interesting interaction, I think, to have.

M.C.D.: So the situation has gone from, "Hey, I have these CD's!" to "Hey, I have these CD's and I know these guys!"?

Laird: Yeah. And that's great! I think it can be troublesome because there's a lot of bands out who I'd really enjoy if I know them, but if they're from halfway across the continent, I may not care.

M.C.D.: What are some of the thematic influences in the music of Thine Eyes, and what types of events or subjects inspire Thine Eyes' song titles?

Tanner: Death. I lost a close friend of mine last year. And I wanted to do something to (get across) how I felt about it. You know, death, sex, withdrawal-all that.

Rian: Movies.

Laird: Titles are almost random, but I think the emotions that sometimes we're trying to deal with in terms of expressive sense, is often influenced by exactly what Tanner says-death, sex, withdrawal.

Tanner: Sometimes we just want to do something in a different style. Like the opening track is called "Uncomplications" because I wanted to write something that was pared down basically.

Laird: But certainly, I think the music has become a lot more personal in our transition from the pseudo-Goth/Industrial band to "something-that-really-kind-of-defies-any-logical-description" Industrial/Electronica. But today the stuff that we write is certainly a lot closer to our hearts than what we used to write about. I think that's us opening up, and an honesty thing. If there's anything we're able to share thematically and not just musically, we're gonna work on something that's within our world.

M.C.D.: What's the significance of sock monkeys?

Rian: They're made out of socks.

Tanner: They're made completely out of socks.

Laird: We like them.

Tanner: Because they're made completely out of socks.

M.C.D.: So you have a special affinity for something that's made entirely out of socks?

Tanner: Monkeys.

Laird: Monkeys.

Tanner: And sock monkeys, being both monkeys and made out of socks, are especially important.

Rian: Yeah. It's the best of two worlds.

M.C.D.: Do they influence the Thine Eyes sound, or are they an institution that Thine Eyes wishes to be associated with?

Tanner: I don't know.

Jester If they had it their way, they'd dress up as big, giant sock monkeys on stage.

Tanner: That's right.

Rian: If we did a show, that's what we'd be called.

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