Interview with Jeremy Maw of Yeht Mae - conducted by telephone - 2/15/97

Jester: Can you go into a little detail about the origins of Yeht Mae?

Jeremy: It all started when I was working with a guy in 1988. We were both computer programmers and were really interested in the application of computers in making music. That project never came to fruition and no real material beyond a few demos were ever completed. Then I decided to go out on my own because it was easier that way. I ended up staying a solo project for some time simply because it was much simpler to write material alone without having to deal with anyone else.

Jester: How did Linda join the band?

Jeremy: Linda had always been on the periphery of the project and had worked at the same place I did. She added a real gothic influence to the music and we had brought her to work with us on many occasions. She also helped a lot with drum beats and brought a lot of the moodier tones to the newest album. She probably contributed the most on the new album than on any other.

Jester: Was this the first time she has ever been heavily involved with the music making process?

Jeremy: No, she has been heavily involved in the past, this album just exhibits her greatest contribution to date.

Jester: I noticed the obvious alien concept theme on the new album, and I wondered where that idea originated from?

Jeremy: It has always been an idea of mine that life on Earth was a science experiment planted by another race. Often when people get into religious discussions they talk about God, and they are often just talking about a superior being. To me that superior being could have just been an alien. So maybe perhaps instead of there being this mythical religious figure, that those superior beings are just aliens who seeded this planet with life. To me it has always been a very simple and understandable possibility.

Jester: WHy did you use so many samples from the X-Men cartoon series? Was that because most of the samples relate to genetic experiments and mutations so that it fit the overall alien concept?

Jeremy: I am impressed that you noticed that, I didn't think those samples were from an obvious source. During the period when I wrote the album, I watched the cartoon on Saturdays mornings and I noticed how excellent the sounds were. The voice overs in that cartoon were very intense and appropriate. So I just used them straight out to be effective and I hope they balance the ideas that I am trying to present.

Jester: I notice a lot of people have begun to sample cartoons and Anime simply because it is largely an untapped resource.

Jeremy: Very true. However the next time you watch one of those cartoons, get a good pair of earphones and listen to the show. You will notice the depth of the voices and the excellent quality of the sound. You will definitely get a different perspective of what they are trying to say.

Jester: I noticed that you use a deeper vocal effect than usual on this album. Was that done to fit the overall mood of the album?

Jeremy: Yes. I wanted to get away from the regular distorted vocals and get into something that had more of a mood. I think that on some of the tracks you can't quite hear the lyrics but I'm certain you can get the feel of what is being said. I definitely had to drink a lot of water to sing like that. The whole vocal process was done one line at a time to gain the proper tonal effect.

Jester: The third track on the album is titled, 'Lynaka Says Don't Dream'. Where does that name come from?

Jeremy: Unfortunately that is a misprint. It was supposed to be 'Lymka'. The idea came from one of the samples I used when first developing the song. Sometimes when you use certain samples in a track the whole concept comes together and tells you what to write about. So I was just assembling the track when I came across the "Don't Dream" sample and the whole track came together.

The whole concept of the album is that an alien has been sent to Earth. So each of the different songs relate in various perspectives the experiences that the alien has while visiting. Some of the tracks deal with the alien experimenting on humans to create a soldier race for his planet. On others the alien is being hunted but in this case the alien has come in contact with Lymka, learned about human sex, and ended up becoming her sex slave. He ends up losing all of his alien personality as a result and that is where the "Don't Dream" sample comes into play. The dreams are about where he came from and he is losing all of that by becoming a slave to her desires.

Jester: How are you able you make some of those guitar sounds actually appear as if they are being played by a synthesizer?

Jeremy: A great deal of distortion. I just tend to get a little ridiculous with the distortion. I don't really have a proper studio so I don't run my equipment through an amplifier. I end up running everything through the effects and directly to tape. This kind of setup gives you a completely different sound than if I used an amplifier.

So with the distortion turned way up, you can play just about any note and it is barely perceptible as a note. Then I usually add a long sustain effect and it gives it that synthesizer type feel. I tend to get all of my ODD sounds by simply pushing the parameters of the sound and not using amplifiers to obtain this synthetic feel to my guitar chords.

I've actually been making music in this way for quite some time. I tend to either play very mechanically in the way I hit the notes, or very harmonic. I try to avoid playing direct strings, instead I attempt to just evoke straight sounds from the instrument.

Jester: Have you ever played live before?

Jeremy: I have played a few times live early on in the band's history. I really enjoyed playing live and I have visions of what I would like to do in the future but touring really is a pain in the ass. The driving, time, and effort make things very difficult. On top of that, most of what I do is in the studio, so translating that to a live show and finding artists to play those parts would be very time consuming. So right now I don't play live at this point in the band's evolution.

Jester: It seems like it would be extremely difficult to reproduce the exact sounds you use on certain tracks in a live setting from what you mentioned previously.

Jeremy: Replicating the guitar sounds would not be that difficult, but reproducing the drums would be very difficult. I'd have to come up with an entirely different live concept because I would have to put most of the music on tape to faithfully reproduce a live show. I have several ideas about how to do it but I am very hesitant because of all of the perils involved with touring. As a result people know very little about me because I don't play live. I have been involved with music for eight or nine years and few people have heard of us.

Jester: Do you think that is because you have always been signed to European labels?

Jeremy: Yes, but now that we have a licensing deal through Metropolis things should start to get a little better. It is always hard to get people to carry our music but I have always have good luck with German labels. I've tried to get on American labels in the past but it has never really worked out until now.

Jester: Why did you move from Zoth Ommog Records to Out of Line Records on this recent release? Was it simply the end of one contract and the start of another?

Jeremy: Essentially. However, Zoth Ommog has been moving towards a very polished techno sound and the music that I make has a very grungy element and is not as slick. So Yeht Mae really hasn't fit the new Zoth Ommog music style, so the move to another label has been beneficial to all parties. The guy from Out of Line has been really cool to me simply because he runs a very small label. Then getting licensed to Metropolis should get my stuff in stores all over North America very soon.

Jester: Have you had good fan response from Europe in the past?

Jeremy: Definitely. However this type of music has always catered to a small underground market so it is all kind of relative. Every album I release always seems to bring another influx of positive fan mail. Of course if I toured I think it would help even more.

Jester: What else helps you finance your music passion?

Jeremy: I am a computer programmer. I don't really make much of anything from the work on Yeht Mae, and in fact I usually lose money because I am buying new equipment. The jobs fits in really well with the style of music I enjoy writing so things are working rather well. I am just starting to purchase equipment that will allow me to design my own sounds and create my own algorithms.

Jester: Have you ever had any type of musical training, or has it all followed a logical progression from being a computer programmer to music?

Jeremy: I started playing guitar, violin and piano when I was a child. So I've done a little bit of a lot of different styles. However I don't know how to read and write music any longer but it really isn't relevant to the type of music I compose anyways.

I think the great thing about the whole MIDI music revolution is that anyone can sit down and put together a piece of music. And now with the Internet just about anyone can publish their own music as well.

Jester: Is the band on-line?

Jeremy: No we don't have any presence there, but I would really like to do something eventually. However, I think Metropolis will have something up about Yeht Mae on their site.

Jester: Do you ever have any type of creative control concerning the album artwork? The new album looks very plain.

Jeremy: Unfortunately I did not do the artwork on this release. It is not exactly appealing or very indicative of what is actually inside the CD. In the past I have done the artwork on all three albums and I thought they at least gave a good idea of what the music was about. The label said they would take care of the whole deal and I kind of ended up with a raw deal. Hopefully people will buy it for the band or the music and not the artwork.

Jester: Have you ever worked on any side projects outside of Yeht Mae? I heard a rumor that you had once worked with George Sarah of THC on a project of some kind.

Jeremy: I'm not sure how to answer that. Yes, we did a little work together and then had a falling out. I don't really want to get into it much more than to say it dealt with some licensing and copyright issues.

Jester: What would you consider some of your strongest musical influences?

Jeremy: It really varies. I do think that Joy Division really broke some new ground when they first started. There stuff, although dated, is still as powerful as ever to me. Early Skinny Puppy was also incredible. Lately I have been listening to bands like Autechre and I really like that style of music. I have also been listening to a local radio station late at night in Los Angeles that has been playing some really incredible techno dance stuff. So essentially, my influences are all over the place.

Jester: Is there anything else you'd like to add in conclusion?

Jeremy: Just that the new album tries to put together a unified story. It is a story about alien experimentation and hopefully people can find something in it to tweak their imagination. The whole album does indeed try to have a solid beginning, middle, and an end, so people can judge it for themselves to see if I succeeded.

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