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Interview: Crewzine - Issue 8

Interviewed by Antius

Antius: Speaking about the core of Thine Eyes, can you personalize it? How long your band has been around and what led you to its founding?

Jeni: Thine Eyes formed in the spring of 1992 when Laird and Tanner started taking electronic composition class.

Tanner: Laird and I met in a college dorm a few years ago. We discovered our similar musical interests and thought we'd try working together. We first wrote "Cocytus", then collaborated with Jeni on the vocals. Her role from there expanded. We were excited by what we heard, the unique blend of musical styles that we heard in our work, and knew that we had something we should take further. I made a point of trying to involve my old friend Rian, who I'd worked with before. The four of us have worked together in one incarnation or another since the fall of 1991.

Rian: Tanner and I were friends in high school and we worked on some projects together during that time. After high school, Tanner left Portland to go to college at the University of Oregon in Eugene. We would get together whenever he made it into town, though, so we still saw each other infrequently. One night Tanner brought along a tape of some music that he had been working on with some friends from school Laird and Jeni. He played it for me and I was completely amazed. I told Tanner that I was very excited about what they were doing and that I would really like to be a part of this work. He accepted and from then on I was a member of the band, even though there were some geographical boundaries to overcome.

Antius: Most of you came through various musical trainings, can you tell us more about this? Do you consider this fact as a main background for your musical explorations?

Jeni: Personally, my musical training is varied, including thirteen years of classical piano, two years of Jazz, two years of bassoon, mallet and alternative percussion for three years, and dabbling in violin, flute and harp. Also I was trained in classical voice at various points in my life and have sung with many different chairs, plus the three years in the Electronic program.

Rian: I'm afraid I can't boast a great deal of musical training. I took a year of piano lessons in high school, but I didn't take them as seriously as I should have. I have been taking some music theory classes and that's been really interesting, it's also helped me to better understand why certain things work musically. I can't say that either of these things has had a tremendous effect on the way that I interpret music, though. They are more like tools that: I am able to use every now and there.

Laird: Before studying under Dr. Stolet, I had zero musical training. Dr. Stolet is. an atonal composer, so my knowledge of composition is unusual. Tanner, I started with a love for soundtrack. music, mostly classically inspired works. My interest in composition grew from there. I studied piano for a few years, then worked entirely on my own until college, when! worked with Dr. Jeffrey Stolet, along with Laird and Jeni. His atonality has also had a dramatically skewed effect on my otherwise more traditional approach.'

Antius: In American terms, your music falls into Industrial genre, nevertheless it has always been quite uneasy to pigeon-holing your sound. Do you feel comfortable with more detailed labeling of your music? If so, give us a clue?

Jeni We are content to call our sound sonic cinema, for lack of a better classification, and to express but idea of producing visual imagery through sound alone, or to create cinematic sects: motion, age of time, character development or mood. We are mostly called Gothic-Industrial state-side, End in Europe we have been labeled everything EBM to "Techno-mystic". The more labels, the better, the way we can grow beyond them all.

Laird: "A good question, one I've thought a lot about. To label our music would suggest it is a single style. If Thine Eyes were its own style, Bel Canto, Coil and Doubting Thomas wouldn't belong. to It. We do, I'll say, incorporate Gothic, Electro, industry and avant-garde elements into our music, but to label it would be paradoxical. We write Electro music but our music isn't Electro. The definition of Industrial music has changed considerably in the last few years and the more it changes, the less we fit into that category, Industrial music is great that's not where the problem is. My problem is that people have come to expect a certain combination of elements from Indusustrial and that can be ???. A lot of the sounds that we do are very different from, both in structure and in tone. If someone was m come up with a term that was Industrial then I think we would use it. But that's a lot to ask, so for now we have simply called our music electronic.

Antius: Does the name Thine Eyes have a story?

Jeni: A little cafe in a house built in the twenties. Drawing on napkins. Spilled coffee. Outrageous musings and word-play. Tanner. Certainly does! Our original inspiration was Shakespeare. There are a number of references, particularly in King Lear, to the power of sight, and the flexibility and transferability of the senses. There is one quote that we use in the song "Nohbdy's Taunt'. "A man may see how the world goes with no eyes; look with thine eyes.' By calling ourselves Thine Eyes, we call attention to our desire to dominate the listener's senses, to absorb the listener both sonically and visually. We've referred to ourselves as 'sonic cinema" a description that aptly suits our choice of name.

Rian: For one thing, it's a literary reference and my English major friends can tell you more about that part of it. We have always considered our music to possess a very strong visual component. and I think that the name Thine Eyes hints at that quite nicely.

Antius: When composing, do you put more efforts in creating music or it has to be wrapped up by lyrics and vocals before you reach the point of full satisfaction with your work?

Jeni: I think that varies for all of us in the group, the point of satisfaction with the work, that is. Generally, we always start with writing the music and take it to the point where it would be a finished, engaging piece without lyrics. Then we decide whether to add them or not, or perhaps they have already been written sometime during the process.

Rian: It really depends on the song, I think. Many of the more personal songs have vocals. Vocals seem to blend naturally with the music that we write, so they show up in many of our songs in one form or another. We don't have to have vocals in a song in order to be happy with it, however.

Tanner: We don't usually neat vocals as an essential and defining ingredient, as so much pop music does. Rather, our vocals are generally just one instrument, one aspect of our overall composition. They do occasionally stand apart, but for the most part the vocals are mixed as an instrumental element, rather than a dominant aspect. Our instrumental work is just as absorbing and demanding as the vocal songs, there are certainly some songs that we write with vocals in mind, but for the most part, we intend for the instrumental music to succeed as complete songs even before the vocals are recorded.

Antius: On what specific topics do you focus with your lyrics?

Jeni: We have no focus for our lyrics. On the project Thread, we tried to loosely base the work on the image of thread. There are several themes which are evident, including sight, which relates to the band name, isolation often from sensory deprivation, spiritual awakening.

Tanner: My lyrics generally have to do with very personal matters. It seems that my poems that we've adapted into Thine Eyes songs are rather sexual in theme, though sometimes so vaguely that you wouldn't know it at first read. I've noticed that the couple of songs that we've lyrically collaborated on 'Cocytus' and "The Ascent" are much less personal than both mine and Jeni's lyrics. It is with the collaborative pieces that we begin to touch on larger philosophical and religious questions. My own work is highly obscure and generally fairly dark. I suppose I fall into the pretentious artist's plight of writing more frequently when I need to deal with some frustrated aspect of my life, usually sexual.

Antius: Musical styles covered on "Stares In Ruins" me again broad, but comparing to your previous works this album gets more of Experimental feel Several months ago you seemed to be afraid a bit of it, how do you see this fact now?

Jeni: Personally, I feel that the Experimental tracks between pieces weren't given enough time and energy to keep them from sounding like superfluous slush.

Laird: Upon retrospect. 'Stares In Ruins' is quite Experimental It is cohesive and dynamic enough to not seem so while listening to it. And it is definitely melodic enough to not be an Experimental album.

Rian: We definitely have made a shift of one kind or another towards more Experimental material, but that is not to say that we have a conscious effort to do so. I think we see certain elements working in our songs that in the past we would have considered unnatural or unusable. Recently, we have been using a lot of different software tools to manipulate or construct our music, and this has opened up a lot of unusual options to us. In general, we're very open to trying new things and this is how the experimentation really finds its way into our work.

Tanner: I agree with Laird that while many of our electronic techniques are somewhat Experimental, the album is much more melodically accessible than much Experimental music, we never write Noise music.

Antius: Did this work result in some label offerings? What about your appearance on the next volume of "Heavenly Voices" compilations?

Jeni: We were supposed to release a CD on Flatfields records. Other offers are being considered.

Tanner: Flat Field, who were supposed to release "Stares In Ruins" by now, just dissolved so we are currently label less and in no mood to talk about it nicely. We are scheduled to have one song appear on the next "Heavenly Voices" compilation, but we haven't heard from them in a long while, and are unsure what is in fact happening with that.

Antius: Okay, now I have some questions on you, Laird & Jen You spent several months traveling round the Europe. Can you briefly describe most memorable highlights, experiences, meetings? Is here in Europe something you would like to take with you to the States? On the other side, what we, Europeans, are missing here?

Jeni: The whole experience was so vast that I still have a hard time thinking about it in relation to my life here. Certainly some of our best encounters were meeting with you in Bratislava and with Fixx and friends in France. We really enjoyed seeing countries from the perspective of someone who lived there, rather than just traveling to see places. In America we could really use your efficient trains and public transport, although in the West it is very difficult because the population is so sparse. Europe is so diverse from country to country, but not ethnically converse at all. I found that to be unsettling because racism is so strong there.

Laird: I enjoyed different places for different reasons, but f consider myself luckiest to have met some of the people in the scene to whom I had been in correspondence with. Meeting Fixx and Dom of Brain Leisure was wonderful and meeting the Crewzine crew really made us wish we had more time to stay. The most striking dissimilarity between Europe and the US was the history. I used to think my apartment built in the 1950's was old. The radical social and political changes that have occurred in, say, your country is also something that the US hasn't experienced in my lifetime. Here in the US, though, we don't have religious wars and ethnic cleansing.

Antius: You also met many musicians on your way, any interesting collaborations? The one with Individual Totem is on their debut CD, right?

Laird: Being able to meet Mathias of Individual Totem, write a song with him and have it appear on his CD. All through music contacts was really great. I'd like to do collaborations with Violet Arcana, Triple Point and Blink Twice in the future when things settle down.

Antius: Jeni, you told me there will be an exposition of your photographs you did in Europe. Anything to add? Focusing on European architecture, what was the most impressive for you as an American?

Jeni: The exhibition will be in May or June at Obscura Gallery in Portland. Large scale photo montage paintings. The age of architecture was impressive, especially buildings which had become liquid because of settling of materials or of the earth on which they were built.

Antius: Your schooling is over, so how did you succeed in getting jobs so far? Are you settled down already?

Jeni: l work at a frame shop and share a house with two sisters in the downtown area.

Laird: I'm working in the largest and only technical bookstore west of Washington DC, which is a really fun job and has gotten me interested in many different things such as artificial intelligence and its relation to music.

Antius: Soul Parish, Violet Arcana, Triple Point, All of them come from your neighborhood, can you say more about their most recent projects?

Jeni: Nick Mahayni of Soul Parish is my best friend in the Portland area. Since I returned we have been working on several collaborations including the Suicide Diaries performance we conceived of last spring, and a Winter Mass. We are hoping to record and release the music, probably under the name Soul Parish, because of recognition value, but we have also considered the name Torrential for our mutual work. My sister, Heather Beckett, an excellent songwriter in her own right is also working with us on other unrelated music. As an added bonus I am teaching Nick to stretch canvas. and develop photos. As a group, with Thine Eyes, we are planning to release a Northwest electronic music compilation under the title 'Wired to the Water". After I wrote this response l was officially inducted as the second member of Soul Parish, so there you have it.

Laird: Violet Arcana .I hear they have new CD out, which I'm sure is good. I heard "In the Scene of the Mind" for the first time at your place,' by the way! Triple Point's new tape is quite different from their last tape in a good way, 'Thing's are going well for those guys, it seems. Tanner. We've talked with Violet Arcana about possibly doing a project together, once we all settle down in the same city. "Whether that means remixing or original material, it's hard to say. They share our interest In electrode communications as well as music, and I've talked a little bit with them about working together on some Internet projects. We'll see what happens with that.

Antius: We came to the end, so I guess it's your turn now to steal this talk.

Jeni: Let me just say how great it is to know that there are people like you alt at Crewzine who work so hard to bring the music of the world to people in Eastern Europe. We appreciate the time and effort you put in and recognize your contribution as essential to the alternative music movement.

Laird: We like sock monkeys, they're nude completely out of socks. And thank you Crewzine! Keep up the good work!

Antius: Thanks a lot for all your time, wishing you good luck, all the best and hope to I meet you again.

[Thine Eyes]
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