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Interview: Grinding Into Emptiness

Mihir How did Thine Eyes begin, exactly? What made you decide to pursue music seriously?

Laird: Tanner and I were living in the same dorm in college back in 1991. We soon found out that we both wrote electronic music (I think via our friend MC Death). We didn't have much equipment back then, so we all enrolled in an electronic composition class in what is now called Future Music Oregon.

Tanner Rian was an old friend from High School, so he came on board as a part-time collaborator. Laird and I pursued it seriously because we were pretty happy with our chemistry and the tunes we were producing.

Mihir What kind of musical backgrounds did you guys have at the time? Did Thine Eyes start out as an organically based band, or did you jump into electronics immediately?

Laird: No background.

Tanner Immediately into electronics. I'd had some piano training, but we were both pretty much self-taught.

Mihir How many different incarnations has the band had since then? How did those former members influence your sound today?

Tanner We have just one former member, Jeni. I don't particularly think she influenced our current sound, in fact, I'd say not at all. She was helpful back when we all had a taste for that ethereal business.

Mihir How do you guys currently share the duties? What does each member do in the group?

Tanner We all sample and synthesize. Laird and I sequence. Rian makes farty noises, which we then transplant into sequences. I sing, sometimes, sort of, if you can call it that. I whine.

Mihir In that case, is your "whining" specifically orchestrated to match the mood of your lyrics? Or did you feel that your minimal (But excellent) vocals best complemented the rather poetic lyrics and abstract music?

Tanner The intent is generally almost purely lyrical, with the exception of some newer songs wherein the intelligibility of the lyrics are sacrificed and the timbre of the vocals more manipulated to suit the tone of the music. The vocals are sparse and often completely untreated because it is intended to be an intimate, lyrical voice.

Mihir Do you draw any influence from anyone or anything for your vocals?

Tanner I suppose so; I grew up with Depeche and Smiths and all those croonerish type 80s groups, so I suppose they lend something (as critics often note). Recently I've been really impressed by Bjork, Lamb and Sneakerpimps' vocal styles. Poppish, but very smoothly integrated with the instrumentation.

Mihir Have any of these bands' styles crept into your own voice? Would any new material show off influences from the aforementioned bands?

Tanner More and more I think that vocals should be transparent, if present at all; they should meld naturally with the instrumentation rather than command exclusive attention to themselves. That's a bit more in tune with the technique of modern groups, rather than the 80s groups. I really dig the way a number of modern groups use technology to mask vocals in the context of a song by cutting them up or affecting them in ways that are appropriate to the emotional timbre of the music. Bjork and Curve are particularly masterful examples of that. The 80s groups, on the other hand, tend to let it all hang out, so to speak.

Mihir What other influences do you have in your music? What activities do you enjoy outside of Thine Eyes that come out in your music?

Laird: I like to drink when I'm not writing music. And while I'm writing music. Our music now has a sort of lounge-flavor to it.

Tanner Mmmmm, drinking. Me want beer. Um, yeah, Rian's a big graphic-design head, I'm a big movie-head. I watch movies and drink beer. Mmmmm. Beer.

Mihir How would you describe your own music? How has it developed over the years?

Laird: Sweet music.

Tanner Insane music. I never know what to call it. Electronic is a safe label.

Mihir Has the music changed you over the years? (If so, how? If not, why? Shouldn't the music help you to expand in some way?)

Tanner Interesting question. I suppose achieving anything in any pursuit makes you feel pretty accomplished. I probably would be a lot more focused on a career if it weren't for music. It's made me poor.

Laird: It's always nice to get away from my detailed and technical job and do something fun like spend 2 hours figuring out why the computer and sampler aren't communicating.

Mihir Who are your influences? What other non-influential bands do you listen to?

Laird: Autechre, Black Lung, Coil, Squarepusher, Pink Dots.

Tanner Plaid, Portishead, Massive Attack, Tortoise.

Mihir I could definitely hear those influences in your music, no doubt about it. But there were a couple of omissions, I thought. There are some elements of both Lassigue Bendthaus and Aphex Twin in your music; are you familiar with them?

Laird: Oh yes, we're very familiar with them, and, yes, they have influenced us a lot. Actually, we were compared to LB in a review before we ever heard him.

Mihir How many albums have you released? Have you retained any work that you might feel compelled to release later?

Laird: CSL is our first CD release. Our older, more ethereal work was supposed to be released by Kodex (Germany) but they've been sitting on our DAT for 3 years now this August. They even began advertising it (Stares In Ruin) last year. Go figure. At this point, though, we're MUCH happier with CSL, so they can sit on their butts as long as they want, I guess.

Mihir Even though it might not ever see print, can you tell us about "Stares In Ruin?" How does it compare to "Christian Sex Loops" in terms of sound? I heard some of the material on the latter dates back to about the same era as the former.

Laird: "Stares In Ruin" is much more ethereal-- we focused less on rhythm and more on trance riffs and Dead-Can-Dance-ish male/female vocals. There is about a year, maybe two, of time in between when we wrote the last song for "Stares In Ruin" and the first for "Christian Sex Loops." Arts Industria has released some tracks from "Stares In Ruin" on their first two CD compilations.

Tanner I now find most of it boringly melodramatic, though as timbral experimentation it's often pretty interesting.

Mihir Speaking of "Christian Sex Loops," did religion influence your music in any way on this album?

Laird: No.

Mihir What DOES that title mean, anyway?

Tanner It's just a dumb combination of words that made us laugh. I think we were drunk.

Laird: No, no, no, we were on our way to McMin's. Credit for the album title has to go to our friend MC Death -- Tanner and I were talking about two separate things, MC Death heard "Christian Sex Loops," and we decided then and there it would be our next album title.

Mihir How did you come up with the titles for your songs (Since most are instrumentals)?

Laird: Since Tanner and I live in different cities, we'll often try to describe over email what a song that one of us is working on sounds like before sending the other person a tape. The other person will usually make fun of the first person's descriptions, and a song title usually drops out.

Mihir That's a pretty weird method! Speaking of weird song titles, I noticed you dedicated "Kickin' Iams" to John Kimmerer Neff. Can you tell us more about him and his relation to the song?

Tanner He was a friend of mine who accidentally nixed himself with heroine. He was a fan of trancey club music and always thought our work was a nice alternative to drugs. I wrote the tranciest, saddest thing I could muster.

Mihir It's a great tribute to his memory. I definitely noticed the sad mood of the song amongst the (Literally) kickin' beat. Which reminds me, what kind of equipment do you use to create your music?

Laird: Sweet Equipment... heh, lessee, two Akai S2000s, Korg Trinity, Proteus Morpheus, Kawai K4, Roland Alpha Juno, Ensoniq DP4, Yamaha SY33, Lots of Macs with Pro-Tools, Recycle, SoundHack and many other nutty software items.

Mihir Are you guys planning a new album right now, by any chance? What can we expect to see from Thine Eyes in the future?

Laird: We're writing more music, but not planning anything in particular. Right now, we're quite happy with CSL. Expect our future material to be funkier and weirder and better. And I think we'll try to develop our image as sex-icons.

Tanner We're moving more and more towards drum-n-bassy ambient, with tighter rhythms and sparser melodics. It's fonkay. I'm trying to build up my big sexy muscles to help with our sex-objectification.

Laird: Yeah, we're gonna be the Hanson of electronica. You're not putting a photo of us along with this interview, right? In that case, just trust us when we say we're sexy.

Mihir Do you have anything else to add?

All three in unison: We like sock monkeys. They are made entirely out of socks.

[Thine Eyes]
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