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Interview: The Plague

Thine Eyes began life as a collaboration between Tanner Volz and Laird Sheldahl during their University days in Eugene, Oregon back in 1991. Joined by Rian Callahan, Thine Eyes have built up a great reputation in the underground for their unique sound and intelligent compositions. Fusing elements from the gothic, industirlal, experimental, ethereal and ambient fields (to name a few), they have steadily built a highly recognizable sound that the electronica movement is just now catching up with.

Hooking up with Jester of Sonic-Boom fame, the band recently issued Christian Sex Loops on his Doppler Effect Records. So far, the reviews have been very positive and they were kind enough to answer some questions recently regarding their successes

Daniel: Give me a brief background on how the three of you met up and decided to start writing music together.

Laird: Well, we had both been writing music before we met in 1991. Tanner had been doing dark synthpop material and I dorky sample collages. Our friend MC Death made sure we met-- we were all living in the same dorm at the U. of Oregon.

Tanner: Our first song was this little ditty called Cocytus. It sucked royally and we knew we had to keep working together.

Daniel: Now that Christian Sex Loops has been out for a few months, how has the response been?

Laird: I'm really happy so far-- I do hope we can break into some non-internet related circles as time goes on. We've always been an 'internet-band', though, so I'm not at all suprised that the first people to really appreciate the album frequent the web or r.m.i..

Tanner: I've been really surprised by the overwhelming positivity of its reception. Listening to the album confounds me; it's very difficult to classify or get a handle on, but most folks seem to appreciate that diversity. If distribution were wider I think the positive reviews would make this a very heavily sold album.

Daniel: What aspects of Christian Sex Loops were you happiest with? Least happy with?

Laird: I'm happiest with all the parts I did, and least happy with the parts Tanner did.

Tanner: Likewise. My songs suck. Fortunately, Laird was there to save them; I handed over all of my songs to him to fix.

Daniel: How would you describe your image as a band?

Laird: Well, apparently we don't really have an image yet. We used to be more etherial, now our music is more post-industrial electronica, so there's some confusion there. Our album title and a few lyrics have lent people to believe that we're a Christian band. Whatever. The band image that we're trying to put forward, though, is that we're sexy and you want our bodies. Yes, we're an industrial version of Rod Stewart.

Tanner: Some guys have all the luck.

Daniel: What can you tell me about the upcoming remix album?

Laird: Well, it is very much in an embryonic stage right now, but we do have a remix of Vaseline Machine done by Steve Watkins of Scar Tissue. Other people who have agreed to do remixes include: Mark Spybey/Dead Voices On Air, John Bergin/TrustObey, Cameron Lewis/Ipecac Loop, Dan Hinds/Triple Point... am I forgetting anyone, Tanner?

Tanner: Nope. If anyone reading this is interested, let us know!

Laird: And this just in! Chris Randall of Sister Machine Gun/Micronaut has said he'd try to squeeze in a remix for us, as has David Wright of Not Breathing. We're pretty excited about all this talent, needless to say!

Daniel: Laird, you've taken up playing guitar of late. Can we expect to see some of that with Thine Eyes in the future?

Laird: Hopefully... after hearing Massive Attack's album Mezzanine, I finally broke down and bought a guitar. That and the Legendary Pink Dot's Maria Dimension just make me giddy. We already have someone who can play bass very well, though-- Aaron Schwarz plays on The Celibate and on some of our new material.

Daniel: Are there any other (live) instruments you'd like to incorporate into your sound?

Laird: Trumpets, trumpets and more trumpets.

Daniel: What do you guys spend your time doing outside of Thine Eyes?

Laird: Drinking, playing darts, swing dancing, more drinking. And work.

Tanner: Drinking, working, going to school, watching movies, writing about movies, drinking. We have boring lives.

Daniel: I find that with a lot of electronic music these days, people get so wrapped up in coming up with neat sounds or production techniques, they forget about the songs. How do you guys avoid falling into that trap?

Laird: Well, the majority of our time is actually spent on production and sound creation, but I think a couple of things keeps us from sounding over-produced. First is that Tanner can write damn good melodic lines, so even if we tuck them way back in a mix, there's some emotion there. Two, when working on a song, we spend months making sounds and samples, and then write the actualy song in a one-or-two day music binge. We'll spend a few more weeks producing it, but as long as we don't mess with the actual song too much, we can retain a very immediate and emotional feeling. Plus, we have to create new sounds in that one or two day period of writing, and those sounds often end up sounding more low-tech and unproduced than the rest-- this leads to a good mix that a lot of people have responded to.

Tanner: Some bands get away with pure tweakiness, such as Autechre. But even they keep in some emotional melodics to balance their tone.

Daniel: Is there any word on the album that Kodex was to release years ago?

Laird: I think the word is suck, as in they suck. No, no word still. Three years late. Don't care anymore. New album much better.

Tanner: And the followup material is much better than that, I think.

Daniel: Do you have enough new material done to have a feel for how the next album might differ from Christian Sex Loops? Is there anything you specifically want to try next time out?

Laird: We've got about 5 new songs I think. Expect a little more Drums & Bass... not that we're turning into Springheel Jack or anything. I doubt we'll ever ditch the industrial overtones or the spooky ambient melodics.

Tanner: I love the new songs. They're much tighter, I think, more accessible and funkier.

Daniel: I've always really liked the vocals in Thine Eyes, but you seem to have gone for a more instrumental approach with Christian Sex Loops. Will this trend continue or can we look forward to more vocal-laden tracks in the future?

Tanner: I expect to have about the same balance. We've all become a bit less tolerant of vocal work, I think. An instrumental is a lot easier to swallow without gritting the teeth. I tend to waver a lot; I'll write some songs entirely with the intention of including vocals (such as The Celibate), or write others with the same intent but decide I can't stand the vocals. Laird and Rian are weirdly tolerant of my vocal neuroses; they let me just play around with them to my heart's content and if something works then we'll keep it. A couple songs on the album had vocals to begin with but are now instrumental.

Laird: We told him that sucks, pressed the delete key, and had ourselves a few instrumentals. Tanner takes his abuse well.

Daniel: Who handles the lyrics? Do they generally come before the music or after?

Laird: Tanner.

Tanner: Every track varies. The Celibate and Flick Flick were written around an existing lyric and vocal line, whereas the vox in Exhaust and Warpaint were added after the music had been composed.

Daniel: What would have to change to make it worthwhile for Thine Eyes to play live? Is that something you even want to do or are you content with just recording?

Laird: I think we're content with just recording. We'd sell more albums if we played live, but, well, TE isn't about our showmanship.

Tanner: Although it is about our raw, unfettered sexiness.

Daniel: Have you written/recorded any material that just didn't fit the Thine Eyes style? Ever considered any solo or side projects?

Laird: We considered doing a project called Paved In Skin for awhile, to showcase our more unstructured soundscapes. That name is now used by a band John Bergin produces, very nice industrial/pop crossover material.

Tanner: We have another project in the works that we are hesitant to talk about just yet.

Daniel: Any thoughts about doing a video? Have you ever done a video?

Tanner: Never done one, can't afford it, would love to if somebody offered to produce and shoot it.

Daniel: Did you have to clear any of the samples on Christian Sex Loops?

Laird: What samples? No, you must be mistaken, there's nothing that, uh, needed clearing ahead of time....

Tanner: We don't sample.

Daniel: What are some of the more interesting places you've procured samples from?

Laird: Informational videos on the digestive system. Buffy. Thundercats. Random internet searches. Old lounge-music albums. Beat-boxing.

Tanner: We don't sample.

Daniel: Have you considered doing a cover? If so, what would be your first choice of songs?

Laird: I never really did finish that cover of Electric Eye by Judas Priest, and we were going to cover a Star Wars tune, but I don't think covers are really our thing.

Tanner: I wanna, though! I wanna cover some beloved 80s trax (ie. Cure's A Forest or some Xymox tunes). I'm inspired by the techno/d n'b interpretations of Depeche Mode songs on their new tribute album, by folks such as Hooverphonic and Rabbit in the Moon.

Laird: Hey, I can sorta play Secrets on guitar, Tanner.

Daniel: Do you have enough oxygen?

Laird: Yes, your planet has plenty of Oxygen and other gaseous molecules that we require.

Rian: We come from Planet Sockmonkey.

Tanner: We like sock monkeys. They're made entirely out of socks.

Daniel: There, now you have a back-up Christmas gift in case your local record shop is all out of copies of Christian Sex Loops.

[Thine Eyes]
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