In case you didn't know of them, Thine Eyes have actually been around for almost seven years in some form or another. Originating as an Ethereal/Goth act, their style has evolved from straight Industrial to the present incarnation, a conglomeration of whacked sounds, Drum 'n' Bass rhythms, narrow and infecting grooves, off carnival influences and a subtle sense of humor. The new full length Christian Sex Loops has been receiving very positive feedback from across the U.S., and many Industrialists, tired of what Tanner calls the "whole cookie monster rar rar rar I'm so evil rar rar rar vocal thing that Ogre pioneered," have turned to the more adventurous sounds of Thine Eyes and their brethen, groups like Black Lung, Autechre and Squarepusher.
This interview was originally supposed to be written in an article format instead of straight Q&A, but Tanner and Laird's answers were so good I decided to print the interview as it is, without chopping or adding anything. As for the sock monkey influence that seems to pop up in all their interviews, Well, Thine Eyes as people are as strange as their music suggests. The sock monkey issue goes unanswered.
Kevin: You formed in 1991. Why has the wait been so long for your full length CD debut?
Laird: Tanner and I are very picky. We weren't willing to give up control over our music (that nixed several possible contract offers, but, hey, who wants to sound more like Hawkwind just to be released on Cleopatra??)
Tanner: If they would have suggested that we sound more like P-Funk, that would have been a different story.
Kevin: Will "Once Despised" on Kodex ever see the light of day?
Laird: Actually, Kodex was supposed to release Stares in Ruin (which contains all the songs on the aforementioned demo cassette) in 1995. At this point, I don't think these songs will be released by Kodex.
Tanner: Every year or so, they write to us and ask us if we still want to release it with them, as though we'd ever said anything otherwise. They then announce a new release date and promptly forget about it again. This has been going on for, uh, three years now, I think.
Kevin: Why the drastic change in style from your Goth beginnings to the heavily tweaked material of Christian Sex Loops?
Tanner: Not really sure, except that we got bored of heavy, slow, dramatic music and wanted to do something a bit more groovy and crazy.
Kevin: Are there any particular artists/musicians who you can cite as influences?
Laird: Plaid, Amon Tobin, Black Lung, Lassigue Bendhaus, Autechre, LPD.
Tanner: Ditto, along with good old Skinny Puppy, DM, and so forth. I also really dig Massive Attack, Tricky, Hooverphonic, that whole "trip-hop" pop style.
Kevin: Do you write songs around a specific idea, like The Cockroach, or do ideas just come about through experimentation?
Laird: A little of both, really. The Cockroach did have a specific idea ahead of time (wanted to write a goofy ex-girlfriend-song.)
Tanner: Lyric songs are generally written with a particular idea in mind. Some just come out of experimentation, attempting to create a particular sound.
Kevin: Are you happy with Christian Sex Loops? Do you think the record has something to offer to the open-minded audience?
Laird: I'm very very very happy. I think it's groovin' enough for even "closed-minded" audiences, but we did spend a lot of effort trying to make this a distinct album. While we have shied away from our previous etherial sound, I think CSL is unmistakibly us. And suprising cohesive,
Tanner: Yeah, in an uncohesive way.
Kevin: What the hell does Christian Sex Loops mean, anyway?
Tanner: Absolutely nothing. One review said it well; a facetiously meaningless title.
Kevin: In addition to Christian Sex Loops, you have lots more material. Is it in the same vein? Will it ever be released?
Tanner: Our new songs are similar, but rhythmically more happening, a touch sparser and I think much more engaging and cohesive. We're compiling a remix disc that will have some new tracks on it. As for our backlog, who knows if it'll ever be released.
Kevin: Is your recording process "smooth?" Is there a lot of conflict between members?
Laird: Yeah, Tanner's a real jerk, but he quiets down when I threaten to bust open an extra large can of whup-ass. OK, in reality, there's no conflict. Tanner and I have been writing music together since 1991, and we've learned so much from each other we're practically of one mind. We can be working on a song and I'll be thinking "we should take that synth hook, sample it, send it to the sampler and add a LFO-ed filter to it", but before I can say it, Tanner will start doing it. So far, though, this sort of ESP is only musical, and we can't use it to influence other people's thoughts. We're working on it!
Tanner: Next you should ask us what our favorite pieces of musical gear are, and what sort of computers we use to record.
Kevin: What's your favorite piece of musical gear? Do you record onto computers? Mac or PC?
Laird: We like Macs--
Tanner: --except Rian, who uses a pc--
Laird:--we like our Akai S2000 samplers and the program Recycle!. We record onto computer, usually mutliple times before a song is done. We like to use the samplers as super-tweakable multitrack recorders. We also like sock monkeys.
Tanner: They're made completely out of socks.
Kevin: What roles does each member play? Who does the vocals?
Laird: Tanner and I do the sequencing/songwriting, we all make sounds (Rian makes all the farty sounds), and Tanner takes care of the vocals.
Kevin: Why the decision not to distort the vocals (not to say you can't sing or anything ...)? Why are there only vocals on a few tracks?
Tanner: That whole cookie monster rar rar rar I'm so evil rar rar rar vocal thing that Ogre pioneered has been played into the ground. We want honest songs from honest, comprehensible voices. I think the naked voice really nicely contrasts the heavy production of the music. Vocals only appear on a few tracks because we only sometimes write songs with lyrical intentions. It's a song-by-song choice.
Kevin: Will Thine Eyes ever be playing a live set?
Laird: We've been getting asked that a lot, and I think we might try to work out a minimal live set. Don't expect a rock show.
Tanner: Except for the laser-light show and the dancing girls.
Laird: Oh yeah, the dancing girls. Our music wouldn't be complete without dancing girls.
Kevin: How did you come to be with Doppler Effect? Are you happy with the label?
Laird: We've been in contact with Jester for years now, initially because of his ezine Sonic Boom. He liked our music back then, so he asked to release us when he started Doppler Effect. It's been a perfect match so far, we're all excited about this release and I think that's a good thing for a record label to be. I wouldn't want to be just another band on a bigger label, I like being the spoiled child on a smaller label.
Tanner: Heh, me too. We're like an only child. We get all the attention and love that Doppler Effect can spare. Nobody else gets a bite of our ice cream.
Kevin: What happened with Fifth Colvmn?
Laird: Sometime last year, Jared said he'd send me a contract to release Thine Eyes on Fifth Colvmn, but that week the proverbial shit hit the fan, and Fifth Colvmn went under. I didn't get a firsthand account-- partner getting nabbed for tax evasion, club closed down, that swallowed up all the funds for a label, something like that. It's too bad, and not just because that meant we didn't get a CD out through them.