Infidel Interview #88: K. P. Riot Brigade
First off, just want to thank you for participating in this edition of Infidel Interviews. Could you start off by giving a little information about you to the audience? Whatever you feel comfortable with, but name, age, and where you live would be pretty standard?
Thanks for having me. Absolutely! My name is Dana James and I am a Highlander. *laughs* I live down in where Homer Simpson calls, “America's Wang” a.k.a. Florida. More definitively, in Central Florida. So, it's really a launching point to Tampa, Orlando, Daytona; an overall good place to be down here. How do you enjoy where you live? Is there a vibrant music community where you are? Would you say you find that your local scene influences your attitude and/or creativity?
That's a complicated question. *laughs* I'd say Central Florida has its moments. Where I live specifically, there's been a vacuum of a music scene for many years that has only recently seen a resurgence . I believe, as many others here do, that it comes down to “old minds, old thinking”. The City has tried to block new venues from leasing property in the downtown area; however, a new live music venue called Mason's Live has emerged on the South-side of town and I'm seeing a surge in local acts and regional acts performing here in town again and there at Mason's because of this venue. David Fields and Barry, venue co-owners, are doing their very best to see that this town thrives again musically. They're beginning to pull national acts in as well. For example, their upcoming Puddle of Mudd event. It's been refreshing to say the least to see this resurgence of music locally.
I don't think the local scene necessarily influences my attitude or creativity in that the nature of my creativity in totality is very unorthodox and influenced more by my experiences, state of mind, the completely random and “Montgomery Scott” style of creating and engineering. (SEE ATTACHED GIF O EMAIL) The new K.P. Riot Brigade album in production now is definitely unorthodox.
Do you consider yourself to be part of a particular sound or scene? What is your thoughts on the nature of genres and styles, and do you have any particular ones which you find to your enjoyment more, listening and/or production-wise?
Yes, I consider myself a part of the overall music scene here in Central Florida. I support local acts and travel to Orlando and Tampa to show support as well. It's important to get out to the venues and support the scene. I read it all the time on social media where some complain that there isn't a scene; yet, I glance at venue calendars and see acts coming to their areas all the time. You have to get out and support your scene to maintain it and so that it can flourish. It's like a living organism; you have to feed, eat, and repeat.
When it comes to genres, I feel in recent times there is a lot of emphasis, regarding acts, to define themselves differently; moreover, to create their own specific genre. Again, another way to try to separate themselves from the standard flow, if you will. I tend to avoid being caught up in that.
I find myself listening more to film scores than anything else, so the “Soundtrack” genre is more to my liking. John Carpenter, Bear McCreary, Ben Lovett... these gentlemen dominate my playlist. With that said, so does Huey Lewis and The News. I grew up in Detroit so naturally I have a love for Motown and Motor City rock and roll as well.
What would you say are your favorite themes and topics that inspire you to compose? What draws you to those themes?
This kind of goes back to what I mentioned earlier, the nature of my creativity as a whole is very unorthodox and influenced by my experiences, state of mind, random neurological impulses and insane engineering. I think the universe pulls me in that direction; like gravity. Random quantum state. Mind/Body relationship perhaps with a twist of Decartes. There's a lot more beneath the surface musically of my compositions that's pretty cerebral; composition and engineering. Listening beyond the surface and thinking these are just run of the mill type of songs; there's a lot going on in them than standard instrumentation and song structure. A lot of engineering in the later part of the first K.P. Riot Brigade record saw experimentation with hemispheric shifting and mixing. There's a lot more of that on the sophomore album now. Right out of the gate there are some very interesting things going on in the compositions.
What would you say are your biggest influences when it comes to art and music? Are there any bands that you would say struck you with the chord that inspired you to peruse your current path of musical aspirations?
There are quite a few actually. First, I've always been a fan of cinematic compositions. I feel the new KPRB record really brings more of a cinematic twist. With that said: John Carpenter. He's a genius. Genesis and Phil Collins were a big influence on me when I was younger. As well as early Tears for Fears. I remember when the song 'Shout' came out, it was one of my favorite tunes. Genesis' 'That's All' was another favorite of mine. Of course several years later, Reznor's 'Pretty Hate Machine' was groundbreaking; that album had a lasting impact on me. I also respect the works of John Cage; as well as being heavily influenced by Musique Concrete. Prince. Bob Seger. Guns n' Roses. Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon' was a brilliant album that pushed boundaries. I could go on. *laughs* I've revisited some of those familiar elements on the new K.P. Riot Brigade record. I was on a hunt to acquire a lot of the early '80s synthesizers and for those that were monetarily out of reach, I was able to find them and sample them for myself.
Are you musically self taught? Or have you had mentors along the way to help you develop?
Yes, I am musically self taught. My abilities or proficiency seem to be part of my wiring; programming ---since I was a small child. I knew I wanted a guitar as a kid. I kept telling my parents I wanted one, but I think they thought it was a fad. Ultimately, they bought me a Gibson. Funny story because I received it on Christmas and within an hour I was hammering away power-chords and my Dad was like, "No way!". So after that, my parents encouraged me, bought instruments for me, and I picked up learning several instruments very quickly on my own. I think it is a blessing and I'm very humbled to have been given the gift of music.
Mentor? Absolutely. I'm glad you ask. I had been a Fear Factory fan since the beginning. Raymond Herrera and I forged a friendship over 20 years ago. He took me under his wing, brought me out to shows, showed me how his setup worked, introduced me to people, taught me about the business. If it weren't for Raymond, I don't think I'd be doing what I'm doing today. His guidance and friendship are a cornerstone.
If you could collaborate with any musician or artist, dead or alive, who would it be? And what in particular draws you to want to collaborate with them?
I've had the opportunity to work with and collaborate with many on the K.P. Riot Brigade project. I'd say that's a blessing. Many friends and artists I've admired and met along this incredible journey; to have the opportunity to collaborate with them was and is very humbling. From Riggs (founding guitarist of Rob Zombie), Sin Quirin (Ministry), to Jared Louche (Chemlab). I think a lot on my bucket-list has been accounted for and checked off. That's the only way that I think I can describe that. Working with Evan Mitchell of Machines on Blast has been fantastic. He's a great friend and a very talented artist. But, to answer the question if I could collaborate with any musician or artist who would it be, I'd have to say Trent Reznor. I'd love to have the opportunity to collaborate with him in some capacity. A while back, I spoke to his manager on the phone, so he's aware of what I've been doing. So who knows, maybe in the future I will have the privilege to do so. Would you say that your choice to pursue music has changed your life since you started? Would you say that creativity has evolved you spiritually, emotionally, or logically?
I tend to think so in all aspects of the question. Music is not only a great outlet for life's most complicated problems, but also a road from creator to listener, to interpret, explore, and express the multi-faceted nature of humanity, moreover, what it means to be alive. As I evolve or get older, concurrently so does my music. I find myself more emotionally in-tune with life and the creative process when I'm working on a composition. Industrial and Attitude seem to go hand in hand. With global war, civil unrest, injustice, and political revolution being primary musical themes that dominate your music, how do you feel nowadays about the current state of world affairs?
You're right. I think they do go hand-in-hand. Industrial angst against bureaucracy, establishment, and so on, has always been there from the beginning. I think KMFDM, Ministry, and Chemlab really highlighted in this area. Aside from music, I tend not to engage too much in the political sphere of the “Great Conversation” these days. Especially on social media. I was a student of Political Science in college and was very engaged then. I do follow along and am informed. Today, the world burns. I never thought I'd see so much civil unrest, war, prejudice, and so on in my lifetime. It seemed like we were on the mend and moving away from such things. I had thought for certain we as travelers on this spaceship Earth were progressing beyond these types of deplorable human constructs and had hoped we would be progressing down a path toward unity and peace. Let's face it, the 24th Century of Star Trek looks pretty good! Maybe one day money won't be the driving factor in our lives. “Money is the root of all evil.” It has no value except for the idea that we have among ourselves that it does. When it comes to fan and critic feedback, how much do you take it to heart, and how much do you feel it evolves, pushes, or holds your sound in place? Do you feel that the personal response and interaction in the live environment, and the subsequent positive press you've regarding both your live and recorded music has consciously encouraged you to do things a certain way?
The great thing about being human is that we each perceive things differently or alike. We each have the ability to like and dislike and express those emotions and opinions. I take it all in. I don't think it pushes or hold me into any place. I love personal interaction and I always do my best to respond to everyone personally. It's who I am but also may stem slightly from bad experiences I had when I was a kid as a fan of Metallica. Lars Ulrich told me to fuck off and gave me the middle finger when I just wanted to shake his hand and say “Hi.” This happened twice.
I don't really read the press too much honestly. I'm very humbled. So, any press, positive or negative definitely doesn't affect me in any particular way. I do find it very humbling when I receive an email or message from a fan who tells me about how a particular song affected their life; more so, reading their words regarding how they related to the song or felt the same emotions in the same way as I was feeling when writing the song. In that moment, it's pretty surreal. I feel that connection of oscillating on the same frequency.
When it comes to composing music, do you approach things with a clear vision in mind, or do you prefer to let songs feel themselves out? Do you have any particular techniques or tricks you use to keep yourself creative and consistent?
When I sit down in my studio, I write and track at the same time, so usually within a few hours the entire song structure is there and what's there is final. With that said, I'd say that there is not a clear vision at the onset of a session so to speak, but more so that when I get behind the piano, keyboard, guitar, or whichever instrument; my emotions, my thoughts --come in to focus and it becomes a total expression of who I am or what I may be going through at that moment in my life or unexpected neuro-impulses. Similar to Psychology with a “blank canvas”; The Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) becomes my “psychologist” and I'm doing all of the “talking”. I sit there and let it come out naturally; it's never forced. The DAW takes notes. *laughs* Therapy for the soul. Musical composition nowadays can be aided by so many different tools and devices. Do you favor a complex approach of using lots of different instruments, or are you in the keep it simple until you have to boat of refining certain elements to their maximum potential? Or would you say your philosophy lays in between?
I'd have to say that I lean more toward a complex approach. I enjoy wiring up instruments, effects and different devices into weird configurations. It's fun. I've spoken to artists about approaching musical compositions this way, however, some ultimately complained to me about this type of process by saying that it “Takes too long” or “...is a pain” or they “...don't have the patience”. For me, it's part of the creative process, the craft, and crucial to exploring and expanding music and yourself as a whole. In the end, it becomes part of the process to refine these strange elements to their “maximum potential”. Do you spend a lot of time crafting your own sounds? Or do you value song crafting and effects tweaking more? Or do you find it's a balance between the two? What's your relationships with presets? When you make music are you primarily a hardware or software oriented musician? Or do you do a fusion of both? Are there any particular instruments, programs, or effects that you would say are vital to you making music?
With regards to the first question, I do craft a lot of sounds. I spend time field recording, sampling, manipulating, and again crafting sounds to use in my compositions. For example, on the first K.P. Riot Brigade record, there is a snare drum on a track that when listening to it one would think, “Yeah, that's a snare drum” and nothing out of the ordinary, but it's not a snare drum. The brain can play tricks. I think it's a balance between the two. With regards to presets, I like to tweak everything. So if I find something that sounds kind of what I'm looking for, I'll tweak it to get it to where I want it to sound. I tend to go back and forth between hardware and software and then in-between. *chuckles* It's a conundrum. Or maybe I'm just a conundrum. Ha! Sometimes, I'm like “No way, I'm going all hardware and analog!” or “To hell with analog, I'm staying in the box!” *laughs* Everything is recorded through computers these days, so there's no escaping the software and digital world completely.
I'm very fond of Eventide products. I've been using their stuff for as far back as I can remember. There are some other really cool software effects companies I like as well such as Soundtoys which are made by the same design team as Eventide; and D16 Group out of Poland. With my guitars, I always use DR Strings with a Jimmy Clip. One thing that is most certain –I depend on Pig Hog Cables. Every piece of gear I have is wired with them. With regards to instruments, there are a lot of synthesizers in my music and I love vintage synths. That seems so strange to say because some of them I can remember when they came out. But, yeah, one of my favorite synthesizer lines is the Casio CZ series. Cosmic stuff! “...digital Jazz, man!”
Have you had any particular moment(s) that you would like to share, that you would consider to be a crowning achievement in your musical career so far, or moments that you would say truly continue to inspire you to pursue your artistic path? What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?
I'm a very humble person, so I'm not going to toot a horn. My son is truly an inspiration and he has begun the musical journey at such an early age. It's exciting to see him interested in keyboards and learning what the buttons “do”. *chuckles* Challenges are a daily process and all part of the musical journey. I take them head on and keep moving forward. Do you have any other musical projects that you are involved with, or do you have any other musicians or artists that you collaborate with in some capacity?
Yeah, thanks for asking this question. I started a side-project called, Greetings From Europa. It's a predominately synthesizer based project inspired by Sci-Fi movies, but I think of it more as a soundtrack to my life. Every song is an instrumental and very cinematic. The EP, 'Gravitation 0.5' and latest single 'Helium 3' are available for free on Bandcamp. When it comes to non-musical media, what do you find yourself most inspired by, and what about it draws you to it as a source of inspiration? Do you participate in the gaming world? Avid reader perhaps? Maybe cinema fan? Combination of some lol?
Well, I'm a nerd. *laughs* More so, a Science Fiction nerd. I love Philip K. Dick novels, his short stories, and subsequent film adaptations; a fan of film noir. I find some inspiration in the literary works of Philip K. Dick, but like I said earlier my creative process is unorthodox, based on experiences, state of mind and so forth. I'm not so much into gaming. Not that I don't enjoy playing as I love the 'God of War' series and loved Sierra Online RPGs when I was younger like 'Space Quest'; but, I'm more into watching a great science fiction series or movie or reading. Dark Matter on SyFy is one of my favorite shows currently and I'm a Trekkie. *laughs* I find these inspiring and entertaining. Qapla'!
In an industry that is driven by sales, and consumerism, what are your thoughts on digital downloads (legal and illegal)? Do you feel that streaming and digital download stores aid the accessibility of music? How bout music piracy? It obviously hurts sales in some regards, but it also boosts the access and distribution of the release which could lead to potential fans who do come to shows, buy physical copies of music, and get merchandise? Do you feel there would be enough turn around in that sort of system or are you firmly against file sharing?
This is a very multi-faceted question. I'll say this. I believe it should be every artists decision whether they give their music away for free or not. They are the content creators and should have more stake in how their music is used, distributed, etc.. With regards to streaming, it would be great to see Performing Rights Organizations and the Federal Government define a respectable percentage. I choose to support compilations that benefit others like Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music to Cure Cancer, Digital Recovery and others. I donate exclusive content to them in the hope that proceeds will help others. It's selfless and again benefits those in need. I could care less whether it leads to potential new fans. It's about those who the donated track will benefit. Ultimately, do things because you want to; and do them without expectation for return or reward. Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?
Thanks for having me! I want to thank everyone for supporting K.P. Riot Brigade and the collaborator's respective group(s). It means the world to all of us. Be certain to check out the upcoming KPRB album. There are any familiar artists returning and there are some new ones! Thanks again to all of you! Much love and respect always!
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