First off all, 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?
My name’s Benjamin Power. I’m a somewhat unexpected 32 year old musician. I live in sunny Harwich, in the South-East of the UK, ‘round about where sea meets dirt.
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?
Oh Lord, the horror. It’s often hard to fully enunciate the dubious anti-joys of my floundering backwater locale, but I’ll give it a go... if you’ve ever watched a magnificent shambles of a film called “Gummo”, try rooting that wry, distressing visualisation in one of Lovecraft’s dreary depictions of Innsmouth, and then filter the whole grisly mess through the windswept concrete of a forgotten Eastern Bloc housing estate, circa 1980. I think the word ‘squamous’ encapsulates it well. It’s like taking a walking holiday through the gulags of the DPRK. There’s even a local esoteric death cult. I’ve met the leader – we don’t get on. So no, I suppose I don’t really enjoy where I live. I’m sure it’s good for me though. There isn’t a local scene either, at all; music, however unwholesome, seeming desperately unable to penetrate this far into the great Abyss. Not a single music venue in the entire city. That said, I keep expecting to bump into that Jandek fellow one of these days, down in the underground wartime bunker-mazes on the coastline that I feel obliged to clamber in fear through now and again, in true ‘Roadside Picnic’ style. Or Dagon.
The interview continues after this video and all other streaming content...
What do you feel separates your music from the rest of the music in the Industrial music scene?
I really don’t (want to) know much about the modern Industrial scene – at least, I don’t engage with many of the artists, or go to any of the gigs anymore. It doesn’t move me in any way, or at least, rarely. I think I find the music quite formulaic and banal; posturing, uninspired and without substance. Hackneyed partisan politics and cheesy ‘cyber’ cod-nihilism at best. A wretched wad of cookie-cutter “Post-Apocalyptic Existential Dystopianism (TM)”, still wrapped in plastic off the assembly-line, ready to sate a rabid market’s appetite for such worn genre archetypes, for a few minutes. Petulant, cynical sub-radicals and armchair anarchists pumping their fists and mech-screaming insipid slogans at the bored cellophane crowd, half-heartedly stomping identical over-priced New Rocks and gurning into their insufferable filter-less GP-5s, all virtue-signalling their support of this bland, token rebellion. It’s too adolescent for me, and defeatist, and I find smug, self-conscious irony tiresome. We don’t even have to mention that hideous ‘Nazi chic’ phenomenon in too much detail. I take the majority of my inspiration for Vore Complex from the early 1990s period in underground European Electro-industrial and Dark Electro, as well as the British Electropunk movement at the turn of 2000. I never hear anything like that now. I don’t believe any other contemporary bands I can recall would state this too openly. It’s not about sophomoric ideals of glorious, iconoclastic revolution; that’s just romanticised cliché. They’ve torn it all down already, like spoilt toddlers. Industrial seems to be a sham genre, and weak, both musically and in manifesto. Vore Complex really isn’t dancing in its ashes screaming victory or moping into a sock waiting for others to make it better, it attempts to take a more honest, mature approach to regenerating – if not progressing - the core elements that made Industrial music good, once. Mindless Khaotic progression for its own sake is overrated and I prefer to look back. I think, having said all this, and having had a moderate check around, that my own take on a genuinely ‘oldschool’ manifesto is, so far, unique. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is any good.
What would you say are your favorite themes and topics that inspire you to compose? What draws you to those themes?
Real word ‘darkness’, definitely. I think from the start, I want to move away from the goth/industrial scene’s focus on campy horror – bloodsucking-bats, ghouls, vampires, zombies, demons, rogue death-machines and all that tosh and bring in into line with what I have always considered to be the true horrors of our existence. Socio-political and global atrocities, holocausts and war-crimes; examples of human evil - cruelty, carelessness and sadistic depravity, ungarnished & without a gloss-sheen or comfort blanket to distance listeners from the bleak extents of this coruscating failure of our integrity, responsibility and rational compassion. As I wrote to a friend in a recent letter, my music is not designed to be heartily enjoyed by anyone – it’s just one huge, interlinked gripe-list to bring catharsis to my mind, and serve as a educatory warning to others, and a reminder – very much in the manner of Santayana’s famous comment. A sonic thesis on caustic corrosion and entropy; not really meant to be pleasing, or uplifting. I feel reluctant in doing this, and am often worn down by my work; more of a psychocartographer than a musician, hoping to lay fences and boundaries, and not to free them up. It’s a duty, and a vocational interpersonal responsibility, transcending the general notions of what could be achieved by a musical artist. I don’t know if I could say why I feel compelled to do this - that a slim part of me also enjoys a few of the sounds is not something I am proud of, and if I catch myself finding too much listening pleasure in the aural documentation of abject misery, dispassion and pain, well, I leave music for a few days till I’m settled again. It doesn’t seem right to detach into complacent indifference and become a mere voyeur of the callousness. 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?
I’ve made steps recently to distance myself from my interest in world affairs, if only for some dubious grip on personal sanity. I’ll be back though, unfortunately - I don’t like how any of the situations I monitor are going, either in my homeland’s microcosm, or geopolitically and internationally, and I worry for my country, and, directly, for my family. I’m pleased though, a little, observing the iron grasp of what I believe Andrew Breitbart referred to as the ‘Democratic-Media Complex’ starting to slip, with the crippling failures, cynical audience manipulations, blithe moral panic and endless scandals that have consumed conventional legacy news giving way to the rise of a new Alternative media, particularly on the Right, where most of the my interests rest. I left my Liberal thought-patterns about a year ago, in dismay at the hypocrites, and the ideologically-possessed demagogues and embittered agitators that had hijacked my causes, shouting viciously over any dissent and shutting down rational discourses, or the polite expression of contrary views. I was tired of having my positions demonised and vilified by the ill-informed (on uninformed), or slandered by the vindictive in their endless, self-righteous witch-hunts to purge ‘Fascists’ and ‘bigots’ – if anything, two vacuous hold-all cognitive buzz-terms for ‘Anyone Who Disagrees With Us Over Anything’ and dislocated from reality outside of cloistered, out-of-touch campus life, or upmarket gated communities, where near-anything can and will bring offence to systematically closed minds and the sacred bandwagon offended. It just seems abortive, and an easy distraction. Let them be offended – it’s their choice, and part of being human. It’s not good to be that shielded from reality, or to vociferously require it by hysterical mandate. It’s nice though, somehow, to see those repressive ideological support-pillars that have bolstered a totalitarian (by any other name) Left-wing campaign of tyrannical everythink sway a little sometimes, even if the decades-old propagandist grip on culture and public opinion is still fairly firm. As a cosmic pessimist, my own interests lie in Neoreaction, and Propertarianism, although I’m realistically at a roughly pre-foundation level with my personal studies into both; having long ago decided that self-study in such matters is infinitely preferable to the blasé, draconian echo-chambers of an insidious, sold-out academic world that staples shut fresh minds, having loaded then with the rantings of superfluous, hollow pseudo-disciplines & having installed feedback-loops of harmful, divisive nonsense from the lecture podiums of the heavily-biased soft science departments. As counterpoint, I also like to tentatively school myself on Dugin’s 4th Political Theory, in an re-applied Western interpretation – I do think we need to get away from the 20th Century, and its entrenched, yet fiercely anachronistic, political idioms, if we’re ever going to pragmatically reconcile internal differences, find common unity where it is productive, and establish a genuine reciprocity that can escape the grim, relentless machinations of a choice-stripped, enforced new world globalism. Solzhenitsyn is a big inspiration on my thinking; and writing. Orwell too. A huge range of other thinkers and commentators. I think it appears in my music more and more commonly as I gain confidence. So, at the end of things, and with mild hesitancy, I can’t say I’m competently prepared for the future to any comfortable level, but we’re getting there. It arrives daily, regardless.
What do you see in the near, and far, future for your creative output?
I write a new song almost every day. If a couple of albums sell here and there, I’m generally fairly pleased; extremely pleased in fact, and honoured. It’s a rare occurrence. I’d like them to be listened to, primarily, as I think they cover a fair few idiosyncratic issue-points, but I also like the mild financial recognition that what I’ve created seems worth shelling a few quid out for. I have so many albums now though that I’m sure, eventually, someone might pick one up. Either way, I’ll keep at this a while longer. I can’t say, contextually & thematically, that the world provides me with many opportunities to stop.
When you first started making music, was there a particular sound or artistic/musical influence that you would say was your biggest inspiration to start pursuing the creative path yourself?
The projects :Wumpscut: and yelworC, definitely. Primarily the older material. I’d been listening to both since about the age of 12. I’d never heard anything that sounded as catastrophically bleak, and foreboding before; dissonant, psychotic and aggressive, yet with icy snatches of beautiful pre-baroque melody and idiosyncratic classical synths woven delicately into the texturing. A harrowing gothic nightmare, enacted in raw, minimalist, stomping electronics. I really took to the vocal styles too – it was just so cold, and fierce, and alien. This wasn’t relish at the carnage of war and death, or the heat of violence, and it didn’t feel glorious or even slightly glorified. It felt like a great, blanketing sorrow, and a desperately melancholic reflection on loss and decay, with every good thing wasted, ground up and destroyed. I think it touched me, deeply. I remember feeling similar when listening to Penderecki’s ‘Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima’, and when walking alone through the cemeteries and memorials of Northern France and Belgium. Of course, I was also going to the gigs of a band called Katscan at the time; a far more upbeat group from Bristol, who played the most brilliant, scathing, on-the-point electronic punk music I’d ever heard, complete with intense, cryptic, well-thought-out lyrics, and a killer delivery. When I started Vore Complex, I tried to combine these two profound inspirations into my own acerbic mess of noise. Without having heard them, I don’t know what I’d be writing now. That I’ve always heartily enjoyed the entirety of Tom Wait’s ‘Bone Machine’ is possibly by the by.
When it comes to your musical self and your real-world self, would you say that there is a separation? Do you find yourself getting into a character or mindset when you create, or do you find your music is a representation of your day to day self?
I’m a remarkably quiet individual day to day, if not necessarily by choice – back to the alienating wonders of Harwich. I rarely leave the house. Also, I bumble relentlessly in speech, and am accustomed to affecting an air of awkward British innocence, incompetence and quaint eccentricity when pushed into polite conversation with neighbours, and new friends, rather like Arthur Dent, or one of The Wombles. It wasn’t always so – my time in London was extremely intense for me; cripplingly dark, and unbearably painful in many places, and it left a huge number of unresolved issues in my mind. They often keep me lying awake at night, in wordless sadness, or occasionally screaming up out of unpleasant dreams. I find these matters difficult to put across to most of those around me now, including my family; they’d have no frame of reference, whatsoever, and the best I could expect would be mildly perturbed disinterest, or casual incomprehension. I don’t bother. It’s all stuff I can write about though, if I choose to. Quite a lot’s been covered so far, but there’s still reams of disquieting psychobiographical material I know I’ll eventually expose, in some form. I do tend to bare all in my tracks though, if I can help it. There’s little of my personal life; my past memories and experiences I won’t fling in, and utilise in some form. It’s important to me to keep integrity in that. I don’t like to feel I’m creating a character to compose with. That’s too shielded from the real. Perhaps my music can be best described as a present-day vehicle for releasing and processing parts of me, my observations, and my interactions with the world, that I have otherwise felt myself obliged to bury far from dawn, if only for psychological relief. Are you musically self-taught? Or have you had mentors along the way to help you develop?
Yes, I am, by any firm definition, self-taught. I find having a very large record collection helps, if I need to listen to how others have experimented with things. I like attempting new instruments; or just making a sound with anything that comes to hand, no matter how impractical or unconventional. I rarely update my existing equipment, and don’t bother actively tuning or setting-up anything along any traditionally understood or established setting. I just make it all up as I go along, or, more accurately, experiment to gain new learning heuristics, and then hone and whittle those techniques till it suits my purpose. Occasionally some musician friend or other will update me with another, usually more modern or theory-based, method for doing things, but I’m so stubborn that it usually takes me quite a while to assimilate this information, although I do try now and again. I have a passionate hatred of Music Theory approaches, as I think they’re both ungrounded in their haughty elitism, thoroughly boring & stultifyingly normative, and also responsible for trammelling lazy minds into ‘the meat machine’, and thus should be held accountable for the overwhelming prevalence of bland, safe, unrepentantly over-commercial, by-the-numbers identi-songs and soulless, watered-down hipster sound-projects perennially choking the life out of the music world with stinking waves of dull, ego-aggrandizing sonic offal freshly spewed onto the formulaic dance-floors of popular sensibility, alternative or otherwise. That anyone in the Industrial world would - and does - pay attention to them is sheer heresy to me, and a great disappointment. If the public is never presented with anything else, they’ll never know to look for the unusual bands, or give them the time of day, and eclectic, complex tastes will wither. It’s not all about the clarity and preciseness of beats, and the polish - not if one has no soul. Intact, it compensates, or should, perhaps.
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?
Having been in solitary confinement for uncomfortable stretches before - an experience that never really leaves you - I find it difficult to relent and let myself get bored, or distracted. Realistically, I can’t allow myself – I dislike feeling unproductive, and am loathe to let the situation deteriorate, or atrophy. It feels important to keep a firm day and night schedule if you’re working from home, as I always do, and to generate personal momentum without external prompting. Often I have a vague, internally-brainstormed idea for a song floating about in my head from a day or so before, and will just not let myself move or ‘escape’ from my home studio area till I have the bare, concrete rudiments in place, if not something more, and even if it means staring at an empty wall for three hours until something materialises; or repeatedly pushing the reverberating exasperation as far from my conscious mind as possible. It’s quite tough on the head, as well as being uncomfortable physically, as my workspace, although busy, is somewhat firmly less than decadent in its furnishings, but I don’t relent easily. I do meticulously scan my various news sources, research papers, books and journals for lyrical inspiration, or analyse my archives and stored links for potentially suitable samples, if the songs should require them, but generally, as I said before, I tend to make things up on the spot, and forcibly develop them bit by bit in real-time from practically nothing, dragging myself unforgivingly along each day, aided only by black coffee, a single can of K Cider (at an alcohol volume of around 8%, and thick and sticky in texture, I notice it really helps my vocal chords recover from the almighty strain of my singing contributions, as well as acting as a mild anaesthetic panacea), and far, far too many packets of Sterling Superkings. Also, when it comes to the music, I always try to begin by working out my rhythms, then experimentally construct or record the instrumentation over the top, adding my words in at the final stages of writing, and often in one take, if life is being merciful. When it comes to making music it can be difficult to balance atmosphere, song progression, musicality, and excitement. Do you have any tricks, techniques, or methods that you have commonly used to help your music sound coherent and engaging?
For me, the cohesive rawness is important. It feels best to maintain a firm synaesthetic link to my thematic content in the ways the sounds are presented. The project is intended to manifest various forms of relentless, abject pain, and thus I imagine a bloodily flayed, stinging quality to the unsettling synth tones I employ, and a sharp, battering metallic precision to those frenetic, multi-layered beat onslaughts that appear so frequently in my songs. This raw quality comes across literally in my singing voice – I’ve been known to rupture the tissues and bleed a little from my throat sometimes when recording some of my louder, more caustic passages, and invariably end up retching thick, bloody saliva all over my microphone. That all gets recorded, naturally, and the remains photographed and re-absorbed into my cover art pieces. I’m not sure if it comes through in my recording, but I don’t use as many vocal processing techniques as people may sometimes think. Only a volume boost, a slight layer of crackling Scream Unit distortion, and a moderate echo effect. It’s often an extreme discomfort for me to sing in the way I do at all, but if it gets the point across succinctly, it feels worthwhile, and less mechanistic and insincere than relying on the unreality and comfort of multiple effects. When it comes to mastering my finished songs, I’m deliberately very limited in the techniques I’m prepared to employ myself (although I have an extremely competent external producer I can turn to, if needs be, and one who certainly understands my unorthodox direction to a tee). I don’t want it accessible or safe in any way. I just don’t think it fits the vision - this isn’t music for a club dancefloor, or for commercial aural pleasure and relaxation. It has to be like wet scalpels scraping down a spine, or the sound of bleeding to death alone in the dark. Howls, and desperate whimpers, and gibbering screams. Anything else is short of my intent. It should never be acceptable on the ears, or complacent.
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' your relationships with pre-sets? 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?
In the past I crafted a lot of my own sounds, usually by going out into the world and taking ambient field-recordings on my ancient Dictaphone from a huge array of different environments; usually unsavoury – and sometimes under some quite taxing pressures – and then spending days manipulating the audio-logs and snippets in Goldwave. By now I have quite a large archive of unusual sounds to draw from, bolstered by the various private sample libraries I have personally created. In the most part, I’ve forgotten what most of my recordings originate from, though now and again I’ll remember, or find an original file, and shudder in distaste wondering why I bothered. I like hardware instruments, primarily my M-Audio Oxygen 25 keyboard (and a couple of Yamaha and Casio models), and my bass guitar, but also a standard violin, a viola, a set of Scottish bagpipes, a couple of jawharps and a selection of harmonicas. There’s some permutation of large e-drum kit in the corner, but that hasn’t been in use in a while, and I’ve never been a person to care much about the anal-minded ‘show-and-tell’ listing of manufacturing makes, much as I respect the manufacturers for their finely-honed artisan craftsmanship. Cutlery, hammers, spanners, power drills & assorted electronic tools, sirens, loudspeakers, beer cans, metallic sheets, rods and plastic surfaces of various descriptions have all come in handy in the past, as have parts of my own bodily skin-surface, open wounds and wracked tissues, and, of course, my benighted teeth, or just the sockets. If I don’t own something myself, and can’t approximate it with household gubbins, I’ll try and borrow it, although, as usual, that’s difficult out here as I have limited real-world contacts in the music sphere these days. I think, in general, I have enough to keep me going for a while though. When it comes to sequencing I fall back on software, and use a mixture of Reason 7 and Goldwave. I challenge people who say they must keep up-to-date with every new software release – it’s one’s prepared to be arsey enough about it, and put the hours in, it seems to make limited difference, and I like the functionality, and brutal user-unfriendliness of the old programs. I learn more that way. It shouldn’t really work, knowing all this, and given my blatant, feckless disregard for formal ‘professional’ decorum or conventional acceptability, but, so far, it’s proved quite reliable. I don’t think I could ever ‘just do it all on PC’ though. I don’t think it’s any easier, and I certainly don’t think it matters beyond stylistic pretension – if the sounds are made competently, ‘who cares how?’ goes both ways – but I know that I like to connect bodily with the music I compose, and I find it more satisfying when granted the opportunity to thoroughly abuse, chastise and wear down the physical implements I have available to utilise.
Do you ever find it difficult to balance the creative and technical aspects of musical creation? How do you strike the balance for the need to craft and tweak your effects and sounds, in contrast to actually just getting the song itself created with structure and melody? What sort of element of creation do you prefer, the sonic shaping or the song creation?
As noted, I find it extremely taxing on the mind to create straightforward, accessible, catchy songs – as opposed to vast, writhing webs of cryptic philosophical polemics and allusive metaphorical nightmare poems. It’s not something I’m used to attempting, and I’d probably find it difficult. It’s not really what I’m about. Thus, I’m not usually too concerned with keeping things in melodious harmony to too fine a degree, or rooted in any technical sanity. I threw verse-chorus-bridge etc. structures out a long time ago, and only pay lip service to them now, once in a while. I spend a long time tweaking the individual sound layers, and segments in each song, but the backing framework is intended to be loose, and quite vague at times; fresh, billowing skin hammered into place by vicious percussion. To approach the pieces as direct, on-the-spot meanders through manic cerebral displeasure is probably the best route. It’s usually all about the lyrics. Indubitably. To be brutally direct, the rest is just grotesque, acerbic padding, for those who’d require a foul-tasting dose of grim, noisy acoustic terror to cement in the words. Do you find that when you are working on projects where you ended up learning new techniques during the process?
All the time. Almost continually in fact. Each new song allows me to try something new out usually, even inadvertently and tangentially. I’ve briefly written in the past about a song I composed called Shive. A typically disquieting neologism I coined from the words ‘scythe’, ‘shiver’ and ‘jive’. I like the concrete sharpness of that word on the page, as well as the phonetic qualities. I think it suits the track. This horrendous, disturbing love song concerns itself with one of my London ‘adventures’; a somewhat long and unorthodox night spent in company that I can’t entirely look back on with positive nostalgic pleasure (although it was certainly novel). This was the music that directly inspired me to take my first steps into constructing experimental video clips, and music videos to accompany a few of my songs, based on vast, quick-fire blended image montages backed up by darkly psychedelic or extreme personal movie footage and home clips. The footage is all heavily edited in VideoPad, and takes about 7 hours non-stop to construct, on average, and then another 10 or so to render on my remarkably rubbish PC. It’s quite a rewarding side-line for me artistically, as it allows me to thoroughly flesh out the songs and convey what I intended to be interpreted from them with far greater clarity, to a horrendous level of worrying detail sometimes, even though I don’t think it does anything for my sales and probably isn’t up to the standard of more cut-and-paste modern band promotional vids. I have a version of the Shive movie up on Vimeo. I’d be interested, still, to know how it goes down with more of the public. I take a lot of directorial inspiration from the video work of Skinny Puppy and Psychic TV in the 90s, as well as the sort of projections one might more readily encounter at a Power Electronics or Death Industrial night. Playing live shows, recording new tracks, attempting to go live the life that gives you the experiences that inspires it all... it can be difficult to balance the time. Do you have any particular methods that you use to keep yourself focused or balanced in your direction?
I just keep at it till it’s done. Keeping conventional stimulants handy isn’t the most health-conscious approach, but it saves me having to get up too much. I’ll work on song-writing from about 8am to 6pm usually, then spend the evenings networking, making personal calls and liaising with professional friends, and checking over my various web-spaces, just nit-picking and smoothing things over; micro-management. I make sure I take time out daily to attend to family and domestic matters though. That always has to come first, in the hours where my stepchildren are in the house. As I say, I don’t go out much anymore. If I do, it’s to a very firm private destination, and a valid conversation or two. Usually quite far from Harwich. I probably work too much actually. I’m usually on the boundaries of being marginally (to moderately) strung-out, although pressure pleases me, and I do award myself the occasional half-day off every few weeks or so. My partner works very, very hard to maintain a solid environment for everyone too, and I think without her I’d probably have collapsed in utter exhaustion by now. I find taking long evening walks and occasionally runs, and attempting to maintain a certain standard of personal fitness, however tenuous, plays a decent part in preventing me from imploding. For fans who have not seen you yet, when it comes to your live show, how would you describe yourself thematically and visually? Are you an energy and audience driven band in the live atmosphere? Or would you consider yourself to be more thematic or presentation oriented?
I’ve only performed live a handful of times in my life, and not for a long time. It was primarily when I was promoting Skomorokh, my rather insane, extreme, and curiously unpalatable form of ‘comedy’ slam poetry, in the town of Chelmsford, and it never went down very well. A very late-night slot. A regular pub room full of cliquey, brown-nosing university students and aspiring local comedians, none of the latter any older than 17, plus all their remarkably middle class groupies, and trendy socialites, and assorted talentless hangers-on. Usually stunned silence and horror. Occasional tears in the audience. Lots of cumbersome heckles from that bolder permutation of drunken feck-wit. I miss that sort of thing though. It’s a shame no-one ever engages with Skomorokh. It’s the most astute of my projects, in some ways, but seems to have slipped into the void as I’m never asked to perform any more, and no-one listens to or takes interest in the selection I added to Bandcamp, complete with improvised backing music, plus I appear to be banned from the main venue in that rotten town (for wanton extended blood-loss, of all things – it’s a long, sordid story, and one I’m still quite bitter over). As far as I remember I’ve only performed with VC twice; once in an abandoned underground carpark in Camden Town in about 2004 to a pack of wasted street junkies, and once round some grotty crack-house flat in East London a year later to a small audience of ex-convicts, hookers, and yet more irascible junkies. Oddly, they seemed to enjoy it. Perhaps I’ve been targeting the wrong crowd these days. I wouldn’t know how to answer this.
When it comes to performing, what are your favorite sort of venues to play in, and what are your favorite areas to tour? If you could tour with any other band in the world who would it be and why? What are some of your favorite memories of touring?
I have no memories of that sort. I would usually end up performing my rapid-fire poems and snippets of acapella lyricism behind the rear doors of city bars, or at gigs unrelated to myself, to anyone unlucky enough to have stumbled out for a quiet cigarette. I suppose I like delineating most anywhere as a performance space, usually on the fly, and then slipping away into the night. Some twit in the public put me randomly on YouTube a couple of years ago, although it’s not one of my finer moments. I was a tad inebriated in that short clip, and there’s far too much pretentious gesturing going on, plus the words are all muffled. The poem’s called Black Eyed Doggerel. Nick Drake might have raised an understanding smile. I did perform a short, impromptu almost-gig once in the smoking garden of a psychiatric unit. I’d turned up to visit someone initially, but was coerced. That was fun, and the closest I’ve even come to one of those apocryphal Johnny Cash ‘Folsom moments’. For the benefit of the patients, mind; I’m none too fond of psychiatric staff in the majority, for quantifiable reasons that would take far too long to cohesively cover now. That’s the other broad group of people who seem to appreciate some of my work in real-life, at least more than other demographics in the population – psychiatric service users. Perhaps my material reflects a few common concerns and interests. If you could play any anywhere, with anyone, in the world, dead or alive, who and where would it be?
I’d love to play live, I’m just not sure how to go about organising that. Despite repeat attempts to publicise and promote locally, I can’t drum up any interest in the county of Essex, or indeed across London for that matter, and Harwich is not a really an option of any relevance. It’s a shame really. I don’t mind keeping VC as a studio project, but I’m sure it would certainly be profoundly different were I to somehow be awarded the means externally. I know I’ve tried a good many internal solutions so far. Last year, I made friends with Lars, the artist behind the magnificently dark – and criminally underrated – German solo act, Throbberstalk. He noted that it’s a shame he doesn’t play these days, otherwise he would have been extremely willing to gig with me. I’d wholeheartedly agree. So yes, if I could pick anyone to hypothetically play with, I’d pick Lars and his project. We’ve found a great deal in common in our approaches and thematic interests. I’m not sure an audience would be entirely prepared, as is always the best way. Failing that, I’m sure my friend George, from Wee Chapel of the Dawn could accompany me in some cacophonous onstage riot, one of these years. He’s a far better musician than me, in almost every way I can think of. It occurs to me to add, I’m also a big fan of the Canadian project, Mangled Meat, perhaps more than any other current Industrial project that I know of. It just touches me, and hurts me integrally to consider in detail – which is always a mark of something powerful, and a credit to the artisan, and it’s very, very well done; gritty and with real substance. Inspirational stuff. I’m not sure if Thom would accept the likes of me, given some of my more unorthodox and perhaps unpalatable idiosyncrasies, but it would be a sincere honour, and a privilege for me. I think, sadly, that we have quite a lot in common in our musical zones. Honestly, more than anything though, I miss my best friend, Mick. He was the best informal bandmate I’ve ever been in contact with, and also set me on my course to becoming the musician I am still. He’s dead now. He didn’t die well. I used to sit next to him on the bustling pavements of East London, relentlessly ad-libbing my caustic lyrical nonsense, and adding in the occasional mangled scream, as he played and sang howling street punk atrocities on an ancient acoustic guitar. Perhaps those days are over now though. I think, for the moment, were I to play anywhere, I’d need to play alone at first, or at least just with a session guitarist or keyboardist. 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?
I don’t really have a successful musical career, as such. I just scrape along, making my noises, in quiet dismay. Considering my subject matter is so bleak, and disastrous, it makes more sense to understand that I am indeed reluctant in the creation of most of my sounds, and deeply saddened by the majority of the issues I dissect. It’s a strange dichotomy; the yearning for what few sales I can gather, if only to support the continued existence of my humble personal life’s direct needs for food and shelter, and the needs of my family, and to provide a little more stability and security for the future, but at the same time the overriding knowledge that for each new release I plumb the depths a little more, down into the deep murk, and become more jaded and consumed by what I encounter, having looked into dusk very closely indeed, in a sense that Nietzsche might have been referring to. I think I’m usually going on sheer determination, rather than pleasure. Perhaps it’s naïve of me, and certainly remains fiercely idealistic, but I’d like the music I make to impact people in such a way that they can study from it, or learn from it, so perhaps, eventually I wouldn’t feel the need to dredge these darknesses up into the light. I suppose I’m longing for interpersonal and societal change and for these issues to become less prevalent. I talk about them because others don’t, or won’t with the same level of blunt, pitiless, in-your-face analysis. I’ve promised myself that one day, if my world is in a better state, I can sit down on a park bench, with my partner, and quietly delete and otherwise burn and destroy my entire history of music writing, and disappear from this culture altogether. To escape. Mick’s death hit me very hard also. A painful, extended inspiration. I allowed Wee Chapel of the Dawn to encapsulate his life, and the life of his most unfortunate partner, in the song Serious Points. I don’t think I’ll ever gain closure though, due to the nature of the circumstances surrounding his death, although the grief is not as vast and raw as it was a couple of years ago. I dedicate most of my songs to him, quietly, and unrecorded. Not for him, but knowing he’d have understood, and remembering how he shaped my thinking when it came to writing what should be heard, and not just what would please a fickle, dancing crowd, chasing irrelevant fads and crassly lowing for the next bit hit.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?
Maintaining, and gaining new equipment is one. I have extremely limited funds most of the time, to an unbelievably frugal degree very near the poverty line, so if something goes wrong with my hardware, or software, as it often does, I’m forever having to experiment with approximations, and alterations I can make to keep things together, or falling back on my previous recordings and tinkering with them to extract new makeshift solutions. Also, I’ve had to get used to existing pretty much in a vacuum, without a strong network of musicians around me, or much interest off the public. Long weeks go by with little to no input from the music community at large, or my fan-bases. It’s during those weeks that I just hole up, pump out as much material as I can, solidly, day in day out, and live in hope in the interim. Getting used to being rejected by record companies and labels, sometimes quite idiosyncratically, and with less professionalism than one would have hoped for, is also something one needs prepare for as quickly as possible. It’s understandable, given the nature of my music – especially because mine is one of the more unorthodox, potentially extreme and unexpected Industrial projects, and offers little in the way of concessions to listeners - but it does hurt sometimes, if you let it. It seems prudent to maintain professionality myself though, in the face of this; and realism. I’m lucky to still be able to write, and to hear. Outside of Industrial music, what other genres could you see yourself composing music in? Or should I say, do you see yourself inspired by? 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?
I’ve had my side-project, Bleach For The Stars, going for some years now. It’s the more serious, adult venture of the two main musical efforts, which is a strange statement in itself. I utilise a lot more found-sounds, musique Concrete techniques, and field recordings, as well as classical instruments, usually implemented with a view towards constructing a dark, chilling Electroacoustic atmosphere of lunacy and discomfort. My style varies from extremely morose, moody analog synth Dark Ambient, to caustic Drone, to traditional forms of oldschool Industrial and rhythmic sound-collages, moving off into particularly stark and nasty Death Industrial and Power Electronics, expansive, gloomy Ritual soundtracks and minimalist orchestral work, with elements of Noise Rock, or indeed just Harsh Noise. I use BFTS to showcase my formal poetry, adopting an even harsher vocal style of semi-howled spoken word and a really cacophonous mix of guttural yelps, brutal rasps and shrill screeches. It’s far more organised, and Classical in structure, taking cues from a variety of 20th Century underground composers, as well as the numerous early pioneers of electronic sound experimentation. Currently, I’m thinking of incorporating some Neo-Folk elements, or perhaps taking in into Martial Industrial territory, if only for an album or two. It’s an introspective project through and through, but I hope someone else eventually finds something meaningful in it also. If not, I’ll do what I usually do, and keep writing. As I said before, I’d like to work with Wee Chapel of the Dawn more, as George has proved to be a vital and intuitive sounding-board for my relentless creations, and is always brutally honest with me when I present him with my latest ill-conceived atonal monstrosities. Aside from that, I’m usually keen to have my work re-interpreted and remixed, or to provide mixes myself, following the official Throbberstalk mix selection I created earlier in the year. So far I’ve had some stellar reconceptualization works courtesy of Flesh Eating Foundation, Delta Lupus, Filthskin, Cold Therapy, Distortion Six and Rauppwar, but I’m always keen to see what people will make out of the idiosyncratic remix packs I design for them. 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? What sort of new bands have come out in recent years that have caught your attention? Is there any bands out there you see yourself, or would like to, remix or collaborate with in the future?
I’d collaborate with anyone who’d have me, to be honest. I can’t say my knowledge of the 21st Century scene is in-depth enough to be able to pinpoint any decent modern Industrial groups with much accuracy, but I’m open to any takers willing to have a go, or to offer corrections. I’d like very much to be proved wrong regarding my grim opening prognosis; after all, I grew up loving Industrial, and my disillusionment brings much consternation to my mind. I’m loathe to limit myself to the Industrial scene though, as I think any genre could be fun to work with, or, ideally, beyond archaic genre classifications altogether, although I’d love it if I could find a new musician or two on my direct wavelength, especially as session players for potential live performances, or to work on my video projects with me. I suppose, practically, working with yelworC, Mental Destruction, Remyl, F/a/v, Infact or :Wumpscut: is probably beyond sane remit, even were they not retired, especially since I managed to royally put my foot in it with the latter by email about a year and a half ago, but it’s worth noting that I had some success creating a remix for one of the talented fellows from X-Marks The Pedwalk (and now Clusterpain) not too long ago, so working with him on something would certainly please me. Is Boyd Rice out of the question? I doubt he’d give me much time these days, as he’s probably a little out of my league, one could say, but I had yet more of this dubious fun constructing an unruly techno-industrial remix of ‘Out Out Out’ last year, and I think NON is one of those gloriously strange, intense projects that seems to fit my general selection criterion. Coil would have been immense, if I’d had the chance. Hmm, or Aslan Faction, maybe? Project Pitchfork, Vomito Negro or Das Ich… the list goes on. Promotion can be one of the most difficult things in the music industry. Do you have an agent that helps book shows and manage your online presence, or have you decided to trek it out without and mantle the reigns of the social media apparatus yourself? Is it difficult engaging the online world consistently and originally, or do you find it easy?
Nope, no agent. I couldn’t afford one, and no-one’s shown interest otherwise, or offered. It’s a regrettable state of affairs, and not one I’d readily choose. I do it all myself these days. It’s become routine, though I am usually left wondering why I’m doing this. I do most of my official promotions on Facebook (and, to a secondary degree, on YouTube, if something seems unique, or particularly interesting), putting up little individualistic text blurbs and expositions with every song I write, individually previewed in unmastered form and then marketed properly as part of the finished albums I periodically throw out, and then blasting them at various groups and communities. I intersperse this with band art, and, very occasionally, ‘eccentric’ mini-essays on semi-related topics; relevant articles from around the web to ground the pieces, and darkly surrealist Discordian and Dadaist linguistic techniques, just to experiment with what Facebook crowds can tolerate. It doesn’t help that I’m usually exhausted by this point, and wired, and strung-out. I make plenty of mistakes in the process, and I’m sure I alienate a great many potential listeners, even more than the songs would do themselves. Aside from Facebook, I was accustomed to utilising Soundcloud to show off my recent material, but the vast insincere crowds & limited attention-span casual users on that platform, the buggy, unintuitive interface, and the ineffective spam controls and filters have forced me gradually away. I don’t see it as a very effective means of spreading work promotions; too unreliable, and fickle. Perhaps it will not even exist for too much longer. More like a radio station for offcuts. Since I bring out the majority of my work in digital (a great shame to me as I have always greatly preferred hardcopy records and CD goods), lacking an ability to afford to produce physical merchandise more than once in a blue moon, I’ve put a lot of effort into making my Bandcamp sites as functional, informative and aesthetically appealing as possible, albeit it in a grotesque, thoroughly fitting way. Aside from that, I’m at a loss as to how to effectively promote, really. I network often online, but I’m not sure how useful the word-of-mouth is in that case, as I’m usually typing to other underground musicians in a similar boat, and with limited influence, despite their best efforts. I did print off a run of business cards, and have gleefully, on foot, scattered them wholesale about the local area, and indeed further afield throughout the county, and into London; picking kooky, unexpected areas as much as much as choice record shops, community centres, underground nightspots and watering holes, and distributing them personally to people I thought might be interested, but so far, I can’t say it’s made a great deal of difference. I might as well have broken into the depths of London Underground again, and scattered them out miles down the deepest sub-tunnels and side-passages; as far back into the dark as I could get. They would, perhaps, be found. It would be novel. That’s not something I often think on often though, in any cohesive, sane, detail. I think I’ll continue to exist quietly for a while. I never know, perhaps one day business will pick up. In the meantime, at least I get of focus on writing it all down, and composing my tracks as much as I can.
With your band becoming increasingly popular have you had any insider attention regarding label support? What's your thoughts regarding being independent music scene versus being part of a record label?
Well… It’s all about perspective on that, haha. I should say, I am indeed part of an official record label, Body Music Records, that releases much of my early material, although I think it best that I not discuss them in too much detail here, as, to put it gently and with professional politeness, we have not, and, increasingly, do not quite seem to see eye to eye over the handling of Vore Complex, and I am, somehow, to a certain degree, left in unexpected novelty with regard to their offered services and kind, quite unique gesture of professional aid. I’m sure my contract would elucidate me more thoroughly, before the closing of the year. As it stands, I made a small decision, and have been bringing out my recent material in ‘self-released’ form, and independently. I think it seems nice to find support in a record label, and to gain alleviation from such concerns as can eat away at my composing time, and the quality of my work. More decisions will probably be made, as appears best. 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 about 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?
I’d rather I had CDs to distribute. I’ve always felt that digital music makes it too easy; installs a kind of ‘consume-more’ heuristic in minds – it’s so simple to acquire hundreds of new tracks in one day, and to skip through them, paying scant attention to each work, or worse taking concept albums and downloading one or two of the tracks individually. I hate that option, and don’t offer it. I feel that if people can’t take the time to listen to my whole albums, and the work that goes into them, as conceptually intended, and taken as a whole listening experience, then they probably shouldn’t buy them at all. I mourn the loss of attention spans, and the rise of quick fix music, and fast-food songs on the go, for those who can’t find a fucking hour in their day to enjoy an album, or are unwilling to; or worse, don’t know how to. That whole culture has ruined it for me. Also, I always found that with hardcopy I’d relish an album more, own it with pride as an artefact of beauty; a work of sonic art, and time, replete with lyrics booklets, and artworks, and the little idiosyncratic extras and curios that make physical music special. To actively get to grips with the songs on it over a longer time period, and understand them individually, and in one setting, then another sequentially, carrying the records back and forth from one device to the next by hand, with a certain diligence - not just as another soulless, worthless, interchangeable e-commodity in a world of non-existent spiritual faeces, to be blasted out at lightning speed everywhere, and spread like wildfire to every corner and venue. On the subject of music piracy; I’ve both indifferent & realistic with regard to it at times, in that I accept it’s persuasive, and prevalent, and hard to combat online, and also, at other times, really quite dismayed that people couldn’t do a bit better, or be a little more understanding. Be less unrepentantly miserly by populist affect, and self-entitled, and stop using their convenient, short-sighed, adolescent free-loading manifestos to back up criminal theft and poor behaviour, all for unrealistic utopianisms that have yet to arrive, ever, or just out of spite, dispassion and disrespect – because they can so easily, and think they should be allowed to because no-one’s ever been able to tell them no, and make it permeate. I don’t play live. I don’t have that option realistically handy. I’m not squandering my meagre finances, and I rely on them to survive – not to live decadently; to survive. I want to survive that way. It’s my career, and I put every effort into it. I can’t afford to make up physical goods. If people want to push their theoretically all-solving ideology, or any idealistic agenda regarding that, do it on paper, in classrooms, or in planning at home, or with those who have lives that aren’t affected by sales, and don’t thwart mine because you’d rather spend 7 quid on an arbitrary noble cause and need some free noise while you’re at it, reducing musical worth to nothing, or just wish to burn every note to ashes for a postmodern collectivism or a progressive Socialist nightmare. I don’t subscribe to that, and I shouldn’t be forced to against my will. I write this, as I’ve seen these arguments come up time and again, and usually from that angle. The Internet is awash with free noise – I even give some of mine out for free myself, and generously so when I can. Just spend it on that apocryphal noble cause, or another one, or keep it otherwise. Don’t approach my music unless you can offer me respect as an artist, or just as a human being who creates. I hold it for myself in the meantime. More listens doesn’t seem to equate to more purchases. If they’re doing that in the first place; they’ve missed the intents of my songs, and hearing more of them would have limited impact. Perhaps the issue is quite a dear one to me after all. I think it’s a danger to downplay or brush under the rug the effects of piracy. The benefits aren’t all that great, and if they arrive, they’re not by choice. I have to protect my work, or starve, with limited safety nets, and demeaning ones. I don’t worry about consumerism in itself. I don’t see that as an inherent evil, and I think the concept is misunderstood, sometimes wilfully. I worry about over-consumptive attitudes, materialistic, interpersonal or spiritual, and entropy, and nihilistic dissolution. An endzeit, with no clear sunrise. There’s a great difference, and it don’t think that’s recognised as much as it should be.
Outside of music, what are some of your favorite past times and emotional engagements?
I’d have to get into it some other time. The list is too numerous by now. Pretty much everything one could imagine on the creative, literary and philosophical spectrums. Much of an academic nature. Too much political and post-political thought. Various outdoor pursuits. Keeping hamsters is also a bit of long-term craze. Occasionally, I might get a few minutes’ sleep. Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?
Thank you, genuinely and unreservedly, Matthew for tolerating my extremely extended replies to your questions, and well as for the controversial ideas contained in some of them. It’s been a marvellous, reflective pleasure for me to write this, and a challenge at times. I’d like to extend a direct thank you to my few, loyal fans and listeners also. I know the music’s quite difficult territory and I appreciate the support very much.
Thanks also to new readers. I should apologise; I’m not always quite this cantankerous, although it is a bit of a personality trope long-term. Look, just ignore all this witheringly verbose blah – go and explore the sounds. I’m sure you’ll find something of unexpected novelty. You may even find you dig it. Apologies in advance.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries, comments, offers or requests. Or even if you want a few dozen tester tracks gratis, or a rare remix or whatever. If you’d like to gratuitously insult me for some reason, that’s one of the better avenues for it too. I don’t expect anything too formal on there, don’t worry, although it can occasionally take me a day or so to reply with my full attention.
Finally, I should possibly use this space to both apologise to and also thank my world-weary, yet infinitely patient partner, Abby. I’ve been typing this all day from sunrise, and have been thoroughly boring otherwise. I have not even said hello to the new parakeet. Abby doesn’t listen to all that Vore Complex muck, and finds it rather strange and dull, being a major fan of The X-Factor, Kasabian, Lady Gaga, and occasional power-trips into the glorious world of Limp Bizkit. She also thinks I’m rather lazy. However, she’s very kind, and loving, as hasn’t murdered me with a shovel yet and buried me in the garden behind those evil plastic gnomes that set me off the other month, and so, for that, I’d like to express my gratitude.
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