Infidel Interview #112: Klack
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?
Eric Oehler - old and decrepit, Madison, Wisconsin
Matt Fanale – young and nubile, Madison, Wisconsin area.
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?
Eric: I enjoy it rather a lot. It's a small city, but it's a college town, so we have a pretty vibrant music scene. It's no Austin, but there's usually something interesting going on. We have a pretty committed scene devoted to "our thing", which while not huge, has been fairly consistent over the decades, and has bred a surprisingly large number of recognized artists...Caustic, Stromkern, Null Device, CTRLSHFT, Sensuous Enemy, Stochastic Theory, Zola Jesus (sorta), All Tiny Creatures, etc. It's a fertile community so it's pretty easy to exchange ideas and collaborate with other folks.
Matt: Madison’s an easy area to live in. Nice people. Lots of cool stuff going on. There’s enough weirdness to inspire you and enough venues to perform so it isn’t cutthroat.
What does Klack mean to you guys in 2017? And how does that compare to what the project meant to you guys when it was formed?
Eric: We founded the project this year, so the meaning is still fresh and new and 2017.
Matt: Eric approached me with the idea and we divvied up the responsibilities. We’ve been friends a long time so it has just been a fun “Hey, I’ve got an idea!” “GREAT IDEA!” between the both of us. We’re having fun with it. It has been nice getting back to a style of music that’s not so heavy handed.
Eric: for once, when one of us said “GREAT IDEA!” it actually was a pretty good idea, and not some exceptionally goofy off-the-cuff notion, like liveblogging a trip to Ikea through the medium of modern dance.
Actually that was a pretty good idea too.
Do you consider yourself to be part of a particular sound or scene? What are 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?
Eric: Well, we're pretty committed to the EBM aesthetic, so we're tied in to that scene, although we're not on the same stage as a lot of the established artists.
I personally listen to a lot of fairly random stuff. Right now I'm on a bit of an ambient kick, but a few weeks ago I was all about arabic pop music.
Genres can be limiting sometimes, but they can also be useful. Without them you would risk walking into a record store and accidentally buying a Yanni album. Yikes.
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?
Eric: Well, Klack in and of itself is deliberately a throwback to the EBM and New Beat sounds of the late 80's. We really wanted to evoke the styles of 242, A Split Second, Confetti's, Nitzer Ebb, etc, albeit without just directly ripping them off. So there's a clear inspiration from the bands of that era.
Matt and I have toyed with collaborative projects before but never quite found our niche until we just decided we were going to make the kind of music that got us into this whole thing in the first place.
Matt: Our biggest “problem” has been reeling in our influences. I’ve deliberately had to try to develop a vocal style that won’t scream “Hey, you listen to old Nitzer Ebb a lot.” We’re still feeling it out, but our hearts are on our sleeves on this one. We’re happy that people appreciate it.
What would you say are your favorite themes and topics that inspire you to compose? What draws you to those themes?
Eric: I just like to sit in my basement making noises. It's kind of what I do to unwind.
Matt: We’re so early into this that there isn’t a set template. We’re not trying to get too heavy. If I can compare the themes to a song from the era we’re trying to invoke then I’m comfortable in doing it. We’re making dance music. We’re also pretty referential about it, with songs about the music we love. When we released Synthesizer a few months ago it was as much a silly manifesto as it was a debut track.
Are you musically self-taught? Or have you had mentors along the way to help you develop?
Eric: I have a fair amount of musical training - I was *almost* a professional violinist at one point but decided I wasn't quite masochistic enough to go that route. As far as production and engineering is concerned, I'm mostly self-taught, although a lot of that learning was done in collaboration with friends who were learning at the same time. Dan Clark (of The Dark Clan, Magma Dragon, etc) and I literally used to spend hours talking about microphones and preamplifiers. I've learned some mixing and mastering stuff from watching guys like Wade Alin (Christ Analogue) and Mike Wells (Gridlock).
Matt: I’m mostly self-taught, which is a blessing and a curse. I only understand what I’ve gleaned off of my friends or from researching what I want to do. Fortunately Eric is good at deciphering what I mean when I point out what I want changed. We have a shorthand at this point. He tolerates me.
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?
Eric: Klack has a pretty clear vision in mind from the get go. I mean we may not have an exact arrangement figured when we start a track, but we pretty much know what we're gonna do in broad terms. Instrumentation is pretty spartan, arrangements are minimalist, there's not a ton of modulation...we're basically focused on hitting everything pretty hard and then getting out of the way.
Matt: Yes, our framework is pretty set. We’re very utilitarian in a lot of ways. Keep it simple is key. Given how complicated our main projects can get (Eric’s especially), the keep-it-simple-stupid aesthetic is fun to explore. We’re locked in on it at the moment.
One of the things I try to do with any of my projects is to not put too many limits on it, but if we do its specific and for a reason. Otherwise there’s no point in calling it a different name. Our vision is pretty plain to see. Now we get to see where we can take it.
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?
Eric: Since Klack has such a specific sort of vibe to it, it's pretty easy to kind of take an idea and run with it. We tend to keep it pretty simple and straightforward. I save the more complex sound design and such for my other projects. Klack has a pretty succinct mission, and a pretty well-defined style.
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 relationship 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?
Eric: I kind of frame everything in terms of "what would they have done in 1988 to accomplish this?" And while I don't have racks and racks of vintage samplers, I have software and effects that emulate such things, and I keep my techniques as close to what would've been done back then. I'm not going to grab a convolution reverb or a 5gig multisampled piano because those sorts of things just didn't exist in that era. I base a lot of stuff off of short, lo-fi samples, digital fx, algorithmic reverbs, FM synths, etc. A lot of the sounds I use are in fact straight out of the old Emulator and Emax factory libraries, albeit processed and misused.
Matt: Since Eric handles the vast majority of the music creation, while I focus on lyrics, atmospherics, and vocals, I let him loose in his sonic candy shop.
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?
Eric: For me, the two have always walked hand-in-hand. The mixing and sound design needs to serve the song, and the song needs to work with the sounds. The technical aspects are creative, and there are technical elements to the songwriting process. Sure, I'll spend 10 minutes tweaking compressor settings on a snare drum, but I'm not above throwing it all out if it doesn't fit the song.
Do you find that when you are working on projects where you ended up learning new techniques during the process?
Eric: Constantly. It's kind of disappointing if I don't!
Matt: Always. If you’re not you’re probably making some pretty crap music at that point. There’s always something new to learn.
What do you see in the near, and far, future for your creative output?
Eric: I intend to keep doing this - both Klack and my other projects - as long as I'm able. I really hope to be the crazy old dude at the end of the block that all the neighborhood kids are wary of because of the weird noises that keep coming out of his house.
Short term, I'm working on more Klack and Null Device stuff, and I've got a bunch of production and mixing projects in the queue.
Matt: I’m in the process of breaking down all of the tracks for the new Caustic for Eric to put a final polish on (see how incestuous we are?). Otherwise I’m still promoting the Klack EP and the new CTRLSHFT album on my label Undustrial.
Would you consider yourself to be an overall political or spiritual individual? If so, if how what would you say are your strongest/most important views and/or causes?
Eric: I'm fairly political. And fairly lefty. And not at all spiritual.
Matt: Art and politics are intrinsically meshed, though not always obviously. My main goal is to act like a human being to other human beings, and not be a piece of shit person. Pretty simple. A lot of people have trouble with that these days, though.
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?
Eric: I'm constantly thinking about music stuff. When my wife seems me staring blankly off into the distance, she doesn't even need to ask "hey, whatcha thinking about?" anymore, because she's pretty sure the answer is going to be something like "plate reverbs."
Matt: I’d say there is and isn’t a separation. Would I RATHER be making music than working a day job? Yes. I also write and draw and do plenty of other stuff. My music projects (Caustic, Beauty Queen Autopsy, Klack, etc) are different in that I get to explore distinct areas of my personality through them. What I express in a BQA track will be vastly different lyrically than a Klack track. Same with Caustic. There are different parameters of what I want to do. For instance, I’ve got a pretty bad mouth on me and swear a lot in, well, most things I do. With Klack I’m deliberately trying to keep the language clean, as the influences I have for this, the artists I’m trying to channel more or less, rarely used the language I’d have no problem using in Caustic. It’s not censoring, per se. More of a stylistic choice.
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?
Eric: It's tough. I try to squeeze it in whenever I can. The worst is when I finally have an open block of time without commitments or day job or anything...and inspiration utterly fails to strike. I need to get all oblique strategy at those points, walk away and do something else and hope my brain makes some sort of connection.
Equally frustrating is when inspiration strikes and I'm doing something like "driving in a car 200 miles from the nearest synthesizer."
Matt: I’m much more housebound as I have a family with young children. It’s nice to have opportunities to play all over the place, but I hate being away
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?
Eric: Well, we don't have one yet. We're still working on that. Klack thus far has been a whirlwind - it's been roughly 4 months from conception to the release of our first EP. We weren't even sure if anyone other than us would care, so we haven't really got everything sorted out yet.
Matt: I’ll just venture out and say we’re going to be covered in a lot of fake blood and/or real blood and or chocolate syrup and wait this might just be a porno I’m working on instead.
When it comes to performing, what are your favorite sorts 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?
Eric: Other than gigging as part of Caustic, I've never been in a band that's popular enough to play large venues. But I'm totally down with playing small clubs and bars and stuff. Some of my favorite shows were like wednesday nights at a bar somewhere in the midwest, with seven die-hard fans in the audience and a bunch of friends onstage. It doesn't exactly pay to put gas in the tour van, so to speak, but it's still a nice feeling.
Matt: I love smaller venues, personally. The energy is great. It’s nice playing larger places if there’s a good turnout, such as festivals, but it’s nothing like getting a bunch of people crammed into a small room and just experiencing everything together as one group. Hell, I’ve played a few of my favorite shows to 15 people, too. It all depends on the vibe.
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?
Eric: I let Matt handle that. He's stunningly good at it. I come off as an asshole when I try to self-promote. Matt doesn't. Well, not the same kind of asshole, anyway.
Matt: I’ve fortunately figured out a way, consciously or not, to communicate pretty effectively with people. Klack has gotten an overwhelmingly positive response, much to Eric and my surprise. I mean we knew WE liked it, but to see so many people happy to see this style get reintroduced in a way they can appreciate…well, it means a lot to us. There are of course other artists doing similar things, but I think we’re already carving out a niche for Klack, and we’re going to keep doing it as long as it’s fun. We’ve got a ton of ideas in the works already, so there’s no shortage of material at the moment. We simply need the time to execute it properly.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?
Eric: For me, it's usually focus. Klack is refreshing to me because I kinda know exactly what it's going to be going in, and I'm not going to get bound up wondering if this particular synth lead has been used before or if that string arrangement is too cliche or whatever. With other projects I have to think about those things - it's far too easy to overthink things and get distracted.
Matt: I’ve probably talked about it more than needed, but having a sense of humor in your music means you simply won’t be taken seriously by some people. Klack seems to be working in that framework, but fortunately people seem to “get” it, as opposed to Caustic, which people still write off to an extent, but f—k ‘em. It used to bother me, but then I realized I was taken seriously by far more people that I respect, fans and artists, than some random twit on a forum. That’s about it. Any other challenges are mostly me trying to learn how to do things more effectively as an artist.
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?
Eric: Klack is so new that we haven't really had time to have those yet. But every day I'm absolutely heartened to see someone else pick up the EP on bandcamp or post a link on facebook. It's gratifying as hell to know that people are digging it.
Matt: It’s been nice getting approached by labels, but it’s been more satisfying seeing DJs I like playing it, posting videos of full dance floors, and people spreading the word. Word of mouth is crucial to what we do, and to see people loving it so much that they WANT to…that means a lot to me.
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?
Eric: It can be interesting. It really depends on what the feedback is. I do like hearing people's opinions, both good and bad, though.
Matt: It depends on who it is. If it’s someone I think is fair I’ll take the constructive criticism. If it’s some troll douche posting a review on Amazon…well let’s just say it doesn’t hold as much weight.
Outside of Electronic, 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?
Eric: Well, I've dabbled in a lot of stuff. I've done some folk music, worked with some Indian classical ensembles, written stuff for strings, produced some jazz, composed children's music...basically I'm game for whatever sounds interesting.
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?
Eric: Oh lord, this question. Ask me on any given day, I'll probably give you a different answer. When it comes to collaboration, I do really enjoy working with virtuoso performers and singers. It's very inspiring to sit down with someone who just really knows their instrument, and get some back and forth going on how best to make a song work.
Matt: Mike Patton. And Wulfband. And HEALTH. And EMA.
Outside of music, what are some of your favorite past times and emotional engagements?
Eric: You can have pastimes outside of music? My god, this changes EVERYTHING!
Seriously though, I really like to cook. I also do a little bit of photography and recreational graphic design but I am not tremendously skilled at it. Also my wife and cats seem to like me.
Matt: Like I said, I have two kids and an awesome wife. Shit’s good.
Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?
Eric: Do you Klack? Yes, yes you do.
Check what the band's all about on their official website:
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