Infidel Interview #124: Precision Field
First of, 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 is Hobart, I’m 35 years old and I live in a little section of Baltimore City, Maryland called Hampden. 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?
I would say that there is a vibrant music community where I live, but not of industrial music. I only know a handful of people from Baltimore who compose industrial music. The local music scene in my area is mostly composed of Indie Rock musicians. I used to play bass guitar in a band called “Oil Pan Boy,” and I would say we were more accepted by the mainstream in my town.
What does Precision Field mean to you guys in 2017? And how does that compare to what the project meant to you guys when it was formed?
I’ve been writing and recording music since I was 13; “Precision Field” was a name I came up with when I was about 15. It was a reference to my recently diagnosed OCD and how everything I did had to be obnoxiously perfect or “precise.” Today this name still holds true, though I have allowed myself to be a little more forgiving of myself when song projects don’t turn out as perfect as I want them to. 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?
I do consider my music to have a late 80’s early 90’s industrial sound. 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?
“Skinny Puppy,” “Download” and “Mentallo & the Fixer” were big influences when I started making music and still are to this day. In later years I grew an appreciation for bands like “Coil” and “Throbbing Gristle.” I also draw inspiration from bands like “The Talking Heads,” “The Faint” & “OHGr.”
What would you say are your favorite themes and topics that inspire you to compose? What draws you to those themes?
I am really interested in ancient history and science. There is so much unknown, spooky shit going on inside and outside of ourselves that most people are unaware of. I try to tap into this unknown core to the best of my ability and incorporate it into my writing. “Close Your Eyes” is written from the perspective of an alien abductee who is being transformed into something other than human… a God. Are you musically self-taught? Or have you had mentors along the way to help you develop?
I took guitar lessons from ages 10-16; the instructor I’ve stayed close with. When I got married, he and his fiancé attended my wedding. Other than that, I spent a lot of long hours as a teenager by myself reading synthesizer and midi instruction manuals, listening to music and trying out different production techniques. 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?
Sometimes I have a clear vision in mind, but most of the time I let the songs feel themselves out. I usually start with an atmospheric sample or sound which creates a certain mood. Once that has been recorded, everything else just kind of falls into place. With my lyrics, I sometimes dig into a box of old poetry I’ve written or I write something new on the spot. Recently I’ve been trying to start with lyrics to create the mood and then add music. 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?
With some songs I use more of a complex approach while with others I’ve narrowed it down. I use Ableton Live, which is amazing, but I like to add some hardware and vintage gear for a unique sound. Whether I’m doing that successfully is up for debate. 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?
I do spend time crafting my own sounds. With soft synths, I will often take a preset and randomly move all the filters, oscillators etc. Then I will go back and adjust each one until I have a sound I like. I also spend a lot of time effects tweaking. Most of my songs are spacey by nature and I like using effects in a “controlled chaos” kind of way. I try not to use presets much, but sometimes they are exactly what I need for a song so I won’t change it. I do use a combination of both hardware and software. Like mentioned before, I use Ableton Live’s soft synths. For hardware I utilize the Korg Electribe MX, Akai S20, Yamaha AN200, Yamaha DX200, and Yamaha SY35. Bass guitar is really my primary instrument, but I don’t use it as much as I would like to. The Akai S20 and Korg Electribe MX have probably been used more than any of the other synths and are vital to many of my songs. I just started to utilize the Yamaha DX200 more; it’s really freakin’ awesome. The Yamaha SY35 is new to me and I’m still learning how to program it effectively. 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?
I used to spend a lot more time in the song creation process, which is something I would like to get back to doing. Recently, the sonic shaping has taken over. When I get an idea I just run with it and see where it goes. I often get lost in the madness of programming and sequencing; ending up with a finished product that sounds nothing like I initially envisioned. I believe strongly that if a song wants to go a certain direction, I just let it. My laptop becomes like a Ouija board if that makes any sense? The song has its own consciousness that I don’t want to disturb. Do you find that when you are working on projects where you ended up learning new techniques during the process?
Yes! Sometimes I’ll stumble on to something and be like holy shit! This must be what those other guys were using! I find effects parameters and filter combinations all the time with unexpected results. What do you see in the near, and far, future for your creative output?
I have 2 ep’s that are available on bandcamp, but no full lengths yet. I am currently about 3 songs deep into making a new album, hopefully to be released by next summer. So far, spirituality and my own inner demons have been the main influences to my work. This album will still have some of that, but I am starting to branch out into writing songs about macabre events in history that impact me emotionally when I think about them. One of these events was the brutal rape and murder of Mia Zapata. She was the lead vocalist for “The Gits” and an extremely underrated lyricist. Her death was a terrible tragedy; there is a whole episode about her murder on the show “Forensic Files.”
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?
I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about politics, however, I consider myself to be more spiritual than political. That being said, there is always a bigger picture. It’s very sad what I see happening in my home town; Baltimore has one of the highest murder rates of any city in the country and it’s due to drug violence. Then there are other cities in the United States with terrible devastation; but the worst city is always the one that you live in and experience for yourself. If we look globally at the even bigger picture, there are people in other countries that risk their lives to have the opportunity to live in a city like Baltimore. If we go even further and look at our planet from outer space, we could all end up getting wiped out by a comet or a UFO and these political debates wouldn’t matter anyway. It sounds morbid to some, but not to me. I think that as human beings we have a deeper purpose; as Carl Sagan said, “we are all made of star stuff.” We are all connected and will turn back into energy when we pass from this world into the next. In the meantime, I am bound to my physical self. I love my wife and my daughter and would do anything to protect them. I also enjoy helping people; working in the mental health field. I’m in this body and on this Earth, so why not make the best of it.
When it comes to your musical self and your real-world self, would you say that their 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?
A little bit of both. I am definitely inspired by the things that happen in the real world, however, I do have to act a certain way when I’m out in public or at work. I have a lot of thoughts that run through my head that I have very little control over. Sometimes, it takes everything I have to get through a workday without my head exploding. It’s not bad shit that goes through my mind, just a lot of it. I have a difficult time filtering out what I don’t need. When I’m home in my studio, I can let that madness out and truly be myself. 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?
It can be hard because I have a lot going on. I’m married and have a one year old daughter. I’m also back in school at the age of 35 and work full time. I take a lot of notes on my phone or in small notebooks I carry with me whenever I get a musical idea. Sometimes it’s just the name for a new song and sometimes it’s full lyrics. That way, when I am back in the studio, I can refer to my lists. As far as live shows go, “Precision Field” has taken a break for a while so I can write new material. However, I am playing live keyboards for “Nahja Mora,” another Baltimore industrial band led by Josef Saint, a close friend I met in college some 15 years ago.
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 would say that I’m more presentation oriented. Since the unknown is something that most of us fear, it is something I wish to explore with my music. I do my best to create a musical atmosphere and sometimes a visual one. The last time I used a projector on stage I had clips of UFO footage projected over me and behind me. I’m not much of a front man. In bands where I’ve played bass guitar I’ve tried my best to find a small patch of darkness to stand and perform in. Being more up front and getting out of my shell on stage is something I need to work on. When I’ve sung live in the past, I was mostly hidden by a large stand stacked with multiple keyboards and modules. I’ve never liked to draw a lot of attention to myself. 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 only performed small clubs in Baltimore. In the future, I would like to tour. For now, the possibility of touring with “Nahja Mora” as a live keyboardist is much more a reality than “Precision Field” going on tour. If I could tour with any band it would be with “Jihad.” James Mendez is a close friend of mine and we have spoken about playing shows together in Europe. I could say I would like to tour with “Skinny Puppy” or “Front Line Assembly,” but I don’t know any of those guys personally. I know James and I know it would be an amazing experience to perform and hang out with him. 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?
When I started to produce music again a few years ago, I decided to explore the industrial music community on Facebook. To my surprise, I discovered a large network of musicians all over Texas. I kept an eye open for people who were requesting remixes and submissions to industrial compilations and contributed to a few. Social media is a great tool because it got my music out there pretty easily. James Mendez, who lives in Texas, introduced a number of people in Europe. I do not have a manager; I’ve just done the best I can on my own.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?
Some of the biggest challenges I’ve had stem from ego; my own and others I’ve played with. Not counting “Precision Field,” I’ve played in 4 different bands over the past 7 years. I am still currently a live musician for “Nahja Mora,” but the other 3 bands I left due to creative disagreements. I am still friends with all those guys, but I’ve learned some hard lessons in working with others. I’m happy to say, that I believe I have found a happy balance between my own project, my minor contributions to Nahja Mora and remixes I do for others. 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 would say that my relationship with James Mendez from “Jihad” has certainly kept me inspired. He has been very supportive of my project and shared my music with a lot of his friends in Europe, one of which sent me a private message saying it’s been a long time since he’s heard good industrial like “Precision Field.” A great compliment!
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?
Honestly, feedback has never swayed me too much to change my sound. I am always trying to make music that I would want to listen to or that feels right to me. My stepfather is not a fan of industrial music, but he appreciates what I do and has always taken the time to give me feedback and criticism. Since I was in high school, he always said he wanted me to turn the volume up on my vocals and that I “hide too much behind vocal fx.” I’ve noticed, as time moves forward, I’ve become more confident with my voice have lessened my vocal fx; and turned up the volume. 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?
I have always wanted to play bass in a “stoner” metal band. I love bands like “Crowbar,” “Corrosion of Conformity” & “High on Fire.” I also love old school metal like “Anthrax,” “Exodus” and “Testament.” However, my 3 favorite metal bands hands down are “Carcass,” “Death” and “At the Gates.” Like I mentioned before, I play live keyboards and have recorded with “Nahja Mora.” I also have shared remix projects with “Nahja Mora,” “Fun Never Starts,” “Jihad,” “Flesh Eating Foundation,” “Mechanoreceptor,” “Torque Order,” “Chrome Corpse,” “Robouroboros,” “Inductive One” and “Antibody.” 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?
If I could collaborate with any musician or artist it would be David Bowie. He has been my favorite artist since I was 4 years old. The day he passed away I felt like I lost a family member. Every album he has ever done is different from the last, but my favorite albums of his are “Low” & “Heroes.” The Brian Eno influence is heavy and the electronics are amazing. Everything that Bowie touched turned to pure magic. Many of the new bands I enjoy are on the Audiotrauma label. “Chrysalide” and “Verin” have both been very inspirational; also “Republik of Screens” and “Horskh.” Outside of that label I really dig “Aseasita,” “High Functioning Flesh” & “Protectorate.” Realistically, I would love to collaborate with James Mendez of “Jihad” or Gary Dassing of “Mentallo & the Fixer.” James did an amazing remix for me on my “Namazu” EP, but we have yet to create something together from scratch. Outside of music, what are some of your favorite past times and emotional engagements?
I love comic books and horror movies (mostly 1980’s John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci etc.)! I also get pretty obsessed with video gaming from time to time. However, the most important people in my life are my wife and daughter. I’m a new dad and I’m loving every minute of it.
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