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Infidel Interview #135: SHIV-R

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?

At this stage we're in our mid-30s and live in Melbourne, Australia, though we’ve spent a lot of our “career” as SHIV-R living abroad. We’ve done shows in at least 20 countries, including at Germany’s WGT, Canada’s Kinetik and the UK’s Infest festivals, we’ve done dozens of remixes, a few EPs and have most recently released our fourth full-length album “Requiem for the Hyperreal” which is available now everywhere digitally.

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?

Honestly we spend a lot of time discussing this topic. We both moved to Melbourne at the same time (January 2017) after living abroad for years (me in London and Ben in Bangkok), and we discuss every time we hang out whether we are happy here or where in the world we would ideally like to live. There are some well-attended local goth clubs for sure, but more excitingly there is a great live music scene for other genres that is one of the healthiest in the world. You can walk down any number of streets and hear live music blasting out of venues from blues to thrash metal and it's pretty inspiring if you have an open mind musically. I'm still trying to find my feet with the local scene. I've lived in Melbourne before but only for a year here and a year there. We still have a mental focus overseas with our music and will be returning to Canada to play Terminus Festival in July as well as some other bits & pieces in North America.

What does SHIV-R mean to you guys in 2018? And how does that compare to what the project meant to you guys when it was formed?

We’ve explored quite a lot of different sounds and hit some goals that we had when we first started, e.g. being signed by labels like Infacted and Metropolis Records, and playing the biggest goth festival in the world WGT. But now, speaking personally, my goals are less around traditional goals per se, and more around unlocking the ability to just use music to communicate fluently and express myself in the most honest way I can. We have talked about departing from where we started, away from the club music and harsh sounds, as we have a lot more to express, but at the same time we realise that we love club making club music. I love the process of making electronic music and I think our first album was a real focus on industrial-club sounds, and it was a lot of fun to be that focussed. So while we stray to other sounds, more acoustic elements, more dynamic songs, we will always cycle back to harsh club music. Last year on tour in Russia, a producer I hugely respect, Sergei from R.I.P., told me backstage in St Petersburg that our new album “Requiem for the Hyperreal” is about 40% as hard and heavy as our first album. That was a deliberate move as we shied away from club stuff. But actually right now we are working on a purely club-focussed EP that we will put out later this year that should help us re-gain some club footing.

Interview continues after this video and all further streaming content...

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 don’t like or dislike anything inherently because it is part of a genre. I like individual artists from all sorts of genres. I would never go to an EDM festival to see one of my favourite artists Deadmau5, nor would I go to a metal festival to see another one of my favourites Gojira. I would find the rest of the music, and the people who listen to it, kind of awful. So I just like to pick and choose from wherever.

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 absolutely loathe the fact that hateful ideas and casual bigotry are becoming accepted again under the guise of “free speech” or that “no idea is invalid”. For the sake of brevity I will cut what was a very long answer down to the words of Pop Will Eat Itself: "When they come to ethnically cleanse me, will you speak out? Will you defend me? Freedom of expression doesn't make it allright; trampled underfoot by the rise of the right".

Would you say that your choice to pursue music has changed your life since you started? Would you say that creativity has evolved you spiritually, emotionally, or logically?

Pursuing music is my life and has been the catalyst of most major moves and lifestyle changes in my life. It should be a kind of fabric that brings positive changes and elements into your life. I've met most of my friends and had the most amazing experiences due to music so it's definitely a life-changer.

If you could say there are underlying themes or messages that permeate throughout your discography, what would you say are the most important concepts and ideas you've tried to express throughout your artistic career, political, spiritual, or personal?

It's mostly a matter of personal expression, rather than a message. I just want to make music that reflects how music makes me feel, the energy of a club, the catharsis of aggression. I just want to converse with the world and filter my experiences through music.

What do you see in the near, and far, future for your creative output?

We do have a club-EP in the works. We also have some material that takes the vibe of ours songs such as “Milk and Honey” even further, perhaps even further than we can find a home for within the concept of “SHIV-R”. We’ll see what happens

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?

It was definitely dark, whatever it was. Darkness is always mysterious which prompts exploration. I loved discovering black metal as a kid growing up in Australia and letting the extremeness of it wash over me while I tried to break it down into digestible elements and learn the guitar riffs and try to recreate it myself. I loved poring over Marilyn Manson CD inserts and looking for hidden meanings in the probably meaningless symbolism and scripts and running the songs backwards in Sound Forge like there were answers to be found, and then making my own recordings with layered feedback and primitive in-the-box processing. That need to dissect, understand and ultimately create is something I feel constantly.

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 do separate things a bit, e.g. by the way I dress and make myself up for live shows. I've only ever done one SHIV-R show in a t-shirt on a boat in the Netehrlands and I will never do that again; it was very difficult to perform wearing something so casual. In some of my photoshoots I have worn massive fingernail extensions, and because shoots usually start at 5am, I get the nails done the day before. So for the entire evening I will have these talons on my fingers and I can't so much as use a fork or do up a belt without great difficulty, so that by the time the shoot begins and I have been sitting in the make-up chair, I have adopted a very "other" mentality and am feeling very much unlike my usual self, and this has absolutely helped in "getting into character" for some of the shoots. It's the same process with live shows - the process of getting ready and looking a certain way helps separate myself from that every day person and leads to being able to perform. People have told me they’re surprised when they meet me if they’ve only seen me onstage or in videos, so I think there is a bit of a separation.

Are you musically self-taught? Or have you had mentors along the way to help you develop?

I was taught guitar by my Dad who is a great guitarist, jammed a lot with my sister growing up who is also a phenomenal guitarist, and given a computer to record onto and taught how to operate it by my older brother as a teenager, and without those things I would not be on this path or this far along. In terms of formal training, I am a music school drop-out due to never turning up because I always valued my time at home creating my own music over the modules at the course, but there was some structured training there for sure. Ben, the other member of SHIV-R, is a conservatory-trained musicologist. He actually got into the Sydney Conservatory of Music as a saxophonist, before graduating as a musicologist, so he’s an incredibly competent musician and performer.

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?

I generally start with a sound in my head and then try to put it down, rather than just experimenting aimlessly. Often I have to beatbox a groove to myself in order to come up with the next layer for a song, and then it'll be a matter of putting that down. I've also had entire songs in my head with full melodies and textures and just had to put those down too. I know a lot of people disagree, but I think appraoching the DAW without a song in mind is like going into a tattoo studio without knowing what you want; you'll probably just browse the walls for hours and come out with something you don't really want.

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 commonly use to help your music sound coherent and engaging?

Honestly I still want to do more in this space. I need to do a lot more "loud-quiet-loud" stuff and really make our songs dynamic, which is a little harder with electronic music, but is certainly possible e.g. Nine Inch Nails. This is part of the mastery of the craft but nothing comes to mind right now.

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?

The way I've become comfortable with working has been to create things from scratch, but to keep them relatively simple. I rely on strong sound sources, e.g. when it comes to synths I rely on Moog oscillators, to give a solid foundation to then chop up and process. I'm addicted to the phenomenon where you layer two sounds, run them through distortion and capture something unpredictable and new from the result, especially when it comes to percussion. So I try to set things up in such a way that will have that unpredictable result, but in a very harnessable way so I don't get lost in possibilities and experimentation. So I have go-to ways of setting up my samplers and routing groups and send channels to get to that space where I can tweak parameters and get a useable result.

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?

Yeah sometimes the logical side of my brain will kick in and fight against the creative side when it comes to working on a track. E.g. when we made the "Carbon Black" EP with Amelia Arsenic, the title track is very minimal and that was such a struggle. We purposefully said to eachother we're not going to layer this up with Vengeance samples and swooshes and make it a brick wall; we tried really hard to keep it as close to just a kick drum, single synth line and vocals as we could. I love hip hop production for the sheer minimal confidence it conveys and that's something else I'm trying to digest the mastery of. Or Nitzer Ebb: kick drum, bassline, vocals, and it sounds better than anything you play next to it 30 years later. Sheer fucking confidence and cahones to keep things so minimal.

Do you find that when you are working on projects where you ended up learning new techniques during the process?

Definitely. I've made a LOT of songs and remixes in a lot of different styles and picked up little tricks along the way. Working with Amelia Arsenic was another great affirmation of this because we'd be working on a track and I'd be like "I know what this needs" and use a trick that I picked up when I was making a psytrance album, for example, and that was so gratifying to know that I have that bag of tricks up my sleeve. That's why you need to be so prolific and consistent. I'm approaching my mid-30s and signed my first record contract when I was 19 but I really don't think I could've cut any corners to get where I am as a producer or gotten here any faster. It takes so goddamn long.

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's definitely a struggle. I have certain rules and standards to stick to, e.g. if I've got a gig coming up I'll practice every day the week before it, no questions asked, so my voice is in shape and the lyrics are in muscle memory; if I have to "remember" any of my lyrics instead of just singing them from muscle memory, I'm fucked, and that takes mind-numbing practice. Or if I have two days to make a remix I'll hold off partying the night before so I'm not lethargic when I sit down to work on it. It's just prioritisation and deciding what's important.

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?

Quite audience-driven I think. We want to present something visual and thematic but at the end of the day we want the audience to get into it and show us some energy back.

Have you had any particular moment(s) that you would like to share, that you would consider to be a crowning achievement in your musical career so far, or moments that you would say truly continue to inspire you to pursue your artistic path? What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?

Hmmm, I'm really not sure. I absolutely don't take for granted where we are or what we’ve achieved. The biggest challenge is just raising general awareness for your band, getting people to care about your music enough to become evangelists of it. We’ve got some great people in our corner and that is something I appreciate hugely.

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?

Chelsea Wolfe for days. She's the most exciting thing in music right now. She makes me want to buy a pile of fuzz pedals and make evil sounds.

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?

We obviously have our label Blind Mice Productions, where we produce and release other artists. I'm also working on a new EP with Amelia Arsenic.

Outside of Industrial music, what other genres could you see yourself composing music in? Or should I say, do you see yourself inspired by?

Psytrance, metal, EDM, rock, soundtracks… I listen to it all and take inspiration from all sorts of places.

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?

We do the bulk of it ourselves, with some help from labels we’ve worked with at different periods.

Outside of music, what are some of your favorite pastimes and emotional engagements?

Dark motherfxxking Souls! Because real life is not punishing enough…

Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?

Thanks a lot! I think I’m out of words!

Check out their website, and record label's website, below to get the full lowdown on the project:

Follow their Facebook for their latest up to date activities:

Catch their album on Blind Mice Production's Bandcamp:

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