Damage Control: Infidel Interview #52

September 9, 2016

First I just want to thank you for participating in this edition of Infidel Interviews. With this interview let's just start with a bit about yourself. Where are you from, how old are you, and how long have you been making music for?

 

Bill: Hey Matthew, It’s my pleasure, thank you for your interest in us. Sure, I am from Birmingham, UK. Although the band are from Germany, Australia and the UK with Canadian producer Chris Peterson, we are collectively all over the place.   Ultranoia from Damage Control will be my first official release. Now, I am in my early 40’s. As an 8 year old,  I noticed the likes of John Foxx, Gary Numan. Fad Gadget. This had a profound effect on me. I have loved music all of my life and began studying Sound Engineering in 1989. I have been around electronic musicians especially, for most of my life. I have a particular fascination with this kind of music. Although I had dabbled with drum machines, synths and samplers in the early 90’s with friends back in Birmingham, it was my move to Sydney, Australia in 1996 that was a turning point. Soon after I invested heavily in sampler, synth and digital recording technology. I always swore to myself, if it is not material I would love to listen to  myself, then why bother releasing it. It is only in recent times that the planets have aligned. Some of the material on Ultranoia began 12 years ago. Some of it began 2 weeks ago. One thing’s for sure. The album is almost done and I like it a lot. 

 

Jason: Hi Matthew, thanks for taking the time out. I’m also from Birmingham, UK.  I am in my 40's too and am one of the guys from the 90's Bill talks about. I've been messing around with drum machines, analogue synths and guitars since my early teens. On and off with Bill for years. Electronic music has always been my thing and I love extreme industrial music, be that Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Godflesh etc but i love the emotive melodic side too, from depeche mode to kraftwerk. Its all good for me, music for moods. Different sides of the same coin. I really love that schizophrenic side to electronic music. I just adore screwing sound up and bringing the madness or then making haunting ambience.  As Bill said, we are busy finishing the album and excited about how diverse and textured it's sounding. 

 

Damian : Hi Matthew, I’ve been making music since I was 14 years old, and still have my original recordings on cassette tape. I’m from Sydney, Australia. I have always been interested in experimenting with electronics, and electronic music, so i guess pulling apart a Casio keyboard was what it was all about in the eighties for me. However, recording music is now in my DNA, I fully appreciate the spontaneous aspect of it all. So a thought will not be lost, and the creative process is realised in an instant. Being the oldest member of the band at 47, is absolutely no change for me, as I have always been the eldest member of every single outfit I have been in and worked with . 

 

Markus:  Hello Matthew, I am the german member of the band.  I got in touch with electronic music, when in the 80`s, I was forced to learn to play the organ. Soon I grabbed all my savings together and bought the brand new Yamaha DX-7, which I still use today as my master keyboard. Being in my 40s now, I look back on 30 years of pressing buttons and turning knobs.

You have a variety of different projects and musicians that you collaborate with in some capacity. Could you talk about how you came about to be so diversified in these projects, and how do you find the time to manage all the projects, and how do you seperate your creative capacities for each?

 

Bill: For me, Damage Control is the central outlet where we are bringing all projects together. We feel the debut release offers a diverse mixed bag of vibes. Because there are a few of us, we have a production line of ideas and creativity. We throw a lot out, not that some of it isn’t good, it just all has to flow nicely within the central focus of Ultranoia and essentially be a collection of our best work. Bringing Claus Larsen, Craig Huxtable and Chris Peterson on board in production, remixing and guest performances happened naturally as I am a fan of theirs and I see eye to eye with these fabulous artists.  I (we) have so many influences, we all do in this band. A passion for sound design and composition although not classically trained musicians for the most part, we love the freedom to create through synths, samplers, modern recording technique etc. I also very much admire my fellow band mates talents and attempt to showcase the best of everyone involved on this project. 

 

Jason: Ours is a strange family really. And somehow it all works, all sheltering under this musical umbrella. Damage Control is certainly an apt and poignant name for us ( laughs)

 

Markus: A strange family indeed, but isn´t that how it is supposed to be?

 

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? What led you to electronic music, particularly the heavier kinds of it?

 

Jason: For me in my early teens it was all about MUTE records, The Normal, Fad Gadget, Depeche Mode, Silican Teens etc that lead me to getting my first synths and experimenting. Then discovering things like John Foxx, Yello, Kraftwerk etc Then in my later teens i discovered bands like Bauhaus and that lead me to being in that type of raucous raw guitar bands. I have just always loved sound and sound experiments and writing songs. 

 

Bill: In the early 80's I started playing around with splicing tape and creating cacophonous noise with ghetto blasters connected to each other. It was all I could do as I had no money for any gear. In 1989 when I went to study audio engineering, I was exposed to c lab notator along with Yamaha DX7's, Yamaha RX5 drum machines and Korg M1 synths and Simmons electronic drum kits. I first got my taste for sequencing at that point. Although I have been into electronic music since the 70's such as Tangerine Dream and Jean Michelle Jarre which had a big impact on me as a child, then going through the period of the 8o's with John Foxx, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Depeche Mode etc, it was bands like The SIsters of Mercy, Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy, Frontline Assembly, Early Dossier period Delerium and WILL that toppled me over the edge to want to get myself equipment and try to make a good sounding record, learn the process etc. It was those bands, Canadian bands in particularly that said to me, you can do this.. Those bands had a profound effect on me. It was meeting Jason that gave me the push into creative ideas for a band together. He approached me in a nightclub with a demo tape. Fun days in the goth scene of Birmingham, UK in the late 80’s and early 90’s!

 

Markus: Well, I have a FLA tattoo on one arm, and a Skinny Puppy one one the other. So back when I started playing the organ, it was Depeche Mode that made my buy that Yamaha DX-7. 

 

Bill: Well you should of really gotten a Waldorf PPG then (laughs) but ok I guess they did cost the price of a house at the time. 

Is electronic music where you started making music? Or did you have previous musical background or experience before hand? If so does/did your previous musical experience affect your electronic compositions?

 

Jason: I started out firstly making electronic music back in the 80s. With an old casio cz101, a korg poly 800 and a friends Roland sh09. But the first band i was in was a few years after that when i was 18. And i was a 'noise' guitarist in that band. So being in different bands, playing different instruments, it certainly does have relevance with regards to songwriting skills and experience. I have also been the lyric writer and singer in previous bands, so all that song writing experience does come into play to make the music more varied and less generic i feel. 

 

Bill: I started with an acoustic guitar, tapes and a Commodore 64 with Music Maker software in 1984 ! Started to dabble which led to messing around in bands as a singer and guitars for a while before realising it was samplers and synths I wanted to get into for the most part. It was 1997 I took the plunge and invested thousands in hardware. Of course the VST revolution has since come and now the analog resurgence so we have come full circle. I love to use the best of all worlds. I am obsessed by equipment and through this passion, have ended up in the music products industry which has taken me around the world. I am always on the look out for new sound generators. 

 

Damian : Unlike Bill, I started late with computers, only getting my first Atari in late 1990. I had a family that was none-too concerned with assisting my musical career, in direct contrast with Gary Numan’s supportive family, so I guess I made my own way financially, and saved up to buy what I needed. I had always liked electronic music, and although prog-rock bands of the 70’s used electronics, they seemed so aloof and distant to the average wanna-be bedroom DIY musician. I had piano lessons when I was very young, I have done an audio engineering course, and have a degree in music composition, but this has affected my approach to electronic music-making in very small ways, perhaps even indirectly.

 

Markus: I played keyboards in a punk band in the late 80s. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?

 

Jason: Being in a band can be a compromise and there are times when you just naturally want some space and to do your own thing ! Then there are periods of momentum, flow and inspiring creativity that makes it all worth while. It all comes together by hook or by crook in the end. We have devilish and quite cartoon like senses of humour. That is really important to maintain some level of sanity. 

 

Bill: Putting Damage Control together and creating what I believe to be a good sounding record in 'Ultranoia'. Dealing with all the different personalities and making it all work 'virtually'. Getting past creative differences which have lead to an interesting tension in our sound. Keeping our sound edgy.

 

Damian : The Ultranoia Project has been one of great challenges for me, and has tested my abilities to a good degree. I’ve worked solo now for a few years, so getting to work with other musicians has it’s ups and downs. Working as an international ‘virtual’ outfit, really represents a sign of the times, and shows our professional level of ability, focusing on everyone’s strengths only. In retrospect, and taking it all in macroscopically, I feel ready to take on a second album.

 

Markus: The biggest challenge for me is to work with other people. I am learning to compromise. It is good for me, I wish sometimes we could be in the same studio at the same time so we avoid misunderstandings often caused due to time differences and creative direction challenges. 

You have spent your life perusing sound design as an art and science form. How would you say your educational experiences have shaped your artistic path? What are some of the most important lessons you learned?

 

Bill: Yes that is correct. For me sound is an absolute obsession. I also like to use rare instruments such as the EMS VCS3 synthesiser from 1969, to bring unique and interesting flavours into our over all sound. I worked for a well known Microphone company that has taken me in and out of amazing studios all over the world. I have learnt so much about revered microphones and mixing consoles, outboard equipment and various techniques used to get a big sound in production. Why do professionals do what they do and use what they use is the big question I always ask myself. I want to know. Sometimes people say why do you want to buy so much gear, why must you have every hardware synth and plugin under the sun ? Well I believe in trying everything to be on a constant path of learning, experimenting, trying this and that BUT I have learnt to then retreat with only a few things although they are the best things in their category after trying everything I can get my hands on, in other words, less is more, don't over complicate everything although make sure you are in a position to make informed decisions is how I roll. I could go on and on about audio technology. It's a passion of mine, i'm a gear junkie. To answer your question directly though, I learnt that less is more. Just use the best.

 

Jason: I agree it's an ongoing path of constantly learning and pushing things. I read a Gary Numan interview recently where he said in the studio, he is either in complete heaven and its all flowing, or its complete hell and nothing is working or going right. I have learnt that too over the years and learnt not to expect the good to happen all the time. But being confident and knowing it will all come back. 

 

Damian : I guess a lesson I have learned from my educational experiences would be that if you take the process of making music itself, too seriously, music becomes an aloof and distant art-form that I despised in the first place about Classical and Prog-rock music.

It needs humour and accessibility at all times. I’m pretty spontaneous with it all. 

 

Markus: Life is a permanent experience of things that shape me. Music is certainly a huge part of that. 

 

Are there any particular instruments, programs, or effects that you would say are vital to you making music? If so, is there a reason in particular that draws you to said creative outlet?

 

Bill: Cubase 8.5 Pro is the version i'm on now. I love Cubase and have been with it for 20 years now. It's part of my daily routine. It's where everything happens in the creation process. When shown Cubase for the first time around 25 years ago on the Atari ST. I knew this was the program for me. I then have Softube Console 1 in Pro Tools HD to play with. That is essentially an SSL and NEVE mixing system that is focused and highly tweak able within the industry standard environment for mixing. It is ultimately Chris Peterson doing the mixing when all is said and done although we mix and shape the sound design as we go to give him great sounding material to work with. I also am a big fan of Eventide Effects, I have an Eclipse Harmonizer hardware and various plug-ins from them. It was Skinny Puppy and Frontline Assembly’s use of these high end effects that caught my interest decades back. I also love my Sherman Filterbank 2 which gives a hard and nasty edge to our sounds in a good way. Again I have many things I would like to talk about here. If I were to summarise, I would say I like to mix in a Solid State Logic 4000E mix console environment, I like Universal Audio tape machine emulators of fine multi track 2 inch tape machines such as Studer and Ampex, I use SE, RODE and Violet Design microphones with a mixture of digital and analogue hardware synths. I am big on high quality valve pre amps such as the ADL 600 from Presonus/Anthony Demaria Labs and now 500 series lunchbox modules. Also a mixture of classic hardware samplers and cutting edge plug-in solutions in the box. What really fascinates me is how we have evolved from analogue to digital with then too much of a clinical sound, we would mix through vintage mixing consoles to get the warm sound but here’s the thing ! Analogue sound and behaviour including tape hiss and electrical noise are being modelled into plugins designed  to digitally bring back analogue sound. We have come full cycle and the technology continues to move forward and get better all the time. It’s now all about how old can we make this sound for me! Well high quality Abbey Rd Studios sound from yester year type thing. 

 

Jason: Cubase for me too, always has been. And its Eventide, Softtube and Soundtoys effects whilst sound sculpting. I kind of feel the same about creating music as i do consuming it. I do stream and play mp3's but i still play cd's and vinyl. I really love vinyl. In that same way we use the best of all worlds musically, hardware and software. 

 

Damian : Like Bill, I’ve been on Cubase since day one. It’s a workflow I’m not willing to change. I’ve tried other systems to see what is out there as a matter of principal, but I keep coming back to what is essentially the best of the best in my opinion. It (Steinberg Systems) was good in 1984, it is good now. FM sounds, and bit-crushed distortion are my favourite sounds. I love the effect of distorted harmonics in all it’s iterations, but used with caution. My approach to sound design for my vocals as well as synth parts added often makes good use of these preferences. This gives Chris Peterson some idea of the direction I had in my mind. We do however, supply Chris with clean none effected vocals for him to do his thing. Chris guides us. It works well. 

 

Markus: I am the only one using Cakewalk Sonar X3 at the moment. In fact I don't think the tool you use these days is that important, we exchange ‘stems’ which makes everybody compatible with each other without too many headaches. Every kind of gear leads you to different results. For me, the Access Virus became my favourite weapon of choice in the synth department from it’s inception. 

 

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? What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?

 

Damian : My choice to pursue music was a very subconscious one. It was rebellion in it’s highest form, particularly when all I had in 1984-1986 was some 24 gallon drums, 10-inch bolts to hit them with, some borrowed casio keyboards, an old tape deck, and all in a very large corrugated iron shed out in the country. I was in my element. Spiritually, emotionally, or logically, I couldn’t do what I’m doing now if I didn’t have those grass-root beginnings.

 

Bill: I am also with Damian there. As a huge fan of music, rebellion ! Especially against Thatcher’s Britain in the 80’s was what shaped me. Later on when I decided to learn about production, it’s kind of happened naturally through a genuine interest and enquiring mind, it is however like opening a pandora’s box, i’m not sure if it’s a gift or a curse (laughs) but it makes me extremely happy. Even if I am addicted to buying plug-ins and hardware synths! This passion has lead to a career in the music products industry as I mentioned earlier. Music has always been a crutch, a place of refuge for me, like a remedy for the poison in life. Therapy. I have felt some of the most heightened emotional states while at epic concerts. The best memories I have in life are when a good record was playing ! Relating to other people within the alternative music scene, the community of it all is something I love (most of the time). My biggest challenge putting everything aside has been to achieve music and a product (almost) that I am very happy with and feel I can take to the grave still feeling that way. It’s a slow burn for me. It pleases me greatly to see Markus, Jason and Damian feel the same way as we are not easily pleased. I am so excited to see it all coming together working with people I admire hugely. This debut album will always be a very special thing for me as it represents the big push to make something cool happen and a coming together of the most important people I wanted to work with. It’s been a real journey of ups and downs to get there but we now have a tight team, on the same page. I know album 2 will come a lot quicker now we have Damage Control as an outlet for our musical creations. We may even play some one off special shows. It will be a challenge to get us all together at one time to play gigs but a challenge I am up for ! At this point though, we are a studio project. 

 

Markus: I am not sure, but I can say that it helped me over some rough times in my life.

When it comes to non-musical media, what do you find yourself most inspired by, and what about it draws you to it as a source of inspiration? Do you participate in the gaming world? Avid reader perhaps? Maybe cinema fan? Combination of some lol?

 

Bill: I am big on world war 2 documentaries and history in general. I love cult movies too. I have been known to read the odd William Gibson and Joseph Campbell book but I mainly always have my head in technical manuals and current affairs in politics! I sometimes very much enjoy the gaming world although I find it too much of a distraction when trying to produce music. The surreal worlds however, inspire me deeply. I often tell Damian a story of something that happened in my life and ask him to try and channel that into the lyrics for a song we may be working on that I have an idea for. Myself and Jason have certainly had many a night brainstorming re big adventures and happenings in our lives to pitch to him an idea in that regard. I know Damian certainly has many of his own ideas and stories too! In my mind, Damian is a highly talented lyricist. Markus tells us his side of things in the tracks sung in German. I like to visit art exhibitions from time to time. I hang around with our artwork director Roberto Massaglia and Adam Verspaget who is an awesome photographer. Brainstorming with these creative and talented people help a concept come together for Damage Control’s artwork. You know I try to avoid talking about politics these days although I am highly interested in them. I feel passionately about wanting to live in a more just world where the gap between the rich and poor is narrow. I guess I’m a dreamer ! I am very much interested in green renewable technology too. This is something I want to learn more about. Getting off the grid is an ambition. 

 

Damian : I need my books. My partner Alison really got me into reading, and it’s been a huge boon for my lyrical approach. In the gaming and film world, I do get the occasional rush from incidental music, which does inspire my emotional take on mood and atmosphere in my own music-making.

 

Jason: Definately books for me, i have always been an avid reader. Books and movies definately help inspire and motivate me creatively. 

 

Markus: I am a big SciFy fan. Books movies and games.  Of course thats kind of an inspiration when it comes to sound design. 

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?

 

Bill: Working with Chris Peterson who I have been a fan of for decades. Chris brings the x factor to our production that in my mind, is the holy grail of everything I love about sound. The heavy fucked up stuff that sounds like how I feel most of the time.  The Vancouver scene has had a huge impact on me over the years. Bands like Frontline Assembly, DECREE and Skinny Puppy, made me realise It’s not all about the most amount of notes you can play in the shortest time, it’s about a vibe and a hypnotic rhythm that gets you to the core. A sonic assault to the highest order. Canada is my spiritual home. Inspired by this, I would have to say also that investing 10k back in 1997 for my first serious setup was a crowning moment. Having Ohm and Leather Strip remix us is a big thing for us too. Coming from Birmingham, the home of bands like Godflesh and Black Sabbath, I think heavy music is in my DNA. 

 

Jason : Highlights for me are having played at the prestigious BBC Maida Vale studios, home to the John Peel Session, I played there numerous times with numerous bands and having played iconic Birmingham venues like the Hummingbird and Sinatra's. As a huge fan of 90's act WILL, working with Chris Peterson and having him there piecing the jigsaw together is fantastic for us. 

 

Damian : I’ve had career highs in the past, but working with a bunch of enthusiastic lads keeps me going. I have opened for Nitzer Ebb and VNV Nation before with my solo projects. 

 

Markus: The few times performing live have been some of the greatest moments in my life. So that would be something i would really love to experience again in the future.

 

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

 

Damian : Thank you Matthew, and I want for our music to affect members of your audience, as much as our idols of the past and present inspired us.

 

Jason: Thanks for having us Matthew. We really hope you and your audience will enjoy listening to Ultranoia as much as we have enjoyed making it. And here's to a speedy follow up album no.2 ! 

 

Markus: Thanks for your interest,  watch out for our debut release - it´ll be worth listening.

 

Bill: Thanks Matthew. We appreciate you taking the time for an insight into our world.  I very much hope we appeal to people who enjoy electronic/industrial and alternative music in general ! If you like this kind of music, check us out and please 'like our page if you do' at: www.facebook.com/damagecontrol 

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