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?
N.Dru Virus: Sure thing. My stage name is, and always has been N.Dru Virus. My given name is "Andrew". See what I did there? It seemed so witty at 21, buuuuut I'm 38 now. We are based out of the capital of New York State, Albany, which is about 150 miles north of New York City.
Rahb Eleven: The stage name (Rahb Eleven) is pretty uncreative, I pilfered the idea from Kurt Cobain in the ’90s when he misspelled his name “Kurdt”. So I wrote Rahb (instead of Rob) on notebooks in high school. When I joined DV, it fit with the other stage names the members were using.
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?
N: Albany is a small city, we often refer to it as "Smallbany", but it has all the things that a major city would have. Both positive and negative. Arts, culture, crime, corruption, fine dining... we've got it all! We also do have very well-established, thriving, goth/industrial community here. Our monthly club night, Exhuman, is always packed and is always off the chain! We book live bands from time to time too. Ego Likeness, Dismantled, Ayria, Angelspit, The Rain Within, The Gothsicles, Alter Der Ruine, Worms of the Earth, Wychdoktor, Inertia, and Venus in Aries have all played here recently. I personally have been involved in the promotion and technical side of things for over 10 years now and have seen plenty of shifts and changes along the way. It's been an evolution. These days though, I mostly just focus on running sound for live shows and picking up an occasional DJ spot. The great thing about our community, and the thing that really separates it from a lot of scenes that are struggling, is that everybody works together. We are an extremely close-knit crew who always have each other's backs and put the best interests of the scene first. I honestly love it here. Plus we're close enough to major cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Montreal that you can enjoy the perks of those cities without actually paying to live there!
R: In this genre and even outside of it, Albany is comfortably situated for mid-week shows that would otherwise be days the bands make no money that day. The talent the comes through is pretty remarkable, and all the venue owners, the promoters and fans, are really dedicated. The city’s skyline is most notable for and egg shaped building and a 30 foot tall RCA dog on a downtown warehouse. We’re not a destination, —some place you plan to go intentionally. It’s a weird place —we have to be friendly— and we are protective of the scene that’s here.
What does Doomsday Virus mean to you guys in 2017? And how does that compare to what the project meant to you guys when it was formed?
N: Man, things have changed a lot. I was a teenager when I started writing DV material, now I'm pushing 40. Life has changed. Doomsday Virus has changed with it. It's a huge part of my identity, a huge part of my story. Hell, it is my story. And like many stories it opens with hopeful optimism and closes with bitter regret.
R: I wasn’t around for the early days, I joined when Kool-Aid was in the demo stages. I was at a couple of NDru’s shows before I ever joined the band, and I remember they were the one band I was aware of in the area combining synths and guitars. Of course, I love both. joining DV was a real matter of finding kindred spirits and making the music I wanted to make. The experience has been trying, funny, —often frustrating. But it’s brought me around a lot of great artists and a community in this scene that I value.
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?
N: If there is any one central theme, I suppose it would be self-discovery and self-actualization through trial by fire. That fire being anything and everything life can throw at you. Whether it's personal, political, or otherwise. Again, Doomsday Virus is very much my life story, and it's a story about finding yourself, finding your place in the world and owning it, reveling in it. With that in mind, it's art. It's not always 100% about me. I try to keep my words ambiguous enough so that they are open to personal interpretation. I think that half the meaning of any form of artistic expression should come from the listener, from the viewer, from the person reading the story and translating it into their own experience.
What sort of processes do you go through when making music? Do you have a formula(s) that you follow, or do you feel it out as you go along? Or is it more of a mixture of the two?
N: The process has changed from album to album. I seem to reinvent it every time. Different hardware. Different software. Different collaborators. It's never the same. I've always said that the songs write themselves. I start with an idea, a beat, a riff, or a synth part. It just grows from there. Often in ways I hadn't anticipated. I rarely have a finished concept in mind when I start. I used to, but I've gotten away from that because it never pans out the way I've planned. Typically it turns out better in the end anyway, so I just go with it. Lyrically, I may have themes or scraps or a couple lines ahead of time, but I don't flesh them out until after the music is written. Then I sorta just figure out what goes where. What lyrical themes fit best with what musical pieces, and I build out the rest from there.
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?
N: Growing up in the 90's, I think Nine Inch Nails was my first real exposure to anything even remotely under the "industrial" umbrella. I started going down the rabbit hole of bands like: Ministry, KMFDM, Thrill Kill Kult, Skinny Puppy, and Project Pitchfork from there. The combination of guitars and harsh electronics is something that has stuck with me ever since. It's my favorite place to be. Not a rock band. Not an EBM band. I have nothing against those genres and do enjoy several artists at who occupy one extreme end of the spectrum or the other, but I personally love the balance. I love the in between. That's where I am happiest. That's where I was meant to be.
R: I had this one friend, he must of spent all his time getting stoned and listening to music. So he’d get high while I just listened to Ministry and (Nitzer) Ebb, and Thrill Kill. Ndru and I are the same age so part of the reason we work well musically, —our influences are the same.
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?
N: Again, I really do just let the songs write themselves. I mess around with stuff until I hear something I like, then I keep it. If I don't like it, I try something else, or I just scrap the idea altogether. So everything gets filtered by what is currently appealing to me at the times. Also, I tend to write in bursts. So there will always be some consistency there, simply by default. I have some fairly OCD tendencies. I value balance and structure. More than value. I obsess. I also feel like music is one of the few outlets I have in life where I can really let myself go and be free. I want to convey feeling. I want to convey emotion. I want it to be raw and unfiltered. The music sets the foundation for that. The vocals give it life. One of the biggest problems I've had with a lot of industrial artists is that the lyrics are often too cold and too mechanical. I never want to lose that human element though. I want lyrics to punch you in the gut. I want them to make you stop and think. I want them to invoke an emotional reaction. A connection. I want to be painfully real in my expression, because this is the only place I feel comfortable doing so.
R: Prior to DV, I had mostly played in metal bands. I’m a proficient player, —you get some of that. When I write for DV, I tend to sit back more often and do what the song needs. There were times both NDru and Matt looked at me and told me to dial it back. If the song needs me just chugging along on chords that’s what the song needs. But that’s an old idea you hear from old blues guys: a good player knows when to hold back and when to cut loose. It’s especially important when you’ve got like half-a-dozen synths competing with what you’re playing. It’s easy to make that sound muddled.
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?
N: At this point there are so many keyboards. So many synth modules. So many soft synths and DAW's out there. The potential library of sounds is nearly endless. I work a full time job. I have a lot of other shit going on. Odds are there's somebody else who has spent hours, days, weeks, constructing a patch or two that is going to work for me. At the very least, I'll be able to find something close. If it doesn't sit just the way I want it to, then I'll tweak it. I think there's an art to that as well. Collecting a bunch of sounds and finding a way to make them work together. Not to take anything away from the people who DO insist on making everything themselves from scratch, or the people who ONLY create patches all day every day. That's great, but I'd rather spend my time on the actual songwriting itself. The base sounds are something I can delegate.
As for what specific tools we use, that too has evolved over the years. When DV started, I was using Cakewalk as a midi sequencer on a PC with a midi card running to all sorts of hardware in several racks. Over the years I began using soft synths more and more. Midi cables gave way to USB cords. I've used Reason. I've used Ableton. My co-conspirators have used Garage Band and Logic. We make it work. I don't feel like the specific instruments are that important if you can find a way to use them. A good song is still a good song, even on shitty instruments.
R: On Kool-Aid the songs were mostly written, all I really did was come in and contribute ugly guitar riffs. On Mutually Abusive, though, I was passing demos back and forth with Ndru. I use a Nord synth, I really like opening filters, and tweaking patches live. I’d like to think the very haphazard way I make music had a positive outcome on Mutually Abusive. My emails passing demos back to Ndru always included an apology of sorts. But Ndru and I are a good writing team because he has ways of sorting the mess I make of his demos into comprehensible songs.
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?
N: I'd say that in general, DV has had a lot of good moments. We've written solid records that we're proud of. We've opened for bands we admire. We've toured and had great times on the road out of town, but we've still never really had any one great "crowning achievement". It seems like we always get close and then something goes awry at the last minute. Sometimes that's frustrating, but it's probably also what keeps us going. The burning desire to have more. If we were just handed everything we always wanted at the very beginning, then perhaps we wouldn't have had the motivation to keep going and keep making ourselves better. Any time we write a song, any time we complete an album and hold it in our hands, any time we step out onto that stage though... that's a feeling of accomplishment like none other. Those are some of the proudest moments of my life. Those are the times I feel most alive.
R: Definitely the peak was The Beer Mug, in Erie, PA. (Laughs). Joking aside, I have made long-time friendships with people that have come to our gigs, with bands we’ve played with. I’ve shared stages with some incredible artists, It’s been a great experience. Any time I take the stage with NDru is a great experience.
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?
N: Absolutely, without question. I would not be where I am today without music. I've often wondered what else I'd be doing with my life if it wasn't for music. Like, what do "normal" people do with their free time? Watch TV? Play video games? Have kids? Get bored? I don't know. It's never been something I've had to think about. This is my life, for better or for worse. Music is what I'm married to. Whether it's focusing on this project, running sound for other bands, DJ'ing at a club, or traveling to shows and festivals all over North America. This is my life. This is where my time goes. This is where ALL my money goes. This is where my heart truly is. I don't know where I'd be otherwise... but I do know I'd be a lot wealthier!
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?
N: Oh man... this could be a whole other interview all on its own. Directly or indirectly, the world around us shapes ALL of our experiences in this life. Whether we realize it or not. If I grew up in Soviet Russia, we'd be having a very different conversation. If I grew up in Nigeria, or India, or Syria, we'd be having a very different conversation. If I grew up a poor minority, or a rich white kid, things would be different.
I didn't come from money, but we got by. I grew up on the edge of a dying industrial city in the rust belt of America (Buffalo, NY). I've seen many sides of our country. I personally know and can relate to people from all walks of life. Make no mistake about it, I'm white, I was born male and identify as such. I have a certain degree of privilege. You have a choice as far as what you can do with that. You can use it to help yourself or you can use it to help others.
The thing is, most of us, at our core, all want the same things. We all have the same basic needs. We want to have food and shelter and love and warmth. We want to have family and friends and keep people close to us. We also all want to do as we please without fear of judgement or harm, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Because of that, we often pit ourselves against one another. We help ourselves up by stepping on others. We form groups and cliques and use labels to differentiate "us" from "them". We create our own enemies. We project our insecurities on others. We're afraid of things that are different. We're afraid of what we don't know or understand. So we make those who are different out to be monsters. People in urban areas are terrified of rural white people with guns, the whole "Deliverance" stereotype. People in rural areas are terrified of urban black people with guns. I don't think I need to explain racism. Straight cis-gendered people are often afraid of gay or trans people. And you know damn well the LBGTQ community has something to fear right now. That much has been made abundantly clear.
It doesn't have to be that way though. We could just accept each other for who we are and figure out a way to make it work. We can chose to focus on the 90% of the human experience we have in common instead of the 10% we differ on. Unfortunately, this country, or at least the handful of people who voted in the last election, chose differently. We chose to set back the clock. We chose to return to a magical time that never really existed where everything was "great" and everybody was flawless. The thing is all of that was a facade. Yeah, it looked "great" on the surface, as long as you were a middle class white dude.
There didn't appear to be problems like there are now because we actively hid them instead of choosing to confront them, and confrontation is never pretty, especially at first. We segregated minorities, we tucked them away in urban areas, did everything we could to keep them there, and then blamed them for the plight that we, as a nation, created for them. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people were excluded at best and violently extinguished at worst. The expectation of women being subservient to men was far more prevalent. Which often lead to them becoming trapped in abusive relationships out of fear of physical harm, public ridicule, or financial ruin. After all, they couldn't hold jobs of their own, and if they could, they wouldn't have earned anywhere close to equal pay. America was NOT "great" 50 or 100 years ago. It was simply an illusion of greatness, and one that worked very well for those who were most visible. Again, middle class white men. For everyone else though, for those kept tucked away, it was a whole different story.
I used to try to get fairly involved in national politics. I'd protest. I'd debate. I argue all day with people online. The amount of time and energy I was putting into it produced such little measureable results though. Nobody cares about peaceful protest. Nobody cares about petitions. Nobody cares about your pickets signs. If you want radical change you have to take radical steps. You either have to have the money and power to put an opposition candidate in place or you have to start putting heads on stakes. Throughout history, there has never been both a successful and peaceful revolution. It always gets violent before it gets better. I wish I didn't have to believe that, but I do.
Over the years, I've come to realize that I can't change the whole world, but I can make a difference in my little part of it. You have far more influence on a local level. You can get involved in your neighborhood, in your city, in your county. You can make a difference there. You can lobby for or against local ordinances. You can get involved with local groups that have influence. You can sway local elections. You can run for local office. You can personally make a difference in your own community by putting your money where your mouth is if you're fortunate enough to be getting by above the poverty line in our declining economy. You can use your privilege, if you have it, to provide a safe space for those who don't. That's where I'm at right now. It's far more rewarding than screaming into the national void.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your musical career?
N: Nice to bring this back around now that I'm all riled up! Ha! I think honestly, most of my challenges have been logistical. Sometimes it's hard to find the right people to work with, especially in a smaller metropolitan area. There are limited options and finding people who are both skilled and interested in this style of music isn't always easy. You have to find people who are reliable and dedicated as well, but everybody has their own lives and their own shit to deal with.
Making the time for writing and rehearsing and recording when I have a full-time day job. Finding the time and finding the energy to balance friends, family, relationships, alongside the trials and tribulations of every day life can be a real struggle. Often times music has had to take a back seat out of necessity. Out of self-preservation. Out of trying to work through everything else life has thrown at me. I guess the positives are that any time I go through a rough period in life it gives me fodder to create when I can finally sit down and create again.
I think one of the biggest things that I've learned, and something I completely overlooked for years, is that it's not enough for the music to be good. You have to network. You have to sell yourself. So much of this industry follows along with the old adage of "it's not who you are, it's who you know". I never put much stock in that and I believe it's hurt me in the long run. It's hard to reach out when you're so introverted to begin with, but lately I'm finding it helpful to remind myself that almost everyone else in this scene is as well. It just takes one person to speak first. It just takes an introduction. A "hello". Somebody has to break the ice, it might as well be you.
Outside of your current musical format, 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?
N: A few years back I was asked to join a black/thrash metal band called "Ov Dust" as their new vocalist. There's a lot of shitty metal out there and I don't care for much of it, but these guys were legit. I was a fan long before they even asked me to get involved, so when they did ask I jumped on it, albeit with hesitation. I wasn't sure I could meet them at their level. That was my only apprehension. After a few practices though, everything started coming together beautifully. We got along great and wrote an album, "Crushing The American Christ" that I am incredibly proud to have been a part of. Unfortunately, shortly after its release, the personal lives of everyone in the band fell into some sort of turmoil or another. I still don't know exactly what happened, but it's also personal, so I'm leaving it that way. Just a shame that we couldn't have done more, I think we had a pretty amazing energy.
I've also started playing bass for my friend's industrial metal band "Streak" out of Western Massachusetts. Doomsday Virus toured with them back in 2010 and we've been pretty close friends ever since. When their bassist quit, Chris asked me to join. He didn't expect me to say "yes" and I'm sure he now regrets it.
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?
N: I feel like industrial was kind of stagnant for a while. It was all very repetitive "four on the floor" type EBM/futurepop. Some bands did it really well, but there were a lot of copycats. It got really boring to me and I started losing interest in the scene altogether. The last few years though, it seems like this scene has gotten more creative again. Acts like Youth Code, 3TEETH, sØlve, and Strvngers have been tearing down boundaries. The whole Glitch Mode squad (Cyanotic, Rabbit Junk, Amnestic, STRNGR) is inspiring as fuck. That style of classic industrial made with the technology of the modern area is something that really speaks to me. The Coldwaves Festival every year in Chicago is always one of the hilights of my year.
Outside of music, what are some of your favorite past times and emotional engagements?
N: I really have such little time for much else outside of music and work, but I do love to travel. I love exploring new cities and going to small festivals. I love traveling to shows. I also often wander into the mountains, especially the Adirondacks just north of here, disconnect and just disappear for a few days at a time. It helps me reset and center myself. It helps my calm my headspace and find some peace.
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 bout 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?
N: Man, this is a complicated and controversial topic. I feel like it's changed and evolved since the Napster wars began. It's just sort of commonly accepted that music is "free" now and that you pay by choice. Fortunately, for us, some people still do. Sometimes it sucks that you can't even break even on a recording anymore. I think it's diving many musicians to cut corners, record at home, or not put out as quality of a product as they may have in the past. Which is a shame, but you get what you pay for, and if you're not willing to pay anything, then well... you get what you get I suppose. At first it was really hard for a lot of bands to make ends meet. Now you see ticket and merch costs swelling to make up for the lack of revenue from recording, which is great for bands that tour nonstop, but not everybody can do that. If you think about it though, recorded music has only existed for so long. It was really only packaged, and marketed, and sold that way for a few decades. For most of history, musicians made their money by playing live. So maybe, in a sense, things have started to come full circle?
R: What I see is bands getting really resourceful, not just to make up money at shows with creative merch, but also really reaching out to fans and bringing an experience and the music into a more personal interaction with the musicians themselves. I see a lot of bands that launch a kickstarter or whatever, have a fully funded album by the evening. For some of the bands that have made that effort for their fans, fans are really responding in a big way. So, it’s a trying time to be in a fringe genre, but I see reasons for optimism as well.
Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?
N: We appreciate you taking the time to speak with us! As they say, any exposure is good exposure and websites like yours keep the underground alive. You give a voice to the unsigned and indie bands. In an era of media oversaturation we need that more than anything. 2016 was a crazy year and Doomsday Virus didn't get to play out as much as we would have liked. I am currently sidelined with some health issues, but looking forward to getting those resolved and getting back on stage as soon as possible! In the meantime give our new album a listen ( doomsdayvirus.bandcamp.com ) and if you like it, start nagging your local promoter to bring us to town. Trust me, we're a cheap date!
R: Thank you!
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