2008-04-20 | NINa
and Brian Backlash |
NINa: It's been almost a year since the release of FullBlackHabit, and you're just now getting ready to tour. Why did you have to wait so long?
This last year has been a tough one for us and touring prospects. It all started with the FLA tour. We were asked to join that tour, which we were very excited and honored to do. We never agreed 100% to do it until we had our money figured out. As some of you may know, touring is incredibly expensive and we need to have a budget in place and guaranteed income in order to do them. As it got closer to the announcing date we were still working out the money end of things and we were finding out that FLA's booking agent wasn't being honest to us about what we were actually going to be making. He was telling us a number that worked within our budget but we were hearing different numbers from everyone else that didn't. When you think about what you have to pay for when touring, even at a basic level it's crazy. Van bus or RV rental, gas, daily spending money for all members, hotels, drum heads, guitar strings, member salaries, incidentals, etc. Touring can average 500-2000 per day of expenses depending on how you are traveling, how much people on your tour are willing to not make, etc. So it's very dangerous when you aren't getting the money you are being told, it's the reason FLA canceled their last tour early and went home, same with Pig.
We didn't want to do that, when we confronted their agent he lied to us and we decided that it wasn't a proper way to do business and we backed out. Instead of pulling us off the announcements he went ahead and told all the venues we were on the tour even though we weren't. It was a shitty way of getting back at us for backing out but an even shittier thing to do to our fans who were showing up at venues expecting to see us and we weren't there and never were going to be. They used our name to get more draw and let the pieces fall where the may. All it did on our end was show that our instincts were right and that it was a terrible idea to work with their agent. Don't get me wrong, I love FLA and we have no bad blood whatsoever, this was entirely the agents doing. I am just bummed for our fans who showed up and we weren't there. That's fucked up.
Following that we were supposed to do a tour with Acumen Nation, and right as we started looking into dates on that we got an offer from KMFDM to do another tour with them so we took it and left acumen nation to their own devices. The KMFDM tour ended up falling through and so we were left again without a tour. We hooked up with an agent from Los Angeles who promised us a full U.S. Tour shortly after. He started booking dates and failed miserably at it. We ended up firing him and starting over again and the denial highway tour is the result of us finding and agent who was willing to work with us instead of handing us an itinerary and sending us on our way. Dan from Thunderdome touring is our agent now and he worked hard at getting us the dates we wanted in the clubs we wanted even though sometimes it meant he'd make less money. We tried to do it as smart as we could and get the right promoters instead of the highest paying venues. All in all it's worked out pretty good. There are some places we wanted to play that didn't work out for either scheduling or monetary reasons, or some places where the scenes are just gone now and they venues are booking shows of our ilk. So in the end, it took us a while to get it straight but we wanted to do it right and that takes patience sometimes.
Brian Backlash: Your upcoming tour, which you've dubbed Denial Highway, is definitely going to be intense. 16Volt has been off the road for 6 years, and in that time a lot has changed - politically, socially, musically - it's a completely different world in many respects. What do you expect or hope to find once you're out there?
I imagine it will be a lot the same and a lot different. In a lot of ways it's a big question mark. The last tour we did was with KMFDM in 2002, before that it was 1998 so really it's been a decade since we've done a headlining tour. We really don't know what's going to happen and in many ways, that's what is exciting and adventurous for us. It's an unknown, there could be 300 kids at every show or 3. We just don't really know. I mean, based on our sales of FullBlackHabit I think we can count on an decent average but it's so hard to say.
I think on a political level we are sort of in this lull, George Bush is on his way out, thank god. I mean how this moron got to run this country for as long as he did blows my mind, to any of the international readers out there, you gotta know by now that us stupid Americans hate this tool as much as anyone. I think it will be interesting to see how the scene is doing on a hands on level around the country. I feel good to be in a band that has been around for this long taking another shot at it. I think it says a lot about this band, about my determination and about how we persevere no matter what diversity or adversity we face. I have a wholly renewed outlook on touring, and that may just be the time away from it but i used to try and get into the situations where we played in front of as many people as possible. Now I just want to play for the people who are into it. I don't care how many are there. There are anxieties and fears and doubts and there is also excitement and optimism and happiness. I mean, i get to go tour, that's a blessing. Who am I to not do it? It's like a path I have no choice to waver off, it's in my blood, in my DNA, i need to go.
Brian Backlash: Your main support for this tour is Bella Morte, a band I saw live a few months ago. They're bursting with energy and certainly know how to entertain. In music, demeanor and style they're a good contrast and compliment to what 16Volt will be bringing to the table. How did you end up picking Bella Morte as your opener among the scores of other bands?
They were one of our top picks right way. We knew we wanted to work with someone on the label, it makes life a lot easier for all involved. Bella Morte has a solid rep on the road, no B.S. Professionals who are cool to work with and don't drop a bunch of rockstar attitude and that's how we run the 16volt camp. It was a good fit both on stage and behind the scenes. I have a lot of respect for those guys and I know the same is true in reverse so going out on this tour we have their backs 100% and I feel they are the same with us. We aren't competing we are just bringing the fans of this genre a cool show, we made sure to try and work in as many cool openers as we could too along the way too, people we respect and like, it's really all about having a great show with great people and personalities working together instead of working for the individual. We are all on the same page, this is a show, and it's for our scene and we are bringing that to the table. We guarantee that unless an act of god gets in the way, you will dig this tour. We are playing stuff off every record, you will hear Motorskill live on this one. You'll hear a lot of the classics, but you'll hear new stuff too. And the lineup is phenomenal. Steve Pig on guitar, Jason Bazinet on drums, Mike Peoples on bass, s3ven on keys and guitar, it's a great lineup and I expect to rock the hell out of these shows.
NINa: 16Volt seems to be a one man band only but with a huge fanbase reaching far beyond the industrial rock scene. What's the reason you decided to run the band alone and to have session/live musicians only for a CD release or a tour?
It's never really been too much if a conscience decision. I didn't sit down and say, ok.. How will this be setup. It just sort of happens that way. I don't need to rely on people in this band. I can do all the stuff that needs to be done. What i do need is people on my team and people who support me and people who stand behind me like in the case of Mike Peoples, he's a guy who's been in 16v since 96. He's a great writer and friend and it was only by proximity and circumstance that he wasn't a part of the new record. He's just as down now as he was then. We are like that. Like brothers. It's hard to come to 16volt and be a member. There just isn't equality to it. It's been mine for too long, a lot of these guys over the years come in and expect an equal split of everything and that won't happen so toes are stepped on, egos get in the way, its tough. You gotta work with guys who get it and are pros.
Brian Backlash: How do you feel about your latest album, nearly a year after it's release? I ask because a lot of bands have a tendency to pick things apart as soon as they're out into the world. Are you still fully satisfied with FullBlackHabit today?
Yes. Wholly. I think it's a timeless look into where I was at that time. And or me at least it's as relevant today as it was when I wrote it 2 years ago. The sound and songs are still there, it hasn't aged. I think it really gave me the confidence again that this is something i can do and not only that, I can do it on my own. I don't need to count on someone like Fluffy or Critter or Bill Kennedy, I can do this without them, and that is really satisfying on a lot of levels.
Brian Backlash: One of the contributors to FullBlackHabit was Paul Raven, whose resume included Killing Joke, Ministry, Prong and dozens of other well known industrial, metal and rock acts. He passed away late last year, and there has been a huge outpouring of love and support from all over the music world for him and his family. What was it like working with such a legendary and accomplished musician?
It was like working with an un-legendary unaccomplished musician. What I mean by that is that he didn't care who he was and what he had done. He would give you his heart and soul no matter what level you were at. He gave the same amount of himself to Al as he gave to me. He was a great soul. He had a hard side too though, a true pirate, he did what he wanted and if you got in his way he would bowl you over. Behind that he was a sweet, honest caring man who loved music and performing it for people. It was his life and he got to die doing it. You can't ask for much more than that I guess. He will be missed by so many people and his impact on everyone is way more than any of us know. He was a good friend and I will miss him.
NINa: Steve White from KMFDM played guitars on FBH so his presence as a live guitarist supporting the 2008 Denial Highway Tour isn't a surprise. How long have you known each other? Was that the first time you decided to work together?
We knew of each other for a long time but we got to know each other on a personal level during 2002's Sturm & Drang Tour. I have massive amounts of respect for his skill as a guitar player, the dude just rips and he isn't flashy about it which I am down with. He's just who he is, if you don't like it, fuck off. That's why he's rad. I always respect that type of persona much more than an image with little substance, he just rocks. We stayed in touch after the tour and when it came time to re-record guitars for the new record, he was the first guy i called. He was down to play right off the bat. Same with the tour. We roll like that.
Brian Backlash: In addition to Steve White, you've enlisted the aide of a couple other local and regional people into your camp. Jason Bazinet from SMP and Chemlab will be your drummer (the second time you've shared a drummer with Chemlab!) you've roped in Chris Norris, locally known for his work in the project Fraqtured Sound. Chris will be doing lights for the tour, and after seeing his lighting work at clubs around town on numerous occasions I think you picked a winner. Was it difficult finding the right kinds of people to take the band out on the road again?
No, it was easy to do. I think we have a good rep for touring. We are pro's, we don't destroy dressing rooms, we respect staff and fans and I think that carries through. I think the material is fun to play and we love what we do. It's not a miserable time touring in 16volt. People want to be involved. I take care of my guys to the maximum i can and they know that i do whatever i can for them out there.
NINa: What criteria do you have for working with a given musician - his/her experience, understanding of your ideas or just a common sympathy in music?
There are a few things. Can you play? Are you a pro? Have you toured? Are you a mess to deal with? Can you live within the brotherhood mentality?
I don't like rockstar attitudes on my bus. I mean, sure if you are David Bowie, rock star it out. But if you are in an industrial band that plays for 100 kids a night fuck off, you aren't shit. Just be cool and have fun. I also don't like whining, when you sign up, stick to your guns and treat our fans and the people involved with us with respect. I haven't ever worked with anyone who didn't know about 16volt beforehand so to me, if they say yes to us asking them to work with us, they already get what it’s about.
NINa: What are you concerned about in terms of leading the band?
I wouldn't call it concern but I do have a sense of responsibility on this one. I got all these guys working with me standing with me behind this new album and I feel a certain responsibility to them. I am also tour managing this tour so that ads another level of work there. I gotta keep everything in order, keep everyone together, keep everyone happy. It's a lot of work but it will be really rewarding I hope.
Brian Backlash: So, I hate remix albums. Usually, at least. I find the originals are almost always better, and I've come to feel it's a bit of a trick to get people to just keep funneling money into the machine. On that note, you recently remixed a song for KMFDM, for their first remix album Brimborium. Now, I have a tremendous amount of respect for KMFDM and what they've achieved over the years. Still, it's been hard for me to shake my biased view and pick up a copy. What is your opinion on remixes in general, and how do you feel about this KMFDM album you contributed to?
I like doing remixes but I do agree with you. There are some things that are better than others. For example I would really enjoy hearing say a Helmet song remixed by Prodigy, that's interesting. To be honest I haven't heard the whole Brimborium record yet. I had fun remixing the KMFDM track and that's why I did it, in a sense to pay respect to one of the greats. It was a cool opportunity and I tried to bring my remix style to it. I was working on a remix album for FullBlackHabit earlier this year and I have abandoned the idea. In theory it’s a great idea, in practice it rarely proves to work. In KMFDM's case, it's the first one they've done so I know Sascha agrees with us. Is it interesting? That's subjective I suppose but if you are a KMFDM fan you have to get it.
NINa: Most of industrial orientated bands observe the decline of record labels these days and prefer to sell their music themselves. Other than that you inked a deal with Metropolis Records last year. Why don't you sell your albums on your own if you manage the whole business around 16Volt including website designing, running different profiles on Myspace, Vampire Freaks or Virb, designing 16V CD artworks and other stuff? Was the record deal made to check out if this kind of record business still exists?
There are a lot of reasons still to be on a label. In the cases of Radiohead and NIN and Madonna, yes, do it yourself. You don't need the machine anymore. But for us, for smaller bands, it includes us in a scene that has loyalty to more than just the band, people who buy metropolis stuff have loyalty to the label and respect the labels signings. At the very least it opens us up to the potential of being heard. There is also the promotional, manufacturing and distribution aspect. I can't do all that. You can find FullBlackHabit in the UK, in stores. I couldn't do that on my own. I don't believe the CD as a medium is dead yet. I do believe it is dying but I don't think we are 100% into the digital model yet. I can tell you that we've sold more hard copies than we've sold digital. I can also guess that we have probably gotten distributed through torrents more than we have sold. So that's were the whole thing gets thrown off. The fact of the matter is that there is a small group of people who still buy CDs and we'll also count digital in that. The majority downloads it. It's a fact. I think KMFDM used to sell like 200,000 copies of every CD they put out, now it's about 150,000 less – yet they still sell the same merch and have the same attendance at shows. That's a pretty good case study for the reality of where this is going and no one knows what to do about it.
Brian Backlash: You were considering a number of offers from record labels for quite some time before you decided on Metropolis. Have you been pleased with their handling of FullBlackHabit? Do you plan to continue releasing your music through them in the future?
Under the contract with Metropolis I owe them one more record. So we are with them for the next couple of years no matter what. I think at the end of the next album and touring cycle we'll have to see where it all stands. We have other opportunities which definitely interest me. That's not to say I have any issues with Metropolis. They are the best industrial label there is. Hands down. I know I am in good company. But the industry is changing so fast right now, I can't say where it will be when the time comes for us to move onto the next phase of this.
NINa: Regarding profiles and social networking - you've been a user of Facebook and Twitter. Recent news of your Twitter notes tell about your 2 y.o. kid and a coyote which you chased away. What's the story about?
I was outside playing street hockey with my 2 year old daughter. She ran off down the street to get the ball and out of the corner off my eye I saw what I thought was a dog. We have a German shepherd in the neighborhood so at first I thought it was him. Pretty quickly the dog started making a b-line towards her and I realized it was a coyote. I started running towards it with my hockey stick yelling at it and it saw me and turned and ran away. I live in the hills here in Portland and we have a creek in our backyard so it attracts some wildlife, coyotes, racoon, birds, etc. That was the first time I have seen one in the day and I can't help but think he just saw my girl and thought she looked like a yummy little plump meal. It of course triggered my imagination and I started thinking about what it would be like to live when there weren't houses and hockey sticks. I took her inside and she was pissed at me. Someday I'll tell her the story then she'll realize I wasn't ruing her fun day but protecting her from the bad doggies. I have come to realize that's a lot of what being a parent is. Protected your kids from things they don't even know you are protecting them from. Since having kids I have called my mom a few times and said sorry. I expect I will get those calls someday too.
Brian Backlash: You've accomplished a lot in the past few years. A new 16Volt record, remixes for Chemlab and KMFDM, collaborations with Cyanotic and Acumen Nation, and you also recorded a cover of Chemlab's "Neurozone" for the Songs from the Hydrogen Bar tribute disc. In addition to the upcoming tour, you've also been busy working on Repo: The Genetic Opera. Can you tell us a bit about this film, and what is your contribution?
For Repo I worked on like 46 tracks. I did a ton of programming and I tiny bit of guitar here and there. It was a really amazing project to get in on and I owe it to my longtime friend Joe Bishara. I recently got the chance to work on another horror film, the directors cut of "the wizard of gore" starring Crispin Glover and Bijou Phillips. I pretty much did an entire re-score of it. I really love doing the film stuff it’s a cool deal. I have actually started a company dedicated to film, TV and ad work called Musicwest. We've been getting busier and busier.
NINa: You were working on Microsoft Surface. What exactly did you design for them?
Well first and foremost the music. They licensed 4 songs so far from my older project ringer. Ringer has become sortof the music brand of surface and you can hear us in pretty much all their online stuff right now. The site and the videos, etc. They have also been using the music at conferences. That work with them has also bled over to the Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac stuff where we worked with them for music for their booth at Macworld this year. I actually worked on a few things for them in regards to the actual units though as well. I worked on a small team of people from Avenue a - Razorfish in Portland on the user interface, how it works, what the applications look and act like and things like that, I also worked on the software development kit look and feel, things like buttons, the system keyboard (it's a touch keyboard), etc. Pretty cool opportunities. I should note though that I am an apple freak through and through. I have Macs at home on the road and in my pocket. No PCs for me. But the surface project is a very interesting look at how the future of electronics will play a role in our daily lives, especially in the sense of having a fluid convergence of our personal media.
Brian Backlash: You've been living in Portland again for over a year now. Is it good to be back in this part of the country? Has it changed appreciably, for better or worse, since you left in the late '90's?
Ahh Portland. Well it's a beautiful place. It's very different than L.A. in so many aspects. There are things i like and things I don't about both. The beach here isn't a beach, it's the coast. It's cold, it's cloudy and there aren't hot girls in suntan oil walking around. I miss that about Venice. On the flip side Mt. Hood is so close and within about 30 minutes of drive time you are in a full on forest with 300 foot waterfalls and wild ferns growing everywhere. That I kinda like about Portland.
The music scene here is small and tight which I like. But it gets no respect from the media here at all. I have done interviews for Alternative Press, Guitar Player, Kerrang!, and more and the local music papers here won't even do a review of our new record. That's how it's always been here though. Portland is about thrift stores and vinyl and American apparel and polaroids and beer and small shitty sounding combo amps and brown guitars. Industrial and metal and electronic are in essence very anti Portland which is one of the things I don't like about this city. It's a city that claims it embraces it's diversity and strangeness but in truth it only does that if you are in the small clique of things that aren't very diverse or strange. The business of music here is almost non existent, there aren't big things happening, there are only 3 rehearsal studios here and they are all like shitholes compared to L.A. In L.A., entertainment business is everywhere, its all around you all the time. I am not sure that's good for people though.
I think generally speaking Portland is a better place for me musically. It's hard to tap into the darker side of yourself when it's sunny out, and the hot girls in bikinis are walking around. When it's dark and cloudy and raining for 200 days and mold is growing on my windows, that's when i can get on my computer and start exorcising. I have found for me, that's an essential part of my existence, I have issues, things that need to be surfaced and dealt with and the best way I know how to deal with that is in my headphones. FullBlackHabit is really about that. Lyrically it's a very selfish record and if you read the lyrics they are all stories tied together that talk about all that. About Portland, finding your place, learning not to run from yourself. A friend told me a story the other day which I love and it applies to this question entirely. In each man (and woman) there lives two wolves. One feeds on darkness, hate, war, pain, aggression, anger, etc. The other wolf feeds on light, love, peace, beauty, etc. The question becomes which wolf wins? Which wolf are you? The answer is whichever wolf you feed.
Brian Backlash: Thanks for your time Eric, and we'll see you on the road.
I'll bring my guitar and my friends and I'll see you there.
16Volt at Myspace
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Pictures & copyrights by: Gabriel Darling, 16volt, www.agapdx.org (a view of Portland), www.repo-opera.com (Repo website screen).