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Home > All articles > STIFF VALENTINE > Stiff Valentine - interview (2008)
Stiff Valentine - interview (2008)
2008-06-28 | Katarzyna NINa Górnisiewicz and Marco Gariboldi | e-mail interview
Marco: Your debut album is a terrific mix between Rob Zombie/Static-X/Ministry but it's also danceable. Where did you get the inspiration for this particular sound from? Did you develop this sound with your own music experience?

LoudChris: My start in music was playing with an industrial band called Dismantled, which is a project from Gary Zon. I was actually a fan of Dismantled and Gary asked me to play keyboards. I couldn't play keyboards well at the time, and the first few shows I was fucking terrible, but the band was really cool and helped me get my chops up. If you ever got the chance to see Dismantled live, it was pretty intense.

Everything was about the beat. Dismantled had a great drummer and it was like a train running you over. So that really influenced me. It's all about the space in between the beat. I've played in lots of bands from Industrial to Post-Punk. Stiff Valentine was originally a noise art project like Throbbing Gristle, or Coil. After playing shows with a lot of EBM acts we got this gig opening for KMFDM and we started bringing in a crowd. I'm a big industrial metal fan, so it got fused in with a lot of the big beat stuff we do. Music is my life. Some people have god, or religion, or yoga. I have music. I'm a big fan of Rollins Band, Killing Joke, and dance stuff like Crystal Method and The Prodigy. I love the 90s industrial rock guitar sound, so I guess that's why SV is what it is.

Another big influence on the band is the work of mixing engineers like Greg Reely, and Ulrich Wild. And synth programmers like Chris Peterson and Mike Balch.
I met Craig H. through the industrial scene here in Vancouver. I am a big LBM fan. I had the first LBM record way back when I lived in Texas, and I totally loved it. I was really happy when he joined up with SV. The guy is the best synth player around. I met Craig J at the studio I work at, where he works as an engineer.

KMFDM by the way, is the greatest band I have ever done a show with. Their music is great, but they are the kindest and hardest working outfit I've ever seen. Super cool people, ultra organized and their fans mean everything to them.

Craig Huxtable: I first met Chris when we played a show together, I think it was opening for the Crapshadows at the Pic Pub in Vancouver but didn't really get to know him until we were on the road with Frontline Assembly. The US leg of the Artificial Soldier tour was as challenging as it was reported to have been, absolutely rife with chaos and Chris was rock solid during the whole experience. So when he asked me to play with Stiff I thought it was a brilliant opportunity for us to work together. Chris and I have similar working philosophies....no egos and no bullshit so we get along very well. And because Stiff Valentine is Chris' baby, I enjoy the fact that I get to just focus on playing keys and don't have to carry the weight of the whole project on my shoulders like I do with LBM.

Craig Jensen: For myself, I am inspired by bands with high levels of intensity, whether it be jazz, funk or industrial metal disco! If the energy is high and it gives me goose bumps when I listen to it, I'm down!

Marco: "Loveless" was recorded and mixed at the Harbourside Studios. You collaborated with FLA, Dismantled, and other bands, moreover you work as an engineer/producer/sound designer. Whom you consider the best producer you have collaborated with so far? Who taught you the most of things?

LoudChris: To set the record straight, I recorded some drums for FLA's Fallout record and I toured with them as a roadie/merch person a couple years back. I have never played with them. Craig H played keys with them on the same tour I was on, and wrote some of the Noise Unit stuff.
There are two guys that I've learned a lot from. Tony Rudner, who is a composer and music producer who has done about every type of music you have heard of, and Jack Endino. Jack is a producer out of Seattle who did the first Nirvana record and has recorded killer punk bands like The Dwarves and The Supersuckers. We meet while working on a record for The Black Halos. Jack is awesome, and anybody that wants to get into making records should listen to his stuff and read his articles over at endino.com. I also learned a lot from Chris Peterson, Jeff Dawson, Shawn Cole, and the live sound master Glen Reely.
I learn from every project. I am mixing a band called Entropia right now, who is the best metal band around town. And while tracking I learned a lot about guitar playing. If you're not learning something new in the studio everyday, you need to sober up.

Craig Jensen: I learn and pick things up from almost anyone who comes into the studio. It could be a big-time producer or a complete novice who by chance has read about an interesting mic technique.

Marco: "Stiff Valentine" is signed to a new Vancouver Record Label "Trafik Records". How has this collaboration begun? Is it your own label?

Trafik is a label that is run by me and some people I work with in studio land. There isn't a single label that I can think of that would touch SV. Is it metal? Is it dance? Who cares, it's good! A lot of artists nowadays can't be sold to the drooling mob, so they fall through the cracks. Trafik's main goal is to get the music out there so people can hear it. Expect a lot of cool underground stuff coming out from Trafik in 2008.
People say there is no good music anymore. There is piles of it out there! Pick up an issue of Outburn and it's packed with all sorts of great music from all over the place. The hard part is making it visible to people. Which is becoming very difficult for small labels because no one buys records anymore, thus no marketing money.

Marco: Are you going to release a full album this fall? Will there be any guest artists on this release?

LoudChris: The full record will be out in September / October. We already have a really cool Dismantled remix, and I am in talks with a lot of other people about guest slots and remixes. All I can say is expect some industrial guys from Vancouver to chop it up on the disc. Guest slots is a big part of our shows, too. Sometimes we bring up people from the audience. Come to an SV show and you may become a band member!

Marco: Craig, you've had also your solo project "Landscape Body Machine" a mix between ambient/techno/industrial. You posted some tracks from the long awaited second album on your Myspace. Is the album already finished? Are you planning on releasing it this year?

Craig Huxtable: Many release dates for the album have come and gone over the years for a variety of different extemporaneous reasons. I am very pleased to say that this time it will finally be done. The artwork is already well developed and the tracks to be included final. While it is a little premature to give a release date as the record is going to be mastered shortly, the album will be done by the end of the summer with hopes of releasing it this fall.

Marco: Pollution, 9/11 and the conspiracy theory, war on terror, Lobby, third world - is this the world we deserve? What do you think about the world we live in?

Craig Huxtable: I don't know about how much we all deserve the current state of the world. I do believe that there are people and powers who have a vested interest in creating a world that is fueled on uncertainty, fear and paranoia. I really have to laugh when I see there are initiatives being pushed that i find dead obvious, agendas that are considered so-called "conspiracy theories" when it's very clear that it's all about the timeless struggle for power and control. North Americans especially seem to be particularly ignorant to this fact. Maybe because there aren't any royal families in formal power over here.

Royal have been replaced largely by industrialists in the last century or so but the goal of control always remains the same. When there is money at stake nothing surprises me really.
That said, I do remain as optimistic as I possibly can that we the people will prevail and not find ourselves plunged into another period like the dark ages. For every person I meet who is fast asleep, I meet another who is wide awake. The struggle I find the hardest is remaining aware and educated without becoming paranoid or ruled by depression. There have been many points in my life where I have let that depression, the weight of the world pull me down. It's something that especially in the last 2 years I have fought hard against. World events as of late have been enough to bring down even the strongest of souls. Especially with me being a father now, I feel I have to keep hope alive for my children so that they will have the courage and the will to fight back.

Marco: Your new album is called "Manifest Destiny". Is it referred to the belief that the United States (in the XIXth century) was destined to expand from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific ocean? Since this term has been used also to 'advocate for' or 'justify' other territorial acquisitions, are you referring to the America's these days foreign policy?

Craig Huxtable: Yes it is and yes that is exactly what I am referring to in part with the album title. There has been an expansionist movement within America since its inception and America has used that agenda rather aggressively in the 1900's in encompassing the western territories and even made two separate attempts on Canada as well as attempts to include Mexico. Many of the US forefathers were proponents of this idea of expanding the USA beyond its borders It really was the roots of what we would today refer to as American Imperialism and has taken on new forms such as the Project for a New American Century for example. US President Eisenhower warned of an industrial military complex build up and we can see now that he was right and how this is being used to further this agenda.

America is but one focus of the theme as it's more about many forms of hostile takeovers that happen around the world. One of the songs entitled "Dreamtime-Gustafsen Lake" is about a standoff over an indigenous land dispute that happened in British Columbia in the mid 1990's which resulted in a smear campaign against the Secwepemc nation and one of the largest police operations in Canadian history. By the end of the 31-day standoff, police had fired over 77,000 rounds of ammunition at the 14 people staging the protest. So it's not exclusively about the US as these attacks happen to peoples of all different races and creeds all over the world including inside Canada.

There is another side to the title as there has been with the title of all of the LBM records. The title of my albums always carry a two-fold meaning, One that speaks to the theme of the album in a socio-political manner and another that is much more personal. On a personal level, Manifest Destiny is about literally about me learning how to manifest the things in my life that I truly want. Manifesting my own true destiny per se, creating a world that I want to live in.

NINa: You're one of the bands which offer not only an attractive CD content but its packaging as well. I got a very good impression after all this press pack and the CD packed in a metal case I received from you. I guess the costs of production were rather high. Should the band members have a daily job these days to afford its own promotion/marketing or is there any sponsor standing behind you?

LoudChris: Everyone I know who is an artist has a day job. The ultimate goal is to line up your day job with your art. I'm really lucky because I work in a recording studio, so it works out really well. Everyone I know in the music industry is self employed. If you want something you have to do it yourself. If you want people to enjoy your art you have to do everything in your power to get it out there. That's what an artist's job is, to create and to share.

Anyone that says, "I made this record for me, not for anyone else" is full of shit. If you made it for you, then what's the point of releasing it? Why even record it? It's in your head, you can enjoy it all you want. We care about the music we make. We think it has value. If someone is willing to part with their hard earned cash for a record, we want to give them something besides a piece of plastic. The label helps us as much as they can, but labels have become charity organizations. They don't have much money to give out, and they help when they can.

Craig Jensen: Yeah, definitely keep your day job!!! You cannot rely on anyone else but yourself for income. How much effort you put in is relative to how well your music/art is going to be received. Like Chris said, try to balance your day job with what you love to do.

NINa: You were co-working with FLA. You've had connections also to Left Spine Down I believe. All of you come from Canada. Is it going to be a new wave of industrial rock/metal music brought by the Canadians to the music market in 2008 and later?

Craig Jensen: Vancouver Industrial is going to take over the airwaves!!! (Ha)

LoudChris: I moved to Canada from the US about six years ago to work in the film business. The first day I was here I meet Chris Peterson (FLA) and Mike Balch (Ex-Ministry). I am a big fan of their work, so I was a little star struck. They showed me around town and basically it's their fault I'm in the music industry. I ended up living with Jeremy Inkel (FLA, LSD) for about a year and then I worked with Denyss McKnight (LSD) on The Black Halos Record.

We're all buddies and hang out together. We do what we can to keep the music going. I know Denyss does a lot of work with LSD's manager to book a lot of out of town acts here.
There is a new wave coming out of Vancouver, for sure. When I moved here it was totally dead. The first time I met LSD's singer Kaine, we talked about how someone needs to get up and rock again, and that's what we're doing! We've got a lot of great bands here, but Vancouver is growing very quickly and becoming very expensive to live in. A lot of live music venues are closing and turning into upscale night clubs with no stage for live acts. The places to play are getting smaller and shittier.

After touring North America several times, I'd say this place is the worst for live crowds. It's hard to get people to come to a show when the club might collapse. We have a lot of local industrial bands to check out; FMTA, Terra Mortim, Simian Rue, Autolux, Pure Pale, Tribal Machine (Victoria), Zombie Girl (Edmonton) plus a bunch more. Oh, and Decree. If you're reading this and you don't have a copy Decree's latest, go get it.

Craig Huxtable: I have to agree with Chris here. It's nice to have acts to play with around Vancouver again after such a long time with very little. Throughout the late 90's and early 2000's there weren't many acts to play with which I know surprises many from outside of Vancouver given the city's reputation internationally for industrial music. I was fortunate enough to open for bigger acts when they came through town but finding local peers to play with was very hard. Nice to have that focus coming back here.

LoudChris: There is a whole new generation of industrial. Cyanotic, LSD, Rabbit Junk, are all great bands that can really rock. I've seen all of us start from about 5 years ago and it's great to be a part of what's to come. There is nothing worse than seeing an "industrial" band that doesn't actually play anything and lip-syncs. On tour, 80% of the industrial acts I see are "playing" stuff that isn't plugged in. Our shows are really in your face. We use drum machines and computers, but we don't hide behind 'em. We smash 'em. Craig H is fantastic live. He jumps on his keys, plays with his feet, and plays so fast he breaks his keys a lot.

NINa: What's the schedule for this year? Are there any shows, remixes planned? Have you thought about a new album already?

Craig Jensen: We are going to take the world over this year, and really try to maintain that we are the ones to be listening to. I mean really, who wants Nickelback and Usher? We can all listen to Stiff Valentine singles on the radio 'till we puke.

LoudChris: We have the album coming out in September, and another half written. I'm booked with studio productions, and both Craigs are working on their own records. We'll be playing lots of shows in Canada, unless we're lucky enough to join up with a band to tour the US. I love touring and playing live and we're doing everything we can to get into the US, but it's not looking good at the moment. I would donate my left nut to get on a tour a band like KMFDM, or Static-X.

NINa: Is Myspace an addiction or a way of living for a new web 2.0 generation? Is it a marketing channel only instead of record labels promotion? Or maybe it's a waste of time..?

LoudChris: Myspace and social networking annoys the shit out of me. It's a necessary evil and a great way to keep in touch, but instead of one e-mail account, I have 10 different things I have to log into and check. Why do bands post ads for shows in Florida my page? I'm not in Florida! What am I, a fucking street lamp?

I like to hang out in coffee shops and clubs, and now everyone spends their time online. Everyone is complaining about how nothing happens in their town, but they never leave the house! I've been wired to the internet my whole life, and I've always been heavily into computers and technology, but nothing beats the real world. We've got a serious problem with gaming addiction right now. People are living their lives through 3D constructs, and it's sad. I love video games, but spending 8 hours a day doing meaningless tasks to get virtual gear is pathetic. Virtual worlds are becoming people's reality. When someone gets hooked on World of Warcraft it's like loosing them to Scientology. MMORPGs are the sweatshops of the future.

Craig Jensen: Myspace is the greatest invention ever... EVER!!! But mainly a waste of time. I've got like 300 friends, how many do you have?

[NINa: The general number varies everyday as those newly added are equal to those who deleted me however there's a solid average number of over 1850 friends at profile A/promotional and over 2000 on profile B/private, weird... ;)]

NINa: What did you mean calling your band 'Stiff Valentine'?

LoudChris: It's kind of silly where the name came from. About eight years ago I was hanging out with some friends making fun of goth band names. We thought that Stiff Valentine would be the worst name ever, and that the funniest image would be a couple hardcore guys on the cover of a magazine with the name Stiff Valentine. Turns out Bullet for My Valentine kind of beat me to it. Anyway, the name just stuck around in my head.
It's also homage to My Bloody Valentine and a character in Cowboy Bebop, and probably some deep rooted anger from getting dumped by a girl in high school.

Stiff Valentine at Myspace | official
Pictures come from Stiff Valentine archive, all copyrights reserved by © Stiff Valentine and Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz.
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