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Society Burning - interview (2007)
2007-05-03 | Katarzyna NINa Górnisiewicz and Brian Backlash | e-mail interview
NINa: It's our second attempt to do this interview, but I guess it's even better now because we've both improved through the years. This time I met Twitch, the other ex-member of Society Burning at the 16Volt forum, and it's really nice to hear you're still into music, altho for the time being at least you don't work together. How do you recall the beginning of Society Burning? I guess it was the early 90's when the story begins, isn't it?

Daveoramma: It was a Sunday afternoon in Spring of 1991 and I was out of money and cigarettes. I wandered onto the New Mexico State University campus a few blocks away to see if I could find somebody to bum a cigarette off of. At one of the dorms I saw Boom hanging out smoking. I had recorded his band, Your Mother, the previous semester at the University’s audio studio so we started talking while I relieved my nicotine fit. The studio was a shitty 16 track Fostex run through a mixing console made out of spare military parts from a junk yard near Alamogordo, but hey, I had a key to the building and I could record whatever I wanted all night long. Hell, Rose the cleaning lady and I were on a first name basis because I spent so much time there in the middle of the night. At the time I was trying to earn my Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering but instead learned I wanted to be a rock star really, really, really bad. Boom had a similar problem and so we jammed later that week.

While we were playing Archie, a friend of mine from another local band, dropped by and Boom was trying to chase him off with the most annoying guitar riff he could think of. We ended up making that the lead riff in the first song we recorded together, Crash. I was in the process of recording “Is God in Showbusiness too?” and Boom helped fill in a lot gaps musically so we finished the album before summer break. The local college radio loved us and we played a lot of gigs for chicken scratch. But the Las Cruces, NM music scene was this totally supportive creative environment. We were all showing up for each other’s gigs and keeping the local scene a family. It was a wonderful time. By that fall we lost the other band member, so Boom and I wrote and recorded “Plague” by ourselves and released it in January 1992.
By the Summer of 1992 we had enough of the small town crap and decided we were hitting the big ol’ city of Denver. I dropped out of college, much to my parents grief, and we headed North seeking fame and fortune.

Boom: While Daveoramma & I began writing together under a different moniker in 1991, The Watchmen, I personally didn't feel a real connection as Society Burning until Twitch joined us in 94. That was the real beginning where I felt that we were spending less time trying to "sound like" something and just gave in to becoming something. It marks the first time that we really began jamming together as a band, rather than one guy writing everything behind a sequencer.

Twitch: I first ran into Boom at a Software Etc that he was he was working at. He was all business casual with a wild ass haircut, and I had on my Helmet concert shirt. We started talking music and pretty much hit it off instantly. When he introduced me to Daveoramma it was game over, I felt at home immediately.

Daveoramma: Shut up, just shut up. You had me at hello

Boom: Those were very turbulent times, and help to shape us into putting ourselves into what we were doing. At that point, I stopped listening to "industrial" as it was named. I reverted back to my comfort zones in experimental musics, pop music, and new wave. At the time of writing Tactiq, my usual listening included Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Pop will eat Itself, Sunscreem, and Godflesh.

Daveoramma: And I was listening to classic punk rock like Black Flag, Sex Pistols and The Dead Kennedys as well as metal bands like Pantera and Metallica, all while trying to write Electronica.

Twitch: I started DJ’ing at Industrial/Goth clubs and listened to tons and tons of music. It was and still is an addiction for me.

Boom: the funny thing is that we've never really given up on that sound. Even in the audio that we've produced since the '98, you can still hear remnants of the SoBu sound. Where I feel the gap in my life with SoBu is that I really felt like we had the rug yanked out from under us right as we had developed, what I felt, was our most cohesive sound. That (Recon going down) incident took the wind out of my sails for a couple of years, especially due to my health.

Brian Backlash: What is your favorite memory, so far, of Society Burning?

Boom: When Jamie of Acumen Nation agreed to don our TACTIQ T-shirt on tour, he bumped into my brother in Texas.

Daveoramma: There were so many early mornings stumbling home from the studio after all night recording sessions with Boom and Twitch to choose from… But when we played the “Bluebird Theater” to 500 people patiently waiting for the band after us and blew them all away was pretty cool too. That night we made $200 bucks from shirts and CDs and a whole 20 bucks from performing. A good lesson in marketing. :)

Twitch: Getting our “Band” tattoos. I was the most fortunate whilst Daveoramma and Boom went thru more of a scarification than tattooing. It was brutal. Good times… Good times.

NINa: Who else was in the line up?

Boom: Daveoramma started back with X! in 1991. I joined right before those two were finishing up in the studio. X! quit, so we went on as a duo, augmenting our performances with (in order) David Dixon (of BIO), Michael Smith (of Fiction 8), Twitch (I switched to keyboards, Twitch played guitar), and my wife Tracey. While we never had any welcome party (like I received) for Twitch & Tracey, they've both been full fledged bandmates. Tracey's probably not on the roster this time around, as she prefers the jam session and live performance over the writing. We'll see.

Daveoramma: Word.

Twitch: To ya mutha!

Daveoramma: Ain’t no other.

Brian Backlash: You only ever released two discs worth of material, and one of those was a remix EP. Have you always felt that there was some nagging unfinished business?

Daveoramma: Actually, we’ve written four albums (including The Watchmen’s two albums) and two EPs (including the six songs and eight spoken word pieces we did on Cyberpunk Fiction) worth of material. The problem for us has always been getting it out there for people to hear. Being geographically and socially isolated we had been pushing up hill in a void for six years. When Recon lost their distribution and blamed the poor sales on us I had to take a break or put a bullet between my eyes. Now that my inner rage at the world has been reduced to a nice stewing simmer, I feel able to take up the mantle again without self-destructing for the sake of entertainment.

Boom: Point above regarding the rug. In between TACTIQ and the demise of Recon, we were dead set on a sound, and that began showing up in pieces over the covers that we performed and the remixes we were doing.

Brian Backlash: The Society Burning sound really summed up what the cyberpunk rock scene was all about, in my estimation. Even your album covers fit well with the theme. The internet was a burgeoning tool when you were most active, as well. Do you think Society Burning was a more prophetic band in terms of technology and themes, or more limited to the time period it originated in?

Boom: The prophecy hasn't been fulfilled just yet, Brian. We didn't really, and still don't, think about fitting in or even necessarily pioneering. The range of what we do is just in blood & sweat (and burnt skin, eh, Daveoramma?). I never really understood how things get classified, I just know that I like to beat instruments into the ground. :)

As for tech, we abused everything in the arsenal, from the Internet starting in 1991, being the first band to incorporate multimedia into our communications, to being one of the first bands with a website. We've always been proud of taking SoBu to the current technological limit.

Daveoramma: Not to mention the charred eyebrows, Boom. In 1993 Boom was writing in Visual Basic little multi-media news letters or, Noise Letters as we called them, that fit on one 3 1” floppy and played music and showed pictures of us. We released three or four of them to mixed reviews a full year before the world wide web was launched. Too many people had Macs and we were PC based so we happily shifted focus to the web which didn’t care what flavor of OS you were using.

Ultimately, I have always thought of Society Burning as a “Futurist” band, even though we live almost a century after their heyday in European art in the early 20th century. They reveled in the wondrous technological advances of their age and found beauty in speeding cars and planes, in skyscrapers and Cubist paintings, of using provocation and uproar as effective publicity for art. It was about depicting movement, energy and rejecting the cancerous ghosts of the past and looking to what might come next. 100 years ago FT Marinetti claimed that “a roaring motor car was more beautiful than Nike of Samothrace.” I have always wanted to capture that feeling in Society Burning’s music, reflecting life in our “modern” age, of humanity clinging to their uncontrolled machines by their fingertips, afraid that as soon as they’re thrown clear that they’re dead meat. I like that sense of urgency.

Twitch: Yeah, what they said. Honestly, Daveoramma and Boom are the heart and soul of Society Burning. I am just the IT department. I play about with new software and audio gear. I am always looking for a new way to generate sounds. When the first AWE32 Soundblaster audio card came out I knew computers would be the future of music. I love music, but I am not musically inclined. I play guitar like a butcher slaughtering a lamb, so meaty! I’ve always considered myself an audio hacker, musical acuity by sheer force of will.

NINa: Your previous albums are still available for a free download. I used that opportunity and got them all a few years ago. They contain really good, aggressive tunes. Your music still stands the test of time, even tho it was made with older gear. On Last.fm you have a top listener of your music, and actually Vesper is a good friend of mine from Poland. We really think the albums should be remastered, re-programmed, and reissued on CDs or as a digital download via iTunes or something. Have you ever considered that?

Boom: Daveoramma's been a busy bee getting all of the old masters in tip top shape. I'm in Vegas right now & have the CDs, so I'll test them out on the strip tonight at full volume & get back to you all! Vesper is my messiah!

Daveoramma: Hmmmmm.

Brian Backlash: The album Tactiq is a very harsh, aggressive and angry as hell record. Even the keyboards and drum machines sound pissed off. Was that a product of where you in at that time in your life, or simply the route you wanted to explore?

Boom: Life. You should've heard "State of Decay"...hopefully soon... The beats for Tactiq just came out of the jam sessions where we'd hook a shitty drum machine into a distortion pedal and blast through the PA that Daveoramma had built. Then after that, fair game... It's quite possible that I had the shittiest guitar rig known to man, and to boot, I didn't learn a fucking thing in piano class, so the only choice I had was to pummel the keyboards into submission. So, yeah, it was a direct relation to my mood and what I could do. I'm of the nature that I'm not so concerned with skill as much as conveyance.

Daveoramma: We were trying to get every ounce of sound out of every piece of gear we had. At the time we felt extremely limited technologically in writing our music, but in retrospect I think that’s what pushed us to be so creative, and it really made us better.

Unfortunately I was so manic-depressive at the time I couldn’t see the forest for the trees and got lost in the wrong details of the business and life in general. At the time we were writing Tactiq we were both working jobs we hated, so that lent a certain urgency to our art. I had a love life like something out of a David Lynch movie while working in a telecommunications manufacturing plant as a Test Engineering Tech, taking bets on which assembly line worker would go postal first, while Boom slaved over a hot computer for pennies an hour at a print shop that couldn’t have cared less about him. At the time I used to believe the only way to make great art was through great suffering, but there comes a point where you realize, “Holy shit, I’m a really fucked up person!” and start trying to make the journey back to rejoin the human race.

Brian Backlash: The band was signed with the infamous Re-Constriction label. While the label didn't release a ton of material, much of what did come out is now fondly sought after by many in the scene, and the label is slowly developing it's own cult status. It's know the label had poor distribution and promotion, one of the factors that led to the band's demise. Do you regret having signed with them, or are you glad that you did?

Daveoramma: No regrets, it was a great learning experience.

Boom: No regrets. We're having this interview some 10 years after TACTIQ, so how could I possibly complain.

Twitch: First there was Wax Trax, then there was Re-Constriction. ‘nuff said true believers.

NINa: Did you tour in the 90's a lot?

Boom: Nope. We'd play shows every now and then, but we just didn't have the money or manpower to do what we wanted to do (largely due to geographies). We didn't want to just tour for the sake of touring, because, I didn't really want us to be known as a 'live' act as much as I wanted us to be a 'machine'. Playing shows started to get into the way of the virtual image we were promoting.

Daveoramma: Unless you consider one city a tour? Seriously, I’m getting the urge to perform live again, but the three of us live in three different time zones, so that presents a problem. We’re still weighing our options and, given our great love of technology, I think we’ll come up with something.

Twitch: Definitely. Technology is our friend, y’know.

Brian Backlash: What had you hoped to accomplish artistically or creatively with the band that you didn't have the opportunity to do? Might you explore those ideas in your current incarnation of the band?

Daveoramma: It’s a matter of us not hearing the music we want so we end up creating our own. I really got my start back in the 1980s writing entire concept albums in my bedroom. And then in college I really cut loose and was selling them at shows. But, in a lot of ways I feel like I’ve come full circle as an artist with the themes and melodies I’m creating these days. Honestly, Society Burning is a collaborative effort, there is no one super-star, it’s a meeting of the musical minds. Hell, all of my favorite parts in all of our songs Boom wrote!

Boom: In 98 the mantra was to better blend heavy pop music with synths. From what we are bouncing back and forth now a days, it's back to a more mean sound. I can't really put it into words, I just have every intention of pulling out all of the stops. It is really interesting that things we just did "because it sounded good" to us then are showing up on the radio now.

Daveoramma: Yeah, that is kinda odd, huh?

Brian Backlash: Industrial is making a comeback of sorts, tho the scene is certainly more varied and more underground than it's been in the past. Do you feel that the audience exists for your personal brand of sonic brutality?

Boom: Perhaps? People told me to go download Celldweller cause it reminded them of us. I didn't get that, but I think that there is a strange perception that goes along with our music. I think why it's taken so long for me to come out of my shell & start writing for SoBu again is just because I'm bored with what I hear, which is right back where I was in 94.

Do I think that we can piggy back on Apop's or Covenant's fan base? I'm not the one to market the shit. I'll just write like I know how, and let the people decide what they want to listen to.

Daveoramma: That’s the beauty of the internet though. Every band can now find their fan base out there, no matter how obscure or marginal the genre. Even someone playing Celtic-Techno-Mariachi-Death-Core covers of Michael Bolton songs could find people who dig what they’re doing and support them. It’s an amazing time for music right now, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

Twitch: Hell yeah!

NINa: Industrial rock musicians cooperate very often, seems like only a few can understand their ideas. Have you ever worked with someone famous of that scene?

Twitch: I sure have, Boom and Daveoramma. :)

Boom: Sure, but not the names you might be thinking of. While I jive on collaboration, "paid for" music has a bad habit of name dropping (I'm guilty).

Daveoramma: It’s always been a great scene and today it’s no different. We’re all getting the negative shit out through our music like taking giant karmic craps, so we’re always laid back and easy to get along with. And, hey, we freaks gotta stick together, qué no?

Brian Backlash: Does returning the band to the road appeal to you? Who would you like to share the stage with?

Boom: Perhaps. see above - now that we've stabilized our finances a little bit, and better understand how productions are done, it wouldn't be impossible. We haven't really dissected the logistics of a road trip just yet.

Daveoramma: Sure. I’ll play with anyone who brings a crowd that doesn’t want to kill us. Don’t ask.

Twitch: I miss playing live so much. As for who I’d like to play with 16 Volt of course.

Brian Backlash: What's in store for the future of the band? You've begun anew, but do you have any concrete plans? When might we get to preview new material?

Boom: No previews. :) Heavy heavy heavy. We might start previewing some pieces here or there, but I really just want to get wrapped up with the writing process before we dig into directions & (that evil thing) marketing.

Daveoramma: Rest assured, it’s gonna scare the simple people.

Twitch: I bought new strings for my CB-20001.

NINa: Have you ever thought about a remix contest to let the people mess with your songs and release some kind of tribute to Society Burning?

Boom: I have strong feelings about remixes this time around. While releasing our remix album before our full length was a cool endeavor, I want something fairly pure out there first. The other guys may disagree with me, but I really want to shy away from mixes.

Later on, I'd really dig serving up the tracks in Ableton Live or Cubase for people to pick apart, but I'd really like to promote a new ideology to enable artists to dream up brand new works rather than just mix our stuff.

Daveoramma: I’m also a little gun shy of remixes right now. Entropy Lingua, our remix album, was like a painter having a world-premiere gallery showing, but instead of his own paintings they have paintings done by other artists interpreting his work in different styles. This isn’t the end of Society Burning remixes by any means, just a minor pause.

Twitch: Agreed.

Brian Backlash: What non-electronic artists have influenced and interested you?

Boom: Lee Ritnour, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine, Metallica, Mind Over Four, Husker Du, Sugar, Lou Reed, Beth Orton, Sarah MacLachlan, Ice T, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Queensryche, Godflesh, Carcass, Public Enemy.

Daveoramma: ELP, Pantera, David Bowie, John Coltrain, Pop Will Eat Itself, Black Flag, Miles Davis, Prong, Phillip Glass, The Clash, Muse, The Deftones, Dave Brubeck, Killing Joke, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Genesis, White Zombie, Wang Chung and Jimi Hendrix.

Twitch: Bach, Beethoven, Yo-Yo Ma, Helmet, Megadeth, Rush, Soundgarden, Henry Rollins Band, Iggy Pop, Prong, The Pixies, Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Sister of Mercy,
Killing Joke, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Madonna.

NINa: Daveoramma works as a multimedia, animations and 3D designer in Prescient Thought Productions as far as I know. Does music and graphics go hand in hand usually?

Daveoramma: Prescient Thought Productions has been my personal business for fifteen years. It started as an independent label for releasing my/our music, but through the years it has evolved through a variety of incarnations. In 1997 when I went to art school and started writing code for my dad’s company it transformed into a freelance company. Since then I worked on and off with it doing graphic design and animation on the side until last June when I went freelance full time.

My first and truest love in art is comic books. I started 25 years ago drawing my own action-heavy science fiction comic books in class when I should have been taking notes or doing homework. Then I would Xerox them in the school library and sell them for a quarter each to feed my video game habit (Curse you, Robotron 2029! You ruined me you bitch!) By the time I was in high school I had discovered bands and girls, but I never thought the two (four?) passions would ever cross paths. Then in 1997 I looked into the Computer Animation program at the Art Institute of Colorado and I was hooked. Here at last was an art form that combined all of the various disciplines into a very powerful story telling medium.

For a complete portfolio of 2D/3D/4D art (not to mention those free Society Burning downloads for the time being), check out my site at http://www.prescient-thought.com I’m also writing and designing a cool cyber/bio-punk computer animation project called Mortal Skin, check the teaser site out at http://www.mortalskin.com

NINa: There is no Society Burning profile at Myspace.com yet. Don't you have anyone to take care about, even to save a memory of the band if you don't plan to reunite it?

Boom: I'll defer to Daveoramma & Twitch. I'm not a myspace fan, personally. :)

Daveoramma: Okay, NINa, you win! Check out http://www.myspace.com/societyburning and be sure to keep your eyes on http://www.societyburning.com too. Thanks for getting me off my ass, grrrl, I didn’t think anyone out there still cared. :)

Society Burning at Myspace | official website

Pictures come from Society Burning archive, all copyrights reserved by © Society Burning.
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