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Tag Archive | "Tom Waits"

Intervju: Dead When I Found Her 2015

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Niklas Hurtig fick en pratstund med den albumaktuelle Dead When I Found Her där den den enda medlemmen Michael Holloway från Portland, Oregon förklarar de allvarliga ämnen som albumet kretsar kring, hans totala hängivelse till industrialgenren samt sin dröm om att kunna leva på sin musik.


(Publiceras på originalspråket)



– You just finished your third album as Dead When I Found Her (DWIFH). What can we expect to hear?

You can expect to hear an album that sounds very much like the Dead When I Found Her you already know, but which very deliberately pushes itself into new directions — stylistically, thematically, vocally. It’s my most ambitious album yet, and was designed to be experienced as an Album, rather than as a collection of songs.

You can also, perhaps, expect to be in a dreary mood while exploring the material, so hopefully that’s ok with the listener. It’s an exploration of the fear of old age, “end of life care” and death itself, so it’s not exactly light-weight subject matter.

– So one could say that the overall theme of the album is about death and how we all eventually end up there?

Yes, but more specifically, it is about the experience of the elderly — of being old, probably alone, and facing death while dealing with a progressively deteriorating life. Really what I’m hoping to explore here isn’t death itself but the experience that precedes it, for those who live to an old age.

I think it’s deeply uncomfortable territory, and usually avoided by the world of arts & entertainment. I know my own level of denial about being Old and Infirm some day is very deep, and that’s probably true of many of us. And that probably explains why (at least here in the US) the attitude toward the elderly is: let’s not talk about them, let’s not make art about them, let’s just sort of pretend we don’t have to face any of that until, well, we become one of them.

So, being a musician, I figured I could attempt to explore my feelings about all of this via music. And that’s what this album is about.

– It’s a pretty heavy subject. How do you keep those thoughts and ideas in your mind for that long a time an album takes to produce?

I’m not sure, exactly. I think I naturally am good at compartmentalizing my feelings. I’ve worked a lot in health care fields — mostly residential mental health care, tending to the severely mentally ill — and I think you learn how to keep your headspace clear outside of work of all that baggage going on during work. So maybe it’s the same with music: I venture into that space when I’m actually writing the songs, but stay away otherwise. Cool trick, eh?

– I would say that it’s a good property. And I understand that you have that if you have experience of healthcare.

Well I think the people who can’t manage their feelings about working with very negative, very ill people won’t last very long in the field.

– Has your other professional life helped you in your musical career?

Not really. I currently work in immigration, so that’s a total mess. I value the time I spent in mental health care specifically for the exposure it gave me to human experience — that is, the huge range of human mental experience, getting outside of typical healthy comfort zones and into really scary, self destructive places. It certainly helps one get some perspective on their own mind.

Currently I’m working on making Music my full time career, so I can just focus on doing what I love, as well as paying the rent.

– Is that an old dream of yours? The Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll lifestyle-dream?

Ha, not so much. I’m a pretty mild mannered guy, I’d say. But to make a living creating music, that’s certainly a dream, yes. Hopefully a realistic one!

– Has anything changed in the production compared to the previous two albums?

Overall the process, technically speaking, was the same: I do everything at home with software, it’s zero-to-finished all within my bedroom, because that’s just how spoiled we are these days with the computer technology. I use Ableton Live for everything, I’m what you could call a FanBoy for sure.

So the production process wasn’t different, broadly speaking. But I’m also learning new tricks and refining my process here and there. There is always more to learn in the world of digital music production. And always one more plugin to buy!

– So you don’t feel like designing sounds by recording them in asylums or in caves and forests and such?

Field recording is something I’m very interested in getting into, but no, I haven’t really explored that yet. I’m sure I will, it’s on my To Do list!

But with DWIFH, developing elaborate FX chains is my favorite form of sound design. I love synths and my samplers of course, and sampling movies and random sources discovered on the internet is a huge part of the process. But everything winds up in Ableton, running through my massive FX chains.

– What is your musical vision of DWIFH?

It’s pretty simple: I want to make the kind of music that I want to hear. Classic industrial music is just in my blood. It’s an integral part of my life, I’ve been listening to it for over two decades now. Making it just feels like a natural, essential part of who I am.

I always figure with DWIFH song: If i make an industrial song that I personally would want to hear, then there is probably someone else out there who wants to hear it, too. Because it’s such a creative, challenging style of music and I think the people who love it, like any deep niche of music, love it very deeply, and get very attached. So that keeps things tidy, because my only standard is just pleasing my self, meeting my own standards for what is Good Music in this genre.

– Reading your posts on social media along with what you just said indicate that you were a fan that decided to start making industrial music. What made you take that step?

Just the general creative urge that people get when they really love something — they want to get involved.

I got started pretty early — around age 18, when my parents bought me a K2000 synth as a high school graduation present. Before that I’d been trying to teach myself piano on a cheap casio keyboard and recording into Windows Media Player. It was awful, but it’s what I had. Then the k2000 really let me get going. I learned all about MIDI, sequencing, synthesis. It was a monster.

– It seems like most acts that are into this type of music are sound engineering geeks. Do you have a theory on why it is like that?

Sure, it’s because with a lot of electronic music — and certainly Industrial music in particular — sound design is just as much a part of the songwriting as anything else going on.

So anybody interested in sounds, the atmosphere they create, and to manipulate them or create them from scratch — well, industrial music is a fertile ground for that kind of work. Or it used to be, anyway.

Look at an album like “Last Rights” — the sounds themselves are more important than the musical elements, in a sense. If you tried to print sheet music for those songs, it probably would be mostly empty. It’s all about the crafting of sounds and then arranging them in engaging, exciting ways.

– So why is industrial ambient not a genre? :)

Good question. Though I’d say bands like Nurse With Wound have stuff I might give that label.

– Have you ever had thoughts of cooperating with other musicians or vocalists and include them in DWIFH?

I often have that thought, and I’ve made a few connections in that direction… but so far I haven’t followed through on any of it. I think it’s more likely that I’d start a side-project involving collaboration rather than changing the form of DWIFH. It’s probably an ego-driven, self-branding control thing. But I’m ok with that, I think. This project is my venue for expressing my idea of industrial music, very personally. But I’d love to collaborate and see what happens with others, it just probably won’t have the DWIFH name on it.

– Your musical career before DWIFH?

Before DWIFH music was just a casual hobby. I did scores to a few short films made by friends, I had some early industrial tunes show up on small indy compilations under an old name. Though for a lot of my twenties, I was in a different phase and playing indie rock songs on guitar with some other guys, and recording them at home. Thinking back on that now, it feels like a different person.

But I like to think that I can enjoy and, if wanted, learn to play most styles of music. It’s all one song, after all.

– Is it hard to come up with an original beat that doesn’t sound like something you have done before?

Yes, actually. Which is why it’s very important to listen to lots of different style of music, not just industrial. Even when doing syncopated rhythms and avoiding 4-on-the-floor, it’s still easy to just re-write the same beat. But listening to jazz, or non-western music, or metal or just anything else — it gets your mind thinking about different rhythms.

I’m listening to Tom Waits right now, and I love the percussion. On “Rain Dogs” there’s a lot of jangly percussion, hands on sticks and little drums and that sort of thing. It loosens up the rhythm a lot, which is great. That sort of thing inspires me to think about new ways to approach drums in industrial music.

On the new album, I did a lot of “fake acoustic” arrangements, using multi-sampled acoustic drums, to try and create a more “live” feeling to the drum parts. I’d say half the album takes that approach. It’s not better than the standard industrial drums, just something different. It can help create a sense of movement and momentum that static samples often struggle to acheive.

– What are your primary influences in music and why?

Influences, well, of course Skinny Puppy is the predominant one. But years of listening to Coil also shifted my thinking about music a lot, too. And Mentallo & The Fixer, I think, really impacted my sense of songwriting with electronic tools. I like to keep things very musical while still sounding “industrial,” and these bands I’m mentioning all do that very well.

Outside the genre, I listen to a huge range of things, and all of it can influence me in one way or another — doom jazz like Bohren & Der Club of Gore, soundtracks by Angelo Badalamenti, indie music like The National and Mark Kozelek. I like country music, I like jazz music. Any genre can have inspiring stuff going on if you find your way into it, but if you look at my iTunes statistics, I think Skinny Puppy, Coil and Tom Waits comprise about 90% of my daily listening.

– What albums defined you as a musician or had a huge impact on your life? You have already mentioned “Last Rights”…

“Last Rights” was my first Puppy album, so that’s deeply imbedded in my experience of industrial music. The infidel by Doubting Thomas is another one. “Where Angels Fear to Tread” by Mentallo, that was a big one for sure.

I hate to mention Depeche Mode because I never listen to them anymore, but I should probably mention “Music For The Masses” — simply because my dad had a tape of it when I was very young, and it was a huge discovery for me. That was sort of my introduction to synths in music, and it really stuck. I remember replaying the instrumental track “Agent Orange” (I think that’s what it’s called anyway) (Från singeln “Strangelove” red.anm.) over and over again.

Perhaps it got TOO attached to my childhood, because when I try to revisit it, something doesn’t quite click, even though I know how important of a discovery it was.

– What do you think of the new acts of old-school-industrial that has emerged during the last ten years?

The other two, you mean?

– Haha…

I’m joking.. sort of. I’d love to hear more! I love Necro Facility, I think Oscar is just a huge talent and could probably do well at anything he attempted to do.

– Yes and he is like a pop-producer nowadays…

Yeah, which is great for him, but maybe not as great for us fans who want to hear more industrial music, ha.

– What about 3TEETH?

Oh. They’re great, for sure. You know, the Ministry side of industrial was never huge for me. I’m not Anti-Guitar, i actually really like them. But I think maybe the repetition and simplicity of the guitar-based industrial music always turned me off. 3TEETH add a lot of samples and layers in and keep things pretty dense, so that’s great. And I love their approach to imagery and branding, it’s so effective.

– Which leads me to my next question. How important is visual art when releasing music and do you have a vision that can act as a foundation for it?

I’m not a visual art guy, at all. My abilities and instincts just don’t communicate in that realm. So that’s where I rely on the talents of others — John Worsley does all the artwork for DWIFH, and even just simple decisions like the font used for the band name, that becomes a huge part of the image of the band and how the band is seen online, on t shirts, etc.

So I give him pretty general thoughts about what I want, and let him take over and make the decisions his own talent brings him to.

– What are your opinions about visual art bundled with physical copies of an album in this age of online streaming?

It’s probably a dying approach, I’d guess. It’s certainly nice when it’s done with thought and care, so the package feels like a work of art, something essential to the whole product and experience of the work. You can tell when it’s just packaging for the sake of product, something to snare hardcore fans and make $. But when it’s a great artist really creating a memorable package, that’s still very exciting.

Album cover art is so damn important. When I think about all my favorite albums, the album art pops up in my head, every time.

– So you believe there is a future for this ”art in package”-format?

Hard to say. I think that people will always want a visual cue for the music they are buying. We are just wired that way — full stimulation. It helps organize the contents, to associate the experience with other senses being engaged by cool images. Even if I’m only buying music digitally, I still want to see that album cover pop up in the player — it anchors the experience.

– You use a lot of samples from horror movies in your music. Why are you so fascinated in that?

It feels like a tradition, an inherent part of the genre and the landscape of this style of music. And I love the atmosphere of old horror movies, so it’s a way to make a sort of bridge between the mediums. You can borrow some of the atmosphere created in those films, by those voices, and put it to use in a new medium.

– Why is DWIFH relevant today?

I think that’s a question for the audience, not me. As I said before, my intention is simple: to make the music I’d want to hear. If I can keep doing that, I’m happy. If it’s also relevant to other people, that’s wonderful. But that’s up to them.

– If you could have chosen, would you have preferred to launch DWIFH in 1990 instead of 2010?

In a fantasy reality, there’s a certain attraction to that idea, of being literally a part of the thing that I mentally feel so connected to. But I’m happy to continue the tradition, rather than have formed it.

– How was it to tour with Velvet Acid Christ and what are your experiences of touring?

Actually we never did — we just opened for VAC here in Portland. DWIFH has never been on tour.

We play the occasional festival when invited, and that’s fantastic. And we play a lot of local shows here in Portland, opening for industrial bands on tour. A few times, up in Seattle. Whether or not to expand on that is a huge question at the front of my mind. It’s a matter of time, energy & priorities.

– Did you know that it actually was me that got Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ into your music?

I did not! Right on.

– I mentioned DWIFH to him when I interviewed him three years ago. He later wrote on his blog that he started listening to you after that!

Ah, that’s cool. Thanks!

– You’re welcome. I find ”Curtains” to be one of the greatest tracks overall in later years. How did the track came to be? Was it the first track you produced as DWIFH?

The first song was actually “Glass Trap”, which was never released. The label, ArtOfFact, is probably going to re-issue “Harm’s Way” in 2016, because it has been out of print for a long time. And it will have two out-takes from that era, including the first DWIFH song.

“Curtains” was probably the 7th or 8th DWIFH song, so still pretty early on. And interestingly, it was one of the fastest written songs I’ve ever done. That’s partly because it’s instrumental, but the overall composition happened in one session and didn’t need very much editing or fixing.

– Do you have something in secret to reveal to our readers?

Heh, I’m not sure. The “Harm’s Way” re-issue was probably the only secret news I had to drop for now. I think I can confidently say that there will not be another 3 year wait for new material from Dead When I Found Her…. There is much underway and there’s no reason it needs to take years to get out there.

– Thank you so much Michael for your time and we wish you all the best in your future career!

Thank you Niklas!

Niklas Hurtigs recension av det nya albumet All The Way Down” hittar ni här.