Consumable Interview with Scott Benzel
by Sean Eric McGill
Gilt, the latest album from Machines of Loving Grace, is a departure from their previous style. Leaning more towards guitars and less towards sampling, it marks a change in a band many have considered to be one of the best outfits in the industrial genre. Recently, I spoke with vocalist Scott Benzel about that change and a few other assorted topics.
Consumable: Gilt is certainly different from some of the earlier work the band has done. What brought about the change in musical style?
Scott: Well, the live show. We toured a lot after Concentration and The Crow, we were out about six to nine months, and all of that touring really got us liking the live sound. The way that Concentration was recorded – directly into the studio from the computer instead of taking it to the live band – was cool and it worked for us back then, but we were looking to expand on it, and get the live sound down on tape.
C: Did the heavier aspect of the music have a direct effect on the lyrics or vice versa?
S: The two were simultaneous, actually. The record was written for me during a very dark time, and alot of the tunes on this album were mainly a matter of getting stuff down on paper. I deal with some themes that I hadn’t dealt with on a record before, like drugs and the rigidity and codifying of relationships.
C: One of the people I played the album for is a psychologist, and she said to me that it was dark, but not as dark as Trent Reznor, who she wants to put on the couch.
S: That’s cool, actually. One of the things I was really trying to do and one of the things that differentiates us from what Trent is doing is that there is a degree of almost acceptance of humanity or something in our music. These songs come from a dark place, but not a totally nialistic place with no hope entirely.
C: How’s the tour looking?
S: It’s going pretty well, actually – it’s kinda strange. We’re on the road with Jim Rose, and it’s actually pretty fun. Basically, what we hoped would happen is happening, in that we’re getting to see a little bit into these guy’s lifestyles. We’re sorta checking out the freak lifestyle a little bit, and bonding with them, so it’s pretty interesting.
C: What’s been the one thing so far in your career that you’re the happiest with?
S: I think the thing I’m most proud of is the opportunity to work with people whom I respect – like Sylvia Massey, who produced this record, and a variety of good artists, remixers, and people like that. That for me is the most gratifying to be able to have some kind of relationship with those people.
C: We’ve talked about this being a fairly dark album lyrically, but the next album may not be this dark. It will never be as light as Bon Jovi, but this isn’t some kind of thing were you’re thinking “OK, now I’m going to be a dark person.”
S: Well, we write songs depending on where we are in life. There are songs off Concentration that are dark and songs that are lighter. On the first record, there are songs that are very light, like Cicciolina. We’re not a band that’s consumed by darkness – in fact, I know very few bands who actually are, whether they present that on stage or not. We’re actually coming into sort of a lighter phase from just being out on the road and enjoying each other’s company.
C: What do you look at from a writing standpoint when it comes to lyrical content? Is there a point where you say, “OK, this is too personal?”
S: That’s a good question and something that I’m bumping up against right now. I would like to try and push it in the future, because certainly I’ve had my struggles with what to write about and deal with. As time goes on, there are songs that have become less cerebral and more visceral. They’ve gone from the head to the gut, and that’s really what I attempted to do on this record. I really worked on conveying some very specific emotions that I’d never really worked on conveying before. This record gave me a challenge, and I think in the future I’ll become even better at that.
C: Who were your influences?
S: I think we all have a wide variety of influences. Mike is a classically trained cellist who got into working with electronics and was doing film soundtracks when I hooked up with him. Then Ray comes from a jazz background, and Dave, our new drummer, comes from a fifty percent jazz, fifty percent hard rock background. When I was young, I initially got into hardcore, since I lived in Vegas and alot of the Southern California hardcore bands came through town. And when I discovered Wax Trax and the joys of sampling, I got pretty heavily into that for a while. All of our influences are diverse, but they seem to gel.
C: Who are you listening to now that you’re getting into?
S: I’m not listening to alot of new stuff, although Girls Against Boys is a band I’m a big fan of. I’ve been going back and listening to alot of people who are very lyrically oriented, like Patty Smith, Tom Waits, Steely Dan, and stuff like that. I’m really interested in different ways to convey a story through lyrics and music. I’ve been going through a Bowie phase, as well, although I’m not a big fan of the new record [Outside].
C: What would you like to do now as a band in terms of your direction musically?
S: I think what I’m interested in doing now is making records and playing shows that feel real to myself and the band. That’s what we were trying to do with Gilt, and like you said, we’re never going to be as light as Bon Jovi. We’re never going to sacrifice our deal for better marketing. I’d like to make an album that in some ways expands on what we did on Gilt. We seem to change our approach with each album, and I would like to continue with that. I definately think there’s more territory to be explored.