Industrial Nation’s Interview With Machines Of Loving Grace (1994)
by Kim Traub
IN: I want to start off with Scott. In one of your bios…
Scott: Our bios are all lies and incorrect!
IN: Ok, well then explain this lie; You said that “tension is what ends up defining us.” Is that because of the way you write music of the different approaches you’re coming from?
Scott: Probably the different approaches and different styles. Stuart comes from more of a rock background, Mike comes from more of a film/ electronic background, and I come more from a not being able to play music background. So we clash quite a bit on what we’d actually like to sound like.
IN: Is this your first band then?
Scott: Well, no, we’ve all been in bands before, but this is our first band that done anything…
Mike: Anything that’s worth mentioning.
Scott: Yeah, this is the first band that, in a sense, has done anything semi-musical. I was in a band where we were just banging on shit.
IN: And then you called it art!
IN: A lot of electronic bands like to distort the vocals to shit and I wanted to know if you didn’t really do that as a conscious effort, like trying to keep the human contrast to the machine.
Scott: We do that from time to time, but, yeah, obviously we’re trying for more of a human element than a lot of the bands where it’s distorted and you can’t make it out. That’s a different asthetic than what we’re going for. We’re trying to be semi-intelligible lyrically and we’re also into writing songs with more typical structures, you know, in a way. We’re interested in voice and, you know, certain things. I don’t know why, it’s just the direction we went in.
Mike: I think we’re interested in experiementation. That’s doesn’t necessarily transfer onto tape all of the time because, for example, on this record we didn’t have as much time to do some of the stuff that we wanted to do in regards to experimentation, playing with structures. I don’t think we’re setting out to specifically make pop structures.
Scott: No, but we come from more of a pop structured background and I’d think that’d be something we’re interested in. I mean, our songs are pop songs.
Mike: True enough, but I’d hate to categorize ourselves as wanting to write only pop songs with pop structures. I think that narrows our scope and our interests.
Scott: Well, I think we’re actually fucking around with it [pop structure] a little bit.
[ A grumble of agreement. ]
Mike: I think we all agree with that. One of the reasons that some of the songs wound up with such standard pop structures is that we really didn’t have the time to do what we wanted with it.
IN: Why is that?
Scott: Money, time, negotiations.
Mike: We spent a lot of time renegotiating our contract.
IN: How did you guys wind up on Mammoth? I mean, they’re in North Carolina, and you were on the other side of the country.
Mike: Actually, a friend of ours, Rich Hopkins, who’s a guitarist who used to be with the…
Scott: … Sidewinders.
Mike: Yeah, he used to be on Mammoth, so he knew people. When we released a tape ourselves, he sent a copy to them and they were interested.
IN: So you jumped on the first company that jumped on you?
Scott: [laughs] Yeah, pretty much!
IN: OK,We’ll discontinue this line of questioning because we’re getting a lot of trouble for people saying thins about their record companies and then getting mad at us because we print what they say.
Scott: We always say shit about them so they should be used to it by now! We say shit about all the record companies.
IN: Well, that’s the way it usually is. Um, in one of the bios, it said that you started off because you were scoring a film that Mike had done. When did you decide that the music was more important?
Scott: When I blew up the lights.
IN: Ah, when the film self-destructed!
Scott: Yeah, essentially when I melted down a whole bunch of lights and it would up costing him 3 or 4 hundred bucks and that was the end of that film career.
IN: Music doesn’t cost as much?
[ Group snicker. ]
Scott: Well, at the time it didn’t. Mike had an 8 track set up in his house.
Mike: After we made that first song, we spoke to a DJ in Tuscon who had a three hour show on the weekends that was on the alternative channel. She suggested that, hey, this was good, let’s put it on the radio and check it out.
IN: So you had the ego boost to go with it.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. It took about 9 months, we did 10 songs in the beginning, 9 for the Mammoth record, and we’re here.
IN: In a Keyboard magazine article, and this is directed towards you, Mike, because the article centered mostly on you, but you described your music as anti-songs. Why?
Mike: We try to make music with a certain sense of irony. There’s this one song we released as a single called “All I Really Need,” I don’t know whether you’ve heard of it, but it’s a good example of what I’m talking about. The chorus goes, “All I really need is your love” and behind that are all these samples of a woman screaming obscenities. I guess to some extend we’re writing pop structures and pop songs, but we try to include soem sort of irony or some sort of twist in everything that we do so it’s not so much a straight ahead. One of the things we do when we write a song is to sort of deconstruct it and then put it together. The end result probably winds up sounding a little more pop oriented than we might like sometimes, but the idea is that we’re playing with the elements of the song. We’re not the type of band that’ll say, “OK, we’re going to write a new song today.” We jam some parts, play around with the elements then juxtapose them, turn them around, and turn them on their ear.
IN: And you still find yourself with more pop oriented structures?
Mike: It’s funny, it ended up that way on this record, but I think that’s, to some extent, the time we had.
IN: The same article described you as “technophobic technophiles.”
Mike: Yeah, that was just the writer.
IN: So you wouldn’t call that an accurate description?
Mike: Well, it’s semi-accurate.
IN: Just because of the idea you have of trying to keep down the machines.
Mike: We’re all interested in technology, it’s just the way we use it sometimes creates certain paradoxes like the tail is wagging the dog. Technology is a great thing but it’s really easy to get overwhelmed by it and allow it to dictate the method by which you accomplish things. I use computers but I don’t trust them. We’ve all been screwed over by computers in one way or another, and yet we have this strange love/hate relationship with them. We rely on this massive amount of technology to accomplish what we do, so we should be technophiles. At the same time, it’s like, oh I have to do this fucking computer thing… fucking hard drives down again, you know, we’re technophobes in a way too.
Stuart: We’re all arachaphobes!
[ Group laughs. ]
IN: Did you have some sort of strange spider experience on this tour?
Mike: Our video for “Butterfly Wings” was directed by the guy who did Arachaphobia.
IN: Ah, he must have an insect thing then.
Scott: Yeah, he’s a freak!
IN: Well, that can be a good thing.
Mike: This guy was insect weird, I mean, in an unnatural way.
IN: This same article said that you [Mike] were formerly a hacker. Any adventures you’d like to describe?
Mike: Some friends of mine and I were sort of into the hacker thing back in the early days when things were more accessible than they are nowadays. It’s something that I was interested in. The fact that, given the time and the right information, you can break into a major computer base out in California and can have any information on any man, woman, child in the US, I mean, that’s amazing. That was the kind of stuff we were involved in, and we got caught, basically.
IN: That seems to be the end of many hacker careers.
Mike: I mean, it did and it didn’t. It made us change oru methods and it made us examine the way we were going about things. It especially made us think about who we were trusting. Essentially we were turned in by other hackers.
IN: That’s usually how it happens.
Mike: Yeah. It was a scary situation and certainly that’s contributed to my paranoia!
IN: One last question for you specifically. I read that you were trained classically as a cellist. How does that affect the way that you write this kind of music? Do you try to forget all of that to get to the experimental?
Mike: I think you have to. In order to do the experimental stuff, you kind of have to let go of the classical. On the other hand, I think it’s somewhat helpful. It tends to make you hear things harmonically and melodically that otherwise I might not have heard, and one of the things that sets us apart frmo other bands is we do have a lot more going on harmonically and melodically than a lot of other bands in this genre. So it’s a plus to me. I’m not so heavily steeped in it that I go into every situation like, “OK let’s get some notation paper out.” It’s not that heavy, but it certainly exposed me to a lot of stuff about music and about what music is and what it should be.
IN: So that’s actually you playing cello on the albums?
Mike: Yeah, we do have a string section.
IN: Ok, you’re probably tired of this, but I want to know anyways; how did you get Trent Reznor to do a remix for you, were you present, and do you like what he did with it?
Stuart: Yes to all three. No, we weren’t present though. So it’s yes, no, yes. It was all FedEx and telephone and that sort of thing.
Scott: We had met with him a few times in person.
IN: Did he ask to do it, or did you ask?
Scott: He actually volunteered. We had met with him a couple of times just to, sort of, shoot the shit.
IN: To bitch about record companies…
Scott: Yeah, exactly! Then we were getting ready to do a new single, and he said yeah and there was a lot of FedExing keyboards across the country. It was cool and he did a good job on it.
IN: What do you think the thematic differences are between this album and the last one? What elements from touring with the first album did you bring into this record?
Mike: Touring gave us a lot of exposure, well, obviously to audiences, but most definitely showed us what things work and what things don’t work.
IN: So what did you find didn’t work?
Mike: The slower stuff…
Scott: The acapello tunes, the Kool and the Gang covers!
Mike: Yeah, that didn’t work as well as we intended it to! Well, bands like the Swans, who we did the longest tour with, have this great intensity live and they become this unit on stage, you know, this one sort of moving, writhing mass. People really respond to that, and responded well to the music. I mean, they have this bass player with big, despondent chords and this really heavy, confrontational sound. I think we tried to bring some of that into the new record. We wanted to distill the sound a little bit.
Stuart: Also, some pretty basic stuff like tuning up the guitars, using live drums. We learned a lot about what we like about our own sound. The first record was done entirely in a bedroom at Mike’s house, basically. We learned a lot about what we wanted to sound like.
IN: So a lot of this has happened pretty fast for you guys.
Stuart: It was strange because the first record was essentially a demo tape we recorded and released ourselves. We distributed in Phoenix and a little bit in California on a very small scale, and suddenly Mammoth comes along. It was a strange experience, but it got us out there, which got us on to the next thing, which was touring, and that got us on to the new record. It just sort of happened, it’s nothing that we planned or anticipated.
IN: How did you wind up with Roli Mossiman producing the latest record?
Mike: We were big fans of his and we picked up the Young Gods CD on the last tour.
IN: I hear a lot of his The The sound on your new album.
Stuart: We basically asked him.