Interview With Jay Tiftickjian
by Jay Tiftickjian
The Machines of Loving Grace have been one of the more prominent industrial/computer bands with the success of 1993 “Butterfly Wings” off of their second album, Concentration, as well as “Golgotha Tenement Blues” from The Crow Soundtrack. With their new offering, Gilt, the Machines have taken a more straight forward, live approach to recording. I had the pleasure of talking to singer Scott Benzel about the change.
What I wanted to talk to you most about was the new album, Gilt, and how it’s a lot different than what I’m used to. I’m used to an industrial type band and it now seems that you are more or less a rock band. I’m not saying it bad but I’m missing the Machines and I’m missing all of the computers in the songs. What made you guys decide to change?
Well, the computer stuff is definitely there, but the difference in the sound is that we set out on this record to make a record that was courser to the sound of our live show. As a result, we used the live drums and pushed the guitars toward the front.
I wasn’t trying to say I disliked it. It’s just different from Concentration and the first album.
Yeah, it’s definitely different, but I think that’s a good thing. With every record we’ve tried to do something different and one of our goals with this one was to reproduce the live feel. We were preferring the sound and preferring the energy.
Were a lot of the songs for this album written while touring for Concentration?
Not really. Basically what happened was that the genesis of the thing was that we wrote the record in the same way that we wrote Concentration. For Concentration we sort-of wrote the things on computer and then went directly into the studio and with this record, we took the additional step of taking it to the live band before going into the studio and working on recording the song out live a little bit. As a result, there are things that you learn about playing a song live that you don’t necessarily know when its in the computer. It’s a completely different feedback experience. The album had a different sound and it has a live feel because we actually went in and tracked it live. The bassist and drummer were set up in one room and the guitars were isolated in another room and I was set up in another room and we basically played the tracks until we got them where we want them, and then Mike and I went back in and did some manipulations with the keyboards and added the overdubs and stuff.
When you write songs more from the live setting, do you feel closer to the songs? Are they more of an expression of yourself?
One of the things about this record and why we wanted to do it this was is that I was trying to make a record in terms of my contribution, with emotion. In some ways, Concentration, at least certain songs – “Butterfly Wings” is obviously one of the songs, “Golgatha Tenement Blues”, and something like “Lilith/Eve” is another one that I feel personally connected to. This record, lyrically and conceptually, I was attempting to make songs more to do with situations that had actually happened as they occurred to me and situations in my life and that sort of came in conjunction with us playing the stuff live and a bit more organically. It’s really less of a rejection of our roots and more of an exploration of new territories. It certainly wasn’t an attempt to “move-away” from the Machines. It was more of an attempt to try and try to keep the elements that we felt were core Machines and expand on that with live sound.
I noticed the song writing on this album. I read somewhere about “Serpico” and about how it related to your friend’s father. Did you want to tell me more about that?
“Serpico” was a strange song because I’ve had the lyrics floating around in me for about six years and it was written right after a good friend of mine’s father killed himself and he was going through that and I was sort of experiencing him going through it. As with anything, it tied in my own personal emotions about other situations. None of my songs are literal or about one situation. It was a strange scenario and it had been floating around in my head for years so I decided to start a song about it.
When you have a situation like that and it’s in your head for so long, and you finally get it on the album, is it a release of it?
I think that’s a good way to put it. A lot of the songs on this record I think are releases. Some of them are dealing with themes that I’ve wanted to deal with for a while and have been afraid to. “Casual Users” is definitely a song that I wasn’t willing to write for a long time. “Tryst” and “The Soft Collision” are sort of a pair about two different phases of romantic relationships. In “Tryst” it’s sort of a relationship that’s gone, it’s sort of solidified and coagulated and an unmoving thing where as “Soft Collision” is about this break or whatever. These were all things that I was trying to deal with. This record is more about emotional states than were a lot of thinks that we’ve done in the past.
How’s the tour going so far?
Well, we’ve been doing so e dates around the country like in New York, San Francisco, and LA.
I actually caught you at the Limelight (NYC)
We’ll, I talked to Ray at Mammoth about that and he told me the story about it. What happened?
It was just a bad scene. Our gear was all rented gear and it showed up late and we were having problems with Foetus (opening band). I don’t want to go into specifics about it but it was a real nightmare of a show.
That was the only time I’ve ever seen you and it didn’t look like you guys were too happy up there.
We basically just filed up on the stage without ever having played that gear or but hopefully Buffalo will be better. We have our own gear this time.
Have you done any shows with Jim Rose yet?
We’ve done two so far.
How’s that going? It’s gotta be something funny.
It’s very strange to be sitting there and talking to this guy with a puzzle tattooed across his face and to realize at the same time that he’s actually a pretty down-to-earth nice guy. He just eats maggots and insects for a living. One of the reasons we wanted to do this purely for the sort of experience of seeing what these guys would do.
How long is the tour going on?
We’re doing eight dates with them and then some headlining stuff in November. This is more of a warm up thing for us.
Well, I’m really looking forward to seeing you here.
Hopefully we’ll be a less hellish show than the last one.