Asylem 1996 Interview with Mike Fisher
by Michael Caradonna
“We’re playing for a different type of audience now,” explains Mike Fisher, keyboardist for Machines of Loving Grace during a phone-in interview. Their current tour with the heavy metal band Korn was coming to a close and it had been a different experience from earlier tours.
“We played one gig that was moved from a large venue to a small one that turned into a real nightmare. There was something like eleven hundred people trying to cram into a bar that was suitable for six hundred or seven hundred. It got so packed with people that it literally became impossible to get from one side of the room to the other. People started to leave after fifteen minutes into the Korn set due to heat exhaustion. I think someone got their nose broken and a girl got her leg busted.”
These kinds of antics are quite a transition from previous tours in which they opened for more low key performers such as Peter Murphy. But then, MLG should be accustomed to transition. Their new cd, Gilt, has a more traditional hard rock sound then their first two releases. Keyboards and dance beats have been toned down while guitars are much more prevalent. “I wanted to change the character of the new album,” Mike explains. “When we recorded (the previous album) Concentration we did a lot of sample looping and a lot of cutting and pasting with the songs. What we found when we played that material live was that it had a cohesiveness and an intensity to it that we felt we hadn’t captured on the record. So, we approached the recording of Gilt differently. Rather than recording each of our parts separately we recorded it as a band with everyone performing simultaneously in a room which is how a lot of other records are recorded but its something we’d never done.”
With the move away from a cyber/industrial sound comes the risk of losing fans who would not accept the change. “It is something we discussed but we didn’t want it to become a factor in the creation of the record. The conclusion we came to was, yes some people might think of this as a casting off of our initial direction but we can’t take into account everyone’s opinion. We aren’t making records for the benefit of every single individual person listening to it. We have to do what we’re going to do as a band. That is something of a risk and it remains to be seen entirely how it will be perceived.”
Another risk taken by any band utilizing synthesizers and samplers is the distancing of the music and the artists from the listening audience. Critics of electronic music often describe it as cold and lacking in emotion, similar to a stolid, sterilized room which is both uninviting and providing no comfort. Mike disagrees with the assertion that technology distances the music and emotion from the audience but it can distance the artist from his inspiration. “I believe that it is possible to create keyboard textures and to use technology to create sounds which are emotionally evocative. But I think the danger with using technology is that you mask the creativity in layers of technology for its own sake. You have to be careful in how you use it. It can become burdensome in its sheer scale and complexity. You have endless possibilities and you can become deluded in the technical aspects and lose sight of the original inspiration. It can take ten years to decide whether to use keyboard sound number one or keyboard sound number eight hundred forty-one.”
Perhaps the most important change for MLG can be found in Scott Benzel’s lyrics. Previously, the songs featured little in the way of personal experience opting instead for general rants against societal ills and excursions into nihilism. “There’s been an evolution in our song writing process as a band. The lyrical content for the first record was just a collection of words thrown together for their own sake. The songs weren’t necessarily about anything. I think we’ve come a long way with Gilt. Not only are the songs about specific events and people but about very personal things. I think it gives us a broader emotional range. Overall, the underlining theme of Gilt is absolution. It’s a more personal and introverted album than Concentration.”
As for the near future, MLG hope to release a remix album making commercial available for the first time mixes by Mark Pistol and Jack Dangerous from Meat Beat Manifesto and Consolidated of “Butterfly Wings” as well mixes by Die Warzau and others.