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enoughrec on 03/14/2013 at 05:28AM
Next in line in our series of interviews with Enough Records artists we caught up with João Pinheiro aka Johnny Hex. He lives in Lisbon, studies sound production and is involved with 3 projects endorsed by Enough Records: The dark ambient project Vysehrad, the oldschool EBM project U.M.M. and the harsh electronics project Control Alt Deus.
Hei Johnny, thanks for agreeing to do this interview! Can you tell us a little more about your background? I know you weren't originally studying sound production, can you tell us a little more about that? Did you finally decide to face your music artist dream head on? Or has it always been in your plans?
Well, I always had what people call a good ear. I never learned to play any instrument but the interest in sound was always there since the beginning. The developments of computer music software and the overall increase in accessibility to VSTs and DAWs was the moment I started to try my hand at music production.
Like everyone, my first "songs" were bad and sounded bad... Eventually, things got a bit better, the opportunity to make a real band presented itself and the rest is history...
When did you first get interested in producing music?
The interest was there but it wasn't easy in the beginning, this was pre Youtube and by then I had no access to the internet, so while some might say that working with music software is easier than with hardware, for me it was very hard in the beginning because I had to learn everything from scratch and had no one around to teach me. Equalizers, compressors, reverbs... All a mystery to me. Synths: even worse. The way I found that worked for me was doing covers of songs I liked back then (The Cure, Depeche Mode, new wave and darkwave, etc...) and try to see if I could make them sound as close as possible to the originals or do my songs but in the style of the mentioned bands. By doing that I learned about how to achieve "that" (the sound) using "this" (the tools).
So yeah, I bumped my head quite a few times and did lots of crappy eurodance and synth goth 2 minutes songs that are locked away on a tape or a cd somewhere.
Later on I realized my real love was not in being a "musician" (which I don't consider myself to be; I still don't know how to play an instrument, although I dabble in keyboards and drums). I became much more interested in the audio production part and sound design so I made the decision to go learn it in a school.
One of the things that surprised me about you when i first met you was that you're one of the few Portuguese guys who actually knows about the demoscene and trackers software. Do you actually use tracker software in music production? Can you tell us what's your current production setup?
I really like tracker music and the "sound" associated with it. I think that the limitations of the format make people work around problems more creatively.
One of my favorite musicians is Andrew Sega which most people know in the demoscene as Necros. Unfortunately, I'm not comfortable enough with trackers to use them in my music production. I once tried Renoise and was able to churn out some loops but I'm already too formatted to "traditional" DAWs to make the jump.
Right now I'm using Ableton Live Suite 8 for almost everything, although I sometimes still go back to FL Studio which was my first love since the beginning (I used since version 2, when it was called Fruity Loops). But usually that only happens when I need to rescue an old mix or song idea because Ableton has fulfilled all my needs for now.
The rest of my setup is: an M-Audio Fasttrack Pro USB and two KRK Rokit RP5G2 and 2 midi keyboards.
Control Alt Deus is one of the projects at Enough that we get the most positive feedback on. But you guys always seem to be coming and going out of activity. Can we expect something new from CAD at this point?
No, not really.
That's a shame. :( I know you always have a lot of different projects going. Which ones are you actively following at this point?
At this moment in time, only my solo Drum & Bass project (Mindphase) is currently active. I also have been doing some songs for mobile games as a separate project.
As for the remaining: CAD are over, U.M.M. and Vysehrad are in a hiatus. Whether they'll come back in the future time will tell.
You can always check my personal Soundcloud page for new stuff: http://soundcloud.com/dividebyzer0
And the website I have for sound design and music composition: http://divid3byzer0.wordpress.com/
How do you feel about the music industry at this point in time? I know you tried different approaches at different points in time. What do you feel is the best approach right now to reach a wider audience and get some monetization back?
This is my opinion: You want to make a living out of music? Do the most shallow, innocuous and bland (even if masquerading as "hardcore") crap and you'll do fine. Might be picked up for a cell phone ad or something. Looking "cool" and "alternative" is also a plus. If it's good and safe for nine o' clock radio, you're set.
Seriously, it was always like this, it's not just now that this happens. I really don't care that much about "mainstream" music and I couldn't care less if big record companies are struggling or not. What I feel sorry for are the smaller indie labels. Everyone needs to adapt to these new times and the internet was / is perhaps the biggest game changer in the history of pop music (pop music here in opposition of classical and chamber music). For me, artists that want to thrive now and in the future need to offer their music in an easy and accessible manner (I'm thinking Steam in the case of PC games). And with quality. Stop selling mp3s and AACs. They're good for street listening but if I'm buying a digital copy I want it to be with the same quality as the physical one. Sell WAV or FLAC (or ALAC, as long as the format is lossless) and keep the prices fair. Don't charge more for a lossless copy.
My idea is if artists want to have some investment back, they are in a position right now to have all the control they want over their product. I'm not saying no to indie labels, but if you want to be full in charge of your creations, you can do it. Of course, that equals LOTS of work and labels might help you with that. It depends on what you can or are willing to do beyond just producing music.
I know you are also involved organizing some events in Lisbon, can you tell us a little more about them and how have they been turning out?
Right now, I just DJ in a club here in Lisbon. Nothing too fancy, it's a small club, catering for the niche market of the so called "dark" sub-cultures (bear with me, I cringe a bit at that expression too). I have been doing 2 more or less regular nights with two other friends: one called TechNoir in which we play mostly dark-ish and dancy electronic stuff be it Industrial, EBM, Drum & Bass, etc... And the other called Bumper Car Night, which is basically, let's just have some fun and listen to 90s Eurodance and techno (which kinda resembles some Industrial / EBM / Future Pop nowadays to be honest hahah).
A few months ago i was talking with Thisco and Soundfactory guys about the idea of using crowdfunding platforms to fund a This Is Industrial PT 2 compilation with physical CD and a couple of release concerts, while being able to actually pay the artists for their contribution. The general opinion was that it wouldn't really work out in Portugal because the scene is so small and all the people are low on money as it is thanks to our beloved government supporting the financial crisis. Do you think such a project could actually succeed?
To be honest, the prospect of doing a second This Is Industrial PT doesn't make any sense to me. Back when we did the first one, we had a small scene yes, but as small as it was, there was a sense of "community" grounded perhaps on the defunct IndustrialPT forum and the somewhat regular parties and concerts that occurred here and there, in different venues, with different djs, and everybody got a bit of everything: some liked more old-school stuff, they'd get to hear it; others liked the more modern stuff, they'd get to hear too; others liked more experimental music, there was also a space for that too. All these types of music where represented in the first compilation.
The present situation is this: there is no scene (as in 0). The people scattered. There are no regular venues the same way they were before. Concerts: same thing. And worst of all there is no community. Yeah of course, there are "communities" of people that usually go to this club or the other, but it's not the same thing as we had in the past that didn't belong to two or three people, or a place, or a band. There is no "Industrial PT".
I'm not sure i fully agree with that analysis but i understand where you're coming from. :) Anyways, that's all i have for now! Thanks for answering my questions.
Thank you Filipe for your continuous support and I wish all the best to you and Enough Records!
enoughrec on 02/01/2013 at 02:25AM
We got in touch with Graham Jackson to ask him some questions about this project The Silence Industry (tSI). The self-titled debut album of tSI was released at Enough in 2007. A few other released by tSI can be found on fellow netlabels Ekleipsi and afmusic.
Hello Graham. To kick things off can you tell us a little bit about you and your project The Silence Industry? When was it founded and how did it came to see the light of day?
The Silence Industry started in mid 2006 or so after having played in several other projects which imploded for whatever reason. I was just anxious and excited to keep making music really, so it was never a question of whether or not there would be a new project, I just had to settle on a concept and a name which I'm very happy with after 6 years. While I'm the driving force behind it, songwriter, vocalist, producer etc. I don't really consider it a solo project. There have been lots of people involved in it in varying capacities from day 1, and my life-partner is now also lending her voice all over the tracks here and there. As for how it came to see the light of day, I just got into home recording and netlabels and haven't looked back!
What is your primary drive behind using Creative Commons licenses? Did you just get tired of dealing with the commercial aspect of the music industry or did you just like the copyleft concept of other people being free to reuse and remix your works?
I have several drives behind using CC licenses. I did get very tired of dealing with the commercial aspect of music, and that was a very deliberate decision in founding tSI. I find that everyone is much more pleasant to deal with while there is no money involved. Also, for the most part, the amount of money in underground/weird music is so inconsequential that it's simply not worth it. Most likely you can't make a living off of doing this sort of music, so it seems to me like netlabels/CC is a great fit. I'd rather have more people be able to access and listen to my music with as few barriers as possible. That and, yes, I do quite like the open source movement, as well as copyleft. I can only hope that people find enough interest in my music to re-use and remix tSI. CC and copyleft aren't really all that subversive on their own, but I do think they offer a positive vision for the future.
I believe your release through Enough Records was actually the debut album of the project, back in June 2007. Do you recall how you found Enough Records and why you thought we would be a cool label to release with?
GJ Our release with Enough was the debut album of the project. I found Enough Records by researching what netlabels were releasing interesting dark-ish music. I really liked the dark-ambient stuff that Enough had put out especially, and Enough seemed to be releasing a pretty diverse catalogue. Open minded-ness and cross pollination of ideas are always good things in music as far as I'm concerned, so it seemed like it would be worth a shot. I often get quite frustrated with getting stuck in an overly-specific scene. Enough seemed to have sort-of the opposite approach, while still maintaining a certain continuity and identity, which I really liked.
I remember i really liked the unique character of your tracks back then, and i still play them to this day. Initially they sound like standard goth rock, but they have this certain embroidering aspect to them that really turns them into something different. One of the factors that made me like your music was also the somewhat unconventional use of sampling in a genre of music which doesn't typically use them. At the time i recall we had some difficulty coining it, you called it psychedelic in a sense i believe. Can you tell us a little more about that process? How did you get into this kind of sound?
I definitely enjoy unconventional uses of sampling. I've enjoyed experimental electronic and ambient music for quite a long time, and so in one sense those elements were really something that worked their way into my stuff quite organically. I like those sorts of sounds so why not use them?
In addition to that, one of the things I really like about reverb and delay drenched post-punk records from their heyday is the sense of not knowing precisely what you're hearing at any given moment, while still having a vague general sense and sort-of letting the listener's imagination fill in the gaps. The 1st Chameleons record is great for this, and while I think that a large part of this is simply a reflection of the recording process these bands had available to them at the time, that sort of spacey sound left a pretty big mark on my musical psyche. It occurred to me to use unconventional sampling here and there, not to simply repeat dialogue from movies up way front in the mix (as has become common and fairly boring in unimaginative industrial music), but rather to help in creating a bit of an atmosphere of confusion that sparks the listener's curiosity and imagination. I still think psychedelic is a good way to describe these elements of our sound.
I also amuse myself with my sources. I like sampling dialogue from people whose views are diametrically opposed from mine, slow it down and play it backwards buried in the mix as an incredibly passive-aggressive insult to them. I won't mention names here.
So quite apart from that, while The Silence Industry's process can and does vary a fair bit from time to time, most of the time songs start just fairly traditionally on guitar, then the guitar parts usually turn into bass parts, drum programs follow, then new guitar parts arrive, noise, and then vocal arrangements. Somewhere along the line all of these parts usually get critically examined and turned inside out here and there. The whole song is usually written before it starts getting tracked, but things are still played with a fair bit during this process, especially the noise elements and vocal arrangements. That being said, we are still trying new things all the time. For example look for completely unquantized drums on our next release.
A few years have passed since then. Looking back now, can you tell us the advantages and disavantages of your musical process? Do you still follow the same methods? How did you evolve technically?
The main disadvantage of our creative process is that it takes a while. It is usually next to impossible to do something instantly and entirely spontaneously. That's why I enjoy doing improvisational jams with friends whenever I get the chance, just to keep that balance in my musical life. The process mentioned above is the current process. Initially I don't really think that we had a process which was cool in a sense that it allowed for a lot of messing around, but we were still finding our sound and that lack of a process usually just led to trying to do too much too soon while an idea was still taking shape. So I guess, the way in which our process has changed can really be boiled down to gaining the maturity to know that "I'll get to that part when I get to it"!
Have you been playing live? What's your local scene like?
We haven't played live in a little while but we plan to again at some point. We have had some really good shows, and plenty of not so good ones. I hate to be the stick in the mud, but I can't really say all that much good stuff for our local scene. There's a lot of bands, not that many venues, and plenty of attitudes. We've played some shows with some really good people, but I'd say that overall the vibe is very negative. Also, I like playing mixed bills with very different sounding bands, and these usually go over better than a lot of people would expect, but they are very hard to put together because a lot of the people who book the shows aren't terribly open minded. Still, playing live is a lot of fun and we plan on doing it again once the logistics become more feasible for us.
Listening to your other releases, the ones released through Ekleipsi and afmusic, your sounds still manage to maintain their unique character, can you tell us a little more about what composing means to you? What's your appeal to this particular aesthetic approach?
Yeah, I think there's a continuity there. All that it really means is that the Silence Industry hasn't come to mean anything completely different to me than it did initially, but there's a lot of growth I think from release to release. For me composing is a lot of things. Primarily it's an outlet, but it's also a craft, a nerdy hobby, an intellectual pursuit, and a way of communicating with the world.
Our sonic esthetic has really just become second nature to me. Simply part of how I relate to the world, so much to the point that I don't think about it much, as it's just a natural product of my thoughts about the world, my emotions and musical influences. Bearing in mind that all of these things change over time, although they haven't done so drastically for us. This can be a bad thing in certain situations, but we're nowhere near out of ideas or ways to grow and challenge ourselves at this point, so I don't feel like I need to completely rethink everything any time soon.
Do you have other side projects?
I sometimes do experimental pieces and remixes of tSI tracks just for my own entertainment. We released a couple on our latest EP. I expect to do a bit more of this here and there. Also as I mentioned earlier I like doing improv weird music. With all of the other pressures of real life I think that's about as much as I can handle at the moment.
You mentioned you're working on some new material, but that it might not even be finished until 2014, can you tell us a little more on your plan? Are you trying something different or have a specific idea? Or are you just making some more tracks and seeing where you end up?
It's not that there's some grandiose vision of a concept double-album or anything like that, it's just that it takes that long for us to write and record 5 or so songs really. We're off to a good start already though! It may come together sooner than that, I'm just trying to be realistic.
We're sort of just making more tracks and seeing where they end up, although we do have a few ideas for the directions we'd like to push in. I'd like to try to make things sound a little bit more futuristic without using synths at all, just unconventional sampling, guitar, bass and drum machine. More prog-rock influences. A bit more minimal here and there. More female vox. More weirdness. That's just a random smattering of ideas though, and nothing's 100% at this point.
I'm all out of questions. Thanks for your time! Any last words?
This has been a very fun and revealing interview! We're looking forward to the next release with Enough Records!