BLAKMOTH is a modular artist who`s part of a small but hopefully growing group of artists who works towards showing a different and darker side of the world of modular based music.
While a good amount of such music tends to be generative, ambient-esque bleeps, bloops and often on the ligher side of things BLAKMOTH composes dark, doomy, gloomy yet rhythmic creations within his own, self-made world of what he calls “Doombient” music.
I got in touch with BLAKMOTH after having seen, listened to and admired his style for a little while now to find out what his thoughts and creative process is.
Could you introduce yourself to our readers to start this of?
Hello my name is Jack and I create music under the name Blakmoth.
How long has BLAKMOTH been around and what inspired you to create this?
I’ve been creating music as Blakmoth for about 5 years now. I’ve always created music but wasn’t inspired to do it professionally until I saw my daughters love for music
You just released an album entitled “Deathshead” your name is Blakmoth, your Bandcamp subscription service is called Cult Of The Moth, is there any particular reason or symbolism regarding the constant moth reference?
Moths are kinda like my spirit animal. I wanted a name that had a tribalism like vibe that represented that and my personality and sound. Which has a dark overtone that seemingly chases the light.
Your music isn`t what most people associate with modular synthesizer i.e ambient bleeps and bloops. What made you go down the darker, grittier path?
I did it not only to be unique but also inspire others to think outside the box. I feel like it’s become an aesthetic with modular to just grab some plucky sounds and make generative patches. Not everyone is doing that but as I scroll through social media I hear a lot of the same sound and vibe and it gets repetitive. I wanted to bring a different narrative to the table.
When you switch your system on, do you tend to have an idea of what you want to create or do you rely more on “happy accidents” ?
Never. It often starts with a drone or some sound designing. I often find inspiration in that sound and build on that.
If I were to pick out one module I associate with you it would have to be the Manis Iteritas from Noise Engineering. How has NE`s creations shaped your sound and what is it about them that attracts you?
That’s a perfect association. When going for that doombient sound Manis fit the mold so well so much so I built a whole 88hp rack around one module. For me it’s the playability and feature richness of Noise Engineering’s modules.
Looking through your release one might notice you release new music quite often both for the public as well as your monthly singles collections for subscribers. How much time do you spend composing?
Composing is life! Seriously though, 6-8 hours a day. Sometimes a whole day. When I’m working on albums.
You`ve carved out your own little sound called “Doombient”. What are the key components of this sound in your own words?
Doombient is composed of dark brooding atmospherics and textures. There’s also a rhythmic component that may come from drums or the drone itself. The idea came about because I wanted to push ambient into a darker space. Be the complete opposite of bleep bloops and plucks.
If someone came by your house, what music would they find you listening to?
Doomjazz, or some of my favorite social media friends. I listen to the people I follow most of all.
You`ve recently joined Errorgrid Records who`s quickly becoming the host of some of the greatest up and coming darkly inclined electronic artists. What plans do you have with them going forwards?
In the near future I have a release November 6th. Over the long term I plan to keep growing artistically and stay prolific.
The space is below is yours to use for whatever you feel like wether it be shout-outs, music reccomandations, a favourite quote, anything.
If I had advise to give it would be this, stay true to your self. Success doesn’t come from imitating others. Find what makes you unique and push that no matter if you have 5 fans or 10k. Just be you. Don’t compete with anyone but yourself and find inspiration in that.
Follow BLAKMOTH and hear his music via the following links:
During the countless hours I`ve spent scrolling through various modular related tags on Instagram and searching through similar tags of Bandcamp I one day stumbled upon ERRORGRID RECORDS. A record label wholly dedicated to highlighting the darker side of electronic music which just so happens to feature a vast array of modular synth based artists.
While looking through their profile and listening to the artist currently on their roster I instantly fell in love with them and they are now one of my absoloute favourite and most trusted labels which I feel is something not so common these days. It`s not that long ago that people relied on very specific labels to provide them with great music and often subscribed to them in some shape or form where in return they would receice each release that label put out. Of course, with the digital era taking over this became a bit of a lost art although I do want to point out that it does still exist out there and ERRORGRID is absoloutely a label I would subscribe to as such.
I was presented with the opportunity to talk to Olivier who runs the label together with his wife and of course jumped at it immediatly. What follow is my conversation with ERRORGRID regarding their mission statement, upcoming releases and more!
Olivier was kind enough to offer a free download of any ERRORGRID album to the first 10 people who send an email about what ERRORGRID is to them so definetly take advantage of this opportunity, find their email at the end of the interview.
Start off by introducing yourself and give us a short explanation of what you do.
My name is Olivier. I am a Swiss living in Southern California. I run an electronic music project called “Nundale” and have recently founded a label called Errorgrid Records together with my wife Vira. –
The idea of starting a record label in this digital age might seem absurd to some. What inspired you to go this route?
Why absurd? But then again, I love absurd things, so maybe yeah, this is absurd for some, which doesn’t bug me too much. If you go by the traditional definition of what a label is then it probably sounds like starting a pizzeria: there are too many of them and it sounds like you are too late to the game if you start one today.
But Errorgrid Records is more of a community platform than what is commonly understood as a label. I don’t believe in institutions in the traditional sense. I believe in building communities that produce value. In that respect I think that Errorgrid can bring a fresh perspective into an old game. We are essentially looking to build our own market that stands apart from the label world
.The inspiration is as mentioned above: to create a platform where amazing artists that obsess over quality and intention in their art can express themselves without restrictions and fear. Maybe it is a little punk of me to say this, but having experienced the restrictions that come with genre-focused labels, I wanted to create something that is extremely free while being extremely niche. There is too much confusion of genre out there, the music industry has gotten too stuck up because they believe their listeners are stuck up. But they are not. We are here to give the people what they need, not what they want.-
You seem to focus on the darker aspects of electronic music and appear to have a penchant for signing modular based artists. What is it about modular synthesis that you find so intriguing?
That is a false impression that many have of us and I am happy to set the record straight: I am a opponent of gear fetishism, even though I love gear. But to celebrate gear over the artist’s intention and the impact of the output is plain wrong. No one cares about the brush Picasso used or the sticks Dave Grohl plays drums with. If we focus on what music is and can do, we fade out the instrument and the process and we focus on the raw nature of emotionality. This is how I choose my artists. I would never go out and look specifically for musicians who use modular synths. But however there is a strong connection between the freedom that a modular system can give you and the kind of freedom I seek to find for the music I release. So it is not surprising that many of them happen to use this instrument for what they do. But Sleep Clinic who is an incredible musician with an ear for finesse and balance, mainly resorts to table top boxes while Tom Hall is a wizard inside the box with MaxMSP. I am ready to sign someone who uses nothing but crappy 80s Casio keyboards if I feel his heart and intentions are in the right place.
One of my favourite artists on your label has to be TL3SS, I know there`s something coming out on ERRORGRID soon , why don`t you tell us a little about that?
Crushing Me, his first release with us, just dropped last week. It includes the original edit as well as gorgeous remixes by the likes of Sleep Clinic, Synth Witch, Michael Idehall and Depressive. An incredibly deep and dark sonic painting. So proud of this. –
How did the name come about, what exactly is “ErrorGrid” ?
There is belief that lives inside of what I do with music. And it is that we humans tend to put a grid over everything around us. I call this quantization of reality. We take something that is natural and turn it into an electronic representation of itself so we can save, store, recall and study it. It makes it easier for us to navigate our lives. But when we do this, we introduce errors into the data. The representation of nature is never as perfect as nature itself. I firmly believe that electronic music can represent this the best, by celebrating this technical distance and creating a new reality. In that respect it is both an ode and a cautionary tale to our ways and what technology can do. –
It may just be due to being part of the very nichè community you appeal to, that being darkly inclined electronic musician, but it seems like you`re growing exponentially and have done so in a short amout of time. What do you attribute this to?
You are right, being highly focused and aligned with the mission you are about makes you more relevant to the group of people you intend on serving. I learnt the hard way that being unfocused and not standing for something that is very clear and simple makes it nearly impossible to move forward efficiently. The first thing I send to an artist I am interested in signing is my mission statement. It explains very clearly what my intentions are and why I am doing this. If there is a disconnection at this stage, we are not moving forward. I think this is the key to growth. –
As we mentioned earlier, we live in the digital era, the era of daw`s and soft synths where the need to spend absurd amounts of money to build a modular wall with a web of patch cables seems ridiculous, and yet there`s definetly a revival of this form of creating. Would you say this is simply a form of rebellion against the more modern day methods of composing or do you feel there might be something about working in such a physical manner with an instrument that just can not be captured by their digital versions?
Oh man, the old conversation about hardware and software, in the box, out of the box, or apple and microsoft, atari and amiga. I don’t believe in the supremacy of any technology. There is no best tool, only the right tool for the job. And if you find the right tool it becomes an extension of yourself in bringing out what needs to be said. However I am observing a worrying amount of gear craziness that has nothing to do with musical expression. And these people often engage in absurd conversations over esoteric buttons and functions and whatnot in forums. It creates a weird non-music subculture. It’s probably indicative of our times, I don’t know. It’s dangerous that so much is available right now. And if you have an addictive mind and the money then you go down the rabbit hole. But by all means, if it is in your heart to make music and you have the opportunity, search until you have found what works for you. –
There is a secret collab project scheduled for November, any chance you might let some information about this slip out?
I can’t comment on that because I don’t know anything concrete. –
Are you involved in music beyond running the label and if so, where might we find it?
As a long time director for advertising I have been involved in creating music and scores for all kinds of visual work, also I have my project Nundale which is where I am focusing my musical energy to. You can find some stuff on the usual platforms, but there has been a strong shift lately which has caused me to wipe a lot of my older work. –
As someone who`s always done things the DIY way, sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessecity, I know very well how difficult any artistic endevours can be these days. What keeps you from giving up? What do you tell yourself or think of in moments where you feel like it`s all too much to handle?
I think it is mostly in the semantics here: It is not about “not giving up”, it’s about “keeping pushing.” It is not easy to manage 10 artists within a label and bootstrap everything from the ground up, especially when you are running two other businesses. But what really keeps me going is the incredible bond we have formed within the Errorgrid family, the support and human values we are fostering. I love seeing how this is much more than an organization, it is a community of like minded individuals brought together by the same love. And this is payment and confirmation enough. I go back to this whenever I feel overwhelmed. I used to be signed to other labels, and there was always this invisible wall between the participants which kept us all at a distance. Our culture is different. We nurture it like a group of real friends. –
Do you enjoy any forms of music which isn`t electronic?
It is hard to draw the line because for a while a lot of music has been crossing into the electronic realm. I am very fond of older French hiphop because of my french roots and the raw power in it. There is a level of honesty in the production of mid 90s hiphop that is rare nowadays. Also I have a soft spot for death metal. I have been playing the drums for over 3 decades and was fortunate enough to play in several really bad but extremely fun death metal combos. It’s just rawness of expression. I grew up listening to the usual suspects like Bolt Thrower, Cathedral, Carcass and Morbid Angel. And I still like to go to concerts every once in a while. Last year I saw Meshuggah here in LA, and it was the most exhilarating and amazing live experience in forever. Pure polyrhythmic math with drums, guitars and vocals. Simply stunning what the human mind and body is capable to do. If they were down to do a collab I would jump at the occasion. –
In your mission statement it is said you seek to foster an inspiring dialogue with the audience, what exactly do you want such a dialogue to inspire?
I don’t like one way communication. The very definition of valuable communication is a two way dialogue. There should not be a wall between listener and creator. It should be fluid. I am saddened that because of the current situation we can’t have live events, because that would be the best way to celebrate audience integration. I don’t like to keep listeners in the dark. I don’t like to be secretive and hold back. I love it when people reach out to me and ask things or have inputs. Also when someone sends their demo, I usually respond within 24 hours. Sure, we are small and new, so we can do that, but it’s a question of respect: This person loves what we do so much that they are willing to give us the responsibility to spread their art. How fucking cool and humbling is that? Such a dialogue will make Errorgrid more a project built by EVERYONE who’s with us. I want everyone to have a stake in it. I want everyone to feel like they are an Errorgridian because they contribute. And even if it’s just with a line of text or a simple download or an emoji on Instagram. –
Besides the TL3SS release we already mentioned what will come from ErrorGrid in the near “present future” as it were ?
We have Johno Wells’ “Adjust Index” IDM release which is just around the corner. Followed by Sleep Clinic. All I can say right now is that we will pump out releases for the remaining of the year. And there might be one or two surprises along the way. We will see. –
Your roster is currently full but where might artists who feel they would fit into the world of ErrorGrid submit their art and when would you say is a good time for such?
By now you might have a good sense that I am running this pretty much myself with the occasional support of my amazing but also very busy wife. Handling 10 artists is really all we can do right now. Because I have an obsessive focus on quality, which also means quality of communication, I don’t want to stretch myself thin. However I love hearing submission from people who are interested in joining us in the future. I keep tabs on everyone who does so. And I really hope that I can expand sometime soon. –
What do you look for when you`re searching for an artist to sign? What are your criteria for finding someone or something interesting enough to bestow them with the blessings of being an ErrorGrid artist?
This is a tricky questions because it tends to distort what people submit or keep good people from submitting. All I am looking for is dedication and intention. I have a bullshit radar that is pretty refined by now, or so I think. When someone is trying to sound like someone else than who they are, I immediately tune out. I seek originality and boldness. I seek honesty in expression. If you have pain and a story to tell, if you can’t help but write music to calm that voice inside of you, if you too have a mission you follow with your music, then I am down to listen. I don’t care if it’s 400 or 4bpm. Just don’t send me any 4 to the floor and dubstep stuff. That’s where I lose my openness, yeah I am biased. Hah. –
The space below if yours, feel free to promote anything you have coming up, leave a message, shout outs, reccomend some music or anything else you want to say!
I think I speak for everyone trying to make a difference in today’s music industry, no matter what genre they are in, if I encourage everyone actively looking to support musicians, artists and the organizations that help them put their art out, to listen and buy their music on Bandcamp. Try to avoid the industrial farming in music as much as you can. I know, it might be an extra step for some, but it strengthens the value chain for everyone so much. With Bandcamp we see support and appreciation right when it happens. And it keeps us going. With other platforms it takes months and cuts deep into the returns. This is a reality for everyone making music. Lastly I want to express my deepest gratitude to the people who have been with us and who joined us. Your support means more than I can say and because of you we will keep doing what we do and we will do it even better as we continue. Check out our current catalogue and go on a journey of inspiring darkness with us.
ERRORGRID RECORDS can be found via the following links:
W/O [Pronounced: wwithout] is a musical project lead by fellow S & S contributor Hunter.
The music serves as an exorcism, a purging necesarry for survival. One might look at Hunter`s outputs wether that be W/O or Charn as a coping mechanism born from existing in a world that seems to fall deeper and deeper into a bottomless pit for each day.
I reviewed one of Hunters albums not too long but I also wanted to get their perspective and poke around in their brain and see what I might stumble across.
Why don`t you start off with telling us who you are and what you do?
So my name is Hunter and I make music under the monikers w/o (wwithout) and charn. w/o has more lore cause of the violent nature of some of the earlier sets and my tendency to draw blood and roll around on the floor covered in leaves, lol. I guess the central theme and what ties the works together is the desperate struggle to make the world just feel fucking okay for five seconds. Idk. Sometimes it works and hopefully people besides me feel less alone at least for a moment when listening to it. That also kind of ties into the obsession with the concept of heaven and belonging.
Charn is a newer project. Ive been listening to a lot of suicidal depressive black metal, especially during the cold months and it really inspired me to make something in the same vein. Its more conceptual cause its based on the Chronicles of Narnia universe, specifically the long winter (hence the album name “Always Winter, Never Christmas) but the theme is more a tool to talk about universal concepts like suffering and sacrifice and unconditional love.
– How long have you been doing W/O and what inspired you to make music?
I’ve been making music under the name wwithout since about 2015. I had a few other names before that and put out some depressive folk type shit but nothing really that notable in my opinion. I started making music as a creative outlet to get my feelings out and umm it’s cliché but music and art have just been the most compelling thing to me ever since I was little so I always wanted to do this.
– Is there a meaning to the name W/O ?
Yea, just w/o as in without, as in being without something; a reference to poverty in all its forms be it material or spiritual.
– While alot of your music could be put under the Trap label there`s still a variety to it where you don`t seem to repeat yourself and you incorporate more experimental techniques n your sound, what do you attribute this to?
I think I just have a diversity of influences and like experimenting and expressing myself in a diversity of ways. Its not really intentional. It just happens that way.
– You have a tendency to write very short songs, is there any particular reason behind this?
Not really, lol. Some people attribute it to poor songwriting skills and maybe that’s partially true but I think more so, its just based on me not being interested in some sort of orthodox songwriting process or like appealing to some certain demographic that wants every song to be between 3 and 4 and a half minutes for premium listening or whatever the fuck.
– There`s a certain sombreness to alot of your songs, yet there seems to be some small slivers of hope slipping through every now and then. Would you say making music or generally being creative is something you utilize in a more therapeutic way?
Absolutely, yea. The majority of it is born out of adversity and isolation and just trying to grasp and come to terms with the unrelentingly harsh realities of life and death. The work is me working through and having a dialogue with the voices in my head that tell me to kill myself amongst other things, and I do feel better and more at peace after putting pen to paper.
– Is there any plans for the future, new music or anything of that sort?
Yea def! I live in NYC now and am interested in working with and collaborating with artists of all disciplines out here. Being here in winter and being alone most of the time and cold and broke were, in hindsight, kind of the ideal conditions to write “Always Winter, Never Christmas” in. I would like to utilize more bells and more original choral arrangements and pained breathing sounds in my future work.
Also I have a Charn single coming out in September on Spotify so that’s something.
Tommy Creep is a modular artist who I feel I can relate to a bit more than most due to his darker take on the art of modular synth based music as well as introducing elements of the punk and metal culture into this world.
I stumbled upon his music by pure chance as I often do and discovered someone who seems to work in ways very similar to myself as well as holding on the DIY ideals of yesteryear that so many seem to have traded in for the conveniency of the digital era.
Tommy isn`t just a musican, he`s a true artist. Creator of the zine Black Panels Only and pioneering the patch blind panel I just had to talk to the guy and do what I can to spread the word as it were.
How did you discover modular synths and what attracted you to it?
I got into electronic music and synths through the Game Boy music/chiptune scene. Between bands, I was looking for a way to create and perform solo that didn’t involve an acoustic guitar and saw videos of people performing live with just a Game Boy through a PA and loved the simplicity and anti-music feel of it. Eventually I got into hardware synths and modular always seemed like the ultimate end-goal. Being able to choose whatever modules appeal to you and create a unique system that feels really personal was one of the main attractions, I don’t think you can really achieve that in the same way with other synths. I’ve since sold all my other synths to buy more modules, I still have my Game Boys though!
Your music is “inspired by horror and the occult” how exactly do these things influence your work, are you a practitioner of any spiritual path?
I spent years playing in horrorpunk bands, where lyrically everything was about horror but musically it wasn’t really different from any other punk. Since getting into electronic music, i’ve focussed on trying to make music that creates the images that the lyrics used to. I’m not a spiritual person at all, for me it’s more about trying to create an atmosphere in the music that evokes a sense of unease and curiosity. I enjoy listening to music by artists for whom their spirituality and ritual is a big part of the music they make but I also think immersive music can provide a similar response even if you don’t hold any particular beliefs yourself.
You create the zine “Black Panels Only” you`re about to release the second issue, what drove you to starting this?
I wanted to cover Eurorack but from a different perspective and show some appreciation for some of the darker-themed synth-makers and artists out there and i’d always wanted to make a zine, I love the creativity in working on page layouts and designing for print. Also some great A5 zines have come out over the past few years, like Becoming the Forest, Hellebore and Weird Walk that served as great inspiration.
Why do black panels look so superior?
I think it just creates a totally different feel overall. A completely silver-panelled system looks cool too, with a more scientific, evil lab vibe but I think the black panels make the graphics pop more and suit better suit some of the more out-there designs and noisier modules.
What do you think is the ideal setting to listen to your music? Paint us a picture.
I’m lucky to live in Bristol, where we’ve got access to some really cool old churches and less-typical venues that let us put on gigs. The medieval stonework looks amazing lit up and creates a great contrast with the electronic instruments. That’s the ideal setting for the music, it turns it into an immersive experience, the audience doesn’t have to work as hard to picture a dungeon or an old castle when you’re halfway there already. Listening at home- candles and incense help- the music at the moment is fairly minimal, so it really benefits from some other factors to accentuate the ritualistic atmosphere.
Are you fully modular based or do you include other hardware/software in your compositions?
I do everything in the modular, then just record the stereo output straight into a digital recorder. Something about doing everything in one-take, with no overdubs feels more authentic to me, but i’m not a perfectionist at all so I can live with little mistakes and imperfections that arise from doing it that way.
What inspires your song titles?
Usually after i’ve finished a release i’ll spend a day listening back to the tracks and researching the themes that inspired them, keeping an eye out for phrases that fit. The last two tapes, The Search for the Sulphurous Well and A Plane of Deprivation, explore concepts of death and hell in various cultures/spiritualities and literature.
You have a Black Panels Only patch which doubles as a blind panel, what gave you the idea to do this and how was the response?
I wanted to make a blind panel but don’t know anything about CAD software, so was trying to think of other materials you could make one out of- my first idea was a panel-sized sticker with corner holes, so it could be used as a blank or as a sticker, but I figured it’d probably be too flimsy. A patch seemed like a fun idea, if it would work, it fits with the black-metal/punk aesthetic of the zine and I wanted to bring some of that culture to the Eurorack scene. I think it works pretty well, it’s just a bit of a pain to screw in as they’re not at all rigid. Haven’t seen anyone actually sew one onto a vest jacket yet but I hope that happens at some point!
What`s next? Any plans for the future or are things just too dim to think there even is a future?
BPO Issue 2 is out within the next couple of weeks, along with a restock of Issue 1, then Issue 3 will be the Autumn/Samhain issue so i’ve got some really cool ideas for that. Outside of the zine, i’m just enjoying making noise on the modular for now and experimenting with improvising sets direct to tape and will get gigging again as soon that becomes possible.
The space below is for you to use however you wish, shout outs, leave a message, music recommendations or whatever else you want to say.
Check out Blood & Dust who featured in Issue 1 – they’re an awesome folk horror duo combining modular, cello and field recordings in an incredible way. They’ve got a few tracks online now and an album coming out very soon.
Shout out to Serpens Modular, Error Instruments and ERD for making some of my favourite modules and inspiring me to make the zine in the first place!
Ritual Aesthetic is one of the better things to come from the industrial scene in recent years. Originally a solo project by Sean Ragan started up to give rise to his own voice after being the drummer and thus taking the back seat for a number of years RA eventually grew into a fully fledged band.
I got in touch with Sean to investiage (or interrogate?) the results of which is on display below where we discuss the possible divine origins of inspiraton, working with Chris Vrenna for their upcoming album and much much more!
Start off with giving us a quick summary of the band. How long have you been around and who`s involved?
Ritual Aesthetic has been around for 6 years as an entity but only 3 years as a true band so I truly only consider us to be 3 years old. Originally it was just something I did just to vent creative energy while spending time in other bands and I didn’t do anything with it beyond releasing songs.
I truly view the band as being 3 years old with its real birth being marked from the point of finding members to create a full band and performing our first live shows. Currently it is myself, Vance Valenzuela of the incredible Blackened Death Metal band Vale Of Pnath, Mack Barrow and Nicholas Klinger. Ritual Aesthetic has had somewhat of a set of revolving doors concerning live members and I have accepted that this format is what suits it best. I prefer to collaborate in the moment with other artists who have projects of their own who can bring their unique talents to the table with whatever their primary instrument is. Vance and I had known each other for years and years and the timing of life put us on the same path together and it made sense to forge something together through the lens of Ritual Aesthetic.
You`ve got two albums out so far , Decollect (2014) and Wound Garden (2018). While sonically different you can still tell that it`s Ritual Aesthetic. To what do you attribute your, for lack of a better term, genre shifting, and where do you think you`ll go with the next release?
The genre shifting present in our two releases is just a direct reflection of being a big fan of different genres that share certain parallels and becoming easily bored with the same reoccurring sound. Metal and all offshoots of Industrial are my absolute favorite two genres and as I grew up listening to the two I would always find myself somewhat disappointed with wishing I could find more bands marrying the two together. I think they compliment each other beautifully and can bring out qualities in each other that only exist when they’re together.
With our next album, it was an intention of mine early on to take both the Metal elements and Industrial elements and push them farther in intensity than I have done on an album ever before. Early on I knew I wanted the album to have much more labor intensive guitar work and much moreabrasive and present electronic elements. I knew I wanted both to lead equally as intense at differing times rather than using either as layering pieces that cast an overall vibe. The perfect way to describe our next album without being able to hear it is that the intensity and violenceof the differing genre sounds have been strongly increased. I want the core fans of both worlds to be able to enjoy it equally and find they’ve come to appreciate something new in a genre they maybe haven’t explored before and for them to see that the other side isn’t all one boring way.
Speaking of the next release, any idea when we might hear that?
We were originally planning for Fall 2020 but because of the crushing blow that Covid-19 has dealt to the industry and the ability to tour we are now looking at Spring 2021. Although I do see this as devastating I also see it as a silver lining because this grants ALL artists an extra passage of time to refine their works and continue writing beyond any preconceived deadlines. I am a very firm, firm believer in last minute miracles when it comes to the writing process. Some of the moments within songs that I am the most proud of came to me in the final few weeks.
Your music was recently featured on the Boulet Brothers Dragula, how did this come about and do you follow drag culture?
I got a call from our A&R rep in the winter of last year that the Boulet Brother’s wanted to use our song “Dread” and that it would be another solid 7-8 months before it would see the light of day and that I wasn’t allowed to speak about it until the month prior to air date. The story was that they had burned through a list of songs to use for the Halloween episode and kept passing through choices looking for something more brutal to break from the tradition of using less sonically abusive songs for the lip-sync challenge.
How they landed on us I’d love to know as I am a HUGE fan myself. I do follow drag culture and I quite enjoy observing it. Christeene is my #1 followed by Dollya Black and Sharon Needles. I saw Christeene perform in my town and it was one of the funniest and most depraved performances I have ever seen. Imagine a mid-size bar packed well over capacity. It’s hot as fuck to where you can almost taste the condensation in the air and Christeene is crowd surfing across the patrons flashing her balls while covered in mysterious brown and red liquid that we probably shouldn’t disclose. She finally gets back to the stage where she’s bending over and pulling her buttocks apart while screaming to the point of clipping the microphone about how many people it takes to fix her dick. There was an energy in the room I had never felt and never did quite feel again since that night.
It was somewhat of a cross between Christmas morning, a bloody car wreck and being in a brothel that exists in the parking lot just outside of Hell itself. I LOVE her. Dollya I discovered on the show and I was moved almost to tears seeing her perform to our music with such a dark aura of grace. I thought she always had hands down the best and most original looks and to this day I see countless people rocking the double eye look. She is most definitely a trend setter with her aesthetic.
Lyrically, Decollect was made up of what to my understanding is mostly imagined scenarios rather than your own life experiences. Looking back, why do you think you made that choice?
Decollect happened at a time where I was barely into my 20’s and hadn’t really been knocked down by life yet. Although I was writing from early personal experiences, I was enhancing those scenarios in a more theatre inspired way as a means to cope with those said experiences at the time. I am a very big Horror fan and that album is littered with samples from such films & games and a lot of the lyrical aspects reflected that. I would take simple statements or recaps from things I had experienced and then re-write them while each time injecting more metaphor and word arrangements that seemed to supplement the images I was seeing in my mind.
If I was writing about a hardship within a past relationship, I would then morph that into a stalker / prey scenario. If I was writing about any grievances I had with the scene at that time, I then morphed that into a more snuff oriented narrative. “Through The Lust Of Flies” was an audio tribute to my favorite Giallo film images. “Tender Petal” was heavily inspired by the narrative of Suzy Banyon’s journey through Suspiria being a vulnerable loner in an evil place willing to subjugate herself to fit in. “Orchid Incestus” was the most personal of the lot. I sampled the sound of Melos crushing his brother’s head from A Srpski Film to supplement any feelings of anger I had at the time. “Fleshing Wheel” was an audio conglomeration of every slimy, perverted exploitation film I had seen at the time composed to a projected backdropof disgusting places in rural America at night. I view Decollect as a diary of first entering the arena of writing music by yourself and exploring what matches you the best while stopping to admire a nice pile of smut along the journey.
Wound Garden on the other hand is more personal, was it just that you wanted to express yourself in what may be called a more genuine way, opening yourself up more or did it just happen to come out that way?
Yes, it is much more personal. I had been writing the songs before I had concrete lyrics as it’s common practice for me to keep a large conglomeration of lyrical snippets as I progress through life. My plan was to complete the songs and start fitting the lyrics I found most fitting to the music. In the middle of this, my best friend of many years drove himself out to a beach in Seattle and shot himself. I had been working on scoring a production for the Urbanite Theatre in Florida at the same time and I got the call minutes before a Skype meeting with production. I had never lost anyone that close to me before besides my Grandparents and so it took me completely by violent storm.
I immediately became engulfed in a near fatal battle with alcohol to cope with the rage, sadness and the dozens of other grey emotions that come with living through the suicide of a loved one. Production on the score became a ball and chain, I separated from my partner of years and as some sort of twisted grand finale, our mutual friend, another person I had a very long history with, succumbed to a heroin overdose. Just like that in the span of a few months I had plunged into a new definition of pain by losing multiple people extremely close to me and seeing the foundations of my life begin to execute a death rattle. I threw out every piece of lyrical content I had thus far and began instead writing directly of my feelings that were related to this chapter. I trimmed it down to something more like an EP format as I wanted a simple and strong onset of rage for the listener in the same manner as I had experienced these events.
Everything that went into the sound and process of Wound Garden was the most authentic experience I had ever had in life up until that point. It was truly a moment of experiencingones art in a 3 dimensional format. That album’s entire genesis and timeline was the true calling card moment for me where I decided I no longer wanted an outlet but a full on, full time project to bring into the world where I abandon collaboration with other bands and focus solely on turning it into as real of a being as it can be. I dedicated the album to my best friend’s memory which one can find in the booklet of the CD or the jacket of the LP to be forever out there in the world and the hands of whomever may hold it. The hellish process of getting the band on its feet and getting that album out into the world is what ultimately got me clean and sober for multiple years strong so when I look back on it I view it as a sacrifice or offering made to exit total destruction and find harmony in this world. I think every artist experiences this in some shape or another and I think every artist must experience this kind of processof self sacrifice and holding on until results present themselves. I believe that everyone traveling full circle is the only thing that will bring true balance to this earth.
Correct me if I`m wrong but RA began as your solo project? To what capacity does your current members influence the writing and recording process?
Yes, it began as a solo project and remained that way for a while. I will always be the core underlying member as this is my lovechild that I am stuck with but I do collaborate with others. Currently, Vance Valenzuela is my primary writing partner. We have known each otherfor years and he has sewn impressive success with his project Vale Of Pnath and I heavily contributed to their last album “Accursed” so it seemed prophetic at the time that we would wind up working on Ritual Aesthetic together.
We have written half of the new album together while I have ventured into the other half alone to keep that balance and to bring aid to preserving the spirit that some have become familiar with. Our writing process with this album has been starting songs from the ground up at the same time. It usually begins with me putting together a core landscape of electronics and melodies and then he starts adding guitar parts to them and I re-adjust accordingly until we have a song. It’s a really exciting process to me because I became used to bearing the weight of the whole load while writing by myself and it’s fantastic to see someone else’s vision meet up with your own. I worked with others on parts of Wound Garden but never anything this intensive. I think it’s good for artists to break out of their comfort zone and see how their energy shifts when another person is brought into the situation. Although having zero interruption can be a great thing, you also run the risk of never having someone tell you no or check you on over indulgence.
Balance seems to be the crucial component that can be easy to lose in all things.
Your music falls into the industrial genre yet it doesn’t just sound like a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Which era of industrial music do you yourself gravitate most towards and why?
Thank you! That is definitely a tough question because my taste ranges so broadly from era to era. I can tell you that I gravitate towards whatever has a heavy dose of sonic brutality and a good essence of beauty found in the middle of that filthy exterior.
I am a huge fan of Skinny Puppy’s “Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse” era, Goflesh’s masterful “Streetcleaner”, Cyberaktif’s “Tenebrae Vision”, Test Dept’s “The Unacceptable Face Of Freedom”, KMFDM’s “Symbols” and “UAIOE” eras, the totally violent wave of
European & American Industrial bands that came up in the early to mid 2000’s, Velvet Acid Christ’s “Lust For Blood” era, Ministry’s “Land Of Rape & Honey”, anything Coil has touched, NIN’s “Broken” era which is a hill I will die on with all my guts out.
Last but certainly not least, Wumpscut’s “Bone Peeler” is my all time favorite Industrial album. I could go on all day really but you’d be asleep by then. If it has that spirit that excites your primal instincts in a way that might get you arrested or fired then I probably enjoy it.
When it comes to current day Industrial happening right now, I jam to Youth Code, Statiqbloom & Cyanotic quite a bit.
Sticking with the genre theme, what would you say is the best and worst aspects of industrial?
The BEST aspect of Industrial no doubt is its ability to transcend and defy the rules of music as many know it. It can take you places mentally that I think absolutely no other genre can. Its influence has bled into SO many corners of music and in my opinion,many people don’t even realize or know that today in 2020. It injected new life into so many genres of music or outright created them with their origins now remaining unknown. That is fucking AMAZING. Industrial can take you on an otherwise familiar path and make way for a totally different and previously unimaginable journey. I think that there is no experience quite like connecting with an Industrial record. When you can start making sense & beauty out of a voidscape of mechanical babel and synthetic pollution, it completely changes the way you experience music and I don’t even think Chopin can do that.
The WORST aspect of Industrial no doubt is the closed minds and elitism within the culture. It is such a fucking bummer. Metal comes pretty close but after spending my share of time in both worlds I really think Industrial holds the throne here. The scene is still plagued with too many gatekeeping genre purists who hate to see change and act like it’s their duty to protect whatever assets they see being threatened by evolution of the scene. The irony in that fact is that I STRONGLY believe this is what dragged the genre down lower than it needed to go in terms of popularity. It doesn’t take much time on the ground to frequently encounter people loathing the lack of successful events and progress within the scene as a whole and yet they perpetuate that very thing. Here you have so many brilliant minds who were breaking rules and changing music just to be pushed into obscurity because the fans themselves don’t want to see those very same rules broken . It’s a toxic self fulfilling prophecy. Those who have taken the most risks in this scene have made the biggest impressions and usually carry the largest burden of criticism and that will continue to be true in this genre and many others until the day we are dead. Of course what I am saying is not true of every person.
Do you rely more on hardware, software or a mix of both when writing?
With Decollect I was going with all software because I was just getting my feet wet. Wound Garden was my entry point into hardware as a means of experiment and I fell in love with it. With this new album I would say it is about 90% hardware and 10% software. With that being said though, I am not a Hardware VS. Software purist. I prefer hardware now because I love the physical process of achieving results through labor and the element of chaos and risk / reward that work around it. I think hardware forces the artist to commit to the piece under the notion of knowing they might not ever get that sound back. It can be completely maddening to stare down the barrel of 30,000 software choices and never arrive at a final choice. When everything is said and done, I do believe hardware sounds better but I also know that most listeners aren’t going to give a fuck what it is because they will be searching for that connection rather than the gratification of knowing what kind of gear you used. I know there are those out there who do show great interest in that element and my hat is off to them for possessing that pool of knowledge and dedication to the craft.
These days the music industry undergoes constant change, people’s attention span seems to shorten by the second and as a result many might not have the patience to sit through a full-length album or even an EP. What makes you make albums then rather than for example releasing a single every month or so?
I agree with you 100% and I can tell you right now that I choose to go through with albums for a simple reason. It is to prove to myself that I can survive that journey and to tell a complete story. If the listeners want to cherry pick those few songs and not stay for the rest of it – that’s fine. I get it. I am sometimes guilty of the same thing. But, for those who want to stay and hear the whole story and experience all there is to experience with us, after everyone else has left – THAT is what I live for. I live for the satisfaction of knowing that these personal journeys should be told in complete tales. I believe firmly that you cannot travel to the places you can go with a full front to back experience with just a little single. In the end when it’s all done and people have extracted what they need to extract from it and I can look back at it knowing what a difficult journey it was actualizing that entire project….there’s no other feeling like it. With that being said, once this record is complete and I feel we have finally done that in the way we see fit, I would be open to exploring that drip feed method of release so long as the end result landed on a conglomeration of music to be enjoyed as one.
You`re originally a drummer having played in and toured with bands of different genres. Was it a big change when you took on the role of frontman rather than being in the background?
Yes. It was fucking intense. As a drummer you’re used to being hidden in the back and not being watched every moment while bearing the pressure of knowing that if anyone can fuck the whole thing up first it’s YOU. As a frontman all eyes are on you and that can be quite the pressure at times. The rush is much more extreme than that of a drummer and quite unlike many drugs you can do. Being a frontman also awards you less punishments for error in that if you make a mistake the whole band isn’t gonna implode because of you.
Coming from a drumming background has benefited me in staying locked in on time and has sometimes been a curse in it causing me to over scrutinize candidates for that position. Our drummer now, Mack Barrow is one of the best musicians I’ve had the pleasure of playing shows with so he eases that pain quite well. I have come to enjoy fronting a band so much that I’m not sure if I will ever return to playing drums but there are definitely times where I sorely miss doing so.
What do you think inspiration is, where do you think it comes from? Other artists have described inspiration coming from this elusive realm where if you just tune in to it you`re presented with melodies, words etc. If that is the case, would you consider the possibility of inspiration itself having more divine, loftier origins?
Absolutely I do, on all fronts. I believe that in all people this realm that you speak of not only exists but is actively affecting that person in ways beyond just art. I think that when one thinks they’re experiencing writer’s block they’re just experiencing a form of “clogged pipes” and it’s a matter of shutting down that Above part of the mind to dig deeper into the Below by any means necessary whether that be by chaos, transcendence or ritual of any kind.
Alex Cresconi mixed your first album, what about him and his way of working made you go back for the second one?
Alex is a longtime friend of mine and we have a lot in common in our musical tastes. I’ve always felt like he understood what I was going after sonically and life seems to have a way of magically putting us back together as the years go on. At the time that I met him I was a college student and he was a fresh graduate of the Musicians Institute and we were some of each other’s first clients. I am a very sporadic sort of spilled paint type artist and he is a very calculated and detail oriented artist so working with him a second time made the most sense for organizing the chaos of that time. Alex has been kind of a shadow entity of this band in that regard. He has done a lot for us behind the scenes on the business side of things and he played guitar on our song “Dread” which was featured in Dragula so in a spiritual way we came together for our first time on TV after years of exploring different sides of the industry from different places. He was my only friend from back in my college days who ran the distance with his career and didn’t succumb to Hollyweird insanity.
You announced recently that you`re working with Chris Vrenna for the new album. How did this all come about and how do you think it`s been going so far?
Chris has always been a “most wanted” on my list of artists to work with. I am an avid fan of his production / remix work and his soundtracks. He was my favorite member of classic NIN as he’s a drummer and he was involved with what I think are the finest hours of NIN. Any true Nails fan out there immediately thinks of him and the rest of the golden lineup and what they were doing in the 90’s.
We both have some mutual friends and once Ritual Aesthetic got its wings off the ground a little bit after Wound Garden, I started considering the possibility of finally attempting to contact him to just sniff out the possibility of having him on board for a project. Once we finally got in touch we immediately hit it off and spent hours talking about this life and things seemed to just work out.
Chris is one of the kindest and most sincere humans I have ever met anywhere in this life and not just the music industry. He has an aura to his personality that is unlike anyone I have ever met when it comes to his ability to pass on wisdom and inspiration. He is a true teacher by nature and a true example of someone who’s seen it all and been jaded by none. Unfortunately as you and I speak now, we are just now stepping into the infantile stages of this project as the pandemic had us all held hostage to our living rooms and rendered unable to do much besides eat canned food and wonder which day we’ll die and decompose into the couch. This is something that I will be looking forward to sharing with the world in the coming weeks as we get farther away from this mess and closer to normality.
Asking if Nine Inch Nails has served as any inspiration for you seems pointless and obvious so we won`t go there. However, Vrenna was part of the line-up during the Downward Spiral era which included a good amount of experimental methods in sound design, did working with him bring about any less conventional ways of working?
Chris has such an understanding of the unconventional that when discussing it in a forward fashion you’d think it’s basic conventionality you’re speaking of. Something I learned right away in our initial production talks is that nothing is “wrong” or really “right” when it comes to that world. I realized very quickly that the times I spent in the past worrying if I was doing something wrong didn’t matter. I think any and all musicians should take that thought into consideration. Who gives a fuck how you get there – what does it sound like? A less conventional way that we have been working since bringing him into the mix is reaching farther back for older equipment and outdated sounds to bring a new shine to them in a new vessel. I’m a big fan of sampling sounds I find outside of the studio and converting those into purposeful use somehow.
As most of kids with black hair, makeup, torn up clothes etc we all grew up listening to bands like Manson and NIN both of which Vrenna was involved in at some point. Have you at any point had a moment where you realize that you`re now in the position to work with the people who made the music you surely listened to on endless repeat growing up? What`s it feel like?
I suppose I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I contemplated this a few times. It doesn’t mean that I or anyone else is special. It means that life is cyclical and things are far more connected and attainable than one might think in the loneliest hours of their artistic or personal journey.
It means that anything can be done with a refusal to quit and understanding that most of the hurdles put before us in this life are as intrinsically temporary as we are. To me, this thought feels more like a reassurance than any victory. It feels like I know now marrow deepthat the most important thing any of us can do while pursuing goals and wants is to listen closely to our intuition, reject negative and suppressive people who dampen down our self worth, that perseverance is more important than many other things and lastly to never underany circumstances wear blue jeans.
The last word goes to you. Feel free to promote whatever you wish, shout outs etc.
Shout out to you for these wonderfully constructed questions!
To anyone still reading this going through this fucking dark and uncertain time,
There are people in this world who need you and you need you. This climate is RIPE for creativity and art is one of the things that can soothe us all while we go through this. Create or Die. Look out for your friends and take it one day at a time.
We hope to be on tour with a new record and fully back in action by late Spring 2021 and we hope to see you and hear you in any capacity.