THE FANZINE THAT FEATURES SMALL AND UNSIGNED BANDS
Friday, July 23, 2010
INTERVIEW WITH PHENOTRACT
Well hello Eric, you’ve been composing songs for ten years or so…how would you describe these years?
Hmm, well it has definitely been interesting. I started just doing basically sketches..then went onto real songs. I work full time so I can't always say it's easy to find the spare time, but you have to sort of discipline yourself to get things done. And of course have a passion for it. I definitely preferred making much harder sounds as a young lad ( haha) but have moved towards doing things that are a bit more melodic and new wave pop sounding.
Has it always been electronic stuff or not? I mean, Eric, I am busy with busy with music for 24 hrs since 30 years but I could never limit myself to one particular genre….
I agree. Electronic is my favorite since it encompasses tons of sub genres (most of which I also like) but I also like and buy a lot of music that is not electronic. I sometimes need to hear "real" instruments as well. So some indie rock, post punk, britpop and shoegazer type music and a variety of other stuff keeps my musical palette varied. You would definitely get a kick out of my CD collection!There’s this shoegazer influenced act from Manchester, England called Engineers who are probably my favorite band of the past decade. They make really expansive, cinematic, music ..truly blissful stuff. Check em out!
According to your biog, your first material was more industrial like….
Please tell us about that….
I was really into industrial in the early 90s and was for a long time after that. Bands like FLA, Skinny Puppy, and harder sounding house and techno were a huge influence on my early songs. It was sort of aggro and raw..but I always tried to maintain a sense of melody. "Within A Second", my first "official album, was an amalgam of harder industrial, techno, and EBM and on my 2nd album "Transient Messages" the music definitely mellowed a bit. It still had techno influences but was definitely less raw. As I've gotten older, I dig things that are a bit less harsh. But, I still love the older industrial and will always have a place in my heart for it. And also, there's certain industrial/EBM bands I hear today I can still get into.. for instance I still play live keyboards for my buddies Cesium 137 who I think are doing great stuff!
Sometimes people say (or at least I do) that industrial music evokes soundtracks for the mind…I mean you can imazgine everything with indusmusic…
Definitely. I feel that way about electronic music as a whole..especially instrumental stuff. Producers like Ulrich Schnauss and Isan really conjure up imaginary soundtracks for me. I'm also a huge fan of this band In The Nursery who always do great soundtrack type work. I always imagine a lot when hearing certain electronic music. It's easy to let the mind drift for sure which is usually a good thing.
In my review I described you as a troubadour who swapped his guitar for some electronic equipment… Agree? Haha. Well, the truth is I’m not good at playing guitar at this stage of the game! What's even funnier is that on "Shifting" my friend Gabe played guitar on "Unreal Highs" and "Out Of Sequence" ..and it was the first time I've ever used guitar on a Phenotract album. I definitely want to do more though, and I love the sound of guitar..especially when it's put through pedals, distortion, flange etc. I thought he did a great job on those songs.
With the modern equipment, everyone can compose songs.
Somewhere I think that’s okay but problem is that everybody does that and as a musiclover I now have to face 1.000.000 bands and there’s no real guide in it… I mean, I even discovered Phenotract by a coincidental click on the mouse.
Well, I'm glad you did! It's true though, there are soo many bands and producers out there that's it's often tough to keep track For me, a good way is internet radio ..hearing stuff, flipping through stations to get a read on what's new and good. I also go out to hear music quite often ( often on the techno and house side of things), so I generally get the low down on new productions. Plus I also make electro/tech house music as well which I plan to release this year with a dance producer friend of mine.
Do you believe in all that DIY-stuff? I mean it certainly breeds great music but sometimes it feels that those other 999.999.999 musicians are making music for themselves…
Well, I think a lot of people make music without knowing production and making things sound up to par. You definitely can hear who is paying attention to detail when producing and the others that don't. Sometimes it does feel like quantity over quality but I give credit to anyone trying to make music especially with the state of industry. It’s truly a labor of love but there's a certain satisfaction when you have an album that you made on your shelves or in your CD binder.
I just interviewed Crash Course In Science who became extremely famous here in the 80’s with using toys as an instrument, I told them that something like that couldn’t be possible in 2010 now….
Well I think that depends too on how creative/mechanically inclined you are! Haha. My friend uses an old Nintendo Gameboy for a sound module. He basically wired the whole thing so he so he could generate the sounds from it to use on tracks. I guess that’s not really a toy, but it’s the closest thing I can think of ! The sounds that come from it are really cool. There’s a whole collective of people that use things that are out of the ordinary for sound modules. It definitely gives some uniqueness to the sound design of anything you might be working on.
If I hear Phenotract, I hear definitely Kraftwerk which is of course not a bad thing….
Were they such an influence on you?
Yes, definitely. I always have loved them. Very precise in both their delivery, sound design, and song structure. Bands like Human League, OMD, Depeche Mode, and the Pet Shop Boys are also favorites of mine. Producers like Ulrich Schnauss and Apparat are also influencing me these days
One of the stronger factors is definitely the voice of Niabi Caldwell, not?
How did you got in touch with her?
I agree for sure. Niabi I’ve known for a few years and she did vocals with me on the previous album on about half of the songs. On “Shifting”, I actually used 3 different vocalists. Niabi does 2 songs, my good friend Katharine Heller does 6, and there’s one song ”Blinded” by another good friend Anaben... from a NY shoegaze post punk band called By Night With Spear. It was great to work with them and I like the duality of male/female vocals quite a bit. We all live near each other in Brooklyn. “Full Circle Again” was the only song I sang on my own.
I ask it everybody….fave record of all time is?
Ohh, this is very tough! I'd have to say 808 State "UTD State 90" is up there. It was one of the very first techno albums that I bought when I was 16.
Tell me why would our readers give Phenotract a chance???
Well, I guess I look at my music and lyrics as sort of a soundtrack for life and it’s happenings, especially on ”Shifting” which is all about life’s constant changes ( and during the recording of this album, so many happened to myself and my friends around me!). So, give it a listen and would love to hear feedback ( this goes for all of my releases :)) I hope you enjoy and thanks for the interview!