Here are some questions that have been plaguing a number of your fans for the last couple of years. Sorry for the delay, I spent a bit of time researching some of your recent work for the last few days. If it is ok with you, I’ll probably have a handful of follow-up questions based on some of your answers to these below, but I’ll make a big point not to bury you with another plethora of questions. So...here we go:
Yes indeed, here we go. Pull up a chair, mix a drink and relax, this is going to be a long one.
1. There have been rumors floating around for almost two years now
concerning another chapter to Chemlab. Are these rumors grounded in truth?
Rumors often are, to one degree or another. The reason that there’s continued to be talk about another chapter in the bizarre saga of Chemlab is mostly (though not exclusively) due to the fact that it’s something that I talk about in interview contexts a lot. The reason that I talk about it a lot is because I’ve never been satisfied with the idea of the band being dead and buried. I’ve always felt that the band imploded long before it was time for it to finish, that we forced the hand of change. One can say that that’s simply wishful looking back, but I felt that way at the time as well, that it was unfulfilled in terms of what we had set out to do and what was still possible. There was a great deal of experimentation that we wanted to do and we never got the chance, which I think’s unfortunate.
2. If there is another Chemlab disc in the works, how far down
the road are we looking at? What direction will it be taking?
Good question. I’m not sure that it’s one that I’m willing, or able, to answer. I don’t want to sound like I’m being more secretive than usual, but it’s always hard for me to talk in concrete terms about the sound of an unrecorded album. The songs take on a life of their own in the writing process and then that life spreads further during the recording and mixing phase. Songs that I didn’t really like when they were first written grew into their skin much better during the production stage and have become personal favorites (‘Chemical Halo’ for example). I often feel that I try to describe an as-yet unrecorded album and when it comes out it sounds nothing like my description, so I try to avoid setting up that expectation trap. As to when it will be out, Atkins would like for it to come out towards the end of the year. I am willing to put it out then as long as it satisfies the criteria of being a Chemlab record in my mind. I’m not really in a hurry to release it. I want it to be right.
3. You were fond of saying that you were the preacher and Dylan
was the gospel. I understand that he wasn’t interested in working further
with Chemlab. Is this true? Are you going to preach without the “good book?”
I always meant it. What I meant by that phrase was that, if there was a lesson to be learned from listening to the band (pompous as that may sound…), it was that technology (and people like Dylan who have an innate understanding of it) is the future and people like me are the past. Obviously, I have never believed that I, personally, am part of the past, my titanic ego could never suffer that one, but I did want people to understand that technology is here to stay and that we all better get used to it infiltrating every aspect of our lives slowly, but surely.
And let’s be clear here: when the band ended, Dylan didn’t say that he didn’t want to work on Chemlab anymore. All three of us decided that continuing with the band just wasn’t interesting to us at that time, that the industry was a very different place than it had been seven or eight years ago and that it was all getting in the way of our drug habits. At the time, the band was tabled, to be focused on at a later date.
In reference to “preaching without the good book”, I think that my response to the next question is what you are looking for in the way of clarification. The short answer is that, like the myriad religions of the world, there is no one single “good book”, one single “right” answer.
4. Some people claim that you heading up Chemlab without Dylan
would be the same as Ogre doing Skinny Puppy by himself. Do you think that
is a fair analogy?
I think it terribly kind of people to make even a passing reference to us in the context of Skinny Puppy.
This is gonna be a long one...
There’s always going to be resistance to any musician who wants to continue with a band without all of the original members contributing. My response to that is: people are never satisfied no matter what you do. There are fans that only like “10 Ton”, ones who prefer “Burn Out” and others who feel that “ESM” is the best of all of the releases. Even if Dylan and Servo and I were continuing with the band there would be all manner of criticism: “they’ve been dead for five years, why are they trying to start it up again?” and “nothing they do can ever be as good as ‘Burn Out’” and the like. When I released “Covergirl” a lot of the Chemlab fans didn’t like it and the general response that I got on the Chemlab sites and boards was that people wished that I would have done another Chemlab record instead. I’m sure they meant that they would have liked for me to release another Chemlab record with Dylan and Servo... actually, I think that what they really meant was that they would like a “new” Chemlab record that remained within the confines of whatever their favorite picture of the band is/was. I’m not interested in staying in the same place and denying that I’m interested in experimenting and growing as an artist. Can’t. Won’t.
A fan base is a tricky thing. Once an artist has developed one, the relationship quickly ossifies. The audience likes what they got a first taste of and is resistant to change. The artist likes the strokes and (hopefully) income that having a good base provides and proceeds to slow down or stop the growth curve. This then creates a situation where the artist continues to release the same thing over and over again. Not very interesting. I can’t help the fact that I continue to take chances as an artist nor will I apologise for it. I’m not interested in rewriting “Burn Out”. It’s been done… and even if all three of us were writing right now, the resultant record wouldn’t be what people expect anyway. That would bore us to tears and only serve to date us and lock us in concrete. Snore. The point is to take chances and grow and do the unexpected, if you want the ‘expected’ then go listen to boybands.
Dylan doesn’t want to do music right now and I’m simply not interested in forcing a brilliant writer to create. I did that for the duration of our working relationship and won’t do it any more. Forgetaboutit!! But, just because he doesn’t want to do music any more doesn’t mean that I don’t and doesn’t mean that I don’t have songs inside of me that fit under the Chemlab umbrella. I want to make music with him again, but I can’t force him. If he wants to come in, the door is wide open to walk right through and make some noise.
Since the collapse of the band I’ve wanted to rebuild it, with or without Dylan (Servo has always been interested), but I resisted it for a long time because I couldn’t get Dylan to work on it with me. Why? I resisted recording another album because I was concerned that our fan base wouldn’t approve of a Chemlab record that didn’t include Dylan. The $64,000 question is: what happens if I make a Chemlab record without him that is better than all of the previous records?? There would be a lot of fans eating crow. I’m not interested in upsetting our fan base, but I’m not going to shy away from making music because they might not like something. If that were the case I never would have made “Covergirl”. Aaaahh, “Covergirl”, the record time forgot (and Newsweek and People and and...). If people think the idea of a Chemlab album without Dylan is sacrilege, then they shouldn’t go out and buy it. If people buy a new Chemlab record and they don’t like it, sell the damn thing and go buy Linkin Park’s new album. More advice than that I can’t give except to keep an open mind. Bingo.
Whew. I’m not sure if that really answered the question, but it’s too long as it is, so I’m not going to belabor the point any further. However, since I spent so much time on this answer, all of the other questions are getting one-word responses.
5. Who else is/will be involved with Chemlab?
The current potential list is running as follows, but don’t quote me on this as being a final list of contributors.
During the Pigface tour I got the chance to work with some people that I have wanted to work with for ages, Kryztoff from Bile and Seibold from Hate Dept primarily. I have known them for ages and the tour was really stimulating in terms of tossing musical ideas around. I want to include them as the creative base along with the programming genius of Curse from Pigface/Evil Mothers/Grim Faeries. Servo is going to be working on the record in between drumming stints with Daniel Ash. From there I’m torn as to whether or not I want to include others or not. Mike, the guitarist from Godhead (real cool guy and rocket-rockin’ player!), wants to work on it, as does Levi (TKK), and Jamie and Jason from Acumen/DJ-ACUCRACK. I know that Atkins wants some room in there as well as producing, and since I think that the job he did producing the h3llb3nt record was some of his best work in years I’m pleased to have him in the mix.
There are lots of other people that could get drawn into it, Ned the first Chemlab bass player who recorded on “Burn Out”, h3llb3nt/haloblack Bryan, Martin King (Test Dept), Ross from Goteki/Sneaky Bat Machine and many others. The list goes on, but I’m worried about it becoming too much of a circus and losing its focus. We’ll see what happens.
Shit, so much for the one-word answers.
6. Is Chemlab still under contract with Invisible Records?
Actually, Chemlab isn’t under contract to Invisible at all. They’ve signed up to re-release the existing titles (as well as “suture”) so that they are out in the market place, but at the moment they have no deal for future Chemlab records. The existing deal is with me personally for The Aliens and nothing else. The thing is, whatever short-comings there are with being signed to an indie label, the industry is in such a shit state that I’m not interested (or encouraged) to look elsewhere for a deal. I really don’t think that one exists for a band like Chemlab. Certainly not the kind of deal that the band could live with. I’m not very good at sucking corporate dick (that’s why I’m not on Wall Street any more) and I don’t believe for an instant that a major would know what to do with us. They would try to fit us into one of the tiny boxes they have whittled the industry down to and it wouldn’t work and we would be dropped in a trail of flames and debris.
Fuck that and FUCK the majors.
They have utterly ruined the music business. Majors don’t have A&R departments now. They don’t have ANY understanding of what Artist Relations means. None. The artist is simply a tool to make money for the labels and there is no interest in developing artists in the least. It’s all become corporate and follows a traditional corporate production model to the letter. Whether or not you like Mariah Carey’s music, I hope she gets another deal and releases a multi-platinum record that breaks all of her existing sales records just to stick it to her old label for dropping her because their financial projections don’t allow room for an artist to be a human being and have problems coping with success and an insane schedule. Heartless bastards. I wish her all the luck in the world. Can’t stand her music, and her rendition of the national anthem set our dog’s tail on fire, broke windows and wilted the house plants, BUT she deserves to make a mega record that stuffs crow down their throats. Yep. I hate ‘em.
7. How’s that treating you?
...and so, the second part of my rant is that I’m glad to be connected to Invisible. Does it have problems and shortcomings? Obviously it does. Every labels has its problems. Majors and Indies. I’m simply glad to be signed to a label where I can release the records I want to. If I was signed to a major and wanted to release a record like “Covergirl” I would have had to fight them tooth-and-nail over it and it might never have come out. Atkins, on the other hand, was totally supportive of the idea. I’m signed to a label that will release and support the records I make and, in this artist-unfriendly climate, it’s good to have that outlet. It would be a stone-cold drag to be making music and not be able to get it out. The upshot of all of that riffing is that the next Chemlab record will be coming out on Invisible and that’s cool with me.
8. How did your role in the Pigface tour [Preaching to the
Perverted] come about?
This is the third time I’ve toured with Pigface. I took time off from Wall Street to do the first tour with them in ‘98. Atkins and that first tour are the reasons I returned to making music. Blame Martin. He asked me if I was interested in coming out with the band for the PTTP tour. I could only do half of it because I’m so busy here in London, but I was glad to get out on the road again. It was a gas to be touring the States again, seeing some of my favorite venues, old friends and nightclubs. It felt like home-coming week all of the time. I was surprised at how many people came out and how many knew of Chemlab and me. Very gratifying. Made me want to come back for more.
9. I hear that some concerts were filmed for a DVD to be released
later this year. What shows were recorded? And by whom (friends/professionals)?
About a half-a-dozen of the shows were filmed by the Ultra Films gang. Very cool, professional group, went all around the shows with us, backstage, on stage, in the audience, on the bus. They also gave us a camera to use on the bus and we spent loads of stock recording stories and weird scenes of madness. It was a kick and I’m very interested in seeing what they come out with. They’ll have a lot of stock to trawl through: LA, San Jose, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Milwaukee and Chicago by their team (four cameras) and then another fifteen shows with the hand-held hi-8 cam by me and the rest of the band. I personally went through at least a dozen tapes (about 4 hours per) spanning all aspects of the days and nights in the odd world of Pigface. It was great to have a hand-held with us all of the time and I recorded lots of unexpected bits and pieces as well; truck stops at 4am and fans confessing their sins and art shots and a tour through the haunted house where we gigged in Kentucky. Don’t know what will make the final cut, but I’ll have a blast looking back on all of the raw footage when I’m an old goat.
10. How’s your radio show going at Total Rock?
Killin’, except for the fact that, due to a shake up of the schedules to accommodate a long-time dj, I lost one of my two shows. I now only spin on Saturday mornings from 3 to 6...that’s 10pm to 1am Friday evenings on the East Coast and you have to do the math for the rest of the States and the world. That part of the equation sucks, but the rest of it is a blast. I have always enjoyed playing music and the fact that there is a mic there (as opposed to dj’ing in a club) means that I can explain why I’m playing certain records, I can talk about my fave bands (16Volt get a lot of play on my show) and their plans and interview people and rip lame bands to pieces and generally be the loud-mouthed, opinionated, sarcastic wise guy that everyone knows me to be.
The name of the show is “The Glam-dustrial Rock Machine” which gives me a fairly broad remit to play just about anything I feel like. That means that I’ll go from 16Volt to Ministry to Static X (and explain why Static X wish they were Ministry) to Snake River Conspiracy to Amen to Rocket From The Crypt to The Hives to Icarus Line to Jon Spencer Blues Ex to Cato Salsa to Big Black to The Butthole Surfers to The Flaming Sideburns to Motley Crue to Marilyn Manson to Orgy to Kiss to Pitchshifter to the Buzzcocks (it works, really) to Thin Lizzy to Aerosmith (early) to Nirvana to Mudhoney to Skinny Puppy to Red Lorry Yellow Lorry to P.I.L. to Sisters of Mercy to Bauhaus to T.Rex to John Lee Hooker to Nena Simone to Dean Martin to Parliament to Money Mark to Public Enemy to William Burroughs to Adema to Pantera to Bile to Slipknot (and explain why “the ‘Knot” are pale imitators of BILE) to Fear Factory to Napalm Death to Merzbow to Coltrane and straight into the Rolling Stones which leads us into... well, I think that you get the idea. I refuse to play the corporate schlock that passes for punk and metal now. I figure, if people want to listen to that sort of brainless dreck they can listen to any other station. I do tend to push the boundaries of what you can play on a ‘rock’ radio station, but no other dj on Total Rock plays the wide and weird selection that I do. It seems that my listeners are really getting used to my eclectic tastes and are willing to let me go off on some twisted jags. I play a lot of the requests that come in (both e-mail and on the phone) and try to stay in the Total Rock chat room if possible to answer questions there. I like the people that come in for my show, their minds are open though playing Marvin Gaye and Frank Sinatra does push it a bit, but that’s too bad. They can always tune out for a few minutes.
Come on in to www.totalrock.com the water’s fine. You can e-me there during the show and send in commentary and requests.
11. What happened to the band “Superdrug?”
That was a project that Dylan was talking about doing with Servo when they first moved out to the West Coast, but I don’t think that it ever transpired. Too bad. Cool name, wish I’d thought of it.
12. Who was involved in that project?
Damn it, I just told you! Don’t know if any one else was involved or not since I never really heard much more about it.
13. Is there another h3llb3nt album planned? Will that include
more of the same line-up?
There are no plans for another h3llb3nt record at the moment, but that’s mostly due to the fact that Bryan and Eric and I are so busy with other projects and can’t really focus on another album right now. We’re contracted to put out another one through Invisible so it will happen at some point in the near future, just not right now.
As for the line-up, I’m sure that it will be fairly close to the one that people are familiar with, but you never know. We always meet new people that we want to work with, but the line-up of Bryan and Eric and I works really well and we’re on much the same wave-length so working together is pretty easy and we don’t have to waste a lot of time explaining the obvious.
Check out the h3llb3nt web site: www.h3llb3nt.com as well as the Sick City site (www.thesickcity.com) which is the home of Pig and Pig Orchestra, Haloblack, h3llb3nt, Sow and others. There is a Sick City comp coming out at the end of February and I’ll be devoting a whole Total Rock show to the release (and other electronic musics) with band interviews and give-aways. Should be a gas. Come and check it out!
14. What happened to the h3llb3nt album 0.02? Is that synonymous
with Hardcore Vanilla?
Yep. The title “0.02” might have come from some interview with bryan from ages ago or from a time before we had settled on “hard-van” as the title.
15. After your stint in NYC on Wall Street, what encouraged
you to work on music again? And why the move to London?
Atkins was a lot of the reason that I got back into music. It’s a long and sordid tale that I both partially can’t and partially won’t go into right now, but suffice it to say that I needed to leave Wall Street and Martin was standing there with a bunch of roses asking me to be his bitch and work the streets for him in his stable and I said “I do”. Our first child was “Covergirl”.
London? That’s because my wife lives here, and it’s a hell of a cool place to be. All kinds of interesting things going on and it keeps me busy. I needed a change of scenery and London seemed like a good idea. I gave it a shot, found that I liked it despite the incredibly crap weather… and stayed.
16. How is London different to NYC or America as a whole in
terms of being a musician?
Long answer, can’t do it right now. E-mail me back and I’ll try to answer that one. Nutshell answer: pros and cons on both sides, London is where I live now so I have to make it good even when, like any other place, it can be a drag.
17. Who came up with the idea for the Jared Louche and the
I’ve had a knot of cover songs in my head that I’ve wanted to rebuild for years. They are, primarily, songs that have been my soundtracks for much of the last twenty years. There are loads of others that I could’ve done, but that would have meant a 10 CD collection. I was actually talking with Atkins about the idea of doing a new Chemlab record in the beginning of ’99. I tabled that idea and decided that I would prefer to work on a solo project which evolved into “Covergirl”.
18. How did you round up so many people to contribute to the
Hey, I know a lot of guys! Between Martin and I we came up with all of the people for the record. Most of them are connected to Invisible, but many of them, Jim Coleman for example, are cats that I’ve wanted to make music with for ages. There were other characters that I’d wanted to work with (Adam from Skrew, Van from Die Warsau, Eric from 16Volt and so on), but there simply wasn’t enough time. That whole record was recorded and mixed in three weeks with no pre-production.
19. Can we hope to see another Jared Louche and the Aliens
disc in the future as well?
You can always hope! Yes, indeed, there’ll be another one. I can’t imagine, what with all of the things that I’m doing right now, that I’ll be able to pull out another one any time this year, but you never know.
20. Any expectations for the music scene in regards to industrial/machine
rock? Or do you feel that the entire scene has moved on since the mid 90’s?
The scene has moved on a lot, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still interesting things that can be done within the format, look at how long rock music has stayed on and continued to re-invent itself, one way or another. The Machine Rock of the early and mid ‘90’s was a unique scene, a confluence of a number of different factors and I don’t think that it can really be repeated. The more time goes by, the more I am surprised by the amount of people that make reference to that time and the bands that were influential. As to expectations, I try to avoid them. They always set me up for a let-down. I think that there is some potential for cool things to happen, but the industry doesn’t make it easy for new bands to get the exposure they need and hit the road to support their records. “Oh mothers, don’t let your boys grow up to be rock stars…”
21. I also heard a rumor about some new Chemlab shirt designs?
That’s always possible. I have been talking to Martin about the idea of having some Chemlab shirts for sale up on the Invisible web site. There are some old “Fuck Art” shirts that I have found and am deciding how to go about selling them. I was thinking that the best way might be to do it as a series of dutch auctions on e-bay, $15 a piece or something of the sort. We’ll see what happens. Any suggestions?
22. So, in closing, which is prettier, breaking glass or breaking
‘I love the sound of breaking glass’…prettier? Fuck if I know. I’m too tired from answering all of the other questions to get fully esoteric now. I like all kinds of breaking glass.
What I really wanted to talk about are the solo performances I continue to do around London, reading my stories of life in New York, on the road and on Wall Street, singing material off of ‘Covergirl’ and ‘hardcore-v’.
What I really wanted to talk about is the classes I am teaching in music appreciation and poetry writing to 12 year olds in schools around London and what a kick that is.
What I really wanted to talk about was this musical project called 8-bit Barbarella that I am working on with Ross from Goteki/Sneaky Bat Machine which is slow and dark and pretty and sad and film noir and quite unexpected.
What I really wanted to talk about was the soundtrack work that I am doing with bryan black (halo-b3nt) for some of my readings.
There’s a lot that I wanted to talk about, but I’m really busy and so you’ll have to ask me later.
Thank you for all your time, long live the fucking king!
Phil & The Blackout Staff
Thanks for the op to do this interview. I liked your questions and had a good time riffing on some of the topics. If there are other questions you
want to ask, please feel free to do so.
Hope this does it for you, and, yes, the fucking king does live on and get stranger all of the time. I’m certainly not getting ready to go into retirement.