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Zillo Magazine

When and with which ideas and ambitions did you found Battery Cage with Jeremy and AJ?

Things started to really get off the ground in 1995, but I had been banging around by myself for about two years before that, just making horrible shit that no one should or will ever hear! Our motto was "no guitars, just power electronics!" (which is funny, considering how much we use guitars now), and we were very committed to doing all kinds of very experimental programming techniques (weird time changes, unusual sounds, etc). We were very lo-tech at first, and into making some very harsh and abrasive dance music... although whether or not you could really "dance" to it was often open to interpretation...

How did you meet each other, and how did the idea start to make music together?

I was the oldest of the three of us, and had been in a bunch of Boston based punk rock bands...but the whole thing was getting boring to me. The bands I was working with were generally just a bunch of lazy bastards...I was usually the only person that would practice or be on time for gigs and things like that...no one took it very seriously! I was moving out of punk rock and getting more excited by bands like Frontline Assembly and Front 242, and I thought maybe I should start buying some synthesizers and other recording equipment. So I started making these terrible noises by myself, and then eventually Jeremy and I started working together. Everything was instrumental at first, but when the time came for us to do our first big live show, we needed a vocalist and AJ came on board. He was a crazy character onstage and so we kept him around. The whole combination seemed to work out very well, at least for about 3 years.

What were your most significant musical influences and how important were these for your own musical style?

When we first got going I think it was pretty easy to tell what we were listening to. Bands like Skinny Puppy, Lassigue Bendthaus, Numb, Aphex Twin were all bands in constant rotation, and it definitely came across in the music we were making. So when we were young, these bands were important to us and we wanted to emulate them. Now that I've got a new lineup and a very different outlook on what I want to hear, it's a very different story when it comes to influences. I would say that, these days, we really don't listen to much industrial/EBM/electro music. For me, personally, it's probably less than 2% and I listen to music constantly. In fact, I would say I actively dislike most of what's going on in EBM clubs these days. However, when we were making "World Wide Wasteland", I was very much in tune with what's popular on dancefloors, so we made a record that is 2/3 dance music, and 1/3 more of what we wanted to do for ourselves. These days our influences are all over the map, but some bands that the four of us agree on would be Front 242, Sigur Ros, Joy Division, Autechre and other things like that.

Boston also is the hometown of classic industrial act SLEEP CHAMBER and INFORMATIK. Is there something special about Boston to explain the strong affinity for electronic/industrial music?

Well, Boston has always been a very cool place for rock music, don't forget that The Cars, and Dinosaur Jr, and Mission of Burma are from there!! But underneath the rock and roll, there was always a very active musical underground for electronics, starting in the eighties with Sleep Chamber, and moving through the nineties with other bands like Big Catholic Guilt, DDT and Zia. Informatik and Battery Cage both became active pretty much around the same period of time (1994-5), although Battery Cage was more focused on live performances. There was a period in the late 90's, when things died down a lot. Battery Cage was one of maybe 3-4 bands that were doing electronic music for a while, but over the past 2-3 years there has apparently been a big explosion in Boston of electronic underground music, which is very cool.

Your first label was also based in Boston. How did you feel about to produce your debut album "Product" for a label, that didn't exist long enough to release it?

It was really encouraging to be "signed" at such a young age (I was probably 21 at the time), but after all the work that we did on that record, it was certainly a great disappointment to lose the label. Since I was also working as a partner in the label, it was also the loss of a great job! I'm sure that if Da5id and I had been a little older and more experienced, we could have made it work. But you have to remember that Metropolis had licensed the first two Informatik albums by then, and Metropolis was certainly on it's way to being the biggest label in the scene, so it didn't make a lot of sense to try to compete with them! The real problems for us came after we got dropped...the original Battery Cage lineup split up, and I had a lot of personal problems after that...

Josh Greco was the sound engineer for that album and still is the man behind the mixing desk. What influence does he have on the sound of Battery Cage?

When we were working on "Product" he was responsible for making sure that our mixes sounded very clear, mostly because when we mixed things without him, they tended to get very dense sounding. He just brought a better set of ears since he had more experience as an engineer. These days we sort of do all the mixing together...usually I will get things into a 'final mix' and then the other guys will come to the studio and tell me if they notice anything sounding wrong or bad. We usually argue about these things for a while but somehow manage to come to a resolution in the end.

With which ideas did you realize "Product"? Did you have a kind of concept for it? With which subjects did you deal on it?

The only real concept on "Product" was that we wanted to make a record for people on drugs to listen to and have their minds blown. I can't say that we were really into the whole "conceptual" thing back then...it was a lot more about asking ourselves questions like "what if i take the kick drum part and offset it from the rest of the song by 1/4 of a beat?" or something like that. All we were looking to do was explore our equipment and make really fucked up sounding music. As far as lyrical subjects, our usual technique was for AJ to go into the booth and improvise a bunch of vocal sounds over the track, then I would write down whatever I thought he was saying, then he would sing what I wrote down. It was very experimental that way. Or maybe he would write a few phrases on his bedroom wall that he thought sounded good, and when he had enough of them, he would put them into order and sing that over the track. It was literally that open...it could be virtually anything, what mattered was the processing and the powerful delivery that he would perform. It safe to say that I don't really use this specific technique with the current lineup...

How did you feel about the departure of AJ and Jeremy then? Was there a moment, where you didn't like making music anymore?

Losing two members of the original lineup was very difficult, and to say there was a moment when I didn't feel like making music anymore would be a great understatement! Jeremy basically told me that he didn't want to work with me anymore since I was too much of a control freak, and he wanted to work on more hip-hop and drum'n'bass music, so he sort of quit. AJ and I tried to keep things going, but AJ wasn't much of a songwriter...he had no technical ability, so it was very hard on me to try to write everything alone. He also wanted to take things into a very different direction...kind of like a combination of Aphex Twin and The Deftones, if you can imagine this. Our personal friendship deteriorated over the next year or two, and eventually I had to tell him that we wouldn't be working together anymore. At that point we were both pretty strung out on drugs and my personal life was definitely falling apart. I don't think I did any music at all for about two straight years from that point...

You teamed up with Sleep Chamber then, which had to be a special experience for you; What did you learn about being together with such a legend act?

Working with John Zewizz and the always rotating Sleep Chamber lineup was a lot of fun, and a really wild experience. I was along for the wild ride of a tour in Germany a number of years ago, and it was a blast until the financial backing turned out not to exist! So it was a good learning experience on how to tour and how NOT to tour. The most important thing that I learned from that period of working with SC was that sexual energy is one of the most important functions of music, especially during live performances. I've spent the rest of my career attempting to manage that energy within the musical structure of Battery Cage.

Since 1999 you worked on a new line-up and sound for Battery Cage. What was the biggest challenge for you to manage this?

Having basically spent most of 1998 and early 1999 in a drugged out haze, not getting any music written, it was a challenge to see if I could even stay alive, let alone write music. Finally when I did start to write music again, I was working by myself...and not doing anything terribly interesting. I was trying to sort of recreate the magic of "Product", but without two core members of the band...and it wasn't working. I had to sort of convince Josh that I had cleaned up my act a lot, since we hadn't really worked together for a long time at the point when he agreed to start making a new record with me. We did most of the "World Wide Wasteland" record by ourselves, with Paul and Roland initially being asked to be a part of the live band. Once we started playing shows again, it made sense to bring Paul and Roland into the band full-time, and it's been working out extremely well since then!

In 2000 you supported Da5id Din with INFORMATIK. Did this engagement have a positive result for the "new" Battery Cage?

Hmm. That's a tough question. In some ways, the answer is no, simply because the time I spent making the Informatik album "Nymphomatik" and doing the North American tour could have been spent on working on the "World Wide Wasteland" album instead. But I love touring, and Da5id is one of my best friends, so I don't regret any of it. Da5id is an excellent teacher, and I've learned a great deal from him over the years. In fact, I would say that I was able to directly apply a lot of production techniques from "Nymphomatik" to "World Wide Wasteland", and make it that much better. So, in that regard, I think it has had a positive impact for Battery Cage. I also don't think it hurt our chances when it came to getting the deal with Metropolis, haha!

How did you meet with the new members Paul, Roland and Crazz?

Roland had been the live sound engineer for Battery Cage for a while, and eventually our live drummer was fired and we needed a new drummer. So, Roland came on board as the new drummer, which was a very good thing for the band. Crazz had been the bass player for another Boston industrial band called Big Catholic Guilt that had been very popular in the mid-90's. He was kind of looking for a good excuse to do some more live shows, so he came on board. Paul and I used to work for the same company and had been friends for a long time and I asked him to be part of the live show. Things with the live lineup turned out so well that basically when I got ready to make a new album, the one we're working on right now (post "World Wide Wasteland") that there was really no question that I would want all of them on board for the recordings. Everyone has worked out exceptionally well, and I have to say that every member is a vital component of the band at this point.

With which basic ideas did you start composing the stuff for the new album? How did you want it to sound like?

I knew I wanted a very powerful dance record with guitars. That was about as much planning as I put into things, at least initially. At first I wanted to take the lyrics in a political direction, but this became less important to me as things in my personal life began to spiral out of control again. Some songs on the album began life very differently, but after performing them live, we were able to make improvements on the recorded versions. I knew I wasn't interested in recreating "Product" again, so I just tried to make music that I thought was cool sounding with a lot of sexual and emotional energy, stuff that people could relate to when listening to it.

It took some years to see the album released now. Did the musical direction change a little bit during this long period? Was it difficult to create the sound that you imagined?

The record took about three years total to complete, from the beginning of 2000 until mid-2003. There was a lot of insanity in my personal life, I got heavily back into drugs for a while, I joined Informatik and wrote an album, I had another project that broke up which was a big waste of my time...so a lot of things were going on that were distracting me from finishing the album. On top of that, I wasn't really very confident that anyone would want to release it, especially after having the first album go nowhere. I don't really think that the musical direction changed too much over the course of the album, actually. We did manage to get some experiments in there, and we were very careful to make an album that wasn't the same song over and over again, like a lot of bands tend to do these days. My personal interest falls more into songs like "Hater" and "Deadmorning", but I also wanted to appeal to the dancefloor with "Anti-Angel" and "Ecstasy". So we were very careful to make a variety of songs. The most difficult stage of the record was in the mixing, because I'm defintely a perfectionist when it comes to the technical side of things, and the mixing itself took months to complete.

"World Wide Wasteland" sounds very pessimistic. Did especially the wars over the last years have a great influence on the album's lyrics? Where exactly did you take your inspirations for the lyrics from?

The overall tone of the album is rather pessimistic, I would agree. When I started working on the record, I was headed in a more political direction, but this changed over time. The album was written well in advance of the war in Iraq, however the song "Statemachine" was written very specifically about the invasion of Afghanistan, which I felt was completely misguided and immoral. The song "Wasteland" was more of a global perspective on the overall destructive path of modern civilization. But a lot of the album deals with a lot more personal subject matter...over the course of writing the record I decided to steer away from politics and write more about personal things that were affecting me. Consequently, the overall theme of the album is 'betrayal', rather than a more political approach.

Multimedia seems to be very important for you. In which way did you for example create your videos?

Our videos started as an idea for our live shows. Then we decided to go another direction and start producing actual "Mtv-style" videos. Roland, Josh and I are all from a film/video background, so it was an easy step to take for us. We do the entire production ourselves, although Josh is usually the director and editor. Our website (www.batterycage.com) has a few of the videos that we've done. Josh produced the video for "Deadmorning" and "Hater", while I did the editing of the live video for "Mirror Image Enemy". We've got some other video ideas in the works now, so it's something that we are still very actively exploring. In fact, we're in the middle of production of a very complicated video for a new track off the album we're working on right now, which will be available sometime after the new year!

What do you expect from the deal with Metropolis and the new Battery Cage album in general?

I have to say that we've been extremely happy with Metropolis as a label. It's been a real pleasure to work with them, and I hope we will be working together for a long time! As for the album, well, I just hope people are enjoying it. It seems to be doing very well, and we really appreciate all the people who are buying it and sending us email telling us they like it! My only real hope is that the people who like this record will like the records that we make in the future!

What about your future plans?

We are currently in the studio working on a new album called "A Young Persons Guide to Heartbreak", which will be a big change in our sound. I'm not a big believer in repeating myself, so I want to make sure that every album has it's own unique qualities. People will either like it or they won't, but at least we won't be accused of releasing the same record over and over. It seems like a lot of bands, even very popular bands, are just rehashing the same album every time they release one. I don't like that, and I think it's boring. So we're making a concious effort to make a very different sound on the next one. We've added a lot more on the guitar end, and the songs are a lot slower...but they aren't any softer!! The new material is a lot more emotionally intense...it's a lot more "human" sounding, I think. I want to make a direct connection to our fans emotions, and not try to make everything abstract like the last two records I've made.

We're also trying to get some more live shows going, there may be a tour or two in the US in 2005, but it's hard to know right now. It would also be great to get over to Europe and do some festivals or maybe a small tour there. If we don't do a tour in support of "World Wide Wasteland", there will absolutely be a tour for the next album.

I will definitely continue to work on my side-project AEC, which is a female fronted electro/dance project. I will probably be doing guest vocals and other appearances, but nothing is in the works at the moment. Other than working on the new Stromkern record, I'm trying to keep other projects at a minimum until the next Battery Cage record is done. We will likely do some more remixes, but again, nothing is planned at the moment. Only time will tell I suppose...