feature :: T.O.T.S. Interview
I got the chance to shoot the shit with Chvad from Things Outside The Skin, and here's what was said. Many of these questions have nothing to do with music because this interview will also be published elsewhere.
Describe yourself and Things Outside the Skin for those not in the know.
THINGS OUTSIDE THE SKIN is a satirical audio and visual creative entity. Sometimes in greater quantities of one than the other. Snooty enough for ya'? It's really tough for me to quantify it as anything specific and I'm not wanting to come across as pretentious when I say that. A lot of bands will say things like "we're not industrial, we're "electro-dark-tech-rock-pop" or "we're not goth, we're wacky carbonated bubble snap emo grunge" or whatever. t.o.t.s., probably to our detriment, has no real direction and that's really my fault. I'm interested in tons of things and like most of us, have a limited amount of time at my disposal for my creative endeavors. My solution was to create a project that could embody all of these creative desires at once. I love visual arts, performance, music, etc etc I love technological and non-technological approaches to things. Most importantly, I love content. Whenever I am approaching a new subject to work on, the tools generally change. The end results are questionable. Some people like it, others don't. Like anything I guess.
t.o.t.s. was originally called Recherche. Was there any major reason for the name change, or did you just outgrow it?
I used the name Recherche' from 91 to 97. In that time, no one could remember it, pronounce it or spell it correctly. I should have probably changed it sooner but I can be stubborn sometimes. Back when I changed the name I wanted to replace it with an identity that was, at least with what I had what I considered to be, more flexible.
You've been making music for over a decade now. Have you seen much change in the music "scene" since you first started out? If so, do you think it has changed for the worse or for the better?
In VA, back before the internet/WWW was in everyones homes, things were entirely different. My music selection/exposure was limited to what I could find at the local record shop or what I could order though Metropolis (then just a news-print mail order catalog). When my friends and I wanted to see a show, it meant a car trip to DC or NYC. There was NOTHING in our area... at least that we knew of. Mostly shitty cover bands. I guess what I'm getting at is, that there wasn't a scene. There was no community. Listening to noise, industrial, gothic, whatever... was an extremely isolating experience for me. Just me and a few friends than could tolerate what I was listening to. I was also (thankfully) totally unaware of the multitudes of sub-genres, which I really find nauseating. To me and my imagination, industrial music seemed to be a type of music that was allowed to get away with anything. When we played shows back then we had an extremely difficult time playing anywhere. To compare those experiences with how things are now is a difficult thing though as my frame of reference keeps changing. Not only time, but where we've been living as well. We don't have any problems booking shows these days... but we're in a much much bigger city. It'd be nice to say that more people are interested in us but it probably has much more to do with living in a massively crowded city with a ton of people looking for something to do. It's hard to compare that to a small province in VA. The thing about the internet and music “scenes”.... it's interesting. On one hand, to find people with similar interests is easier than ever. To find and hear new bands takes almost no effort at all. That's totally cool. On the other hand... people have massive over exposure to things as well. Everyone has seen and heard everything. Competition for attention has risen well above being better than the local cover band. A massive overload of bands vying for attention. It's tough on the fans and it's tough on the bands trying to poke their necks out of the crowd in order to be seen and establish a unique identity for themselves.
How do you think mp3s are affecting the music industry, and how do you feel about the RIAA?
MP3's are a total pro-con thing for me. MP3's have been a great way to hear new bands, hear rarities from bands you love and great for mass distribution of tracks on an unprecedented level. Those are in my mind, the biggest pros. The biggest con for me then is this: People seem to value things based upon production cost of an item alone.. not by the non-quantifiable effort used in producing a product. When the CD-R became a widely used format, the general "consumer" began to "realize" the cost, their perceived cost at any rate, to manufacture CD's. They began to ask themselves, "Why am I paying $15.00 to $20.00 for a CD when I can burn one myself for .50. They felt deceived. Combine this perception with the misnomer that all artists never make any money off of CD's, then begin to mistake true indie artists for "major" artists and the developing idea that people have a "right to own" and you have a massive runaway snow-ball that fucks over a ton of people. I can just imagine how people justify theft, ... "I like Madonna. Madonna is rich and doesn't need my money. The CD is over-priced and hell, she's not even getting money from this CD sale anyway so what's it matter? She's getting screwed, I'm not gonna support this. I'll just copy my friends or download it." Apply that same logic to us, and you literally just pulled that afternoons sandwich out of my mouth. I imagine there's even less thought given to the situation by most. More or less some like, "I want it.". Done. That's it. There's your "right to own" mentality. Getting back to my first point though... the content holds no value for most people. They associate cost of product with value of product. With MP3's there is no product essentially. It's intangible data. It's not an isolated issue either, software manufacturers have had these problems for a long time. People just need to come to the realization that what they're paying for is the right to enjoy the fruits of the artist's labor. If they don't feel like that's worth paying for, then play music by the millions of artists releasing their material for free. Personally, and I'll wrap this soon.. I know I'm rambling, when I buy a CD or a DVD... I am buying it to support the artist, or company, or engineer.... so that I might have the good fortune to enjoy another one of their products at a later date.
In regards to the RIAA... honestly, they've never affected us directly and so I have no real first hand experience with them. I understand why they exist. It's not an entirely bad idea... but like most things... The RIAA have become to large and move too slow to keep up with the times.
I know you're a big Devo fan. Have you heard A Perfect Circle's version of Freedom of choice? If so, what'd you think?
Well, I've never liked A Perfect Circle and up until now I haven't heard their version but I went and bought the track *just* so I could answer this question. What do I think? I still don't like them. I can't comment on the band though as I know almost nothing about them.
Describe your songwriting process.
I kind of work in sporadic bursts with certain parts of songs, completely independent of one another. Some days I'll just work on beats and loops. Some days I'll noodle with various melodies. Some days I'll have some lyrical ideas and on others I'll hammer out a nifty riff on a guitar or some other instrument. If I come up with something I like, I'll record a piece of it to remember later on and toss it into a folder. Usually what happens is, something I am noodling with now, will remind me of something I played around with earlier (sometimes years) and a song will start to take shape. I rarely, if ever, sit down and create a song with ideas from one sitting. It's a real methodical process for me that I never ever rush. I don't like to force things into shape. Sometimes I'll be 3/4 the through a song and can't figure out what to do with it. If that's the case, I just let it sit until I have another idea... again, years have gone by with shit like this. The songs themselves are almost always structured around the lyrics and whatever patterns emerge from those. After something is more less "done" in my eyes, I toss the results in front of whomever I am working with at the time and then see what happens. At that point, I'll usually go back and change things accordingly.
t.o.t.s. is more or less a solo project, but you play with a band live. Does the live sound differ a lot from the recordings because of this?
It has been a solo project for a long time for sure, but my brother had a significant influence on the tracks he recorded on the last CD, "You Knew It All Along". Songs like, "Cow Tippin'" changed drastically. The next CD, I think will be a much greater "band" endeavor. In regards to the live sound, there's a great energy to the songs performed live that I have yet to capture on CD. Some songs change so much, people are convinced they're hearing something completely new. I like to change and re-work old material quite a bit... I'm really open to change. That's whats great about playing with a band live, there's always a new idea for a song coming from someone... it's exciting when that happens.
Are there any other projects that you're involved in besides t.o.t.s.?
My brother, Blight and I noodle around with a side-project periodically called "Mutant Yamulkas". Basically weird "Residents-esque" type stuff. Him and I just getting wacky with no agenda. I work and score for various films on occasion and Blight produces a television show in NYC called "Art or Something Like It". The two of us are always involved to some degree or another with our friend Elias and his film projects produced under the "BiFF JUGGERNAUT" moniker. Elias has also produced a number of great videos for t.o.t.s. as has Blight and myself. I've been tinkering with some screenplay ideas over time as well but most of my energies at this time however, are poured into t.o.t.s..
Any new albums or tours in the works that we should know about?
I wanted to tour last summer in '05 but had no luck getting that off of the ground. I'm attempting to do a couple of weeks on the road this summer '06... well see how that goes! I'll probably start working on new material this fall. I'd like to release something new early 2007.
Could you give us a gear list?
Yamaha DX-100, Yamaha TX81z,Yamaha CS1x, Yamaha DTX 2.0, Kawai K5000s, Kawai K-1r, Kawai K-3m, Alesis Ion, Waldorf Microwave XTK, BOSS Dr. 660, Redsound Darkstar, KORG EX-8000, Commodore 64 w/Cynthcart, Atari 2600 w/SynthCart and a Nintendo NES w/MIDINES.
dbx ProVocal, Joe Meek ThreeQ, dbx DDP, Alesis Bitrman, Boss SE-50, and various plug-ins.
Pedal Effects: (for guitar)
Ibanez LA Metal, DOD Metal Maniac, Digitech Grunge, Diditech Digi-delay, Rocktron Big Crush, Rocktron Hush, Rocktron Hypnotic Flange.
Pedal Effects: (for bass):
Boss Chorus, Morley Dual Bass Wah, Aphex Punch Factory, Aphex Bass Exciter, ElectroHarmonix Bassballs, Boss Bass Distortion, Pedal Pad board and power supply.
Sony Soundforge 7, Cakewalk Sonar 4, Taureg 2, various plug-ins.
Guitars and amps:
Schecter Damien FR, Eastwood Delta 6.
Traben Phoenix, Ashbory Bass
SWR 210 combo bass amp
Peavey Studio Chorus 210
Okay, now for some totally random non-music related questions. First, what is your opinion on the current state of American society?
We are in a state of media shock. No one knows who or what to believe. Everything is extremist and polarized. As a result, things have fractured a lot. You have people that just shut it all out because it's nauseating and difficult to deal with and then you have lemmings who just do what they're told. In the end, the lemmings are the strongest because at the very least, they make the same decisions. Not a good thing. But seriously, people are ALWAYS afraid of change. We never stopped burning witches... we just changed their names.
From what I gather you're into animal rights. What do you think of PETA and some of the more extreme Vegans who think that humans who eat meat should be killed?
First, any extremist action is usually so far to one side or the other that their points become useless. What do I think about vegans who think humans who eat meat should be killed? I think their fucking insane. PETA... a well intentioned organization that doesn't always do what's best BUT on the other hand, everyone knows who they are and what they stand for... and so to that affect, they've been successful. In regards to animal rights. I'm not going to sit here and tell people to be vegan or vegetarian. That's not a life style that everyone can live with. Everyone has unique nutritional needs. Everyone has a different body. I can't digest vegetable proteins well. When I eat them I get incredibly ill. I'm not vegetarian. I do however believe in moderation. I believe in respecting the creatures we live with and consume. I believe in proper living conditions for farm animals. I believe people should understand and respect where our food is derived from. That being said I am entirely against certain products and foods that deviate from respect and moderation. Veal is horrible. Hunting endangered species in reprehensible., In regards to fur clothing, animal testing and such... I am 100% against shit like this. It's barbaric and unnecessary. It's greedy selfish crap like that that really gets under my skin.
If you knew the world was ending in a week, what would you do?
Say goodbye to my friends and family. Take my dog and girlfriend and go out hiking or something. Watch the dolphins fly away. Re-read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or something along those lines. I'd like to say I'd be cool enough with the world ending to just be able to chill out, relax and enjoy what's left to enjoy. Who knows... maybe I'll just run around while flapping my hands over my head and scream a lot.
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
The ability to allow people to see the repercussions of their actions and understand them. "Repercussion Man": The world's most depressing and boring super hero?
What are some of your favorite movies and books?
Authors? Anything by Douglas Adams is genius. I love John Wyndham's stories. Jon Krakauer is amazing. As far as movies go, I love horror movies. Who doesn't? Favorite movies? Joe vs. The Volcano, The Haunting (original), The Woman in Black, Return of the Living Dead, Dead Alive, Godzilla (The REAL one, not the American piece of shit), Gamera, Ginger Snaps, Dog Soldiers, Suicide Club, Creepshow, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc etc etc... Lots of stuff. Really.
How do you feel about LaVeyan Satanism?
I don't know much about it. See below.
How do you feel about Christianity?
It was one of the biggest mistakes EVER made and when I say that, I mean all of organized religion.. not just Christianity. That's not to say I'm against being spiritual. I am cool with people believing in what they want to believe in. I'm not cool with large masses of ignorant and fearful people commanding unto others how their lives should be lived. That's just scary.
Okay, tell me which of the following things you prefer and why:
Bruce Campbell or Christian Bale?
WOW! That's tough. Both of these guys are awesome. Total draw. Can't pick.
The Smurfs or The Snorks?
I'll have to go with The Smurfs I suppose. I never watched The Snorks when I was a kid.
Toxie or Sgt. Kabukiman?
Toxie all the way baby. Is their any question? Kabukiman has potential but he's nowhere near the bad ass kick villain arse machine that Toxie is. Besides... Toxie gets all the babes.
Zombies or Vampires?
Zombies... why? I guess a lot of that might have to do with Melinda Clarke in Return of the Living Dead III.
Midget porn or MILF porn?
MILF porn! Never got a hard-on while looking at midgets.
Danzig or Elvis?
Not a fan of either. Never got a hard-on while looking at these guys either... Danzig IS kind of a midget isn't he?
Software or Synths?
Both. However, the only soft-synths I use are freeware. I've yet to come across any that I've been interested in enough to pay for. Softsynths are fun but I rely and write on hardware. Maybe it's a tactile thing.. maybe it's the sound... maybe it's the fact my previous DAW was built from junked computers that I pulled out of the garbage on the curbs of NYC... but I don't feel as inspired with soft stuff. I've only recently gotten a computer that can actually handle softsynths with any efficiency... maybe that will change my work flow. We'll see what happens.
Okay, that's all I wanted to ask. Is there any thing else you'd like to say?
Just thanks to YOU Royce... I know ya' weren't into our last release all that much but ya' still reviewed it anyway and gave us some extra exposure. Again... more exposure with this interview. You totally fucking rock!
That's about it. To all the people reading.... come out and see us play sometime! If you WANT to see our show, be vocal about it to your local promoters and clubs! Also... check out our site www.outside-the-skin.com. We have TONS of content available for free download. That's it. Oh yeah, listen to more of The Damned. EVERYONE. Now. ... and Snog too. Go buy a copy of Swamp Thing. Yes.. the comic book. It's being canceled and that's a damn crime.