Saturday, February 27, 2010

INTERVIEW: The M.E.M.O.R.Y. Lab D-TRASH Records Interview

One of the highlights of the 2009 year was D-TRASH Records' release of the "The M.E.M.O.R.Y. Lab" CD, DTECH08. After 2007's riotous digital hardcore tribute to scene gurus ATARI TEENAGE RIOT, this CD was an interesting change of pace music wise, music referred to by some as "aggro electro ritual industrial metal". On top of that it was partly composed (and remastered in 2009) by Grammy Award winning engineer Marc Urselli, who's rubbed elbows with people D-TRASH would never have crossed paths with, like STING? and Eric Clapton? Read below of D-TRASH's blowtorch and whips interrogation of the master of the TML laboratory:

D-TRASH: What would have the second M.E.M.O.R.Y. Lab album sounded like? Was there plans for it?
URSELLI: Interesting question. There was never a plan for it. I guess if we were to make an album today it would sound very different. Our influences of course changed throughout these years and new influences would make their way into the sound.
D-TRASH: Once you guys recorded the material that was to make up what was on the CD, what was next? Was that probably the climax of the band activity?
URSELLI: We didn't really have a specific time table. We just concerned ourselves with playing live as much as we could. After recording the CD we wanted to find a label to release it. I think I sent it around a bit but nobody was interested I guess, honestly I don't even remember. The CD was actually recorded before 1999 but I don't know exactly when... The climax of the band's activity was definitely in those last few years. We played a lot of gigs then.

D-TRASH: What was an average set list for the live version of the band - was it basically the album?
URSELLI: Yes basically. On top of that we used to play a Young Gods cover ("Skinflowers") and I think at one point we played a Joy Division cover...
D-TRASH: You would play the album in a row as it appears on the album? What song got the best feedback.
URSELLI: No, not in the same order. I guess we'd switch up the order based on the evening, but that I don't remember exactly either... I am sorry... I guess I'm getting old ;-) Different people liked different songs, but most people were just totally thrown off by what we were doing... The thing is, the alternative concert circuit of those years in Italy was rooted in the DIY punk and hard core attitude and music. Because I was part of that movement (I was a sound engineer doing live sound for many of those bands, I went around checking out live music and I had a distribution of my own) we had DIY credibility and therefore they'd let us play in these places... But audiences were so used to punk and hard core that they were all together so discombobulated by this kind of stuff they didn't really know what was happening and how to interpret it... Some loved it, some hated it... Some were put off by the lack of drums and guitars on stage while others were totally into hearing something new and unusual.

D-TRASH: Before this release, the main release of M.E.M.O.R.Y. Lab was a cassette demo, how much has this material changed from the 1990s?
URSELLI: I actually don't know cause I don't remember what was on that tape and haven't listened to it in 15 years. It was probably mostly the same because once we wrote the song it was in the sequencers and we wouldn't change it much, if at all... Of course the vocal performances would be completely different and it would be interesting to listen to that tape again now.
D-TRASH: They are? Any idea of how to track this down?
URSELLI: I think I have a copy at my parent's house in Italy, but I haven't listened to it in 15 years, it might not play or be decomposed ;-) It might need to be baked, haha... we only did about 25 of those tapes I think.

D-TRASH: There is a creative commons logo on your CD. What was behind the decision to include this? What are your feelings on piracy?
URSELLI: I think the creative commons license today makes sense. We did freely borrow as a band then and it would be absurd not to allow others to borrow from us if they wanted to. It was part of the aesthetic and the musical culture of those years in the electronic scene. It's hard to explain but if you look back you'll see plenty of examples of this in those years.
I have mixed feelings on piracy. It has ruined the music industry as we knew it, but it has also created a situation in which now an unknown band can be heard and has a shot at creating a niche market for themselves. Piracy was an answer to the majors' price structures around music, which they forced on consumers for way too long. It would have been nice to see a world with as much music as we have now but without majors imposing high prices and with people still paying for music. We'll see where this all goes when the dust settles.
D-TRASH: Do you (as a studio producer for all purposes) believe in the idea that this will solve itself out by people attending live shows? Many have said this which to me lowers the currency of the album, which I feel is more important to a band, than any live performance it may have.
URSELLI: I can only hope that live shows will resuscitate the music industry cause it's tough out there for those making music! I don't know what to say... At some point something might happen and the gears will start turning again. The big boys will figure out how to monetize music again and the revenue streams will be different one... It might not be ownership-based anymore. The problem with live music is that there are not enough outlets and venues but most importantly there is not enough interest! Think about movies. Movies keep making tons of money and even though people download them illegally just like they do with music, people keep spending more and more money to go to movie theaters. They go home after a special experience (the big screen) that can't be repeated at home. The same should be true for music. The live performance can't be repeated at home. That's why CDs sell more at shows than anywhere else! I don't understand why movie theaters don't sell the DVD of the movie that just played to ticket holders at cinemas, they would make a killing. The big difference between movies and music is that there is not nearly as many movies as there are records. There's too much offer and not enough demand for music... Maybe we are just in one of those historical dips and we just have to wait it out... People might get so fed up with the bad music out there that they stop caring about music all together. If that happens a lot of people will stop making music because nobody cares about music. Then, when we are at the all time low, there will be a resurgence of quality. People will seek it out and might even be willing to pay for it, over quantity... The demand might create the offer... Who knows... we'll just have to wait and see, it's nothing but a guessing game now.

D-TRASH: A recent review mentioned the sampling on "My Own Little World" from SEPULTURA. But I wouldn't consider your project a project that is heavy sample use of others (atleast from what my ears can tell).
URSELLI: Well there was definitely a lot of sampling going on but we never based a song around a sample. It was more like the sample was the cherry on the pie. Those were the golden years of sampling in music... You sampled to pay tribute to a band, not to steal from a band... it wasn't plagiarism (not for us at least), it was more like letting people know what your influences are and where you are coming from. It was almost like playing a cover in that way. We sampled a bunch of metal bands, especially guitar riffs since we were an industrial-metal band but we really didn't have a guitarist in the band (although sometimes I would play guitar live).
D-TRASH: What other bands are there in there sampled if you don't mind saying?
URSELLI: Actually I do mind saying. Two reasons: 1. I don't want to be sued (or D-Trash to be sued) because considering how litigious bands and their copyright owners are that would just be an admission of guilt. 2. I think it's nicer if people recognize some of those samples on their own, it's like a beautiful little discovery process, you know? Different people have recognized different things so far.

D-TRASH: There is a heavy element of members with TML going on to black(ened) metal bands like ABORYM or MALFEITOR or FUNERAL ORATION. Do you think that this was an element of what made up the band?
URSELLI: Well it was a huge influence for the old Nick (the singer) and for Fabban (who played bass with TML for a while). It wasn't a huge influence on me, I was more into power chords than I was into double drum, but Nick and Fabban were half of the Funeral Oration and I was part of that band for a year too. Fabban founded Aborym before TML and kept up with that project and still does to this day. Obviously through them it was a big influence on TML as well.

D-TRASH: How do you think that this release fits into the catalogue of a label like D-TRASH Records? Is there comparisons or contrasts that you can identify?
URSELLI: I always thought that D-Trash would be a good label for it, that's why I approached D-Trash when I recovered these recordings. There really aren't too many labels out there who release music that is a combination of electronic, industrial and metal and that is exactly what TML is. Also I like the attitude of D-Trash. It's very DIY, which is something we have always felt close to and embraced as a band and as individual members.

D-TRASH: Your music has been compared by some reviewers to that of the 80's/90's Waxtrax. Would you say that this is a fair/accurate comparison. What could you say distinguishes you from the generic "Industrial Metal!" tag.
URSELLI: I wasn't familiar with Waxtrax back then so it would not have been a conscious influence for us. I was into bands like the Young Gods, Die Krupps, Ministry, Swamp Terrorists, Nine Inch Nails and Nick was into more obscure stuff like the Legendary Pink Dots, Foetus, Christian Death and more extreme black metal stuff.
I didn't and for the most part still don't mind being tagged industrial metal. That is what we were and sound like, even though the term industrial has been abused by many bands who don't know where industrial came from and who aren't really industrial to begin with. There was a heavy component of EBM and electronic music in our sound too and what really distinguished us from most EBM or industrial metal bands was Nick's unique voice. His style is personal and draws upon all of his influences. I am glad we never settled for those boring filtered and almost spoken vocals you hear on a lot of EBM records today.

D-TRASH: You, Urselli, handled all programming and electronics for the song structures. Can you let the gear heads in on the process of recording, and then re-mastering the disc? Probably much less of it, those days, was as much as current day computer-recording techniques offer.
URSELLI: Sure. At the time my work horses were a Korg X3 (which was my sequencer and a source of many sounds), a Yamaha SY22 (which was my vector synthesis module) and an Emax II sampler (which of course handled all the samplings). All MIDI, no computers. The first two were full size 5 octave keyboards while the latter was a rack unit. The Korg and the Emax loaded their patches from floppy disks so I remember there were at least 30 second gaps between songs on stage because I had to load all the sounds and sequences. I think later I bought a SCSI hard drive for the Emax which was a big deal for me back then.
The remastering I did for the record was all digital and plug-in based. My favorite mastering plugin is the McDSP ML4000, which just sounds great and is so versatile. Its limiting and its frequency-dependent compression/expansion are key components to my mastering process anytime I do mastering for anyone. I also used some sound restoration plug ins to get rid of some crackles and some hiss from the old analog recordings. Back then we recorded everything to tape. In my studio I had a 1/2 inch 16 track Fostex G16S (one of the first Dolby S machines).

D-TRASH: I haven't had the chance to see any promotional photos, band photos, or any kind of visual representation of the band aside from the CD itself. Does the music speak for itself? In these days of photoshopped lovelies adorning the cover of your average hardcore electronic CD, looking back was there any kind of visual 'image' to The M.E.M.O.R.Y. Lab?
URSELLI: Our visual element was the presence of Nick on stage. He gave off a lot of energy and people were shocked or entranced by his performances, which were equal part theatrical, violent, disturbing and powerful. We never really took pictures of us then, which is why there are no band shots. The music does speak for itself I think. Why would anyone care about how we looked like 15 years ago. We were kids anyway ;-)

D-TRASH: The lyrics, from what I understand are a mixture of Engish and Italian? What would you say that the lyrical agenda of the project was.
URSELLI: There was really only one song in italian, which was the last song we wrote, chronologically. All other lyrics are in english. I wrote some but Nick wrote most. The ones I wrote usually were about political things, animal rights, revolting to the status quo kinda thing. Nick wrote darker and more mysterious lyrics. His lyrics were very personal and introspective at times so I never even asked. I'd let him do his thing and he'd unleash all his demons and his dark energy onto paper and onto the crowds. We were a great team.

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