This time, you wanted to make a real EBM album. Is that right?
Yeah, that’s the album I always wanted to make. The music that I loved when I was a teenager, back in ‘87, music in the vein of Front 242’s Official Version album, early DAF or Severed Heads, Neon Judgement, also Cybotron, so it’s in that world. Maybe a bit of Psychic TV lyrically on some of the tracks.
I could never make this album before for several reasons. Lyrically, I wasn’t mature enough, I couldn’t do lyrics in the abstract way like I do today. That capability just comes from living, learning about life. The second thing is technology. In the albums I mentioned, people were using really old hardware and a lot of these songs have to do with delay. When I started I was mostly doing techno and most of the drums were made on the computer and it never sounded right. Then when I got into modular synths, I started working with really old stuff and I thought “yes, that’s how I can really get an authentic sound”. It really inspired me to make this album now.
Does it have to do with the fact that analogue gear is never 100% precise?
Totally. I bought the 808 – note: the Roland 808 drum machine – for the sound but when I started working with it, I realized that, when you transfer the drum sounds to a computer program, like Ableton, the sounds are never perfectly on the beat, and that’s what you could call the groove. That's what makes a rhythm interesting for more than three minutes. So, now I’m really happy with the way my tracks sound and with the new album.
“The 808 works a bit like the glue of the music.”
What other innovations does Separate Dimension have compared to the previous albums?
Before, I used to release singles and my albums would be like a compilation of my singles, plus a few more tracks. This album, I did all within one year, in the same studio in New York. That’s why it sounds more cohesive than anything else I did before. Most of the tracks feature the 808 as drum machine, that works a bit like the glue of the music and on the other tracks.
When you say that the songs of the new album are cohesive, does it apply for the lyrics as well?
Yes and no. There are classical Horrorist songs, sexy songs, like Here Comes The Whip. But most of the songs are about outer space science or love through separate dimensions. One of the songs, Lay On Me, is about entities having a love affair while not being in the same place, in the same world. It’s a mix of Cybotron and The Klinik, with lyrics à la Psychic TV. But it’s basically me in the end. I don't think anybody else could have written the song.
Premiere of the song The Hand:
What are the songs Programmed and The Hand about?
Programmed is about my obsession that we are in a computer simulation. When I was a kid, I thought we were in a Matrix long before the movie came out. Now it’s almost a common belief. It’s about that and it’s probably one of the best tracks I ever made. The Hand is a complete futuristic story about a man and a machine fighting in another world and maybe in a different dimension. The man is saying “You’re the machine and I’m the hand”, which means he’s going to train the machine how to beat God in a fight. A psychologist would say it’s a metaphor for a battle in my own mind.
“I don’t know what I’m doing and I have no idea of where I’m going.”
How did your lyrics become more abstract?
In the beginning, all my music was about the anger I had for things or people. Then I went to see a psychiatrist and she said that all this music was about me. So, she changed my songwriting a lot. And now I’m seeing another psychiatrist who thinks differently. So now I’m able to write music, using both points of view, my personal point of view and a more abstract, sociological angle. When I start writing lyrics, it’s an unconscious process: I don’t know what I’m doing and I have no idea of where I’m going. But then, I figure it out, I switch the words around to make it even better, knowing what I know about psychiatry, psychology and so on.
The album Separate Dimension is going to be released on 20th January, Oliver Chesler's birthday, by Aufnahme + Wiedergabe on double vinyl and as download.
Interview: Phil Blackmarquis