symbols Magazine: Give us a quick bio of you.
Eric Gottleson: I am a 7,000-year-old terror from deep beneath the earth. Growing weary of the adulation and sacrifice of limbs from the Mole People, I emerged at long last in the year 2008 AD to bring bleepy industrial rock to mankind with the release of the first Everything Goes Cold EP, Prepare To Be Refrigerated. Then I retired to the barren wastelands of the Arctic Circle to wait, to grow stronger, and to eat tacos. Oh, and then just recently I finished our new disc, Black Out the Sun.
sM: How would YOU describe your sound?
EG: The last album, Everything Goes Cold vs. General Failure, was really all about paying tribute to our ‘90s industrial rock influences. We even sample Acumen Nation in the first full track on it. In the time between then and now, I got involved with the chiptune/8-bit scene, and that really helped me find my own sonic direction for the new disc. I tried to get the best aspects of that stuff--the grit and the super-catchy minimalist leads, for instance--and use those to build on some of the great things that have been happening with industrial and other dark alternative music over the past few years. I guess the thing that came out is a mush between all that and a little bit of early ‘90s British Grebo stuff like Jesus Jones and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and Pop Will Eat Itself.
sM: What instruments do you employ to create your sound?
EG: We leaned pretty heavily on software for the new release, but a lot of what you hear is actually coming straight out of an old Nintendo Entertainment System. I used a MIDI input cartridge that came out recently, called Chip Maestro, for most of it, and then our friends Crashfaster loaned us their pumped up modded NES with a MidiNES for a the rest. I do my writing and programming in Logic, but we recorded the vocals, guitars, and hardware in ProTools, then mixed with Wade Alin in Chicago in Cubase. We used some awesome plugins from Audio Damage, the obligatory Native Instruments, and the very amazing Plogue Chipsounds softsynth. Most of the drums were done with FXpansion Geist.
sM: What inspired you to become an musician? Did you feel there was a void in your genre that you needed to fill?
EG: I only got talked into joining my first band, in high school, because I wanted to hook up with their drummer. We were playing bullshit ‘90s alternative with no real direction up until our guitarist, Jonathan Stout (Now the leader of the awesome swing band Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five!), got Ministry’s Psalm 69 from one of those CD-of-the-month clubs entirely by accident. We heard that, and KMFDM’s Nihil, and all of a sudden I found myself in love with industrial music. The rest of the band eventually moved on to other things, but I still love it as much as I did back then.
sM: What/who inspires you to create?
EG: With Black Out the Sun, I’d say the main inspiration was frustration. Frustration with politics, with human relationships, and with people behaving foolishly. One of the big themes of the album is the idea of technocracy, or meritocracy, and the suggestion that perhaps the populace isn’t actually prepared to govern itself, or even to select people to govern it. I don’t necessarily intend to suggest that it’s a good real-world solution to anything, but considering it definitely inspired a lot of the songs on the disc.
sM: What was the first album you ever bought and why?
EG: The first thing I remember buying was Queen’s Greatest Hits Part I on cassette. Wayne’s World had just come out, so I suppose the why speaks for itself, but silly reasons aside, it was obviously a pretty great purchase. That’s not really an album though. I think I may have gotten U2’s Achtung Baby or Nirvana’s Nevermind somewhere around the same time, but the first album I bought on CD, which is perhaps more significant, was The Downward Spiral. I don’t think that action requires much of an explanation, but if you haven’t heard the album in a while, I’d urge you to revisit it. It’s a nightmare of experimentation, complex songwriting, and unique sound design. The fact that an album like that somehow made it into the pop world boggles the mind, even today.
Oh, somewhere in there I also bought the Doctor Demento 20th Anniversary Set. “The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati” was a pretty big influence on me, I suppose.
sM: This is a genre that has had such tremendous growth over the years with some of the best bands having emerged during the 90’s. What do you think is the mark of a good, long-lasting industrial project?
Ah, now That is a great question! This question has defined my entire career, in a way. I’ve tried to play with the bands that were doing something important, something that would last. And what that means... It’s a very complex question. My first instinct is to say “songwriting,” because ultimately it’s the well-written songs that really connect with people. With this style of music it’s easy to get caught up in sound design and production, but the songs are what matter, and I think many bands don’t spend enough time connecting with that. But it’s not the only answer--Coil, for example, isn’t really about songs in that sense. Or Foetus, or SPK. Even Haujobb, a band that has some truly incredible songs, has really lasted and become the force that it is because of some other, less tangible quality. Perhaps the great thing about those bands, and about all of the great industrial bands that we’ll still remember after we come home from the clubs, is that they connect people with something that feels mechanical or electronic in their own lives- something that happens outside of consciousness and free will. Drugs, computers, irrational fears- anything that alters the nature of the control that we have over our own lives.
Industrial music can and should be difficult to listen to. So a great industrial band can’t just go write a standard love song. They have to address humanity from a different angle.
sM: Who are your absolute favorites? Who has since faded away that you would love to see make a comeback?
EG: Normally when I get asked about this I start digging into the American coldwave archives and bringing up these ‘90s bands that are long gone, and I still love a lot of those--Christ Analogue and Diatribe are all still a big deal for me--but what I’m really excited about these days is new music. The new album by Alter Der Ruine, I Will Remember It All Differently, is probably the best thing you’ll get all year. I’m in love with ∆AIMON, Legend, Rabbit Junk, Mr. Kitty, GoFight, and Necro Facility. At this year’s Terminus Festival in Calgary I discovered a band called Cygnets who sound like somebody dropped Suede into a blender with Heaven 17, and it was utterly amazing.
That said, I’ll never get over my obsessions with Pop Will Eat Itself, Killing Joke, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, and Foetus.
And if you didn’t hear the last Left Spine Down record, Caution, you’re really missing out.
sM: If you could go in a completely different direction or do some sort of cross-over collaboration, what would you do?
EG: I’ve done so much collaboration over the years that it’s difficult to imagine what else I could do as far as that goes, but I’ve thought many times about doing an album of acoustic covers, similar to what we used to do in See Colin Slash. Most of that stuff was clearly done for humor value, but toward the end we did a cover of Spahn Ranch’s “Heretic’s Fork” that remains one of my favorites. I think finding some of the great songwriting in industrial music and recontextualizing it to let it shine on its own could be a great thing. Maybe if Everything Goes Cold winds down in a few years I’ll actually do it.
sM: If there was one thing that you would like people to take away from your art, what would it be?
EG: Be who you are and try to love -- NAH JUST KIDDING NOT THAT AT ALL! I want people to question the forces that are telling them to stay positive, and to question their own behavior and hopefully stop acting like idiots. If my album gets just one person punched in the face for sharing an Upworthy article, my work will be done.
The other thing they should take away from my music is an ancient Sumerian curse that turns them into a giant frog-monster at each waxing crescent moon. Then the magical scarab of Zondar shall be mine at long last.