I first heard Loss when he sent me a compilation track for the Zaftig Research Christmas compilation “Silver Bells,” titled “That’s Not A Candy Cane, Is It?” It was a great track, and he also sent along a copy of his 3” CD, “A Letter That Will Never Be Sent.” I like 3” CDs because they don’t require much time investment and you get a sense of what kind of music you’re in for pretty quickly. I put in the disc and was immediately blown away by what I heard. I wrote a review of that disc for Chain DLK, but here is the relevant passage: “I never thought I would use the word ‘beauty’ in a review of a power electronics disc, but here it is. This is beautiful. It has been a long time since something blew me away like this.” It was absolutely stunning. I have followed his work over the years and he has continued to create emotionally powerful music that pushes the boundaries of experimental music. Dan Fox, the man behind Loss, was kind enough to answer some questions for us, so let’s get into it.
Chain D.L.K.: Give us an overview of Loss for those unfamiliar with your work.
Loss: I’ve been in bands since the age of 14, doing studio work since 17 and gigging since 18. I started out in punk and metal bands as a drummer and occasional vocalist. I discovered my love for industrial music shortly after discovering punk rock so I began to tinker with it by picking up a mixer and a couple of synthesizers that I had absolutely no idea how to use.
In 2004 I went through a horrible breakup from a long-term relationship and I had some money saved up so I built myself a little project studio in my apartment. I had a lot of emotion that had to go somewhere and my musical inclinations seemed the most productive way to deal with what I was going through. Shortly afterward I went to see a show where Wilt, Mindspawn and the [law-rah] collective played. The emotion that I felt from that show (particularly that of the [law-rah] collective) inspired me to drive the 3.5 hours back home and start work on new music immediately. That was the official birth of Loss. After some work and a lot of trial and error I came up with the 3” CD-R “A Letter That Will Never Be Sent,” which was all about my feelings about the aforementioned breakup.
Loss (and now my other musical exploits) are extremely personal and emotional for me. Each of the tracks are about a specific person, event, or emotion that I have experienced. Most of my songs are about love, depression, hopelessness, mental illness, and my negative feelings toward racism.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you wind up doing this kind of music? What was your first exposure to noise?
Loss: This I can easily answer. I was making it before I knew that it existed. I knew about the more mainstream industrial rock and metal acts like KMFDM, Skrew, Chemlab, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and the like and I bought a drum machine and borrowed my girlfriend’s guitar. I used to fool around with programmed beats and the guitar through my old band’s P.A. system. Later on when we broke up she took her guitar back but she let me keep the amp. My brother was taking bass guitar lessons for a while, so I used his bass when he gave that up. By the time I got it, it only had the two low strings left. I “tuned” the e string but just let the other one stay really loose so that it just flopped around the neck and made a racket. The bass never stayed in tune anyway because it was a kid sized version. I had no proper way to record anything so I used a boom box and my parents’ stereo. I’d play the drum machine through the distortion channel and record it with the built-in microphone on the boom box. I’d take that tape out of the boom box and put it into the stereo. I had the amp next to one of the stereo speakers and the boom box which then had a fresh tape. I’d play the stereo and the noise string on the bass and record that through the box. Then the tapes would be switched and I’d play bass along to the stereo. It sounded awful, but it gave me something to do. I think that I still have some of that old music around. I hope I can find it.
Chain D.L.K.: In an earlier conversation, you noted that there is not much interest in your work here in the United States. Tell us about the reception you’ve received elsewhere (for example, playing Maschinenfest).
Loss: There is some interest here in The States, but not much. It’s usually a little bit slow to play in the dance clubs. Remember – this is the country where the kids think that VNV Nation is industrial music. I’m not making a comment on the quality of their music but in my mind it is clearly not industrial.
When I play European festivals it’s a completely different atmosphere. The crowds are much bigger and more supportive. The music is way more diverse than it is here and people are more receptive. People don’t just watch the show… I get asked for autographs, great artists ask me to do remixes and collaborations, fans ask to have my picture taken with them. I get told that the music that I make really touches people. The emotion comes through to them, and that’s a great feeling for me.
I recently went to a local show down here. I didn’t know the first band, the headliner was a very popular synth-pop band and the band that I went to see was a brilliant project by one of my friends from Germany. The first and third bands were awful. Even the songs that I liked on CD came across very poorly, but the music was very simple and catering to the lowest common denominator so the crowd was really into it and cheered on every poorly played song and out of tune vocal performance. I think that a lot of the reason for my lack of acceptance is that I don’t really fit into the mold. My music is far too complex for the average “club person” and it’s generally too slow for the American crowd to dance to. It just is what it is. I like what I do and so do a lot of other people, I just have to travel really long distances to perform for them.
Chain D.L.K.: You’ve stated that you tend to get lumped in with American power electronics bands. I can certainly understand your desire to distance yourself from that scene, especially from the lyrical content in a lot of the PE artists. So rather than thinking in terms of categories, what artists would you say are on a similar wavelength? If there was to be a super tour with Loss, who would be on the ticket with you and why?
Loss: I started answering this question a few days ago and I ended up with a huge list of bands, most of which are no longer together. I’ll make this simple and choose three. After much thought I’d ask the [law-rah] collective, Synapscape and Mental Destruction.
Rage by Synapscape is one of the first CDs that I owned that truly helped to sculpt the sound that would become Loss. The mix of the heavily distorted beats, noise, and aggressive vocals was a real eye-opener to me. I was already into bands like Skinny Puppy, Numb, and Gridlock at the time and this just had a little something that those bands were missing. Maybe it was the rawness of the sound. Phillip from Synapscape and I are now friends and have done a collaboration together. Back then I definitely didn’t see that coming.
I chose the [law-rah] collective because as I mentioned before it was seeing him perform that made me start writing Loss tracks. Bauke is now one of my closest friends and we have done live performances together many times, both as his project and mine. He’s great to work with and his music is brilliant.
Mental Destruction is a great example of how people can create powerful, noisy and aggressive music without being morally handicapped. I had been a fan of their music for a few years before I had the pleasure of playing Maschinenfest with them in 2005. One of them and I still email each other once in a while, and they’re all really stand-up guys.
Chain D.L.K.: Your vocals are generally distorted beyond recognition, and there are no lyric sheets. On the one time the vocals are clear “A Moment Of Reflection” on I Kill Everything, they are incredibly powerful. Depressing, but powerful. Could you tell us a bit about your vocals and the role that they play in your music?
Loss: As I’ve already mentioned, all of the Loss material is very personal and about specific people, events, situations and emotions. I mangle the vocals to protect myself and those that the songs might be about. It’s not that I have a lot of hateful or juvenile material, it’s more that this is all stuff that I absolutely have to get off my chest and I don’t want to make myself too vulnerable by baring my soul openly. It takes a special kind of person to comprehend and accept a mind like mine, and I have been hurt very badly in the past by many people that could not or would not try to understand. I also don’t want to hurt anyone that the songs may be about. Some are about family, friends and girlfriends. My mind is a very dark place to visit and although I think a lot of that is expressed by the music itself, divulging the scenario that caused me to write any given song might upset loved ones or possibly even trigger someone that has emotional problems to do something horrible. I’ve had enough of my loved ones come to me crying after hearing the three Loss tracks with the decipherable vocals. Things would be a lot worse if they were able to hear the words that I have processed more heavily.
I guess the short version is that I don’t do it because it fits the “rules” of the genre. It’s really more for the protection of myself and others. I do plan on having at least one spoken word track on each Loss album from now on. I know that I expose myself and get way out of my comfort zone by doing that but sometimes I just need to talk about the way that I feel in a way that others might be able to identify with.
Chain D.L.K.: We talked earlier about how you got into this kind of music. Let’s talk a bit about influences. Tell us about your favorite books, music, films, art, etc.
Loss: I don’t read as much as I used to, but when I do it’s usually Lovecraft, Poe, or something having to do with music production. Musically I have a very wide variety of interests. I love a lot of punk and industrial but I also listen to a lot of gothic rock, hardcore, noise, ambient, jazz, EBM, IDM, classical, dark ambient, chiptune, post-rock, and just about everything else. My favorite movies are zombie flicks, really bad b-movie horror and classic horror from the seventies and eighties. I also like a lot of foreign artsy stuff, anything by Mel Brooks or Monty Python, and some post-apocalyptic or cyberpunk.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us a bit about your creative process. (Do you start with lyrics, ideas, sounds, etc?)
Loss: It depends on the song. On “I Kill Everything” I had a living situation that allowed me to go out for long walks and explore my city. There were many places there that I found inspirational, such as dry riverbeds, waterfalls, abandoned canal locks, abandoned buildings, parks and islands where I would just sit for a while and write about what was on my mind. That era of Loss often started with lyrics. Now I might have almost an entire song written in my head before I ever start working on it or writing lyrics. Sometimes I’ll just get a drum or string sequence in my head and I’ll build an entire track from that. Other times I’ll her some mechanical or nature noises that will get my wheels turning.
Chain D.L.K.: In seeing a photo of improvisation with Tupperware on Facebook, it got me thinking about your setup. Tell us a bit about what kind of gear you use, etc.
Loss: I have tons of stuff at this point. I use Cubase as my DAW on a souped-up PC. My audio interface is a PreSonus AudioBox 1818VSL and I use 2 MOTU Midi Express 128 midi interfaces. I have tons of VST effects and instruments that I use along with my collection of outboard synths, drum machines, and effects. Almost all of them are freeware. Most of the outboard gear that I have is old and used. I like the older sounds and quirks (and the budget friendliness) that I get from buying older gear. I’m not going to give away all of my secrets but my usual go-to outboard gear is my old Roland JV-880, DSI Evolver, Waldorf Blofeld and MicroQ. I have some great noise makers such as my old optical theremin and my Sirkut Electronics SNB. I have an excessive amount of stomp boxes (if that’s really a thing) and 4 decent guitar processors. I also use toy keyboards, some odd little things that I’ve built and various samples that I’ve collected or created over the years. Lately I have also been using my drum set and guitars as well as the mountain of scrap metal that I’ve collected.
My live setup changes every time depending on flight costs and how much space and weight I have available to me. For my recent “Yerrupean” excursion I had more limitations than the last time I was there. My setup involved a 16 channel mixer, Korg MicroKorg XL, iPod Classic for backing tracks, Digitech Vocal 300, Sirkut Electronics SNB, a feedback loop with a couple of pedal effects, an Alesis SR-16, Korg Monotron Duo and various stomp boxes. I also had my dear friend, the incomparable Bauke Van Der Wal of the [law-rah] collective helping me out on stage.
Chain D.L.K.: With several albums behind you, tell us how you see Loss evolving over the years and where you would like to see it go.
Loss: I really don’t know how Loss will evolve in the future. I have some new projects in development right now so that I can work on completely different directions without having to mess with the very loose formula that I have for producing Loss. I know that I have recently involved more guitar and metallic percussion. The guitar is usually more for texture than traditional use. I have no plans for doing any sort of metal album. I’ve been living in apartments for a long time but now I’m in a house with no neighbors so I can really smash things up without bothering anyone. I think my next CD will be more aggressive than the last 2 due to my mood. I have learned a lot about production over the years so I’m doing more experimentation and live playing. I’ve been a drummer for a long time and I’ve been slowly incorporating that into my music. It’s usually heavily processed and I often remove many of the traditional elements of the kit and replace them with electronic pads and sheet metal. I also have a few collaborations in the works. I can’t give any specifics about those other than the limited edition 7” that I’m doing with the great Empusae. That has been coming along quite well.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you end up on Ant-Zen?
Loss: “I Kill Everything” was released on the first day of Maschinenfest 2005, which I was performing at. At that point I was on the lovely Spectre. After my performance I was at the Ant-Zen merchandise booth buying some CDs and Stefan Alt asked me if I’d like to do something for him. I told him that I’d love to at some point.
Back then I didn’t know that my next full-length would be with him. Over the next 7 years I ended up stuck in the middle of some socially and financially crippling stuff that kept me from releasing anything besides a 7” and a few compilation tracks. During that time Spectre sadly shut down. When I finally finished “I Am But The Sum Of My Conditions,” I sent it to Ant-Zen and Stefan said that he liked it and wanted to release it.
Chain D.L.K.: What does your family think of your music?
Loss: My mom says she likes it. Well, she likes the “pretty parts” with the strings and pads. She doesn’t like the noise elements (which she refers to as “static”) and she doesn’t know why my vocals always have to be so distorted. My dad doesn’t seem to get it. My brother likes certain tracks. I did get a call from my young niece and she told me that “she likes my band.”
My very first email signature was an advertisement for the original Loss 3”. At the end it said “My mom says she likes it but she’s probably lying.”
Chain D.L.K.: Any parting thoughts?
Loss: I think that one of the things that makes my music stand out from many other industrial acts is the level of emotional content. I guess that’s not surprising given the extra “feels” that I carry around. As has been said in some of my earlier press releases and reviews, I do what I do so that I can turn my adverse feelings and experiences into something positive and creative. I encourage everyone to find something that they love to do and try their best to channel any invalidating energy into that project. It may be music, painting, writing, gardening or anything else. The creative community is loaded with people that have their demons and when that negative energy is turned into beauty those demons lose their power over us, if even just for a short while.
I have spent a lot of time over the last five years or so talking to friends and fans that have started making their own music but are too worried that other people won’t like it or don’t have the confidence to share it with anyone. I remind these people that I started out with a self-released 3” CD-r that I was so terrified to hand to anyone that I almost never released it. That 3” started me working with a wonderful record label and got me an offer from another great label as I was performing at the largest industrial music festival in the world. Everyone has to start somewhere and you’ll never know what you’re capable of until you take that first step. This is a great and generally open-minded community that I’m proud to be part of and I genuinely thank the many people that helped me out in the beginning and continue to help and support me now.
Now go make something amazing and pour your rusty little hearts into it!!
Reviews of Loss on Chain D.L.K.
For more information on Dan Fox’s projects
Visit Loss at: Inner Demons Records