Jun 072007
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For sure a music project, which doesn’t need any further introduction. Tom Shear has justreleased a new Assemblage 23 full-length album entitled “Meta” and he surprises his fansand friends with some fresh new sound ideas and inspiration. Please check out this newinterview with Tom in which he likes to explain to us more details on the new album,upcoming hopes and plans…

Chain D.L.K.: Hello Tom, now back with a new album called ,,Meta” after two years withoutany new A23 release. Tell us a bit about your activities in between. It seems you needed a smallbreak…
Assemblage 23: Haha… It wasn’t really much of a break, I’m afraid! After “Storm” cameout we did full tours of Europe and the US, as well as individual shows in Canada and South Africa, Iwrote, recorded, and released an album by my side project Nerve Filter, I did a bunch ofremixes for other bands, I released the new Lost Signal album on my label, and I producedand released the SD6 album on my label. Oh yeah, and I got married too. So hopefully I’llget a break some day, but for the time being, I think being busy is a good thing!

Chain D.L.K.: As you’ve mentioned it above, in this time you could also release afull-length CD of your long-time side-project Nerve Filter. Due to the fact that thisalbum offered a never heard before stylistically diversity, how important was thisrelease for you personally and for your musically development?
Assemblage 23: I think I just needed to do something in a different style for a littlewhile to recharge my creative batteries and expand my techniques a bit. For me personally, it was a greatdeal of fun!

Chain D.L.K.: You’ve also built your own label 23DB Records with which you’ve brought outfour releases including your Nerve Filter side-project. How does it go? How is it to have aclearer look behind this hard business and to be responsible for all related things,instead of being a signed artist?
Assemblage 23: There haven’t been too many surprises, fortunately. I’ve been involved inthe music industry on one level or the other since the mid-90’s, so I was familiar with the waymost things work. The biggest change is that I launched the label right at the pointwhen digital distribution was becoming a big deal. It’s been very interesting to see howmuch the digital market has grown for us personally. I think the legitimate digitalmarket is slowly but surely helping to minimize the damage of illegal downloading, butnot totally. We’re in kind of a weird transitional period at the moment.

Chain D.L.K.: Besides “Meta” you’ve also release a MCD of the track “Binary” – I guessmainly to offer the DJ’s some stuff to bring A23 back on the dancefloors. In times ofdropping sales, isn’t the release of a 5-track-MCD not a waste of money?
Assemblage 23: It’s true that the single is dying out as a format, which makes me reallysad. I’ve personally always loved singles as a way of getting more tracks from artists I reallylike. Fortunately, though, A23 still does pretty decently with single sales, as thecharting on a sales-based chart like the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart showed. Still,we aren’t going to be doing a second single because the market is just too limited. I’mnot even sure if, by the time I do another album, that physical singles will be done atall anymore. Just goes to show how much the market is changing!

Chain D.L.K.: I think you don’t give a shit to all the rants of some forum people, maybebesides your own forum…;-) , but the majority seems to like and enjoy “Meta” comparedto your previous release “Storm” a lot. Where do you see the main differences betweenboth albums?
Assemblage 23: Forums can be fun to read, but you’re right, I don’t take them terriblyseriously. That said, it has been very nice to see all the nice comments people have been making aboutthe new album! The differences between Storm and Meta are pretty clear, I think, althoughthey share some common ground. I knew I was going to want to take A23 in some differentdirections in the future, so I viewed “Storm” as sort of a “last hurrah” for the soundA23 had established. I wanted to make it an album full of dance singles, basically. With“Meta”, I was building on the things that I think make A23 what it is, but breakingoutside the expectations a bit… thus, “Raw” is harder edged and uses breakbeat styled drumming… “Madman’s Dream” has bass guitar and me singing in a higherthan usual register, “Ghosts” uses some tribal-styled drumming, etc. The lyrics also takeon some more political or socially conscious directions compared to earlier work.

Chain D.L.K.: Talking on “Decades”, I guess you don’t refer on the decades of beingactive with A23… 🙂 – I would rather tend to interpret this track as your statement about thefast-living generation which tries to control time. Wouldn’t it not better to slow downand to take a deep breath? What’s the special meaning and message behind this track?
Assemblage 23: To me, any meaning someone takes from it is totally legitimate, but what Ihad in mind when I was writing it is how man pays less and less attention to the past andkeeps making the same mistakes over and over. We have such a concentration on makingprogress and advancing ourselves that we don’t take the time to reflect on what we canlearn from others who have gone down similar paths to our own. And indeed, the cycles oftime do definitely seem to be speeding up. VH1 started out with a series about nostalgiafor the 80’s. That was successful, so they did ones for the 90’s. Now they have a showlooking back just on the things that happened in the previous week. Before too long, Isuppose they’ll be doing a show about what happens NEXT week. haha

Chain D.L.K.: “Damaged” sounds a bit like a self-portrait which you’ve maybe created in alonely moment far away from home, maybe on tour. Tell us a bit more about the personal contentbehind this track…

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Assemblage 23: I actually have a very hard time writing on the road because it is veryrare to ever have a quiet moment, or any privacy and calm. haha “Let the Wind Erase Me”was written in a hotel in Sweden and the electric piano part for Nerve Filter’s “Beneath a Bed of WetLeaves” was written in an airport in Texas, but those are the only ones that comeimmediately to mind… Anyway, “Damaged” was written from my perspective, but I thinkreflects experiences a lot of people have. I think who we are as people is largely basedon the experiences we have and how we face them. So few of us are willing to face ourflaws or weaknesses, and I think that can be harmful. Sometimes looking your problemsdirectly in the eye is the first step to eliminating them.

Chain D.L.K.: “Madman’s Dream” surprises with an unusual vocal performance provided anoctave above your normal style. How many try-outs have you given to this track? ;-)Besides that, this track also features an obviously accusation against the currentpolitically situation of your country. Tell us some details and your hopes and wishes forthe next years’ president election…
Assemblage 23: It actually wasn’t that difficult to sing. I’ve done harmony parts in thatrange for many years, I just never gave them the ‘starring roll’. haha But yeah,“Madman’s Dream” was about watching the aftermath of Katrina tearing New Orleans apartwhile our president did absolutely nothing. Of course, all of that seems like a drop inthe bucket compared to all the other horrific things that have happened under Bush’swatch, and that is another point touched on in the song. A lot of these people who losttheir homes and everything they had are still being ignored by the government andpromises of help have mostly not been fulfilled. I am not really sure WHAT my hopes arefor the next election. Just not having Bush in the White House will be a huge improvementin itself, but I am afraid that whoever is elected next is going to be so overwhelmed trying to undo all the damage Bush has done to our country, that they will be unable to be very productive inother areas.

Chain D.L.K.: Several bands have explained they would sell several more CD’s when they’redoing gigs and/or a tour. Since A23 has always visited the whole world to play live onstages, how is it with you? How important has become the sale of merchandising articlesfor you? How are your plans for a new tour to present “Meta” in all corners of this world?
Assemblage 23: Merchandise sales are very important. In fact, without them, I probablycouldn’t make a living doing this. Most of these sales are through the A23 website, butthe touring thing does help a lot as well. Even that can be hit or miss, though, as a lotof times people at shows are spending all their money on booze. Perhaps the solution isto introduce a line of Assemblage 23-themed vodka? Haha As far as tour plans for thisyear, we’ll be doing a couple weeks of shows in Europe in August, and then a full UStour, which we are still planning in September and October. This will be followed by ashow in Mexico in November. People can find the latest tour date info at:www.assemblage23.com/live.html

Chain D.L.K.: Any new studio works in progress you like to confirm here? How is it with asecond MCD release out of “Meta”?
Assemblage 23: As I mentioned earlier, there won’t be a second single. The market justwon’t support it, unfortunately. Currently I am mainly working on remixes and production work for someother bands, as well as preparing some new versions of older songs for the upcoming A23

Chain D.L.K.: Your final words to conclude this interview?
Assemblage 23: Thanks for the interview and thanks to all the fans!

Visit Assemblage 23 on the web at:


[interviewed by Marc Tater] [proofreading by Tommy T. Rapisardi]

Jan 172003
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Chain D.L.K.: So, first off, how was the Haujobb/VNV Nation/Informatik tour you just got off of? I have to say the concert you guys pulled off at the Park West here in Chicago was great!
Assemblage 23: Thanks! A couple corrections, though…We only played the one show in Chicago, not the entire tour, and Informatik were never on that tour either. But, we had a lot of fun at the show.

Chain D.L.K.: Tell us a little about “Defiance” and why you came to that title.
Assemblage 23: I think the idea of standing up for what you believe in and not allowing others to walk on you has been a theme in A23’s music for quite some time, so it seemed like a natural title.

Chain D.L.K.: Is there any particular theme around the CD like there was on “Failure”?
Assemblage 23: Not so much…it’s just a collection of songs I wrote over a particular period of time…

Chain D.L.K.: How did it feel for Assemblage to be picked up by Metropolis. Also, how did it feel to become a star on the scene after the CD “Failure” had been long deleted?
Assemblage 23: I’m not quite sure what you mean…”Failure” was never deleted, and it hadn’t even been out 6 months before we switched to Metropolis. But I am much happier with Metropolis than I was with Gashed…it’s a much more professional label. Gashed just seemed to have no interest in being successful, which was frustrating.

Chain D.L.K.: Did you kind of lose hope after Gash stopped the record for a while (a decision they are now probably kicking themselves for! )?
Assemblage 23: The name of the label was ‘Gashed’, and they never ‘stopped the record’… they chose to stop working with me and tried to get me to pay some ridiculous sum of money to them to buy out my contract versus just working with me to sell the contract to Metropolis, which they ended up doing in the end and made a lot of money from. They were still selling the albums up until the end though.

Chain D.L.K.: What is your opinion on the whole futurepop thing that many label the group as? Is there such a thing?
Assemblage 23: The only people I have ever heard use the term ‘futurepop’ are VNV Nation and people trying to capitalize on VNV’s success. So, no, there is no such thing as ‘future pop’, it’s just a marketing term.

Chain D.L.K.: What new additions to the sound are there on the new CD?
Assemblage 23: I tried to push myself vocally with this album a bit…just to challenge myself a bit and make for a progression in the sound. I also tried to sort of avoid the trance-oriented sounds so many people seem to be over-using these days and just concentrate on writing decent songs without worrying too much about what ‘style’ they’d be considered to fall into.

Chain D.L.K.: Very interesting artwork on the new CD, but is that a naked skinless person on there?
Assemblage 23: Nope, just a naked figure.

Chain D.L.K.: Why the decision to go with this artwork?
Assemblage 23: I worked with the same artist I had used for the previous Failure and Addendum releases and just gave him the task of representing the concept of ‘Defiance’ in a somewhat abstract way, which is how he came up with the design you see on the album.

Chain D.L.K.: I notice the Website is under Synthetic. Org, a fine little electronic radio/video show. Why is that?
Assemblage 23: Todd, who does Real Synthetic Audio has long been a friend of mine and volunteered the space.

Chain D.L.K.: I heard your version of “Document” live. Are there any changes to that on the new CD or is it pretty much the same?
Assemblage 23: It’s the same.

Chain D.L.K.: Where did the title ‘BlindHammer” come from?
Assemblage 23: It’s just sort of a made up term to represent something that is destructive without any real awareness that what it is doing is destructive.

Chain D.L.K.: Do you still feel your early Depeche Mode influences on this CD or have you moved beyond that?
Assemblage 23: Depeche Mode will always be an influence…although I was really let down by most of what they’ve done since Alan Wilder left, there is no denying the songwriting and production brilliance of their earlier material…Not to mention that I think they sort of bridged the gap for a lot of people and got them into more industrial styles of music eventually.

Chain D.L.K.: Could you ever picture the A23 sound going all the way into pop music, where we’d see you swagger around like Depeche Mode? Kinda odd question I know but I think it’d be interesting to see!
Assemblage 23: I don’t really think of Depeche as a pop band really…granted they have a large following and have a very catchy sound, but you can’t just lump them in with people like Britney Spears or N’ Sync…To me, most mainstream pop is very boring…It’s incredibly produced and sounds amazing from a recording standpoint, but the songs themselves are very empty and vapid…I don’t see myself going in that direction at all. But I DO hope that the songs I write will connect with a wide range of people and that they will be found ‘catchy’, etc.

Chain D.L.K.: I read your side about the MP3 debate a bit, which I find your points very interesting. Do you feel that it’s hurt or helped the sale and exposure of A23? A friend and I used to argue this all the time, but the part where I think it levels out is that with programs like Kazaa, you cannot download it to disc (as far as I know) so they’re stuck to their comps if they want to hear it at all. It’s a loaded issue though. I think the only safe solution so far I’ve seen is MP3. com.
Assemblage 23: MP3’s always have and always will be a mixed bag. Yes, it can be a valuable tool for promotion and turning on new potential fans to the music, but it is also incredibly easy to abuse and a LOT of people are abusing it. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who write to me or come up to me at shows who say, “I’m such a huge fan…I’ve downloaded ALL your music! ” with absolutely no sense of shame. It’s not a black and white issue to be sure, but it frustrates me a bit.

Chain D.L.K.: Any side projects planned in the future?
Assemblage 23: We’ll see. A23 keeps me really busy on it’s own…

Chain D.L.K.: One of my friends told me the live drummer works at a sports store. I’m curious as to whether this is true or not.
Assemblage 23: Nope.

Chain D.L.K.: Did the sudden success in Europe take you by surprise? Would you consider moving to Berlin like some artists who hit it big there do, or another part of Europe?
Assemblage 23: I love Europe, but I can’t see myself living there. There are just certain creature comforts you get accustomed to when you grow up in a certain area, and to an extent, I think I am just too used to the US to make such a huge change now. Not to mention the fact that I think Seattle is one of the coolest cities in the world and I can’t ever picture moving from here…

Chain D.L.K.: I noticed where you sang your heart out and didn’t move too much on stage. Were you a bit nervous like you said you were in the beginning?
Assemblage 23: We played with 2 other bands who had a lot of equipment, so there literally was nowhere for me to move even if I wanted to!

Chain D.L.K.: I also noticed you have a new logo. Why the change?
Assemblage 23: I have changed the logo and the Website with every release.

Chain D.L.K.: Any last words before you go, or any words of wisdom for us out there?
Assemblage 23: Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years!

Visit Assemblage 23 on the web at:

[interviewed by Shaun Hamilton] [proofreading by Erica Breyer]