I guess the quartet of Battery Cage doesn’t need to be more introduced since they can becalled for sure one of America’s best known Electro/Industrial acts around. Recently backwith a new full-length album “A Young Person’s Guide To Heartbreak” and a single-CDrelease aptly entitled “Single”, we could have a nice conversation with front man TylerNewman, which ended in this interview…
Chain D.L.K.: Hey Tyler, this first question is a bit obvious and can be read in parts atyour FAQ section of your website. But please tell us a bit why it has been taken thatlong after the release of “World Wide Wasteland” to the new CD “A Young Person’s Guide ToHeartbreak”?
Battery Cage: Sure, no problem, this is a pretty common question that I get asked,actually. A lot of bands in the “scene” today, it seems like they have a new release orsomething about twice a year or so. I always get a little suspicious about that,like…do these bands really have some special talent or are they that inspired, thatthey can deliver a quality recording more than once a year? I think a few rare people,like Daniel Myer, are probably exceptions, but most of the time what they end upreleasing is kind of…well, maybe not such great music. I would be really embarrassed ifI ever released anything I didn’t feel was 100% of what I could do. So, the drive toproduce a very high quality recording is certainly a big deal to me, and I don’t stresstoo much about pumping out a release every year. But there were other factors involved aswell. After the release of “WWW”, Paul and I moved from Boston to San Francisco, whileRoland and Josh stayed behind in Boston. I had to rebuild a new studio here on the westcoast, and figure out some new ways of working with the “whole band”, even when half theband was 3000 miles away. So, that took a bit of effort and time to make happen. Thenthere was the matter of falling in love with the wrong girl, and that really took a lotof effort and time…but provided me with at least an album’s worth of inspiration!
Chain D.L.K.: A word to the current situation between being and living in San Franciscoand Boston. I guess a few of your band mates are still based on the East coast, whileyou’ve moved to the West coast. Tell us a bit about the reasons and how you manage thehuge distances…
Battery Cage: Paul and I had lived in Boston for a decade or so, and it was time for achange. Personally, I really wanted to put myself in a different location and get into adifferent headspace. Unfortunately, not everyone else in the band had the ability to moveacross the country, but we’ve made it work the best we can. We have weeklyvideo-conferences to strategize, and discuss what we’re working on. When we get deep intothe recording process, we generally have to take some time to fly around the US and betogether for tracking vocals and drums, stuff like that. Using the internet, we’vemanaged to keep things together pretty well, we maintain our own private fileserver forsending each other parts of tracks we’re working on and loops and sounds. One major thingthat we can’t do very easily is the constant rehearsal that we were doing when we weremaking “WWW”, and of course, we can’t hang out, drink beer and talk shit about each otherlike we used to. So, that’s a downside, but I think overall we have the best workingmethod we can, given the circumstances.
Chain D.L.K.: Is this also the reasons that all in “AYPGTH” mentioned studios can befound at both places? Which sense does it make to try out 6 different recording studios?Some musicians say that every studio has its own unique sound, so doesn’t this fact nothaving a disturbing effect on your music?
Battery Cage: Haha, yeah well…unfortunately, when people live all over the US, it’s asacrifice that has to be made. Most of the studios that we used were only used for, say,tracking some live drums, or a bunch of vocals. You spend a few weeks working in onelocation and then it’s back to another studio to work some more. We did the finalmixdowns at Corrosive Audio, to get a consistent sound from song-to-song, otherwise itwould definitely have been difficult to get cohesive sounding record.
Chain D.L.K.: Yeah, we’ve to talk on “AYPGTH”, just because it is a rather strange andconceptually not expected album of Battery Cage. If I ask some musicians about the deepermeaning of their lyrics and their personal involvement hidden in it, I’ve often receiveevasive answers. I guess you can find relations in several happenings of your lyrics alsoin your personal life. Please give us some insight about your experiences. Are you reallythat old and wise that you can give young people a guide to heartbreak?
Battery Cage: It’s funny, after we moved out here, I wasn’t really focusing on the musicfor a while, mostly because I had met a girl and just gone head over heels for her. Wehad a pretty crazy relationship, lots of sex and drugs and parties…it was all very”rock and roll”, you know, very intense. As you can imagine, things did not end well, andI was in a pretty bad place, mentally, for a long time afterwards. Eventually I was ableto start focus my emotions back into writing songs, and that was a very positive thing for me. Thefirst song that I wrote was “This Party Sucks, Let’s Leave”, and I knew right away thatwe were onto something, both conceptually and musically. I already had it in my mind thatI didn’t want to make another dance record like “WWW” since that record never really gotthe club play that I was expecting…if people couldn’t accept us as a “club band”, thenwhy bother making another record like that? So, when I wrote that first track, I alreadyknew that it would be the first song on the album track list. After that, I literallywrote down a list of about 30 song titles, describing the actual arc of my relationshipwith this woman. We then proceeded to pretty much write the songs around thesong titles, and the rest is history… Basically, the title of that song is literally aquote that came out of my mouth within about five minutes of meeting her. We were at aparty, had just been introduced, and a few minutes later it seemed pretty clear thatthere was a kind of instant spark. I said “This party sucks, let’s leave”, she agreed,and that began the whole affair. A couple other song titles are direct quotes like thattoo. I don’t know if I’m personally able to offer people any kind of insight intoheartbreak or not, but I have had a LOT of people tell me that they could really relateto the perspectives on the album, and a lot of emails have said something to the effectof “hey man, I know what you mean on that song, I went through the same thing myself”. Iwanted to make a universally understood statement about personal relationships, and Ithink we accomplished that. Love can be the most beautiful thing in the world, or theworst, sometimes both at the same time…
Chain D.L.K.: How is the album concept related to the CDS release “Single”? Does theconcept work also on this 5-track release, or is it rather a helpful marketing strategyto satisfy the uncountable US radio stations?
Battery Cage: The “Single” release we wanted to make something known to DJ’s about havinga club track on the record. Granted, it’s the only club track on the record, but wewanted to try and get DJ’s to play it, or get people excited about the full-length, inadvance of the actual release. As with our “WWW” record, it seems like DJ’s don’t get tooexcited about our music, or that people just don’t consider us a “club band” orsomething. To me, it’s dancey as hell, but that’s just my opinion. We probably won’t bedoing any more “dance music” or at least very little, as a result of what I consider afailed experiment. The rest of the release was remixes and B-sides (damn, you know, justsaying “B-Sides” makes me feel like a dinosaur in the modern age of digitaldistribution), which we felt were really strong tracks, but that didn’t fit the overallflow of the “AYPGTH” album as a whole. As for radio play, it did get some decent coverage, but in the US theradio isn’t necessarily the best way to get people excited about an album, so I can’t sayfor sure that it helped us or not.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re drawing on “AYPGTH” an ongoing storyboard from the first to the lasttrack. I don’t wanna argue that legal “downloading behavior” of the listeners from P2Pservers, but… Which sense does it make for some people only to download single or halfof the tracks of your album? Those people won’t get the full album concept. Can wetherefor speak about that Battery Cage support the full album concept released on thephysical product, the CD?
Battery Cage: Well, I definitely embrace the idea of a compact disc as a completestatement of an artist, so I do think that the “casual downloader” will be sortof…missing the point. I’m not necessarily married to the concept of “physical product”in terms of an actual plastic disc. I like the concept of digital sales, though I’m not afan of the MP3 format itself (not high enough quality, really). But yeah, basically thealbum is a story told from start to finish, so it’s important that the listener reallygives the album some attention and listen to it in it’s entirety, preferably in onesitting. Now, having said that, we were also very careful to make sure that eachindividual song could stand on it’s own, without having the rest of the record to supportit. We did include some instrumental “interlude” tracks on this record, but I think thosetracks have something important to say, even when heard on their own.
Chain D.L.K.: The “beautiful” artwork to me helps a lot to support the idea of thealbum, but does it really have any further help to earn higher sales?
Battery Cage: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I was very interested in having a large scalebooklet for this release, and it’s the first time that I’ve published lyrics to anyBattery Cage album, and the concept was that people would feel that a 12 page bookletwith great artwork and printed lyrics would be worth paying for, instead of just stealingthe album from a P2P network. We wanted artwork that would be intrinsically tied to theconcept of the album, and I think we achieved that. I was inspired by the sort of 90’s4AD label artwork, and wanted to have something that was sexy, and feminine, and dark,but without relying on a bunch of the tired cliches that a lot of the “scene” uses. Imean, the cover is essentially pink, yet still manages to convey some very serious anddisturbing emotions if you really look at it.
Chain D.L.K.: I guess the next Battery Cage will leave this current concept to reachsomething new. What do you expect for the next one, any early ideas? Will Battery Cageeventually make a step back to the more social and political critically content?
Battery Cage: We are big believers in not repeating ourselves! Once we’ve explored asound or an idea, then there’s not much point to doing it twice. I don’t mean to say thatwe will drop the guitars and start making IDM or anything, but we probably won’t bemaking another record that’s as specifically focused on the topic of love, at least notfor the next record or two, haha! I think generally we will be sticking to more universaltruths that can be easily understood around the world. It’s too early for me to say forsure what the next record is about, but I am getting older and thinking about moreexistential topics these days. I am putting together a new concept in my head aboutgearing the next record more around the idea of the literal boundaries between physicallife and death. I am definitely not a religious person at all, so I’m trying to explore abit more of a metaphysical idea…but again, this is all just sort of playing around inthe back of my mind right now. It’s way too early to start talking about it in concreteterms. I guess we’ll see what happens between now, and when we start gearing up to makeanother record. I usually take some time off between releases to enjoy life without thepressure of making a record. When we’re actively working on an album, I tend to becomeenslaved by the process…I spend weeks in the studio without seeing friends, returningphone calls, etc. It has a largely negative impact on my “real life”, so whenever the gunisn’t pointed at my head, I try to get out and live a little bit.
Chain D.L.K.: There is noticed a slight move towards to some more guitar-orientedElectro/Metal-Crossover elements compared to “World Wide Wasteland”. Battery Cage’sfuture speaks more and more with guitars?
Battery Cage: For the first 7 or so years of Battery Cage, I was rabidly anti-guitar. Ididn’t even want to listen to music with guitars, I always thought it was “weak” forelectronic bands to fall back on using a “traditional” rock instrument like that. But asI got older, my tastes broadened, and I started listening to a very wide variety ofmusical styles. When we started working on “WWW”, I wrote all those songs onsynthesizers, and guitars were kind of added in as an extra flavor, and not even on every song. After the release of that record, I got really kind of disillusioned with the state of the “scene”, and prettymuch stopped listening to anything labeled “Industrial” or “EBM”. I also knew that Iwanted to try shaking up my own personal methodology for writing songs, so I went out andbought a new guitar and started writing songs around some basic riffs and progressionsfrom a guitarists perspective. This obviously made a huge difference in the overall soundof the new material, and it made everyone in the band a lot happier as they wereempowered to add a lot more of their own personality into the songs. As for the soundwe’ll be exploring in the future, well, it’s clear that my personal focus is driftingaway from what the “scene” is supporting these days. I think as a band we’re much moreinterested, at this point, in making solid rock tracks than making dance music, althoughI’m sure there will still be some elements of dance music on our records. While it’salways hard to speculate about music that hasn’t been written yet, I’d like to dosomething that’s a little more experimental, and free from “genre boundaries”…I keepjoking about making a country and western record, but who knows….I do know that I amstill really enjoying using the guitar as a writing instrument, so I don’t see guitarsgoing away from our music anytime soon.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re known for a huge amount of live gigs you’ve done in the past. How isit with new dates, any touring plans you can already confirm?
Battery Cage: If there’s any aspect of being in a band that I enjoy the most, thentouring is definitely it!! I really enjoy meeting cool people on the road, travelling thecountry, and being able to perform live. That said, touring is absolutely the mostdifficult part of the process, because it’s very financially draining and extremely hardto setup. With four critical members of the band necessary for any live shows, and thedistance between us, and the fact that we all have “real jobs”, and the fact that we’re asmall band…it just becomes very difficult to make it happen. So, the current plan isfor a US tour at some point in 2007. No plans for Europe, since no one knows who the hellwe are (hopefully this interview will change that a bit), although that’s always been adream of ours!!
Chain D.L.K.: Several people are longing out for new Informätik stuff. How big are thechanges that you will soon kick Da5id’s ass to concentrate on new tracks, instead ofbeing caged in his Corrosive Audio Studio to produce and master several foreign works?
Battery Cage: Believe it or not, we are finally working on a new album which we hope tohave out in the fall, though it’s too early to say exactly when. Obviously, I didn’t havea lot of time to do anything other than Battery Cage until a few months ago, and Da5idwas busy working on the latest Psyclon Nine record as well as mastering a lot of CD’s forpeople. I don’t really want to give anything away, but the songs we’re working on rightnow are probably the best we’ve ever done together, and it’s been a lot of fun so far. Ijust hope that people aren’t expecting another “Nymphomatik” type of “future pop” record,that’s really all I can say about that.
Chain D.L.K.: Any final words to our readers to conclude this interview…?
Battery Cage: I just want to take a moment and say how deeply grateful we are to everyonewho has supported us along the way, everyone who has ever bought one of our albums(instead of downloading it for free!), who’s been cool to us on tour, to you and ChainD.L.K. for letting us do this interview. Keep your ears and minds open!!
Visit Battery Cage on the web at:
[interviewed by Marc Tater] [proofreading by Tommy T. Rapisardi]