Chain D.L.K.: So tell us about the name and inception of Monstrum Sepsis, for those new to the scene and the group.
Monstrum Sepsis: Those are questions that can’t be answered too briefly. It all started with my early obsession with tracking music using fast tracker. I was largely inspired by mid-era Leather Strip and early Project Pitchfork. I was more specifically keen to the juxtaposition of harsh electronics and orchestral elements. My motivation to start going was to write music using just a single computer with a creative and unique sound. The early stuff from 96-98 is exceptionally raw. Crunchy noisy percussion, being written in really before the whole power noise thing became a thing. I didn’t want to sound like anything else, which is why most of my samples and percussive instruments are self recorded, not downloaded or purchased. I was attending art school living in Chicago working at a vintage clothing store…not making much money…so the only music gear I could afford was what I already owned…a pc. I wrote tracks under the pseudonym of “paranoid dreams”. It was at this time that my methods of composing were concocted…I never left home without my handheld tape recorder and several high bias tapes to collect random sounds and samples, which would later be processed and recorded, on the computer. One song, “Freezerburn” was written completely from finger tapping I recorded with a mic in my over frosted freezer. The recordings were later broken down to single percussion sounds and composed into a percussive onslaught using fast tracker.
While I was slaving over my pc writing tracks, Paul Karlik was writing tracks on his c64. The two of us met while living in Chicago. We had similar tastes in music, and just happened to start talking to each other about the music we listen to, and the music we write between classes. I think both of us were equally excited to find each other. We exchanged demo tapes and were both equally impressed, so we started writing together.
Monstrum Sepsis was more a school project than a band for the first few years. Being animation majors we used our free time or what little we had to write music for our animation projects. While our classmates always struggled coming up with a theme for their projects we’d always base it off the Sepsis.
The name Monstrum Sepsis? It was a concept that was carried out literally through an early song, wiped-out, released as a remix on primordial notions alpha as “Spaxout”, it was about a virus that wiped out a prosperous civilization. The mood of the music was reflective of this event. Chaotic and dismal, with an undertone hopeful optimism.
Chain D.L.K.: What are some of your influences both band-wise and life/emotion-wise?
Monstrum Sepsis: Walter Carlos, Brian Eno, Skinny Puppy, Leather Strip, and for me, mostly Peter Gabriel. At the time we started doing music, the industrial scene was really suffering. There were not many bands doing what we wanted to hear, so, since we both had the ability and passion to write music, we did.
I don’t sit down and think I’m going to write a song about pain or happiness. I can’t always predict what’s going to come out, but yes there have been many things that have happened to me personally that drive the emotions that are often picked up by our listeners, which is encouraging. It’s about pain and suffering, but more about having clear vision and hope through times of turbulence. When I record a string line or a piano line especially I close my eyes to focus and push as much emotion to my fingertips as I can.
You’re thinking… “Sounds like a bunch of hippy crap to me!”
But it’s true. There is nothing more pure to me than playing music from the heart.
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve heard your music tagged as IDM (“Intelligent Dance Music”) and”Intelligent Industrial”. What are your feelings on being tagged IDM and the whole IDM tag altogether?
Monstrum Sepsis: I wouldn’t argue with ‘tagging my music as IDM’ it’s not really but I can see some songs that could fit under that classification. The way I think about it? Every genre will be split to sub-genres, and continue to be sliced and diced beyond the point where it’s purpose has been defeated…to generically classify the sound to a general audience. Although the well versed industrialists know very well what IDM and EBM means, the terms are about as granular as they can get. When sub genres need definitions, their purpose has been defeated…but whatever. Yeah I think Monstrum Sepsis could be considered intelligent dance music. Some people catch wind that Monstrum Sepsis has a few power-noisy sounding songs, some other people hear there are some cool EBM-ish MS songs… a couple others refer to some MS songs as IDM… All of the above are true, so as long as nobody starts pigeon holing me I have no problems with the tags or comparisons…I can’t fight em, and they’re all rather subjective so keep em coming.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you like crafting music more in a free-flowing way or do you do your music piece by piece, like creating and intro, going to sleep and picking up the next part the next day?
Monstrum Sepsis: It’s all different, but mostly yes, I start by searching for and creating sounds/samples/instruments whatnot… I throw ‘em into a pot, mix until I get a good feel and skeleton of a rhythm, and usually once it gets to this point it goes on the side burner for a few weeks/months for when I return to it with fresh perspective. Some tracks are realized in a matter of hours, and fleshed out within maybe a week’s time. The tracks that come out in one day are the real treats. It’s a brilliant thing to be able to mold the song exactly as your mind hears it or wants to hear it in a short period of time. I don’t write very well when I sit down with a preconception of what a track should sound like. I get most enjoyment out of letting a song write itself based on exploration.
Chain D.L.K.: I notice a warm atmosphere over the cold effects a bit. Would I be wrong in saying that you mix analog keyboards and digital keyboards or is it just one or the other? Some of the atmosphere sounds like the effects I get off my Akai-7000 a bit!
Monstrum Sepsis: No you are absolutely right. Although I prefer actually composing on a “real” physical synth, a lot of what I’m working on now are softsynths. You can do some brilliant things with many of NI’s visits…plus yeah there’s some “real” analogue modeling and some “real” vintage analogue synth in there.
Chain D.L.K.: A lot of the song titles on your CD’s are based on scientific terms. What is the reason behind that?
Monstrum Sepsis: I guess if you think about it, science is all around us so…it sure is an influence.
Chain D.L.K.: I read once where you got into digital art over organic art (i. e. , painting) not long ago. Do you ever miss the feeling of painting at times?
Monstrum Sepsis: I don’t know where you read that, but yes for a while I was overwhelmed with digital art projects. I’ve since gotten back to my roots gladly. Besides occasional paintings I have finally been able to ‘stabilize’ my creativity…mixing the organic art with digital art. I have gotten back into my routine of weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) figure drawing from life. I teach Photoshop in the continuing education program at the art institute here where I have also taken up figure drawing classes on my own time. Figure drawing was always my most fulfilling artistic endeavor. I believe the human figure is the most expressive form that can be captured on paper or canvas.
Chain D.L.K.: Could we ever see that art being incorporated into a live show as perhaps a backdrop or a costume?
Monstrum Sepsis: I don’t see why not…you’re more likely to see a combination of traditional art with digital art. Recently my roommate, Dave Clay, has joined Monstrum Sepsis. Dave is an incredible artist. Very inspirational. We are planning several collaborations…We are collaborating both musically and artistically which has aided in a resurgence of creative inspiration. I’m sure within time the results will make their way to the stage!
Chain D.L.K.: Why the title “Deep Sea Creatures”?
Monstrum Sepsis: You’re referring to the title of the latest Monstrum sepsis CD. The bioluminescent creatures especially have always fascinated me. Most deep-sea fish drawings scared the piss out of me as a kid. I remember passing the time as a child, looking at world book encyclopedias and national geographic. I went for years thinking the drawings of deep-sea creatures were nothing more than an artist’s rendition of what deep-sea creatures may look like. The drawings terrified me.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you and Shikhee of Android Lust come to work together on this CD?
Monstrum Sepsis: I love her voice. There are not enough music acts in this genre with female vocals that work with the music. She has always worked closely with Chris of I, parasite/dvm. One of the first Sepsis releases was a Tinman compilation. Shikhee really liked the Monstrum Sepsis sound, and I have always been impressed with Shikhee’s work. I asked her early on if she’d be interested in contributing vocals to a Monstrum track. She agreed but at the time she was taking a hiatus from writing/recording. After I had a rough copy of the disc completed, I sent her a copy. Funny, the song she decided to write vox for was cut from the “final” track list before I knew her selection. After she told me which song she was writing vox for I decided to just go with it and release the track anyway with her vox. I’m glad I did cause I am really happy with how the track turned out.
Chain D.L.K.: Has Android Lust had any impact per se on the group?
Monstrum Sepsis: We both think of things in a very similar or compatible way and have both talked about being able to really relate to each other’s music. But I mean… we are looking at things from a similar perspective musically but have come upon our way of seeing independent of one another…. It was only one song that she has guest appeared on so far. So. Who knows what could happen!
Chain D.L.K.: Could you ever foresee a side project with her and MS in the future, or you helping her on a CD?
Monstrum Sepsis: Another one of those, who knows! ? Given the time and resources there’s no question we’d continue to work together.
Chain D.L.K.: Why no vocals on any of the tracks?
Monstrum Sepsis: The real answer? Because there isn’t enough good quality music out there without vocals. There is much strength to the argument that adding vocals makes a track more accessible. However there are so many groups out there that write incredible music destroyed by horrible lyrics or vocals. The intent of Monstrum Sepsis has never been to be accessible. The intent has always been to create an atmosphere that is open to interpretation. Vocals add texture but often end up being interpreted too literally.
Chain D.L.K.: Any plans to sing on any tracks in the future or in any side-projects?
Monstrum Sepsis: No plans in particular but it may happen!
Chain D.L.K.: Would you consider your work for the Red Faction soundtrack and “Deep SeaCreatures” to be any way related?
Monstrum Sepsis: Hmm… no I would have to say the soundtrack my brother wrote for Free Space, the PC game they (Volition) did sounds more in line with Deep Sea Creatures, as there are similarities in the use of strings and orchestral instruments mixed with industrial. But no, the Red Faction music was really scored by my brother. He’s the lead Music/Sound guy there and asked me if he could use some of my stuff for the soundtrack, so I gave him a few skeletons of songs, he pretty much cut them up into loops and single samples.
Chain D.L.K.: Was there any fear the music may not be taken as seriously after doing a videogame soundtrack?
Monstrum Sepsis: Well there was no fear really. I could care less if I am going to be taken less seriously. Some people hate video games, that’s fine but with things such as 5. 1 Dolby surround and real digital sound that can be delivered on video game systems and PCs these days. I mean. It’s really all an art. Many do it poorly quite often, but if someone is less likely to listen to Monstrum Sepsis because the person who writes the music is highly involved in musical projects, I dunno. I guess so be it. I’d like to add the point that another kinda interesting side to this is that Ogre from Skinny Puppy actually teamed up with Volition (when they were called Parallax Software) and did the Redbook audio for descent 2. I didn’t really loose respect at all for him for doing that. I thought it was cool as hell to be listening to his music while playing a video game…music created just for the game. It shows a different dimension to a musician, and I find it interesting.
Chain D.L.K.: I read somewhere where you are an unofficial member of Stromkern. Is this true at all?
Monstrum Sepsis: Let’s let Ned answer that question… Ned?
Ned – “Unofficial??! Uhm.. Did you call him a bitch or should I?” 🙂
Ok, you probably couldn’t catch the sarcasm in Ned’s voice there… cause.. well you’re not really _here_.. I’m in a hotel room with Lisa, Ned, Matt and Kelly, Stefan, Martin and Frank playing Halo in the middle of a month long tour with Stromkern as I write this! I started touring with Stromkern 2 years ago. If you have the latest Stromkern release, “Armageddon” I played piano/strings/synth on a few tracks on that as well.
Chain D.L.K.: How has the move from Chicago (starting to sing that Sinatra tune we learn to love and hate living here! ) to Milwaukee, both as a person and music wise? Do you ever get homesick when you tour here?
Monstrum Sepsis: Of course. I grew up in Chicago and Chicago will always be my Home. Milwaukee is a much easier city to live in. it’s only an hour and a half away from Chicago. And hell it’s easier to find the time to write music up here when I don’t have to commute an hour in the subway to and from work. You come to the full realization of what a royal pain in the ass it is to get around a city like NY or Chicago after you move to a smaller slower paced city like Milwaukee.
Chain D.L.K.: Does the scene accept you over there or does it kind of look at you odd a bit, given that is a big rock-loving town?
Monstrum Sepsis: When I play Milwaukee I seem to almost draw more people than I do in Chicago. Dunno what’s up with you people…Don’t like to go out or something…nudge nudge. No the Milwaukee crowd has been enormously supportive. I love these people. Honestly haven’t played Chicago since 2000 so we’ll see if things have changed since I moved up here that year…
Chain D.L.K.: What are your feelings on the state of a lot of electronic music becoming nothing more than dance ballads nowadays and the market’s exploitation of that?
Monstrum Sepsis: I think they will sadly find that they may gain instant popularity but gain no staying power at all. Time will tell. But… I dunno. As with any movement…Let the pendulum swing…’cause it always comes back. Sadly unless you want to piggyback trends there’s no way to gain and maintain recognition in the music industry. A small handful are able to skate between the trends and still maintain and continue to increase the number of fans they have.
Chain D.L.K.: Could we see more dance elements in your work or even a synthpop element come into play?
Monstrum Sepsis: I don’t plan on it!
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any story or particular emotions behind the songs on “Deep SeaCreatures”?
Monstrum Sepsis: Funny you ask. Up until February of 2002, Deep-Sea Creatures was nothing but 15 (some tracks were cut) song structures containing only percussive elements, samples and atmospheric noise. My world turned upside down for reasons I wont get into now in earlier this year. So I did what any musician would do, and decided it was time to finish the album. All of the strings and most of the synth on the album was recorded on a first or second take. I recorded only audio data and didn’t bother with midi, as my intent was to expel my demons through my fingers and capture the sincere emotions that came out.
Chain D.L.K.: Any plans for MS videos in the future, given your knack for 3D animation and media?
Monstrum Sepsis: Yeah. Stay tuned… I’m sure some stuff will eventually surface. There are a couple on the paraminion. org portfolio site I maintain. (ed note.. some backing videos from recent live performances are scheduled to be available on www.monstrumsepsis.com very soon.)
Chain D.L.K.: Do you plan on doing another Wave Gothik, or perhaps a Zillo Festival?
Monstrum Sepsis: Yeah as long as there are funds to support doing a festival or festivals, I would LOVE to return to Europe to perform.
Chain D.L.K.: You seem to have a thing for science, so what is your opinion on stem-cellresearch? I think it’s actually capable of quite a lot of good if people will allow it. People always seem to be afraid of advancement; just like when we invented TV’s people in those days thought it was demonic.
Monstrum Sepsis: Well I… wait a second… Is this the right interview? ! Whether or not stem cell research is allowed by law, it will continue to be pursued whether lawmakers allow it or not. This is no different from the whole P2P debacle. Once Kazaa is shut down someone else will introduce a new p2p application and the cycle will continue. As with all scientific and technological advancements this can be both beneficial and harmful to the world. I am one who believes that such advancements should be embraced and pursued rather than governed by politicians and lawmakers. I support stem cell research for many of the same reasons as I support abortion. If it is kept illegal, what happens? It still goes on… you cant stop these things! But it goes on underground and with dramatically less funding… resources are limited, corners are cut, coat hangers are used… follow my drift?
Chain D.L.K.: Are the samples on the CD live or taken from other sources?
Monstrum Sepsis: Some are live, some are from other sources.
Chain D.L.K.: Any compilation appearances or new tracks we should know about?
Monstrum Sepsis: No we suck! Really I haven’t pursued too many compilations as of late. There is going to be at least another Sepsis CD out before summer. I’m rounding up a bunch of recordings from the live performances since Deep-Sea Creatures was released and some other things here and there.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you picture yourself doing soundtrack works to films, like “TheAbyss”?
Monstrum Sepsis: Absolutely! I would love to do soundtracks. I think that avenue would be quite appropriate for my music.
Chain D.L.K.: Forma Tadre playing side by side with Monstrum Sepsis. Should we ever see that dream project happen?
Monstrum Sepsis: Is Forma Tadre still functioning? That would be a great line up no doubt!
Chain D.L.K.: Any music or movies you’d recommend?
Monstrum Sepsis: I just picked up the latest Peter Gabriel release. I would recommend it to anyone. Anything by boards of Canada and Ovuca are recommended! So many movies out there…Pi is one of my relatively recent favorites. I just watched Brotherhood of the Wolf and loved it. Scholin Soccer is great… that’s not out here yet, but for a while it was pretty easy to get that subtitled in English if you knew where to look. I think of the newer movies to come out my favorite is still Donnie Darko. Check out that web site too!
Visit Monstrum Sepsis on the web at:
[interviewed by Shaun Hamilton] [proofreading by Erica Breyer]