After having released 5 albums in his musical career, S.E.M;I is ready to go at it again. Fans of ambient soundscapes, listen up, S.E.M;I’s upcoming “The Silence of Midnight” is calling your name… Once again, S.E.M;I steps into the spotlight, not to perform, but to open the doors to a semi-real world; but make no mistake, what you feel is real.
Chain D.L.K.: So, did S. E. M; I begin simply as a side project while you were with Death Industry, the electronic band that characteristically used hard core and heavy guitars? What were you trying to achieve by going solo?
S.e.m;i: With Death Industry, that feature seemed to be going down the right path musically, and for the future of the band it actually looked like it had a very big potential in the scene, in terms of longevity. But Jeff and I we were just leading into two different directions, as far as musical seriousness, so sometimes during the year 1999 there would be my last involvement with Death industry, in occasion of the: :Wumpscut:: remix of “Totmacher”, that I co-remixed with Jugend Staat. Then shortly after that, S. E. M; I became a more serious project solo wise, than when it was initially started in 1998. I was basically trying to achieve what I couldn’t do while working with Death Industry, which was totally diverse.
Chain D.L.K.: After Death Industry, you basically went solo (S. E. M; I includes the live member Jason Bagley, who is also with They Startwist) as well as performing a different and much more diverse genre of music. You created pieces ranging from instrumental almost ambient soundscapes to experimental/electronic/EBM tracks. With so much diversity it is difficult to understand exactly who S. E. M; I is. What is key to the “S. E. M; I” sound?
S.e.m;i: I have been going solo with a more serious and dedicated approach for some time now, but at some point I added Peter and about a year and a half later Jason was added as a live member, around the end 2001. I don’t think it’s really difficult to understand that it pretty much is what it is, sometimes abstract and weird, sometimes danceable and other times just all over the place, ya know? I’d say you could interpret it as soundscapes for very dark and hunting places where you are safe but scared at the same time and where you are liking the feeling of adventure flowing through your veins: -)
Chain D.L.K.: What unique aspect does S. E. M; I have to offer to true fans of the electronic/experimental scene that other bands cannot grasp?
S.e.m;i: Maybe something different; I hope maybe they get something out of it as if they were the only ones feeling this type of energy, like a music drug with satisfaction. I hope that they feel there is something they can somewhat relate to and associate with, and that they can appreciate how the music is released; maybe with other bands they can just dance to…I would like the listener to go deeper and find what’s unique for themselves as they listen.
Chain D.L.K.: What artists would you say have been most influential in shaping S. E. M; I?
S.e.m;i: There are so many, most of which I grew up with, like Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb etc…but as I grew, I learned that I like more darker type of electronic music, such as Skinny Puppy and Einstürzende Neubauten; they all influenced what I create, because they were a part of me at that time and I’ve always kept a part of them inside me growing up.
Chain D.L.K.: Presently, what’s in your CD player?
S.e.m;i: Skinny Puppy “The Greater Wrong Of The Right”!
Chain D.L.K.: Would you say that you’re excited, calm or energetic about making music?
S.e.m;i: I’m all of the above really, the mood setting takes place at different times duringthe duration of me making an album and recording.
Chain D.L.K.: Who are your all time favorite artists, why?
S.e.m;i: Goodness…Kraftwerk because they still rock in their age and are still ahead of everyone else; Enya because she has the most beautiful voice a human ear will ever hear; Vangelis because he’s been so original in soundscapes for cinema.
Chain D.L.K.: From 2000 to 2002, S. E. M; I was with Syncromesh Audio, a label based in Seattle. In 2003, you became part of the BLC Productions team. What led you to sign with BLC? Do you think that BLC offers a closer band-artist relationship that is more beneficial for solo artists like yourself?
S.e.m;i: I actually got in touch with them through an ad in industrial. org about “seeking bands” for an up and coming compilation, so I replayed with the excitement of who wants to be a part of a new label and a serious label looking to make an impact in today’s scene. I think BLC offers more than a “business” relationship, the offer is more based on friendship and belief in what’s true to music and to the scene. The attraction to BLC as a label made me want to be a part of something real and something innovative.
Chain D.L.K.: What is the meaning of the title of your last album “Among The Ruins”?
S.e.m;i: I’d say it has to do with total destruction of human kind; the idea had to do with the ruins that humans are surrounded with, ruins that were probably generated by humans themselves.
Chain D.L.K.: Mike, you’re often hailed as the underdog of electronic music, however, fans can attest that there has definitely been an evolution in sound and style. As S. E. M; I, you have released new material each year since your split from Death Industry in 1999. Do you feel that you have undergone a musical evolution?
S.e.m;i: Yes, sometimes I feel like I am at the point where I’ve taken S. E. M; I pretty far by keeping up the passion for what I’ve created. I feel like I have made my mark in some parts of history, and that means evolution to me. Underdog yes, but self-satisfied…in more ways than one.
Chain D.L.K.: A lot of your music is abrasive and imperfect; this is especially evident on “Among The Ruins”. However, it does not drive fans away but rather intrigues them. This seems like a solely S. E. M; I tactic, what are you trying to convey by incorporating imperfections in your tracks?
S.e.m;i: I think creating emotions and energy lives with one’s own perspective on how they feel after listing to “Ruins”. The imperfections are something I strive for. When I have a solid piece and sequence, I take the sounds to a sensitive point and then I try to confuse the listener.
Chain D.L.K.: If S. E. M; I was simply a number, what number would it be? (Number 1, maybe? ) How about a color? Why?
S.e.m;i: I’d like to be number 999, and if it had to be a color it would be dark grey…999 because it’s one number away from one thousand, and dark grey because it can go with anything.
Chain D.L.K.: What is the overall reaction from fans when you perform live? Do you have a favorite memory from a particular performance?
S.e.m;i: I only received positive reaction so far, actually; sometimes I’m scared to look up, fearing that no one is left in the room, hahah! I do have a favorite memory in fact: November 30th, 2000, in Seattle at the Vogue with Converter – that was a bad-ass show, I was alone, I had yetto get another live member, so I was solo on stage; I didn’t feel so bad because I had found out that Scott from Converter was also performing as a solo live act; so it was all good and I delivered a good performance.
Chain D.L.K.: You have done numerous remixes. Do you have any favorites? Who have you enjoyed working with the most, musically?
S.e.m;i: Well I’ve done a few remixes, but my favorite first and foremost is still the: :Wumpscut:: “Totmacher” remix, I did the vocals remix on that one.
Chain D.L.K.: If you could perform anywhere, with anyone, where and who would you choose?
S.e.m;i: I would choose England with the classical group Bond!
Chain D.L.K.: What is your favorite non-music source of entertainment? What is your favorite movie?
S.e.m;i: Favorite movie…hmm maybe Evil Dead 2, or Blade Runner or maybe Blue Velvet, dunno really, there are so many to mention maybe…My favorite 100 movies of all time perhaps? hahha…
Chain D.L.K.: In 20-20 hindsight, do you have anything that you regret in your musical/personal career?
S.e.m;i: Nope, none at all.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us something that no one would guess about the man behind the music.
S.e.m;i: No one would ever know how much a fan I am of polka, hahahah! j/k.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you have a favorite quote to leave the readers with?
S.e.m;i: “Who’s laughing now? “
Chain D.L.K.: So, what’s next for S. E. M; I, are you working on anything new?
S.e.m;i: Currently working on the next album, no tentative release date thus far…but “The Silence Of Midnight” is coming along very well: -)
[interviewed by Miranda Clark] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]