Signed to the Belgium label Alfa Matrix, the US female-leaded act Unter Null aka Erica Dunham could lately gain a never expected success and attention worldwide. Thanks to some fine studio help of Len Lemeire (Implant), Erica has found her musically place in the slot next to Suicide Commando, Dawn Of Ashes, Psyclon Nine and comparable. Hard and pounding Dark Electro themes combined with a hefty distorted vocal performance – it’s for sure seldom to find a female-leaded act presenting this kind of music. So here we present this informative interview and give some background on this She-Devil alive, Erica Dunham…
Chain D.L.K.: Erica, your musical evolution and your received success after only one full length album and a few EP’s and compilation appearances of being the most recognized act on the Alfa Matrix label seems to be like a fairytale. Did you ever expect your current status and hype?
Unter Null: Fairytale? I’d rather think not. I’ve been active in the industrial scene in it’s various forms for about 10 years now. Unter Null originally started off as a rhythmic noise project back in 1998 when I started with MP3.com, then released my first CD by myself, then a second release that was web-only on Annihilvs records – so I’ve been having a go at it for quite some time. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am now… So definitely not a fairly tale and a lot of bumps and potholes and craters and possibly some falling rocks and trees along the road. However if someone would have told me 5 years ago that I would be where I am today I would have laughed. I’d only dreamed of playing shows. I’d only fantasized about going to Europe. And here I am now sitting in France responding to this interview. Life still isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than feeling stuck doing something I hate.
Chain D.L.K.: Lately you got picked up by the German concert agency Neuwerk. How did this happen and what does this mean personally for you?
Unter Null: Neuwerk expressed interest in me for their roster and of course I said yes! Great reputation with some of the biggest bands in the industrial/EBM scene currently, along with some of my personal favourite artists.. how cool is that? To me it’s definitely feeling like I’m moving up in the world a bit, and it’s nice to be considered an act for such a reputable booking agency. I’m greatful.
Chain D.L.K.: You’ve currently moved to Lille, France and you where also based in Rome for a while. Is it thinkable that you’ll completely move from Seattle to Europe?
Unter Null: Well, considering I’ve been in Europe for almost 6 months now, I’d have to say that I have. I have absolutely NO plans in returning to the US anytime soon unless it’s for a tour. I’m really enjoying my time in Europe, it’s a lot more to offer for me than the states ever did. It’s definitely an experience, I’ll say that. Seattle is far in my past, I actually haven’t lived there for about a year now. I was living in Los Angeles before I came to Europe.
Chain D.L.K.: Your promotional effort regarding the “twins” caused some hefty discussions at some forums and people already congratulated to your pregnancy, while others were a bit shocked. The promotion seemed to work fine, the double EP set “Sacrament/Absolution” is out and receives good reactions. What kind of promotion is thinkable if you’re really pregnant??
Unter Null: First of all, let me state that the “twins” concept was not prompted by me. It was the work of completely different entities other than myself, but I will leave this up to the readers to decide who conjured this one up. I don’t believe in sensationalistic approaches to marketing – market the product for what it is. I don’t like stirring up controversy. If people like the music they will be drawn to it because of the music, not because of some tabloid-esque approach to it all.
Chain D.L.K.: Talking on the twin EP, the track “Prophecy” seems to have a special meaning for you, because it is featured on both EP’s in its original version. Why this?
Unter Null: “Prophecy” is the strongest song of the new tracks, in my opinion. It’s featured on both disks because it is entirely possible that someone will only bother to pick up one EP. And I like this song, and I want to share this song with people. But hopefully they will join the ‘twins’ together.
Chain D.L.K.: Was your being in Rome also the reason, that so many Italian bands did some remix work for you on “Sacrament/Absolution”?
Unter Null: Partly, yes, as well as becomming good friends with a lot of Italian bands. They are indeed a talented bunch there.
Chain D.L.K.: Something special for you seems to be the remix work done by Mnemonic. What else reason could there be, because you placed it at pos. 1 on „Absolution“ instead of placing an own composition at this slot? Would you like to explain?
Unter Null: The Mnemonic remix is an absolutely fantastic mix. However I have no real explanation why it’s the first track – not everything has some deep hidden meaning I think it’s a great opening track for the disk however. Those guys are incredibly talented.
Chain D.L.K.: Both EP’s got again produced by the magically hands of Len Lemeire (Implant). Tell us a bit of his work. What appeals you on his stuff and how important is his work for the style Unter Null is thrown in?
Unter Null: Len is great to work with, easy to work with, and everything goes smoothly. We have a friendship outside of the music stuff, so it’s a joy to work with someone you consider as a friend, because a lot of times if they tell you “hey, I think you should change this” you’re less likely to take offense than if it was Mr Joe Producer saying “yo, this kickdrum is shit, change it”, not gonna happen sorry. But Len knows the sound I am striving for, like he’s reading my mind. Creepy. Len really knows how to fatten up the basslines and get more kick out of my kickdrums
Chain D.L.K.: Press and people often sort you into this Harsh EBM/Hellektro thing. Have you ever made yourself thoughts why and why are you to this time the only one female-leaded act placed in this genre? Has this really importance for you?
Unter Null: First I am sick of importance being placed on that, oh my god, I’m a female writing music. OK, yea, I will admit that there really aren’t many girls doing their own thing in this scene (“scene” – say, the umbrella term “industrial”) – they generally are either pole-dancing for some big industrial band or pressing keys.. And then people wonder why women aren’t getting more respect… To be honest, I think stop relying on the looks and go with your brains and talent.. if you are envious of me because I write and produce and record my own music, then don’t sit around bitching about it while tying your corset, go write some music. Don’t know how? Ask. Study. If you can’t bother then stop bitching. I don’t think about WHY there are not more females doing this. I’m too busy focusing on my own stuff, working with other people, and supporting the bands I like, rather than complaining… I don’t consider my stuff to be “Hellektro” anyway, I rather hate the term. It’s music.
Chain D.L.K.: In your early days you were much more thrown into the Powernoise genre and you did some stuff with a band like Navicon Torture Technologies. Is it thinkable to bring those days back to life and to produce something related again?
Unter Null: Absolutley… In fact I have a few things up my sleeve. Latley I’ve been delving back into my roots and started experimenting with my sound a LOT more, plus a nice collaboration ahead.. I’m really excited to hear what I come up with next. I’d like to include more organic elements and actual instruments. After all being a pianist and cellist I’ve been rather dying to incorporate this into my music MORE than I have.
Chain D.L.K.: With Stray you’ve built up a side-project. A short introduction about style, plans, upcoming releases and all relevant info, please…
Unter Null: Stray has been in the works for quite some time, I just never put a name to it other than “tracks I write with happy nihilist lyrics”. There is indeed a release to come ahead, this will be out on Alfa Matrix. Stray is more mellow than Unter Null by far… No screaming grr metal vocals, but actually I sing.. Is this a good thing? We shall see… Stray is like my alter-alter-ego.
Chain D.L.K.: The future seems to be bright for Unter Null. You wishes for your music and your private life?
Unter Null: Wishes for music – to keep evolving and creating of course! More collaborative efforts! I’ve recently joined Tony Young from Autoclav1.1 (check his music out, by the way, it will astound you) in collaborative efforts on the label The Pandemic… I’m looking forward to the future of this.. As far as my private life goes? Oh, well, I guess just don’t believe everything you read on the interwebs and I keep my private life private.
Chain D.L.K.: Any final words you would like to tell our readers?
Unter Null: DEATHKEY
[interviewed by Marc Tater] [proofreading by Tommy T. Rapisardi]