An interview with cEvin KEY, conducted on Halloween, 1997.
What’s the reason for the less abrasive, more dance-oriented sound on “III”?
cEvin: “It actually evolved out of us going on tour, as a different band than what we were accustomed to. We’d never really performed as Download, and I think going out performing and travelling together throughout the world last year we really realized that the things that we liked were all quite similar. And the fact is that it was being expressed in the form of new music that seemed to share an idealism to trim down and to be working more in a restrained way instead of having to feel the need to fill the picture. So there was a desire to create, I guess you could say a concept, to also add their own thoughts.”
Why Is Mark Spybey no longer in the band?
cEvin: “We’re still friends. It wasn’t really like a big argument or anything like that. Once again, it’s getting true to setting out to accomplish what you’re interested in. I think with the tour last year, we realized that we had goals, but some of them were different than others. We felt that the addition of lyrics at this time wasn’t really something we’re interested in unless they were going to be very moving. I don’t think that Mark necessarily considers himself a vocalist or a lyricist, and I think we found that for us vocals in this sense were a bit redundant.”
How will it affect future Download tours?
cEvin: “We haven’t really quite decided what to do, to tell you the truth. We do have intentions of touring and we do want to perform some stuff from that [“The Eyes Of Stanley Pain”]. Largely we rely a lot of improvisation when go perform anyway. So the basis of what we’re setting out to do when we perform live is still there. But we haven’t made any decisions as to how it will be done or when it will be.”
What’s your approach to live performance?
cEvin: “For Download, on the last tour the general opinion was to do a different show every night. In a sense, I guess that’s the interest. We know where we’re going to go, but we don’t know how we’re going to get there. And so I guess in getting there it’s almost like trying our best to maintain a structure. But half the time it will end up being something completely different. For us, I guess there’s a bit of satisfaction in that. We might try to make it there and it might not succeed, but in the long run we end up with a different song. I na live format, I think that if I’m in the audience I tend to want to see someone attempting to do something, but sounding different is actually sometimes good.”
How would you describe Download’s approach to creating music??
cEvin: “On this album, there wasn’t a defined method. It was basically everyone try as hard as they can to come up with something that they feel they can be excited about. We just ended up really picking the songs that we liked the best. Some of them weren’t the ones that we spent a great amount of time on, and we actually ended up not including some of those on album because it was only the songs that after a while we thought were the truest intention. The purest attempt to satisfy what we were trying to express came through in the ordering on the album, the sequencing. But the actual physical work of compiling the tracks, people must think ‘oh yeah, then they write that one, then they write that one..,’ but in actuality I think there was 6 months we were working and we would only come up with a song that we really felt we could like for an extended period of time maybe every other week.”
How do you know when you’ve finished a song?
cEvin: You never really know, I guess it’s sort of a gut feeling. For the most part, when a song is almost done, sometimes you feel like not adding any more at that point. A lot of parts, because you’re working with frequencies and a lot of tones lying in the spectrum, certain tones become filled up quite quickly by certain sounds. So you know in the sense of the spectrum what sound will work. In the sense of orchestration, I can understand why they would choose a piccolo for a part over a baritone sax. It depends of what sort of particular space you have left. It’s sort of like packing to go on a trip, you can only fit so much and then you wouldn’t want to put something that’s delicate and fragile at the bottom of a suitcase. You’ve got to find something suitable. It’s all similar in that sort of way.” >
When creating music, how would you say you divide your time between coming up with original sounds and composing with them?
cEvin: “In the past, that’s a lot of how I worked with Dwayne. Dwayne was really most of the time making sounds, and I was most of the time fooling around programming analog stuff. And I became more of the analog collector and the guy who was attempting to make unusual rhythmic set-ups and unusual percussive things. So we have a huge collection of sounds that were collected over a long period of time. In some ways those sounds come into play now and again and get regurgitated and turned into something new. But in a lot of ways, when you’re sitting there and you’re composing, one sound that you might come up with, one certain synth, will determine the direction of the whole day. And quite often that’s really spontaneous and that happens through a lot of improvisation in the studio.
Also, we spend such a large amount of time developing our studio, that now the ability to compose our style of music in this particular studio is pretty mind – boggling. Actually, our studio is like a giant synthesizer itself. There are certain sections which are filters, and certain sections which are eq’s and certain sections that are all the necessary rhythm machines and all the necessary monophonic synths. All interconnected, speaking the same language. Basically, at any time I have the ability to go ‘oh, I know what sound I need and I know which synth will be create it’ and it’s already hooked up and it’s playing its part. So the development of the studio, the whole set-up, I would think of that now as a procedure for obtaining sounds
How do you choose song titles for instrumentals?
cEvin: “Well, in computer world, you’re forced to save your file right away. And usually it will be one of the first things that comes to your mind. For Phil, it’s always something that I have to correct later, because it’s usually something really disgusting or really though-provoking but not in the best way. So a lot of times, like a song title is just a general connection to the vibe.”
Can you describe what SubCONSCIOUS Communications is?
cEvin: “Dwayne and Phil actually started the original version of it by putting together a 12-inch, “Power.” It’s actually the first two tracks on the compilation. That was in 93, I believe. After that, when we came back from Malibu, from working on ‘The Process’ for quite some time, we actually built this studio to finish that album. We spend another couple of years, actually about a year, and during that time we formed really the new basis of Subconscious Communications. And then we almost right away start conceiving ideas. We were battling so much with American Recordings, they weren’t very supportive of us doing side projects or compiling other records even while we were finishing an album for them. That’s another story in itself.
At this time, there was sort of an initiative to want to release and vent some energy into something. With the formation Download, which was really just a bunch of jams, really spontaneous improvised moments that we were recording. And then we just felt like we needed to release them. Actually, we didn’t feel the need, people called us up and said ‘we heard you were doing this, we want to release it,” so that actually gave us the idea that we’d better form a company. The rest is just really following though with what I feel we would have been doing had there not been a great tragedy a couple of years ago. I’m sure that Dwayne would still be a full part of all the energy that’s going on and find happiness in that. It took a lot of energy out of us when that situation happened. A lot of it’s been coming back in little bursts here and there, but overall I’ve found it’s the most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with.Death is a very unusual thing.”
Is it a self-contained label?
cEvin: “We’re the headquarters. We basically record and manufacture everything here, and then we license our releases out to an interested label that takes an interest in the project. We’re still working with all those companies that you see our releases on – Cleopatra, Metropolis, Nettwerk, Off-Beat, Banzai, Blue Dolphin, all sorts of links all over the place. Even via the internet, we do a lot of business as well. Linking up with people who need pieces of music for their film. Which I love. I’m almost at the point where I’m interested in collaborating more with visual imagery, to supply suitable music.”
Download did the sound track for “Charlie’s Family” – has the film been completed?
cEvin: “It’s finished in the sense that it’s been totally shot. And it’s finished in the sense that you can like watch it. But it’s not finished in the sense that, what they do, there’s this final procedure in filmmaking, that is like the mastering of it. It’s a very costly process from what I understand. So Jim has been working on it for a very long time, Jim VanBebber , and I really respect his work. I think he’s going to be classic American filmmaker, even though most of this stuff is on the dark side. He has a very valid perspective on certain sides of life, and his films are really creepy but they have an eerie quality to them that I found really unique and appealing in its own way. As much as it is offensive, it’s appealing as a piece of art. it’s well crafted. It’s not finished yet, but as far as I know it’s nearly there. And it has been played in various select cities in film festivals and sold out. It actually won, I think in Chicago and it wasn’t actually even nominated on the list that it won. I thought it was a very good sign.”
Have you done other soundtrack work?
cEvin: “We’ve done a few things. We made a short film with a friend called ‘Chunkblower’. It was actually just a trailer for a horror movie. I’ve done a lot of things, such as music for opera, music for stage and theater and dance, as well. La La La Human Steps used a few of our pieces for their last world tour.””
Are there particular types of things that you prefer writing music for?
cEvin: “I always like things that have a surreal, sci-fi type of … I keep on thinking about this. I had a nightmare when I was a kid, of this very unusual type of experiences. I don’t know if I ever really experienced them or if they were just things that I imagined or what. They are along the lines of abduction type of things. I don’t know where it goes, but there’s certain things that connect with it, and certain things that I have an interest in, ghosts, I like the idea of ghosts, I like the idea of a lot of surrealist work that’s been done throughout time. So anything that has some sort of surrealist or unusual approach will attract me.”
THE FUTURE: A remix album. A tribute album on Cleopatra. 2 sampling cds. “Back And Forth” 5 + 6 (some of the last live recordings and unreleased material from the vaults) Plateau album (very minimalistic), producing (Cone, Tweaker, SCSI Port), another Subconscious compilation, ADuck album, Download remix album (featuring Attacker), cEVIN Key solo album – “Music For Cats” on Metropolis (“Very unusual, very unrestrained”), more from Tear Garden.