FROM THE TECHNOLOGICAL UNDERGROUND - A Conversation with Rhys Fulber of INTERMIX
By: Syd Edwards
As half of the team responsible for the music of Front Line Assembly, Delirium Noise Unit and Intermix Rhys Fulber's credentials speak for themselves, but add to this his work with Fear Factory and Nailbomb (as well as a multitude of other groups too numerous to mention) and you can easily that he is one of the hardest working creative genius of our time.
From his home in Canada, Rhys spoke with me about "Future Primitives," the latest Intermix release (on ESP-Sun, a new division of Roadrunner) a swirling mixture of techno and tribal music created from the premise that, as civilization de-evolves it will become two separate worlds, a world where technology is the lord and master of its realm and a world where the people have gone back to an earlier primitive state. His goal was to create an album which combines these two elements, and it was a goal well reached.
Our conversation also delved into his working relationship with Bill Leeb, which has changed somewhat recently, and to his future (there are rumors of Rhys re-mixing material for the likes of Die Krupps and Biohazard as well as his up coming "Remanufactured" re-mixes of Fear Factory's latest) which looks alot brighter than the future foresees for North America.
Rhys also touches upon the the condition of the music scene in America, and his opinions aren't going to please the mainstream pop audience, but as he says, "We're definitely an underground entity and the mainstream is not a real concern," (This interview will be split into two parts, with the conclusion in THE ROC Issue #21.
SE: For those out there familiar with your work with Front Line Assembly, Noise Unit, etc. can tell me how Intermix differs?
RF: Well, initially the first Intermix record was kind of an experiment just to do something with hybrid styles together, hence name. It's just grown since and has taken on its own identity. The release is kind of like cinematic dance music. I guess that's a good way to describe it.
SE: Yes it is, the music just seems to invoke mental pictures. Have you given any thought to doing movie soundtracks?
RF: I think it's very pompous to sit around and say 'we should do film soundtracks' because there are a lot of people who are good at that type of thing. Basically, to do soundtracks you kind of have to just do one or the other, it's not to often that artists crossover.....Well, it happens once in awhile, but the people who do soundtracks it's usually all that they do. It's a hard community to get involved in, it's as though they have their own little clique. We've almost been involved, but that's about it.
SE: Is there a chance you'll do a video, maybe something specifically toward home release?
RF: The problem with doing that sort of thing is that we wouldn't want to do it unless we could make it look really nice. It's difficult to make something that matches the presence of the music without a lot of money. The music sounds really epic, so we would want to make something that looks accordingly. Being on an underground level it's hard to summon up the money to have the video played once.
SE: ESP-Sun to be mainly a label for dance music. I don't think that Intermix is necessarily dance oriented...
RF: No it's not. We used to think it was, but it really isn't. (chuckles) It's almost got too much stuff going on. A lot of dance stuff seems really bare minimal, and it's just for clubs. I think sometimes our stuff may be a little too overdone for nightclubs. We want this music to be more for listening than anything and club records aren't made so much for listening as they are for dancing in a club.
SE: I recently received the new Fear Factory CD.
RF: Yeah. I worked on that album. They had a remix EP that me and Bill did before this one. I went and did all the keys and mixed the new one. It's not just metal, there's lots of other stuff going on too. People who don't like metal can get into it. It worked out pretty well. I was over in Europe and that record's taking off in a big way.
SE: Do you consider each of projects, Front Line Assembly, Noise Unit, Intermix, etc., separate entities?
RF: Yeah we do. I mean obviously there are certain styles that are similar, but we approach each individually. We don't just do a bunch of stuff and divide it up. When we did Intermix we just sat down and knew we were doing another Intermix album, so we kind of mentally organized everything so you get the right kind of vibe going. I think it comes out better this way. The ideas are more refined because we're concentrating on just the one thing.
SE: So the angst of Front Line Assembly has no place in an Intermix album?
RF: No, no, no. Usually what the case is, we like alot of different stuff and it gets boring just doing one thing, that's the bottom line. We like to do different kinds of stuff... With keyboards you have the ability to do different flavors more so with acoustic instruments because you have the variety of sounds, and we're using samples, obviously...
SE: Do you create your own samples?
RF: Some of them, but some of the voices and stuff we find. It depends really, most of the keyboard stuff we do ourselves, but alot of the chanting we find from different places. Bill usually does most of that stuff, he finds sounds and gets them on a digital tape, he brings it to the studio and I put it into the sampler and we kind of organize songs around it.
SE: So how long have you and Bill been a team?
RF: Full on, since about 1990, but I've worked with him on and off since about '86, that's when Front Line started. Bill used to be in Skinny Puppy which started back around '83, so it was way before Nine Inch Nails. (chuckles)
SE: Way before.
RF: Oh yeah, it just seems like the climate in North America, which really sucks, is that anything that has that kind of hard electronic slant is immediately compared to Nine Inch Nails. It's just kind of a drag because we've been doing this fucking forever and to be pigeon-holed that quickly with someone that's come around much later. It's a drag. That's why I like the scene in Europe alot better because over there they're not like that at all. Nine Inch Nails aren't multi-platinum there, and they don't completely rule the world like they do here, so people realize there are other forms of music, you know what I mean?
SE: The press doesn't seem to understand that alot of bands out there now are just rehashing underground stuff from the '80's.
RF: Exactly! Jeez, in America there are only ten bands that anybody listens to, it's just alternative music and that's it.
SE: Actually there are only ten bands that corporate America lets you listen to, and that's why I don't even have my tuner hooked up to my stereo system.
RF: Yeah, it's very weird. Even in Canada there's alot more variety. It's alot cooler. The video channel here is a lot cooler than MTV. They play lots of different stuff. We have this other project called Delerium, which is sort of in the Intermix area except it has female vocals. It does really well up here...In the States it's kind of hard to get through. Up here it even gets alot of video play on Much Music.