♦♦♦ Aurora Borealis ♦♦♦
Interview mit Shiv-r, August 2011, mailer

Gerade mal ein Jahr ist es her, dass Shiv-r ihr Debütalbum "Hold My Hand" der Öffentlichkeit präsentierten. Nun liefern Pete Crane und Lee Bulig, die beiden kreativen Köpfe hinter dem Dark-Electro-Projekt, mit "This World Erase" bereits musikalischen Nachschub. Ein Gespräch über Arbeitswahn, IAMX-Vergleiche und bezahlten Sex.

Hello together, what have been your summer highlights so far?

Pete: We have just played at Summer Darkness in the Netherlands, which was amazing. It was one of our goals to play at this festival since we first started the project. And it was there in 2008 where I first met and handed our demo EP to Torben from Infacted Recordings. So it felt like a major accomplishment to come back, signed to Infacted, and hit the festival stage. Next we will also play Infest UK and Nocturnal Culture Night, so this summer will kick ass for us!

Shiv-r is known for dark electronic music. What is so fascinating about this genre?

Lee: We are both originally from Australia. Growing up there, dark electro was difficult to find. In some way, that made the local scene that much better because the people listening to the music had to make a real effort to find it, and perhaps that made us value it more. However, Pete and I both discovered and started producing dark electro over ten years ago. It has been so long that I can neither remember what initially attracted me to the genre nor can I imagine life without it. I guess the answer is simply that we have always enjoyed the musical and visual aesthetics of the music. More important, while a lot of things change in a decade of life, dark electro has always been the central and consistent.

The release of your debut "Hold My Hand" just lies a year behind. Why has the time already come for releasing a second full length CD?

Lee: People outside the industry might not realise how frustratingly long it can be between an album being finished to it being released. It has been just over a year since "Hold My Hand" was released, but a lot of music on that album was written nearly three years ago. It sounds and feels old to us. The two discs appear close because the release process for "Hold My Hand" was a lot slower than "This World Erase". We have been lucky that both Infacted Recordings and Metropolis Records were enthusiastic enough to put our second album into production so quickly.

To what extent does the new one differ from the previous album?

Lee: We have definitely progressed in terms of developing our song structures. I think a real criticism you could have of "Hold My Hand" was that there was some great musical ideas, but they weren’t well presented. Now we have put a lot more energy into the development of verse and chorus structures. When the new album comes out I’m sure there will be some cynical people who are disappointed that we have taken a more "pop" approach to the song structures. I don’t see that as a negative thing. It is actually a real challenge to write this way and it is also something electro bands too often avoid or claim isn’t important, simply because it is so difficult to do.

Pete: I think the ideas we have are explored a lot more thoroughly in the new album, too. Lyrically there is a lot more text on the new album than on the first one, and musically there is a lot more variation within the songs themselves, with some songs going in some really unexpected directions. So I think listeners can expect some surprises from the new album.

Where do you see your personal development between both longplayers?

Lee: I have definitely become a better person. Before our first album, my life was terribly boring. I went to nice restaurants with friends, traveled a lot and maintained healthy relationships. Since "Hold My Hand" was released, we have been so busy with release deadlines, remix requests and all the other fun that comes with running a moderately successful electro project, I have stopped all those terribly bad habits. Now, I rarely go out, drink heavily every night, smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, worship towering racks of boutique analogue audio equipment and have to pay strangers for sex. Being a musician is pretty awesome.

Pete: Between both longplayers we also made no less than 21 remixes for other bands, as well as the "Incision"-EP. And of course, Lee and I both have full-time dayjobs. So between all of this and composing the album, even sleep was cut back to make room for our production work, so there really isn’t much of a personal life to talk about!

How did you manage to write songs together without even being in the same country?

Lee: The title track for the new album, "This World Erase", was actually written on one of those rare occasions that Pete and I were in the same place at the same time, and it definitely sounds different. There were positive and negative aspects to writing in this way. From my own perspective, we were in Pete’s studio using different synths and software from the ones I usually use. I had to spend a lot more time experimenting with the different equipment to get a sound I wanted. At the same time, those experiments meant the results were very different from what I usually do by myself, and variation is always a good thing. Working in my own studio I am so familiar with everything that I can work almost on "autopilot", but it is also easy to fall into making the same sounds for every song or becoming a cliché of myself. If we do combine studios some time in the future, I am sure it will alter the sound of the project enormously.

Didn`t you even meet each other for the recording process? Which problems did you have to overcome due to that?

Lee: After wrapping up the album, Pete was traveling to play at Summer Darkness, but there was a flight delay which meant we could meet for a night in Bangkok. We spent a drunken night where some of the technical aspects of the post-production work that had gone into "This World Erase" came up in conversation. We don’t actually communicate much during the songwriting process, so this was one of the rare occasions we talked about the process. The details are boring and technical, but the conclusion was that it had worked well because neither of us were assholes about it. When you think of musicians, you have to think of massive egos. The ego destroys the creative process, regardless of whether you are working in the same studio at the same time or different studios half a world apart. Shiv-r works because both of us are willing to forget our egos and just do the right thing for the music. I think the hardest part for anyone working collaboratively is that when you are working on a song, you quite often start to imagine specific parts that should be added and generally how it should sound once it is finished. But, then your partner comes in and takes it in a completely different direction. It could be he walks into the same studio, or it could be you wrap up the files and send them to the other side of the world. Either way, whatever you imagined is not going to be the end result. There is a lot of potential for personality clashes. Fortunately, when working with Pete, the end result is usually something I could never have even imagined by myself, and that is what pushes the project forward.

How does the division of work generally look like for Shiv-r? Who`s for example responsible for the lyrics?

Lee: The lyrics and vocals are all Pete`s part. For the music we originally had defined specific roles. The idea was that Pete would do the percussion and bass lines and I would do the remainder. However, as time has passed, the roles have blurred. For example, the new album has lead lines by Pete and bass lines or percussive layers by me. I think that’s a natural progression. We needed those defined roles to begin as we didn’t have much experience working together. Now we have been doing it for a few years, we don’t really need those roles and can be flexible in the way we approach each individual song.

Pete: Even though we switched roles a bit, we still have our own very individual musical styles. And if you’re familiar with our previous musical projects, you should be able to tell which parts are written by which person. Each song is a 50/50 split, musically, so next time you listen to the CD, try to figure out who made which part.

What are Shiv-r`s inspiration sources?

Pete: For our first album, my own inspiration was very much taken from my surroundings. It was based on internalised impressions of the world around me; specifically, living in London at the time in a very rough area. Now, my inspiration has taken more of a step back, looking at the larger world and why people can be violent, empty husks, breeding like a virus and behaving like a hive of insects. As fucked up as it is, this kind of ugliness is somehow hugely inspiring for Shiv-r.

Is "This World Erase" based on a concept or isn`t there any connection between the songs?

Pete: Our first album "Hold My Hand" was an invitation into the world of Shiv-r. "This World Erase" is the next step of that invitation, and now that we are through the looking glass we can create a new world. But first, we must destroy the world from which we came. That is the concept of the album – the shadow between the world with which we are presented, and the world we want to make for ourselves.

Why do you want to erase the world? Or how do we have to understand the title?

Pete: The title is more about individuality and control. To erase the world we’re presented with and create our surroundings and ourselves as we see it. A lot of people blame their circumstances or whatever arcane reasons for their shitty lives, when the capacity for change is within them. But to create that world we want, we have to face the often-terrifying differences and inadequacies that fill us with fear. It is this space of fear that is the basis of a lot of the song concepts for the new album.

What do you generally want to convey with your songs to the audience?

Pete: Music is all about communication. So we want to connect with people, bring out their dark side and make them feel alive. Music is a two-way medium – we make the music and people react to it. So we want people to hear our songs and feel something. Shiv-r does not make background music that you can ignore!

How important is the band´s visual side? Pete, your outer appearance reminds me a little bit of IAMX…

Pete: Well, what can I say? Chris Corner is a sexy man! But it all comes down to individuality and self-expression really. It is more satisfying for us to have a project that is visual as well as just musical. So it’s important to us personally to have a strong visual presence.

To what extent is provocation an important instrument for your music project?

Lee: I honestly don’t think we are a particularly provocative act. We both spent a large part of our formative years being part of underground music scenes that produce much more offensive material than ours. Acts that intentionally produce provocative or offensive material to gain attention are usually trying to cover for a lack of ability or substance in their music. We have never produced anything with the sole intention of being provocative, even though we have already been accused of doing so. Everything we have done has simply been an extension of the music itself, and the music itself is an extension of our personal feelings.

Pete: It’s important to get a reaction; because it means the people you are reaching care about what you do. An artist needs an audience, and we need to know that audience is out there. I would say it is equally as important to be expressive in one’s music as it is to get a reaction from the listeners. Everything we do as Shiv-r should provoke some sort of feeling in people; if people feel absolutely nothing about what we do, then we have failed as artists.

When will it be possible to see you live on stage in Germany?

Pete: In early September 2011 we will make our German live debut at Nocturnal Culture Night festival. So we hope to see and meet a lot of people there!

What do we have to expect from a Shiv-r live show?

Pete: We put on a high-energy show and keep the heavy beats pumping. We also put a lot of effort into our stage costuming and our friends Gallery Serpentine have done extensive custom design work for us, which adds a lot to the show. A live show is an audio, visual and visceral experience, so we connect with the crowd with strong visuals, lots of bass and lots of energy.

Lee: Pete’s left nipple!

Are your other musical projects completely put on hold?

Lee: I’m not sure. That kind of question is for sensible and mature people who make plans! Between Shiv-r and working fulltime, there hasn’t been much opportunity for anything else, musical or otherwise. When we finished "This World Erase", we both thought we would take some time off from music, but it just didn’t happen. As we do this interview, Pete is touring Europe, and I am starting new material which will be for whatever Shiv-r release is next. We both have other projects, but I think for both of us, Shiv-r is taking precedence. It hasn’t been a conscious choice to do it that way. It just seems to have happened naturally.

Pete: I’m not going to say "My other projects are completely put on hold", but I’m certainly thinking it very loudly!

And one last question: How would you continue the sentence "Music is…"?

Lee: ... porn without the pictures.

Pete: …crack.

Interview: Lea S.
Fotos: taken & (c) by Matthew Burgess / taken from shiv-r.com
Website Band: www.shiv-r.com

(c) Zillo Musikmagazin / Ausgabe 10/11 / www.zillo.de

copyright: Aurora Borealis 2007-2015
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