Eat Static (Interview)

By Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #10 (June 2000)

Eat Static have been moving through space for more than 10 years now and have released 7 full length CD's and at least as many CD singles with many exclusive tracks. In addition, the band has contributed tracks to numerous compilation LP's. Two years ago when the band came to Denmark I interviewed Joie for the Tentacles of Erpland and we talked about various things. The band recently came here on the Crash And Burn tour and it was a pretty intense show but I did miss the incredible pulsating brain from the previous tour. Once again a very cool light and sound show. Anyway, Merv agreed to answer some questions and here is what he had to say.

SH: How do the first Eat Static Concerts differ from now?

MP: Well, originally there were three of us on stage (Steve Everitt) so each of us had a small set up. After Steve left in '94, we have taken out practically the whole studio. And early on we were using alot of older gear that was a bit unreliable so things are less hectic now. Also, we put more into the visual side now with a giant brain as the centrepiece and large self built circuit boards on stage containing thousands of sequenced LED's.

SH: Did Steve Everitt play at all the early gigs with you guys?

MP: Yep, 'til '94...

SH: Do you ever use your old Ozrics drum kit for any of the Eat Static material?

MP: Not as yet!!... want to get into trying Midi triggers and stuff next...

SH: Can you describe what it was like to remix Strangitude? It is a great remix.

MP: Funny at first to go back to that track but it soon unfolded into an interesting project. I still think the original is in a class of it's own!!

SH: Did you hear the other remix tracks from your old band? What did you think?

MP: I've actually never heard or seen the finished album!!

SH: I loved the Wooden Baby three tapes. How did you come to start that band? The material is much more space rock mixed with weirdness.

MP: Wooden Baby evolved from a gothic /garage punk band I had called THE FUNERAL PARTY... Wooden Baby came about from wanting to explore the electronic side a bit more... plus I think the drug taking had a big influence!!

SH: Was there ever a 4th tape produced?

MP: No, just the three... I have a few different versions of those tracks still...

SH: Any chance these tapes will be remixed and put out on CD now you guys have your own Mesmobeat label?

MP: Anything is possible!!

SH: Back to Eat Static, can you describe the gear you use live on stage for you and Joie?

MP: We are using a DR16 hard disk recorder, Roland MSQ sequencer, Akai 3200xl sampler, Yamaha FS1 synth, TB303,Joie uses an Ensoniq Fizmo and his faithful Roland SH5...

SH: Most techno bands live seem to perform the music nearly identical to the records. Do you guys try to do things live that make it a big different?

MP: We constantly change and experiment with tracks live... also we like to do jam tracks made up on the spot.... tours would be boring otherwise!!

SH: How much of the base of each song is a prerecorded sequence compared to what you actually perform? You guys are very active on the stage so you are clearly doing something.

MP: It varies from track to track. Also I layer different options of seqs to vary things... also all the effects are run live so things get hectic enough...

SH: I thought Science Of The Gods was an incredible CD and you guys were really pushing the boundaries of techno. Without hearing the new CD, how do you see it as different?

MP: Science was quite a dark album and was done over quite a long period of time. Also alot of personal shit was happening with both our lives and losing a couple of close friends probably culminated in deep emotional vibes to run through that album. It's also funny how a lot of fans hated that album at first but over time it became one of the most popular... very deep in places and also brave in the way new areas were explored. Crash And Burn is more of a happy, comedic bang crash wallop with possibly more of an emphasis on melody again like the earlier stuff.

SH: How much synthesizer do you personally play? Do you ever use computer synths?

MP: Most of what I do is programmed while Joie is more of the live player. I've never heard anyone play like him... a universe of his own!! Just starting to mess with software synths.

SH: Do you have a favorite toy that makes the coolest sounds?

MP: Definitely the SH5... still shocks us every time!!!

SH: Joie said that you were the computer guy in the band and that you used Mac? Is this true? Do you have favorite computer programs for doing your sequencing? I know Ed said that Ozrics were using Cubase now.

MP: I'm actually using a PC... 233 mhz,pentium 11,running cubase audio XT...

SH: Do you ever have the urge to play live drums again since leaving the Ozrics?

MP: More so now than before!! It won't be long now.

SH: What do you recall about your last gig with the Ozrics at the Phoenix Festival? The decision to leave had been made by this time, I assume?

MP: I don't actually remember!!!

SH: How did you hook up with Steffi Sharpstrings for the new CD?

MP: He bumped into us at glasto and we talked about it... Crash And Burn was a good excuse!!

SH: Does he play a lead style guitar on the CD or is it more effected, gliss guitar type material?

MP: Both styles... a mad dirty solo on Crash And Burn itself and some gliss on Heaven Scent.

SH: Do you think he will play any gigs live with the band?

MP: We may do a long set on the alternative dance stage at Glastonbury this year. Steve Jolliffe and Steffi might join in. It would be nice to play some of our more chilled tracks out.

SH: Can you describe the Dandruff material for me? I heard it was like acid jazz techno? Have you been listening to jazz music?

MP: I've been listening to early experimental electronic stuff such as Dick Hyman and Jean Jacques Perrey. The Dendron album is kind of Eat Static with more of a breakbeat feel but also more organic... not so jazzy really.

SH: Do you ever listen to any of the other UK techno bands like Astralasia (gone more commercial now), Chemical Brothers, GLO (Steffi's band), Nine Invisibles, Mandragora, etc.

MP: Not so many. A few faves are Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert/Wagonchrist, Mouse On Mars, Optical, Bukem...

SH: Who would you recommend to some one does not know techno much but likes Eat Static?

MP: Probably Mouse On Mars... very humourous, original... one of our faves.

SH: There are a lot of new drum machines on the market and cool toys like the Kaos Pad? Have you tried any of these out and can you recommend any?

MP: Haven't really tried any new stuff as we're only just really getting the full benefit of stuff we got years ago!!! Also, after having heard the Waldorf Wave, nothing else has come along to excite us apart from the fizmo.

SH: What is the scoop on Dendrum? Who plays in and how did you hook up with whoever it on the project?

MP: I did the main of it with guest slots from Joie, Will White, Andy Guthrie, Simon Blue Room... some tracks were gonna be on Science but didn't fit... others were just done on the spot for the LP with friends...

SH: Will you tour the US in this year? (Eat Static)

MP: We hope so... the new stuff would work well there I think...

SH: Any last words?

MP: Your minds are like parachutes... they work best when open... look forward to seeing everyone in 2000...

Well, that was it. Short but informative. Next time the band comes around we will chat about something different.

Your can visit Eat Static at their web site.

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