Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"In The Shape Of A Ghost": An Interview With Forma Tadre

What an update we've got for you today, kids: an interview with none other than Andy Meya of Forma Tadre fame and excellence. Like we mentioned a while back, after a ten-year hiatus there's a new Forma Tadre album in the works. We asked Andy about the past and future of Forma Tadre, as well as what he's been up to in the interim. We've posted a couple of mp3s at the bottom of this post for those who've yet to check out Forma Tadre, but happily Andy's just reissued the band's entire back catalog on iTunes. If you haven't yet, check out the history of one of dark electronic music's true innovators, before he drops what's sure to be another groundbreaking record.

IEI: "Navigator" remains a landmark album, not only due to its stellar club-friendly tracks, but also due to the theme of exploration that runs through it. How was "Navigator" developed? Was the theme of exploration specifically present from the outset, or did it only emerge as you began to produce the material for that album?

AM: It's difficult to speak from an outset - as such - concerning "Navigator". Large parts of the musical material ("Plasmasleep", "Looking Glass Men", "Celebrate the Cult" and two of the "Navigator" parts) were there even before OffBeat gave me the option to produce an album.

But I remember choosing a title for the album was quiet an easy decision. "Navigator" as a whole just reflects my thinking and my interests at that time - scientific exploration and scientific hybris, prospects of the future, my fascination with adventure, especially the polar expeditions of Ernest Shackleton and a certain cosmic connection I felt to the universe. Well, the last point sounds rather esoteric. I assure you, I have no pretty moonstones here lying around to cure me from odd diseases. If I dare say. I maybe had a similar connection to the universe, the stars and the planets an astronomer has. Outer Space was very real to me. Solar Fire. Stellar Dust. Utter Blackness. I felt like I could touch it. Walk upon the remnants of a bygone planet.

I wanted to share these feelings with the listeners - not totally unlike Lovecraft did with his literary concept of "Cosmic Fear". There's also one thing concerning the title of the album I probably haven't mentioned before. I recall I had a poster of Buster Keaton's movie "Navigator" pinned to my studio wall.

IEI: "Automate" obviously pushed the envelope even further than "Navigator" as far as atmospherics go. The album seems to be less about an overarching theme, though, and more about exploring certain sounds or spaces within the framework of individual tracks (or we could be entirely mistaken). What inspired you to move in this direction, and was this something of a prelude to your work in film and game soundtracks?

AM: The inspiration to "Automate" came from a trip to Paris, visiting the financial center and the suburban parc "André Citroen". A recreation area which would fit perfectly into any star trek movie. "Automate" was about two things: The obvious beauty of the landscape, that was striking to me and the intentions of the big companies (e.g. the Citroen firm) behind this - namely giving their employees an opportunity to relax. Not out of pure benevolence of course, but to ensure more functional "human resources". I thought that we were all "automized" (controlled to act in a predefined way) but more cunningly than in the past, e.g during the industrial revolution. I tried to work this concept into the tracks of "Automate", not with lyrics but with the shaping of sounds and the choice of certain song structures. The whole concept is more clearly laid out in the artwork of Automate 2.0 than in the original album. "Automate" wasn't exactly a prelude to my work in film and game soundtracks but helped me connecting to some movie directors.

IEI: If we're not mistaken, both "Navigator" and "Automate" are currently out of print, at least in North America. Are there any plans to re-release these albums, either on CD or online? Also, we've tried in vain for several years to track down a copy of "Automate 2.0". You mentioned on your site that an album of unreleased material from the "Automate" period might be forthcoming. Any chance that the remixes and bonus tracks added to "Automate 2.0" might be included on that?

AM: "Automate 2.0" should be released on iTunes very soon (like the original "Automate", the projected release is August 2007, "Navigator" has just gone online last week on iTunes!). [IEI: visit Forma Tadre's site to buy all three FT releases via iTunes] If all goes well and if I'm satisfied with the cooperation at iTunes I wish to release an online album this year, called "The Music of Erich Zann". The album is - obviously - dedicated to Lovecraft's short story and will contain solely instrumental tracks. It is not the album I am working on but a project a wanted to realize for some time.

IEI: How do you feel EBM and industrial (as musical genres or as "scenes") have changed in the near ten years since "Automate" was released, from both creative and business standpoints?

AM: I'm certainly not an expert on this. My impression is that - on the creative side - few people are taking musical risks. The dance scene often seems largely dominated by techno beats and technoid song structures. I'm more with the "old school" way of developing irresistible grooves like Front 242's "Headhunter" or Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" - both of which I think are still excellent and original dance tracks.

On the business side - musicians act far more professional than in the past, setting up their websites, writing newsletters etc. The fan contact through MySpace has become even more important. And there's of course the mp3 thing. Illegal downloads, bands selling less CD's, good labels closing (Dependent), good shops closing. The whole concept of selling physical CD's to get the artists some money and make a living is at stake at the moment.

IEI: When it was started, NEWT was a big sonic departure from the areas in which you and Daniel Myer were working in your respective bands. Was there a conscious decision to move in more of a drum n' bass direction, or was this just the organic result of you and Daniel working together?

AM: Our sound was an organic result but it's also true, that - in the beginning - NEWT started out as a drum n'bass pop project. Later in time it shifted to a more stellar, experimental sonic adventure. I think Autechre and other minimalist electronica have been our biggest influences then.

IEI: You also mentioned in January that you had some new NEWT material potentially in the works. Any developments on that front?

AM: No. I have postponed all my other projects until the new album Forma Tadre is finished.

IEI: It looks as though you've got another side project, Schattenfreunde, in the works with Christian from Distorted Reality, whose last album you produced. What sort of material can be expect to hear from Schattenfreunde, and when?

AM: The music is Electro/Wave with german lyrics. Christian writes most of the songs while I do lyrics and production. We'd like to release an EP next year. There's a preview on our MySpace site.

IEI: A few years ago you did a string of remixes we enjoyed a great deal (Assemblage 23's "Document" and Haujobb's "Penetration" amongst them) and we wondered at the time when new material of your own was coming out. Was remixing a way to "keep your hand in" during this period?

AM: I'm not certain, but I think I did a lot of scoring and sound design during that period. So doing remixes was in a way a nice "distraction". But I never stopped writing music for my own projects, especially for "Irgendwo Maschinen". I just didn't release anything, that was not my main focus at that time.

IEI: You've also begun to produce an increasing number of records for other bands over the past few years. How would you describe your approach as a producer, and have those experiences affected the creation of your own material in any way?

AM: As a producer, I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. Especially with Distorted Reality, trying to force them into a direction they didn't feel wholly comfortable with. My vision for their tracks was rather "progressive" pure electronic while their sound developed more into a blend of acoustic and electronic sources. I refrained from to much interference later just trying to get their music to the point, shaping sounds and cleaning up the arrangement. This helped a lot with producing Cesium 137 although Cesium's sound is far more electronic by nature which made it a lot easier for me. I can't tell right now how the experiences as a producer have affected the creation of my own material. Maybe we should wait and see until the new album comes out?

IEI: Was there a specific reason for Forma Tadre being on hiatus for so long, or was it a case of other projects occupying your time?

AM: Other projects were occupying my time but it's of course always a choice of what you do with your time. I decided to explore other musical fields mainly for financial reasons. But although writing music for other people's projects is fun and exciting most of the time you certainly don't have the same kind of artistic freedom that you have when you develop your own ideas. I took me some time to realize this. On the other hand I'm most certainly some kind of control freak. I do everything myself. From production over to marketing, setting up websites etc. This also takes up some time.

IEI: Some time ago you expressed an interest in working with a cellist on the new Forma Tadre album. More recently you described the new material as "certainly not like Automate" and "a timeless electronic experience with a unique feel, style, atmosphere & heavy load of lyrics". What's the latest on the sound of the new material, and your feelings about it personally?

AM: I feel very confident. I am writing and "dreaming" lyrics at the moment. It's great to rediscover old ways and passages to give meaning to words. I rely on subconsciousness and intuition. Writing lyrics is rather an archeologic process for me. It's not invention. Not idea.

I feel like an archeologist or sculptor peeling off the shells of an object to get to the core. The tools aren't different either, maybe. Patience. Caution. Self-Esteem. If I do it right, all goes well.

Besides I have put most of the software-synthesizer into the garbage bin and started to use my hardware tools again (which I have done since 2005, when I started writing songs for the new album). This was also essential for me, maybe the starting point.

IEI: You also added "No Future-Pop, none whatsoever" to that description. Do you feel that Future-Pop is a genre or label that's outlived whatever potential it had, or is it simply a matter of something that has no connection or importance to Forma Tadre?

AM: In the past there has been an extensive hype about Future-Pop. At some time Future-Pop was almost the only imperative for commercial success. I just referred to this style as an example to explain that I don't feel my music to be bound to any narrow stylistic boundaries as such. But it's of course still electro/industrial in a way.

IEI: What concrete details can you give us about the new Forma Tadre album's release (name, date, label)?

AM: No name, no date, no label yet. The new album will contain 10-12 songs, most of them with vocals.

IEI: In the past you've cited HP Lovecraft and his cosmic perspective on humanity's significance as a major influence on Forma Tadre. Do you still read Lovecraft and will he be making his presence felt on the new album?

AM: I still read and reread Lovecraft. There are at least two tracks on the new album that are influenced by his shorter and longer stories, namely "The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath" and "Dreams in the Witch House". Right now I'm writing music for an independent short movie - "The Unnamable". A very faithful adaption of Lovecraft's short story written in 1923. The movie is in the tradition of "The Haunting (Original)", "The Mothman prophecies" or "The Ring". The score is almost completed.

IEI: Any other sources of inspiration for the new album that you'd care to reveal (themes, films, books, other music)?

AM: I am sorry, but I don't want to think to much about this at the moment. I couldn't name single influences either. I'm still in the process of creating.

IEI: Specific inspirations for the new album aside, what music (older or contemporary) are you currently enjoying?

AM: Currently enjoying: Deine Lakaien "20 Years of Electronic Avantgarde", Edgar Froese "Epsilon in Malaysian Pale", Jean-Michel Jarre "Teo-Tea", Kraftwerk "Tour de France Soundtracks", Faderhead & IAMX!

-"Plasmasleep" - from Navigator
-"Lo Rez Skyline" - from Automate