When Pittsburgh synth-rock duo Zombi emerged in the early 2000s they sounded remarkably fresh and distinctive; it’s only in hindsight that we can appreciate how prescient their blend of kosmiche synth sequences, prog rhythms and horror/sci-fi soundtrack dynamics would prove to be. Though coming from a rock background (and indeed their music bears traces of tech-rock titans such as Genesis, Rush and Van Halen) they prefigured the vogue for stroboscopic arpeggiation by a good few years. Recently, Zombi’s Steve Moore and Anthony Paterra (co-founders of tape label VCO Recordings) have established themselves as solo artists of note, the former under his own name, the latter as Majeure. Moore has gained additional acclaim for the glossy dance-pop he makes under the Lovelock moniker as well as his collaboration with Ulver’s Daniel O’Sullivan as Miracle, and his latest solo album Light Echoes is his first for the reliably excellent Cuneiform label. Read on for a revealing interview with the man himself and a mix created exclusively for The Outer Church…
Steve, tell us about this mix you’ve created for The Outer Church…
“Some songs that inspired me while I was working on Light Echoes. Probably no surprises. Just music I like.”
Your new solo material seems considerably less rhythmically orientated than a lot of your recent work…
“Definitely. After the last Zombi album [Escape Velocity, 2011], the Lovelock album [Burning Feeling, 2012] and the sort of outsider-techno stuff I’ve been doing, I wanted to take a break from working on anything with a ‘beat’.”
Is there a theme or concept running through the new album?
“Not in the narrative sense, but there are unifying sonic elements. Simplicity, consonance, muted tones, wide registral space, repetition. The sounds are the concept.”
The sleeve art is beautiful. What’s the story behind it?
“My buddy Shawn Brackbill took this photo in LA a few years ago, and I’ve wanted to use it for an album cover since he first posted it on Flickr. When I first saw it I thought it looked like a collage, with elements of nature and industry, the past, the present, the future (of the past). We cropped it down a little to make it look even more surreal.”
Why did you choose to release this album via Cuneiform Records?
“They’re a great label, I’ve wanted to work with them for years. I met Steve Feigenbaum in Baltimore last year when I opened for Richard Pinhas. He seemed receptive to the idea of working together, and I thought this album might be a good fit. He was the first person I sent this album to and I’m honoured he agreed to release it.”
How do you feel your music has evolved in general since your earliest solo works? For example, how do you feel about The Henge?
“I wouldn’t say my music has evolved, that implies progress. I just like to try new things. In my opinion Demo 2003 has all my best material, or at least all my favorites. I don’t think I’ll ever top ‘Fever Dream’. The Henge is an odd one though. It feels alien to me. I wandered a little too far out of my comfort zone on that one. Maybe that’s what makes it interesting.”
Does the title of The Henge refer to rumoured Nazi experiments with UFO tech and anti-gravity fields?
“This is actually the first I’m hearing about this. Very interesting stuff. The song title ‘The Henge’ was inspired by a trip to Stonehenge and Avebury Henge. Pretty literal, I know, but these places really resonated with me. I’d love to visit the Ring of Brodgar if I ever make it back to Scotland.”
Are you inspired by conspiracy theories, secret technologies and the like?
“I find conspiracy theories and secret tech really interesting but it doesn’t inspire me, at least not consciously. I’m more often inspired by natural history, astrophysics, quantum physics. Reading science magazines and blogs makes my head spin in a very useful way.”
Can you tell me a little about the impact of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on your life and work?
“Watching Cosmos as a kid had basically the same effect on me that listening to tons of Zeppelin would have on a young guitarist (or drummer, or bassist, maybe singer). It shaped my idea of what was ‘cool’. Science, natural history, outer space, synthesizer music, computer animation. It just stuck with me.”
Both yours and Anthony’s solo projects have been extremely well-received. How has this external activity impacted on your collaboration?
“Our external activities haven’t really affected the band, they’re the result of changes within the band. We burned ourselves out touring back in 2006. We weren’t making any money on the road, we owed Relapse many thousands of dollars, I couldn’t find work between tours, couldn’t pay my rent. Things weren’t going so well. We made the decision to quit touring after our last full tour in Spring of 2007 (with Trans Am and Psychic Paramount). After that we downgraded to ‘studio project’. I’ve been living in New York since 2007 so now we do most of our writing individually and trade files online. Not necessarily as fun, but possibly more productive than getting together and ‘jamming’. And now we have a lot more time to work on solo recordings, which has worked out well for both of us.”
Last year’s Escape Velocity was perhaps the least rock-orientated Zombi album to date. Is this direction likely to continue in the future?
“No. If we do another album it will be more along the lines of Cosmos or Surface to Air. We’ll save all the non-rock stuff for the next Moore/Majeure record.”
Do you agree that recent history has shown Zombi to have been ahead of the curve in several ways, specifically the incorporation of ideas from previously neglected areas such as kosmische music, sci-fi/horror soundtracks, etc?
“I think you’re right, but also I think the more recent trend in retro/kosmische synth artists and groups is part of a different movement with different roots. Before we formed Zombi, Tony and I were playing in math-rock/post-punk/no-wave bands. I view what we do as a blend of these genres filtered through our AOR-prog upbringing. Or maybe vice versa. Either way I don’t think we have a lot in common with the newer waves of synth artists and groups. We belong in some sub-genre of rock.”
When you’re creating a piece of music, are you painting a landscape, shooting a scene or writing a story?
“Sometimes I’m inspired by something visual but once I start working I get absorbed into the Soundworld. Where sounds are the landscape. And the story.”
Miracle’s Fluid Window was one of 2011’s finest albums. What does the future hold for this project?
“We have a new album finished, should be out in January.”
What else do you have lined up?
“I have a 12” out now on L.I.E.S. called Panther Moderns, and another coming soon on Future Times called Zen Spiders. 2011’s Primitive Neural Pathways is getting a US vinyl re-release through Dangerous Age, and I’m working on a cassette-only release for VCO.”
Finally, what are your favourite albums by a) Van Halen and b) Genesis? And why?
“My favorite Genesis albums are from the Banks/Collins/Rutherford trio era. It’s hard but if I had to pick I’d say either Duke or And Then There Were Three. For Van Halen, again I can’t pick one. 1984 is kind of obvious, but there are some real clunkers towards the end of Side A. I can’t handle ‘Top Jimmy’ or ‘Drop Dead Legs’. Side B, however, is flawless. Fair Warning is probably my favorite. That album goes out with such a bang. The last four minutes of that album are the best four minutes of music Van Halen, or pretty much any other band, ever recorded (‘Sunday Afternoon In The Park’ and ‘One Foot Out the Door’). The runner-up goes to Van Halen II.”
Wm Jeffrey Boydstun Metamorphosis
Van Halen 1984
Heldon Perspective I (Ou Comment Procede Le Nihilisme Actif)
Michael Stearns In The Beginning…
Michael Stearns Elysian E
Arvo Pärt The Beatitudes
Klaus Schulze Synthies Have (No) Balls?
Steve Moore has finally won a court ruling against Todd Bertuzzi.
Todd Bertuzzi will forever be known in Colorado as a career-ender and a life-killer. He deserves each and every fan’s boos when he comes to town.
Let’s just all keep praying to the hockey gods that Bertuzzi will be kicked out of the league, like he should have been originally, once the trial reaches a verdict later this year