The first interview of 2022 on /amodelofcontrol.com is with a band I’ve long wanted to talk to – and indeed I’ve been listening to them for a long time. LA-based darkwave/goth/industrial (more on genre fluidity and definitions later) band Collide has been part of my musical life for over two decades, a group that never fails to intrigue and impress, and somehow have never really fitted in, such is their unusual sound.
Listening to a band that long meant that I have had time to think about what I wanted to ask. With a new album out, it felt like the perfect time to catch up with kaRIN and Statik on e-mail, to dig a bit deeper. As always, this interview comes with grateful thanks to them for their time spent answering my – sometimes idiosyncratic – questions, and also for supplying the images used in this post.
A note about the interviews on amodelofcontrol.com. This is now a long-running, occasional series, occasional because of the fact that I only interview artists when I have something to ask, and when artists have something to say. I don’t use question templates, so each is unique, too. Finally, I only edit for grammar and add in links, so what you’re reading is the response of the artist directly.
Some recent interviews on this site have also been posted onto the /amodelofcontrol.com Youtube Channel.
The release date of 22-Feb has passed, and Notes From The Universe is out there. Is there trepidation before you release a new album – and what are your thoughts on the album now that you have a bit of distance from recording it?
It happens on every album. You get done with it, and you’ve listened to it a million times, and you’ve made the best album you can, and you’re still like…I don’t know…everyone might hate it. As with every album, you have to make it for yourself…you’re making an album that you like. I’ve never wanted to try to really go for a new “sound”, but your tastes do evolve over time, so Notes From the Universe is a different album than we would have made when we were just starting out. You hope that people who liked you in the past will continue to like what you do, but it’s definitely not a certainty. So far, everyone who has heard it has had great things to say about it, which is a relief.
As Statik said you really have to make it for yourself and hope the rest falls into place. I think if you are true to your heart, it always finds it way.
As a writer – and someone who has struggled to get this across for over twenty years now – this album sounds like the continual, gradual evolution of Collide that I’ve become accustomed to, but I’ll be damned if I could describe it in one genre definition. There’s darkwave, goth, industrial, trip-hop and ethereal textures in there. Are you particularly bothered where you fit in after this much time?
Well that’s actually a very, very good question. Again, we’re just making the kind of music we like. I’m not really thinking about a category for it to fit into….which is fine when you’re making it. After you make it though, is a different thing. Since we self-release, we go through all of the hoops that everyone does when you release an album. All of the different music sites want you to put your music in a category, and this is just super tough for us. I just don’t feel comfortable in any categories they normally list…I don’t know what we are. We’ve sort of put it out there for other people to answer, and they have to list a bunch of categories as well.
It was hard…for example, when we released our first single Are You Better Now, we went through this site, SubmitHub, where you can buy “credits” and try to get the song reviewed, or added to playlists on Spotify, and things like that. They have musical categories that their different people specialize in, so that you’re submitting to someone who is going to be familiar with your type of music, but even that wasn’t really working for us. The range of comments we were getting started to get a bit comical…it’s not electronic enough, it’s too dark, it’s not dark enough, the vocals aren’t right, the guitars aren’t right, there are too many guitars, not enough keyboards!! It really seemed like unless you fit into their “narrow category” of what they listened to, they just weren’t going to do anything with it. It’s a bit sad.
I’ve never had a problem with liking a lot of different types of music, and I just like it for being good. I generally like things that sound “new”. That’s different than if there was something that I liked 20 years ago, and they’re a new band is just re-making that sound now…I’m a bit “meh” about that. Even if you’re doing it well…you’re a good copycat, but I still can’t get excited about it. And that’s what I really try to do, not just remake stuff that we’ve done, or copy other music out there…it’s just what I like to do, but I think it is hard because it’s just natural for people to want to put you in a box.
The lavish (and very generous) reissues of Chasing the Ghost and Some Kind of Strange gave some fascinating additional context to this pair of landmark albums – like many others, I suspect, these were the albums that I first discovered Collide through. How was the remastering/reassessment of the albums for you as a band? Did it inform the creation of this new album, or was the process simply a nice bit of reminiscence?
Well, it was a very tough process actually. I made new mixes of all of the songs, where I didn’t want to make them “different”, I just wanted to make them better, where I thought it called for it. Copying a mix or a sound is really hard though, and it really took a lot of work to “match” the mixes, and not really change them. There were some sections where I really thought…oh, this is a bit muddy sounding, or, it sounded ok before, but I know it could sound better. There weren’t a lot of places, but enough, that I thought they needed to be labelled as new mixes. I’m sure people don’t really spend the time to really A/B the new versus old mixes, but I was really happy with how they came out.
I also really was happy with all of the “Early Version” mixes. As a fan, I really like to hear old versions of songs that I like…you know, where the music is pretty much there, but not 100% worked out, and the vocals may be different altogether. I was able to find lots of great early versions of most of the songs on both albums, that I thought most people would appreciate. It took a lot of time as well, going through a lot of old reference CDs that I kept (I would burn CDs at the time, so I could listen to them when I was in my car, or something like that). I also was able to put together an old computer system running Pro Tools from the early 2000’s, and went through all of our old ADAT tapes that we had.
One of the surprising finds was a really basic song idea that I found on an ADAT where I had a few keyboards and some drum loops, with Chris Candelaria playing bass to it. Chris played bass on some songs on Chasing the Ghost, and this was just sort of an idea that never got finished at the time. I don’t know if I wasn’t really into it then, or what happened with it, but when I heard it this time, it made me want to finish it. I transferred it into pro tools and worked on it a bunch more, and kaRIN put vocals on it, and it turned into Haunting Me Still, which is on Notes From the Universe. That’s at least 20 years from song start to song finish..a new record for us.
Talking of reminiscing: what were the origins of Collide – how did you both begin working together?
By sheer coincidence, we met at a club that a friend of mine owned. We both had a musical history, so one day we tried something in the studio together and then we never looked back.
These Eyes Before a decade or more back told us a fair bit about your influences – which intriguingly included a songs from a number of bands I might never have expected, and little in the way of goth (with the exception of Depeche Mode in particular). Was Depeche Mode your major touchstone in electronic and goth music in the eighties, or were there other bands dear to your hearts at the time too from the genre?
When doing cover songs, Statik and I have to find songs that we can both agree on and we both feel that we can bring something to the table on. My Mom had great taste in music, so I grew up with Pink Floyd, David Bowie and The Moody Blues. Those artists hit me at a formative time in my life, for me it is mostly about lyrics and feelings.
There were a quite a few Depeche Mode albums that I really love…Construction Time Again had early elements from Industrial, I loved the percussion on that album. They had a really great stretch of just superb albums…Some Great Reward, Black Celebration…I love the Fly on the Windscreen (Death Mix), Music for the Masses is pretty perfect, and Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion are also great…so yeah…pretty big fan here. I always found it interesting that you would hear that Martin Gore would start a lot of songs on guitar, even though they didn’t necessarily sound like “guitar-y” songs when they were finished. On our new album, there were quite a few songs that I actually started on guitar this time, and I think it really changes the song writing process…even if the guitar doesn’t really make it’s way to the final mix or the sound, it can really influence how the song moves along.
In answer to your question of other bands in that genre? There was just so many cool things happening at the time, my musical taste was all over the place…Cocteau Twins‘ Treasure, Ministry‘s Twitch, a lot of Gary Numan (I had all of his albums and singles), Kate Bush‘s Hounds of Love came out right around then as well, and that has to be in my top 5 albums of all time. Nina Hagen‘s Fearless, Laurie Anderson‘s Big Science and Mr. Heartbreak, Peter Gabriel 4 (Security), Prince, Around the World in a Day and Parade…so, I guess that’s a lot of categories?
Aside from a couple of (very) early releases on Re-constriction Records, you’ve been defiantly independent and released through your own label across your entire career. Did you get offers from other labels, and did you ever regret going it alone?
No offers really. It’s really hard to say what you might be missing out on. I do know that in almost every instance that we’ve had someone helping with an aspect of releasing or licensing we’ve been ripped off. Numerous distributors just decided at some point to stop communication and stop paying. And we’ve found that licensing a song usually never has any future income, no one can ever bother with any statements. So I don’t know…the whole record industry just seems broken. It’s still all in favor of labels.
For example, I was a big fan of Snake River Conspiracy, and I don’t think their work really caught on enough for them to breakthrough. I would read these interviews where they got so much money to make their first album, and they toured, opening for some pretty big bands, and then when they got around to making their second record, the record company said, well, you’re in debt for something like a million dollars now. How depressing is that? I mean it would make you not even want to start another record. The company can deduct for all kinds of things related to touring and promotion, so it’s just how things go. Anyway, fast forward, and (off the subject) we got Jason who was half of Snake River to do a remix for us on our Mind & Matter album before he passed in 2020. Off the subject, I know, but I was glad I got to talk to him a few times while he was still with us.
Has the fact that you are so independent impacted on playing live? I know you played live sporadically many years ago (and indeed I still have the live DVD on my shelf): was the work and cost therein just too much to bear, or did you just prefer remaining a studio project?
It’s hard to say exactly why we didn’t do any more live shows. I don’t know if its’ because we’re independent…I just remember that after our El Rey DVD show, we were the last ones there, and I was trying to get all of the racks and gear in the back of the truck, killing my back.
It would be nice if there was more help, I guess for the whole loading and unloading thing. You never know…maybe if we decided to just do it on a smaller scale?
For me, I am a creative addict – so as soon as I am finished something, I want to make the next thing. It is the thing that drives me, so anything that is not making something new is taking me away from that. I feel that an artist is not always necessarily an entertainer. I want to make art – but the thought of entertaining although exhilarating can also feel like pressure. I was glad we got to do it after so many years, and if things had lined up, you never know. I also run my own design business which I love as well, and it keeps me very busy, so technically I am always creating and that is the way I like it.
I was fascinated by the quote that Karin sent out with the pre-release info for “Notes From The Universe”. “The album is like getting a postcard from the Universe. It centers around the perspective that we are all a small part of a much larger entity. I certainly do not have all the answers, but I do have to ask the questions.” If you were to meet the personification of that “larger entity”, what would you ask?
What wouldn’t I ask. The fact that we exist at all is just mesmerizing to me, and I do not take it for granted. I find nature, and then the grand scale of the Universe so fascinating how it all works together. How brilliant and beautiful nature is and how immense the Universe is. I find both of these things really put life in perspective for me, and I am just grateful to be a very small part of it. I actually do not like to necessarily know the answers though: for example, if I could go to a fortune teller and they could tell me my future, I would not want to know. I like to spend my energy creating and being the best human that I can. I find magic in the possibilities. I am not sure if I have a purpose, but I like to think that my actions can help others, and that makes me feel good. For me, life is best when you get to design it yourself.
Notes From The Universe is out now