The second of my recently promised interviews is another long-overdue one, really: with Scott Fox of Canadian tribal-industrial behemoth iVardensphere.
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/Details /Length/08:00 read (approx) /Interview conducted/Mar 2022
I was introduced to iVardensphere thanks to my friend Tim, who played them me before we went to Festival Kinetik, that monster of a five-day festival back in 2011. Back then they were, as Scott explains below, still finding their way. A decade on, they are now a sprawling collective live, and regularly at the upper end of festival bills – and with their excellent new album Ragemaker now out, it felt like the right time to catch up with Scott. Thanks both to Scott and to those who assisted in making this interview possible. The photos are from my own collection on Flickr.
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.
Scott, you’ve recently unleashed Ragemaker, your (if I’m counting correctly) eighth album, in just twelve or thirteen years. That’s some workrate, especially seeing as this is your first album in five years (and even then you’ve had other projects to keep you busy). Are you always writing, composing and working on what’s next?
Has it been that many?! Haha. I’m always, always busy. I’m writing pretty much all the time but still, there are times I sit and focus on a project for an extended period. I call this a ‘production cycle’. Yes, it’s the eighth iVardensphere album to which we add all the other stuff. Typically I punch out an album per year on any given project. It’s a momentum that feels good and keeps me busy. Beyond that the studio stays active doing contract work, mixing, mastering and so on for clients which is always nice.
There is a distinctly different atmosphere to Ragemaker. For a start, there is an orchestral grandeur to the sound, and it takes until the third track before any drums really get involved, not to mention there being much less in the way of vocals this time around. Did lockdown allow you to explore ideas you may not have had the time for previously, or indeed force you down particular paths by necessity?
Honestly, lockdown didn’t break the way I do albums… only the way we present albums by touring, of course. The direction Ragemaker took was very much an early decision. Jamie was very busy working on new ESA material so I decided to focus my efforts in a direction that really speaks to me. I wanted Ragemaker to be a film score. I wanted the tracks to play to the imagination as much as just make badass sounds. The aesthetic idea was to be an iVardensphere take on Mad Max and soundtracks of that like. One very different thing this time around was that I built the album on camera for my patrons. Normally, one could spend an hour having fun tweaking a bassline on a synth but, being in front of a camera, you have to be ‘on’ so there was no room for endless circling. This made the decision-making process very definitive. You have to decide what you want, make it happen, then move on. Efficiency is constantly in the back of the mind.
The press material made reference to “the mythos of The Shattering Queen”. This and the title track have an extraordinary video to accompany them, what was the thinking behind this – were the visuals an integral part of this project, and what is the story behind The Shattering Queen?
The mythos developed over the time of writing the album but really only came together during the filming of The Shattering Queen video. In order to make the video work, I spent those few days shooting and talking with the cast about how to make things work and they came up with some really great ideas. I was able to work some of these ideas into the mythos alongside what I’d already worked out.
It’s long been obvious that you have a deep interest and respect for the musical cultures that have influenced your work in iVardensphere. Where did this interest stem from?
This stemmed from a couple directions. One: influences like Sepultura, Juno Reactor and so on were important for opening my eyes. Two: before producing, I was a drummer in a few bands. Playing the drums is a hell of an experience and had some of the most ancient and primal roots. Sit in on any drum circle or watch some Japanese Taiko drummers perform and you can feel it in your bones. I don’t try to adopt any one culture but rather tap into what makes some elements feel like they’re from another time.
Talking of influences, working with This Morn’ Omina on The Roots Of Saraswati appeared to have been something of a career highlight for you. How was working with Mika Goedrijk for you – did you find you inspired each other, and did that work then feed into Ragemaker too?
Mika and I had connected a few times previous to me joining TMO. I’d done a couple of collab tracks on previous releases, played a couple of gigs together (one was drumming with TMO) and Mika worked with Mari Kattman (now Mari Shear) on the And Void album. Joining TMO felt more like a natural evolution. I don’t feel that TMO fed into Ragemaker much but perhaps impacted it in an unexpected way. By the time I was ready to write Ragemaker, I had just wrapped up work on the roots of saraswati and felt out of gas in terms of writing songs with a notable club element. I couldn’t bring myself to write back to back albums that shared a similar vibe so this played into pushing Ragemaker further into cinematic territory.
It’s remarkable to listen to Ragemaker, too, and see how far you’ve evolved from early albums Scatterface and Bloodwater. I first saw you live (and was introduced to your music just prior) at Festival Kinetik in 2011, and the ripping Memmaker remix of Virus was all the rage on the dancefloors, which is interesting as it didn’t even then really represent what you were about. What was your concept around the iVardensphere project at the time, and how has that changed compared to now?
BLAST FROM THE PAST! Scatterface was written before I even had a band name or a label to think about. At that time I still had a club residency as a DJ and the EBM of that time was still fresh in my head. Scatterface was more of an exercise in learning how the software works and, in large, is more just me trying to figure my shit out. There are a couple of good moments on that album but I don’t really relate to it. For me, Bloodwater is the first ‘actual’ iVardensphere work. It’s far more focused and starts to embrace the sound I wanted. Over time I’ve found it more difficult to focus on club music. I feel like Ragemaker helped scratch that itch and I’m toying with the idea of a contemporary bass-industrial release. What do you think I should do?
[Ed: I’m not answering that!]
You’ve also got the “Singularity” shows that you perform (as you are doing later this spring/summer in the UK). How does your thinking change for these shows – are they improvised rather than simply playing elements of existing tracks?
Ah yeah… Singularity shows are governed by two factors. 1. Where am I at musically when the gig comes and 2. What gear do I have on hand to play the show? Singularity is all about musical improvisation. It definitely stems from the club DJ residency days when you have to read the dance floor to know what you’re going to play next. The same philosophy is in play with a singularity set. You ride the energy, you read the faces, you feel it out. Sometimes it is a complete trainwreck and sometimes it is the biggest high possible specifically because it’s live. It’s risky, sure, but the payoff is huge if it goes over well. My last singularity set was a 170bpm breaks & noise set built off of one single drum machine. You never know what’s going to happen.
Finally, where else do you want to take this project? Are there things you definitely do or don’t want to explore?
Here is the thing with iVardensphere… I never know where it’s going to go next. I gave up trying to force it in a certain direction. These days I take each album as it comes and I’m far happier for it.