Talk Show Host: 007: Seeming So, Seeming, introduce yourselves…

Alex: Seeming is Aaron Fuleki and I. We’ve known each other since we were teenagers, and we’ve got a very intuitive way of working together. Some music exists to make the world feel more palatable and reassuring; Seeming’s music is the opposite of that. How did this album come about? The subjects of some of the songs might suggest life hasn’t been great of late.

Alex: By most measures, life is fine, really. I mean, on a day-to-day level, neither of us has apparently much to complain about. But in its weird way, that fact makes me really suspicious. Especially when I turn my eyes up and see that for all the resistance and individuality, for all the art and philosophy in the world, people are still tied to some pretty arbitrary, petty, and dangerous assumptions of how life is supposed to go. People are still killing animals for fun. People are still making the rich richer. People are still justifying themselves by villainizing others. So Madness & Extinction came from a lot of that.

Aaron: The album to me is less a reflection of us, and more a mirror held toward the darker corners of things. I’m curious what others will make of it. The Seeming album sounds pretty much timeless, in that it appears to show no interest in current trends in industrial/electronic/goth music (and indeed any other trends) – was this a deliberate act, to distance from being compared to anyone else?

Alex: I have a lot of affection for scenes and subcultures, because they offer people—kids, mostly—ways of thinking, dressing, hearing, and behaving that they might not otherwise have access to or that might not occur to them otherwise. When I was twelve, thirteen, fourteen, discovering that gothic subculture existed was this unbelievably freeing thing for me; suddenly this dreary, macabre streak I’d always had made perfect sense. I bought a synthesizer and a sequencer in middle school with my humble life savings, and started making angry ripoffs of Depeche Mode and Sisters of Mercy songs. I eventually found my own footing and musical identity though, and while I keep current on trends in music, that’s mostly out of academic interest. Beyond a very small handful of fringe acts or the odd song here and there, I haven’t meaningfully connected with new music in any one genre in a good while—and certainly not in the goth/industrial scene. It’s practically a cliché at this point for up-and-coming “dark” “electronic” bands to cite acts like Light Asylum, Youth Code, O. Children, Grimes, and Zola Jesus, but I certainly feel more new energy from that crowd than from a lot of bands rooted in 90s EBM. As for Seeming, there was no conscious decision to distance ourselves from anyone, but there was definitely a commitment to making an uncompromised record. I used to feel pressure sometimes in my songwriting, for example, to make songs club-friendly, to push what should have been a sparse 110-BPM track into a four-on-the-floor 120 BPM production. It usually weakened the song, and in the case of the few club hits our old band made, we really disliked how they just blended in with other dancefloor numbers. With Madness & Extinction, there was none of that. We wanted to create something out of time, especially because it’s so much about the past and the future all at once.

Aaron: I’d definitely agree that our efforts were focused not on driving toward or away from particular trends. That probably happens anyway to some degree, whether from unconscious influence or obsessive genre adherence, but I think there comes a time when that stuff just sort of separates from you, and becomes additional creative fodder. Eventually your personal creative identity becomes strong enough to stand on its own. The twelve year-old me saw music through the hexadecimal eyes of a neophyte hacker. The twenty year-old me saw music through the eyes of a percussionist and performer. The thirty-something me is still trying to figure out what eyes are. I detected all kinds of influences within the album, and I suspect others would find even more (and different to me!) – what music or other art forms would you say influenced the composition of the album?

Alex: I listen to a lot of circa 1970 psychedelia and a fair bit of British Isles folk music—old Ewan MacColl-type stuff from the 60s. I also taught a class at NYU on electronic music history, and that got me really thinking about noise and sound mass, which fed into this album in their own small way. A lot of conceptual guidance for the record came from the writing and films of Jodorowsky. Oh, and also in their own weird way, the later books of Douglas Adams, which I think people don’t take nearly seriously enough.

Aaron: When Alex and I first started working together, I’d always ask him where things came from: his lyrical ideas, his chord progressions, rainbows, etc. Our backgrounds were near parallels, but our influences were incredibly different, so we learned from each other a great deal, at a relentless pace. These days, ideas just exchange freely, without the need for explanation or justification. There’s a trust there that can’t be forced, but builds up naturally over time. Your previous work in ThouShaltNot did occasionally, at least, take a wry look at the subculture you came from (covers, songs like If Only Were A Goth…) – was this a more serious project, as it were, from the off?

Alex: We have a really active sense of humor, but it’s an idiosyncratic one whose translation into music doesn’t consistently work. For better or for worse, shedding our skin with Seeming has meant committing to a vision. Maybe someday I’ll make a more absurdist record, but it would likely have no tie-in to our current work.

Aaron: The decision to adopt a new name and creative focus was very important to us. It meant editing down many different ideas into a singular cohesive whole. Sometimes I wish we had the time to just spin up new bands whenever a few songs of one type or another start to gel. Has your work on Assimilate influenced how the Seeming material has ended up sounding?

Alex: Yes, but through any direct likeness to vintage industrial music. More than anything, writing Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music got me thinking about the politics and purpose of making art and about how to convey a really grandiose vision in a three-minute song. Indeed, after documenting industrial’s history in such detail, how do you see the future? Do you feel much kinship with other bands, or with your sound do you feel you are on the fringes?

Alex: Like I say in the epilogue of Assimilate, the relationships between people matter more than the continuity of pop genres. I think the less we’re tied to any assumptions of how music is arbitrarily “supposed” to sound or what images it’s “supposed” to use, the more it has the potential to matter. Industrial music and its related styles mostly came up in the late 1970s through early 1990s, and the sounds and signs that the music used then were politically powerful at the time. But the debates and images of the world have changed since then. If we want to make a difference, to contribute to a world of greater openness and greater possibility, then we need to engage with the modern reality we’re trying to change, and not with some Orwellian specter we dreamed up back in the days of Reagan and Thatcher. During Katrina, Occupy Wall St., and Fukushima, there was a lot of music that really mattered, but none of it was “industrial,” and I think that “scene” musicians sometimes get so wrapped up in their metaphorical battlefields that they completely miss the real-world ones. And I think that we could learn a lot if we paid attention to the music and art that really have managed to make a difference in the last twenty years. That’s the stuff I’d like to think I feel kinship with.

Aaron: I don’t know where our sound puts us, but I feel as much kinship with many social, political, and environmental movements, or contemporary visual artists, as I do with other bands. I suppose we create things because we want to incite some kind of response, to become agents of change, in the catalytic, socio-cultural sense. I feel kinship with those who endeavor to create things that matter more to the world than themselves. What other “new” music are you digging at present?

Alex: Just this morning I was thinking about how Emily Haines of Metric is one of the best songwriters of her generation. Their last two albums are really outstanding, smart pop. I’m excited about the new album by my friends in Hundred Waters, and there’s a rap artist named Topaz Jones who I think is really, really excellent. I also like the work that our labelmates V▲LH▲LL and 3TEETH are doing. Artoffact has a great roster and we’re very proud to call it home.

Aaron: I’ve been listening to a lot of improv jazz and noise electro these days. It helps me think. Or not think. What does the future hold for Seeming?

Alex: We’ll tour this summer. Also, the second LP is already mostly written. Expect a strong soul and calypso influence. Yes, we’re serious.

Aaron: Making albums, at least the way we do it, can be exhausting. Don’t be surprised to find our future punctuated by smaller bits of media: downloads, vinyl, cassettes, or maybe 3.5” floppies.

Seeming’s new album Madness & Extinction is out this week via Artoffact (also available on Bandcamp and iTunes).

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