Talk Show Host: 018: Caustic

Time for one last interview before I complete the end-of-year postings, and it’s a second appearance on this year for Matt Fanale, this time wearing the often less-than-serious Caustic hat.

His latest Caustic album – the wonderfully titled Industrial Music – is now out, after a kickstarter was successfully funded, and I exchanged e-mails with Matt to talk about the album, his place in Industrial music, and various other random subjects.

So let’s get the important question done first. Matt, what’s it like being a straight white male in industrial?

Matt Fanale: Honestly I’m getting a little sick of answering that question, Adam. I’m just a person making music. That’s it. It’s frustrating as hell being marginalized because I have a dick. Gender isn’t a fucking genre. How’s the reaction to Industrial Music been so far?

Matt Fanale: Pretty fantastic. It’s nice seeing mentions of the album various places and people I don’t know saying they really like it, especially people who say they aren’t typically into my stuff. I’ve made the last few albums as an experiment. …Golden Vagina was meant to be a club album simply to see if I could pull it off, and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop was me going epic with an album in ideas and scope. Both turned out well, but I decided early on that this one was for me, and screw what anyone expects. I wanted to beat the hell out of people again and get back to the raw, energized sound I started out with, but with (hopefully) some more skill and focus behind it. I’m really pleased with the results, and it sounds like those who have heard it are, too. Caustic albums have frequently been very varied in styles (from industrial to noise to EBM to hip-hop, and even punk). Is this a product of your own influences over time, or more a case of trying not to be pigeonholed – and what were those formative influences?

Matt Fanale: Totally. I think we’re all a sum of our influences, but it’s how obvious you are about it. I was pretty up front that a lot of my inspirations for this album came from four different albums: Meat Beat Manifesto’s 99%, Ministry’s Land of Rape and Honey, Nitzer Ebb’s That Total Age, and Prodigy’s Music for the Jilted Generation [Ed: All of which are essential listening]. There were others that cropped up during the creation, but those were some of the big artists I was listening to when Caustic started, and most of them were formative for me when I got into industrial back in the late 80s and early 90s. How did Caustic come about as a project in the first place?

Matt Fanale: When I got heavily into the industrial scene here in Madison in the late 90s there was a burgeoning industrial/ebm/synthpop scene here, and since we’re a small enough crowd we were all friends. Stromkern was the biggest artist at the time (and in my mind still is), but there was Null Device (Eric Oehler frequently plays live with Caustic), Stochastic Theory, CTRLSHFT, and The Gothsicles in their infancy. We all fed off each other and encouraged each other and eventually I got the courage to try it. I’d actually done a track or two with Kelly from Stromkern using his gear, but Chuck from Stochastic Theory got me FLStudio (which I’ve since bought, thankyouverymuch) and I started messing around with it. As Caustic developed more bands did too, like Sensuous Enemy, Beta Virus, and Parasite Twin (which was my original side project outside of Caustic). Oneiroid Psychosis and Electric Hellfire Club were lingering around too, but weren’t a part of the main Madison crew. Discogs has you listed as featuring in at least six other projects over time. How on earth do you find the time – and how many more collaborations have you turned down?

Matt Fanale: That list is actually missing a few, like the aforementioned Parasite Twin and my new thing with Eric Oehler called Nerdy Sanchez. A lot of those were one-offs, but you also have to understand that I work quickly when things lock in, and most of those bands had years of gestation as ideas before they became reality. BQA and The Causticles were created in theory in 2007-2008, but didn’t actually have releases until the last few years.

I also have a few in the works that haven’t been announced yet, and some collaborations that are hopefully on the back burner, as we just need to find the right time to blast them out.

And the faster answer for the time thing is I don’t sleep much. You’ve been surprisingly open with your fanbase on the internet regarding previous struggles (particularly kicking the booze). Did you find this online community helped?

Matt Fanale: I feel extremely fortunate that my crowd has been nothing but encouraging since I quit. I’ve been open about it since day one, partially to keep myself accountable but also to let people know that I won’t be doing shots at the shows. I can honestly say that people have been nothing but cool about it, and I’ve tried to make myself available to people if they want to quit and have questions. I’m not “famous” in any capacity, but if me being open (and, thus far, successful) about my sobriety can help anyone else how could I not want to be a positive influence for them, just like people were for me.

I also think it’s important for people to see that even though I don’t drink I don’t look down on it, as I’ve seen drunks go completely the opposite direction and turn into judgmental pricks. That gives all of us sober people a bad name. It’s not anyone else’s fault but my own that I sucked at it, so I’m cool with people getting hammered. I just hope they’re careful, and I probably won’t be hanging around much at bar time. How has fatherhood changed your outlook on your music, and life in general?

Matt Fanale: It’s been incredible. Nothing but amazing. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, which is strange in some ways as I have a lot of anger towards the world on this album. I have to worry about shit more now and trying to make things right, or as right as I can, for my kids. We’ve screwed up a lot with our society and our planet, and I definitely focused on that with a lot of the songs on Industrial Music. Industrial Music has a couple of intriguing references in the songs. Firstly, Bomb The Clubs appears to suggest that you’ve had it with the industrial club scene. I’m well aware that the night (and the club) you were involved in in Madison WI has now gone – do you fear for the future of that side of the scene?

Matt Fanale: I’m not necessarily done with the club scene. I still love to DJ. I’m just done with the empty, mindless shit that’s predominantly played in the last decade and done with the focus on fashion. One of the things I loved about industrial music was that there was anger and frustration that was REAL in the music and people actually tried to look different from each other. I’ve just become angry at how lazy the music became, with the live performances about as engaging as watching some superstar DJ wave their arms around like a jerk-off at a festival. It’s more about catchy phrases in songs that sound cool and less about saying anything noteworthy.

And I never fear for the scene. It’s an evolution and you can see how many people love the music just by going on social media. If anything here in Madison people are coming out in larger numbers for our more sporadic industrial events we’re doing around the city. It’s becoming special again. People have realized that you can’t just say you’ll come out any more or the night will die. It has re-obligated us.

Inferno’s closing re-energized the scene and brought of people together again. I was honored to spin the last set at their final club night. Secondly, Military Fascist Show calls out (obliquely!) a number of bands who still choose to flirt with far-right imagery (also, kudos on a subtle nod to Converter with one of the samples, too). Do you think this can ever be fully stamped out, or will there always be some artists (and fans) that push undesirable buttons for attention or whatever?

Matt Fanale: The metaphor is more about our scene, both artists’ and fans’, inability to evolve past the current trends. The scene became boring as shit for a while. The most “transgressive” thing was more sexist bullshit and misogyny, which isn’t really transgressive—that’s society, and I’ve always felt we’re more interesting than that. The music also became more about embracing other electronic trends, which I agree with to an extent, but I don’t WANT to fucking fit in with the rest of the world. My music isn’t designed to play well with others. My music is for a small, intimate crowd of fuck-ups and cool people and I don’t need anyone else to enjoy it.

Now there are elements of the scene which are embracing and evolving some older sounds, taking over again. That’s where I came up with “WE’RE THE FUTURE/FEAR THE FUTURE.” We’re taking the reins back, so watch the fuck out.

I’m glad things are getting interesting again. Some people complain about it sounding like the 80s or 90s again, but the alternative is artists either sounding like every other bullshit EDM act out there (hence the last 5 or 6 years of crap) or people actually innovating again. I’m a fan of people going back to the drawing board and seeing what comes out using new gear and reflecting on society today. Someone’s always going to bitch, but I see a lot of people getting excited about this genre for the first time in a while. It’s nice to see. It’s also cool as shit seeing Youth Code opening for Skinny Puppy and especially 3 TEETH opening for TOOL soon. Who would have thought that was even possible a few years ago that ANY artist associated with industrial would get that opportunity? It doesn’t mean any more people are going to get into what we do, but it’s great for those guys and I couldn’t be happier for them. In addition, over the course of a few albums, there have been various political songs (some more subtle than others in their content). Fuck In A Suit is the latest, and it is infused with anger. Are you fearful of what the future will bring for your kids in political terms?

Matt Fanale: I think I’d be stupid not to be. I think in some ways we’re at a critical mass, and unfortunately a large portion of our world are dumb as bricks and believe everything they’re fed. That’s not even Republican vs Democrat—it’s just stupid across the board. The system needs to change, and hopefully it will, but it never happens fast and it never seems to work in favor of people who aren’t living in mansions. We’ll see, but like I said before I’m channeling a lot of anger into my music now. It’s one of the only productive ways I know how to express it, because whining on Facebook doesn’t do much of anything except clog my feed with people who talk big game but don’t do shit. I’m not saying I’m doing anything revolutionary either, but at least I’m not uselessly freaking out online like a doofus. What next? Will you take a break after the promotion cycle for this, or do you already have more music on the go?

Matt Fanale: I’ve got plenty in the works. I’m actually starting a Patreon campaign (is “campaign” even the right word?) in January to see what that’s like, as frankly I want to work less hours in my job jobs and to have more time making music and raising my kids so I’m going to see if I can get enough patrons on there to make that happen. It’s a newer model that I wasn’t sure could fit with how I do things, but in researching it I’m getting pretty excited about the possibilities and how much I can share with my patrons…if I get any. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m still in the process of finishing up a ton of Kickstarter stuff for a few campaigns, so that’s my current priority. And enjoying the holidays with my family. You know, hardcore shit like that.

The new album Industrial Music is out now on Negative Gain, and Beauty Queen Autopsy’s album is also out now, available on Bandcamp.

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