Talk Show Host: 051: OHMElectronic

I’ve rather got behind on a couple of fronts recently with, with time being such an issue until recently – particularly through most of 2018 – which meant that I’ve not been able to write as much as I’d like.

Hopefully, though, I’m now past the worst of that and I can get on with writing about the music that I love. This starts today, as something of a reboot of 2019, where I can return to bringing interviews and reviews on a more regular basis – with this interview and an accompanying review (linked to the right).

I’ve been following the work of OHM/OHMelectronic – formed of Craig Huxtable and Chris Peterson – for some time now, as their debut release came out around five years ago, and it’s clear that they’ve been busy with other projects in the meantime, as well as occasional live dates. Their renewed activity now that they have their second album done includes their first UK date this summer, at Infest in August, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they translate live.

In the meantime, I caught up with both Craig and Chris to discuss the new album and OHM/OHMelectronic generally. on Facebook OHM to OHMElectronic. It seems a subtle change, but what’s the reasoning?

Craig: I think at the time we didn’t realize how many other entities were using the the name Ohm. And the internet is becoming a terribly noisy place unless your name is unique. It was one thing to share it with a jazz band from America, then there was multiple DJs, clubs…

So we’ve migrated to OHMelectronic simply because it makes it easier to find our music in threw all of this digital noise. There is an obvious pivot in your sound from the first minute of Uppercut on the new album. The first word that sprung to mind was “aggressive”, but I’ve since changed to “angry” to describe it. To put it bluntly, is this your state of the world address?

Chris: There was just an agreement with us this time to make something more direct and intense than the first record. The first was more musical exploration for us, and with this one we wanted to have a more focused and energetic sound. Some of that comes from what we learned from playing live and some is just what comes out naturally at this point in our journey.

Craig: Uppercut is just a reflection of whats going on around us in the world right now, weather it’s the rise of right wing populism or xenophobia and othering. A lot of extremists armed with money and political sway through lobbying and dark money are directly influencing what happens next. It is scary and we need to start talking about it in order to start dealing with it. And people should be mad. The other change is the vocals have been pushed way up front in the mix, which seems very much for the better – and after the reliance on guest vocalists for a lot of the debut, is this you gaining more confidence in your own delivery?

Craig: We only had one lead guest vocalist on one song for the debut album (two other songs vocals were backed up by Kerry Peterson and Craig Jensen) and I sang the other seven songs. But to your point, the delivery is much more upfront and present. Where in the debut my voice was more a part of the mix like another synth line, here we’ve purposely gone for simplified and direct songwriting delivery. Each release is a new vocal experiment and we want to keep changing it up and evolving. This time, we wanted to give listeners a nice collection of heavy songs with the hook more upfront than before. Less is more. I’m intrigued by a number of tracks on the album, but especially by With. Is that a Cabaret Voltaire nod I heard in the lyrics? The down-and-dirty groove of that track also reminds me of the Cabs in their mid-eighties prime. Are they a band you are into?

Chris: Big time. Them and so many others from that era, and thankfully some of those artists still are releasing material. Compilations were so helpful from that time too, things like The Elephant Table Album and the Rising From the Red Sands tapes that sent me on quite the journey of discovery that really opened up my ears.

Craig: I’ve always been a bigger fan of music coming from the UK than say the USA. There’s a sensibility in that sound that we both love. Again in the spirit of trying new things, we wanted something slow and sexy and simmering with contempt….and having the song rely much more on the vocals which we hadn’t really done before. There is a distinct style of industrial music that comes out of Vancouver, which remarkably seems to continue to bring out newer, younger bands rather than just relying purely on the elder statesmen of the scene. And more importantly, these newer bands seem content to push the sound forward. How do you think the local “scene” manages this when so many others don’t?

Chris: I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask, since I don’t really embed myself in any local scene. I don’t get out much anymore, too busy working, but I don’t think it’s as much a strong scene here, as it is that many of the artists here, and in the rest of Canada for that matter, look outward to the world for both an audience and influence. For example, touring in Canada is a kick in the ass because of the great distances between gigs and many of those will be sparsely attended. In the States, you could tour the country for months on end if you wanted to, and the cost vs recouping travel expenses is far more favourable. In Europe, the same. So many good places to play and very easy drives by comparison. So as a Canadian artist, you weigh these factors and quickly realize that a foreign tour is the way to go. Thus we look outwards as opposed to less geographically challenged artists. And that’s just one factor, we have a unique climate here and perhaps the past successes of those elder statesmen you mentioned inspired others to follow that path and flourish away from home.

Craig: There is this romantic mythical narrative that may have true at one time but has since been lost to the annals of time. There is a small, dedicated “scene” in Vancouver but it is small and only survives because of massive efforts of guys like Isaac Terpstra, Alex Kennedy and Bruce Lord. Otherwise it sounds like the same small audience sizes that other cities seem to have. Most of the new exciting stuff is coming from the post punk scene in Vancouver right now…but there have been many popular musical movements from Vancouver be it punk, techno or rock. Being isolated on the Canadian coast birthed the Vancouver Industrial sound and that isolation is why most of those well know artist have moved on to other places, never mind the cost of living aspect Chris mentioned. I have many European ask me about the Vancouver industrial music scene and they always seem surprised when I tell them that it’s nothing like it is in europe. What was your entry-point into the industrial scene generally? Was there a particular band, song or show that sucked you in?

Chris: Those compilations I mentioned previously for sure, and an older sibling with good taste in music helped. I was pretty young when I started hearing things like The Residents, Throbbing Gristle, Portion Control, Severed Heads, etc etc. and I was hooked right away.

Craig: Hearing Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and others on the university radio station in the middle of the night. I’d make this mix tapes and recordings and then DJ them at church dances. Skinny Puppy being from my home town proved to me I could be from Vancouver and succeed. You’ve made it to Europe before, but never to the UK, so the recent announcement that you’re playing Infest has excited quite a few of us in the UK. Are there any bands on the bill so far that you want to see yourselves?

Chris: For sure. Dive, and Nitzer Ebb….great music and very pleasant people to meet in the past. There aren’t a lot of postings yet as to who else will be there, and I’ve never heard the others that I do see listed, but I have played the festival before with FLA, and we were treated very well. I’m really looking forward to coming back.

Craig: Nitzer Ebb. For me it doesn’t get any better than that. We are really excited to be finally coming to the UK. Can’t wait to say hello to all of our friends and fans.

The new album OHMElectronic is out through Artoffact Records on Friday 22-Feb, and OHMElectronic play Infest in Bradford in August.

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