The other Saturday, I ended up heavily involved in Stay-In-Fest. As well as DJing an early afternoon set that seemed to go down well (setlist: /DJ/Guest/098), four online/video interviews that I’d conducted with different artists over a previous couple of weeks were broadcast.
/Talk Show Host/067/ACTORS
/Talk Show Host/Links
/Talk Show Host/2019-20
/066/Chris Peterson talks about Jeremy Inkel
/060/Then Comes Silence
/059/Teeth of the Sea
The third of these to go online after the event is with Shannon Hemmett of Vancouver-based post-punk/darkwave band ACTORS, a band who have been around a while – but really gained significant traction with their relatively recent album It Will Come To You, and who made a lot of friends when they played Infest a couple of years ago.
Doing video interviews like this is still a relatively new thing for me, and not everything worked as I’d liked (an error on my part with the lighting and background makes me look like I’m in witness protection on this one), but the sound is at least good. With grateful thanks to Shannon for her time, and also to Jacek Kozlowski at Artoffact Records for helping to arrange this.
All of these interviews will also be available on the /amodelofcontrol.com Youtube Channel, and this one is embedded below.
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 adding in links, so what you’re reading is the response of the artist directly. Thanks, as always, to the artist and indeed those that help to arrange such interviews.
This is Adam from /amodelofcontrol.com at Stay-in-Fest 2020 – the indoor/online version of Infest this year, with all of us at home, and making our own fun – and I’m here with Shannon from ACTORS.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Hello, thanks for having me.
Thank you, and nice to see you. We saw you last…a few years ago at Infest.
/Shannon/ACTORS: That’s right. Not last year, but the year before.
That’s the one! I was trying to remember the date and I couldn’t work it out. Especially as I saw you guys in London last summer, when you came over with Empathy Test.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Yes, and that was such a funny show. The soundboard blew up…
Gosh, yes, I remember that. We were all stood down the front and Jason Zsinger in ACTORS\ was like “what’s going on?”
/Shannon/ACTORS: That show almost didn’t happen. The sound man was just losing his mind, and the board was fizzling out, and we started to play a song and thirty seconds in the power went out… That was one for the memory banks, for sure!
I guess, as a band that tours a lot, that kind of stuff can happen – there’s nothing you can do about it, right?
/Shannon/ACTORS: Yeah, it’s true. You just have to roll with it, and often it’s good when unexpected things like that happen as automatically, the crowd is on your side. They’re rooting for you, like “please, we came out to see live music tonight, and I hope it’s going to happen”, and once everything gets worked out and we start to play again, there’s this different kind of energy that you only get from a challenge like that.
Of course, right now, any live music would be lovely, right? They are now experimenting in the UK with “distanced” shows, which basically isn’t going to happen and it’s not going to make anyone any money, and it’s not going to work. We’ve basically written off any chance of seeing any live music in any form this year.
/Shannon/ACTORS: It seems like everything we had booked for Fall (and Spring, and Summer) this year has been moved along into next year – currently, our next show is booked for Spring next year, but even those are being moved along further, so I don’t know. They’re currently projecting that it might not be until 2022, unfortunately…
Which is really going to suck.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Yeah, we miss being on tour. For the It Will Come To You record we were pretty much on tour for two years straight. We were definitely tired after all that touring, and needed a little bit of a break, but to have this much of a break is not what we had planned, so…
What did you have planned for this year? You were pretty much on the verge of releasing a new record, weren’t you?
/Shannon/ACTORS: We’re finishing up the new record now. It was supposed to come out in the Fall, but because we can’t tour right now, we decided to take our time with the last bits of recording, and we’ve been working on that in the studio. All the music, all the songs are done, we’re just recording the last bits of vocals and things like that, so that’s been really fun. Touring-wise we’re supposed to be in Hungary right now at a festival (although I can’t remember the name of it off the top of my head).
It’s Hungarian, don’t worry, none of us will ever be able to say it.
/Shannon/ACTORS: That would have been cool, as we’ve never played in Hungary before, that would have been a great experience. We would have been sharing the stage with Godflesh, which would have been a really cool show for us. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to that, and previously in the year, we had a tour planned with Modern English. That got postponed as well, so there were various things too, and with the album supposed to be arriving in Fall, we had Europe and US tours planned around the release of that too. But, with the way the world is right now, that has all been postponed for the moment. Currently, the projected release date for the new record will be February, and we’ll have some videos coming out in the very near future.
Excellent, I’ll be looking forward to this. I’ve known Jacek (who runs label Artoffact) for many, many years, and normally get nudged by “oh, this album’s coming out, it’s gonna be amazing”, and I’m like “yeah, yeah, you always say that”, and with It Will Come To You it was “Oh, that’s not bad, I like that a lot”. You guys seemed to make a lot of friends when you first came over for Infest, but also from all the other shows you played, and you seemed to cross over by some way to some of the Rivetheads as well as the Goths – as the Goths were always going to love what you do. So there’s an interesting split here – where did you come from in terms of coming to ACTORS, in terms of what music got you into this in the first place?
/Shannon/ACTORS: So, like into the band, as a member? I’ve always been a fan of post-punk music, so bands like Joy Division of course, but also the more electronic, new wave stuff like Depeche Mode, those are definitely big bands for me and my past, and being in Vancouver, and seeing ACTORS play before I joined them, there’s a darkness to the sound but also a lot of melodies, there’s this sort of dark romanticism in the sound that’s quite appealing to me. I was definitely a fan of what they were doing, and then… Jason and I had known each other for a long time, I used to do a lot of photography in music many years ago, and we crossed paths first due to my photography and artwork. We decided to work on this project called LEATHERS, and we co-wrote a song together, and that song was Missing Scene, and that went really well, and there were some line-up changes happening within ACTORS, one of the other members was touring with another band, and ZJason\ had asked me to play synths and sing back-up vocals for a couple of fill-in shows. He liked how the band felt with the new line-up and asked me to become a permanent member.
I’ve been looking at what you play, and I think you play what might be termed “vintage” synths?
/Shannon/ACTORS: Yes, mostly analogue stuff – I mean, they are new synthesisers, currently I’m playing a Prophet-6, from Dave Smith, which I love, there’s just no bad sounds on it. It’s just an incredible synthesiser. The one I toured the most with last year was the Prophet Rev2, which is also a Dave Smith synth – although they go by Sequential now that they’ve rebranded again. The Rev2 is a fantastic touring synthesiser, it’s so versatile, it’s bitameral (?) and you can split the board, and you can have all these kind of patches on the keys and stuff. So it’s great for live performance, and just a very versatile instrument, and it all sounds great. However, very heavy!
Ok, so we were supposed to play at South by Southwest this year – and of course all this touring has been cancelled – so we ended up buying one of the KORG Minilogues to tour with, as it only weighs about 5lb (2.26kg), which is much better than the Rev2, which weighs about 50lb (22.6kg) in its case – I got a lot of muscles carrying that through all our tours.
There’s that joke of the synth player that’s playing about four synths, and that dude playing all of them at once, but in our scene, one synth seems to be enough, but then, as the technology has advanced so much, do you need to have more than one? I guess some do?
/Shannon/ACTORS: I guess it depends on how much of a purist you are, on recreating the recording, but Jason uses the Prophet-6 a lot on recording in the studio, and the Rev2 sounds similar, it’s a little bit brighter sounding, it has the same kind of palette of sounds – we thought that would be great to take on tour, but the KORG is a great synthesiser too. And much lighter – I’ll be able to carry it on, instead of putting in the luggage deck of planes…
Going back a bit, you were talking about LEATHERS. I was listening to the tracks the other month, as there’s a handful of tracks on Bandcamp. What happened with that project? Was it one of those where time just got away from you? Are you going to do more of it?
/Shannon/ACTORS: Yeah, because we toured so much with ACTORS in the last few years, it definitely wasn’t stopped, and we’ve continued to write demos for it, and we had a studio date just last Friday to start recording new material for it, so there will be more. We will release a full-length record next year, so we’re getting everything captured in the studio.
Well that’s good news! So what are you listening to at the moment? There’s so much out there at the moment, even as a writer like me I can’t keep up, there’s this torrent of new music, and it seems like lockdown has made it even worse.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Yeah, no kidding. There’s tons of good stuff out there. I really like the BEAK> project, Geoff Barrow of Portishead of course, we listened to that a lot on tour, it’s good driving music, a little bit NEU!/krautrock-inspired. Hmm, I’ll have to open my Spotify history…
I know what you mean about that NEU! sound to it, there’s this motorik feel to it. He’s been listening to a lot of that stuff over the years…
/Shannon/ACTORS: Oh, another band I really like is Tempers from New York…
I’ve seen them live in London.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Oh, cool! I think their new record is called Private Life – it’s great, and there’s a lot of mood to it, the vocalist, she’s got a great voice. Some of their older material is a little bit…darker, and more post-punk inspired, but this one…I don’t know how to describe it. There’s definitely more melody and more texture.
The word that popped into my head when you said that was that it’s got more of a “richer” sound to it. There’s so much more depth, and I think that my problem when I saw them live was that it was in a tiny venue, and it’s not one that’s got great sound, and they suffered because that depth wasn’t coming across. Which kinda annoyed me, as they deserved far better than they got. But that’s the risk, right, as we found last year with you, not everything will go to plan, and you never quite get to present yourself as you’d like to…
/Shannon/ACTORS: Exactly! Good old tech problems, sometimes…
We’ve seen it many times at Infest over the years. I remember one time where a synth-based band were using laptops, and both of their laptops failed.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Oh Gosh!
Yeah, and there was this silence as they looked around, going “what do we do now…”
/Shannon/ACTORS: Another band I’ve listening to, that’s an old favourite, is Killing Joke, love those guys so much, and recently, on Amazon Prime, they put up a biopic film ZThe Death & Resurrection Show\, which was really interesting to hear more backstory on the band. I didn’t really know about them as people, and I didn’t know how many occult references are tied into the music, and I didn’t realise that Jaz Coleman was a studier of Black Magic. It was very intriguing, I learned something!
He’s an intriguing character, that much is for sure. Apparently he’s terribly short-sighted, which is why he has this thousand-yard stare onstage. It’s a great show, and he’s so formidable as a frontman. It’s weird how their influence stretches out, too, as there’s this new Napalm Death single out that sounds for all the world like an eighties Killing Joke song.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Oh wow, fascinating!
That’s not what I was expecting when I heard it on Friday.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Yeah, no kidding. I haven’t actually seen Killing Joke live, unfortunately, so it’s definitely on my bucket list. Hopefully, we’ll get bands touring again.
I’ve only had the chance the once. The one I was really looking forward to, and obviously is never happening this year Zit has since been rescheduled\ was Einstürzende Neubauten at the end of next month.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Oh yes, yeah. You can see I’m a fan ZShannon shows her Neubauten logo tattoo on her wrist\
I’ve seen them four times – I first saw them live in 2004, in London, a legendary show.
/Shannon/ACTORS: I saw them on that same tour, they did actually come to Vancouver, was it the Silence is Sexy tour, or maybe an Anniversary tour?
I think it might have been Perpetuum Mobile.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Oh yes, that’s right. I did see them then, it was incredible, a very special show.
They’re always fun to watch. The one memory that sticks in my mind is when they were doing one of the Anniversary shows, and ZBlixa\ draws on his cigarette for Silence is Sexy, and turns to Alexander Hacke, and goes “you remember that time we were throwing Molotov cocktails into the crowd in Oslo?”, and they both just sighed, as if they were thinking “Good times!”…
/Shannon/ACTORS: Oh, memories!
Yeah, and we were a little nervous in the crowd at this point, like “don’t get any ideas”…
/Shannon/ACTORS: I do love how they create all those really organic sounds onstage, too, it’s so cool.
Like the drawer of knives…
/Shannon/ACTORS: Exactly, or using a really hot microphone to record that cigarette drawing sound…it’s so interesting, very creepy.
Have you heard the new album?
/Shannon/ACTORS: No actually, I haven’t. I need to investigate that.
Oh, you do. There are a few nods to their past, and it’s kinda a mellow album, but it’s all about Berlin, and it’s kind of odd. But it sticks in your mind, and the first time I listened, I wanted to do it again, and it was “oh my god, this is actually amazing”.
/Shannon/ACTORS: It gets in there!
I’ve been thinking about it all summer, it’s just one of those albums.
/Shannon/ACTORS: I don’t know why that passed me by, but I need to check that out. Yeah, right away!
So, everything’s on hold, and I’m presuming from what I hear that there’s not a lot of fun going on there either, other than everything being locked down and trying not to get anything spread right now.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Vancouver’s been good about everyone wearing masks and stuff like that, they’re having a rise in cases again as the weather is now beautiful here, so everyone can go to the beach, and parties and barbeques, but generally for us, our social bubble is just the band. We’re just working on new music, and recording stuff. I’m a tattoo artist, so I’m taking very limited bookings and with my artwork I’m also painting a lot too, keeping busy with the creative side of things. But so far it’s been ok, we’ve been able to continue with music and artwork.
On that note, we should probably wrap up, I’ll have to get it edited down and into the system (ha!), and by the time you see this it’ll be Stay-in-Fest on Saturday, thank you so much for joining me today. We will hopefully see you this side of the pond whenever we can!
/Shannon/ACTORS: I hope so too, as soon as possible!
Thanks so much for your time, Shannon, and hopefully we’ll see you soon.
/Shannon/ACTORS: Thanks, and talk soon. Bye!
The new ACTORS album will be out in early 2021. Their existing releases are available on Bandcamp.