The beginning of 2021 sees a couple of notable North American industrial artists releasing new albums on the same day. Front Line Assembly return with Mechanical Soul, but perhaps even more interestingly, there is also the return of a band that has barely released any music in the past decade.
/Talk Show Host/2020-21
/069/The Foreign Resort
/066/Chris Peterson talks about Jeremy Inkel
/060/Then Comes Silence
That band is Imperative Reaction, one that steadily built their profile and fanbase with a succession of impressive albums across the first decade of the Millenium, before taking what turned out to be a lengthy break after their self-titled album in 2011. They are also a band that this site has championed pretty much since this website first became a thing in 2004, so finally being able to catch up with Ted Phelps is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.
As a fan and critic, though, there is always a worry when bands return after so long. Will, what they release now, match up to what has come before? Will they still even be relevant? Well, perhaps things are different even from a year ago, but Imperative Reaction return to a musical landscape that is much-changed, but reassuringly, this still sounds like Imperative Reaction, it is another album from them stuffed with great songs – and dancefloor bangers – and it is a hugely enjoyable listen.
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 – the photos came courtesy of Imperative Reaction, and where noted are the work of the photographer shown.
While this is purely a text interview (done over email), some recent interviews on this site have also been posted onto the /amodelofcontrol.com Youtube Channel.
/amodelofcontrol.com: It’s been a long time since Imperative Reaction last released an album, and the world feels like it has changed irrevocably since then. Was there a nervousness around releasing a new album after all this time?
/Ted Phelps/Imperative Reaction: Absolutely. I think that probably contributed a bit to the length of time it took to finish Mirror. When you’re releasing albums every 2 years or so, you don’t really think about it as much after awhile. To come back after ten years is something entirely different.
/amodelofcontrol.com: The new album Mirror feels like a punchy, snappy return. My previous favourite was As We Fall, and this new album shares some sonic DNA with it, at least to my ears. How was the creation process for this album? Did you do anything different to before?
/Ted Phelps/Imperative Reaction: It’s been so long I just decided to approach this without much of a plan in terms of how it would sound. I struggled a bit with what IR should sound like in 2020 but ended up letting myself off the hook with that and just moved forward with writing whatever felt right. I think the end result is definitely Imperative Reaction, but also stands on its own. One thing I did differently was I avoided using any synths or sounds I’ve used in the past. I began writing about four years ago and started using the same synths I had used in the past. I quickly realized that if I wanted to really do this album correctly, I needed to start fresh.
/amodelofcontrol.com: One song in particular that intrigued me was the savage Like Swine (track of the month on this site last week, on /Tuesday Ten/437). I don’t recall any political comment in IR songs previously, but there felt to me to be at least a cryptic rebuke in Like Swine somewhere.
/Ted Phelps/Imperative Reaction: I like to work dual meanings into my lyrics and tend to stay away from giving full explanations for them as I think it’s important for people to be able to take them and apply them to their own situations. That said, Like Swine came to me as I was reading an article about a poor kid who committed suicide due to being bullied online. Technology is great and it has completely changed our entire world. I wouldn’t be making the type of music I make without it. Unfortunately, though I think there is a darker side to all of it and I see it often in the way people act at times on social media. I can see how this might relate to politics.
/amodelofcontrol.com: Having followed IR for around two decades or so now, I’ve long thought it fascinating that you defined your sonic style quickly – in that your songs are instantly recognisable as IR – and you’ve been able to tweak and evolve that sound successfully from the off. Did you have a “plan” for how you wanted to sound from the start, or did you allow things to develop organically?
/Ted Phelps/Imperative Reaction: By the time we released our debut album, Eulogy for the Sick Child, we had already started trying to develop a sound that would set us apart. I think the beginning of that can be heard on Ruined. I think it started to click on Redemption and As We Fall. I always looked at what we were doing as some type of “electronic rock”. Big choruses that you can sing along to and traditional song structures but made with synths. I try to do things differently each time but I do think the style I’ve developed over the years definitely comes through.
/amodelofcontrol.com: What were the bands that really inspired you to make music in the first place? And what are the bands that inspire you to still do so in 2020?
/Ted Phelps/Imperative Reaction: Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and Nitzer Ebb are the three that come to mind immediately. Skinny Puppy, Leæther Strip and Mentallo & The Fixer were all huge influences, particularly in the beginning. Now, I really like what Daniel is doing with Aesthetic Perfection. I’ve watched him build his band over the years and I think he’s done a great job with it. I like what I’m hearing a lot from Horskh.
/amodelofcontrol.com: How has COVID and the related lockdowns affected you? Did you delay Mirror further as a result, or was it simply any planned touring that got put on hold?
/Ted Phelps/Imperative Reaction: We had tentative plans to tour upon the release of the album. Obviously, that isn’t happening. It’s sad because that is my favourite part about being a musician (live performances) but we’ve got to get this thing under control first. I had Covid recently but fortunately, it was just after we submitted the album to the label. It wasn’t fun and I don’t recommend it at all.
The new Imperative Reaction album Mirror is out tomorrow (15-Jan). Buy on Bandcamp.