The whole business of the side-project is something that has kept industrial artists busy pretty much since the genre was a thing. Some work brilliantly, some are instantly forgettable, and some have become better known than the parent project.
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Perhaps to the surprise of the artists themselves, not to mention everyone else, KLACK seems to be becoming the latter, and quickly. Matt Fanale and Eric Oehler’s nod to New Beat and EBM has swiftly become an electronic chart and DJ favourite with a steady stream of releases, and they’ve done a few “online” gigs, such as their fun half-hour set at Stay-In-Fest last year.
And, like any self-respecting industrial supergroup, they’ve now released a remix album, with a number of notable names contributing, but perhaps most intriguingly, there is a broad concept at play that works, with no weak links in any of the remixes. As a result, I thought this a good time to catch up with the members of KLACK, to talk about the story so far.
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.
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: KLACK rather feels like something that’s blown up somewhat in recent times. Presumably you never intended anything like this?
/Eric Oehler/KLACK: After we released the first single we sort of expected that would be it. Maybe a thing we did together for giggles on the side, that maybe a few of our nerdier friends would listen to. We had…absolutely no idea any of this would catch on as it has. I mean less than two years into the project we’re getting asked to play festivals. It’s unreal.
/Matt Fanale/KLACK: Yeah, it was completely unexpected. I mean who thought there was still a market for New Beat?! That’s specifically what the first single and first two EPs pretty much were. We’ve expanded out somewhat with our sound, but that was purely out of wanting to play with other sounds and lyrical concepts. It’s been a really fun trip, especially since, like Eric said, we just did it with a small group of people we knew in mind.
/amodelofcontrol.com: The way I see KLACK is it being something of an affectionate nod to the EBM and dancefloor industrial that you grew up with, and that influenced you. How does it feel to have some of those influences, like Patrick Codenys of Front 242, now remixing you?
/Eric Oehler/KLACK: Oh god. That was sort of our “hail mary” play. Didn’t think it was going to happen, but we took a shot, and it did..
When we started putting this together conceptually, we were brainstorming about who we wanted to remix things. We had a wish list. 242 was on that wish list, basically in the “ain’t gonna happen” bucket, but then I remembered I’d worked with a guy (Alex K. from Geist) who’d done a fantastic collab with Patrick Codenys, so I had an indirect contact. We reached out, and Patrick said “sure”. I think everyone in the neighbourhood heard me screaming when I got that email. I think I sent Matt a series of unintelligible texts in excitement.
/Matt Fanale/KLACK: Can confirm, Eric bugged out, as did I. I’ve always been of the mindset that it never hurts to ask. Some folks we reached out to didn’t even get back to us, but Patrick was right at the top of our list so I’m really happy it worked out.
/amodelofcontrol.com: One of the interesting things about the new remix album DEKLACKED Vol. 1 is that there are a number of nods to those influences. Aside from Patrick turning you into 242, Nevada Hardware only needed to add a “MU-MU” chant to their monster of a remix to make The KLF nod implicit, while two versions of “Faith In Me” seem to both lead to Essex, in the form of Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb. Would this be a pretty good summation of the influences that really meant something to you?
/Eric Oehler/KLACK: It’s gratifying to see that the remixers kinda “got” what we’ve been trying to do. I mean, we picked them because what they do means something to us, too. It’s kind of a reciprocal arrangement.
But yeah, Klack draws heavily from the stuff that we listened to in our musically formative years. 242, The KLF, Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, classic WaxTrax! – our goal has always been to try and capture the vibe of what made that stuff resonate with us when we were 19. The tricky bit is doing it without crossing the line into “overt nostalgia act”. We wear our influences on our sleeves, certainly. I’m drawing from the same sound palettes that Alan Wilder and Vince Clarke and 242 etc did in 1990ish – in some cases, the literal same sample libraries – just updated with modern gear.
/Matt Fanale/KLACK: We’re fortunate in that we’ve been around a long time doing this stuff, and so we have a lot of friends and contacts we were able to reach out to that WE knew understood where we came from, as we all share a lot of common influences and loves. Most of the artists we just let choose a song, but for a few (like Patrick and Nevada Hardware) we specifically asked to do a certain track because we knew those artists would ramp up what we did, and it really worked out. It’s nice to have an album where I literally never want to skip a song while I’m listening to it.
/amodelofcontrol.com: Something I like about KLACK is how you share the vocal work – obviously Eric’s vocals are very different in style to Matt’s, but it is maybe bringing Eric’s work to a new audience too (as most KLACK fans are likely to know Caustic, I’d suggest, but perhaps not Null Device?). I’d say songs like Faith In Me genuinely showcase how good a vocalist Eric is.
/Eric Oehler/KLACK: Well, thank you! It’s funny, because while my vocals with Klack are undeniably “me”, they’re also don’t feel (to me, anyway) like really the voice I use on other projects. Hello, Let’s Go is probably the closest to Null Device I’ve gotten. But there’s a lot of “Eric trying to sing in the style Jean-Luc Demeyer” or whatnot on some of the other songs. I believe during one demo process Matt suggested I “do about 20% less Eskil Simonsson.” It’s different styles as befitting different kinds of music. My default Earnest Synthpop Tenor wouldn’t mesh well with a harder-edged song like dmf, so I change it up a little. Maybe it’s all in my head and it sounds the same to everyone else, but the approach is different for me, anyway.
The best description I’ve ever read of my vocal style up until this point has been “Neil Tennant’s husky-voiced younger brother.” And there are a lot of tracks where the sound just begs for someone with aggressive, punky vocals. Since there is no universe in which I can do that convincingly, Matt takes over. It works pretty great. We alternate between “lead singer” and “hype man” duties and it helps keep things interesting.
/Matt Fanale/KLACK: I always think it’s funny when people think I do all the vocals. I mean you’ve literally never heard me “sing” before, outside of a few punkier numbers where my sounding like crap works. I mean Eric is as kind as possible when I TRY to sing on a Klack song… “Matt, maybe SPEAK it a little more”. That’s why I leave the heavy vocal lifting to him, and I just try and sound angry and cool and stuff.
At this point there are a lot of people, especially I think those more into the techno or indie scenes, that only know who we are through Klack. That’s why it was fun to put both a Null Device and Caustic remix on DEKLACKED, as maybe it will get some new folks into the bands that we “normally” do, although Klack is on a pretty regular schedule at this point.
What I really enjoy about Klack is that Eric is getting a lot of recognition in general for how good he is at all his contributions. Eric’s a lot more under the radar (aka “less obnoxious”) than me in terms of promotion and personality, so I think it took a bit longer for people to really understand how great a musician he is. I’m glad he’s getting his due for this and Null Device.
/amodelofcontrol.com: Going back a bit, how did KLACK start? Was it a conscious decision to do something a bit different from what you were both already doing?
/Eric Oehler/KLACK: Oh, we’d toyed with some ideas for a while. We’d tossed around the idea of doing a “retro rave” kind of thing, but nothing came of it We’ve been working together on random stuff for ages – I’ve been a live member of Caustic for years and done some production for Matt’s various projects, and we’ve always bounced ideas and demos off each other for our main projects. So we knew we could work together without much fuss, we just needed a direction.
I’d done a remix for The Gothsicles roughly in the style of old school EBM (A song about otters, to me, implied “warm little beasts I’m so fond of” so I sort of went with that), and I had so much fun recording it that I decided I wanted to do more. I passed the idea to Matt and he was pretty enthusiastic about running with that sound.
/amodelofcontrol.com: How are you both getting on with lockdown? Obviously you’ve done some clever live-by-video shows, but how is life generally for you, and how’s your hope for the future?
/Matt Fanale/KLACK: Overall I’ve been good. I’m in my house with my wife and 3 young kids 24/7 but we’re healthy and I’m working from home so, compared to a lot of people, we’re doing great. I’m fortunately keeping creative with Klack and Caustic as well as DJing on Twitch in my chilly garage to keep focused and not think about the burnout so much. I’ve finally started my next full length Caustic so I’m trying to wrap my head around all that, plus we’re plugging away on Klack demos for the follow up to Probably.
/Eric Oehler/KLACK: It’s been up and down. I’ve been incredibly lucky in that I have a job I can work remotely without much trouble. And certainly, without the ability to actually go anywhere, I’ve had a lot more time in the studio on my hands – as a result, I’ve probably started a hundred demos for both Klack and Null Device. Problem is, without the ability to regularly interact with my friends and musical collaborators, it’s hard to have the inspiration to actually finish anything. The aimlessness gets kinda grinding. I’m used to having Matt or Jill (Sheridan) drop by, rehearse a few songs for a gig, listen to new demos, and just sort of spitball ideas. Or go to the club and hear some great tracks on the big speakers and get all fired up about that.
Due to the pandemic, we had to punt on a bunch of really great gigs last year – Klack was scheduled for Familientreffen and ColdWaves, Null Device for Terminus – and that was a kick in the teeth. They were all sort of “brass ring” gigs and watching them all dissolve was disheartening, to say the least.
The livestream shows have been pretty great, though. It’s different and kinda weird, but god help me I love not having to load out gear at 3 am, and it gives us another way to do something creative. Even those have been difficult recently, with surges in cases, weather, etc. During the summer it was easy enough to set up a rig in my driveway so we could perform socially-distant, but it’s currently 7F (-14C), windy, and snowing, so that’s a challenge.
It’s gonna be a while before things are remotely normal – for whatever value of “normal” we end up settling on. I’m just trying to keep my head above water and figure out how to adapt.
The new remix album DEKLACKED Vol. 1 is out now.