Jun 2018 11

In a special three-part series, ReGen Magazine speaks with the three primary members of legendary industrial “supergroup” C-Tec on the eve of the band’s reformation at this year’s ColdWaves events.
 

 

An InterView with Marc Heal of C-Tec

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

C-Tec… one of the industrial scene’s most notable collaborative projects, and one that despite acclaim from audiences and the press alike fell victim to the changing demands of a music industry in decline. Having begun life in the mid ’90s as Cyber-Tec Project with the Let Your Body Die EP, it was with the arrival of Cubanate’s Marc Heal that C-Tec took on a new identity, one that blended the abrasion and dark atmosphere of industrial with the rhythmic qualities of breakbeats and EBM, topped off by the grimly emotive and gravely melodic voice of Front 242’s Jean-Luc De Meyer. The band’s first full-length album, Darker – released in 1998 during the final days of the WaxTrax!/TVT era – remains one of the industrial scene’s most celebrated, followed by the criminally underrated and underheard gem of a sophomore album, 2000’s Cut. Since then, the group has been an inactive entity, one that seemed almost destined to be revived by the communal and reverential spirit cultivated by the annual ColdWaves events. In a special three-part series, ReGen Magazine speaks with the primary members of C-Tec prior to their reformative performances at this year’s ColdWaves events in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, with special emphasis on the band’s history and what is yet to come. First, we speak with Marc Heal about his supporting role in C-Tec, along with some words about his main gig in Cubanate, and his recent solo activity.

 

C-Tec has reformed for this year’s ColdWaves events, marking the first time we’ll hear from the band since 2000’s Cut album. What can you tell us about the band’s dissolution? Was there ever a sense of unfinished business between the musicians involved?
While it’s still early days and in the rehearsal stage, what can you tell us about the band dynamic now and how you feel it’s changed since the initial run?

Heal: C-Tec never ‘split’ or anything like that, but after a couple of good years, we reached a dead end. See, by 1999, we were one of the last remaining bands from the WaxTrax! era on TVT and by then, the label had lost interest. They wouldn’t even release the second C-Tec album, even though they paid for it, so it only came out in Europe. Also, I had plenty of, uh… personal issues around that time. I was exhausted and had lost confidence in what I was doing. After I dried out, I made some half-hearted attempts to revive the project, but in any case, by then, Front 242 was back together. So, C-Tec just fizzled out.
As to the band dynamic now, I can’t tell you yet! I don’t think we’ve been in a room together since the final mixes of Cut, probably in late 1999; usual ColdWaves edge-of-the-seat stuff / rehearsal will be the first time. But I’ve been long-distance writing with Jean-Luc again recently. It’s been easy picking it up. He’s always great to work with – creative, tolerant, good sense of humor.
In the old days, Ged Denton also wrote stuff, like ‘Silent Voices’ from Darker, which is one of my favorite songs. Ged’s coming back. Then we went out live with Jules Beeston, who used to be in Nitzer Ebb, and Dave Bianchi from Cubanate. That was a fun crew. I haven’t seen Jules in years. Dave manages Killing Joke and Charli XCX, so I don’t think he’ll be with us.

Not to say that Cubanate isn’t a collaboration between you and Phil, but you’re definitely the front man in that act, while C-Tec has Jean-Luc filling those shoes and you in a more supporting role (and you have been a producer and ‘behind-the-scenes’ player for several other bands over the years). In what ways do the two roles differ for you in terms of your approach, mindset, how you interact with your band mates, that sort of thing? Which do you prefer?
As far as the lyrics in C-Tec, was it all Jean-Luc, or was that cooperative as well?

Heal: I don’t mind being in a support role sometimes, so long as I’m into the grand vision of the project. I like working with Raymond Watts or Jean-Luc because I dig their thing and I feel that I can enhance it. There’s an inner geek in me that enjoys the microprocess of production, editing, mixing. But all that requires a very different mindset to ‘performance.’ I don’t mind one or the other, but I know this much – it’s brain-shredding to try to do both at once. And I think singers like working with me because I do understand the pressure of a vocal, writing lyrics, all that. Being a front man or woman is lonely. There’s nowhere to hide. I empathize and sympathize.
Generally, I didn’t interfere in the lyrics in C-Tec apart from suggesting the odd word, a few minor edits for style. It’s J-L’s thing. He brings a more romantic, mystical gaze than mine. And because English is his second language, he comes up with unexpected phrasing, which sometimes jars to Anglo-Saxon ears, but is always interesting; better than me attempting to write in French, anyway. That would be une douche de merde.

There does seem to be a pattern with some of the ‘legacy’ bands with a history coming back after a long absence. Gravity Kills got back together and has done shows and tours for some years, but has not released a new album. Front 242 has been doing that as well.
While I won’t ask the obvious question of if we’ll hear new C-Tec music, I will ask in what ways would you personally approach the music differently? What would you say you’ve learned as producers and musicians in the years since then that you feel would strengthen C-Tec’s music and sound now (and this can apply to Cubanate as well)?

Heal: Yes, we’ve done a couple of new C-Tec tracks, but it’s too early to say how it’s going to turn out; still limbering up. There’s new Cubanate material too. We’re doing a U.K. show in August and we’re going to debut a couple of new songs there.
I’m a far, far better technical producer now than I ever was in the ’90s, but that’s because I always relied on a studio engineer back then – Doug Martin, mostly. In a way, I preferred that because, going back to your previous question, I was free to think about the big sound, the wide view, not adjusting hi-hat EQ. One thing I’ve learned from getting Cubanate back together is that it’s harder than it looks to just pick up the trail. All fine and well playing the old stuff, but writing together is difficult when you haven’t seen each other in nearly 20 years and you live on different continents. You realize that a band is more than just ‘some people.’ They all need to share a collective psyche, or ambition, or vision, or something.

This is a bit of a loaded question; in a previous InterView, Marc, you’d stated that you never really got on with L.A., yet you performed there with Cubanate and will be doing so again with C-Tec. Did performing there for ColdWaves spark a different reaction or response, either in the audience or for you personally, this time around? If so, to what extent do you feel ColdWaves played a part in that?

Heal: Take no notice of me. I enjoy badmouthing L.A., but I’m faking it. I like the place and I had a great time at ColdWaves last year. I do hate that L.A. ‘entertainment industry’ mentality, though. That PR artifice… you know, in public, you throw air-kisses and simper about how fabulous everyone in the business is and how much you adore them. But really, you’d slit their throat for a bit part in a movie and inside your soul is pure obsidian with resentment and insecurity. I work the other way around. I like to bitch about my friends and tease them in public, but really inside, I’m pleased for their success. So, in my vulgar Brit way, I do like to sneer at L.A., but what’s the point? The joke is on me. Might as well sneer at breathing oxygen.

Seeing you perform in Cubanate at ColdWaves and on the tour, you seemed very much in a very intense headspace that adds to the power of the live show. What goes on in your head when you’re onstage performing those songs and singing those lyrics?
In what ways is it different now from when you were performing in Cubanate during the ’90s?
Similarly, how did touring for Cubanate this time differ from when you were doing so back then?

Heal: Cubanate is intense. I like it intense. In fact, there’s no other way of performing it. I like to channel the energy, focus it. It’s like a secular possession, really. Onstage, I just let it flow through me. Afterwards, I don’t remember much of it. Oddly enough, I always used to assume you needed to be drunk to achieve that state. Now I couldn’t bear the thought of being dulled in any way when I go onstage.
I have a better time touring now than I did then. Being insane and picking fights and permanently poleaxed on booze for 10 years was exhausting. Not that I regret it, though I imagine it’s shortened my life considerably.
Anyway, it’s not just me. Everyone seems calmer and cleaner these days. Last year when we were touring with FLA, we were waiting for a plane. I was listening to everyone fondly reminiscing about their cats back at home. You know, what little Tiddles likes to eat, where he sleeps, his furballs, and foibles. All well and good, but it’s certainly not what a tour conversation about pussy used to be.

You’d also said in our last InterView that besides your friendship with Jamie Duffy, you did ColdWaves to try it out and see if there’s a future, referring also to your predictions that have seemingly come to pass that things were going to take a violent turn in the world. Now, two years later, having toured and released your solo album, and now reforming C-Tec… do you feel that there is a future – musically and/or socially?

Heal: I’m not ashamed to be doing a few retrospective shows. It’s a buzz to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in 18 or 20 years and to rake over the old stuff. It’s not as if I’ve been flogging that material to death; haven’t touched it this century, in fact.
I don’t know whether there’s any market for new material from me. I’m a very minor artist and one who lacks discipline. I’m also getting long in the tooth. But I do occasionally surprise.
Do we survive socially? We are undergoing the sort of economic and political trauma that arises whenever the technological base of production undergoes a profound shift. But more importantly, we have an existential crisis caused by the general degradation of the ecosystem. Whether we survive that, I doubt. Neither left nor right is acknowledging, let alone dealing with these issues. The right is concerned only with preserving economic privilege even beyond the brink and the left want to bicker about which toilets you can go in.
When Europeans arrived at Easter Island they were puzzled. Who could have erected these gigantic statues, each weighing hundreds of tons? The island was barren, with a small, primitive population grubbing out a subsistence existence. There was no vegetation taller than a shrub, no animal larger than a chicken. But we now know from archaeological excavation and from legend that until about 1200AD, dense forest covered the island. There was a large population with a sophisticated society and extensive agriculture. But as resources were depleted, competition grew fiercer, wars broke out. Either no one was able to agree to collectively manage resources, or natural disasters ravaged the forests. Maybe both. Either way, elites maintained their privilege. Mysticism grew more powerful. Hence the statues, which used up the remaining trees and farm animals. By the time Europeans arrived, the few survivors were back in the stone age.
That, I fear, is our fate.

Going by your Facebook (oh, the dread of starting a question with that), you’ve recently relocated from Singapore to Menlo Park, California. What prompted the move to the U.S.? In our previous talk, you’d also mentioned a couple of times how living in Asia was sometimes a factor in your musical/creative partnerships; did that play a part in the decision to move, and in what ways has moving to the States proved conducive to you in making music so far?

Heal: On the downside, I’ve lost my lovely studio in Singapore. Palo Alto and Menlo Park don’t seem like America to me at all – no guns, no Jesus, no blackened catfish, full of internet billionaires’ mansions. Quiet, smart, wealthy, white. Not much room to make music. But then, I’ve always been interested in hidden wealth and power. Most musicians get off on glamor. I know that’s just tinsel. I’m interested in power.
Singapore will always be in my heart. I don’t think I would have written The Hum anywhere else. Living in Asia for five years was a thrill and eye-opening. Being a tourist is fine, but I think you have to work, pay tax, go to the local bar with Joe Normal before you get the true flavor of a place. And only when you see China in detail do you appreciate its scale.
But I’d been there a few years, and as you said, California was always my bete noire. Well then, I figured, find out more. And my view is that if you get the chance to wander, take it.

You said that you wouldn’t have written The Hum anywhere else, which is understandable given how one’s environment affects mindset, thoughts, emotions, etc. in creating music and art. So with that in mind, and having touched on now living in the bete noire of California, do you have plans to release another solo album?

Heal: Yes, when I can catch a beat. I actually made some progress on a follow up back in Singapore, but I wasn’t feeling it and then I moved, which was an upheaval, so I scrapped it. Shelved it anyway. I’d like to finish some new Cubanate too though.

Besides the full-length albums, Cubanate released the Metal EP, and while you weren’t part of the band as Cyber-Tec Project, you did contribute some remix material to Let Your Body Die, which was essentially an EP of four tracks with a bunch of remixes. What are your thoughts on the album format as it pertains to you and your music, whichever band?

Heal: I still think in terms of albums and so does most of the industry, I think. It’s not just a legacy of the vinyl days. It seems that somewhere around 40 minutes or 10 songs is a decent amount of time to develop a theme without taxing the listener’s patience too much.

Cubanate made its return in the U.S. with ColdWaves, and now you’re doing the same with C-Tec. What was it about ColdWaves that you personally connect with?

Heal: Well, Jason obviously. He’s the engine behind it and nagged me to get Cubanate on, and then C-Tec. I trust him and also, it must be said, Ethan and the rest of the ColdWaves crew do such a great job on and off stage. You know you’re in the hands of pros, which is important if you’re nervous because you haven’t played in a long time.

One of the more striking aspects of ColdWaves is the mix of long standing bands with up-and-comers and new acts. From what you’ve seen and heard, what are your thoughts on the new generation of industrial and machine/rock musicians?

Heal: I like a lot of what’s going on. I mean, I do despair at the scene sometimes, but in general, I like the people and I like the attitude. Sometimes I do wonder how I ended up here, but the thing with ‘industrial’ is that because it was never super fashionable, it never died either. Which means it’s one of the few scenes where artists can grow over time.

As a producer and musician, how important is it for you to keep up with the latest developments in music technology? What is exciting you the most in that regard, what new gear or software is appealing to you at the moment? What sorts of developments would you like to see in the tech and how both you and new artists will be utilizing them?

Heal: I’m always on the lookout for an excuse to buy a new module, but in my view, it’s more important to find a setup that is stable, one that you are confident with, and that works for you. I’m happy with my system, which is based on Logic and Maschine with UA convertors. I can’t see me changing that core now ’til I quit or die.
In terms of new developments, I like the emphasis these days on the more live, hands-on approach to technology. I don’t think analog sounds either better or worse. But getting away from the laptop has to be good news.

Anything else you’d like to talk about that we’ve not covered? Any other new music we’ve not touched on that you’d like to tease?

Heal: I don’t think so. I mean, there are some PIG remixes coming out. But aren’t there always?

 

C-Tec
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Marc Heal
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Cubanate
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ColdWaves
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