One of several bands reuniting for the fifth annual ColdWaves festival, vocalist Marc Heal and programmer/guitarist Phil Barry of the techno/metal juggernaut of Cubanate speak with ReGen about their plans for the future.
An InterView with Marc Heal & Phil Barry of Cubanate
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x) & Brian McLelland (BMcLelland)
Firstly, a ‘welcome back’ is in order.
Cubanate had returned with the ‘We Are Crowd’ track, and you had worked together Compound Eye Sessions. Now, the band is reuniting for the ColdWaves V festival.
What prompted the two of you to finally bring Cubanate back to the stage?
Barry: This all came about because the contracts on our old albums had run there course and we wanted to remaster the old material and put it out ourselves, so a show seemed like the next logical step to take. Jason then kidnaped Marc and took some photos… ColdWaves it is then.
About the upcoming ColdWaves V show in Chicago, you mentioned that you’re traveling from Singapore to play the show. What prompted you to agree to such an undertaking?
Heal: I must be mad, but I like the idea of travelling around the world, making it truly global. I felt it was time to dip a toe into the shark-infested Cubanate waters again. My interest in music was reignited after a long break. I haven’t played live in 17 years, not even set foot on a stage. I’m nervous about it, but you should always do things that scare you. Anyway, time is moving on; I might be dead soon. Do it now, I figure.
Having now been working in the studio for some time, Phil having also contributed to Compound Eye Sessions, what is the working dynamic like between you two now vs. when you first started making music together?
Barry: We only worked together on the ‘We are Crowd’ single recently and even that’s about four years ago now. There were far less trips to the pub this time around (i.e. none), but I suspect that wasn’t Marc’s sobriety but him just avoiding me thrashing him at pinball!
What are your thoughts on ColdWaves and how you feel it differs from other festivals and events that you’ve participated in?
Heal: It’s special for me because we go back with Jason and Jamie from the old days. We toured a lot with Acumen and Acucrack, and I did both C-Tec and Cubanate with them.
I never got on with L.A., it gives me the creeps. New York, I liked. Seattle, yes. But I always felt bonded with Chicago. Mind you, these days, I don’t know if I could deal with the cold. Maybe it would have to be Austin – somewhere warm, with spicy food.
Plus, there are a lot of people at ColdWaves, which makes it fun for me. It will be funny to be playing live before Watts; last time Cubanate gigged with PIG was maybe 1994?
Barry: We were lucky to have toured with Acumen back in the day. Jamie was a lovely person and is greatly missed. ColdWaves is a fitting tribute to him; he would have loved to see Cubanate back in Chicago. I’ve liked the lineups at all the ColdWaves festivals – a good mixture of old and new, the kind of stuff I am into. There is also distinct lack of those horrible trance bands.
While the two of you have collaborated in the studio for some time, this live show seems to really solidify in many people’s minds the return of Cubanate – what is the possibility that it may result in new studio material from Cubanate?
Heal: It’s possible, but not likely until we’ve each finished solo stuff this year. Like I say, this is a test. We need some motivation to work together again; maybe ColdWaves will supply it.
Barry: No idea. Marc lives in Singapore, literally the other side of the world from me.
Would you consider an actual Cubanate tour?
Heal: Depends how this one goes. It’s an experiment. By the end of Cubanate, I stopped enjoying touring, to be honest. These days, I suspect I’d have too much on my mind to relax, but I suppose it depends on where and who with.
Tell us about your feelings during the process of deciding a set list and assembling gear for the upcoming show.
Heal: I don’t know because we haven’t done it yet. I mean, we’ve sketched out a few set lists and I’ve gone back and listened to stuff; some of it I haven’t played in years… really, years. So, a bit of nostalgia, mostly thinking, ‘What was I on in the ’90s?’ But also, there’s some songs I’m looking forwards to doing live again.
Over the last few years, it seems that many groups and artists have begun to reunite and make music again, and ColdWaves has been a big part of that; if you had to guess, what would you attribute this to with regards to other acts – what do you feel is the imperative for band reunions?
Barry: Fans and promoters are the imperative for band reunions, aren’t they? The Cubanate albums have aged quite well, I think, better than a lot of stuff from that era. People want to hear those tunes again, which is nice. The other reason is nostalgia, which I have mixed feelings about.
Heal: I wonder too whether the spate of rock star deaths has contributed. I know that I’ve been more inclined to work at it since Bowie’s death. I keep thinking to myself, ‘Get on with it,’ because I don’t know how much time there is left.
Marc, yours is a very recognizable and singularly aggressive voice in music; are there any particular kinds of vocal exercises you like to do to help stay in key and keep from wrecking your vocal chords?
Heal: Actually, I find it quite natural. But it’s like exercise; you need to do it often. I was rusty when I sang on Compound Eye, but I soon got back into it. You can’t be too drunk before the voice suffers, I know that.
When I sing intensively, like on tour, the first date is fine; second and third can be rough. I’m a bit hoarse, but after that, I’m acclimatized to it. You need to be fit for it. It takes energy.
Heal: Love to, but I’m stuck out here in Asia. In any case, no point in pushing it. Raymond and I seem to form a brief alliance of convenience once every decade or so. In about eight years we should be well up for it again.
I think perhaps I needed to redefine myself before working with anyone else, including Cubanate. I feel I’m still warming up again after so long in silence.
You’ve successfully moved between creating music, producing television, and writing a book, is there anything Marc Heal isn’t capable of doing? When can we expect your art show and political office run announcements?
Heal: But it’s useful to switch between art forms. You should always try new things. Anyway, I only broke a long musical creative block by writing the book, and I only make TV for money, which is good because I can then do what I like in studio without ever caring about what anyone thinks or how I pay the rent.
Oddly enough, the isolation of being in Singapore has done me good. I’m where I always wanted to be – in a strange town, on an adventure, a pen and paper and a studio to hand.
Phil, your latest release with Be My Enemy was the ‘My Beautiful Psycho’ single – first of all, tell us about the song and what sparked its creation?
Barry: Actually, the song is over three-years-old and it started as an ‘All American Psycho’ remix, which then morphed into something else. Its creation? Charlie should have joined the army; they would have pinned a medal on him. The track is a free download, by the way. I also had a really old friend – Tom Badger, who works under the name of Nailed2Gether – do the artwork, which he then turned into a rather intense video.
In what ways do you feel it is representative of what directions the newer Be My Enemy material will take?
While it is generally accepted that singles are still a good promotional tool, it does seem like more and more artists seem to be focusing on smaller releases – singles and EPs – rather than full-length albums. What are your thoughts on the album format?
Barry: The album format I think, is still for me the go to for any musician. Any band can shine for one song, but the album is the way to showcase if the band has any value. It’s the statement.
The last Cubanate album, 1997’s Interference had received some criticism at the time for its incorporation of drum & bass rhythms and textures in a departure away from the more techno-oriented sound of your past work. Now, drum & bass has come and gone and is now for many an inherent part of modern music (not just industrial/rock), so some would say that Interference was ahead of its time.
What are your thoughts on the way drum & bass progressed as a genre unto itself, and particularly as another ingredient in industrial/rock?
Heal: But the industrial scene never likes what you are doing now, especially if it’s something different. It always takes three or fours years for anyone to accept it.
On Interference… well, as soon as techno became mainstream, we were looking for a way to make things more extreme. The fragmented, splintered breakbeat sound seemed to suit the Cubanate mood at the time.
I don’t really care about genres, I try to steal whatever I like and make it my own. Don’t chase after a scene (unless you are right there, at the time). Steal and fuse it with your own vibe, make it your own.
What styles of electronic music do you find exciting right now?
Barry: Ambient always interests me. Love that new Sequential track ‘Haumea’ and the video that goes with it is beautiful. Love some of Alva Noto’s work. Gazelle Twin is Genius. Perc is doing some interesting techno; he is obviously inspired by classic industrial like Throbbing Gristle, which is nice.
What do you see or would like to see as the next step in the evolution of technology – not just in music, but overall – and why?
Barry: The virtual reality thing is finally happening after what seems like an age waiting for it; there are so many exciting things happening there. I would like to see a Total Perspective Vortex built. I’ve a list of people, mostly politicians, who should be plugged into that. Other than that, to paraphrase Bill Hicks, it’s time to explore the Universe, inner and outer.
Similarly, what would you like to see as the next evolution in the way musicians engage audiences in the live environment?
Barry: It’s always been difficult, that one, making electronic music interesting live. I don’t have any answers really. Incorporating more video is one option, which is what people are doing anyway.
Heal: I don’t see the need for any fundamental change and I don’t think audiences are demanding it. Keep it raw. Watching a band let rip on a stage has worked for thousands of years. Where’s the impetus for something different?
What other new music are you working on now that you’re willing to share with us?
Heal: I’ve got a solo album coming out, hopefully this year. I’m about halfway through. I’m very pleased with the songs. It’s a new sound. As a working title, I call the album The Hum, after that mysterious noise that people hear – odd frequencies. No one knows what causes it.
What can we expect from the solo album? How is it different from your previous work?
There is a new Be My Enemy album in the works?
Barry: Yes, I am about 80% finished. I never put time pressure on these things so I have no idea when it will be finished. I have had Keef, Steve, and Debs involved in it this time around. Keef by chance moved 15 minutes down the road from where I live a few months ago, so we get together a fair bit. It’s good to have a fresh set of ears on what I am working on.