Helming the Glitch Mode Squad is no easy task, but it is one that Sean Payne has gladly take on for over a decade with remarkable aplomb. With a bevy of new releases planned for 2016, Payne speaks with ReGen on the goings on of the imprint and lets us know just how much he is a sucker for nostalgia.
An InterView with Sean Payne of Cyanotic
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Sean Payne has spent the better part of the last decade building a notable reputation as one of the Chicago music scene’s most exciting entities – besides being the frontman of brutal coldwave collective Cyanotic, he’s also helmed his own imprint, Glitch Mode Recordings, acting as a hub for likeminded, up-and-coming and forward thinking acts, encompassing an assortment of electro, hip-hop, and industrial styles. His production and remix credits are many and varied beyond Cyanotic, and neither he nor his company of cybernetic cohorts are showing any signs of slowing down. A renowned enthusiast of technology and transhumanism, a fan of sci-fi cinema and literature (with The Terminator being perhaps the most notable reference point for his audio/visual aesthetic), and one of the hardest working musicians in today’s underground music scene, Payne’s accolades are well earned. Cyanotic’s latest outing, the two-volume Worst Case Scenario collection presents some of the band’s most viciously aggressive and poignantly atmospheric material to date, complete with a bevy guest collaborators along with numerous remixes and alternate versions to make for one hell of a ruckus that threatens to destroy many a speaker system.
Late in 2015, Payne took the time to converse with ReGen Magazine about his latest activities with Cyanotic and the Glitch Mode Squad, giving some insight into the processes that allows for so many acts to share in the creative and collaborative spirit. As well, he offers a few hints as to what listeners can expect from the imprint in 2016, and even takes a moment to discuss the merits of Neil Blomkamp’s proposed additions to the Alien movie franchise, gaming, the untapped cinematic appeal of William Gibson and sci-fi literature, and touring with Cyanotic.
So, what’s new in the Glitch Mode Squad?
Payne: Figuring out video for everybody – scouring old Japanese cyberpunk movies for random visuals to insert into our footage the past couple days. Also, we’re planning releases for our keyboardist Jordan’s debut EP for his Relic project, as well as having just released another Angry Robot Music and Merry Glitchmas compilation, and some work on the Venus in Aries and Audioflesh EPs that will all debut in 2016.
Glitch Mode isn’t a standard label in a traditional sense… maybe hub is a better word? But still, being at the center of all that and doing your own music… one can imagine the drain.
Payne: Yeah, I guess label/collective is the best summarization. It’s pretty much just a cool assemblage of humans making interesting music and art that shares similar aesthetics. We all pull from the same pot and endorse each other heartily. It feels nice to be a part of something bigger than your own project.
Speaking of your own project, you just released Worst Case Scenario Vol.1+2, which included a remastered version of Vol.1. Did that mean you weren’t pleased with the original master?
As more artists are taking the production/mix/master end of things in their own hands, is it ever a concern that the need for producers (as in people who specialize in that end) may be diminished? ‘Why get someone else to do it when I can do it myself?’
Payne: I always think it’s nice to have a co-producer – or at least assistant engineer – to give you that third person perspective you can’t ever attain otherwise. I think too many artists are boxing themselves into a corner that way. It gets very isolating and depressing to make music in a creative vacuum and when you’re not sharing the experience with somebody else who has an outside angle.
So, about Vol.2… was there any particular reason the newer songs weren’t originally on Vol.1, or were they simply not complete at the time?
Since the abundance of Vol.2 is remixes, are there plans for a Vol.3?
Payne: There are no plans for more volumes. We’re moving into exclusively EP territory now. To make a long story short, the main reason those new songs weren’t on Vol.1 was just because we didn’t have proper time to finish them before we put out the album and went on a six-week-long tour.
Regarding the EP format, I discussed that with JP Anderson of Rabbit Junk. It does seem like more artists are focusing on EPs and shorter releases – what are your thoughts on this, not just in terms of Cyanotic, but for music as a whole? What are your thoughts on the album format?
I will say I probably enjoy Celldweller’s later material for that reason – taking it in a couple of EPs at a time so that getting the full album felt like less of an arduous task for a first time listen.
Payne: Yeah, the new Prodigy was the definitive example for me. I enjoy all the songs, but would have been much happier with three EPs of five tracks each put out over the course of 18 months rather than a giant slab of tracks all at once after waiting six years for a follow-up.
You mentioned looking for Japanese cyberpunk movies for new visuals. Are there any particular ‘new’ movies (Japanese or otherwise) that have tickled your fancy lately?
Payne: The best movies I’ve seen in the past couple years – Robot and Frank is definitely up there; what a sweet little sci-fi fable! And the second installment of VHS had some amazing horror vignettes; especially the Satanic cult episode.
Regarding sci-fi, what are your thoughts on the way cinema (Hollywood, indie, or otherwise) is approaching it as a genre in the last 10 years?
Have you played SOMA?
Payne: I haven’t, but a bunch of people whose opinion I trust speak very highly of it. I just only find time to play about a video game every five years anymore. My game for this past half decade was Alien: Isolation, and that is pretty damn fun! I know my friend sent me some links to the SOMA online vids with lots of talk about transhumanism and all that cyber sci-fi ideology stuff that I enjoy.
Regarding that, since your first album was, after all, Transhuman… what sort of advancements (or progressions shall we say?) do you feel have been most significant in that field… at least as far as you’ve managed to keep up with it?
Payne: 3D printing was definitely something amazing, and the revolution of cyber appendages. I just read about some total Johnny Mnemonic style hard drive brain implant style shit this morning. It’s totally the future now.
Do you think we’ll realize Kurzweil’s dream of immortality within your lifetime?
Payne: You’ve got to wonder. I have no idea what’s going to happen when the singularity goes down.
You mentioned playing Alien: Isolation. Neil Blomkamp’s proposed Alien 5 has apparently been waylaid in favor of Ridley Scott continuing his Prometheus/Alien prequel trilogy.
If there was a piece of sci-fi literature that you’d like to see adapted into a movie (assuming that it’s done well), what would it be?
Payne: I guess it would be Neuromancer or Snow Crash. I don’t know how you’d do them, but hopefully, we get a chance to feature on either of the soundtracks. I still like Johnny Mnemonic for what it is. I saw it in theaters with my parents when I was 12. I knew it was meant to be a badly acted sci-fi B movie and that’s what it is and it’s great at being what it is. I read some interviews with William Gibson around that time and it’s exactly the way he was hoping it would be. He actually wanted to have it shot on a way smaller budget and tinier scale overall. Most people seem to bypass or totally forget that the screenplay for that movie is by William Gibson. That’s got to be one of very few instances where a novelist gets to adapt his own work into a screenplay and it actually gets released.
Regarding soundtracks, I’ve noticed a greater propensity for industrial and electronic instrumentation that is reminiscent of the synth-heavy soundtracks of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
From all the tours you’ve done, was there ever a particular town you played that just absolutely surprised you? In any terms, really… people, music scene, general attitude or atmosphere… any place that just really stuck out to you (and that can be either positively or negatively)?
Payne: I guess some of those little market places like Riot Room in St Louis. That was a great crowd every time and people buy a ton of merch.
So, from a place like that, you’d say there’s truth in the notion that a band makes more (or is more likely to make) money playing shows and touring?
And it’s interesting since Cyanotic seems to have gone through every permutation from a standard rock format to something more like what you just described… obviously the logistics of equipment and available personnel (who’s able to tour at a given time, etc.) come into play in that, I’m sure.
Is there anything you’re doing visually to augment the show? Obviously, you’ve had projections and such in the past, but what are you doing or would like to do visually for your shows now that you’ve not done yet or as extensively in the past?
Payne: Playing behind three TVs all with different cool imagery I’m cutting together and some electronic drum pads that we use for fun stuff like bass drops, and to play little electro tom parts… I don’t know why we didn’t always try to do this. I mean, we were never trying to be a rock band, so it’s weird for me to think about in retrospect. Eris was awesome for playing off the loops; I love a drummer that can play with the loops, but I think making a conscious choice to be onstage with most of the rhythm coming from machines kind of sets an example for what we’re doing. It’s all electronic music first and foremost and I want people to always know that from the outset.