Nov 2013 11

With a new album in the works, and having recently taken part in the new albums from industrial legends Iron Lung Corp. and Acucrack, Sean Payne speaks to ReGen about upcoming plans for the Glitch Mode Squad.


An InterView with Sean Payne of Cyanotic

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

For almost a decade, Chicago’s Cyanotic has been the beacon for a new wave of heavy industrial rock, signaling a style of coldwave for a new generation. With two full-length albums – Transhuman and The Medication Generation – along with a handful of production and remix credits, Sean Payne has steadily been taking the Glitch Mode Squad further as a production entity, becoming a well respected name in the industrial underground. Most recently, Payne worked alongside industrial rock legends Iron Lung Corp., contributing his programming skills to the band’s latest release, Body Snatchers, as well as joining the band onstage at the ColdWaves II event in September, 2013. Not only that, but he joined Jason Novak as the second half of Acucrack, also lending his skills to The Mawn Reproduction.
Now, with a new Cyanotic album in the works, Payne speaks with ReGen Magazine about his upcoming plans for the band and the Glitch Mode Squad, bringing us up to speed on the album’s progress, working with Rabbit Junk, and his thoughts on the recent wave of sci-fi remakes.


You’ve most recently become a member of the board of directors for Iron Lung Corp. and are featured on the band’s latest album, Body Snatchers, as well as taking part in the new Acucrack album, The Mawn Reproduction. Tell us about the experience of taking part on these two albums.

Payne: It was weird for me because even I didn’t know a lot of those songs on Body Snatchers; I’m old school, but I wasn’t familiar with the Thomas Dolby song for instance, and I barely knew the Peter Gabriel song, ‘Intruder.’ And if you listen, because I programmed those drums, it’s the same tempo as the original; at its core, it’s pretty simple, but I didn’t know how they were going to do that one compared to the Peter Gabriel version. I didn’t know if they were going to go spooky and creepy or what. It’s got this cool Godflesh-like build to it. I know that Jason was up against the wall with getting those albums done on time. A lot of it was trading back-and-forth. I think I programmed the drums for that in New York in January, and I didn’t hear anything until April when the first demos were sent out that were all just electronics, and that was supposed to be when everyone would put guitars, drums, or whatever they wanted. But the demos were fully electronic. I didn’t do a lot on the album; I did some programming, but Jason is the main dude and he creates all the songs and sends them out to everyone. It was different in that I did the initial programming for the Pink Floyd cover and ‘Intruder,’ but those were the only two that I started initially. For all the Acucrack and Iron Lung stuff, that was him, and he sent them to me and I would sprinkle some sounds in here and there. It was nice to be included, man. I’ve been listening to that stuff for more than half my life.

What was it like to move from being the primary driving force in Cyanotic to simply taking on the programming role in Acucrack?

Payne: Well, that’s how all my tracks are made, anyway. And then all the guitars fuck everything up at the last minute. That’s why tracks take so long. I’ve got a nice pair of monitors and a sub, and I’ve got another pair of monitors in the B-room, and I’ve got my friend’s car; I can listen to these things in many different environments, but it doesn’t matter because when the guitars come in, everything gets fucked up. All of these little nuances just disappear underneath this fuzz mound, so trying to dial those in has been a headache. So doing the Acucrack stuff has been awesome for me. I don’t play guitar; I just doing programming anyway, so it was really fun. Those songs, I knew what I would hear in them because I know his style so well because I’ve been listening to that stuff since I was 14. That’s more than half of my life. So, it was really easy for me. I think I banged out all of the programming that I did end up doing for it in three days or something. And then I just went out there for a day, and we mixed it in and bounced back a few things. He still spearheads a gigantic portion of it all.
I took it really seriously because it meant a lot to me, and it was a very nice thing to be asked to do. I was really humbled and honored to just get to be a part of that whole thing. There is some additional programming of mine I think on the Unbound Saga soundtrack that Cracknation did, and on Psycho the Rapist – it was really minimal stuff. So, to be actually asked to be included into the mainframe of the Cracknation stuff meant a lot to me, because I still listen to that stuff religiously. That stuff never stopped being cool for me.

Since you’ve now joined him onstage to bring this incarnation of Acucrack to a live audience, are there any plans to continue in that vein and take Acucrack on the road?

Payne: We’ve been talking about it, sure; but I think he just wants to do long weekends for right now, because I’m trying to figure out who we are going to take out on this potential tour that we’ve been approached to do. I wanted to do Acucrack because those were fun tours that we did six years ago with Acumen and Acucrack.

Turning back to Cyanotic, what’s the progress on that? Because the last album is now over three years old, and you’ve obviously kept busy with programming and production since then.

Payne: I had a client that I had to render some stuff for, and then anytime I get those hour-to-four-hour blocks, I end up staying at the studio way more than I stay at home, which causes major problems. But it’s all going to be worth it, because the new stuff is good, and I was never even cocky enough to say that; it’s better sonically than anything we’ve ever done before. I had to just really learn processes with this studio being open for two years, so I’ve had to refine and experiment. Before, if something worked, then it worked. But now, I’ve kind of started to understand the patterns of how things actually work. That’s been a necessary stopgap because I have a really cool, committed co-engineer who has started coming in and helping me. He’s ProTools certified and he went to school for engineering; that’s what his family does. His name’s Armando and he’s a badass! He’s a young kid, really smart, and he’s started just in the past few weeks to help me tighten up the new Cyanotic tracks. It’s really nice to have an extra person, a second pair of ears. Some of these songs are like two years old.

As we are doing this InterView, you’re sitting in your studio space. Can you tell us how working in a dedicated studio has improved your work ethic and production methods as you work on new material?

Payne: We have an actual studio space with a drum room, but it’s not like a studio with the big analog sound. What’s great about having this place is the freewill to be as loud as you fucking want. I think that’s why 90% of this music has sounded terrible for 10 years, because a lot of people were kind of just doing it at home. That was a huge hindrance for me, because I didn’t have a dub; I couldn’t have a fucking sub-woofer in a goddamn apartment, and that’s where I had the studio until after September, 2011, so it was long after MedGen. And now, I listen to MedGen now and I’m like, ‘Curses!’ I could have boosted that bass in a couple of different parts. But that’s what I think really matters, and it is part of the studio mystique. Plus, just having a producer helps. People being bedroom producers get trapped in their own fucking heads. I know this from experience. That’s why I have a co-engineer and why I always try to have a second pair of ears who is studious to kind of pay attention and have some sonic involvement. I think it’s a big culture of people who just get trapped in their heads and get trapped in shitty production methods, and that’s why this shit fell by the wayside. That’s why dubstep and all that came in and mowed everything down because those guys were like, ‘Well, yeah, we want to have sub like hip-hop, and we want it to be really distorted like all that cool techno/industrial music.’ Most of those guys are just drum & bass dudes. I really think that the bedroom approach to production that industrial took really made the whole genre go to shit for a little while. That’s why bands like Combichrist floored us because that dude obviously had a sub. There was a lack of quality in this scene for awhile, and that might be why Cyanotic wasn’t totally hated upon because whether people liked it or not, they could at least respect it because they could tell we were trying.
I’ve always sworn by a co-producer because Cyanotic would have sounded like a really big dog fart if we didn’t have some really helpful co-producers over the years.

Being an industrial musician, you’ve managed to incorporate different elements and have expressed your personal tastes outside of industrial.

Payne: Yes, because I think what was always cool about industrial music and the idea of it was that it was kind of a sonic melting pot. It’s really smart if people are current with sounds while paying respect to the older stuff; you’ve got to know your history and your present to shape your future. I like that people are starting to think a little more abstractly. For instance, the way that Jason approached the new Acucrack record in a cool abstract and freeform kind of way, but it wasn’t like listening to Download or being artsy-fartsy. It was just not typically what he had done before. A lot of it really reminded me of the Artifacts stuff – the Acumen demos and tracks before they added guitars.
It’s all mostly observation on my part. I just try to listen to everything that isn’t terrible, and even a little stuff that is. I’ve been able to expose myself to a lot of different genres working in this studio, and a lot of different egos and different personalities, so I know how to approach people more. Nobody wants a bitter shithead pitching that he can do production duties, and that’s not who I am anyway; I’m a jovial and pretty well natured guy who legitimately enjoys robotic sounds of any kind, whether it’s hip-hop or industrial or dubstep. I’ve just found that I need to keep myself in the loop of what’s going on, and I don’t want to release music if I don’t have any idea where I stand with it all.
On the other hand, there are bands that are trying to buy into what’s current too much, and there are those who are trying to sound retro. There are all those fake retro indie bands that are trying to sound like the ’80s, but why are they trying to sound like the ’80s when we have better technology now? I’d rather just listen to the ’80s.
That Youth Code band is really good at sounding old school; it sounds like Zoth Ommog Records to me. It’s got those stabbing FM bass lines and the bad delay on the vocals, but it works. Yeah, they’re good; I saw them live and I was pleasantly surprised.
I try to keep current and find what’s good anymore in anything, because if you get burnt out on music, then it’s getting burnt out on the thing that makes you happy.

The last Cyanotic release was the MedPack Vol. 1 EP, and you’d stated that you had plans to release a series of EPs that might later be compiled into an album.

Payne: That’s what I’m still planning because it keeps the momentum for the brand and it keeps momentum for myself. I personally don’t want to finish 16 songs to feel like I’m finished and then shove 16 songs down people’s throats; ‘Now you have to listen to an hour of this!’ I’d rather that people can choose to listen to a 20 minute chunk and then look forward to the next 20 minutes.
I just think that doing these segments and then collecting them all into a cohesive product is the best way to please the past, the present, and the future. I don’t think that the album is dead, but I do think that the attention span of a lot of people is very short because there’s so much to take in. We are in the era of information overload, after all.

Information overload is certainly a part of the sci-fi dystopia in all the fiction and cinema you’ve enjoyed; is it ever a concern for you that music is suffering because of this deterioration?

Payne: I don’t know about that. I am trying to look at things more positively while still keeping a realistic mentality. I like the idea of a sci-fi dystopia, but I don’t think we’re really heading there yet. The world’s going to get more splintered, and more and more microcosms are going to emerge. I guarantee that we can go on YouTube and some friends of ours can show us a band that has 5,000,000 views that nobody’s ever heard of. Before, that wasn’t the case; 20 years ago, you heard about a specific amount of bands because there was only a specific amount of outlets – Top 40 Radio, MTV, what have you. Now, we have so many different conduits. I think that if you carve your niche for yourself, then you can survive those tough times. You’ve just got to carve that sound out for yourself.
I’m thankful for when we started, because that was when the coldwave of old kind of went away, and then it resurfaced a couple of years later. Everybody kind of went on a sabbatical and that’s when I started my thing because nobody was doing it. I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve had some longevity because even now, nobody continues to really keep doing it besides some of the old cats. You don’t really hear about a lot of new industrial rock or metal bands. It’s interesting because I think we’re going to with the generation that’s growing up now that’s weaned on techno music, just like I was 15 years ago, but they also like metal remixes. That’s kind of how I got into this music, from all the crossbreeding. There’s a point coming up really soon where there will be that kind of crosspollination. I mean, look… Nine Inch Nails is more popular than ever.
But that’s how bands survive; you’ve got to go for the extreme.

Besides your recent work with Cracknation and working on the new Cyanotic and production for other bands, what else is going on under the Glitch Mode banner?

Payne: I’ve been doing a bunch of demos with Amelia from Angelspit and we have about 10 tracks that are in various stages of completion; I think four of them have vocals. She’s a really nice lady and she had some really cool ideas that we got to put down during the couple of times that she visited Chicago. I’m co-producing the new Rabbit Junk, which I’ve never done, with JP Anderson. Before, I’d listen to mixes that he’d send me, but we never really were able to work together because we weren’t on the same platform. Now, he’s all software, so we’re able to trade things back-and-forth and I can just send him stems and he puts stuff in. There are a bunch of Glitch Mode projects that I’ve been sitting on because I’ve got to get the new Cyanotic out before I can release them. The only thing that has credence besides Rabbit Junk under the Glitch Mode umbrella is Cyanotic, and I’ve got to get that stuff out before I think people will give a shit about some kind of side project, and I’ve got a lot of those that are just about done.

We spoke earlier about the possibility of Acucrack live shows; what about Cyanotic?

Payne: I’m trying to get a tour together for potentially early summer, and that’s when we’re going to try to coincide with the physical album.

Your love for older sci-fi films is well known, and now, a remake/reboot of Robocop is nearing its release. What are your thoughts on the potential for this new film?

Payne: I don’t know, man. The original is a very darkly funny and superviolent classic film from my childhood, and I’m sure that the new one… will not be that. But I’m not sure if it will be horrible or good. But that’s about all I can say. This shit’s not going to be the same to us when we were young. It’s just not! If was 30 back then when I saw Robocop, I’d probably have a similar reaction. ‘It’s all right. It was funny.’ It was defining because of the generation, along with The Terminator. If I showed my 12-year-old brother that, he’d probably say that it was okay but, ‘I really wish there was a fighter jet chase,’ or something like that. I don’t know. We’ll see if Robocop sucks ass or passes the grade, but it’s not going to be the original. It’s too immersed in our memories as awesome.
Similarly, I was one of the few people I knew who didn’t hate the new Total Recall; it had nice sounds. (Laughter) It was pretty to look at and it had nice sounds, and that’s about all I can ask for in a movie anymore. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that’s altered my perception or blown my skirt up in probably… I don’t know, at least a decade.


Cyanotic Website
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