Jul 2014 14

Cyferdyne might still be a musical enigma for some, but ReGen managed to talk to two thirds of the band in order to put forward some reasons why it shouldn’t be.
 
Cyferdyne

 

An InterView with Steve Houghton & Adam Higginson

By Damian Glowinkowski (DamienG)

Formed in 2010, Cyferdyne in a relatively short period of time managed to highlight its presence across several critical outlets and began to evolve, confidently and consequently into a fully fledged romantic and melodic electro entity.
On the back of the second album, Keep Your Silence, and the explosive performance during this year’s Resistanz Festival, Cyferdyne indeed seems to be flying higher and higher. While the debut release, Genesys found the group dabbling in several genres from futurepop to hard dance, there is a clear trajectory for Cyferdyne; the melodic vocalizations combined with the powerful emotive hooks that define the music are a clear indication of what audiences should expect from this British trio. Settled and ready to conquer the scene, Andy McBain, Steven Houghton, and Adam Higginson patiently realize their collective vision.
ReGen Magazine managed to pull Houghton and Higginson aside on the closing Sunday of Resistanz 2014, still fresh off the heels of the band’s set to have a brief conversation about the direction of the band so far, where it plans to go next, and how Cyferdyne fits into the landscape of British industrial… and also, accidentally, how Surgyn’s Ollie Langmead inadvertently fits into the mix of emotions that lends Cyferdyne its unique appeal; or how he doesn’t.

 

You are musicians yourselves and the way you look at the spotlights and the bands underneath them might be quite different, but did you get a chance to be amid the audience during this year’s Resistanz?

Higginson: Up until four o’clock today, it was extremely stressful because I knew we were going to play. We came last year and it was a completely different experience because we came just to enjoy the weekend. But last night, we were like, ‘We can’t drink too much ’cause we have to play tomorrow.’ And for me, that was a huge deal since I wanted to make sure that I’m on my A-game. That has impacted every other aspect of the weekend.

Being a part of this current wave of British industrial bands, you are undoubtedly connected to the proverbial living tissue of this musical organism. With that in mind, how does it feel to be at Resistanz and observe this fairly young event, sold out and brimming with content – fans, musicians, palpable energy?

Houghton: It’s like a dozen runs up the ladder from where we were. Before this, the biggest crowd that we had was maybe a hundred, a hundred and odd. To see faces, front to back of the venue at Resistanz, it was really, really crazy.

Higginson: Like I said, I was here last year and at that point, I knew I was going to be playing and as I was looking at the crowd, I thought, ‘This is a huge amount of people.’ But then, I thought that on Sunday, we will be second on.

Houghton: No one is going to care.

Higginson: Yeah. I watched a couple of opening bands last year and kind of gauged the number of people and then the lights came on halfway through the show and I thought, ‘Oh no, wait; there’s this guy by the aisle at the back that I can’t really make out because he’s that far away.’

You had a very big crowd.

Houghton: It was very humbling. And there’s going to be some very interesting footage as I was the only vocalist who has worn the GoPro camera and I had it on for about a half hour before the show even started.

Higginson: Half an hour bitching about other bands. [Laughs]

Langmead (of Surgyn): How about those Surgyn guys! They suck ass!

Are there bands out there that inspire you and provoke a sense of sudden awe and amazement; someone that makes you want to instantly appropriate a concept or a motif or someone that makes you jealous that you did not come up with that melody yourself?

Higginson: We’re not really a big industrial band. None of us listen to industrial. He’s into pop music [points at Houghton].

Houghton: I’m into the London Grammar, Chvrches, Ed Sheeran.

Higginson: Andy and I grew up on the old school black metal and we’re both into the old school trance – Armin Van Burren, Tiesto, and that’s what I want to bring into our music, this huge soundscape…

Houghton: … which was missing from the first album.

Higginson: We didn’t get there with the first one; closer with the second one, and I think every time we write something, we get closer to this huge soundscape.

Houghton: Like a stadium sound.

Higginson: Exactly, as if you were walking into this big venue and you find yourself encapsulated within the sound of the music we’re playing, rather than the very minimalist stuff that is coming out of the woodwork. Like the Organ Donors, whom we saw [at Resistanz] who, production wise, were spectacular. But it’s this kind of wider sound that we want to bring back that I think was abandoned a little bit.

It is funny you say that because you have mentioned on occasion that metal, not electro, was the genre on which you cut your proverbial teeth.

Higginson: Yes, we were in a metal band before we started Cyferdyne.

The structures and the emotions of some of your songs like ‘Glass,’ to name one, do seem to share a similar sensibility and melodic flow and one could easily imagine them as acoustic/rock ballads.

Higginson: It’s actually one of our favorite songs. It was written as if it was played by a full band. It was that specific sound that I wanted because of those big crossover points that bands like Rammstein have and it’s a big influence on where I go with my music as well. It’s an electronic song, but it’s only so because I don’t have a full bad at my disposal to conduct, but it was still the feel that I wanted. Obviously, Steven’s vocals really help bring this feeling out. I think a lot of people missed that, particularly Andy McBain, our producer. [Laughs] It’s a rock song done with an electronic sound.

So is there any difference than when you’re making your music between having it performed on the acoustic instruments versus synths and computers?

Houghton: We tend to start with a concept and a framework for the track and then we come together, at which point it becomes much more organic.

Higginson: Like with ‘Glass’ and ‘Escape,’ I wrote them to be more rocking in terms of their sound. I went into it thinking that I want to write them on my guitar and that’s going to be the key element, whereas on some other songs, I’m kind of taken over. Steve here writes a lot more melancholy material like ‘Clockwork’.

Houghton: Still, the majority of the album was written by you.

Higginson: I decide very early on whether the track is going to be rocky or a bit more danceable and this then determined what instrument I pick to compose on. On the heavier tracks, I would write the riffs first and build the entire song around that; on the danceable ones I would start with the beat lines, the drums, and then the leads would come organically from them.

Houghton: I think it’s going to be very interesting now that we got Andy McBain on board, because we only really did like two or three tracks together. What he brings in is very crisp production and a totally different sense of how the songs are constructed. He comes purely from the dance scene so picking the correct frequency for the kick against the frequency for the bass, that’s all something we would never consider. I like writing music, but I could never produce electronic music, ever. [Laughs] I write the music and then Andy makes it sound like a real song, like a proper musician.

It’s really interesting that what you are saying is actually quite prominent in the music you are making and quite noticeable. Shame that you didn’t play ‘Glass’ for the Resistanz audience.

Higginson: Yes, I was gutted but Steven pulled the rank.

Houghton: I didn’t pull the rank; I just said that if we don’t play ‘Clockwork,’ I’m leaving the band. That’s not pulling the rank. [Laughs]

On occasion you have also revealed that you used an old wardrobe as a vocal booth?

Higginson: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s Neil’s house. In his bedroom, you just open up the wardrobe to get the three walls and than put some sheets over it.

Houghton: No, no, we do have soundproofing that we hang on a coat hanger down the edges, but we don’t have the actual pop shield.

Higginson: It is a big change though, in regards to the vocals between the first album and the recent one. With the first album, the vocals were recorded with the three of us, shoulder to shoulder on the bed in Neil’s bedroom, whereas Andy has this huge studio setup and the actual vocal booth and he really pushed Steve; before we accepted the Auto-tune as a part of the process. You can’t not Auto-tune vocals with this kind of music; since everything else is so perfect, the vocals have to be perfect. With Neil, since we had to Auto-tune it at some point, we would do two takes and then Auto-tune it to fit. With Andy, we would sit for hours to get the best performance we could. I really think that this is evident on the album and you can really tell that the effort is actually in there.

The vocals are much more prominent on the second album.

Houghton: We’re not ashamed of the vocals. [Laughs] We pushed them further forwards because when there where two vocalists, there was a disparity in the delivery of the vocals between us, but now that this is no longer the case, we can bring the vocals forward.

Higginson: We built the twin vocals around the fact that there wasn’t anything else for Neil to do and it took up as ‘our thing’ that we have two vocals and the two harmonies.

Houghton: But it never really worked live.

Higginson: We felt trapped by this image and it was a big move for us to focus on Steve as the individual singer and I do think that vocals on Keep Your Silence are much better than on the first album, even if I’m biased.

The covers of both your albums are strongly evocative of sci-fi tropes and motifs. The lonely survivor from Keep Your Silence‘s artwork is especially striking, bringing to mind imagery both cinematic and video game related. Do any of those sources in any way inform the visual aspect of Cyferdyne?

Houghton: This wasn’t really our choice in any shape or form. We wanted something really abstract, but the decision was not ours to create the artwork as it was.

Higginson: DWA arranged that through Vlad McNeally.

Houghton: The quality of what he has produced is really stunning, but we didn’t think it represented the album. It’s not really translated the way we would have wanted it to be, but it’s still really, really cool.

Higginson: The imagery that we started up with was nothing like that. Steven came up with the concept for Keep Your Silence. It had much more whimpering vibe to it, but it ended up with a much more militaristic feel to it.

What is the actual idea behind the name of the band?

Higginson: I tell this story a lot, but Steven claims it never happened. This cut me deep. We had a few ideas for the name of the band and than Cyberdyne came up and I really didn’t like it. I expressed that I didn’t like it, but by the next time we met up, there was a whole Facebook page based around the name Cyberdyne and based only on the fact that we liked the Terminator films. We ran with that and we were Cyberdyne for well over a year. It was an idea from the label to try to get away from this franchise and set ourselves separately.

Houghton: But again the name itself was less our design than the design of others.

With so many young acts fighting for prominence within this relatively small scene, how do you guys feel as a part of a major label like Death Watch Asia, especially since you get to share it with so many other quality acts like Die Sektor, BlakOpz, and Terrolokaust?

Higginson: We are the black sheep. [Laughs] But yeah, it was kind of weird because at that point, we had written four songs, we’ve been together maybe six months, and then we emailed DWA just on the off chance that they might listen to it. They got back to us and said that we could put an album together and that they were interested. That feeling was phenomenal. They are a big label in the scene and to have that kind of attention is amazing. Obviously, they helped push things forward and we wouldn’t really have an album without them.

Houghton: Oh yeah, the support we’ve had was really, really good. We couldn’t have done it ourselves up to this point.

Your second album’s been out for a few months. You’ve played the closing day at Resistanz. What’s next then?

Higginson: We’ve got a lot of shows coming up; a lot of them in the UK. We’ve got Glasgow, Nottingham, and we do have something down in the pipeline for London as well. I am not sure how much I can announce right now; we are waiting for the go ahead, but our Facebook page always has everything that we’ve announced already and we will keep adding to it if and as we know. We do hope to do a lot more live shows this year and there are talks of going to Europe, although we don’t know yet if that’s going to happen. We are definitely trying to do it, as well as knuckling down in the studio and trying to get another album on the way.

Houghton: But that’s one of the big things for us. There are so many bands out there that release something truly amazing like Shiv-R with their last EP; that was awesome, but they haven’t released anything else since and when you look at Organ Donors, they release something new every fortnight.

Higginson: We do have a mission to do things a bit more regularly. I am not committing to anything right now, but we are working at releasing possibly an EP fairly soon with Andy since we haven’t written anything with him. Everything on Keep Your Silence was written before the change of our lineup. So we do want to release it just to show our new direction and where we’re going because it’s still changing literally every time we write a track. We don’t want to have big gaps and then release something completely different that would all of a sudden alienate people. We do want to bring them along with us progressively and step by step.

Houghton: Next six months hopefully.

Higginson: Hopefully. Now that I don’t work anymore, my free time has opened up quite nicely for writing the new material. [Laughs]

Jay Smith of Deviant UK sang a cover of ‘Change the Way You Kissed Me’ with you onstage at Resistanz. Is that just an extension of the ongoing tradition of this festival where other artists just jump in and perform alongside the announced acts or does that collaboration set some sort of direction for Cyferdyne?

Higginson: We’ve been talking about doing a cover for awhile, but it never seemed to materialize. I recently joined Deviant UK as a live guitarist and we talked about it again as we were all together and we decided to do it at Resistanz and just have a bit of fun with it. It could have been either amazing or an epic fail, but I think people liked it.

Houghton: It’s not going to be a consistent thing, but it’s always nice to get a bit of input. We’re always open to the idea of doing things with other people; like, we will do something with the guys from Die Sektor soon.

Higginson: It does give you a new angle and helps to keep things fresh and interesting.

Houghton: Jay, for example – he was super supportive, always trying to help us out with getting some shows together. He’s been in the scene forever, since we were born.

Higginson: He conceived it. [Laughs] The scene was born with him.

Thank you for your time. Is there anything you’d want to say to the readers?

Higginson: If you’re not listening to our stuff, give it a look. What can you lose?

Houghton: Probably the best way to put it is that we are the most important thing that happened to the scene since the laptop.

And that said with Ollie from Surgyn sitting right beside you.

Langmead: That’s all right. My nickname is ‘the laptop.’

Houghton: Touché. Well played.

 

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