Everything Goes Cold gets surprisingly serious and discusses the dark times of the early 2000s and how accessibility has changed the landscape of the industrial subculture.
An Interview with Eric Gottesman, James Webb, and Mike Blodgett of Everything Goes Cold
By: Charity V
If you’ve been to any industrial shows over the past decade, you’ve seen Eric Gottesman. He’s been around. Before starting his satire-driven solo project Everything Goes Cold, he’s worked with See Colin Slash, Psyclon Nine, Ayria, Caustic, and probably a dozen more bands he won’t admit to. He’s the go-to guy, the remix master, the man with the plan, the restless collaborator… and he knows just about everyone. Above all, he’s known for a quick wit and humor that can make any situation unpredictable. It is expected that even the most sober discussion has the potential to turn very, very strange.
In preparation for EGC’s latest EP and first live performance of 2012, ReGen was invited into the lair of the madman, a two-story Oakland warehouse rehearsal space occupied by the oft-fired guitarist James Webb and Gomez the cat, utilized by Gottesman and the future galactic president Mike Blodgett. Surrounded by KISS action figures, a large handmade clay boat and an impressive assortment of musical equipment, we sat down to fire James (again) and explore the evolution of modern industrial music.
Your website is seriously outdated. It doesn’t have new concert dates on there. All the information seems to be from 2008-2009.
Gottesman: The website right now has our Twitter feed. We don’t use the main website for anything. It’s like, why would we? ‘Cause nobody uses those things anymore. I recently stuck the Twitter feed just so there would be something in it, and I should probably attach the rest of Facebook too. If people are looking for concert dates, they’re going to go to Facebook first. I need to get something to integrate it better, but I’ve just been busy.
You’ve got the one date coming up on March 20. Besides that date, what else are you doing this year?
Gottesman: Sleeping a lot, playing video games. Firing James. That’s going to be a big thing.
Is that a long process?
Gottesman: No! Actually, you want to try firing him? Sometimes when other people do it, it’s good.
I’m afraid things aren’t working out and we’re going to have to let you go.
Webb [to Eric]: Why can’t you do it like that?
Gottesman: It’s true. I usually say, ‘James, you’re fired,’ and that’s the end of it. OK, so what do we got coming up? Well, we don’t have any more shows scheduled right now, but we’re about to start doing that. We were originally going to do some shows right around the time of the album release, but we’ll probably do a West Coast phase. It’s rough, because we’re having a rough time finding good people, like people it would make a lot of sense for us to play with right now, because there is a big leap between small bands and huge bands and what we really need right now is medium bands, and there aren’t a lot of those. I had this whole grand master plan that we were going to do a bunch of shows with Alter der Ruine, and then they broke up, and that messed everything up. They were like the Golden Medium Band. It’s like they were just big enough to really draw people in, but then not so big that was going to be some huge operation.
Webb: No one stays medium for very long is part of the problem.
Your EP came out on February 28. Why didn’t you just go to the 29th? There actually was a 29th this year.
Gottesman: First of all, we didn’t get to decide. Actually, the original release date was the 14th, and we got pushed back because another cold-themed band was coming out the same day and Metropolis pushed us back. Their release schedule was too full, so we got pushed to the next one. Frozen Autumn, I’m looking at you. You guys are on my list of other cold-themed bands, along with Freezepop and… I don’t know… who else is there? Cold Cave, I guess?
Wouldn’t it be great if a coldwave band came out with a warm-themed name?
Gottesman: Wait a minute. A while ago, our artist did this thing with a dancing stove that said ‘It All Gets Warm’ posted on our Facebook page.
When is the full-length album coming out? There isn’t any information on that.
Gottesman: That’s because it doesn’t exist yet.
Why doesn’t it exist? You have only one album that has come out.
Gottesman: I know, because I write really slowly. I just started writing stuff for the next album, no thanks to James… who’s been fired, so it doesn’t really even matter. I hope to have the writing and basically everything ready to go by the year, and then there’s a four-month lead time. So, probably about mid-next year for that. But that’s going to be on Metropolis unless they hate us and decide to drop us, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Do you think it’s going to take longer if you keep remixing for everybody else?
Gottesman: Yeah. Remixes are not doing well right now. I was actually working on something for Grendel last week that I pretty much got all the way through, and I went, ‘This is terrible. This sucks. I’m starting over.’ I don’t know even know if I’m going to make their deadline, but yeah. I haven’t been doing too many remixes because I’ve been working so slowly. There are a couple of people that I’ll probably make some time for because they’re close friends or whatever, but there probably will not be too many remixes from me in the immediate future.
It’s interesting to know how an artist feels that their music evolves over time. Do you feel like you have stayed true to the idea you had when you first started this?
Gottesman: I’ve mostly evolved through Mike. I am really inspired by the facial hair. He doesn’t have the Lincoln now.
Blodgett: I tidied it up, because you know…
Gottesman: When I first started this, it was way back in 2003. The whole concept behind the band was something that makes no sense right now at all, so I definitely haven’t stayed true to it, because I had no reason to. In 2003, everything was all futurepop, terror EBM and power noise. There was nothing else going on in the industrial scene. I had been listening to a lot of coldwave, so I was like, ‘I’m going to do a guitar industrial album’ at a time when nobody else was doing that. It took a while, but eventually I came out with a few songs along those lines, and I think the first songs were ‘Retry’ and ‘Fail.’ It was based on a lot of the guitar industrial and a lot of the stuff like Numb, and I was trying to do that kind of thing, and I was really struggling with it. I did some remixes during that time. I did an Unter Null remix, an Ayria remix and another remix that is not credited properly for a screamo band called Funeral Diner in that time period. It was all very serious, and it turned out that I wasn’t really enjoying that, and I didn’t really feel like I was very good at it. So I was having a really hard time, especially with lyrics, because I didn’t feel comfortable with my writing and I was trying to write all this personal stuff. It didn’t really feel natural to me.
You didn’t feel comfortable with really personal stuff?
Gottesman: Well, I was at that time, and then Unicorns, Kittens and Shit by Caustic came out, and I got that album. I obviously listened to the album a lot, but I remember reading about the album for the first time, and I picked it up at a Caustic show. There was this track on there, ‘Hitler Ruined That Moustache For Everyone,’ and I remember thinking even before I had actually put the disc in, ‘I don’t even care what this track sounds like, that’s amazing! I should just come up with a really great song title.’
Which is what you’ve been doing ever since.
Gottesman: So that directly inspired ‘I’ve Sold Your Organs on the Black Market to Finance the Purchase of a Used Minivan,’ which I had the song title for, and I had no idea what it was going to be about or like or anything, but it worked out so well that I was like ‘I think I’ve just been fooling myself into thinking that I’m going to be able to do this completely seriously. It’s not going to work.’ So I abandoned that and did this funnier thing instead. Now it’s not so much that I abandoned that direction, it’s more that I’ve sort of honed down exactly what I really want to do, and so it’s less comedic but more cartoonish. We’re not directly making jokes, but we’re taking really almost comically extreme stances on things, I guess. It’s a lot of this sort of super-villainy kind of thing. I think there are a lot of industrial bands that will go and say something like ‘The world is a machine and everything is terrible,’ but my position is to take things from a slightly different view, more like ‘We’re going to make the world into machines and make everything terrible because we’re mean and evil and that seems like the thing to do.’ I think super-villainy is a sort of weirdly poignant idea in the modern context with the political climate and things like that, because people think of things in such extremes right now, and there are so many instances of people like Kim Jong Il who are caricatures of themselves. You can’t imagine anybody would even come up with this idea. He claimed he golfed the perfect game the first time he ever tried and things like that, really absurd things. It’s ridiculous. It’s unbelievable that somebody like that could even have existed. When you hear… you know… bullshit about like banks foreclosing on houses they don’t own and things like that, and doing these absurdly obviously evil things, I think it’s an interesting time to talk about that. Even somebody like Stephen Colbert.
He’s doing the exact same thing.
Gottesman: Yeah, he’s effectively behaving as a super-villain.
It seems like most people get to a certain age and they stop listening to newer music. Generally, you start falling back to the music you were listening to in high school or early 20s.
Gottesman: Are you trying to say that I’m old?
You’re influenced by a lot of newer bands, though.
Gottesman: Right now, yes.
It still tends to be within a very specific genre.
Gottesman: Yeah, well, a couple of specific genres. I don’t want to get that isolated, but first of all, we are pretty much all about coldwave, which is something that pretty much ended entirely in 1998. I don’t want to speak ill of great coldwave albums that came out after that, like Acumen Nation’s The 5ifth Column or Chemlab’s Oxidizer, but the bulk of the movement ended then, and so there I was, five years later, starting a band that was doing something that was completely dead. That was all I was listening to back then, nothing but coldwave and old industrial. I spent a lot of my youth like that. Because I spend so much time with music, you know, working on it and talking to other musicians and talking about it, I reached a point where, first of all, I’ve gotten every piece of coldwave music that was ever worth anything. And it was like, ‘Well, if I want to listen to more music, I’m going to have to get something else.’ Also, I realized we would go out and play shows with friends’ bands and whatever, and I realized I really liked them all. And I was like, ‘There’s got to be more music out there that isn’t only made by the people that I know,’ so I took a really aggressive stance toward trying to get more involved in new music again. That’s been a big thing for me for the last couple of years, and I think that definitely a lot of people do cut off what they get out of music after a certain age, and you kind of have to actively fight against that to prevent it from happening, but there are still people who do that. At the same time, anything I’m listening to now…nothing is ever going to have the same impact on me that Psalm 69 by Ministry had when I was like 14 years old, and I think whenever you hear older, or actually even worse, younger people doing this ‘What happened to music?’ or ‘What happened to ‘industrial? It used to be so much better… blah blah blah,’ I’m like, ‘Well, the music was better because you were younger. The music itself didn’t get worse; you got worse.’ I don’t think there’s any qualitative change for the better or the worse. I do think we had a bad period of industrial music. There was a time period from… I want to say about 2003 to 2008 or so, during which…it’s not that there was no good music being released, but I think that the genre as a whole didn’t really have a direction that anybody was really happy with. A lot of terror EBM bands were coming out at that time. It’s not that I don’t like that music. There actually is a lot that I really like, but the audience wasn’t happy with it. There wasn’t so much else being made that was of a quality and a notoriety that was really grabbing people’s attention. So it’s hard to look back at that period and say ‘No, this is as good as other time period,’ but I think we really got out of that.
For a while it felt like it was just fading away.
Gottesman: Yeah, and I think at this stage genres do not fade away. There’s always going to be those 30 really committed death rock kids who are still going to have the giant Rozz Williams hair and, you know, if you look into Cinema Strange 50 years from now, they’re still going to be there. Any genre of music you can come up with has some aficionado somewhere that’s really really into it and keeps it going.
Webb: I do make a constant effort to listen to new music that’s coming out now, as opposed to music from the late ‘90s, but even when I look at my music library, I feel like I get stuck in that pattern. I just try to break out of that rut. I think that’s something that people need to do as they get a little bit older. I kind of agree with what he said. I don’t have any examples to back it up, but ’03 to ’08 was a weird time. Since ’08, the past three and a half or four years or so, it kind of picked up again.
Gottesman: Yeah, definitely. I’ve said many times that this last year was one of the best years for industrial music.
Webb: Maybe it’s just they’re playing kind of music I love, lots of guitar-based industrial music with punk elements. There wasn’t a lot of a mixture of… like… guitar music and electronic music during that period.
Gottesman: Yeah, it was very separate. I think even there was still guitar music being made, it was almost as though it was a whole separate culture or something. Like, ‘You guys all came out of Nine Inch Nails and we all came out of 242; we’re not going to talk to each other.’
During that period of time it seemed like if a group had actual instruments, they were automatically classified as rock, just rock. It couldn’t be industrial. It couldn’t be EBM. Just rock.
Gottesman: With Psyclon Nine we had a lot of really weird experiences with stuff like that, because once we had a drummer, all of a sudden, we would go to our regular promoter and they were like, ‘Oh my god, we don’t know what with you!’ Not promotion-wise, but the sound guy would be like, ‘Wait, you have drums? How do I do that?’ It would be like all of a sudden everything was like this huge operation. ‘Why do you have that many people? Can’t you just put everything on backing tracks?’
Nobody likes watching that. It’s not a good live show, generally, when there’s a guy standing up there singing and another guy with a computer.
Gottesman: Yeah, it’s a horrible way to do a show. Not that some people can’t pull it off. You can go watch Continues or something and can see a great band that’s just one guy. But especially during that time, live shows were fucking horrible, because so many bands were putting out good albums but putting on awful shows, just awful. I don’t want to name names, especially since after the IDieYouDie interview, Tyler from Informatik actually wrote me (who, by the way, is now playing keyboard for us). He actually wrote me and was like, ‘I know you were talking about me.’ I was like, ‘What? No, I wasn’t talking about you guys at all!’
But anyway, there were a lot of bands that were just doing this, like one guy who was singing very much out of his own range and a guy on keyboard, and everyone is just sort of standing there. Actually, I think I am going to go ahead and names names on this one. Wolfsheim. One guy is not playing keys, but the other guy is holding onto the mic for dear life like he’s going to fucking fall off the stage. And he’s like this, without moving, for like an hour straight. Why would you do that? Why would you do that?
Back to the topic of your music as satire, it takes a lot of intelligence to write that way. What is your educational background?
And in the future they’re all just automatically musical?
Blodgett: Yeah, exactly. It’s based around implants.
Gottesman: I am also a Red Hat certified something-or-other. I am. I don’t even know. Red Hat something engineer. RedHat certified something engineer? System engineer? Anyway, one of the standard questions that is always asked, of course, is ‘Do people not take you seriously because you do funny music?’ Not lately, possibly people keep asking me that question. I think that there is definitely a skill involved in writing anything that has a satirical bend to it.
You have to understand the subject matter before you can satirize it.
Gottesman: I don’t know if I understand the subject matter. Well, yeah. Basically, all of my music is about music. That’s sort of like the only thing that I really do with my life is stuff involving music, so it all’s kind of about that. So a lot of the satire, even when it’s touching on other things, part of it is about the idea of how industrial music works. That’s in there, and I don’t know if you can really catch that. Every so often somebody will really get something on a level I never really would have expected.
Webb: Another difficulty with that is just that the songs might not have as much staying power.
It might be dating.
Gottesman: That’s a real concern because if you watch even old Simpsons episodes, there are a lot of cultural references that don’t make sense anymore. In certain aspects, it does tend to lock you in time, so I try to make sure that I’m doing things that are layered enough that it will still have meaning even if part of it is not really relevant to people after a while.
Do you usually have the words in your head before you start making the music?
Gottesman: Well, I do most of the writing. Mike has contributed a lot recently, a lot of my production stuff. There were a couple of songs on the last album that the other guys worked on. But I usually start off with like a phrase, I guess. It depends on the song. Sometimes it’s words; sometimes it’s a rhythm. Sometimes, it’s just some sort of an idea, like ‘I wonder what would happen if I tried to make a song like this.’ It’s pretty random.
Sounds like a complex process.
Gottesman: Or, I’ll just have James do it. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter. I don’t know what he does.
Webb: One of these days, we’re going to play one of my songs.
Gottesman: James has been saying, ‘One of these days, we’re going to play one of my songs’ for a good three years now, and every time he says that, I say, ‘OK, James. Let’s play one of your songs.’ I have yet to see one of them.
Webb: I do have some songs, but I don’t feel like any of them are right for this band.
Gottesman: James usually writes…
Gottesman: Yeah. You know that song ‘More than Words?’ He has actually been using a lot of wah pedal lately, but not at appropriate times or anything.
It used to be a disadvantage to play music that was not going to be played on the radio, but now with fewer good stations to listen to and with the availability of sites like Pandora and Spotify, it seems less necessary to make music you can sell to the radio. Is it easier now than it was 10 years ago?
Gottesman: You know, 10 years ago, radio was more important, but this was still sort of underground music. I don’t think you can discuss this without discussing the change in the very nature of what ‘underground’ music is. There is not nearly as much separation as there was then. So 10 years ago, or let’s say 20 years ago I think is an easier example, there was an access problem. If you were a teenager in the Midwest, you couldn’t find out about or have heard of underground music. It was a huge pain. If you could get that stuff, you might have been mail-ordering it, or you had to find about it from your friend out in another state or something like that. And that was part of the nature of that kind of music and what made it both difficult and intriguing and some of the things that bound these cultures together and created subcultures as we know them now. Now of course everybody has the exact same access, because it doesn’t matter if you’re in Kentucky or the middle of Alaska, you still have the same Internet. If you’re clicking things at random, you could easily eventually come upon some kid in a gas mask and giant cyber hair and be like, ‘That looks cool.’ That has drastically, drastically altered the nature of these things. Obviously, regular radio doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve spent a lot of time making sure that we’re getting played on podcasts, I guess. There are many different ways people can get music right now. Pandora’s the thing I know we should be on top of. I don’t use it myself, mostly because I’m getting so much music all the time that the last thing I need is another new music input.
Do you feel that this access has killed the subculture or made it more mainstream?
Gottesman: It has drastically altered the nature of the subculture in a few ways, some of which are positive, some of which are negative. On one hand, I think it is more difficult to get involved in something if it requires a degree of commitment, interest, and even ability to stay involved in it. When I first got involved in the Industrial scene 15 years ago, it was cool to be like hackers. Now, of course, a lot of the kids who are getting involved in it are people who might have otherwise, in previous years, have been really involved in metal or something, which is a very, very different culture and type of attitude. That’s changed the kind of person we encounter at clubs and things like that really drastically. I think there are also a lot of people who are engaged in it a lot more casually. That’s great, because that means as musicians, certainly, we get exposed more to more people and we’re able to communicate with more people and that is in every way a positive thing, but at the same time, as somebody who has been really involved in the culture for a long time, it’s just a different experience. It used to be this concept in like the ‘90s of the people at the clubs who were like ‘the goths,’ for example, and then there were these weekender people that everybody always made fun of. It was like, ‘You’ve got the crazy hair right now, but you’re just going to comb it down and look like a normal person tomorrow.’ Now that concept seems ridiculous. Like, who cares? Of course we all have normal hair during the day. What’s different about how you are in the clubs than you would be in real life? It’s really just altered the way we all think about things like that.
You’ve been in the Bay Area for a while.
Gottesman: Since ’98.
How has living in the Bay Area helped or hindered you in your own music?
Gottesman: The last few years in the Bay Area have been pretty weird. When I first moved here, I was here for less than a year and I found that this girl that I knew had been working for 21st Circuitry, which is a classic record label where like Covenant got its start in the USA, Hate Dept., Unit: 187, all those big bands. It was over the summer, so I was out of school, so I called them and e-mailed them, and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m friend with this person who used to work for you. Do you need any help? I’ll totally work for free.’ And they’re like, ‘Free, you say?’ Anyway, it happened that at the time that I did that, they were in the process of shutting down, and part of the shutting down process was that they had sold all of their back stock, and I mean all of it, to Metropolis. So my job was I went in and I shipped every remaining piece of 21stCircuitry stock to Metropolis in Philadelphia. So that was like my first thing; it was like, ‘I’m in the Bay Area. This is really cool; there’s a record label.’ Then it was like ‘Oh.’ But then right after that, I was in a post office in Berkeley and I saw a conspicuously industrial-looking person with a huge stack of packages who ended up being Kim X of COP International, and I met her and did the same thing, volunteered to help out for free. They do like that word a lot. So I went in and started for COP International, and that’s how I got into Deathline, which is my first professional-grade experience. I met promoters we still use now through being in Deathline and being on tour with them. I would like to think that I would have had enough wherewithal to figure out how to meet these people on my own, but that definitely helped. I think that the way the industrial scene has been the last few years is…for whatever reason, things have been in a weird state in San Francisco.
It’s been kind of quiet.
Gottesman: Yeah, but we have a ton of really cool bands here right now, for one thing, which is why we’re doing the Kickstarter project, although the Kickstarter project will be done by the time this comes out, but you get the special edition of the disc from that that has all these bonus mixes from Bay Area artists. You’ve got [Cynical_MASS], who hopefully people have heard of. They’re one of the biggest new bands in San Francisco right now. When Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ came out, they did one of those remix videos that is actually really disturbing and really cool. They’re good friends of ours. Bloodwire, which is Shawn Brice from Battery, and they’re incredible, a bit more on the goth side but really good. There is a sort of a terror EBM type band called NPMN that I really like. Slave Unit is a classic coldwave band here in the Bay Area. Overdrive Corporation. And then you’ve got all these awesome bands floating around that are living here. Kurt from Information Society lives here. The Informatik guys live here. There’s also Battery Cage, Syndika:Zero is in Sacramento, C/A/T, Savi0r…anyway, there are a bunch of awesome local bands, and so we’re trying to get people a little bit more aware that there is actually stuff going on here; they just need to show up for it. There’s the Central Bay Area crowd, and then there’s the San Jose/Santa Cruz crowd, and the Sacramento crowd, and we’re not necessarily all gathering together as much as I’ve been hoping we would be. We work with people from those outside areas all the time in one way or another. I’m working on this nightclub night now called Anti/Life, and we have one DJ from Death Guild, which is in San Francisco, one DJ from Sacramento and then one DJ from San Jose.
So you’re hoping to join them all together?
Gottesman: Basically, yeah. I think that everybody in those outside areas, on one hand, they expect that they’re going to have to come to a big city to go see most of the big shows. The funny thing is that they have more support out than we do centrally now, so that’s been weird. A lot of medium-sized bands over the last few years are stopping in Sacramento and not San Francisco, which is very problematic, because nobody from San Francisco will go to Sacramento to see a show.
Last question: When the band dies, what do you want on your headstone?
Gottesman: When the band dies?
Yes, you’re going to have one headstone for the entire band. What do you want on your headstone? How do you want to be remembered, beside the fact that you three will die at exactly the same time and be buried together?
Gottesman: ‘James Webb owes you each 10 dollars.’ James is going to be mad if we end it that way. James, do you want answer this question?
Webb: What question?
You died. What do you want on your headstone?
Webb: Oh my god! Actually, I think this band will be greater appreciated years from now, which is a good thing. I don’t know. Whatever that means.
Gottesman: ‘Listen to us now; we’re probably better.’
Webb: Yeah, that would be the gist of it.
Blodgett: I like that one.
Gottesman: I can come up with a bunch of great epitaphs for other Industrial musicians. Like Tommy T. Rapisardi from DSBP and Diverje, I can think of so many great epitaphs for him. Tommy, if you ever die in such a way that leaves it open for me to write your epitaph, I’m totally doing it.