Waging a vicious electro campaign against hypocrisy and injustice, New York’s FGFC820 speaks with ReGen on the development of their latest album.
An Interview with Rexx Arkana and Dräcos of FGFC820
By: Lüke Haughwout
When prominent New York DJs Rexx Arkana and Dräcos formed FGFC820 in 2004, the band embarked on an electrified mission to bring the stomp back to EBM and rally for truth in the wake of post 9/11 fear and war-mongering, combining searing synth leads and pulsating bass lines with powerful dance floor beats, topped off by a scathing distorted rasp delivering a message against governmental hypocrisy, injustice and complacency. Albums like Urban Audio Warfare and Law & Ordnance along with EPs like Defense Condition 2 and For Emergency Use Only play as soundtracks to the battlefield, supporting the troops, defying the administration and calling audiences to wave their fists and move their feet around the world, carrying the harsh EBM and aggro/electro sound to its utmost. With the band’s latest album, Homeland Insecurity, FGFC820 introduces new elements into the mix, from gabber to old school techno, with a healthy dose of melody without sacrificing their virulent trademark sound. While at the band’s performance at DefCon in their homeland of New York City, ReGen caught up with FGFC820 to get the lowdown on the development of Homeland Insecurity, their thoughts on the “war on terror,” and what’s next in their campaign to bring their aggressive and substantive music to the world.
FGFC820 is back with your first full length album since 2008, Homeland Insecurity. So what took so long?
Arkana: It’s difficult because, you know, I do a lot of traveling for work, and plus I have a family and everything, so we don’t…we’re not one of those bands that literally is in the studio every single day for a couple of hours. We’re in the studio a couple of hours every week, maybe, so it gets difficult to try to establish a momentum. And that’s what took so long on this record, just figuring out which direction we wanted to take it, of all the possible directions we had laid out.
Dräcos: There was definitely a lot of, like, self-critique on our part, because we want to put out the best possible product for our fans, because they show us a lot of love; we want to show them a lot of love back.
How has the FGFC820 sound evolved since the last release?
Arkana: I think the new album, Homeland Insecurity, has more variance in style than the previous two records. I mean, all of our records are sort of concept records in a way, but musically, we did some different things on this record than we’ve done on the other records. So, it still has the trademark sound, but…
Dräcos: Yeah. Yeah, I wanted to try some different stuff, like kind of gabber kind of sounds. He wanted to try some kind of more moodier things. Yeah, but the trademark sound is still there; just a little variance or variation on it.
What is your creative process? And how do you narrow down from countless sonic choices to the FGFC820 sound?
Dräcos: This one, a lot of music was written, and it took a long time to filter through it all and decide which ones we were going to actually use. Like, a lot of the time, it’s just a melody and a bass line written first and then adding some beats later. And then I’ll play a bunch of stuff for Rexx and he’ll decide, ‘OK, that one’s cool. That one’s not so cool,’ kind of thing like that. Then once we find something we both agree on, we’ll kind of start fleshing it out into a full track. As far as like gear, we don’t have the best gear, so a lot of the sounds are created by layering like three or four sounds together to make just one lead line or whatever, you know. We start out with some stupid little cheap synth and then start layering it with another one and keep adding on and adding on and kind of build the sound from there.
Arkana: A lot of times, he comes up with stuff on his own and I’ll come over and I’ll listen to it, and, you know, some things we say, ‘OK, well this is an 820 track or a possible 820 track,’ and some things we’ll be like, ‘This is more of a Brüderschaft sound, so maybe this is something for Brüderschaft.’ Or we’ll say, ‘This is really good, but it’s not us; it’s neither of those products.’ So we just sort of shelve it, put it in a folder somewhere in case we ever start like, I don’t know, a pop band or something. We ended up with maybe 50 sketches or so for this album, and we had to whittle it down to about 10 that we really liked, and that was sort of a process. Some of those things got bumped out along the way, and some things sort of got bumped and came back.
Dräcos: Our first track on there, ‘Call to Glory,’ that was written a couple of years ago and was pretty much all fully recorded, whereas like the ballad on the album, ‘Love Until Death,’ that was pretty much recorded at the last minute, right before we sent it off to the label.
Is the title of your new album just a play on words? Or are you trying to say something more about the USA and the so called ‘war on terror?’
Arkana: Homeland Insecurity was sort of the first thing that popped into my head when the department was created. It’s just such a pathetic lie. The homeland is definitely not more secure than it was at the onset of this ‘war on terror.’ If anything, we’re sacrificing our own; people are willingly sacrificing their own constitutional civil rights for the illusion of protection from an enemy that, in part, doesn’t even exist, and in part is nothing more than the product of the administration. In a lot of ways. The thing that irritated me in the wake of 9/11 was this; believe me, I worked blocks from the World Trade Center, so I was ready to pick up a gun and go over there and shoot some people myself, so don’t mistake my message, but this whole rallying cry of ‘they hate us for our freedom’ is just such bullshit. No, they hate us because of our foreign policy and they hate us because of who we’re allies with. And it’s really quite simply that.
FGFC820 has been able to play many shows and festivals around the world, including some countries that aren’t typically associated with industrial music. How do you explain your success at developing an international following?
Arkana: To get to that point, you have to play a lot of small clubs in front of 20 people, you know, and you hope that maybe two or three of those 20 people leave the show thinking that you’re one of the best bands they’ve ever seen, and they tell a couple of friends and you work on the law of averages. You hope you can build up momentum, because there’s really…in this scene, the only way you can really reach out and make an impact with an audience aside from having an Internet presence, because that’s become critical, but is really still the same traditional stuff. It’s club play and it’s live shows. And, you know, we’ve had a lot of people say to us over the years that they were like, ‘I thought I liked FGFC820, and then I saw you guys live and I realized that I didn’t even have half an idea of what you were about.’ We’ve been very fortunate to reach as large of an audience as we have, and we played a show in Lima, Peru. And my daughter said, ‘Why are you going to Lima, Peru to play an industrial show?’ She said, ‘It’s nothing but like farmers with babies on their backs and stuff.’ And we were kind of like, ‘Yeah, who’s going to be there, you know?’ But we were really surprised how many people were there. They all knew all the words, and now there’s talk about going back to South America and doing seven or eight countries down there, which is something we’re really excited to do, because bands go and play Europe and European bands come and play the USA, and some people play Mexico, but to actually go down and do Santiago, to do Buenos Aires, to do Lima again, to do Bogotá, it’s something we’d really like to do.
Dräcos: Probably one of the biggest parts I like about going out and playing these shows is just meeting new people and trying new things, going around the world and doing these different things and stuff. I mean, I never would have thought I would be driving a Mercedes on the Autobahn or going to the top of the Aztec pyramids, but it’s all been possible because promoters and our fans just hook us up, and we’re not like the type of band that just wants to go sit backstage and just be all rock star types. We want to go out there and actually mingle and meet new people and stuff like that, and ‘Why do you like us?’ and stuff like that, and ‘Here, have a beer, hang out with us.’ It definitely gives us a better grip on like what kind of music we want to produce and what kind of people we’re producing for.