Finite Automata speaks with ReGen on the band’s evolution over the years, culminating in the upcoming Dogma Eye album.
An InterView with Mod Eschar and Scott Storey of Finite Automata
By Blake Griffin (UNEXBG)
Founded in 2006, Finite Automata has been steadily honing an aggressive and harsh style of industrial/rock. Having transitioned northward from Florida to Atlanta, GA, Mod Eschar has carried his band through several growing pains to develop his own distinctive sound, drawing heavily on the darker and more experimental sounds of industrial with a healthy dose of modern production stylings. Through several lineup changes, Finite Automata has made significant strides since the Here Won No One demo EP, culminating first in the Recurse album and the most recent Second Circle single, on which the band enlisted producer Eric Sochocki (Cryogen Second/Becoming the Devourer). ReGen Magazine had the privilege of speaking with Eschar and band mate Scott Storey about the band’s evolution over the last several years, touching on the advances in technology the band has employed along the way, the emotional focus of his lyrics, the death and resurrection of the album format, with a few hints of just what audiences can expect from the upcoming album, Dogma Eye.
So far, Finite Automata has three releases – what can you tell us about the development of the band’s musical and production style from 2010’s Here Won No One to the Second Circle single?
Eschar: This is a bit of a history lesson, so bear with me. Here Won No One was written mostly from material from before 2008 actually. I really didn’t start developing what I really wanted to do until around 2008 or 2009. We mainly just played a lot of shows and kind of just wrote to have material for those shows, and we didn’t really think we would get anywhere with it; we mainly focused on the live stuff. Records were an afterthought really. I began to take it seriously when we were asked to play FUIMF by Ben V. So we put out that first EP in 2010, and Beyond Therapy Records signed us and rereleased it again in 2011.
In what ways do you feel this development will be reaching its apex on the upcoming material?
Eschar: Well, like I said we’re taking our sweet time and doing it right. I actually know what I’m doing now. I’m assuming this question is from an aesthetics standpoint. I have a lot of concepts in my head of what I want to do, and always sort of have. I’ve gotten better at executing these concepts, getting individual elements to sound right, blending both new and old styles together. I have access to more talent having moved to Atlanta from Florida and that has helped me immensely improve the quality of the work. I am a self-taught musician, and I am actually pretty ignorant of music theory, so I’m literally just doing what sounds good to me. I will say, having worked on Dogma Eye, I have a lot less, as Ben V put it, ‘Nathan Explosion’ moments, where I completely shelve or delete a work because I’m grossly unsatisfied with the progress. I did that a lot back in the Here Won No One days, which is why after five years, I had only an EP to show for it. I don’t really feel like I will be reaching an apex. To say that would imply I have nothing new to learn or experience doing this, and as an artist I think saying I am reaching my apex is like saying there’s nothing to improve on and no higher I can go. I don’t like that idea. I think there’s always going to be growth. Apex implies a ceiling.
Similarly, tell us about how the live performance has evolved, both in terms of lineup and presentation? As I understand it, the lineup has shifted from the early incarnation, is that correct?
Storey: I joined the band in April of last year after having met Mod in 2013. When it came to the live performance, I was able to play and adjust things, but not much else as the majority of the stuff was written in 2008 or prior, but it’s been a good experience working with him and taking things further. This has been Mod’s baby, but with me stepping on board, and our powers combined… you know how the phrase goes.
Eschar: As far as our live stage presence goes, it hasn’t changed a whole lot. It’s just more compact and a little more visceral. Back when we were the local headlining industrial band in Pensacola, we had more elaborate shows because we could get away with it. I think we had five or six keyboards – big heavy ones – onstage at one point; almost my entire arsenal. We didn’t have more popular touring bands to share the stage with. With those kind of shows, the promoters want you on and off the stage as quickly as possible, so we had to condense our rig to be able to spread ourselves beyond the local scene. Touring with that amount of gear is just expensive as hell, so since then, we’ve scaled back our footprint considerably. It has been that way since we did the Medical Meat Tour back in 2012. There’s still the horror show aspect to what I do on stage, but I don’t rely much on bulky props anymore. I focus more on channeling the raw anger and try to portray a wider range of emotions now. That said, there’s still this tendency for me to be masochistic on stage. I usually walk away with a few scrapes and bruises.
Regarding the lyrical content, what would you say drives Finite Automata thematically? What have you noticed about how audiences have interpreted your themes?
Storey: I’m not big politically, but there are a number of things we draw a long and hard line on. There are certain things that piss us right the fuck off and Mod does a good job of conveying that without being preachy and being a dick about it. Mod does most of the music in the studio, and then I add to the live performance. I think it’s been a good formula so far.
Eschar: I don’t like being preachy at all, musically. From the get-go, I wanted to avoid being one of those bands that’s like, ‘This is how I feel, BLAH!’ I would rather the listeners interpret what they were feeling when they heard it rather than tell them what to feel. I’m not a huge fan of preachy music, with a few notable exceptions. I think the only real preachy song I wrote was ‘Here Won No One.’ It’s a direct attack on for-profit healthcare, but even then, I talk in metaphors and avoid going into a rant. People who know me have seen me go on tirades about subjects, but as far as my art goes, I like to avoid that kind of black and white thinking because I like hearing differing interpretations of the material. When you draw the line too dark, you aren’t inviting others to be a part of your art; you’re sort of slamming the door on their faces.
There is often a feeling that everything has been tried and experimentation in music is becoming more difficult; where do you feel music has yet to go, both conceptually and technically?
Eschar: One of the things I have set out to do with the more recent material is merge the old with the new. I wanted to bring it up to date, but still have that harshness, that slamming, pounding, visceral kind of stuff that I love from back in the earlier days. I can’t really say where it has yet to go because I’m not psychic. However, I love the current trend. The acts out there right now encroaching into in the limelight – Youth Code, 3TEETH, High-Functioning Flesh; I love every one of them. They are doing what I’ve been wanting to do since I started this project, so I am very excited to be a small part of that wave of industrial music. It’s certainly getting back to its roots. Some of them use exclusively hardware, and I can’t say I will follow that trend. My background is in computer science, so the laptop just feels more natural for me production-wise. I prefer combining it with older hardware to get that blend of new and old. As far as experimentation? Take a good hard look at what Zoog is doing with Angelspit. That guy comes up with some of the most ingenious contraptions and ideas to bring a fresh organic flavor to our scene. As long as people like him exist in electronic music, I think there will be experimentation by means of inspiration.
What are your thoughts on the way musicians are utilizing new technologies – not just in terms of instrumentation and production, but in terms of distribution and how they present their music to audiences? What have you found to be the major disadvantages to these developments in technology?
What’s next for Finite Automata?
Eschar: We’re hopefully going to be releasing Dogma Eye beginning of next year. We’re about eight songs deep into that album and almost ready to track vocals on a few of them. When we are satisfied with the quality of the songs, we’ll start performing them live, maybe releasing another single ahead of the album. We take our time because I don’t believe in forcing creativity and emotion. It sacrifices the trueness of the work. There’s stuff on the new album that’s very personal and very emotional. I just went through a pretty devastating breakup, so that’s definitely stained my thought processes with a kind of dark energy. The central theme is coercion and control, mainly from the standpoint of someone being manipulated, but I’m dovetailing into some ideas where I’m taking the role of the abuser. It’s definitely harder, more driving, and more aggressive. With the lineup changes over the years, people familiar with our other works will definitely see a change in the feel of the album. I’ve been toying with the concept of making it part of a trilogy. If Recurse was pure angst and anger at the state of the world and human relationships, then Dogma Eye is more of an introspective kind of album. ‘Why are we doing these things to each other? Why is this being done to me? Why am I doing this to you?” So I guess that’s the take away.
Photography by Blake Griffin – courtesy of Underexposed: Alternative Photography