Oct 2015 19

Finite Automata speaks with ReGen on the band’s evolution over the years, culminating in the upcoming Dogma Eye album.
 
Finite Automata Promo - Blake Griffin

 

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.

Production value wise, I really had no fucking idea what I was doing when I came up with the material for that EP. When I first recorded those tracks, I literally had an old fuckin’ Equinox ACM-KB mixer, and Ensoniq ESQ-1, a copy of FL Studio, a shitty mic, and a lexicon MPX100 as a vocal processor. When we got around to recording it, we pretty much did it in my den at the time; no real professional recording at all. I tracked everything in Audacity. I had no idea how to EQ anything, nor did I have the funds to do it correctly. I didn’t really see the need back then either, because a throwback to early industrial was what I was going for, and the lo-fi sound kind of goes hand in hand with that. In retrospect, when I look back on that period, I see the value in actually taking time to go in and get the recording and mastering done professionally.
When we finally rehashed everything and did Recurse, we actually took our time to do it right. Vocals and guitars were tracked at Virtuo Sound Studio in Atlanta, GA by our friend Josh Hack. We had Eric Sochocki – formerly of Cryogen Second and Becoming the Devourer – master that LP for us. He did an amazing job on that; the difference was like night and day. He also mixed and mastered the last single that we did, ‘Second Circle.’ There’s this bassy undertone that he brought out in it, that I absolutely fucking love, that was not really in the original mix. The vocals were also tracked at Virtuo.
I see the Here Won No One EP as largely just a demo, and I think it hurt us for awhile because it was very amateurish, and looking back honestly, a sonically sloshy mess. Since then, my production ability has improved, so I look at what I did on that record and think, ‘What the fuck was I thinking?’ Moving forward, we’re certainly paying a lot of attention to production quality, which is why we are taking our sweet time with Dogma Eye (the next LP).

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?

Eschar: Back when I started the project in 2006, I was living in Pensacola Florida, and it was just me. I had about two other people working with me on and off. I think I went through about five people before 2007 and 2008 rolled around and that’s when I got my buddy Chris Stanley – a.k.a. c. Grendel – on board. He became my primary writing partner. I literally went to his house and said I need a keyboardist and he volunteered. He appeared on every record until Second Circle. We got my friend Mat Syn – a.k.a. Mat Pathetic – on board, and who was in a punk band. He started out doing guitars, but also started playing bass synths. In 2008-2009, he briefly left us because he didn’t really get along with Grendel. We drafted this guy named Victor Martinez I knew from college, and he took Mat’s place for our 2008 and 2009 live dates. Mat rejoined us in 2010. We mainly stuck to the Gulf Coast at that time. The trio of me, c. Grendel, and Mat Syn were the founding lineup. Since then, they’ve all left the band for various reasons. Miranda Pixley was our live keyboardist in 2012 and 2013 for our out-of-town dates because Grendel had effectively left the band for all practical purposes by then. When I moved to Atlanta, I got Scott on board, and he’s a seasoned musician having been in Skabdriver and Voodoo Velkro. It was good to have that experience to contribute to our talent pool; someone who’s done a lot of live shows before in other cities so I wasn’t just shooting blind.

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?

Eschar: I have always intentionally been cryptic in my execution, lyrically. Thematically, I’m intentionally open ended; even our logo is meant to be seen as many different things, and people do have different interpretations. I’m especially cryptic if I’m trying to convey emotion. Emotions are confusing things, and for me, I have an easier time writing my lyrics metaphorically than expressing exactly how I feel about a particular subject that troubles me because you cannot be accurate with emotions. They’re always blurred around the edges, like the event horizon of a singularity. They’re fucking confusing, so I want to convey that blurriness and confusion from almost an observational standpoint. Politically, there’s a lot of things I want to say. In regards to that, I basically write about what pisses me off.

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?

Storey: Everything has been done underneath the sun. I had this one friend in school who was a band kid, yet I was a theatre kid, tell me, ‘There’s only so many notes you can do, so mathematically speaking, there’s only so much music you can make.’ My theory is it can really only grow as the nature of the human experience changes. Culture is changing, there will always be war, there will always be love, and there will always be these conflicts we deal with. One thing I love about being in this band is we can use this established formula because it’s fucking industrial music, man, but being able to use older styles with newer technology and putting our own spin on it.

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?

Eschar: I guess I would touch mainly on distribution. For me, it’s not so much of a technology thing as it is a thematic thing. I don’t like that a lot of bands don’t really do full thematic albums anymore, and I think Matt Finale from Caustic said something to the effect of ‘the album format is dead.’ I disagree with him as I do still see a little of that in bands like our friends Die Sektor and the Void Trilogy. There’s a thematic thread tying it together. What I am getting at is technology has allowed bands to release individual songs in rapid succession, and the focus seems to be on quantity vs. quality now. I prefer albums that sound consistent and coherent. I think that gets sacrificed a lot. Again, I see a few bands starting to have songs thematically tie together in an album instead of just throwing songs on there to fill it up. It’s one of the many reasons that, even though we wrote Second Circle at the same time as Recurse, we didn’t release it with the album because, thematically, it did not tie in. My pet peeve with that kind of distribution technology is it allows people to release material quickly, but the zeitgeist gets flooded with parts that don’t tie into a bigger entity. It’s a blessing and a curse because I would not be where I am now if it wasn’t for the ability to use that technology. I guess I am a bit of a snob when it comes to that.

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

 

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