Chemical dependency, classic rock and jazz, video games, and a disdain for the status quo all come together to form the basis of [0PT-0UT].
An Interview with Gabriel Perry and Matt McClure of [0PT-0UT]
By Ilker Yucel
Gabriel Perry has been teetering on the edge of the underground music scene for quite some time now. Perhaps best known for his aggressive mix of noise and classical music samples in Hindu Pez, he exemplifies the spirit of the independent artist, having self-released a number of albums, EPs and remix collaborations, as well as appearing on a small number of compilations, most notably MoMT Records’ Songs from the Hydrogen Bar. Having embarked on a tour in support of the abUSE EP, Perry’s shows presented a great deal of harsh electronic energy, but it was in the performances featuring vocalist Matt McClure that a new dynamic was being formed, culminating in the two forming a new band: [0PT-0UT]. Highly improvisational and featuring Perry performing live guitar overtop his sonic constructions, with McClure bellowing out an intense set of distorted lyrics, it would not be long before [0PT-0UT] would take on its own identity, resulting in the release of a self-titled EP in the summer of 2011. Currently performing along the East Coast and working on a full-length debut, Perry and McClure speak to ReGen about the formation and creative process of the band, offering insights into their diverse range of influences and the state of the current industrial music scene.
Let’s start with a little back story. How did [0PT-0UT] come together? How did the two of you meet and what prompted you to work together in this band? As well, how did the musical style come together between the two of you?
Perry: I lived with Matt for a few years. I was actually his first roommate, back in our mid 20’s. We’d known each other through the goth/industrial scene and liked a lot of the same bands, both local and national. We initially clicked on a musical level, but then found that we had a lot more in common than just music – our mutual disdain for organized religion, the boredom caused by how bad the radio is, love for horror movies, classic NES/SNES/SEGA video games, even the kind of women we’re into! It’s only natural that we’d end up on the same stage together.
Matt had known a lot of talented people over the years, and had talked about how he’d wanted to make music for a long time. I think he needed the initial kick in the ass to get started, and I luckily turned out to own the right size-boot to do it.
I was doing a lot of Hindu Pez gigs when we started experimenting, initially with no band/project name. We’d sit in the apartment and just jam, drinking heavily and experimenting with sampling, different VSTs, and creating whatever came out. It made sense over time to try it live. I’d bring him on and we’d do a song or two at the end of Hindu Pez gigs, just to see how the crowd reacted. We found that it was more powerful and caused a more immediate reaction than Hindu Pez did. Once we’d decided that we’d do a project full on, I started churning out songs that I’d e-mail to him to get a reaction. It sort of snowballed from there.
I think our sound came together simply by not thinking about it. I’d make a track, we’d sit on it, look at Matt’s archive (yes, archive – the dude’s lyrics collection is like Dr. Dre’s beat collection) and figure out how it would sound, strictly as the song required. It was sort of like how punk bands did it in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s: do it, react to it later. We both found that more interesting, especially in recording; record what came out, tweak it as necessary. Never question it, other than to say, ‘Is this good? Bad? Does it need work?’ I think if we were to sit down a lot of seriously original artists, we’d find that they’ve probably taken the same approach.
McClure: Our friendship began where all true rivethead friendships begin – around some metal dumpsters behind a dirty venue. This one was the now defunct Nancy Raygun in RVA. I was there in support of some local noise-making friends who went by The Minus Men. Gabe was opening for them as Hindu Pez. We initially spoke while he was toting gear in, and we exchanged compliments of each others patches and buttons of classic ‘80s and ‘90s industrial bands. As soon as I heard his signature noisy racket begin, I knew he needed some seriously crazy vocals to accompany his psychotic beats.
We quickly realized it wasn’t just music we had in common. We’ve both had many similar life experiences which have shaped our world views and left the same stale sick tastes on both of our tongues. Also, we are both probably on some fundamental level completely insane. This is a good thing, and I think most people are afraid to fully embrace that realization. Lucky for us, we are the same type of crazy and I think that’s what makes [0PT-0UT] work so well.
I have written volumes of poetry over the years that I always knew would turn into some great songs one day. I’ve never been very musically inclined. Gabe, on the other hand, is a true noisemaker with not much of a knack for lyrics. After some more similar life experiences left us in the same house trying to psychoanalyze each other’s minds with chemicals and horror films, we realized it was necessary to put some words to some beats and exorcise the demons.
I was initially brought on at the end of Hindu Pez sets to test the waters and build my confidence. We quickly learned that what we were doing was working well, so we went to work even harder. Those waters have since built up into a tidal wave and may some god have mercy on the poor souls inhabiting this shore.
McClure is the vocalist/lyricist, while Perry is the musician. How does this dynamic work between the two of you? Are there ever any points where you contribute in the other’s capacity?
McClure: I’ve always been attracted to music with lyrics and vocals that are less structured and more poetic. I’ve also always identified with the vocalist of the bands I listen to and have always seen myself fronting a band. I just kept searching until I found someone with the other boot on the other foot who could express the same ideas and visions I have through music. I think we’ve employed the same set up and dynamic so many other successful bands have also used, and so far it seems to be working for us as well. As we both learn more about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, I think there will be more contribution to the other’s territory, but it will probably always remain mostly my lyrics/vocals and mostly Gabe’s programming/noise.
Perry: Matt and I have talked about this at great length. Most bands, most great bands, are primarily run by two people. The Beatles: Lennon/McCartney. The Rolling Stones: Richards/Jagger. Skinny Puppy: Ogre/Key. Being that I’m the musician and Matt’s the lyricist/vocalist, we work off of each other. ‘Does this synth work with what you’re trying to say or convey here? Are your lyrics going to work with this nasty wall of guitars ‘n’ synths?’ It’s really a matter of realizing what your strengths and weaknesses are in your talent and working with or against them. I’m not a lyricist at all. I know what I’m trying to say, musically. Matt knows what he’s trying to say, but needs a vehicle to deliver these things. It’s a perfect blend.
For Perry, [0PT-0UT] presents something of a different musical style for you from that of your other projects, Hindu Pez being a mix of classical samples and harsh electronics, and DeathHouse Blues being a form of blues/rock. How difficult is it for you to balance your musical influences within a given project?
Perry: I actually don’t worry much about the balance as far as the difference between [0PT-0UT] and Hindu Pez. They’ve both got the same electronic elements, so the only real difference is that one has guitars and vocals and the other doesn’t. At this point in my endeavors, I just work to make the best music I can, as sincerely as I can. No more, no less. Whatever comes out comes out. Obviously, I’m making music for myself, first and foremost. I don’t see the point in setting parameters between each project.
I will say, however, that with Deathhouse Blues, it’s obviously much more homegrown, improv-oriented. We’re playing 12-bar blues, you know? And that can be fun, because I’m not tied to a backing track. It’s my chance to relax, let someone else take center stage, and let sounds flow as they come out. I’m also getting back to my roots as a guitar player and tapping into that Hendrix ‘68/’69 vibe: high-gain, wah-wah leads that makes your amp scream like a girl on prom night. Ooh!
For McClure, your vocal style is very distinct, less melody-based and seemingly concentrating more on aggression, bearing an almost punk-like feel. In what ways do you feel this style best conveys the lyrical themes you’re exploring?
McClure: I think that is what this particular set of tracks called for; anger, aggression, and abuse. It was a deliberate decision on both of our parts to take this first album in that direction. We were going for a very raw sound and punk feeling for a reason. We were using this album to explore the archetype of suicide and what the darkest thoughts we had both had in some of our lowest moments were. We were also using this as a vehicle to deal with experiences that were current and very real for us at that time, with two mutual friends of ours who were fighting the same internal battle. One of those friends barely escaped that battle — and not unscarred – and the other is no longer here with us physically. Those are some of the most basic primal emotions and are part of all of us in this human experience, whether we are brave enough to admit that to ourselves and come to terms with it or not. If I hadn’t gotten those words out and on paper, I might not be here now, and if Gabe and I hadn’t made this album to deal with those experiences, we may have been forced to deal in more drastic and less healthy ways. So the subject matter called for the lyrics to be delivered in that manner.
How do you feel you will evolve your vocal style?
McClure: As far as evolving my vocal style, that is always one of my prime goals within this project and anything else I may end up doing. Unless you have a damn good reason, why repeat yourself? If it’s already been done and you can’t do it better or completely different, than what the hell is the point? I’ve done my punk, raw anger, all screaming album. We are already working on the next album and using different styles to represent different subject matter.
The album features the guitar rather heavily, even delving into solos during the interludes in ‘So What.’ As guitars tend to be more textural in hard electronic and industrial music, how would you define your approach to the guitar in [0PT-0UT]?
Perry: I think a lot of industrial bands are afraid to put the guitar in the forefront. Being that I’m primarily a guitar player, I’ve made a conscious effort to find an exact 50/50 balance between guitars and programming, both live and in the studio. I feel that most bands in this genre (or at least in the machine rock side) feel that you should be strictly mechanical; your guitars must sound chopped and processed, your vocals must be over-processed, or you’re simply not doing it right. Boring! I scoff at that. That’s partially why we’re so proud of our debut EP, because it’s flawed, it’s rough, and there’s that even balance between guitars and programming. It’s human and therefore not perfect. What’s interesting about an album that’s so overproduced in Pro-Tools that there are not enough layers for you to uncover? Yawn. Go fuck yourself! Make something interesting, already!
Both of you mention a certain amount of chemical usage in the course of your life, friendship, and musical partnership. It might be cliche to simply label it as a ‘sex, drugs, and rock & roll’ lifestyle, but the world of music (and art in general) does seem to have an affinity for drinking and drugs. Industrial music, like some of your classic rock and blues roots, does feature its fair share of it. What are your thoughts on the way that chemical usage plays a part in people’s lives, not just from an artistic/musical standpoint, but throughout? How much do you feel this has an effect on the two of you and how you relate not only to each other but to your own creative impulses?
McClure: It’s the age old question: Which came first, the hatred and self-loathing or the drug usage? Do I use drugs to escape and deal with negative emotions that eat away at my soul or am I angry and hate-filled because I am an addict and an alcoholic? Honestly, it’s just been this way so long that I can’t even remember and I’m not sure that I even care. It is just the way it is. As far as helping or hindering the creative process, I think there is plenty of both going on. It’s just give and take. Am I really addicted to drinking and drugs? I definitely use my fair share of both. I believe addiction is defined as when the negative aspects of any behavior start outweighing the benefits. As for me, at least for now, it seems to be working. We all have our vices, and I am certainly enjoying mine. As far as the two of us, both in our friendship and in this project, there is always a third member: a chemical beast that sits in the shadows gnashing its teeth.
For McClure, you’ve said that you’ve done your punk/screaming album. How difficult was it to maintain this style of vocals for the length of the album, especially at the risk of possibly damaging your voice? Most musicians have certain exercises to warm up, stay in practice, etc. Are there any that you employ as a vocalist?
McClure: I never set out to have any particular style on the EP. I just let the words I had written down come out vocally however they wanted to. They just came out in a snarling angry mess because that’s how everything I was dealing with felt at that time. Likewise, I am very much aware that damage can occur, but I never researched any techniques or talked to anyone else about vocals. I just used my voice in a way I felt was natural and didn’t push myself in any way I felt was too far. We practice regularly but for short periods of time. My advice for anyone who wants to scream into microphones is: fuck technique, just employ some common sense. A migraine or the taste of blood in your throat is always a pretty good indication that you should stop screaming your face off. Also, some recreational chemicals have numbing qualities. If you can afford good ones, I would highly recommend purchasing some.
Who are your influences as a vocalist, or to put it another way, which vocalists do you feel have presented a style and/or evolution of style that inspires you?
McClure: Speaking of permanently damaged voices, as well as influential vocalists, Ogre comes to mind. Even with a damaged voice, he continues to create some very interesting works. I wish Chad Kroeger from Nickelback would permanently damage his voice or at the very least create something interesting.
Similarly, for Perry, you’ve mentioned your background as a guitarist and drawing from the ‘68/’69 style – Hendrix, the Stones, etc. As well, you cited Skinny Puppy and then Dr. Dre. I know your musical tastes are very diverse and unrestricted, while many seem to adhere to notions of exclusion; ‘I like everything except rap and country,’ or ‘I can’t listen to anything with guitars,’ etc. What are your thoughts on the way other musicians in this style of music (industrial, harsh electro, whatever term applies) own up to their influences and present them in their music?
Perry: I think if you really study any given album, you’ll be able to pick apart certain things and figure out where they’re from. Ever listen to Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails? It’s got hip-hop all over it. What about Ministry’s Filth Pig? Major Godflesh influence. The real trick is to not let other people’s music soak into yours.
I listen to so much music, and I work really hard to not let things shine through too much. I think my records would end up being train wrecks if I allowed my influences to shine through heavily. Can you imagine listening to a cross between Gorgoroth, Wu-Tang Clan, and John Lee Hooker? Yeah, that’d be a terrible mess. What about Chopin, Fu Manchu, The Dave Brubeck Quartet and Atari Teenage Riot? The thought of that racket does not strike me as possibly being pleasing.
It’s okay to nod to your favorite bands or artists, but blatantly stealing their styles or formula is really cheap behavior. After all, we’re not Combichrist.
McClure mentions using the music and the lyrics as a means to deal with certain experiences that you might’ve dealt with in less healthy ways otherwise. This seems to be the function of art throughout the ages. For both of you, what are your thoughts on the state of art and music currently? Where do you feel that we have yet to go, or at least, what sorts of artistic developments – musical or otherwise – would you hope to see within your lifetime?
Perry: I’d like to see bands exploring more sonic territory and not being afraid to take risks. I think bands create certain parameters for themselves, subconsciously, while working, and it makes them end up in a box. Then you end up with a band that’s got 14 of the same album. What’s the point? That’s what happened to KMFDM. Great band with great albums that are pretty consistent, but they’re basically the same thing, repackaged over and over. Why? Do something different, dangerous. Alienate people. Don’t attempt to live up to unrealistic expectations that fans have. Don’t push the envelope. Set it on fire!
McClure: I am already seeing and hearing the kind of art and music that I need in order to motivate me. Great art always exists; you just have to dig a little bit to find it. That’s what is so great about the age we exist in. Tools like the Internet make it easy to find whatever it is you are searching for. I’ve always been more entertained and fulfilled by music that is counterculture or anti-mainstream, but that shit on the radio serves its purpose as well. Fecal-sucking garbage has to exist in order to have something to compare and contrast meaningful artwork with. Of course, having something to hate and retaliate against is also necessary in order to create.
Perry: We’re about three songs in right now. It’s a process: slow, agonizing, tedious, but worth it. We’re not in a hurry to churn something out. We’re still in our infancy as a band, and I see no need to rush. When it’s done, you’ll get it. No sense in giving yourself an impossible deadline.
The previous stuff was all done on my own with bringing Matt in after. With the new material, we’re doing everything in the same room, one song at a time, using the concept for each track to be the guidepost to where we’re trying to take it, for good or ill.
I’m using a large mixture of drum machines, not just the TR-909 and the TR-808, but also some weirder drum tones borrowed from different albums, some outdated drum machines that sound like something ripped out of one of those chamber organs, and some other bits and bolts of static. I’m also using drum loops as a texture behind the machines, so the rhythm sections of the songs are very dense. For synths, I’m using a lot of older style ‘80s synths, VST versions, and avoiding using what other bands in the machine vein are using. It’s a little challenging but fun to work with these weird synths, tweaking them to squeeze out strange tones out of them.
The songs are a lot tougher, a lot noisier, and a lot prettier all at the same time, if that makes any sense, heavily conceptual, very dark in story and in mood, with an equal balance of machine, guitar, and samples. It will hurt you!