May 2019 28

With high profile appearances at Sanctuary and Mechanismus festivals, Steven Seibold speaks with ReGen about his self-sufficient methods toward making music and living a life free of compromise.
 

 

An InterView with Steven Seibold of Hate Dept., Muet, and Standalone.

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Never has Steven Seibold been one to mince words or march to anyone else’s beat but his own; perhaps for that very reason, he has been one of the underground music scene’s most prolific and respected artists. With an extensive list of credits ranging from vocals and instrumental performance to mastering and remixing, Seibold is perhaps best known as the founder and front man for coldwave act Hate Dept. since 1991. While the band’s activity has been sporadic, last releasing New Ghost in 2013 and a trilogy of remix companions in 2014, the influence of Hate Dept. on modern industrial/rock and electro-laden post-punk is absolutely palpable. He’s been a key figure in industrial supergroup Pigface, was a member of post-punk/rock act Damage Manual, took part in Iron Lung Corp.’s 2013 covers album Body Snatchers, and collaborated with wife Michelle Walters Seibold on her Missy Hell outlet. As if that weren’t enough, 2019 saw him participating in the new post-punk/rock outfit Muet with GoFight, Die Warzau, and Dead on TV members Daniel Evans and Vince McAley, as well as releasing a new synthwave solo outlet, Standalone. With high profile appearances at this year’s Sanctuary and Mechanismus festivals, Steven Seibold took the time to give ReGen Magazine his very candid insights on the state of modern music, his collaborative process, living in the “future” of 2019, and the imperative to maintain a self-sufficient way of working and living.

 

Let’s first talk about Hate Dept., which is slated to perform at this year’s Mechanismus. It’s been five years since we’ve heard from Hate Dept., since the 2013 release of New Ghost and the three remix volleys in 2014. What can you tell us about Hate Dept. since then, what sorts of changes you’ve gone through that have necessitated such a long absence? What can you tell us about the band lineup this time around – obviously, without spoiling any planned surprises you may have in store?

Seibold: Whoa! New Ghost happened in 2013… a long time ago. The biggest change, and perhaps obstacle that affects Hate Dept. continues to be social media. As much as I love Hate Dept. and the motivations behind it, I struggle with the messaging after 20 plus years. My foundational signals were of independence, personal responsibility, and rejection of authority. That’s not an easy sell to today’s adult post-industrial audience. I mean, I can and will continue doing it, but I ain’t preaching to the choir, if you know what I mean. Rah-rah politics can suck my dick.

New Ghost was the first Hate Dept. album in a decade, but instead of asking why so long, I’d like to ask what Hate Dept. means to you now versus when you first started the band? How do you feel the band has progressed or at least changed from what you originally envisioned? In what ways has that affected your outlook making music now – not just in Hate Dept., but in your many other outlets?

Seibold: As far as Hate Dept. is concerned, and who I am fundamentally, nothing has changed. As a songwriter and artist, I’m happy to have extended vacations from a genre that cannibalizes itself weekly over morality policing and imaginary principles. It’s embarrassing. I’m very, very pleased that the ‘new wave’ of electronic ‘post-industrial’ artists appear to spend more time writing and producing music than squawking about their values. The old wave – myself included – can sink to the bottom of the sea as soon as possible to let this artform breathe fire again.

 

 

Obvious question must be asked… what can you tell us about the future of Hate Dept.? Will there be a new album in the foreseeable future?

Seibold: Yes. I have written and recorded six new Hate Dept. songs that I’m simply calling 6 (also the sixth release for Hate Dept.). I’ve been feeling self-conscious about releasing it because I’m sick of my own shit. By the end of 2019, I will have been the featured voice on three albums. That’s too much ‘Seibold.’ Even I am wishing that I would just shut up for a minute.

This year has seen the debut of your new project, Standalone, which is a synth-driven new wave project. What can you tell us about Standalone, what inspired you to create music in this very specific style? As essentially a solo project, is the name indicative of that? What is your creative process with Standalone? In what ways would you say songwriting for Standalone differs from your other bands and projects, and how much of that is determined by the tools you use (synths, power tools, etc.)?

Seibold: This name has abundant meaning for me. It means stand alone, don’t follow, let others stand freely around you, be yourself, let others be themselves, mind yourself, let others mind themselves, act independently, encourage others to act independently, be self-sufficient, learn from others who are self-sufficient, and it means we are all alone. It means I don’t want to pretend that we’re all in this together. We are not. That said, Standalone isn’t about being angry or confrontational about these things – no alienation or screaming about it. I will celebrate the beauty of the struggle of life. I’ll sing and write about the loneliness of it all. The tools or instruments are just the tools. I love old synthesizers and old things in general and was happy to play every single note, drum, and clank on the record. It helps me bond with and refine what I want to say.

You released the album with Negative Gain Productions; what was it about this label that made you decide to release with them? How pleased are you with the partnership you now have with the label?

Seibold: In a way, Negative Gain planted some heavy seeds in my imagination. In 2016, Hate Dept. was invited to play Terminus in Calgary, where I took a cab ride with Micah Skaritka (one of the owners) and was reunited with an old friend and musical peer Roger Jarvis (the other owner). At this festival, I performed alongside the NGP artists – KANGA, Caustic, Cygnets, and learned about several others. Additionally, I had a very candid and heartfelt conversation with Chris Hewitt, who hosts that event, and I decided that I wanted some distance from whatever basket it is that Hate Dept. was in. That long weekend and continued conversations with Roger, Micah, and Chris were profoundly motivating. I would not have guessed that I would subsequently write and record songs that NGP would be interested in. So, I’m very humbled and happy that they were supportive and welcoming. NGP is great label with their finger on the pulse of electronic based music.

 

 

Onstage, Standalone also features drummer Ivan Kazak; tell us about your association with him, how you two met, and in what ways do you feel his drumming style complements the music of Standalone in the live environment?

Seibold: I met Ivan through a fellow Hate Dept. bandmate Nick Meade and have been lucky to have him play in Hate Dept. as well. He’s a Belarusian citizen and brings great discipline and energy to the stage for both projects. Having recorded live drums on the Standalone record, I might feel connected to the sound of playing with Ivan live. But, the solo thing is also very true to form as I’m playing as much of the sound as humanly possible.

There has been a ‘retro’ wave going on for some time, not just musically with synthwave and ’80s power rock, but even in movies/TV and technology with the resurgence of vinyl and even cassette. With Standalone being somewhat lumped into this (and at least taking influence from the ’80s and ’90s as is stated in the album description), what are your thoughts on these retro trends and how they are being approached and expanded on by the newer generation (assuming you’ve had the time or the interest, of course)?

Seibold: I love the trend of revisiting these older styles and sounds. However, the closer to mass popularity, the less impressed I tend to be. The ‘retrowave’ I listen to that has millions of views/listens sounds really safe and surgical to me. But, the retrowave/synthwave that sits closer to the punk ethos gives me the thrills. The truth for me as it relates to Hate Dept. is that I was influenced by synth music as a teen long before I could ever imagine the sound becoming abrasive enough to be suitable for the punk genre.

We are now in the year 2019 (Blade Runner, AKIRA, etc.). As electronic and industrial music have often explored themes of sociopolitical and technological upheaval, what are your thoughts now as we pass through time – in other words, how our perceptions of ‘progress’ and ‘the future’ change as the fictions of the past come and go?

Seibold: I’m waiting for the great awakening of man, my friend. Waiting for the day that we wake up and say, ‘We have caught up to our past idea of the future and are no closer to the great equilibrium. It’s time to embrace the greatness of chaos, as the Universe dictates.’ The music will lead or follow. Either way, it will be there, droning in the distance.

 

 

On the more stripped down side of things, you’ve started Muet with Daniel Evans and Vince McAley, who both have quite the extensive background in bands like Die Warzau and GoFight (and are now in Chemlab with Mike Love). To get a bit of history, how did you first hook up with them to start Muet? What was the songwriting process like for that album – was it entirely collaborative? What was the dynamic like between you and the other band members?

Seibold: Muet is the band I always fantasized about, being out there, somewhere. Daniel, Vince, Mike (at the time), and I all talked about writing music as a way to work through the loss of a good friend. Dan and Vince started meeting regularly and sending live recorded ideas of song bits, rhythmic patterns, chords, and noisy streams of consciousness. They were very prolific and diverse. I found it easy to write to because it was fresh and unlike what I do on my own. I wrote and sang lines or poems, whispered here and there, and sent them back. Daniel was quick to act as the producer and started wrenching the ideas into songs. I think Daniel and Vince had a better vision of where they wanted Muet to go, partly because they’ve worked together for a long time. I do wish we were closer and had more opportunity to play and experiment together. It’s a diplomatic, easy, and respectful ensemble, which now includes Abel Garibaldi, who is playing bass guitar with us and co-mixed the album with Daniel.

The sound of Muet is described as ‘American Noir,’ which strangely makes me think of the rootsy, folky sounds you’ve explored in Seibold the Terrible… which, of course, has been stated not to be a solo platform, but simply a showcase for you as the front man for Hate Dept. (bringing us full circle). Anyway… what sort of stylistic connections do you feel exist between the two (Hate Dept. in Muet), at least in as far as your mindset and the themes you are exploring with your songwriting? How much of that mindset is affected or influenced by working with Daniel and Vince?

Seibold: Well, almost nothing. Hate Dept. is me; it’s where I scream and question and confront and rant and alienate. Muet is Daniel, Vince, Abel, and I trying to musically communicate our way out of our own dark places. We agreed early on as a band to collectively create something that did not relate to anything we had done previously – together or separate. The themes are of lost love, unresolved endings, fatal mistakes, goodbyes… hardly Hate Dept. material. Stylistically, Daniel and Vince made it easy to go places I couldn’t have imagined because they were pushing their own boundaries.

You will be performing at Mechanismus, not just as Hate Dept. but with Standalone; first of all, how did you come to be part of this year’s festival? Secondly, what prompted the decision to perform in both projects for this event?

Seibold: I believed for a short while that I would need to use Hate Dept. to get shows for Standalone. So, I leveraged myself into performing as both. (Laughter) If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. Chris Harris from Project .44 and CONFORMCO is on the Mechanismus bill as well, and he reached out to see if Hate Dept. could be persuaded. So, in the end, he had to put up with my nonsense to make it happen.

 
Sanctuary Festival 2019, Milwaukee, WI
 
Sanctuary South Mini-Fest, Chicago, IL
 

When can audiences expect to see/hear Muet on tour? Or is that even a possibility right now? On the subject of touring, what have you found to be the major challenges with touring that have become more difficult as time goes on? What would be the logistics of a tour – for Muet, Standalone, or Hate Dept. – at this point?

Seibold: I’ll go straight to the heart on this with Standalone; a solo act or duo is much more economically feasible to get on the road… and also, a big motivator for me to make that what it is. I suspect that Muet has some tricks up its sleeve for getting out there to play. But again, it’s as though Muet will write its own rulebook and conceal the tracks we leave to get where we’re going. Where Hate Dept. is called, I will always try to assemble an angry little mob to get the job done. I feel very strongly about doing short regional tours with Hate Dept. to take the music to smaller cities and play with bands from those cities. Hate Dept. worked so hard and performed relentlessly to make real life connections. I miss that desperately.

 
Festival Banner (Updated)
 

Obvious question must be asked (and I fully expect you to reject or ignore this one)… everyone seems to be excited about the news of Pigface touring for the first time in 14 years, although the lineup has not yet been revealed. I don’t suppose you could give ReGen an inside scoop on this?

Seibold: I can give you this – Pigface does not disappoint; that’s not what it does.

You had also played a significant role in Michelle’s Missy Hell album, and besides being married, you two have worked together on and off the stage numerous times. As this was effectively Michelle’s solo debut, what was the songwriting process for that album – outside of production, how much of a role did you play in the musical composition? Will we hear more from Missy Hell soon?

Seibold: I was very happy to make the time for her as I’m a fan of her music. While she was learning to play bass guitar, she became inspired to write songs with that instrument as the foundation. When she got stuck here or there, she would sheepishly ask for help as I was writing and recording the score for a film at the time. She’s a great songwriter and reworked songs that were written with Chad Wilder when they shared Voodou together. I did play guitar and drums under her direction. I appreciated how dark she was willing to go stylistically and visually with her videos. She gave Missy Hell a proper introduction. It would be unfair for me to pressure her for more as she’s a busy person. She has started writing and experimenting with new material, so that’s the best indicator. She knows I’m here when she’s ready.

 

 

You’ve also had a hand in production, mixing, and mastering of numerous albums. Tell us about how your work with other artists has affected your outlook on music and the way you approach your own? Are there any artists/bands in particular that stand out in your mind? What do you look for in another artist/band that motivates you to participate in their creations?

Seibold: I love music and art. Music that resonates with me most is passionate somehow. It invokes an emotional response. So, I’m always listening closely to everything I hear. When it’s real, I can hear it. And, I truly love sharing artists that I discover that inspire me to keep pushing myself.

Outside of live performances, what’s next for you? What are you currently working on that you’re able to or would like to tell us about?

Seibold: The smart thing for me to do for the remainder of this year is not overplay my cards. I’ve been very blessed to see positive responses from both the Standalone and Muet records. My plan is to release Terrible Christmas just after Halloween – it’s a broken holiday album for the less cheerful. And, as you’ve stated, a priority for me is to get out there and play as much as I possibly can with Hate Dept., Muet, and Standalone. It haunts me… daily.

 

Steven Seibold
Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Hate Dept.
Website, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp
Muet
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube
Standalone
Facebook, YouTube
Missy Hell
Facebook, Bandcamp, YouTube
Pigface
Facebook
Negative Gain Productions
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube
Metropolis Records
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube
Sanctuary Festival
Facebook
Mechanimus
Website, Facebook, Twitter

 

Photography courtesy of Steven Seibold
Muet Band Photography by Kirsten Miccoli, courtesy of Kirsten Miccoli Photography

 

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