Jan 2012 21

As Baltimore’s premiere cybercore quartet, Machines of Living Death introduce us to their mechanized menace, paving the way for a satisfyingly and musically violent future.

An Interview with Matthew “Zombot” Marzolf and Tony “Cancer” Mallory

By: Ilker Yücel

Extreme metal and industrial music rarely go hand-in-hand, although given the propensity for both genres to rely heavily on dark sonic and thematic atmospheres and percussive complexity one would wonder why they shouldn’t. Granted, there is a long history of industrial and metal merging – or at least adopting certain traits of each other – and finding success in each other’s particular niches, yet it somehow remains just under the radar of the majority. Joining the ranks of the industrial/metal hybrid are Baltimore, MD’s Machines of Living Death.

Since the band’s inception in 2008, M.O.L.D. have steadily risen to become a premiere entity in the Baltimore underground, combining the audio violence of black and death metal with the intricate programming and ambiance of electro and drum & bass to create a style often referred to as cybercore. Drawing upon influences as diverse as Skinny Puppy, Fear Factory, Ministry and Slayer, M.O.L.D.’s sound is a juggernaut of abrasion that has opened for the likes of Hanzel und Gretyl and Celldweller, as well as various local and East Coast metal events, presenting a visual onslaught of technical terror and mechanical menace. Releasing the EOF(29A) debut in early 2009, the band underwent a major overhaul as bassist V5.0 and vocalist Ghost v2.0 joined the following year. This lineup would produce the Re:boot.20.11 EP in 2011, featuring three new songs, several remixes, and a cover of the Slayer classic “Raining Blood.”

Founding members Zombot and Cancer now speak to ReGen on the band’s evolution since the debut, offering audiences a teaser for just what the Machines of Living Death will be conjuring up on their second full-length album in 2012.

Your most current release is the Re:boot.20.11 EP, featuring several remixes, a cover of Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood,’ and three new M.O.L.D. songs. Before we discuss how the new lineup came together and how that affected the way the new material compares to that of the EOF(29A) album, how would you define the musical/technical evolution undergone by the band between the two releases?

Zombot: I’d say the material this time around is really about exploring the extremes of the different genres we’ve incorporated, seeing how far we can mangle it, twist it up, and spit it out. We’ve gotten more comfortable in what we want to do and integrating different pieces of tech together.

Cancer: We were trying to bring what we found that worked to the table, compositionally and production-wise. Production-wise, we switched DAWs to Ableton Live 8, thankfully, and for me, it made it much easier to compose, record, and share files that we would eventually use. Evolution-wise, with the EOF(29A) album, much of that material Matt had written before we met. On Re:boot.20.11, it was much more balanced in terms of ‘who bought what’ to the table; a great example being the lyrics for ‘Red Queen,’ which Ghost wrote.

In the current lineup, Ghost v2.0 and V5.0 are the new members, though they’ve been part of the band now for quite some time. How did they come to join and in what ways have their contributions strengthened the band and its music?

Zombot: Ghost has brought a bit more versatility to the vocals and is an awesome front man. We really had issues connecting with an audience before, and he’s really helped in that regard, being our interface with the crowd. V5.0 is like a rock, a crucial cog. He ties the synth, guitar, and drum work together really well.

You’ve had a number of high profile shows in the past couple of years, opening for heavy hitters like Celldweller and Hanzel und Gretyl, to local metal shows. As your sound combines elements from extreme metal, drum & bass and industrial (‘Cybercore,’ if you will), what have you found to be the major challenges in presenting your music to specific audiences? What have you noticed in the way that audiences respond to your music when you perform live? Does the disparity between the diverging/converging styles ever factor in?

Zombot: The biggest challenges have been sound/production issues. Some sound guys are really good, but some want to treat an electronic drum kit like an acoustic set, not realizing that the production has largely been done during the sound design stage and they just need to balance it to fit the foibles of the venue. Style-wise, we’ve crossed over well once the production issues got hammered out. I was a little surprised at how well Celldweller’s crowd responded, considering how hardcore they are, and they’re a lot more straight electro than us. HuG’s been good to us, and we have more shows coming with them. The metal crowd has started to get into it as well and really respond, too.

In relation to the different styles at work in your music, what are your thoughts on the way that metal and industrial and its derivations have evolved over the years? In what ways do you feel a band like M.O.L.D. fits into this evolution?

Zombot: M.O.L.D. is really my reaction to the direction of metal’s evolution, or maybe even lack of it. I hate to say it hasn’t evolved, as it certainly is different than it was 15 years ago, but I feel it has painted itself in a corner. The production has improved, as well as the technique, yet the majority of metal artists have all started striving for that same ‘perfect metal sound.’ The drums all sound the same, probably using the same triggered samples, hyper compressed as well, although that’s become a staple of the music industry all over. I remember when all the Earache bands were coming out and there was such diversity in sound between bands like Napalm Death, Carcass, Pestilence and Morbid Angel. It was really worthwhile tracking down their influences or driving across two states to see the nearest tour date. Now, you pop in a metal comp and maybe it’s the sign of my age, but it all sounds so similar. The industrial scene fell victim to this as well, to a degree. It really should be called the EBM or dance scene, as the trademark sound of industrial music has disappeared. It really was a product of the limitations of equipment at the time – the repetitive, staccato minimalist sound all due to low resolution sequencers and near to little RAM on samplers. It led to creative methods to get the most out of limited resources to add life to music, though. Now people just buy 10 gigabyte loop packs and puzzle them together. I got my first sampler, plus a drum brain, back when I was doing pretty straight up death metal, and told myself, ‘Man, the things that could be done would be awesome, as far as sound design, experimentation.’ Then Fear Factory came out and I got really pumped; especially seeing them on tour with Reynor Diego just tearing it up live with his sampler. After the remix album, they just went away from the trail they seemed to be blazing, and I was a bit disappointed. M.O.L.D. was and is an experiment in taking the heavier elects of different genres and seeing how they stack up together, perhaps resulting in some exponential effect. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s just plain awful. Sometimes it kicks your ass incredibly, though.

Cancer: To start, let me say that I LOVE the current crop of prog and metalcore bands – Born of Osiris, Periphery, Whitechapel, etc. We have a great scene for that stuff in Baltimore, which is awesome. That said, metal in general nowadays is produced almost completely electronically, almost to the point where it’s almost dishonest. The drums are created using Toontrack software, the guitars are recorded using Pods and Axe-FXs, and nothing is mic’d with the exception of the vocals. The thing is, this is largely hidden from the fans, yet their live presentation hasn’t really changed from the ‘wall of amps’ mentality that Judas Priest had in the ‘80s. Inversely, you have bands like Angelspit banging on pieces of metal and found items to create tones for their recent album, yet I don’t think they’d ever bring that stuff live, and they have a live drummer who didn’t appear on their last album. Granted, one reason for the above may be logistics, but I think the secondary reason is fan expectation and a fear that if certain things aren’t done that their income may be affected. This is slowly starting to change, especially now that bands are starting to realize that their ‘fans’ are largely just other musicians. It still bugs me a little that we get ‘funny looks’ from other bands when an electronic drum set appears; meanwhile, their own drums have been quantized to death in Superior Drummer.

With M.O.L.D., for me, my thought process is ‘Why not be honest about this? Why not be honest about our tools? Why not invoke the future, instead of the past?’ It’s a waste of stage space to have empty cabinets. It never made sense to me to trigger acoustic drums (it’s like putting a pickup in an acoustic guitar to play metal). It doesn’t make sense to ‘hide the computer’ (those ‘ghost’ sounds have to be coming from somewhere, right?). In a way, metal and industrial’s ‘evolution,’ if you will, has been ‘How can we best lie to our audience.’ in M.O.L.D., I refuse to do that. In my opinion, there is too much potential for cool stuff and cooler directions to not completely embrace the tech we use. Using computers for music is not uncharted territory, but incorporating that tech to make a compelling live show that doesn’t turn into karaoke is.

Your live show also has had a strong visual component, utilizing projections that range from computer graphics to montages/collages of violent imagery (reminiscent of Skinny Puppy’s ‘Worlock’ video). In what ways do you feel these visuals complement the music, not just in terms of the style, but pertaining to the subjects you explore in the lyrics and your ‘mission’ as a band?

Zombot: There’s the obvious tech implication that people take from the band name and our use of electronics, and crossover into those genres supports that, but we’re not just a sci-fi band. Horror is also a big element, and really, sci-fi and horror have run in parallel with a degree of crossover, much like metal and industrial music have. There’s also the impaction of the dehumanizing effect of technology, not necessarily in a bad way, although, sometimes it’s very bad but oh so engrossing. There is also the fact that the brain’s consumption and retention of something is far greater with a combined audio/visual stimulant than either individually. The explosive success of MTV in the ‘80s in an excellent demonstration. I also simply wanted to assault as many senses as possible at the same time, and the extreme visual elements are there to really hammer it home.

You also produced a video for the Prepare.Commence.Erase mix of ‘Judgement Day,’ which is featured on the Re:boot.20.11 EP. Similar to the previous question, in what ways are the visuals of the video complementary to M.O.L.D.’s music and mission? Why produce a video for a remix instead of one of the original tracks?

Zombot: It was a pretty good remix. Also, the original material was out for a year, and I felt it would be better for the video if it was something newer and that reflected where things were progressing. Plus, it was a pretty good remix! Others have used remixes for videos. Prong did a video for the Fuzzbuster mix of ‘Prove You Wrong,’ and it was really good, although it was a shame you couldn’t buy that mix anywhere. Megadeth did a Gristle mix video that, despite being far superior to the original track, didn’t get much airplay. So there’s a precedent. Plus, it was a pretty good remix.

On the EP, you cover Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood.’ While Slayer’s influence can most certainly be felt in your music, what was it about this particular song that you decided to cover it (as opposed to any other song)?

Zombot: I was listening to ‘Raining Blood,’ and you have that halftime breakdown in the middle that has defined metal. Everyone has done it. Whole genres are built around it. I listened and wondered if instead of that guitar going ‘gsh-shun, gsh-gshun,’ could you scratch a record to that rhythm just right, would it be just as heavy? Ultimately, I couldn’t get the idea to work, but we felt that we should do our take on the song anyway.

Also included are five remixes (or rather, two with one in multiple versions). Tell us about the band’s reaction to them and how you felt they enhanced the sound of M.O.L.D. Was there a particular reason the one remix was featured in four versions (one long version that encompasses the other three)?

Cancer: Zombot and I first heard the Prepare.Commence.Erase remix shortly after it was completed, and I remember both of us being pretty much speechless afterward, so clearly it had to go on the EP. As for the sound of the band, much like how ‘Raining Blood’ gave us ideas for directions artistically, that remix, for me anyway, provided ideas and a goal to shoot for as far as production. I’d love for our future albums to have a ‘M.O.L.D.ified’ version of that production.

As for Rampmeyer’s remixes, this is a good time to back up a little. So, somewhere between when V5.0 and Ghost joined, I realized that as a band, we never really went through a demo stage. We never went through a period of just giving out demos for people to listen to without them having to be at a show or without them having to make a buying decision first, and then listening to a CD to decide if they liked us as a band. We were getting a lot of interest, but we were also getting people who were on the fence; maybe they heard something they liked, but they weren’t 100 percent sure, so we were losing out to their beer money (which as a fan I completely understood). Once I realized this, the EP became not only a demo, but a great way to bring people up to speed with what we’re doing now, since at that point EOF(29A) has been out for about two years. Rampmeyer did all of these versions of ‘Symbiot,’ and we liked all of them, so I figured why the hell not? Besides, it would’ve been a shame to waste the space on a CD. DJGX’s remix is like an aural nail to the head. In contrast, Rampmeyer’s have all of these dark, trance-like elements to them. That the source material for both of them came from the same band still cracks me up today.

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