May 2018 22

With a new album and as one of the premier acts on the bill for this year’s PIGFest 3.0, Particle Son speaks with ReGen about the dangers of technological addiction and the need for a communal spirit in today’s goth/industrial scene.
 

 

An InterView with Vex March, Jared Scott, & Sandi Leeper of Particle Son

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Since the release of the band’s Re:Version debut in 2004, Particle Son has undergone a massive transformation to become one of the most acclaimed performing acts in the Pacific Northwestern industrial music scene. Spearheaded by Vex March and Jared Scott, and now joined by Sandi Leeper, the group’s blend of searing electro/industrial sequences with acerbically sociopolitical lyrics has shown Particle Son to be on an upward trajectory to greater heights of recognition and creativity. As a staple of the PIGFest, a festival celebrating the industrial and goth scene of the Pacific Northwest, with this year marking the event’s third entry, Particle Son stands at the forefront of this particular locality – but make no mistake; this is a group that knows the value of community and cooperation, as evidenced by the band members’ statements here. With ReGen Magazine co-sponsoring PIGFest 3.0, and the band’s highly politically charged album Exit Strategy now released to the masses, Particle Son presents an inspiring and instructive story to a society addicted to technology and misinformation, warning of their dangers and offering an alternative toward a more perfect humanity.

 

There was an 11 year silence between the last album, Amerikan Genocide, and the Re:Version debut, and the later album possessed more of an overtly political mindset in the lyrics and artwork. First of all, what can you tell us about what occurred during that period – why so long between albums, and in what ways do you feel you progressed Particle Son’s sound and style from the debut?
Similarly, what sorts of changes or developments took place between Amerikan Genocide and the new album, Exit Strategy?

March: To put it simply, life happened. Without boring our audience by whining about bad relationships and juvenile bullshit, to sum it up, I had a lot of growing up to do. Like many, I let my personal demons rule me. I battled with alcohol for the better portion of two decades. I used it as a means of escape from my depression because I was a miserable fuckhead to be around. It wasn’t until later in life that I finally pulled my head from my ass and did something about it. In the original days of Particle Son, I was young, naïve, and angry at the world, so that flux and frustration translated into what is Re:Version. That was my vehicle to spew my animosity and I didn’t give a shit who bore the brunt of it. We played a lot of shows, created a lot of havoc, and I left a wake of utter unrest wherever I went. I’ve since made peace and reconciled with myself and many around me, but damn, I don’t miss that insanity. After Nathan left the band, we took on Gl1tch 106 as a guitarist and that ended up being a terrible experience, one which I still hold a lot of animosity about. The band officially broke up in 2008, the year of my solitary unraveling. Like a country song, I lost my house, relationship dissolved badly, friendships were tarnished, lost my car, etc.. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t the easiest person to be around from 1997 to 2010; some may even say ‘to this day even.’ (Laughter)
It wasn’t until around 2010 that Jared and I even started talking again and those two years were some of the hardest I’ve ever had. I was devastated not having my outlet and I nearly gave up both creatively and on life. After Jared and I breathed new life into the project, I feel like we’d started our real progression. I dialed back the effects on my vocals and we really dug down and, with the addition of Sandi, we started on what would become Amerikan Genocide and the continued graduation of our sound. Sandi is an amazing musician and an integral part of Particle Son – her keyboard skills are amazing and she’s been instrumental in helping with our growth. In that time, I’d also starting working with Zach Wager on his project, Dead Animal Assembly Plant, doing backup vocals and keyboards. It was my first attempt at keys and I still haven’t a clue what I’m doing, but it was an insane amount of fun. I was also in a personal rut with my employment; I’m not built for the 9-to-5 routine, so I went back to college. I already have a degree in English and Writing, but I wanted to feel like I was doing something more to contribute to the betterment of our planet, so I enrolled at PCC in the Environmental Science program. Unfortunately, in the middle of juggling two bands, a 16+ credit hour school schedule, nature volunteer work, and social activism, my body decided to try and kill me with cancer. It didn’t work, obviously, but it did make for a song on Amerikan Genocide! Without rambling for another three pages, we’ll end it there. Needless to say, it’s been a busy and tumultuous time.

The latter two albums seem to continue along a very political theme, complete with the very familiar image of the Statue of Liberty (reminiscent of industrial classics like TACK>>HEAD and MINISTRY). Naturally, these are themes and subjects that run throughout the genre’s history; beyond what can be heard in the lyrics, what are your thoughts on the way society is reacting to, acting on, or assimilating these ideas?

March: I had to laugh when I saw the new MINISTRY album, which was released just before Exit Strategy, I might add. When I saw use of the Statue of Liberty, I thought, ‘of course they did.’ I had no idea they would do a similar image. I’ve always said that one of the most dangerous statements someone can say is ‘Politics isn’t my thing,’ because it should be since it effects all of us. I like the notion that society is becoming more aware, but right now, it’s so loud from every sect of humanity, all clamoring at once to be heard that I fear many are becoming desensitized to the world around them. That being said, with the advent of the internet and social media, it’s given birth to the age of misinformation and I see a disturbing amount of people running on ideas with which they’ve done little if any research, essentially flying blind and then flying off the handle about it. It doesn’t matter the subject – pick one and I’m sure there’s a keyboard commando out there with a fully loaded blog firing shots on the internet. To me, the scariest evolution of society is how we’ve become so quick to demonize others for exercising basic rights such as voting or expression of opinions that the art of conversation is lost in sea of bitter contempt, just because someone doesn’t agree with you. For instance, I have friends who voted for Trump, but does that keep me from being friends with them? Absolutely not. That sort of alienation is what is dividing this country. Americans are drawing the dividing lines between each other while slurping down a healthy dose of intolerance (with the help of outside influence, of course). How can we hope to ever evolve as a species when we attack people over which bathroom they’re using, for fucks sake? It’s ludicrous to me that we’ve still not made the realization that we’re all made up of the same skin and learned how to coexist. We’ve forgotten that our differences make the world unique.

The iHate single preceded the album by more than a year-and-a-half, and one need only look at the title and the artwork for an idea of what it’s about. On the broader side of things, what are your thoughts on technology and its effects, not just on music (as electro/industrial is very clearly reliant on it to some degree), but also on society as a whole?
What sorts of changes or developments in technology – musical or otherwise – would you like to see take place within your lifetime?

Scott: I have no problem with technology in and of itself; shoot, I use it to make this music. But I believe the danger is in how we as humans use it. I believe the more we depend on it, the more we are a slave to it. Just imagine if the power went out for three months.

March: How much time space do I have for this? (Laughter) When we released the single, the hope was to have the album done sooner, but we weren’t about to rush it because there’s a fair amount of perfectionism that goes into our work. I have a love/hate relationship with technology, for as much as it never ceases to amaze me, I feel there are also some very dark aspects to it as well. For instance, the advances in our medical equipment is astonishing. Last time I was in the hospital, they had a vein finder and with this device; you can see through the skin to show to the pattern and location of your veins just by putting your body part under the scanner. That blew my mind. On that same hand, however, I see how technology is also helping remove our sense of humanity; we’re forgetting how to be human. The art of communication is evolving into a very impersonal and sterile monster. Bars, for instance, are awash in the blue glow of internet worship, and even I’m a recovering internet addict myself and I still fall victim to things like app games on my phone and meaningless shit like that. Anymore, I hold the opinion that if it doesn’t help advance us personally or as a whole, then why do it? What would I love to see in the future? Learn how to set technology down and immerse yourself in life. We only get one and it’s impossible to see the beauty around you with your head up the internet’s ass. It’s weird for me to say since I’m 50% sarcasm and 50% cynicism with a sprinkle of misanthropic tenancies, but I tire of the dumbing down of society. Am I saying technology is evil? Certainly not. It’s just difficult to live life when you allow yourself to be ruled by the neon distraction.

Leeper: I think we have some amazing technology today, and while a lot of it is very useful, it has also made us a bit lazy and extremely distracted and disconnected from each other. I sure do love having the technology to write electronic music, though! It’s quite fulfilling to be able to compose a huge sounding track with only a keyboard, a computer, and some excellent software. As for future changes/developments in technology, I really would like us to find a way to eliminate all those plastics that end up in the ocean. Making solar energy more commonplace would be amazing too, or any and all of the other methods of creating energy so we can get the hell off of oil, coal, and nuclear.

Vex and Jared have been the constants in Particle Son since the first album, with Nathan Malin present on Re:Version, and Sandi Leeper now a member of the band. What is the writing dynamic among the band members?
To what extent did Nathan on the first album, and Sandi on the later releases participate in the creation of the music, both in the studio and in the live show?

March: Even despite the lineup changes, our process has remained pretty much the same throughout our history. Nathan did all the guitars on the first disc and, like myself, helped with the overall completion of the album. After him came Gl1tch 106; we mainly just played shows, but the writing became stagnant with several contributing factors involved. Without opening that can of worms, we’ll just say it didn’t work, but when we reformed and Sandi came onboard, I really feel we became a stronger and cohesive unit. I do mostly lyrics with the occasional song structure idea, but the normal process is Jared writes the core beat structure, Sandi works her melodic genius, and then I come through and take a lyrical dump on it. I’ve tried my hand at sequencing and found out very quickly just how short my patience is. I honestly hate studio time; I loathe it. It’s long, tedious, and ear numbing. I much prefer playing live. I never feel more normal than when I’m onstage.

Scott: I agree with Vex here. I have done a good percentage of the songwriting over the time period of us being a band. Along the way, each member that has been with us has contributed in their own way. On Amerikan Genocide, we had just started writing a few songs when Sandi was brought onboard. I had decided to take over guitar duties and let Sandi play keys because she shreds. After our experience writing Amerikan Genocide, it seemed to be the obvious choice to let her have more influence on the writing and composition phase. It’s working out great and we are firing on all cylinders now. Our live show has also taken on a new level of energy as Sandi is now playing some live percussion as well.

Leeper: Initially, I was brought into the band to play keys as a live member, but it wasn’t long before my first show with them that they decided to bring me in for real. I threw in some of the melodies on Amerikan Genocide, but Jared had already done most of the work. I even threw in some subtle choral vocals in the song ‘Neurogenesis,’ which was quite a fun thing to add. By the time we started working on Exit Strategy, I was well established in the band and was therefore able to have quite a bit more input. As for playing live, I sure am enjoying that we added some percussion to my arsenal. It’s pretty fun to play keys and drums at the same time!

You’ve performed numerous shows in your area opening for several big names, and you’re also performing at the PIGFest 3.0. This might sound a bit arrogant, but what would you say distinguishes the sound of Portland and the Pacific Northwest, and where do you see Particle Son fitting in or leading in that regard?

March: I’ll never be as bold as to say we’re leaders of anything; that suggests a pedestal that sets one above another and that goes against my morals, but I’d like to think of Particle Son as being one of the hardest hitting industrial bands in Portland. There’s some great talent here, much like any other city. Let’s face it, there are a million plus bands out there, each with its own set of attributes. We just do what we do and if people like it, great; if not, that’s just the way of things. We don’t treat music like a competition or out to emulate anyone. We have the influences that we draw upon and we convert that into the sounds we create. We’ve been around over 20 years and we still do it for the love of music – it’s the greatest drug I know of. I love the sense of family between bands here, many of which are very good friends of ours.

Scott: Portland is unique in many ways. I would say we are much like a family. Overall, everyone gets along with everyone great; lots of internal support, and we are friends with most, if not all, of the bands. The only thing I would like to see is more embracing of new music on DJ nights. Sometimes it feels like we are not moving on past ‘Headhunter’ and other classic tunes. Although I still love and respect those tunes, I feel we need to catch up a bit in comparison to other scenes. Recently there a has been improvement on that, so I believe we are moving forward.

On the topic of PIGFest, Particle Son was part of the 2.0 lineup and is now returning for 3.0. Tell us about your involvement in this festival and how it came about? Is there ever a concern as to how a regional-centric festival might affect the audience’s perceptions or reactions?

March: We were also involved in the very first PIGFest as well and it’s been a huge amount of fun. I give huge props to everyone involved. Last year was more amazing than the first and I have no fear of 3.0 being even bigger. Derek Moore booked us for the very first one (don’t ask me the year as I’m terrible with dates) and he’s someone we’ve worked with many, many times from 2004 to the present. I personally can’t see how or why there’d be any negativity towards playing a festival, regional or not. I can’t say I’ve ever thought about it. I absolutely love playing regardless and I’m beyond stoked to see what PIGFest is blossoming into and it’s been an honor for me to have been a part of it. Anyone who sees a band as a ‘sellout’ for playing big events isn’t seeing the bigger picture. A band can’t be expected to remain an opening band forever – every big band once came from a dive bar. The sellouts are the ones who don’t pay their dues or who forget where they came from. I vowed from day one that we would remain accessible to the fans because they’re who make the band.

Scott: I believe a regional-centric festival is a good thing for our goth/industrial community. It gives the casual attendee a way to see multiple bands in a short time. A lot of people nowadays have life stuff to deal with and cannot make it out to the plethora of shows we have here in Portland. This a great opportunity for everything to come together as one, like a family reunion. (Laughter)

Leeper: As the boys previously stated, a lot of us are friends/family, and we all lead pretty busy lives. Some of us are in multiple projects or are DJing all the time, so it’s at times impossible to go to each other’s shows. PIGFest is that magical time when we get to see each other play all at once! And it’s a total blast!

What’s next for Particle Son?

March: Play shows, kick heads, take names! We had the CD release show for Exit Strategy professionally filmed so there may be a DVD in the works. We’ve already been kicking around ideas for the next album. I’d love to see us on tour, as well as securing a good label to back us… but mainly, just pushing our envelope, pushing boundaries, and trying new things, always striving for the next evolution in our growth.

Scott: Definitely promoting Exit Strategy. But, I am already trying to come up with some concepts for the next album. A rule we have around the studio is, ‘Each album has to be heavier than the last.’ Heavier doesn’t have to be harder, so I have some ideas about getting more layered and heady. It will be something you will need a pair of headphones with… let me rephrase that – wireless headphones, so you can dance at the same time.

Leeper: Promoting Exit Strategy, working on new music, getting on the road a bit more to try and cover some new ground, and we’ve got some new percussion instruments to work in that we were waiting to utilize until we were done with Exit Strategy. So that will be fun.

 

 

Particle Son
Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
PIGFest
Website, Facebook

 

Photos by Chamblin Hulslander – courtesy of Photoslavery Photography

 

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