Sep 2017 19

Hailing from Philadelphia, REVillusion is a band with great promise and potential to become an innovative and inspirational voice in industrial/rock, as ReGen speaks with the band’s mastermind Brian E. Carter.
 
REVillusion

 

An InterView with Brian E. Carter of REVillusion

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

One of the many pleasures of attending a live show is the abundance of likeminded people one can meet, sharing common tastes and experiences, and perhaps among them will be a budding artist whose own creativity has yet to be discovered and exposed to the audience; such was the case for this writer in meeting one Brian E. Carter at a show on the Prey & Obey Tour. As it turned out, Carter is the mastermind behind Philadelphia industrial/rock collective REVillusion, with the band’s debut album New Extinction having emerged late last year. Featuring pristine and polished production that merges distorted atmospheres and pulsating electronics with powerful guitar riffs and melodic vocal hooks, New Extinction is an impressively strong industrial/rock assault that features some notable guest performances, including Stabbing Westward front man Christopher Hall, former Mushroomhead front man Waylon Reavis, and Riggs of Scum of the Earth and formerly of Rob Zombie. A band with great promise and potential, REVillusion simply must be heard, and so ReGen Magazine is pleased to have had the opportunity to speak with Brian E. Carter. Here, he touches on his musical upbringing, some insights into his songwriting and the themes explored on New Extinction, some hints at what is yet to come, and more than a few words of gratitude to those who continue to inspire his creative vision.

 

Let’s start with a little bit of personal history, your musical background and how you came to start REVillusion. In what ways did the project evolve from its original conception to what it became on New Extinction?

Carter: The drums were my first instrument. I was that kid running around banging on everything, so at the age of 15, I decided to put it to use. Then I learned a little guitar, a little bass, a little keys, and eventually became more serious and took several music theory courses in college. I took vocal lessons for about a year, and the biggest thing I learned is that I should not be singing. (Laughter) But I can manage the metal scream/growl, so you get some of my vocals on REVillusion tracks. When it comes to being a musician, I am the ‘jack of all, master of none.’ I can play a little bit of everything, but I am not amazing at any one instrument. That’s why my bandmates are so talented at their respective instruments, because they have to pick up my slack. I would consider myself more of a composer than a musician. I was in several bands after high school – first a metal band, then an industrial band, then I started engineering some acoustic singer/songwriter type of stuff, and even some hip-hop. I have always had a true passion for industrial and metal music, and all music in general, but I really started to fall in love with the engineering and production side of things. The bands I was in fizzled out, and I was left writing some industrial/electronic music on my own. I was a high school dropout, completely broke, renting the guest room out in my older brother’s house… it was kind of horrible. I had a shitty guitar, a shitty keyboard, and a shitty laptop, but I had a lot of determination. My older brother would hear me working on music in my room, and he would make fun of me by sarcastically asking, ‘Hey! Are you starting the music revolution in there?!’ (Laughter) He believes in me and might be my biggest fan, but he is a ballbuster! But this statement stuck with me. I wound up going to Full Sail University for Recording Arts/Audio Engineering in 2007. I continued writing and producing music while learning my craft. After school, I began traveling the country, writing original music with all different musicians, working in recording studios, and producing some independent artists. Many years later, I wound up moving back home to the Philadelphia area and putting a band together of musicians that were all old friends. Mike Stewart (bass/guitar) is an old friend since middle school, and one of the best bass players I have ever seen! Matt Kurtz (guitar) is actually family through marriage, and one of the best guitarists that no one has heard of… yet! And Josephine ‘Jo’ Birch, an old friend since high school, lent her lyrics and vocals to a bulk of the album, and while industrial wasn’t her normal genre, she fell in love with the sound, and she has some serious vocal skills! So it almost felt like I went all the way around and came right back where I started. I made a full ‘revolution,’ yet so much had changed. Finally, I was floored by a quote from Sascha Konietzko, Tim Skold, and Lucia Cifarelli in the MDFMK song ‘@ontrol¿’ (‘Control’)….the quote was simply, ‘The revolution will be synthesized.’ Other than the political and social meanings of this quote, in my brain, I felt that it also had a subtle undertone/message that the future of music would be electronic or synthetic. And the definition of synthetic – to imitate a natural substance… or ‘fake,’ an illusion. Finally, the band name hit me and it has way more than just one simple meaning. So, welcome to the REVillusion!

You’d mentioned your musical education and working in recording studios. Are there any particular experiences that stand out as having a particular significance to how you approach music now?

Carter: Yes, I took Hans Zimmer’s Master Class on film scoring, and learned so much from hearing him speak. He showed things about writing music I never would have thought of. He is truly an amazing talen, and an inspiration to my music. Thank you, Mr. Zimmer!
Also, I would like to thank Klayton from Celldweller and Circle of Dust as he unknowingly saved me from giving up on music completely. Several years ago, I was living in New Orleans when I finally finished building my fully stocked sample library – tons of sounds, recording sessions, and samples that I had created over the years, all saved on my laptop and backed up on my external drive. Well, as fate would have it, when moving from New Orleans back to the Philly area, both the laptop and external drive were severely damaged. They were unrecoverable. About 10 years of my life was gone. Everything I had done up to that point was erased. I didn’t know what to do. I was ready to give up. Right at that same time, Klayton released his Sonix Producer Pack filled with samples and sounds from his own personal library. These sounds alone gave me the inspiration and the hope that I needed. They were the stepping stone to get back on track. So, all you Celldweller fans will hear plenty of Klayton’s signature ear candy sprinkled throughout New Extinction. So, Klayton… THANK YOU!

Tell us about how each guest came to be part of their respective tracks on New Extinction, how you met/contacted them? What was your process of songwriting like? Did you conceive of the songs having a specific guest performer, or did the music change as they came onboard? What are the chances of this group making an appearance again on future REVillusion material?

Carter: I had always dreamed of working with certain artists that had inspired me over the years. When I finally felt confident enough in my music, I figured I would try to get some of these artists involved. Thanks to the connections that my bandmates and I had made over the years, I was able to get in touch with some of them. To my surprise, they were somewhat anxious and excited to be a part of these songs. Some of the artists on my list wanted to be a part of the project, but couldn’t due to contractual obligations, but I won’t say any names because I am hoping to get them on REVillusion’s second album, so stay tuned!
For ‘New Extinction,’ I had the concept for this song well before I ever wrote a single note. Writing this song was almost like writing the score to the movie that was playing in my head, and when the first note was written, I knew I wanted Chris Hall to sing it. I was absolutely ecstatic when he said he would do it! Little did I know that he would be such a pleasure to work with; he took my concept and ran with it. He did many rewrites, and we went back and forth many times on ideas for lyrics and song structure. He really worked hard on it, and it shows! He totally captured the message I wanted to get across. The only vocal part that was written before he received the track was the chorus, which Chris tweaked slightly, and the rest was history. It is not confirmed, but there is a good chance that Chris will be back on the second album.
On ‘Judas Kiss,’ my bass player played in a band that toured with Mushroomhead years ago, and he became friends with their lead singer at the time, Waylon Reavis. So we reached out to him to help on a song we had sitting around. The music was written, but I didn’t have a concept for lyrics. It was just a strong track that needed a strong vocal. Waylon loved the track and immediately went to work. Cooking up all the lyrics and melodies, Waylon really put this song over the top! He didn’t want to change any of the music that was written; he just laid the vocals in to what we had, and it was perfect! And yes, Waylon is already working on a track for our second album, so you guys better gear up!
For ‘Dernier Cri Zombie,’ let me just say that aside from being one of my favorite guitarists, Riggs is the fucking man! He has so much power and style in his signature sound. We gave him a track and told him he had free reign. We worked together and restructured the entire composition of the music, and he laid in vocals and lead guitar on the song. He told me he wasn’t really strong with lyrics, but he would see what he could come up with. ‘Dernier Cri’ is a French term that means ‘the latest fashion or trend,’ so I thought, ‘Well, zombies are kind of the latest trend, so let’s read the rest of these lyrics.’ Boy, was I in for a treat. (Laughter) It was like reading the memoirs of a madman! He is really out of control… in the best way possible. I love this guy! He absolutely rocked the shit out of this song! It is what we call a ‘skullcrusher,’ and it was exactly what we had hoped for. Unfortunately, I don’t know if Riggs will be back for the second album, because he is very busy getting the new Scum of the Earth album together, but you never know.
Finally, with ‘Red,’ the collaboration with Tiani Victoria was very unexpected, but worked out incredibly well. I was having issues writing the song, primarily with the bridge. I was trying to make it dark, slow, and heavy, to add some contrast with the rest of the upbeat vibe of the song, but it just wasn’t working. Nothing really seemed to fit. I finally realized that this was just a ‘party song.’ Once I finally stopped trying to force something that wasn’t right, it just started flowing. Full disclosure – I am a big fan of good funk, pop, and hip-hop music (criticize all you want), but I wanted to continue with the fun ‘party’ vibe of the song, so I contacted well known local rapper, Tiani Victoria. Luckily she is also from my home town of Philly. She loved the track and she used her talent to really add a flavor that you very rarely hear in this genre… and I love it! We kept it as a true party song from beginning to end because everyone loves a good party.

 

 

On New Extinction is the song ‘Never Say…,’ which as the closing track seems to stand out as more organic and atmospheric in contrast to the heavier sounds that preceded it. Can you tell us about that song, how it was written and why you chose to end the album on that note?

Carter: As a piano ballad, ‘Never Say…’ was quite a departure from the rest of the album. Jo Birch was noodling on an acoustic guitar one day and she came up with a very nice chord progression and vocal melody, but she had no idea what to do with it. So it sat on the backburner for a long time. Almost a year later, my uncle had passed away from pancreatic cancer. I was upset and found myself sitting in front of my keyboard thinking about my uncle, thinking about what was going through his mind at the end. What must it have felt like to be told you only have a few months to live? Knowing when you will die? I started thinking, what would you do with that time left? You have an opportunity that most don’t get… you have the chance to say goodbye. But would you even want to? Would you want to hear the ones you love say goodbye to you? It was such a heavy concept that I felt compelled to write about it. I busted out that old acoustic thing Jo was working on, but I reconstructed it with new flavor on the piano. It was the only time that I ever sat down and played with just emotion. Usually I can hear the whole song in my head before I ever write a single note, but this time was different. I just started playing and didn’t know what was going to come out. Once the piano was done, I worked on the lyrics. I had a lot to say, but didn’t know how to say it. I am not a good writer – I have a ton of ideas, but when pen hits the paper, I am lost. English was not my strong suit. So I took all of the lyrics I had written to a friend of mine who is a brilliant writer and she helped me reword my ideas in a more poetic way. Once the vocals were recorded, I started mixing and toying around with other instrumentation. I realized quickly that I wanted the instrumentation to be minimal, but it still needed something that I couldn’t put my finger on. Then it hit me – violin! It couldn’t be a sample or anything synthesized; it needed to be raw and human. I then hired Carol Sharar to lay in some violin. She took my ideas and added her own flavor to them, and really gave the song the delicate touch it needed. Carol is a professional, and she is extremely talented and very easy to work with. We thank her so much for the help. Everyone in REVillusion knew that the song didn’t quite fit the sound of the rest of the album, and we didn’t care. It just had so much emotion, humanity, and frailty to it that we couldn’t think of a better way to end New Extinction. An album about artificial intelligence wiping humanity away, ending with a song about death that is so human… it’s perfect. We couldn’t be happier with it.

Collaborative efforts in industrial music not unlike what we hear on New Extinction – classic acts like Pigface, KMFDM, H3llb3nt, to newer ones like K.P. Riot Brigade and Primitive Race, just to name a few – seem to be one of the hallmarks of the genre. What are your thoughts on why this is?

Carter: While I think that one person can write an incredible song on their own, it’s nice to introduce some new flavor or other ideas into the mix from time to time. It keeps the music fresh, and it can trigger creative ideas inside you that you never would have thought of on your own. Frankly, I love seeing more collaborations in industrial music because I feel that it might breathe some new life into the genre and get some more people to take notice who might not have normally listened.
 
REVillusion
 
One aspect to a good deal of the music on New Extinction is the melodic hooks, almost to the point of being poppy in some parts – as well, many acts are incorporating heavier pop melodies. What are your thoughts on this juxtaposition of industrial and pop music?

Carter: As I said earlier, I am a big fan of funk, hip-hop, and yes, even pop music… if it’s done well. Although people might not want to admit it, I think we are all fans. A catchy or memorable hook is not as easy to write as people may think. Writing something the whole world will sing along to is an impressive feat. Not that REVillusion is quite that good, but hopefully one day, we will be. I think that for some, the idea of ‘pop’ music is a turn off… maybe because they strive to go against the grain, but I try not to think about which way the grain is going. I just go whichever I way I feel. I know it sounds cliché, but with true art, you must be true to yourself. So if you truly love a catchy hook, then write one! It’s really when people are creating something with the sole purpose of monetary profit that turns us off. I won’t blame them for it, but I won’t call it art. But just because you can admit that you enjoy a catchy hook, a hook that you can sing along to, doesn’t make you or your music a sellout. So, personally, I love when a genre as dark and heavy as industrial can find a way to incorporate catchy/poppy flavor into its sound. Bands like Lords of Acid and my all-time favorite band KMFDM do this incredibly well! I remember seeing KMFDM many years ago in Philly, and the mosh pit was absolutely out of control, and downright violent during the song ‘Megalomaniac.’ Two hours later, standing at the after-party at a club up the street from the venue, the same people that were in the mosh pit were now dancing to the very same song! (Laughter) This was amazing to me; amazing that one song could invoke that many different emotions in people. That is the type of music that I strive to write. Let’s get the whole world singing along to this underground sound!

You mentioned that KMFDM is your all-time favorite band and earlier quoted a lyric from MDFMK.

Carter: Yes, KMFDM is, without a doubt, my favorite band of all time. That band is the reason I started listening to industrial music. I remember hearing the KMFDM song ‘Go to Hell’ on a movie soundtrack and thinking, ‘This is the coolest thing I have ever heard!’ After hearing it, my life has never been the same. KMFDM has been my number one inspiration in both music and in life. Sascha Konietzko is a man of integrity and creativity, and I can only hope to be almost as good as him one day. So, to ‘the father of industrial rock’… thank you!

Tell us about the new material that you’re working on, and how you feel it is taking what was heard on New Extinction to the next level? Any guests or other info that you’d like to share without spoiling any surprises?

Carter: The next album will be called Heart(less), and it will be a more raw and heavy sounding album. The first album, New Extinction touched on machines becoming more human and it had a more global outlook. The new album will touch on humans becoming more mechanical (in a metaphorical sense), and will have a much more intimate and personal feel. On the production side of things, you will be hearing more live drums, lower tuned guitars, and some more distorted synth – everything we can do to make this album a bit more aggressive and raw; dirty and dark, that’s what I am going for… although, I am sure we will find a way to work in another party song for you. (Laughter) REVillusion loves having guest vocalists, so you can expect plenty of that on Heart(less). Some singers featured on the first album will return, and we will be adding some new names that you all know and love to the resume. So stay tuned for that.

 

 

What are the chances of seeing REVillusion performing live? What would a live show entail, and in what ways would the visual presentation complement the music?

Carter: Yes, REVillusion will be performing live with some sporadic shows in 2018 to get our feet wet. We are also hoping to be setting up a tour for the summer of 2018, but nothing is confirmed yet. We will keep everyone posted. Honestly, the live show I see in my head would cost so much money, we wouldn’t be able to do it until we go triple platinum. (Laughter) In a perfect world, I imagine a very Tron style light show to add to the electronic sound and match the artwork and style of the band, but it will be a while before I can fully achieve the light show I really want. For now, we are just going to focus on being as tight as possible as a band, playing the songs as best as we can, and just bringing the energy and passion that I know each band member has for REVillusion. You can expect the crowd chanting, hair swinging, horns raised, girls dancing, heads banging, and everybody just having a good time! We are going to leave it all out on the stage, and we just hope you enjoy it.

Is there anything that we’ve not discussed that you’d like to add?

Carter: I would like to thank my band mates, for without them, REVillusion would not be what it is today. You guys are amazing! Also, a thanks to Kirk Camardelle, who I worked with on guitar for the song ‘Chaos’ many years ago. We thought it was good enough to keep around all these years. (Laughter) He is a beast on guitar and I am sure Kirk will be back for the next album, and he will possibly be filling in on tour with us.
I would also like to thank all of the featured artists who lent their talents to New Extinction. It was an unbelievable privilege to work with all of you!

 

REVillusion
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Photography courtesy of REVillusion

 

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