Sep 2015 01

Science and the Beat’s Robzilla speaks with ReGen about the band’s sleek, bluesy, catchy, but no less edgy approach to making music versus the more aggressive mold of More Machine Than Man, inviting audiences into their sensual world.
 
Science and the Beat

 

An InterView with Robzilla of Science and the Beat

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Since emerging onto the music scene in 1999, the duo of Robzilla and Tasha Katrine – collectively known as More Machine Than Man – has carved out quite an effective little niche with an aggressive and lascivious style of guitar-driven electro/industrial that has taken the band around the world. Having built up a considerable reputation for blistering live shows that incorporate original video content, MMTM has toured with the likes of Slick Idiot and Razed in Black and appeared at such festivals as Eccentrik, Wave Gotik Treffen, Convergence, and Freaks United, all the while putting several EP and full-length album releases to make for a substantially exciting discography. After a nine year absence, the band returned with 2012’s Dark Matter, followed by 2014’s Something Ventured, Nothing Gained EP, touring the United States throughout 2013 and regaining its footing in the goth/industrial scene.
However, in 2015, the duo has taken a different musical route toward no less edgy or intense, but considerably catchier and lighter pastures with a new project: Science and the Beat! With the Future Blue debut, produced by the legendary Wade Alin, Robzilla and Tasha delve deeper into their melodic songwriting, stripping away all out aggression in favor of a sleeker and, at times, bluesier approach that bears all of their musical signatures to make for a smoothly sensual experience.
Having recently premiered the music video for the album’s first single, “Mean Streak,” Science and the Beat’s Robzilla took some time to speak with ReGen Magazine about the musical path the pair are now walking, touching on the creative strides they have hit with increased writing and recording activity, working with En Esch and Wade Alin, and just a little of what is yet to come from Science and the Beat.

 

After nine years, you returned as MMTM with Dark Matter and went on tour, following that up with the Something Ventured, Nothing Gained EP on Nilaihah Records. Now, you have a new electro/rock project, Science and the Beat, with the Future Blue album. To what would you attribute such a considerable period of inactivity (or invisibility in case you weren’t technically inactive), and what brought about such a burst of creative output in the last couple of years?

Robzilla: Tasha and I have really hit our creative stride. Writing and arranging are our favorite parts of the creative process. We both get a huge charge out of the initial idea and inspiration. It really feels like we could crank out album after album right now. Future Blue is the culmination of several years of building momentum. We spent years reworking and rearranging the songs for Dark Matter. We were challenging ourselves to do better work and focus. We ended up with a great MMTM album and we honed our craft. Something Ventured… and Future Blue were almost effortless to write. It felt like stream-of-consciousness.

Science and the Beat is perhaps less aggressive, although no less intense than MMTM; beyond that, what would you say are the primary differences between Science and the Beat and MMTM in terms of the lyrical or thematic focus?

Robzilla: SC+B was a vehicle for us to follow inspiration outside of the parameters of MMTM. Future Blue is ultra-personal and the first person narrative borders on overwhelming. It is a little blurry because MMTM is not static. MMTM has been evolving and it dovetailed into SC+B. The guise of goth/industrial schtick has been melting away from MMTM for a while. I heard Dark Matter for the first time in ages, today. It’s fucking great! The fact that it isn’t wildly popular says more about popular taste than it does about the quality of the songs, but I digress. ‘Stranger than Fiction’ and ‘Nothing More’ are the only tracks that have any goth/industrial kitsch at all. The rest of Dark Matter is very personal. ‘Constructive Criticism’ and ‘Bliss’ have the same level of emotional content, but the arrangement and production is less layered and more direct.

What would you say were the major challenges in approaching this different style of music?

Robzilla: It didn’t feel challenging at all! It was like putting down a burden. Artists have a tendency to fetishize their influences. I can think of bands (that I like) that sound just like Cocteau Twins, or Siouxsie, or Kate Bush. We avoided that trap altogether. Future Blue sounds like we grew up on ’80s and ’90s music, without doing some kind of nostalgic recreation. But SC+B is totally relevant in the company of The Kills, Purity Ring, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs too. We stopped trying to do a particular thing and just did what came naturally at that moment. The exciting and dangerous thing about writing that way is that in the next moment what comes naturally to us could be something entirely different. The range of the songs of Future Blue is awesome and is a product writing this way.

More Machine Than Man isn’t over, right?

Robzilla: We love writing songs and I don’t think we are capable of stopping. We already have several new song ideas that clearly belong in the MMTM world.

Most of your material – with the exception of the Binary Sex EP and Something Ventured, Nothing Gained – has been self-released; from your experiences, what would you say have been the major setbacks in releasing your music on your own? As more and more artists are ignored by major labels, what would you say have been the most significant steps both you and other musicians have taken toward finding more effective avenues to release music?

Robzilla: I don’t know that I really have a useful perspective on these issues. At its sales pique, MMTM’s income could cover a monthly car payment. But we were buried in debt and stuck in cheap (and highly questionable) living arrangements just to achieve that level of income in the early ’00s. That was before music sales collapsed completely. MMTM is not (and has never been) a commercially successful or even self-sustaining project. We have yet to see what the interest in SC+B will be. If you ask these questions to someone with my experience, we’ll answer that the music business if fucked. If you ask a musician who is getting by on their music, this is the Brave New World that Albini and Grohl have been telling us about.
If you consider Macklemore from Seattle. He spent over a decade here making albums in a tiny hip-hop scene. I’m sure he got called Vanilla Ice and Slim Shady endlessly. He put out several independent albums, sharpening his game, and flirted with labels. He releases that ‘Come Up’ single, a fun video, and a great album. It goes viral and he’s #2 on Billboard. He does it on his own label and controls it all. That is ‘The Dream.’ It’s incredible. But the only other artist I can think of who’s charted without a major label was Metric. And Metric still had a huge budget for publicity and promotion from what I understand.
Maybe this awesome ‘Independent Music Revolution’ hasn’t worked for us because we’re delusional? I’m serious. Maybe our material has never been strong enough and the market has spoken? I really don’t think that I have any shot at objectivity here.

As in MMTM, you’ve worked with Wade Alin in Science and the Beat; in what ways has his production contrasted with your style?

Robzilla: The last thing we produced ourselves was Dark Matter. It was very dense and very layered. Wade definitely brought a leaner and more focused approach to our sound on Something Ventured, Nothing Gained. The writing for SC+B was based on perfectly layering just a few simple elements, so Wade knew exactly where to go with it. I think our writing, across projects, has been moving in a direction where Wade already lives.

What would you say were the major lessons you learned from working with him, and what – as far as you’re able to say – do you think he took away from his experiences working with you?

Robzilla: It’s hard for some musicians, and I count myself among them, to understand that you have to limit yourself to a few elements in an arrangement to have enough room in the mix to make each element huge. The more elements you have in a mix, the less space each gets to occupy.
I think Wade learned that he needs to charge more to justify putting up with asshole musicians!

Recently, you also collaborated with En Esch on the song ‘Hard On’ from his SPÄNK album, and you’d worked with him before on ‘Why?’ Tell us about how you came to work with him on these tracks?

Robzilla: We met En Esch years ago in NYC and have been friends and comrades-in-arms ever since.
He just sent us drum and synth loops of a couple of ideas he was working on. We wrote vocals and guitars for ‘Hard On’ in about 20 minutes. Tasha tracked them immediately. I ended up sending him a dozen guitar riff options. That was really it. ‘Hard On’ came together fast and was a lot of fun. (That’s a funny sentence.) En Esch is going to come to Seattle this fall and so we can collaborate on songs for his next solo record. I’m pretty excited about it. We get to write (our favorite part) and all the work is some else’s problem!

You’ve also produced your own music videos for ‘Break Out’ and ‘Constructive Criticism.’ What can you tell us about the significance of the visual components of your music, both in MMTM and in Science and the Beat, and how you feel they complement and/or extend the lyrical themes (and vice versa)?

Robzilla: We just finished a video for ‘Mean Streak,’ the first SC+B single as well. We work really hard making videos with extremely limited resources. I hope people enjoy them! They never quite live up to our creative vision. We do see video as another creative outlet, but videos are a mandatory part of marketing music now. It ratchets up the pressure quite a bit on the creative process of making a video.

 

 

What is the next step for Science and the Beat? What are the chances that you will be taking this band on tour?

Robzilla: We are hoping our promotional campaign will generate significant interest in SC+B. Hopefully there will be enough momentum to support a tour. We have been rehearsing the material and figuring out the technical aspect of our live set up.
We self-financed the album and the promotion. Future Blue has to get a significant amount of attention for us to have the resources to get out on tour.

 

Photography courtesy of Science and the Beat

 

Science and the Beat
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