Some people are Beyond Therapy as Ben V. explains as he brings ReGen into the strange world that is The Ludovico Technique.
An Interview with Ben V. of The Ludovico Technique
By: Ilker Yücel
In Anthony Burgess’ novel, as well as the Stanley Kubrick cinematic adaptation, A Clockwork Orange, the Ludovico Technique is depicted as a drug-assisted aversion therapy intended to alter the behavior of the subject away from dark and violent impulses. The consequence of the therapy is that the subject is left in a passive state without choice or inclination to take any action against the worst of transgressions. Hailing from Orlando, FL, Ben V. adapts the procedure and its psychological effects for his music and his band, The Ludovico Technique. Presenting a sharply distorted brand of harsh industrial that draws as much on the modern sounds and production methods as it does on the classics of the genre, topped off by V.’s viciously effected vocals, the band unleashes a self-titled five track EP in 2010 – both independently and via Crunch Pod. Following the debut, as well as an appearance on Alfa Matrix’s renowned Endzeit Bunkertracks compilation series, The Ludovico Technique embarked on a U.S. tour, performing alongside such varied groups as Ego Likeness, Bella Morte, Ayria and Twitch the Ripper. In late 2011, the band signed to Metropolis Records, with the trio of Ben V., Evan B., and Eryk V. planning to release Beyond Therapy – also the name of the band’s own label imprint – in September of 2012, with plans to tour well into the next year. Ben V. took the time to wax nostalgic with ReGen, discussing the band’s development over the last two years and how the band came to be signed to the most prominent label for goth/electro/industrial music in the U.S., as well as his roots in the industrial scene, and revealing the methods and the madness behind The Ludovico Technique.
How would you describe the band’s development in sound and style since the self-titled EP?
V.: I write songs from my heart and a lot of passion, whereas, the industrial scene has suffered a little bit from a lack of an honest humanity. And I would think that there’s not a song on this album coming out that doesn’t have to do with a very personal issues, but I would say there’s nothing on it that isn’t me. The sound itself is very, I’d say, genuine. It’s a genuine kind of idea, and so it’s aggressive, and there’s some stuff where I sing clean. There’s actually some harder-hitting stuff like that, but none of it is…like there is pop stuff, just whatever I kind of feel at the time is what comes out. I don’t really worry too much about if people will like it or not, but I figured that anyone that enjoys music from the soul will probably enjoy certain aspects of this release.
Your vocal approach on the EP utilized some very unique effects beyond the typical auto-tune or distortion in this style of music, and now you’ve mentioned that you are now mixing in some clean vocals?
V.: There are tracks that I have even a hard-tune vocoder. There are tracks where the vocals are clean with maybe a little bit of a chorus or something. It depends on whatever the mood for the particular material. There’s a track called ‘Shutting Down’ coming out on the new album that is about my father, and so it’s literally about his body dying, and so I called it ‘Shutting Down’ in regard to that process. So, I used the hard vocoding on that because I wanted to have a very kind of…almost like a shock of removing emotion, in a way, from the voice. Even when I use effects, they’re actually used with intention, like the sound design and what they are. If I’m singing something aggressive, I’m going to want my voice to sound aggressive. If I’m speaking of something that would make you feel numb, you’re going to hear kind of this robotic vocoder sound. I think some people just put effects on their voice, it’s like, ‘Oh, that sounds cool.’ I think there should be a little bit more…well, at least for me, there needs to be an idea behind it. I don’t just go, ‘Oh, that sounds really cool, man.’ If I’m singing clean, those were emotions that I wanted to come out in a clean way. If it is robotic sounding, then I wanted to kind of be robotic. So as far as the clean stuff on the new album, there are parts…the emotions of the songs that have anything that is clean, it’ll be like the distorted part then the clean part. It all depends on the emotions that I wanted to be very crisp and very, for lack of a better word, natural. So it does actually depend on the words that I’m saying at the time as to what effects I had to go for.
On the EP, every track began with the sample from A Clockwork Orange, from which you derived the band name. What was the reason for that?
V.: That one in particular, when we first put that together, that spanned…I mean, we’ve been doing this for a couple years now, and Crunch Pod picked that up and said, ‘Hey, we’ll go ahead and release that.’ I released that independently probably about six months or so prior to when Crunch Pod released it. And when we released it…you know there’s a thing about industrial bands. A lot of them have very difficult names to pronounce. The more industrial you are, the more random numbers and letters you have to put in your name. So, The Ludovico Technique is spelled correctly, and for those who are aware, it comes from A Clockwork Orange. I think the reason we put that at the beginning is that we knew that there would be people that would just probably get one track or maybe two tracks and instead of buying a physical copy on Crunch Pod when they released it, it was a digital-only release. So we knew that people might only be purchasing one track at a time. So, since we had such a strange name and we were just trying to get our name out…with a name like some random, regular name, that’s one thing, but I think the reason we did that was because most people would probably spend the rest of the year mispronouncing the name. It was like a little tag. People had to actually think of the band and not just someone saying words from the film itself. You’d be surprised, you know. There are a lot of people, still to this day, who don’t even know where the name came from. A lot of bands pick a name just ‘cause it sounds cool or something. That name in particular actually has quite a bit to do with the material and the idea of the material. So it was a little bit more pertinent to have that name, even though it is long as hell, it is a little difficult for some people to even know how to pronounce, I think it was the most accurate representation of the energy that binds that material.
Can you elaborate on that, how the name and what The Ludovico Technique is in the film relate to the band and its music?
V.: I think the idea of the Ludovico Technique in the film and in the story is a medical process in order to condition a person and getting them to be psychologically corrected toward adhering to more of a non-violent fashion for that film. But that conditioning process, I think, is really more like…to somehow make a person a certain way even if their nature dictates that they’re a different way. So, let’s say here in America, you’re American, I’m American, there’s a lot of ideals that we try to instill, the generalized American Way, which I don’t think is all bad. I’m not one of those people. But what I will say is that there is a sense of that we forget as human beings that when you feel something in your heart, that doesn’t make it wrong. And so you really shouldn’t be either a) conditioned or b) afraid to be those things you feel, as long as you’re not hurting anyone; if you’re not doing anything that is utterly any kind of destroying anyone else’s pursuit of whatever. But people are afraid to be themselves, because of whatever conditioning they have been around, that somehow they would lose structure in their life or people would not accept them, the people they call friends or family or employers, or something like that. We need to figure out the payoff of just living the way you want. From that aspect, I think the name kind of calls into question the concept that your nature can be conditioned out of you. And in the film that’s what the conflict is; as well, the material that I write has a lot to do with these things that we come across as human beings. We’re all having our own unique experience for the time that we are here on earth and the time that we’re alive. A lot of my material deals with religion. A lot of my material deals with psychological things, whether it is going through things personally or psychological in a therapeutic way. Some people are against therapy; some people are against medication. Some people are for it. I think that it’s a very interesting kind of subject to touch on, and there’s so much wealth of material within the subject that it’s a name that I wouldn’t think in 10 years from now, like ‘Oh, God!’ I know there are bands that are like in 10 years, ‘Oh, why did I choose that name?’ So I felt that if it means something, that never will feel wrong. It won’t be, ‘Oh, that was so 2007 industrial.’ It’s a name that will always be in the material. There is never a time that it’s not relevant to the material.
That’s interesting because the new album, and the name of your own label, is Beyond Therapy. On the subject of the new album, you are now signed to Metropolis. How did you come to move from Crunch Pod to Metropolis?
V.: Well, Crunch Pod was really good to us. I think one of the downfalls of all music industry, whether it is major labels, Internet labels, from the little guys all the way up to the big guys, is the loss of money due to pirating. I’m not one of those people who want to preach to anybody. Obviously, as an artist I don’t want to promote stealing music. At the same time, I’m very aware that it occurs, and so that’s that. The reason I mentioned that is because Crunch Pod has gone all digital, which means there is no physical copies. A lot of people have a problem with that. I myself thought it was a great opportunity to be part of something I believed in, whether or not people could buy a copy of our CD or not. I loved all the other Crunch Pod artists. I felt there was a lot of artistic integrity on that label, and I like Ben Arp’s mentality toward his artists. I guess we were kind of the new guys on Crunch Pod toward the end, and then there were already a lot of problems anyway. I have heard that a lot of people have gotten into arguments about it, and a lot of people like to say a lot of bad things, but I will be the first one, not the only one, to say that we were treated very well. As things rolled along, we started touring a lot; the whole year of 2011, we basically kind of didn’t stop touring. We were going to release another album originally through Crunch Pod, and I got a call from our management, and they said, ‘Hey, Metropolis is interested!’ And if anything, I thought it was a hard decision to say, ‘Do I stay where I’m at currently, or do I move to something possibly larger? And how is it going to affect the way I do what I love to do?’ Because as an artist, when you do what you love to do, you might almost think it doesn’t really matter what label I’m on. I’m sure all the industrial musicians out there that came to somehow be on a label will make the argument that it doesn’t and you don’t have to worry about it, and if you eventually get signed, that’ll happen. If not, that doesn’t mean it validates you. You validate you and regardless of whether or not you’re signed, it’s irrelevant to how much you should love what you do. Anyway, where I was going with that was that the Metropolis thing came in and I kind of thought, ‘OK, are they going to want to alter what we do?’ I had complete control and creative freedom with Crunch Pod, and as long as that maintained with Metropolis, then all was well. I knew that my art would be able to reach more people because of larger distribution. As long as artistic integrity was just as important as it was on the smaller label. Well, one thing I found was that Metropolis treats their artists very well. It’s basically run with artists completely in mind. You know, when you’re in the industrial scene, you just kind of hear things, and obviously Metropolis is kind of the big guy in the USA and you kind of worry about that sort of thing. If I ever make it there one day, will I have to alter anything? Is there going to be an expectation for me to fit into some sort of marketing plan or something? When I was just a fan of industrial music, I was one of those elitist guys that thought, ‘Oh, if it’s one of those big labels then I’ve got to find my CDs out in the middle of the desert in order to get to the underground.’ Metropolis treats their artists very respectfully. There are no expectations to fit into any mold. I know the biggest of the big are on Metropolis. There is no… ‘We want you to be X band, part two.’ There is nothing like that. They give you complete creative freedom, and that’s why we actually did go with them.
So Crunch Pod has treated you well; Metropolis has treated you well. Has there ever been a point in The Ludovico Technique’s history with a label in which that that wasn’t the case?
V.: I won’t mention any names, obviously, but there are different kinds of labels. It all really comes down to who runs it. Usually, in the independent music scene, whoever runs the label is going to run it in that fashion. I will say that there are people in the industrial scene that would like to see the scene be a certain way, whether it is because they actually believe in that or they think it’s somehow better, that it’ll make them more money, or something like that. It’s the industrial scene; no one’s making a million dollars off the subculture. In order to be into this subculture, you and I, we had to love this. You had to breathe, eat, sleep and bleed this world that doesn’t make any sense. It has to be in your heart. What I will say is that I’ve come across labels that I think it wasn’t quite as much in their heart as you would think it should be for being in a kind of underground, counterculture scene. It’s like stop. Stop. If you don’t love it, go listen to hip-hop. I’m sorry, that’s my way of thinking.
You mentioned once having an elitist attitude toward the music. What changed that?
V.: Well, we all know that when you’re a young industrial guy, or whatever, much like I have been doing in this interview, they are going to have opinions. If you ask the industrial guy, ‘What do you think about the music scene?’ He’ll tell you a 20 minute story about it. So, the thing about me being kind of an elitist when I was younger, I think, is that when you’re young, you get a little snobby. I’m not 20 years old anymore. I don’t picture myself as super old, but I’m definitely an old-school person at heart, and one thing about old people is that they are very opinionated, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s just that for me, I definitely was one of those guys. ‘If you’re not on label X, obscure, and out in the middle of nowhere, then it’s garbage!’ What changed that is really just age and loving it, and there are so many other people in this scene that do it because they love it as well, and there’s really no reason for an elitist mentality. So, luckily enough, as I’m maturing, I’m kind of learning to leave that a little bit where it needed to be, which was in immaturity, you know, as I was growing up.
While you write the material in the studio, you have two live members: Evan B. and Eryk V. (previously Jon Siren). Have they been involved at all in the production of the new album?
V.: I still write all the material. As far as recording, there are some front men that are like, ‘It’s my band. That’s the end of it.’ We all know what the band is about and I like to include them in the band if they have something that they really feel is worth contributing. I can’t just have hired guns. A lot of bands have a guy that they just take off the street and say, ‘Hey, join the band. You’ve got to do this or you do that.’ With me, I want people if I’m going to be surrounded by for months on end on tour to really feel that material. You can’t fake that sort of passion. If you’re really not into the things I’ve written, you’re going to play poorly onstage. You’re going to play poorly with your entire energy. You’re going to say, ‘I hate this.’ So what it really comes down to is hearing from the live band, ‘Hey, I’ve got this part that I really think fits in the vibe of what we’re going for artistically.’ I’ll always listen, and if they fit into some of the songs, I don’t leave it. I don’t say, ‘Well, you’re the drummer, so you have to go write all the drum parts’ or ‘You’re the keyboardist, you have to write all the keyboard parts,’ but I’m definitely open to what people bring me. As far as the new album, the keyboardist and I worked very closely to make sure that we had a good sound, sonically; we’ve put in so much time and effort to make sure that sonically this album is as professional as it can be. In a DIY kind of scene, your heart and soul really shows immediately. It’s different in other scenes where you have a huge budget and you can fly here and you do this and you’re working with these world famous producers to make your rock album or whatever, like, great. But this kind of music, you really, really…it comes down to blood, sweat and tears as well with the production. My keyboardist has been completely instrumental in making that occur. We’re also working with Ted Phelps from Imperative Reaction on this one. I know he’s pouring a lot of heart and soul into it as well, which is great, because I love Imperative Reaction.
V.: He’s from the old school, definitely. I think it was that we had played a couple of shows with some of the other acts that he manages, which would be like Ego Likeness and Bella Morte. He does kind of a lot of goth stuff, and I wanted someone that I trusted as a manager. I wanted someone who loves the music as much as I love it. I knew he was someone who…when your heart’s in it, then it’s not just this marketing scheme. ‘Right, we wear make-up onstage and I growl and sing distorted,’ and you think, ‘Oh, the kids’ll love that’ or something. ‘It’ll scare their grandma. They hate that.’ But I think there is something much more than that. The reason we even look the way we do onstage actually has nothing to do with people thinking it looks cool. Actually, I don’t think looking like you’re emotionally drained even looks cool. I mean, I have pretty good teeth; I blacken them out onstage. There’s a whole reason to all of this and it does have to do with the art. It has a lot to do with the art. So when it comes to Athan, he understood that. There are some industrial guys who are like, ‘What are these guys, all like dressed up? Like what’s this?’ Athan understands that element of the artistry. It’s the music and it’s the entire package. But if you don’t have songs that are heartfelt, you can slap makeup on anything and it’s still going to not be the greatest thing if the music itself isn’t the highest priority. Athan understood that and he completely had the integrity. And so we were the industrial band that he had been looking forward to really managing. He doesn’t do quite as much industrial as goth, so we’re kind of bridging that gap into that world. I couldn’t think of anyone else that I would want to work with. When I was young, I just wanted his posters on my wall. You know, Spahn Ranch are old school classics, so I feel very respectful. I respect a lot of what he did. It would have to be someone like that that would able to take us to the next level.
What is the next step for The Ludovico Technique, aside from the release of Beyond Therapy?
V.: Once we release the album, we’re going to be touring in the USA for that, and we’re probably going to go over for some European dates once those tours are done. Between the time period that we hand it over and it being released, we’re probably going to shoot some videos for it, but as an artist, you have to think through your music and think, ‘Which song do I want to be a music video?’ And I think, ‘Man, every one of them!’ Not in the way where it’s like one song is marketable, but almost for its artistic sense. Even if the song is not marketable to clubs, I would just love to see imagery to the music. I see imagery anyway when I hear this stuff, so I’m going to be working with directors and stuff to really come up with something that matches these sounds, which is very exciting. I’m sure people I would be doing music videos for would be like a nightmare for any marketing campaign, but I’d rather see some David Lynch-style surrealist take on some obscure weird song, but I’m sure it’ll be a healthy balance. That’s just one thing we want to do along with touring and just continuing on. I think, as an artist, if you ever think you’re complete, maybe you have exorcised all the demons you need to, but most people who are into making art or making music, there’s always something new. The way that your brain works is it interprets all the information coming in a way that is very conducive to wanting to express something versus speaking or an interview like this. I’ve been kind of like a salesman or something; ‘Hi. How’s it going? Would you like to buy this?’ When I make my art, it’s a whole other place, and I think that as human beings, making art is one of those things that we do that definitely makes this life so much more bearable. That reinterpretation of the things that come into us and the things that we perceive, being able to put those out there…when you put them back out there, you’re putting part of our soul in it. If it works correctly, you’re putting all of your soul in it. If I read a story or see something that inspires me, instead of just telling you, ‘Hey, man, here’s this idea.’ If I could put it into an artistic expression, I actually put the weight of my essence and who I am behind it and it becomes something that just words themselves cannot touch. Where are we going to go? Well, we’ll probably be having this conversation for years to come about music.
Is any of the material on the self-titled EP going to be revisited for the upcoming full-length?
V.: This is in the big area of going back and forth in my own head. I mean, there have been some fans of the band from day one who are like, ‘Oh my god, when are we going to get new material?’ I’ve been promising new material forever. And then, every day there are people still finding this five-track EP and going, ‘Oh my god! This is pretty interesting. I enjoyed it.’ I didn’t want to take some sort of stupid, cheap way out and just put five songs on. So I picked one or two of my more favorite songs and I am having Ted kind of re-polish them up; not because of any sort of lack of anything. It’s more because there are only five songs, and there are songs out there that I think would be best left to rest. But there were two tracks in particular that if someone hadn’t heard of the band before…well, that EP is actually on its way toward being out of print, you know, and it will be eventually completely in obscurity, unable to be found. And so with that in mind, I knew the Metropolis album coming out wouldn’t be, and I thought if I could pick any one or two tracks that I would take with me to never go out of print, to never be unavailable anywhere, I would take ‘Heal My Scars’ and ‘Memory.’ So we did bring those two songs over, because for anyone in the future that buys this album or obtains it or whatever, those are just two of my favorite songs still to this day. There is an entire album of new material, but those two songs really do mean something beyond just, ‘I wrote this; it’s done.’ I thought it was very important that, if you’re getting introduced to the band for the first time through this Metropolis album, you still kind of have a little taste of where we came from. A big taste of this is for old fans to get a bunch of new material, but I wanted that little sprinkle, that little dash of here is where we came from and that sort of thing. So, yes, there are two tracks.
Is there anything you’d like to say to close out?
V.: Be on the look-out for The Ludovico Technique tours in 2012 and 2013. We’re probably going to be touring quite a bit with this album. We’ll be going places we definitely haven’t gone before.