Jan 2016 18

Helming the Glitch Mode Squad is no easy task, but it is one that Sean Payne has gladly take on for over a decade with remarkable aplomb. With a bevy of new releases planned for 2016, Payne speaks with ReGen on the goings on of the imprint and lets us know just how much he is a sucker for nostalgia.


An InterView with Sean Payne of Cyanotic

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Sean Payne has spent the better part of the last decade building a notable reputation as one of the Chicago music scene’s most exciting entities – besides being the frontman of brutal coldwave collective Cyanotic, he’s also helmed his own imprint, Glitch Mode Recordings, acting as a hub for likeminded, up-and-coming and forward thinking acts, encompassing an assortment of electro, hip-hop, and industrial styles. His production and remix credits are many and varied beyond Cyanotic, and neither he nor his company of cybernetic cohorts are showing any signs of slowing down. A renowned enthusiast of technology and transhumanism, a fan of sci-fi cinema and literature (with The Terminator being perhaps the most notable reference point for his audio/visual aesthetic), and one of the hardest working musicians in today’s underground music scene, Payne’s accolades are well earned. Cyanotic’s latest outing, the two-volume Worst Case Scenario collection presents some of the band’s most viciously aggressive and poignantly atmospheric material to date, complete with a bevy guest collaborators along with numerous remixes and alternate versions to make for one hell of a ruckus that threatens to destroy many a speaker system.
Late in 2015, Payne took the time to converse with ReGen Magazine about his latest activities with Cyanotic and the Glitch Mode Squad, giving some insight into the processes that allows for so many acts to share in the creative and collaborative spirit. As well, he offers a few hints as to what listeners can expect from the imprint in 2016, and even takes a moment to discuss the merits of Neil Blomkamp’s proposed additions to the Alien movie franchise, gaming, the untapped cinematic appeal of William Gibson and sci-fi literature, and touring with Cyanotic.


So, what’s new in the Glitch Mode Squad?

Payne: Figuring out video for everybody – scouring old Japanese cyberpunk movies for random visuals to insert into our footage the past couple days. Also, we’re planning releases for our keyboardist Jordan’s debut EP for his Relic project, as well as having just released another Angry Robot Music and Merry Glitchmas compilation, and some work on the Venus in Aries and Audioflesh EPs that will all debut in 2016.

Glitch Mode isn’t a standard label in a traditional sense… maybe hub is a better word? But still, being at the center of all that and doing your own music… one can imagine the drain.

Payne: Yeah, I guess label/collective is the best summarization. It’s pretty much just a cool assemblage of humans making interesting music and art that shares similar aesthetics. We all pull from the same pot and endorse each other heartily. It feels nice to be a part of something bigger than your own project.

Speaking of your own project, you just released Worst Case Scenario Vol.1+2, which included a remastered version of Vol.1. Did that mean you weren’t pleased with the original master?

Payne: Not at all. I thought Wade Alin did a great job with the initial master, but I found out some nifty mastering tricks over the last year that I had been applying to some other Glitch Mode releases and I just had to experiment. I was really happy with the results. I was too close to all those songs at the time of the original mastering and having a year apart gave me some insight into what I was originally setting out to do.

As more artists are taking the production/mix/master end of things in their own hands, is it ever a concern that the need for producers (as in people who specialize in that end) may be diminished? ‘Why get someone else to do it when I can do it myself?’

Payne: I always think it’s nice to have a co-producer – or at least assistant engineer – to give you that third person perspective you can’t ever attain otherwise. I think too many artists are boxing themselves into a corner that way. It gets very isolating and depressing to make music in a creative vacuum and when you’re not sharing the experience with somebody else who has an outside angle.

So, about Vol.2… was there any particular reason the newer songs weren’t originally on Vol.1, or were they simply not complete at the time?
Since the abundance of Vol.2 is remixes, are there plans for a Vol.3?

Payne: There are no plans for more volumes. We’re moving into exclusively EP territory now. To make a long story short, the main reason those new songs weren’t on Vol.1 was just because we didn’t have proper time to finish them before we put out the album and went on a six-week-long tour.

Regarding the EP format, I discussed that with JP Anderson of Rabbit Junk. It does seem like more artists are focusing on EPs and shorter releases – what are your thoughts on this, not just in terms of Cyanotic, but for music as a whole? What are your thoughts on the album format?

Payne: I just think that it is way smarter for an artist to put out content more frequently and keep engaging the audience with new tracks. It’s a great way to increase momentum for everybody. I don’t think the album is dead; I just think the idea of asking for people to pay attention for the whole of 10-15 songs at once in this totally ADD hyper culture we’re living in isn’t so easy. But if you just release that full-length album in two sections… that was my intent with the Worst Case Scenario stuff initially, to release it six songs at a time or so, but then there were all these delays and Jamie’s death and everything else, so we felt we had to just put it out there all at once. In hindsight, I wish I had stuck to my guns and just gone the multiple EP release route.

I will say I probably enjoy Celldweller’s later material for that reason – taking it in a couple of EPs at a time so that getting the full album felt like less of an arduous task for a first time listen.

Payne: Yeah, the new Prodigy was the definitive example for me. I enjoy all the songs, but would have been much happier with three EPs of five tracks each put out over the course of 18 months rather than a giant slab of tracks all at once after waiting six years for a follow-up.

You mentioned looking for Japanese cyberpunk movies for new visuals. Are there any particular ‘new’ movies (Japanese or otherwise) that have tickled your fancy lately?

Payne: The best movies I’ve seen in the past couple years – Robot and Frank is definitely up there; what a sweet little sci-fi fable! And the second installment of VHS had some amazing horror vignettes; especially the Satanic cult episode.

Regarding sci-fi, what are your thoughts on the way cinema (Hollywood, indie, or otherwise) is approaching it as a genre in the last 10 years?

Payne: I’m really liking this current trend of the past couple years where the best sci-fi has been cerebral and not about totally visual bombast. This influx of dystopian movies in the past half decade has been revitalizing. Sci-fi is best when it’s a mirror of our reality and that’s definitely been the case with a lot of the current output, whether it’s in books like Kill Decision or movies like These Final Hours.

Have you played SOMA?

Payne: I haven’t, but a bunch of people whose opinion I trust speak very highly of it. I just only find time to play about a video game every five years anymore. My game for this past half decade was Alien: Isolation, and that is pretty damn fun! I know my friend sent me some links to the SOMA online vids with lots of talk about transhumanism and all that cyber sci-fi ideology stuff that I enjoy.

Regarding that, since your first album was, after all, Transhuman… what sort of advancements (or progressions shall we say?) do you feel have been most significant in that field… at least as far as you’ve managed to keep up with it?

Payne: 3D printing was definitely something amazing, and the revolution of cyber appendages. I just read about some total Johnny Mnemonic style hard drive brain implant style shit this morning. It’s totally the future now.

Do you think we’ll realize Kurzweil’s dream of immortality within your lifetime?

Payne: You’ve got to wonder. I have no idea what’s going to happen when the singularity goes down.

You mentioned playing Alien: Isolation. Neil Blomkamp’s proposed Alien 5 has apparently been waylaid in favor of Ridley Scott continuing his Prometheus/Alien prequel trilogy.

Payne: I don’t know what to say except that I would see both, but I’m definitely not looking forward to a Prometheus sequel as much as I would Blomkamp’s envisioning of Ripley and Hicks and M41A pulse rifles and adult Newt in Alien 5. I don’t even care if it retcons the whole Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection; it would’ve just been a delight to see all those familiar characters onscreen and older with a mega visionary dude behind the camera telling a new adventure that could probably somehow involve Sharlto Copley. I’m a sucker for my nostalgia fix and I grew up watching Aliens a lot more than Alien. Prometheus, man… I didn’t hate it, but I sure didn’t like it much. It didn’t leave much of an impression on me and that’s what was really bad about the whole thing for me. It all just felt like a half baked synopsis for Chariots of the Gods and Alien vs. Predator already did that (poorly) 10 years ago, just like Stargate did it marginally better 10 years before that. The whole ancient aliens thing just feels like a bad joke/History Channel fluffy hairdo guy meme now.
Blomkamp has gotten a considerable amount of flak for his recent movies, but they hearken back to a great ultraviolent to the point of tongue-in-cheek tone and visual aesthetic brought into the new world of digital realism.

If there was a piece of sci-fi literature that you’d like to see adapted into a movie (assuming that it’s done well), what would it be?

Payne: I guess it would be Neuromancer or Snow Crash. I don’t know how you’d do them, but hopefully, we get a chance to feature on either of the soundtracks. I still like Johnny Mnemonic for what it is. I saw it in theaters with my parents when I was 12. I knew it was meant to be a badly acted sci-fi B movie and that’s what it is and it’s great at being what it is. I read some interviews with William Gibson around that time and it’s exactly the way he was hoping it would be. He actually wanted to have it shot on a way smaller budget and tinier scale overall. Most people seem to bypass or totally forget that the screenplay for that movie is by William Gibson. That’s got to be one of very few instances where a novelist gets to adapt his own work into a screenplay and it actually gets released.

Regarding soundtracks, I’ve noticed a greater propensity for industrial and electronic instrumentation that is reminiscent of the synth-heavy soundtracks of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Payne: Definitely. I’m liking that trend a lot. There are some really cool bands doing that too, like Zombi – that’s the most amazing two-person show I think I’ve seen. But I can’t get into most of that retro synthwave stuff because it’s just overly cheesy and doesn’t embrace the true classicism of that style and sound. It wasn’t about going overboard; it was about minimalism due to constraints. I mean, I like them for what they are. We were watching Kung Fury with my 14-year-old brother and my 20-year-old friend and I think that’s the best way for them to intake that kind of ‘80s cheese factor. But like I said, I’m a sucker for nostalgia.

From all the tours you’ve done, was there ever a particular town you played that just absolutely surprised you? In any terms, really… people, music scene, general attitude or atmosphere… any place that just really stuck out to you (and that can be either positively or negatively)?

Payne: I guess some of those little market places like Riot Room in St Louis. That was a great crowd every time and people buy a ton of merch.

So, from a place like that, you’d say there’s truth in the notion that a band makes more (or is more likely to make) money playing shows and touring?

Payne: If you’re doing it right and smart. I don’t think full tours are necessary more than every two years for smaller bands now, but spot shows do really well in the interim. I don’t consider it a tour unless it’s more than 10 days, but having an agency behind us and a good record with promoters is helpful. We’ve done 20 tours in 12 years and it’s just started to make an impact in the last couple of years. This next one is going to be my favorite because I’m really figuring out how to play like an electronic band, with more of us switching to instruments for different parts.

And it’s interesting since Cyanotic seems to have gone through every permutation from a standard rock format to something more like what you just described… obviously the logistics of equipment and available personnel (who’s able to tour at a given time, etc.) come into play in that, I’m sure.
Is there anything you’re doing visually to augment the show? Obviously, you’ve had projections and such in the past, but what are you doing or would like to do visually for your shows now that you’ve not done yet or as extensively in the past?

Payne: Playing behind three TVs all with different cool imagery I’m cutting together and some electronic drum pads that we use for fun stuff like bass drops, and to play little electro tom parts… I don’t know why we didn’t always try to do this. I mean, we were never trying to be a rock band, so it’s weird for me to think about in retrospect. Eris was awesome for playing off the loops; I love a drummer that can play with the loops, but I think making a conscious choice to be onstage with most of the rhythm coming from machines kind of sets an example for what we’re doing. It’s all electronic music first and foremost and I want people to always know that from the outset.


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