From the mind that gave us Cryogen Second and Becoming the Devourer comes FIRES, a new excursion into catchy melodic dance hooks and shrill industrial textures; Eric Sochocki speaks with ReGen about his newest musical output.
An InterView with Eric Sochocki of FIRES
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Eric Sochocki has proven to be quite the versatile figure in underground electro. First emerging with Cryogen Second, he got fists pumping and boots stomping with a punk-like industrial style with sociopolitical themes and warnings against the dystopia of a world teetering on the brink of destruction. Taking things a step further into technical and mathematical territory with the more metal sound of Becoming the Devourer, Sochocki demonstrated that he was not a one-trick pony. With FIRES, Sochocki reinvents himself once again, returning to his dance roots to offer up a melodic, emotive, and above all energetic style that blends the catchiness of synthwave with the distorted atmospheres of his past industrial leanings. Beginning with the MorningTideGrey EP and now with the Red Goes Grey full-length debut on Metropolis Records, and now touring with Panic Lift, Sochocki speaks with ReGen to bring us up to speed on this latest stage of his musical and creative development, lending some insight into his upbringing and thematic outlook, some of the circumstances that led to his newest output, and explaining his deep reverence for fellow electronic luminary Comaduster.
FIRES is stated to be a return to your dance roots – tell us about those roots, your beginnings in music and how it came to influence your work throughout your various bands?
Sochocki: When I was a teenager, I was influenced by all of the ska, punk, and hardcore coming up out of the east coast during the late ’90s. I loved the sound and the urgency of body movement involved in the songs, and like any punk kid, I would desperately try to make a band work, but I could never get people to back me with putting a band together, so I gave up trying.
Then, around 2001 or so, a friend introduced me to industrial through Assemblage 23’s Contempt, ohGr’s Welt, and Skinny Puppy’s Last Rites, and a light went off in my head. I didn’t need to rely on anyone else to make music; I could just write all of the music myself. From there it was just a matter of putting the pieces together in a configuration that I enjoyed making, which is where Cryogen Second was born.
My taste has expanded quite thoroughly since those times; most of what I listen to now is hip-hop, sound design type music (like Undermathic, Poordream, and Integral), and post-rock/metal, but without that first jump into the weird side of music, I probably would have never expanded my taste past punk and hardcore.
Is there a possibility that we will hear more from Cryogen Second and or Becoming the Devourer? I mean, now that you’ve switched your focus to FIRES and have clarified how each project differs thematically and in terms of your musical focus, is there a possibility that you’ll return to those projects in the future?
Sochocki: Becoming the Devourer yes. Cryogen Second no. I still have more to say with Becoming the Devourer, and I think other people can say what I would ever want to say with Cryogen Second. Beyond that, I went through so much emotional garbage ending the project that I don’t think that I would want to go through the garbage of raising it back up.
In the Facebook bio, you state that FIRES reaches more directly inward vs. the political/post-apocalyptic styles of Cryogen Second and the ephemeral in Becoming the Devourer; in your mind, what was the necessity for these different modes to take on different bands?
Or in other words, is there a concern as to establishing a creative and musical identity amid changing names, as opposed to a natural progression of your focus and tastes?
For the last several years, there has been a propensity towards retro modes of music, art, and even movies – i.e. sequels/prequels to old favorites from the ’80s, rock bands taking more influence from ’80s rock and metal, synthwave in electronic music, not to mention many older bands releasing new material and/or touring and performing live again. Aside from your own experience and upbringing during this time, what are your thoughts on the current fascination with the ’80s?
Sochocki: Oh man, I think it’s really telling that we’re using the ’80s as the cultural touchstone right now given our current political climate. I feel like the modern devaluation and reduction of workers to their utility as a producer of capital and the hyper-valuation of social position/wealth looks a hell of a lot like the conspicuous bourgeoisie consumption of the ’80s where job title, how much that job title made them, and how much money they were able to spend frivolously defined the entirety of a person’s worth.
But I think that’s more of a side point of interest, or maybe a subconscious processing point, rather than the truth of why we’re all kind of looking back to this time as a source of inspiration. Right now, the people who are in artistic power are the people my age, who are trying to escape from the mountain of problems we’re facing in this world right now, and we’re doing that by telling the stories and making the music we grew up on. It’s almost like looking backwards to find comfort and solace because of what’s in front of us, if that makes sense.
That said, I think it will be interesting to look back at this in about 30 years time, when the people who are influenced by the current glut of ’80s synthwave are senior citizens, and their children are in positions of power making music and telling the stories they want to tell. Will they be looking backwards from this point or forwards to a new future?
Tell us about the development of the first FIRES album, Red Goes Grey – as you released the first singles, how did the project develop from those first songs to culminate in a full-length album?
Were there any other musicians and/or producers involved, and if so, what do you feel you learned from them in the creation of this new music vs. your past output?
Sochocki: There weren’t people directly involved in the creation process, but I am incredibly fortunate to have a good set of people that I bounce ideas off of on a frequent basis. Without the push of Steven Archer from Ego Likeness saying, ‘You clearly want to make dance music, so buckle down and make dance music,’ FIRES doesn’t exist. Beyond that, I’m good friends with Bee from Mangadrive, and our production skills basically came up in parallel with each other. I would push his production, he would push mine, and even though we’ve never really collaborated on a project together, I don’t know that I would be 1/10th as capable as I am without the long conversations we’ve had about integrating new concepts and strategies into our arsenal.
I think the big thing for me and creation is about urgency and conservation of effort. The quicker I can create an album, the quicker it can get out of my hands, the better. Because the creation process for me is so emotionally taxing, I want to process my feels and head quickly into different waters.
Are there any you’d be interested in working with?
Sochocki: Comaduster… Comaduster… Comaduster. Honestly, I just want to get in that dude’s head and pick apart his design chops for a good 10 years. His new album dropped when I was writing the responses for this InterView and I haven’t stopped listening to it all day.
What did you find to be the major benefits/detriments to producing yourself?
Sochocki: Kind of tying this into the first question, when I started writing electronic music, I did it to get away from having to rely on other people, so I’ve been doing this for the past decade-and-a-half with a ‘Do this all yourself and don’t worry about having people to work with’ mentality. I’ve kind of become used to being my own boss; there’s nobody here to tell me how to work, I don’t have to worry about other people’s vision, just my own, which can be really freeing. But it can be detrimental for not bringing in new ideas, so I’ve definitely had to become incredibly critical of my own output, in lieu of having any consistent collaborators.
FIRES will be performing live in September with Panic Lift; what can you tell us about what you have in store for the FIRES live show and how you developed the visual presentation for the music?
Sochocki: James and I are going to fight to the death onstage for Cristians’ eternal love and affection every night of the tour. But seriously, I’m working on backing video for the set right now, something to contextualize the lyrics, and give people a reference point to the experience.
Will there be any other performers onstage with you?
Sochocki: Yep, yep! I’ve got a drummer and a synth player/bassist backing me, and I’ll be providing backup for Panic Lift, doing bass and synth as well.
As you’ve performed live with your previous bands, what have you found to be the most difficult aspect to performing live; what sorts of challenges have you overcome?
Sochocki: I’ve always loved performing, but it’s a constant learning process. I feel like my past experiences have allowed me to kind of have a built in knowledge of stage presence with this project, but I’ve been having to break a lot of old habits in how I move and how I present myself, without sacrificing the energy of my performance. Things like, ‘Don’t slap your forehead with the mic until you bleed, you’re not in a metal band anymore,’ or ‘Maybe don’t concuss yourself on stage during the first song of your set’ were the easy lessons to walk away from, but the things like, ‘Don’t close your eyes through an entire set,’ or ‘Hydrate before you get onstage’ are way more difficult to process and integrate into the show routine.
Photography courtesy of FIRES