Ian Flux speaks about the formation, influence, and philosophy behind Fact Pattern’s melodic and distinctly cinematic industrial/metal.
An InterView with Ian Flux of Fact Pattern
By Guy Lecoq (GuyLecoq)
Fact Pattern has emerged in recent years as one of the leading voices in the current waves of industrialized metal. Over the course of the group’s growing discography and videography can be heard… seen… felt a strong personality and atmosphere, full of mesmerizing and intense depictions of mechanical and societal structures transformed like living organisms into something… else. In a special contribution to ReGen Magazine, Guy Lecoq speaks with Fact Pattern founder Ian Flux about the band’s history and autonomous methodology, touching on the musical and cinematic influences that inform the group’s audiovisual presentation, the tumultuous state of touring in the wake of the pandemic, animal testing, the therapeutic function of art in the midst of mental and emotional turmoil, better living, and hope in an age devastated by its own destructive appetites.
Fact Pattern is now more than 10 years old, has garnered achievements along the way, and still has a lot to offer. But as every accomplishment has a story behind it, could you tell me about the events that led to the formation of the band?
Flux: The band, as it is now in what I consider to be its ‘final form,’ was not a direct path. The first few years of Fact Pattern, in its initial form, were mostly an experiment as far as the blending of styles and the people I was working with at the time. I admittedly didn’t really know what I wanted to do with it in those days. I knew I had all of these influences I wanted to blend, but I wasn’t sure what the proper proportions were. After a series of starts and stops, I gave it a full reboot towards the end of 2016 with a small batch of new songs on the Structures EP. That included me enlisting Jack Lowd to play bass and co-write, since he and I were playing together in another project in 2015 where we instantly clicked. We started writing together and knew we had genuine chemistry. Meanwhile, we were looking for a live drummer who would hopefully later round out a new batch of songs for a full-length.
Speaking of your influences, what are they? How did you manage to blend them, to find the right balance?
Flux: My biggest influences are Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, Type O Negative, Depeche Mode, Godflesh, Neurosis, Faith No More, Deftones, MINISTRY, not to mention a gallery of filmmakers and the composers they work with – a lot of cinematic music influences how we do things. I also had a lot of help blending them all together when Jack and I started writing together. We share a lot of the same influences, but he also listens to a lot of hardcore and extreme metal bands that I’m not familiar with. So, with his sensibilities combined with mine and Corey’s, we just know what works and what doesn’t work for us as a unit. The main thing is that we always want the music to be heavy and emotionally intense while still maintaining plenty of melody. So, no matter what angle we approach a new song from, the goal is always for it to have a strong melodic core, while also being heavy and somewhat ethereal.
Your music, and your art as a whole, is very visual and cinematographic for sure. As such, which directors, composers, and films have had a lasting impact on your perceptions and your creative process?
When image and sound work together we reach a higher level in the expression of art, more emotionally impactful, and giving a greater scope to the works and the messages they convey. All these creators you mentioned have, in my opinion, a very graphic approach in their work – something that stirs and shakes our deepest senses, and tending to show us that beyond what we may think is unreal, we live in a reality that can be both beautiful and nightmarish of our own nature. What do you think about it?
I must admit I don’t know Ti West’s work, mostly because it hasn’t really crossed the borders, at least in France. As for John Carpenter, his work is highly respected, and the one I really like that had a huge impact on me is They Live, which reminds us that we all have an important role to play in the system… even if only by passing on information to help raise awareness, and this is even more true nowadays in this era where information and technology have become inseparable. It’s something that we find in your videos.
Flux: Absolutely! Carpenter is a huge influence on what I do as an artist all around, and what we do as a band, as far as our messaging goes. The references to They Live can definitely be found in our video for ‘Retail Therapy,’ as many have pointed out. It’s definitely a film discussing the cogs in the machine that we all are, but I think what’s crucial to take from that film is how oppressed most of the cogs are. That subjugation never seems to die; it merely changes shape or becomes more covert, and that capitulation is never an option.
As for Ti West, I strongly recommend his work to you. He definitely takes more than a page or two from Carpenter and many other iconic and lesser known directors from the ’70s and ’80s – X and Pearl being his most recent pieces, with the third installment being MaXXXine, which everyone in the band is really looking forward to. Other than that, some of his other great films include House of the Devil and The Innkeepers… I can’t recommend those two enough.
I must confess that when I saw your very pronounced smile that you wear on your face in the ‘Retail Therapy’ video, I instantly thought about the interludes in Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop. These newscasts or advertisements that punctuate the film, this way of presenting atrocities or selling products with a big fake smile on the screen… this can create a certain uneasiness or, on the contrary, provide some relative comfort depending on how the viewer interprets all this, and your video works very well with this uneasiness. You did a great job.
Flux: Thank you so much! That means a lot to me as the filmmaker in the band. And yes, RoboCop was absolutely another influence for the ‘Retail Therapy’ video. It’s one of my favorite films of all time and it only gets better with age, for better or worse. And I mean that in the sense that everything it was saying almost 40 years ago seems even more relevant now. So, that sardonic, half-hearted smile that I and my co-stars have plastered on our faces in that video comes from reality as much as fantasy. And we had a lot of fun making that video.
I can imagine indeed! Did you study in a film school or did you learn by yourself? Can you tell me about your working method?
Speaking of vision, I’d like to discuss your video for ‘Under the Knife.’ For as long as I can remember, I have always felt uncomfortable with the idea that we humans use animals for scientific purposes in order to advance our own research and put our well-being ahead of that of other species. I always say to myself, ‘what if it was me instead of these animals?’ How did you get the idea for this video and can you tell me more about what it means to you?
Flux: That one was done at a time when we were in transition between drummers and had a couple big shows lined up, so we enlisted our friend Tommy Mnemonic in France to help us out. We gave him the lyrics and concept we had in mind and let him run with it. Essentially, the song is about how I believe all animal testing in this country and the world needs to come to an end. I think it’s absolutely cruel and barbaric, so my proposed solution in the song is to instead use sex offenders who’ve had repeated violations, specifically against children, to be used as test subjects for all medical research. Obviously, this is somewhat impractical in reality, but we like to think of it as a ‘nothing left to lose’ dystopian remedy. The concepts that we discussed with Tommy when we gave him our in-studio performance footage to intercut with were essentially revolving around ‘medical science,’ ‘animal cruelty,’ and ‘incarceration.’ We just had him pull a ton of royalty-free stock clips and perform his magic on it. His editing is insanely chaotic, and we felt it was perfect for this particular song. The idea behind it means a lot to me because I’m a huge animal lover, a vegan, and I deeply despise sex offenders.
80% of the world’s animals spend their lives locked up in factories, which are sometimes real factory towns in the heart of rural areas. 70 billion animals are transformed into manufactured products every year. Four multinationals (JBS, Tyson, Cargill, and Smithfield Foods, the latter part of the WH Group since 2013) that alone control 80% of the meat sold in the world and the entire production chain, each of them more powerful than Coca-Cola. Activists around the world who dare to denounce the abuses of this system are persecuted and condemned. I would like to have your point of view on this issue; also, do you as a vegan and animal lover have to face daily invectives about your opinions or your way of life?
Flux: Exactly. All of that data is a huge part of why I’m strongly against the entire industry. I honestly am not militant in my beliefs, and I don’t care if people eat meat or animal products. I just wish they would spend their money more consciously and educate themselves on these problems. If that were the case, I think these industries would be forced to reduce their footprint massively. Because, as you stated, their power is far too overreaching as it is.
As for my day to day, I don’t really get a lot of argument or insults from people around me. Those closest to me often forget I’m vegan most of the time because I don’t preach about it. But if they have questions, I’m happy to answer in a non-judgmental way. That being said, there is the occasional colleague or co-worker who thinks the joke they’re lodging at my expense is the funniest thing ever as if it’s the first time I’ve ever heard it. I usually just respond with a condescending remark or a death glare. (laughs)
It’s interesting that you talk about work because a lot of musicians and artists in general have to work in parallel to their artistic career. Streaming services, and download platforms before them, have changed the way people consume music, resulting in a drop in revenue for many artists and labels. What about you? What do you think about the preponderance and methods of the streaming giants?
Flux: Personally, I don’t really enjoy relying on an internet connection to enjoy music… at least as far as streaming in my car is concerned; the connection is almost always dodgy and frustrating. My preferred digital platforms are Bandcamp and Apple Music (Bandcamp more so), and I always buy something outright and download it if I enjoy it enough. So, I ultimately prefer physical media if it’s available. I’m definitely a bit of a vinyl junkie, although less of one these days. I don’t like Spotify at all as I feel it’s a very fast food sort of approach to music consumption with the subscription-based service that’s hurting a lot of artists. The fact that billion dollar tech companies are ruling the music world right now is extremely upsetting to me, but the major platforms all have their major flaws in one way or another, so I pick my battles.
What about the profitability of live shows nowadays? During the pandemic, artists were obviously deprived of this important source of income, but the recovery seems to be equally difficult. We are seeing many artists forced to cancel tours due to unsustainable costs.
I can confirm that many artists are forced to cancel their tours in Europe. This is an unprecedented situation as far as I know, and it doesn’t seem to get any better. You mentioned the difficulties and stress that many artists have to deal with. In a study conducted among independent artists and published in 2019 before the pandemic, which considerably worsened the situation, the results showed that 73% of the respondents experienced mental health issues, ranging from anxiety to depression, stemming from their music careers. Is this something you have experienced or witnessed on your journey?
Flux: Absolutely. Nothing about this chosen artform is easy, especially in this day and age. Every artist has to be a multi-faceted talent; from the writing and production of the music itself to conceptualizing the art for each release to creating the videos, or at least having the resources and network to help you out. It becomes very daunting to do all of that and keep up with the pace of social media and the way in which music is consumed now. I love being able to execute every aspect of what we do ourselves, but it is the pacing that becomes exhausting. So, learning to make as much as possible when schedules permit and drip it out later is becoming part of the rhythm. And I haven’t even gotten into the other aspects that have an effect on an artists’ mentality such as impostor syndrome, comparing yourself to your peers too much, etc. But for myself, a lot of what wears on me mentally and often makes me want to quit is seeing people who are known abusers, violent offenders, and others like that succeed again and again. There are people we actively avoid associating with and it becomes more and more tricky the more your network expands. I am so immensely grateful for the allies we have and the dear friends who have our back. I’m always trying to dwell on the positive that those individuals offer, and staying true to what we are trying to create is also very helpful in keeping a level head.
It’s a beautiful lesson of humanity. And it’s all the more difficult to accept because art in itself is a form of therapy for the one who creates and for the one who appreciates it. Speaking of humanity and what we create, how do you see the future of the world and humanity as a whole? In your opinion, what are the hopes that we can hold on to?
Flux: You’re absolutely right, art is therapy… for both the creator and the ones who experience the creations. That has always been its function for me on both sides.
As for the future of the world, I’ve never really considered myself a very optimistic person when it comes to that subject. That’s not to say I don’t feel like there’s hope for humanity. But I was raised in the ’80s and ’90s when end times and doom were part of the vocabulary of the daily news and in a lot of the art I consumed. Global warming (now climate change), acid rain, geopolitical conflicts of all sorts, demagogues, dictators, disease… all of this stuff kind of informed a lot of my world view, and I think where we are now as a society feels very much on track with where the world was when I was brought into it. So, while I don’t feel a lot of hope for humanity, I still always allow myself to be surprised by a potentially positive outcome in any case.