Now signed to Metropolis Records and with a new album out, ReGen Magazine speaks with genCAB about the band’s darkly creative paths of post-industrial and gritty electro.
An InterView with David Dutton of genCAB
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
It can be difficult to pin down just what makes genCAB such a unique entity in modern electro/industrial. As the primary creative outlet for David Dutton, who has cultivated a reputation as a reliable performer and collaborator with the likes of Imperative Reaction and Aesthetic Perfection, his songs are as compositionally challenging as they are striking in their melodicism and slickly produced appeal, often deviating from the standards of the pop formula in favor of a more fluid stream of musical consciousness that doesn’t betray an inherently catchiness that drove past efforts like II transMuter and Thoughts Beyond Words. Despite some touring misfortunes last year, genCAB regrouped and is stronger than ever, now signed to the great Metropolis Records and having now released Signature Flaws, presenting some of Dutton’s most accomplished and dynamic songwriting efforts yet. ReGen had the opportunity to speak with the man about his creative process, throwing in a bit of gear talk, his improved singing abilities, live performance, and all the other factors to genCAB’s success.
Your songs, while highly melodic and filled with memorable hooks, never seem to follow what many consider to be a ‘standard’ formula (the pop mentality of verse/chorus/bridge, etc.). Would you please tell us about your songwriting process, particularly on Signature Flaws?
What do you find to be the most challenging part of creating music for genCAB, both from a composition and a production standpoint?
Dutton: For me, it’s definitely keeping a sense of space for the important things. I’ll riff on a few bars for a while and find a dozen things that I want to do at once sometimes. In a way, that can make filling out the rest of the track a little bit easier as it goes on, I guess. A huge issue that I used to have was CPU usage, but I’ve upgraded so much recently that I usually only run into that problem when a track is basically 95% done now. Compositionally, I used to really worry about genre, but I’m a lot more content now with doing what serves the particular song and not worrying if it’s ‘industrial enough’ or anything now. That was really freeing for me.
Regarding your vocals, while still featuring plenty of effects, there seems to be a great clarity in the tone of your voice vs. the earlier material. How much of this comes from the improvements in production/mastering these days? Would you say that you have more confidence in your abilities as a singer now?
Prior to the album, you’d released a revised version of ‘Perish the Thought,’ which came about due to recomposing the track for your live set. In doing so, what sorts of decisions – in terms of production and performance – do you feel you make in your newer music vs. 15 years ago?
Dutton: There were so many. Getting started, I just cobbled everything together and hit play, and it was a huge mess! No bass in some sections, no space for things that needed it. I ended up recreating most of the original parts, but made sure that they could all play nice together. And then, of course, with the vocals, I was able to go up an entire octave on parts without it sounding out of place, and not only did I do that, but I added a lot of harmonies that could have fit in just fine in the original.
In what ways would you say that Signature Flaws represents the logical evolution of genCAB?
What have you found to be the major difficulties with live performance, as it applies to genCAB; what’s the hardest part of translating your music for the live environment?
Dutton: One of the more recent problems was trying to develop a light show with it, but without involving a computer at all for that or tracks. Right now, we can run the show and run separate tracks, but are still looking how to make our hardware lighting setup play nice without someone manning that in real time. We’ve also stripped it down to me doing vocals and occasional keys, and Tim Van Horn doing drums. For the life of me, I can’t sing and play guitar well at the same time, but in the future, I’d love to add someone who could play guitar and keys since so much of the newer stuff has those elements peppered in. The other issue is just the expense of touring. We really wanted to cover the dates we missed on our tour last year, but I was out of work for a while, and it was just impossible.
In terms of how the electronic scene has evolved, where do you see it going? Other artists have recently made some bold predictions about live shows being a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future – what do you think about this and how it might play out?
Just for a bit of gear talk, what pieces of equipment or types of sounds are being made now that are exciting you and giving you some inspiration?
Signature Flaws is your first release with Metropolis Records. Would you tell us how you came to be signed to the eminent label?
Working with labels like Metropolis and Negative Gain, and with so many more avenues for independent musicians to distribute their music and be heard, what are your thoughts on the state of the industry – will we still be bound to labels in the foreseeable future?
How do you feel the labels you’ve worked with thus far ae exemplary of directions that the industry could or should take?
Dutton: I don’t think it’s totally necessary nowadays depending on what your goals are, but personally, I like having a team behind me helping to push it. A lot of us do what we do by ourselves all the time, and I think it’s nice to have some support in that way. Plus, I still believe there’s some merit to being added to a collective legacy. You just have to make sure that those people believe in what you’re doing and are looking out for your collective interests. There are a few labels out there just putting out anything they can get their hands on, essentially abandoning the artist after the first couple of months before release. All of these things need nurturing so that all parties can be successful.
Outside of music, what do you most enjoy? Movies, books, hiking, cooking, etc.
What’s next for you and genCAB? Will we be seeing another tour soon? Any music videos in the works?
Dutton: I’ve decided that I’m going to take a short creative break, maybe like six months, before I start making myself write again. But next year, we really want to focus on playing live, at least in our area. There were a couple of videos that fell through, but I have everything I need to make one of them. I’m just waiting for the free time to shoot it.
Photography provided courtesy of genCAB