South African artist Thomas Mark Anthony speaks with ReGen Magazine about the culmination of his Terminal debut album, signing to Metropolis Records, and continuing to fight against prejudice and bigotry through music.
An InterView with Thomas Mark Anthony of Terminal
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
From South Africa comes Terminal, the electro and industrial/rock band helmed by one Thomas Mark Anthony. Signing to Metropolis Records and releasing his long gestating debut album, Blacken the Skies, the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist presents an outlet for his lifelong devotion to social justice with a sound that owes as much to the extravagance of glam-laden goth/rock and post-punk as it does to the abrasive sociopolitical angst of the early industrial scene; all of this culminates in a sophisticated collection of songs that are as lyrically engaging as they are musically varied. Emphasizing “quality over quantity,” Anthony keeps Terminal’s sound concise with tracks that remain close to the four-minute mark, all the while drawing on his experiences as a civil rights and anti-apartheid activist and building on the tradition of bands like MINISTRY and KMFDM with just a hint of VNV Nation thrown in. Speaking with ReGen Magazine, Thomas Mark Anthony provides us some insight into Terminal’s history and methods, leading up to the Metropolis signing, the formation of his live band, his thoughts on a world where the ills of prejudice and bigotry remain a virulent threat, and what the future holds for the band to finally perform live in the wake of the global pandemic.
Your new album has just been released via Metropolis Records in North America. First of all, would you tell us how you came to sign with this eminent label?
Anthony: I guess it was the usual way – I submitted some material, I got rejected, but received some good advice, I came back a few years later with a more coherent vision. I did reach out to a few labels this time around and was in discussion with a couple of them, but when you get an offer from Metropolis, that’s kind of decision made. You want your music in the same catalog with Die Krupps, Front 242, KMFDM, et al.
Secondly, with the album now released, how do you feel about the audience response so far?
Terminal’s lyrics deal with very relevant social and political topics, and you have a long history of being anti-apartheid and an activist for civil rights. Being from South Africa and now living in Canada, what can you tell us about the evolution of your views to culminate in your music? What sorts of personal experiences that you’re willing to share with us helped shape your outlook?
In the age of social media in which everybody has an outlet to share their opinions, no matter how erroneous or misinformed they may be, it does feel (to me) like there are more people saying things like ‘stick to music’ along with musicians feeling it’s not their place to ‘tell people what to think’ by engaging in political discussion of proselytizing.
Anthony: There is a sort of irony in that most people who say ‘stick to music’ are not paid for their opinions either, but they are comfortable airing them. As they should be.
What do you feel are the responsibilities of an artist, musician, actor, etc. to engage in political discourse?
The live band includes drummer Jessica Choi and keyboardist David Ross Phillips. Can you tell us about how they came to be part of Terminal’s live band, and how you feel they help to bring your sound and vision from the studio into the live environment?
Are they, or will they be at any point, involved in the studio recording or writing?
Anthony: I don’t know if it’s the recording process in general, or if I’m particularly tedious and difficult to work with, but they’ve both made it clear they want no part of it. (laughing)
You’ve expressed a very direct approach with your songwriting style, particularly with regards to your lyrics – ‘If you can’t say it in four minutes, it’s not worth saying.’ Although this allows a certain economy of songwriting (Mike Campbell of The Heartbreakers once said, ‘Don’t bore us, get to the chorus’), is there ever a concern that certain aspects of what you’re trying to say get lost or distilled in such a process?
Terminal released its debut music video for ‘Deadline’ in October. Are there more videos in the works?
Anthony: There will be at least one more from this album. Right now, the shape of the pandemic is changing so fast that it’s hard to predict even a month out what will be practical to do. Which, frankly, is better than where we were a few months ago, as long as you aren’t trying to plan anything.
On a similar note, livestreams obviously don’t hold the same power as a live show, but they have become part of the norm due to the current crisis. What possibilities do you foresee for live music to survive or evolve in the wake of the current situation?
Anthony: It’s kind of sobering to think this, but other countries have known for a while that the current pandemic will not be the last one. We’re all learning how to make good art and entertainment under these kinds of limitations, and eventually – hopefully later than sooner – that knowledge will be relevant again.
To what extent does this apply to Terminal? You’ve said that you plan to resume live shows once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, but in the meantime…?
What’s next for you and Terminal?
Anthony: I am working on a couple of remixes, which is an extremely interesting challenge; it takes a combination of arrangement and production to imprint ‘The Terminal Sound’ on someone else’s music. As you’d expect, both remixes are on their way to being way shorter than the original tracks.
After the May event, we’ll optimistically focus on getting the live show ready for fall performances of whatever scale will be possible. It’s immensely satisfying to look at the analytics for Terminal fans and to find out they’re located all over the world and live in some extremely cool places. We can’t wait to get out there and meet them.
Photography provided courtesy of Terminal