Oct 2021 13

Now a full trio and having recently released a sophomore album, Mach FoX speaks with ReGen about the development of Zwaremachine’s sound and style over the last several years.
 

 

An InterView with Mach FoX of Zwaremachine

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

From de facto solo project to a fully fledged band, Minneapolis industrial/EBM act Zwaremachine has made great strides in a few short years. Following the 2018 release of the Be a Light debut, founder and vocalist Mach FoX has gradually built the band’s reputation from the ground up, touring and collaborating with I Ya Toyah, releasing the Ripping at the Fabric EP through the fledgling Brutal Resonance imprint, and now culminating in the latest outing, Conquest 3000. A dystopian nightmare of inspired electronic rhythms and scathing lyrical commentary, the album marks Zwaremachine’s evolution into a more collaborative unit with live members Dbot and Dein Offizier joining FoX in the songwriting and studio recording; the results speak for themselves, demonstrating a marked maturity of style and execution. As the world continues to struggle against the debilitating grip of the pandemic, Zwaremachine endures and presses on, with FoX now speaking with ReGen about the band’s ever growing creative drive and hopes for a more productive future – from the inclusion of his live band mates in the studio process to the logistics of live shows and streaming, developments in the songwriting and production approach, and a few words about what is yet to come…

 

Let’s start with the Conquest 3000 EP released in December, on which you’ve returned to Phage Tapes. First of all, what motivated the return to this label after releasing Ripping at the Fabric with Brutal Resonance?

FoX: We released the single mix of ‘Conquest 3000’ ourselves with some remixes as a teaser for the next album, which will have a different mix of the title track. We looked at several labels from North America and Europe to release this new album and it seemed best to go with Phage Tapes as they are local to us and also have released the first full-length album we made. We also wanted to make more copies of our albums available instead of having a limited edition since this will be our second full-length.

What differences did you notice in the way the two imprints conducted themselves with regards to your music?

FoX: Both of those labels have been good experience to work with for us and offer a great presence in our music scene and genres. My main goal in partnering with a label is to have good distribution throughout the world and a physical product. With Phage Tapes, they now have distribution outside of North America and that was one of the main draws to releasing with them.

‘Conquest 3000’ is the title track of the latest album and is the first to feature the band’s live lineup on a recording; how did it come about that DBot and Dein Offizier ended up working on the studio version?

FoX: I had always intended to present Zwaremachine as a live band trio instead of a solo effort and felt I wanted to change up how all the tracks on this new album were made by making sure I had all members playing on it so it would reflect our live show. I also wanted to bring in some outside producers to give us a bit of new direction and expand the sound. Dbot had written several instrumental demos, which we were going to use for the next album, including ‘Conquest 3000,’ so it was fairly easy to send tracks back and forth to get his bass parts edited and added. For Dein Offizier, I was able to record his drum parts along to those demos that Dbot and I worked on. That recording session happened in January 2020 while I was in The Netherlands where our drummer currently lives.

 

 

What do you feel their contributions were that helped strengthen the sound of Zwaremachine, both live and in the studio? In what ways do you feel the material would’ve been different had they not been involved and the music made in a similar fashion to the last album?

FoX: While playing live onstage with Dbot and Dein Offizier, there is a pure joy and energy that we did not have before, and I think that can be seen and heard. I feel like the power of the live bass and drums give us a presence on the stage and also the recordings that makes us unique and stand out a bit in our genres. I love to take elements from bands and genres I admire and blend them with other styles to create something all our own. I want people to know when they hear a Zwaremachine track, and I think that going forward with this lineup, we have a chance to do that since we are not purely electronic.
While editing and arranging their parts for the tracks, I tried to keep in mind how it translates to the live performance, which is something I always consider while in the studio. The first album was written and arranged while I was playing the songs in live sets, but we did not have the chance to perform any of these new tracks live before the album was made, so we may arrange them a bit differently for live sets in the future once we can rehearse again.

You spoke about the process of writing with Dbot and Dein Offizier, translating the live performance aspect into the writing/editing/arranging of parts. But let’s talk about their individual styles – in what ways do you feel they brought a flavor that was different from what you might’ve done?

FoX: I absolutely love the current lineup. Dbot was responsible for adding more melody and drama to the music for the Conquest 3000 tracks we wrote. He also understands that I may need to simplify and rewrite some parts so that we still stay in the minimal hypnotic framework I set for Zwaremachine music. Dein Offizier is able to not only bring and keep us in a more industrial/rock form, but adds a depth to the sound that was not present with only sampled drums and machines. He becomes the heartbeat to the heavy machine.

Beyond the inclusion of your band mates, what other changes do you feel you implemented in Zwaremachine’s approach to recording and/or songwriting? In what ways do you feel you’ve evolved in these capacities?

FoX: So many things were approached differently for this album. Bringing on other songwriters and producers and even mixing/mastering at another studio were just a few of the changes. I did not want it to be another solo effort, so I worked off of the instrumental demos written by Dbot to write lyrics for several tracks in summer 2019 that we intended for the new album. I then contacted friend and music producer Planktoon, who had done several killer remixes for us, and we discussed rewriting the instrumental parts of those demos together for the album versions. As those new versions were coming together in early 2020, I was able to add and edit bass and drum parts from the band and the album started taking shape, but this was a long complicated process and I had not expected things to move so slowly.
It was at this point in February/March 2020 that I also started working with Darren Corri to produce what would become the Ripping at the Fabric EP. That was a spontaneous and fun effort that did not require me waiting for other parts from the band at that time and was a welcome distraction while we slowly moved along on the album tracks with Planktoon. That EP really helped me focus on what made a Zwaremachine track and emphasizing the minimal, hypnotic approach on the EP carried over to the new album tracks we were writing also. It turns out that both Dbot and Dein Offizier liked some of the tracks from that EP and we had some favorites to consider adding to our live sets in future.
 

 
After completing 11 demos for the new album, it was evident that some just did not translate to our album and live show, so they were marked as outtakes and we decided to give those tracks from the Ripping… EP a fresh new approach by adding the bass and drums along with remixing so they could be added to the album and heard by a larger audience since that EP had gotten great reviews from fans and we wanted to also play those live.
When we completed the album tracks, I also made a decision to work at a local studio to mix the tracks instead of my usual D.I.Y. approach. I chose the Terrarium in Minneapolis, MN since I knew working with owner/engineer Jason Orris would allow me to present this record with a higher level of mix quality, and I felt these songs really deserved that effort and care. I am proud of how these songs developed from early demos to a full blown production that represents the future sound of the band.

Regarding the lyrical themes of Conquest 3000, both the title and the artwork seem to evoke a more dystopian outlook than Be a Light – would you say that’s an accurate assessment? In what ways do the lyrics of the new album extend or evolve from the previous record – either emotionally, thematically, or conceptually?

FoX: Yes, it was meant to be very bleak and dystopian with a slight glimmer of hope shining through in both the lyrics and musical tone. The original idea was that the Conquest 3000 release was going to be a concept album set in the year 3000 and tell the tale of the last survivors on planet earth. The full concept album was abandoned when we realized some of the songs were going to be a bit more melodic and too dramatic for a Zwaremachine album, so we added the remixed and remastered versions of the tracks from our Ripping at the Fabric EP that also had additional instrumentation recorded from the live band members. Those 5 songs still fit the concept idea in the sense that they were a modern day version of the struggles of society and mankind leading up to the five new tracks that are set in the year 3000.
Be a Light was a bit more cyber-horror themed lyrically, with the title track embracing an uplifting message to listeners to be what they want to be. On the Conquest 3000 album, the lyrics are more cyber-dystopian, and in the closing song, ‘Until Tomorrow,’ I tried to carry that same uplifting type of message, although with a much more desperate tone.

 

 

You spoke about the process of writing with Dbot and Dein Offizier, translating the live performance aspect into the writing/editing/arranging of parts. But let’s talk about their individual styles – in what ways do you feel they brought a flavor that was different from what you might’ve done?

FoX: I absolutely love the current lineup. Dbot was responsible for adding more melody and drama to the music for the Conquest 3000 tracks we wrote. He also understands that I may need to simplify and rewrite some parts so that we still stay in the minimal hypnotic framework I set for Zwaremachine music. Dein Offizier is able to not only bring and keep us in a more industrial/rock form, but adds a depth to the sound that was not present with only sampled drums and machines. He becomes the heartbeat to the heavy machine.

In 2020, you also released a special edition of the 2018 Be a Light album; aside from the track order, what were the major differences between the original and the special editions? Did the special edition create or reflect any new ideas that you brought into the fold for Conquest 3000?

FoX: The special edition included ‘Remain Unseen,’ which was the first track that featured Dbot on bass guitar, and we also added select remixes, which were done by Dbot and his other projects. The other remixes we added to the special edition were done by Planktoon, so it was a more focused on the current state of the band and our next album, which we knew Planktoon would also be a part of.

 

 

In what ways, if any, do you feel the global events of the last year-and-a-half affected your outlook that might’ve had an impact on your writing?

FoX: I try to keep the Zwaremachine world of sounds and themes steeped in a fantasy horror escapism. I want to make audiovisuals in the listeners head that are more than typical modern day scenarios; however, with the songs from the Ripping at the Fabric EP that were written in early 2020 and reworked for the new album, the newer versions certainly had a bit of edgy angst driven by current events that made it into those tracks both lyrically and musically.

With everyone in isolation and struggling to make ends meet, maintain contact, etc., what helped you to maintain your creative momentum and stay engaged as an artist?

FoX: I initially did not intend to do any livestream sets because it just did not fit the way I wanted the band to be seen and heard. Since Dein Offizier lives in The Netherlands, it was just not possible to play as the full trio lineup, and after being asked to be part of several online events, we decided that Dbot and I would perform livestream sets with Dein Offizier on the screens behind us. These livestream sets went over well and since we still wanted to promote the releases from 2020, we have continued and are now planning our virtual CD release shows for Conquest 3000. We very much miss playing live as a trio and unfortunately, those release shows planned for 2020 in Germany, The Netherlands, and the other European shows will have to be rescheduled in future.

Obviously, performing live was not possible, and many turned to livestreaming. I’ve asked many about their opinions of this, but now as we approach (hopefully) vaccinations and the quelling of the pandemic, what do you feel are the major lessons we learned? Or to put it another way, what do you feel artists, labels, venues, the industry as a whole should take away from the experience and use or think about going forward?

FoX: The real benefit of livestreams comes from the fact that we connect with fans from all over the world and that has been great; especially being exposed to fans in areas we have not been to yet. Of course, that type of set does not compare to the feeling of a live venue show and we hope to return to that soon. I think in the future, many of the bands and DJs who accept livestreaming can continue online and leave room on the venue stages for bands who are out there providing great live shows.

 

 

Without playing live (yet), such a thing is hard to gauge, with the album now having been out for a couple of months, how pleased are you with the results and how the audience has been responding to it?

FoX: We have been getting great response from fans and reviews so far, and we appreciate the DJs from around the world showing us support in playlists and live club mixes. When I took these songs to The Terrarrium recording studio, I discussed with studio owner and mix engineer Jason Orris that my intention was to make mixes for DJs, dancefloors, and loud club PA systems. I think we made that happen and with more clubs opening, we will soon see if that worked.
With the Conquest 3000 release promo, there has been a slower response by people who support the band and publish reviews and interviews, but I don’t consider that to be about the music we released as much as the huge backlog of releases and promo that everyone has flooding their inboxes these days. We know that magazines and sites like ReGen are doing their best to keep up with great new content and always appreciate when they make time for us in their publications!

Outside of music, what are you enjoying most right now? Watching movies? Reading? Driving in the countryside? Anything at all… what is giving you the most joy to counteract the darkness of the world?

FoX: For me, it is music, music, music. I love to collaborate and also have been doing several remixes for other artists. I will be releasing some brand new Mach FoX band singles, followed by an EP of the outtakes from the Conquest 3000 album, which feature both Dbot (who wrote the instrumentals) and Dein Offizier. We didn’t feel they fit the album, but are proud of the songs, so we decided to release under my solo project. I am also finalizing a four-song EP for Fox Nova Project, which is a collaboration with Australian musician/producer Craig Saunders (Nova State Machine, Novakill) handling most of the instrumentals and myself on guitar, modular synth, and vocals.
Other time-consuming projects are improvising and sequencing music with my modular synths while watching a constant stream of both good and bad science fiction and horror movies for inspiration. I have also been working on videos and visuals for the band with Kitty/InpoetNWC, who is the band manager and handles promo/booking. And I spend time watching many DJ streams and livestream events on Twitch, where I can chat with new and old friends.

What’s next for you and Zwaremachine? When is the next single expected to be released, or the album? Are there plans for live shows/streaming, videos, etc.?

FoX: Making new videos is tough right now since we are all not together in same country, with Dbot and I in the U.S. and Dein Offizier and Kitty (who makes our videos and manages the band) in Europe. We have some plans to travel and tour both in North America and Europe as soon as possible and hope to see you at our shows!

 

Zwaremachine
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Phage Tapes
Website, Facebook, YouTube

 

Band Photo by Kitty Sommer/InpoetNWC / Live photography by Patrice Hoerner – provided courtesy of Zwaremachine
Conquest 3000 artwotk by Mark Gerrard

 

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