Front 242’s Daniel B. generates a whole new wavelength of industrial music with Not Bleeding Red by Nothing But Noise.
An InterView with Daniel Bressanutti of Nothing but Noise
By: Jasen T. Davis
At first, there seemed to be no industrial music whatsoever, and then in a flash, groups were releasing a new form of mechanized, progressive music. But just a handful of bands knew what to really do with those keyboards, computers, musical instruments and synthetic drums. By the end of the ‘80s, bands like Nitzer Ebb, Kraftwerk, Skinny Puppy and Front 242 were creating new music driven by technology that wasn’t disco, pop or metal, while the rest of the world did its best to forget Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. Front 242 created and then pushed the boundaries of industrial and electronic body music in 1982 with the release of their first album, Geography. Many other successful LPs followed, most notably 1988’s Front by Front and Tyranny >For You< in 1991. Even now, playing “Headhunter” at any industrial club will still pack people on the dance floor in the same way that the band still packs stadiums when they tour. Daniel Bressanutti – a.k.a. Daniel B. – is part of the success of Front 242 as he brings the skills he’s honed handling the keyboards, programming and live mixing over the decades to his latest creation. Nothing but Noise is one of many projects Daniel B., Dirk Bergen and Erwin Jadot have worked on during their years spent composing tracks that fans of electronic, darkwave and industrial can’t forget. With Not Bleeding Red, the band has constructed an album that is more superego than id, a Beethoven’s Fifth for people who grew up on The Downward Spiral. Not Bleeding Red is a symphony of synthetic soundscapes for aficionados who enjoy Tangerine Dream, David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy or Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack; it’s the kind of album that brings to mind vast, computerized cyberscapes of monolithic technical imagination, perfect for your own creative endeavor but with just enough mechanized energy to remind you that the genre of industrial still contains some powerful, thought-provoking depths. Daniel B. is a man that is always on the road, in the studio or on a stage, but he was able to take a break from his recent excursions to talk to ReGen Magazine about the process of creation, the inspiration behind Nothing but Noise’s latest album, and why the current industry needs a jolt of adrenaline.
When you are not composing music, what else do you enjoy listening to? Every artist has influences, so what music do you like to hear when you are not busy creating your own?
What musical influences did you draw upon for Not Bleeding Red, as opposed to the albums you’ve made with bands like Front 242 and Speed Tribe?
Daniel B.: The biggest difference with this one was the amount of free improvisation that was used. With Front 242, we are extremely analytical about we do. When I work on a project, I have a different way of approaching it, as opposed to what I’ve done before. I don’t know why, but I felt that it was better to approach this project using a lot of instincts. The biggest difference with improvisation comes from using a lot of notes. You take some stuff out, put a lot of stuff in, and when it works, you are glad you kept it. I don’t know if it was exactly an influence, but listening to jazz artists like Miles Davis really helped us think of what they were doing. I can listen to one piece over and over again and just dream about what the people who composed it were probably thinking when they laid down the tracks. That seemed to happen a lot when we were working on Not Bleeding Red. Because of the technology, we could improvise a piece and then record a track and improvise against what we’d made just a few minutes before. I would play one instrument, and then realize, ‘Wow, I can play this sound with this song.’ I’d go into my library and find old sounds that I had saved from years ago. Plus, I really focused on composing, writing notes upon notes everywhere when I wasn’t in the studio. I like how you can use your synthesizer to record yourself. While I was in the studio with Dirk and Erwin, we’d talk about what we were going to do musically. Of course, the project we chose gave us incredible freedom. If we had made a dance record, we wouldn’t have had the same options.
Will this album have a sequel?
Daniel B.: Of course. At first, we weren’t even thinking of doing it, but the band and I have been surprised by the reaction we’ve gotten. Plus, when we were doing live shows, the idea really seemed popular. You’re going to see an evolution with our music as opposed to the revolution we were starting with Front 242. We intend to bring in a lot more drums, but in a more laid back manner, like using drumbeats from the ‘70s and taking advantage of the krautrock influence, while using modern 2012 drumming technologies. We’ve already recorded a lot of our songs using a more rhythmic approach, so I hope that everyone will feel that there is an evolution going on with this album and it’s not just a repeat of the records we’ve done before. We wanted to use the drums like we use sequencers. It’s going to sound more tribal than rock. We already have a good idea of what we don’t want to use, like cymbals, although if we do use them, they will be stretched out and destroyed until we get what we want. The sequel will have a very different aspect, of course.
Considering your background, you have decades of experience to draw upon when working on a new project. For Not Bleeding Red, you chose vintage instruments such as a Moog Voyager, a Prophet 8, and the Arp Odyssey to create the album’s distinct sound. What other vintage technologies did you employ, seeing as how you had so many to choose from?
Not Bleeding Red is a very serious album. A person can listen to it several times over, and it always feels like the soundtrack to a thought-provoking science fiction film. Was that your intent when you were composing it?
Daniel B.: Well, when you are working on an album, you don’t think about everything all at once. We thought a little bit about the sequencing before we began, but when we worked on the music, we weren’t even sure what was going to go on the record. There wasn’t any thought about what we were going to do. Then we thought, ‘Let’s do a vinyl album,’ and then you end up thinking about sequencing all over again, and that’s when you think about how everything should go into the project. At that point, that’s when you think about how the music would probably end up in a film. I think when we did the music each of us had different images in his head, and it ends up as if it’s a dream. That’s why it sounds like a soundtrack, with some songs illustrating some dramatic point or deep impression as if you were viewing a film.
Many tracks on the album feel similar to Ravel’s Bolero. Some songs culminated from seemingly disparate elements that you almost don’t notice are there at the beginning of the song.
Daniel B.: There are many ways of making music, but the one way I enjoy is when people can just repeat an arrangement, changing little things like a slow evolution that draws the listener in. That’s why I like big metal bands, because they can use simple notes to slowly pull you into the album.
Daniel B.: If someone asks us, of course we will. When we first started recording Not Bleeding Red, we had no idea if we were going to go on tour for it. If we do go on tour for this album, we don’t have to carry as much gear this time, because we are hoping to present the music without having to haul around so much equipment, like you can end up doing when you are an industrial band.
You and your band practically helped to create modern industrial music. What are your thoughts and impressions about the scene today?
Daniel B.: They are mixed. I don’t listen to the scene unless we are at festivals or with other bands. That’s when I discover what’s happening today. Otherwise, I am more interested in music, as opposed to a specific genre. The problem with the label ‘industrial’ is that it seems to become a more narrow description with each passing year, even though there are so many different industrial bands that sound so different than each other. Some industrial bands have become a parody of the scene. I still enjoy the music, but I also enjoy heavy metal bands like Choronzon or albums like Painkiller by Judas Priest. Industrial music today never shocks or surprises me. They are just going through the motions. When I listen to That Total Age by Nitzer Ebb, I still get a kick in the butt. When you hear Pretty Hate Machine or anything like Nitzer Ebb, you can hear the amount of work that went into those albums. Now some musicians just record a track, throw on three guitars and think it’s edgy. A lot of artists that have only been around for three years, who should be pushing the boundaries because they are new, already sound the same to me. I just think that sometimes the people of today are missing the architectural feeling you get with making industrial music and laying down the tracks for the purposes of making a perfect album. To do that, you have to really think about what you are doing. 30 years later, people realize that. Because we’ve been around for so long, fans still analyze the old records and realize how much we thought about what we were doing. When people were listening to Miles Davis in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I’m sure they enjoyed it at the time, but years later, serious fans study his music and discover how much thought he really put into it his music. I was listening to P.U.L.S.E., and I was like, ‘Fuck, we just don’t do records like that anymore.’ A lot of people call me anal about how serious I am about making music, but that’s the attitude that works for our albums. It’s why even today you can still enjoy listening to the music we made decades ago.