Rebranded and with a new album out now on Artoffact Records, Canadian duo OHMelectronic speaks with ReGen Magazine about their own particular take on electro/industrial music.
An InterView with Craig Joseph Huxtable & Chris Peterson of OHMelectronic
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Craig Joseph Huxtable and Chris Peterson have each carved out their own particular niches in the electro/industrial scene, but with OHMelectronic, the duo has found a perfect outlet to unleash their shared creative vision. With Huxtable known for Landscape Body Machine and Noise Unit and Peterson’s resume including the likes of Front Line Assembly, Decree, Unit:187, and Left Spine Down, the pair were originally known as Öhm, releasing their debut in 2013. Hearkening back to a purely electronic style that stands toe-to-toe with the heaviest guitar-laden industrial/rock, the band’s latest self-titled effort under the new name sees Huxtable and Peterson pushing the boundaries of their collective talents, solidifying the pair’s artistic identity. Having shared the stage with the likes of Skinny Puppy, Severed Heads, and RevCo, OHMelectronic is poised to bring its sound to a wider audience with the band’s upcoming appearance at InFest in August 2019, marking their first ever U.K. gig. Just prior to the release of the OHMelectronic album, ReGen Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Huxtable and Peterson about the duo’s creative process, including aspects of songwriting, production, lyrical themes, and the band’s perceptions of electro/industrial music. In addition, the pair share some fond words about their colleague and friend Jeremy Inkel, performing live, and drop a few hints of what is yet to come from OHMelectronic.
It’s been five years since the debut. Aside from the slight name change, what sorts of developments – from a personal and/or technical standpoint – have occurred within the band that you feel have had a major impact on the material you created for the second album?
Huxtable: Chris and I have both had shared and personal challenges in the last couple of years that sidelined us. We just had life and family matters that demanded our full attention. I think those events like Jeremy’s death, and for me the welfare of my children, simply took over as priorities. In the end, those challenges pushed us, helped us grow, and gave us reasons to get back at work and persevere.
I think in approaching this record, we knew we wanted to further refine the sound, make the songs heavier, but not in that ‘hey, we’re going to make our heavy record now’ sort of way. We wanted the weight coming from the songs to be because they were powerful and not just loud.
What is the songwriting dynamic like between the two of you? Obviously, Craig is responsible for the vocals, but in that capacity, what is the extent of Chris’ input on your vocal approach? What sort of contrasts exist between your individual styles, and how do you work them into become the sound of OHMelectronic?
Huxtable: For the most part, we work together as songwriter and producer… or, at least, that’s where we usually start. Sometimes, all I got is a synth line and other times, I show up with a whole song structure and lyrics ready. Or in the case of a song like ‘Disarmed,’ Chris created this incredible patch with his Doepher A100 and it inspired me to write the lead for the song right on the spot. That’s the great thing about OHMelectronic, I guess, is that Chris and I don’t struggle when we work together. Maybe the song will present challenges, but we approach it as a team. So, while we do have different styles and likes, we try to stay focused on what ideas would be best for the song and not like, say… keep a part in a song because it hurts someone’s ego to remove it. We have to work like that, free of ego. I can’t personalize Chris when he gives me direction on my vocal because he’s doing what he thinks is right. The trust between us is the creative glue.
Both of you have had a profound impact with your different approaches to the industrial and electronic genres. What are your thoughts on how these two genres have evolved and how they’re perceived since you first started making music?
Peterson: It’s not something I think about because I am usually thinking of the next project I’m working on and just keeping busy. Industrial and electronic covers a very wide range of styles and it’s hard to say they really are true genres now with how vague that has become, especially for industrial. I see with both that it was about experimentation in the early stages and rejecting the framework of the industry, right down to the distribution methods. Then the commercializing of these early sounds came creeping in. It kind of ruined the party for me really, and now instead of rejecting the conventions of popular music or turning it upside down, I see and hear many acts that are very fashion-centric and obsessed with popularity. I often find myself feeling like there isn’t a genre at all for most of what I do, so it’s not something that bothers me too much – just trying to do my own thing, and if you like it, great; if not, so be it.
Huxtable: Industrial seems to have become the kitchen sink genre and everything of all matters has been called industrial now. I suppose this became because so many of the acts using industrial elements in the ’80s experimented and pushed their sounds, started here and went there. MINISTRY, Nitzer Ebb, KMFDM… everybody evolved the sound, and with that, everything became more open to interpretation. Ironically, the oversaturation of guitar in the early ’90s is what pushed me further into electronic music and was the genesis of Landscape Body Machine where I wanted to further the marrying of electronic and industrial without guitar. Working with Chris to me is just the next evolution of that idea.
And now? I don’t even know anymore. (Laughter) I’m too focused on what we are doing to contribute to that musical fabric rather than focus on the music scene itself.
The first single for OHMelectronic, ‘Uppercut’ was released in January of 2017, more than two years before the album’s ultimate release. First of all, what was the reason for such an early release for the single?
Secondly, in what ways did you feel that it represented where OHMelectronic was creatively at the time of its release? Was it intended to be a taste of what the album would hold, or was that even a consideration at the time?
Peterson: I felt that it was indeed a hint of things to come and where we were going for the next record. Things always take longer than you think it will – life gets in the way more and more as you get older, and are more than just a music obsessed young fellow. Your life becomes more well rounded, and you become as invested in your personal relationships as much as your artistic needs, striving to find balance and harmony.
Huxtable: I think we thought we were going to follow it up sooner than we did, but again, that’s life, right? We got invited to Wave Gotik Treffen and to Prague to play with Skinny Puppy right after releasing ‘Uppercut,’ so we put our efforts there and used it to test drive a couple of the new songs live. It was always intended to be a hint at what we thought was next, but you don’t always know if that’s how your record is going to turn out. I mean, we had an idea, but it’s best to let the album decide how it’s going to sound, make choices that serve the music.
Lyrically, the song seems to have a spiritual and sociopolitical resonance – ‘A self-righteous parasite funded by the religious right.’ A quote from Orson Welles (1981, Filming The Trial), ‘Every work of art is a political statement. When you deliberately make it, you usually fall into the trap of rhetoric and the trap of speaking to a convinced audience, rather than convincing an audience. I think some movies and some books and… god, some paintings have changed the face of the world, but I don’t think it is the duty of every artist to change the world; he is doing it by being an artist. That just automatically goes with it…’
The reason I bring this up is because I wanted to ask you your take on this on a philosophical level since industrial and underground music in general has a history of addressing politics and the contemporary
Huxtable: ‘Uppercut’ is very much about what’s happening in the world right now, particularly the United States as it blindly lumbers toward outright fascism. The lyrics were written in 2015 and that may seem somewhat prophetic given the last couple of years in U.S. history, but I really don’t see it that way. Canadians have unique insight in to the U.S. in that we are saturated with so called U.S. culture, but we are not really a part of it. Like other impartial observers, we could see this coming for a really long time… like, since Regan. I could have written this song in 1985. Money has America in its grasp and it won’t let it go without choking it to death. I guess I’ve always felt compelled to write songs about shit like this. With such great injustices happening, how can you just sit idly by?
Given that these are issues that have pervaded all of human history, do you as artists ever feel like the messages and ideas you’re trying to convey are lost on audiences?
Huxtable: Maybe lost on some, but certainly not on all. There’s a great revolution about to happen. With the rise of these populist movements there are also people on the ground fighting for change.
It’s now been a little over a year since we lost Jeremy Inkel. The first time I met Chris was at the 9:30 Club in D.C. and I did an InterView with him and Jeremy for FLA, and I was immediately struck by the creative and personal rapport they had. As a fan of his in Left Spine Down, I was also touched when he (drunkenly) told me that ReGen was one of the first publications to give the band major attention. Are there any words that either of you would like to share about him – memories or just reminiscence?
Peterson: I’m currently working on putting together an album of his unreleased solo works. With the help of his dad Michel, and Sasha Keevil of FLA, we’ve gathered up all the hard drives and such that we need to piece this together. I think of him a lot and he’s sorely missed. I spoke at his memorial about a life well led and ended far too soon. But sharing with his family that he lived his dream and went beyond it was something that I hope helped them, although I can’t imagine something as horrible as losing a child. All I can do is keep his memory alive as best I can for them and share our experiences together as much as possible. And I hope he inspires people to this day with not only his music, but his story of relentlessly pursuing his dreams and achieving them. His sense of humor was such a breath of fresh air and lit up every room he entered, and his boyish exuberance was contagious and a blast to be around.
Huxtable: We used to affectionately call Jeremy ‘the boy’ because of his youthful exuberance. It’s really strange when someone is in your life for 20 years and you share some pretty incredible experiences with them. I headlined Jeremy’s first gig as a promoter when he was 17; I was on tour with him on his very first tour. We wrote a couple of really great songs together. Even over a year later, it’s hard to believe that he’s gone.
You’re scheduled to perform at this year’s InFest, making your debut in the U.K. Tell us about how you came to be part of this prestigious festival, and what sorts of challenges you feel you’ll be facing in bringing the new OHMelectronic music to the live audience? Are there other live shows, or perhaps a tour planned or in the works that you can tell us about?
What’s next for OHMelectronic?