Originally formed in 1995 by sole songwriter, vocalist, and core studio musician/producer Joshua Heinrich, fornever's genre-bending, ever-evolving-yet-uniquely-identifiable sound is the product of relentless reinvention. From the moody, stark, 17 Seconds-meets-Pornography-era Cure-esque vibe of 1999's Pale to the acclaimed diverse alt rock of 2005's ghosthouse and the indie rock/shoegazer/dream pop/electro hybrid of the band's recently released eleventh album, fornever's sound is a blend of innate pop sensibilities, sonic experimentation, and a penchant for melancholia.With two new fornever albums released earlier this year, if you don't like the world change it and exhibition, Grave Concerns has caught back up with Joshua Heinrich to talk to him about his latest recordings etc.
Interview by:Linda DeFlaminis
Grave Concerns: Hello Josh! My name is Linda, how are you?
Josh: Hey Linda. Nice to meet you. I'm good.
Grave Concerns: I see that you are a busy, creative bee, having two bands and your own label. Could you tell us briefly about both of your projects, Black Wedding and Fornever? For example: Whats the difference between the two?
Josh: Fornever is primarily a solo project. I've been recording and performing under fornever for...wow...nearing 15 years now, and it's sort of been the constant thread among my various projects (with the label sort of tying them all together). Black Wedding is an on-again-off-again collaboration between myself and Julie Johnson (she writes the lyrics, I write the music and perform/produce everything) that, in some ways, is sort of an extension of a band we had together back in '99-'02. I suppose there are some marked stylistic differences between fornever and Black Wedding. Black Wedding definitely has a bit more of a goth rock/industrial/electro streak...probably some of Julie's influence leaking in even though I write the music. It's also a nice change of pace to do something a bit different when it comes to a side project. I suppose there probably wouldn't be much of a point if it just sounded like a fornever album under another name.
Grave Concerns: What has been your biggest challenge as a musician? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Josh: I would say my biggest challenge has been promotion and reconciling the business side of things with my artistic sensibilities and integrity. It's something I still struggle with, and the artistic side usually wins. I understand why the artist and label/promoter are often separate entities and the benefits of that arrangement, but I also enjoy the control I have over my own work and how it is distributed and promoted, so it's a bit of a catch 22. It's especially difficult in this day and age where the internet is saturated with independent bands, image is such an important element (not that it hasn't been in the past), and spam and dishonesty are abound. I was lucky enough to be one of the early bands on mp3.com back in the late 90s when digital recording was just becoming available and affordable to the average home musician, so things were a bit less claustrophobic. But when mp3.com introduced its own royalty payment system, suddenly “bands” were creating trance songs in 10-minutes using default software loops, using software to generate thousands of plays (and then getting more because they're topping the charts and “must be good if they're that popular”), and literally making a full-time salary (until mp3.com caught on and dropped some of them). I guess the internet is a hotbed for those looking for the next get-rich-quick scheme. Even now, with myspace, “promotion” companies exist that actually have thousands of fake personal myspace profiles, and bands can pay them so much a month for thousands of plays and friend requests...all fake...all about image. Yet these bands appear to be the popular ones...people buy into it. If I was going to be dishonest, I'd just as soon be direct about it and change my myspace friend count using CSS (also possible, by the way).
So, yes, promotion...getting stuff out there...tends to be my biggest problem, especially since I tend to err on the side of caution, don't really have a large promotional budget, and don't pursue some of the avenues a lot of other bands do. But I think a lot of other artists are in the same boat these days.
Grave Concerns: What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who or what have been your major influences?
Josh: I guess I've never really stuck to one genre, and my work has evolved/changed over time. At the moment, I'd say my work under fornever falls around the intersection of alternative, indie, new wave, and shoegazer with occasional detours. Black Wedding is probably more of an alternative/industrial/goth/electro hybrid. Some of my musical influences include The Cure, New Order, Depeche Mode, PJ Harvey, U2, David Bowie, The Chameleons, Smashing Pumpkins, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Pixies, The Smiths, Nine Inch Nails, Lush...but I find influences in a lot of things...other artistic media...people...the world around us. And I occasionally indulge my other artistic tendencies through side projects, like the 3 instrumental albums I released under my ambient/industrial/noise/experimental project premature burial (the band name is sort of an inside joke), which was influenced by artists ranging from John Cage to Akira Yamaoka as well as literature, philosophy, and spirituality.
Grave Concerns: How do you differentiate a real good song, from a classic? In other words, what really makes a song stand out and last? And with your music, which song or songs do you feel have met that challenge, have come close to it, or are you currently just enjoying the creative bliss?
Josh: Well, I think a variety of things can make a song a classic...from memorable pop hooks to some sort of appealing or unique aesthetic to the song's message (there are plenty of...say...60s and 70s protest songs where I'm not particularly fond of the artists' work but can appreciate their relevance and impact on a philosophical and historical level). Then again, there are plenty of albums that come together as a whole and are classics in their own right without a singular “classic” track (or albums where the “single” seems out of place or tacked on), so while beneficial from a marketing/promotion standpoint, the “single” concept can also be a bit misleading.
As for my own material, I know I've had a lot of fans tell me that they consider “live my life in dreams” something of a classic. I guess it captured something emotionally that a lot of people are able to relate to. And there are some pop songs...like “bright blue eyes”, “shed some light on me”, and “circles” that have sort of that “timeless” quality to them, I think. There are times in the studio when I know there's something there...when a song has sort of a spark that jumps out, and I take pleasure in creating that “perfect pop song” that occasionally comes along. But that doesn't make the other songs any less valid, and I'd say enjoying the creative bliss sums things up nicely.
Grave Concerns: Between the years 1995 and now, what has been going through your mind with the continuously changing music industry? Have you ever wanted to through in the towel? Have you ever wondered why you bother? I ask this because I often hear about a lot of musicians getting frustrated because the changes in the industry and sometimes it becomes difficult to get into and/or be accepted.
Josh: Well, I really think that's the case in a lot of artistic media at the moment. In the mid to late 90s, home studio and CD burning technology still wasn't widely available, and the mp3 revolution hadn't really gotten off the ground, so I was still recording cassette demos at home, circulating material through word of mouth on the internet, etc. I guess, even back then, the internet was changing things (my first radio plays, from those lo-fi cassette demos, were actually international, not local). Then, home recording software and sites like mp3.com sort of opened things up...allowed independent artists to level the playing field a bit and get their music out there directly to fans. But, like I said before, things have gone downhill due to oversaturation and dishonesty, and what once was hailed the future of independent music has become sort of a double edged sword for a lot of artists just trying to keep their head above water or stand out from the crowd.
I think the same thing's happening everywhere in the arts...independent filmmakers trying to get their material seen amidst hundreds of millions of youtube videos...authors trying to get their work read in a sea of millions of blogs and e-zines. In the music industry, bands have tried to rework the industry from the inside to fit the new model...Radiohead with their “pay what you want for our album” and NIN with their “here's our album for free, come see our show and buy the physical CD when it's out” ideas. And those are great if, you know, you're Radiohead or Trent Reznor and are selling out stadiums and have tens or hundreds of thousands of fans willing to pay for something they don't have to. I don't really think those business models devalue music. I mean, if I was a multi-millionaire, I might be giving albums away for free, too. But it's not really feasible for the majority of indie musicians, most of whom are working day jobs and trying to make ends meet while getting their music out there.
That said, sure, I've thought about throwing in the towel here and there...for those reasons and others. You'd probably be hard-pressed to find an artist with a sizable back catalog that hasn't entertained that thought at some point...or one that is completely satisfied with everything they've done. But the music always draws me back. I've joked that whenever my solo project “ends”, the official reason is going to be irreconcilable artistic differences.
Grave Concerns: If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
Josh: Hhmm...maybe the ability to make a decent living through my artistic projects and doing what I want and love instead of worrying about day jobs and paying bills. I've never really been about money or material things... In fact, most of the things I enjoy or strive for are intangible in nature. But it would be nice to be able to just live the life I want doing what I find compelling and worthwhile.
Grave Concerns: If you could travel to any time period, what time would you go to and why?
Josh: I've always thought it would be interesting going back to...say...the 1950s or 60s with a laptop loaded with recording software and, say, a bundle of modern albums like U2's Achtung Baby, NIN's Broken... Gauge the public's reaction...hehe
Grave Concerns: What are your immediate music career goals? Let’s say with the next 1 to 3 years?
Josh: Well, I'd really like to just get the music out there...out to more people...have more people check out the fornever albums. After 3 fornever albums this year and the Black Wedding album still to finish up, I may take a break from massive album projects for a while and release, say, an EP or single here and there or do some one-off tracks for compilations or even soundtracks. I'd like to get back to some other artistic projects, too...projects in other media that I've been toying with or have had on the backburner. So, I suppose, with the new fornever album wrapping up and the Black Wedding album hopefully under my belt by early next year if not this year, I'm planning on going into “live life and see where it takes me” mode.
Grave Concerns: Where have you performed? Do you have any upcoming shows?
Josh: I've performed at a small variety of places...ranging from coffee shops to the first undergraduate electronic music concert at the university I went to, but it's been quite a while since I've played out. I'm usually without a full band (making a pretty large chunk of my catalog unplayable live without backing tapes) and usually drift toward studio work and writing/recording, anyway. I suppose I've always found more fulfillment in creation than repetition, so as excellent as the live energy can be, I think I'm more drawn to the creative process and, you know, putting down a song in it's initial, concrete, quintessential form. And, considering the fact that I've been recording on-and-off all year and am still in the process of recording, there's nothing on the plate at the moment performance-wise...not to say that that'll necessarily remain the case.
Grave Concerns: Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs?
Josh: I write all of the fornever songs and write or collaborate on most of the songs under my side projects (under my current side project, Black Wedding, I write the music and a few lines of lyrics here and there, and Julie writes the majority of the lyrics). I guess my song themes have evolved with time, with songs varying from love to philosophy to observations on the world...and some albums are a bit more thematic. In a way, my 2005 album, Ghosthouse, was largely introspective and sort of looked inward and at the world from a certain egocentric point of view. If you don't like the world change it, which was the first album I released this year, sort of provides a counterpoint to that...more about looking outward at the world, reaching out, making the world a better place, philosophical views and changing the world through love and acceptance and independence. And smile, the album I'm working on right now, is more of a mixed bag, thematically...sometimes personal, sometimes philosophical.
Grave Concerns: How has your music evolved since you first began in 1995?
Josh: Well, I sort of began writing alternative/pop/rock material under fornever, and I suppose my musical output has deviated according to what I've been into at the time...so there was a brief period where I was working on more ambient material or getting into darker territory...but in the end, when all was said and done, things sort of came back around to my alternative/pop/rock roots.
I guess I've always had the opinion that you can often say more with 3 notes than with some complex classical piece, but I'd say my songs have gotten a bit more complicated and intricate in, at least, their layering and production and have maybe strayed from traditional song structures a bit more than some of my earlier work. I suppose it's ever-evolving, though, and I like trying new things. For instance, in the last few years, I've worked on some material (like the speak without words EP) using layered bass melodies and leads instead of 6-string guitar...or, say, on the new album, smile, trying different blends of electronic and organic...layering melody with noise.
Grave Concerns: I know in todays society its very hard to predict, but in an almost perfect world, what would be your long-term career goals? What would be the ultimate direction for your band(s)?
Josh: I suppose, as an idealist, I'd like to make a mark on the world. Have my work remembered, whether in its own right or through its impact. I'm not really sure where the future will take me, though, in all honesty. There are other things I'd like to explore...other artistic media, other facets of life. I suppose I see my music as a career. Afterall, I've been doing it for 15 years...and don't really see that stopping...but I'm not really thinking about where I'm going to be in 30 years or if I'm still going to be releasing fornever albums when I'm in my 60s (actually, that one's a bizarre image). I believe we sort of have our own paths in life...some people prefer to map theirs out, I guess I'd sometimes rather stumble around in the woods and find it (or let it find me) and give myself the freedom to change directions.
Grave Concerns: How would you define the word “success”?
Josh: There are definitely different schools of thought on that subject. I know Tony Wilson once said “ ...some people make money and some make history”, and I suppose, in a way, that sums up the two sides. I'd say I lean towards the latter...the idea that success is about making an impact on the world...making people think...making the world a better place. Afterall, a lot of artists and inventors who helped shape our modern society were fairly unknown and poor in their time. In the end, maybe success is found in following your heart, whether that leads to making the world a better place for everyone or just making a difference in the lives of those around you.
Grave Concerns: What advice do you have for new musicians wanting to form their own band?
Josh: That's always a hard one, but I guess I'd say just do it. Everything's accessible enough these days that you can just set up a computer and start writing and recording...learning your way around production and techniques as you go. So, you know, if you think you have something to offer to the world, it's probably better to do than contemplate. I'm not saying it's an easy ride...and it might not be entirely fruitful, depending on the reasons why you're getting into the music industry in the first place...but if it's something you're passionate about, then, despite the challenges facing musicians today, it's at least easier for talented new musicians to “dive in”...
Oh, and when it comes to the internet music industry, a healthy sense of limited paranoia can be useful. The dishonesty and get-rich-quick schemes I mentioned earlier certainly extend to business entities, and there are plenty of fake record labels and artist representation companies out there looking to make money off of young bands eager to sign a record contract. So be sure to do your research.
Grave Concerns: What is something about the human race that really gets you down…makes you wonder…how could that person do that, act that way or say that?
Josh: Well, I suppose there are a number of things, but one would be a lack of independent thought and reason. It's something that extends to a lot of issues, everything from the primarily two party system of American politics to religious fundamentalism. It's like there's this whole “us versus them” mentality that permeates so many facets of life and culture, when in reality, we could be helping each other, striving towards a common goal that's beneficial for all, and should be exhibiting our individuality and creativity in ways that are constructive rather than destructive.
Grave Concerns: So what is your favorite_?
Color – I like to tell people it's ultraviolet or infrared. It's really purple, though.
Holiday – Halloween or Christmas
Pass times – Videogames, horror movies, writing, cooking and trying new foods (yes, really)
Foods – Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Mexican
TV show – Probably Destination Truth or Ghosthunters (I'm a bit of a paranormal/cryptozoology geek...hehe)
Movie – Evil Dead 2? The Shining? Hhmm...too many to decide.
Drink – starbucks pumpkin spice latte?
Weather – thunderstorms (unless I'm in the middle of working on something on the computer)
Season – autumn...or maybe spring...
Sport – I'm not much of a sports fan
Animal - paradoxotaur
Vacationing spot – I suppose my vacationing spots are determined more by who/what is there than by any specific location... I like New York City, though.
Grave Concerns: You are just waking up, what is the first thing you think of, and the first thing you do?
Josh I'd say my thoughts are probably still lost in dreams, and the first thing I do is often fumble around blindly for the snooze alarm.
Grave Concerns: If you were granted three wishes what would they be (you cannot ask for more wishes or wish a friend to wish you more, either, haha)?
Josh: Let's see, I've seen enough movies and read enough stories to know that my first wish should probably be for a lawyer to type up the other two in some iron-clad legal jargon so as to not attract any unwanted ill effects...hehe Then, I suppose I'd have to wish for money to pay the lawyer's fee. Wait, where are you going with my last wish? There's a 33% government-imposed tax on wishes earned? Dammit!
Grave Concerns: If you were granted one special power, flight, invisibility, invincibly, or immortality, which one would you choose and why?
Josh: Hhmmm... Let's see...tough one... Well, invincibility would be nice...but if nothing could hurt me, then I'd have nothing to fear. And bravery is defined by facing your fears. So would invincibility damage my character? Well, I'll still go with invincibility, if that includes being perfectly healthy all the time.
Grave Concerns: Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for offering any type of support?
Josh: Well, this isn't the MTV video music awards, so I'm not going to go through a list of names. But, you know...my friends and family...the other musicians and labels I've worked with...the people who are in my life or who have been in my life that have influenced my work...and, of course, the fans that have supported me, especially those that have taken the time to get the word out or help out... But, hey, in the end, we all support each other in some way. Life often seems to be cyclical like that.
Grave Concerns: Is there anything else that you would like to let your fans know?
Josh: Red is the new black...if you're looking through 3D glasses with one eye closed.
Well Josh of Fornever and Black Wedding, thank you very much for giving Grave Concerns the gratifying opportunity to have this interview. We here at Grave concerns wish you continued success and we look forward to seeing you perform in the future.
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Check out the band: http://www.myspace.com/fornever
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