Last Updated on Thursday, 26 November 2009 11:41
JimZombie talks to Ben Arp, the mastermind behind C/A/T and Captive Six, about his recent work, the industry and the scene. Put on a CD, pour a glass of wine and join us.
Interview by: Jim Zombie
JimZombie: I noticed in a recent interview you did with DJ EpicMegafaiL, when asked about your musical influences, you said you weren't listening to much scene music. Part of that was because you wanted meaningful and intelligible lyrics. What is it that you are taking from other genres and what genres are these?
Ben Arp: I found much of the music being released in the industrial scene just seemed to be lacking something lyrically that I can connect to on a personal level. It wasn't meant to be an absolute comment - I still think bands like Assemblage 23, Aesthetic Perfection, Destroid, etc. write lyrics along the lines of what I personally prefer and can relate to.Beyond some delay for emphasis and standard compression, the vocals on the tracks from “We Are Still Alive” are completely raw and my own voice. I learned some tricks of the trade to generate a harsh and aggressive sound without having to rely on distortion or other effects. It works much better for live performance as many times live distortion effects can create more problems than they are worth. I
have to credit having Erica from Unter Null in my live band for a while in 2008 as I learned a lot of my current vocal style by watching how she does things.
I've personally been listening to a lot of IDM, hip-hop and pop music and have slowly been incorporating elements of all of those and other styles into my writing. I think, for example, "The Brink Of Self-Destruction" on the EP, while instrumental, displays something a little different than the standard EBM songs that I had been previously writing.
JZ: Obviously C/A/T is still heavily influenced by other industrial artists, which are the ones that have impressed upon your mind the most?
BA: Industrial artists I'd say I'm influenced by would be Daniel Myer (Haujobb, Architect, Destroid, etc.) - he's always been a big influence and Haujobb was one of the first industrial/EBM acts I got interested in back in the late 1990s. Other influences would be Scott Sturgis (Converter), Karloz.M (Manufactura), Erica Dunham (Unter Null) and more recently Paul Bernardo ([syndika:zero]). I'm not sure how much my work sounds like my "influences" but those are artists who I tend to enjoy all of their various projects and general output.
JZ: Do you think lyrics are a secondary factor in a lot of recent industrial
BA: I don't know if it's really a secondary factor - I think it mostly depends on the artist. It seems some bands may just be writing things to be "scary" or "controversial" and may not really connect to what they are writing.I tend to prefer lyrics that seem honest and relevant to the artist and their experiences to something that is purely "edgy" or there to get a reaction out of people.
JZ: What has been the primary driving force behind the evolution of C/A/T from more experimental roots to dance to a more vocally oriented style?
BA: I think it's just an evolution over time. I discover and hear new music, get influenced by different things just by being alive and living life - and I think that gets reflected in the music.I changed to writing vocal based music because I finally felt I had something to say in my music. I tried it out for the sake of just trying something different back on the "Point Of No Return" album, but I didn't have the ability or equipment to pull it off as well as I'd have liked to at the time.Starting with the "We Are Still Alive" EP and onto the next full C/A/T album, I couldn't imagine writing the songs and telling the stories I want to tell without having words and a vocal dimension to merge with the music I'm writing.
I also felt that a live show without vocals and a front person can be harder to pull off - it can be done and some instrumental acts do a great job at it - but I think it's a harder sell to an audience in general.
JZ: Why have you decided to diverge your efforts into two seperate projects, Captive Six and C/A/T?
BA: Captive Six was born out of the need to give fans of my instrumental dance music more of that style - and because I want to take the project into a more broad "electronic dance music" realm and experiment with styles beyond the standard "power noise" my older material is known for. I wanted a break between C/A/T and this instrumental music to show that there is a difference between the two. I think the division in sound will be more clear once the next C/A/T album and debut Captive Six album are both completed.
JZ: What, if anything, would you say links all your previous releases together?
BA: On the surface, there isn't much to link the albums all together. If you look carefully there are little things, thematic elements that maybe only *I* notice that ties them all together. I think I set out to make each release kind of stand on it's own but that hasn't stopped some people from finding common elements to say it follows a progression or story. That's kind of the beauty in music - it's always open to interpretation.
JZ: The music industry is a tough gig, especially for independent musicians. What makes it all worth the while? Music, fame, ego or a mix of the lot?
BA: It is a tough gig - even more so these days with so many other things taking up people's attention spans and money.I've started writing for myself - so beyond anything else, I get personal enjoyment out of writing songs and performing them. Also, every
time I get an email or message from someone who tells me "that song you wrote really means something to me" or "something you wrote helped me get through a really hard time in my life" - that is worth more than any fame I could ever hope to achieve writing music.
JZ: Did you ever expect to be doing C/A/T 10 years after it all began?
BA: Actually, I did. Back when I started C/A/T it was more something I enjoyed doing in my free time - and that is something it always will be. I don't know if I'll be releasing music for the rest of my life, however I do feel that I'll continue to experiment in song writing for quite some time still.If anything, I think I'm more surprised that I've reached the number of people with my music that I have.
JZ: Some see the scene as losing it's edge, becoming more shallow and less politically aware, is this something you would agree with?
BA: Definitely. I think it's slowly shifted towards more of a "fashion show" and less about the music and what is being said by the artists. Of course, some acts have catered to this by making what is called "party music" - something I'm even guilty off with songs such as "Smashed". I don't necessarily think industrial music needs to be entirely political but I feel some of the better political work, say by bands such as Stromkern, has been somewhat overlooked by the scene who seem to just be "looking for something to dance to". I've got nothing against dancing, but I do think some people are missing out on some great music by dismissing it as "too political" or "too emotional" without even giving it a chance.
JZ: How do you feel about the scene in general?
BA: I think the scene has it's peaks and valleys just like anything else. I was a part of the big peak in the mid to late 90s here in the U.S. when I first got involved in industrial music as a fan. And I was also a resident DJ at a dance club when the "futurepop" music became big in 1999 - 2000. I think we've had a somewhat dry spell the last few years. Club attendance seems a bit lower and musically I think things have stagnated a bit.I guess we've just yet to have that VNV Nation or Combichrist type act emerge to set the bar for this era like those acts did in 1999 and 2005 respectively.
JZ: Any plans for touring outside the States?
BA: Not until late 2010 at the earliest. It is largely due to the large cost of getting the band outside the U.S. and back. Right now we're pushing towards a US Tour in August of next year and if the right offers are there we'd love to continue into other areas/countries. It's not that we don't want to play outside the USA, we just haven't had very many realistic opportunities to do so just yet. It is a goal I do have though.
JZ: Is there anything you would like to say before we wrap up?
BA: Just that if you really like a band's music, please support them any way that you can. We realize that money is tight these days, but if you can spare it, buy a CD/download/t-shirt something whenever possible. Or even just make a fan video of a song and upload it to YouTube and tell your friends about this music that you like.
Thank you for the interview!
This interview also appeaed on -http://www.eclectomatic.net