Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Interview with Mach FoX of Zwaremachine by Dave Wolff

Mach FoX

Interview with Mach FoX of Zwaremachine by Dave Wolff

Asphyxium zine reviewed Zwaremachine numerous times since 2018 (besides reviewing your other project Mach FoX). The band expects to begin recording its third full-length album soon. Could you tell us what you have planned for it and how it will compare to previous albums?
Thank you for your attention and time regarding our Zwaremachine independent music releases. We appreciate that support! For the next Zwaremachine album our bassist Dbot and I have just recently started writing some demos. I plan to get back into the electro-industrial/ebm style of the first album “Be A Light” which we promoted as “Minimal Hypnotic Industrial Body Music”. The songs we choose from our new demos will be evaluated to see if they can be performed in the live set and bring a deep impact on our audience as I specifically put Zwaremachine together to be a live performance band. We will still keep a dark electro edge and bring some modern production in as a way to push our sound forward. I expect this album will have some of the minimal hypnotic elements from our first album which I wrote and a bit of the progressive dark electro and driving modern ebm that was present on our second album “Conquest 3000” which was written by Dbot (Zwaremachine bassist), D.Corri (Zeven Odd Gods from Ireland), Henrik Punsch Johansson (Planktoon) and myself.

After Zwaremachine's debut recording, how much experimentation did you go through before returning to the original sound?
I don't think we will return to the sound of the first album since much of the hardware synths and drum machines will be different this time around... but I do want to bring back the minimal hypnotic vibe that comes with my own sequencing and songwriting approach. It should also be added that with the addition of Dbot on bass guitar and Dein Offizier on drums, it was important to have those elements strongly presented in the mix as they are a big part of what sets us apart from many other bands in our genre. On our second album, I had worked with two other producers (Planktoon and D.Corri) and co-wrote songs with Dbot to expand our sound into a more dark electro/ebm and modern style. The first album was written and produced by myself and I really did not have any focus on a retro electro-industrial sound but it turned out that way partly due to the synths, samples and other elements that were used and my sequencing techniques of writing longer patterns and then making short hypnotic loops for the arrangements.

What criteria will you use to select the tracks for the new full-length? How many demos were recorded for this project?
My main goal is to pick the songs that we think would be exciting and high-energy in the live playlist and would drive the dance floor. I consider us an electronic rock band and there must be room for the live bass guitar and drums to shine through. We are still in the demo process and figuring out the workflow of how to build those songs up and create our best album yet! If there are any strong demo songs that don't fit our next Zwaremachine album we will consider those for future Mach FoX releases and those may include Dbot and Dein Offizier.

Could you explain what modern production is and how it helps Zwaremachine's sound?
My ideas about modern production in regards to the Zwaremachine sound are not only in the EQ and mixing/mastering stages where I work with others to bring those sounds alive but also in the fact that arrangements can be refined after the initial recordings are made. I still want to give a nod to classic industrial/ebm bands while making sure we push forward and not rely on retro nostalgia. One of those modern techniques I like to use is digital editing both for arrangement and also as an effect... especially on vocals. This ability to arrange vocals and even the full song arrangements in the DAW is an approach that suits my experimental nature well when presenting our new music.

With your writing and sequencing techniques and the equipment you use, how do you plan to balance the minimal hypnotic vibe with your electro and ebm influences?
I tend to write longer basslines or drum and synthesizer sequences and then go back and shorten those parts to experiment with layers and create minimal repetitive lines and patterns that can be hypnotic at times. A formula I had adopted for earlier Zwaremachine writing was to loop these shorter sequences but also extend them in the song arrangement so that if I felt like a change should be after eight bars I would make a conscious effort to extend that part to sixteen bars. This technique is most present on our first album “Be A Light” and it was a way to step out from conventional pop song arrangements and try to present something unique.

How do you improve the sound and production of songs on your demos you want to include on the next album?
Right now Dbot and I are writing demos separately and then we will sort through and decide which ones are strong enough to be reworked for the album tracks. Since he uses mostly VSTs (virtual instruments) and I am using hardware there will be a bit of a challenge to take the ideas I have and bring them into the VST and midi world so that we can more easily arrange and change any sounds to improve and add to the production. After we have those songs ready I will be mixing them at The Terrarium recording studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota where we can make sure they hit hard for the dancefloor!

In what ways do Dbot and Dein Offizier help the band expand musically? What is the importance of finding a producer who is closest to your sound?
Since I consider our strength to be in the live sound we create as a trio there will be an emphasis on the bass guitar and drums to be forward in the mixes. This wasn't always the case on our past recordings as those instruments were often added later in the production stages and we had to find a way to make them work with the sequenced synth bass and drums. I am planning to produce these tracks myself but we will be mixing with Jason Orris who can bring the EQ and technical side of the production to a higher level. We did work with other producers on “Conquest 3000” which was then mixed by myself and Jason but I want to keep this album closer to home in the sense that the writing and production come from the band.

What are virtual instruments, and how do you manage to find a balance between VSTs, synths, midi instruments, and the organic instruments you record with?
VSTs are virtual software instruments often used in DAWs (digital workstations/recording software). I use hardware synths and samplers when writing and recording while Dbot is using mostly VSTs on his demos. One advantage of VSTs is that it is very easy to audition and change or swap out sounds, and since those VSTs are driven by midi notes you can also move those notes around and change a lot of the performance to suit the song best without committing to the sound and you recorded as you would with hardware synths. In the past, I have layered the live bass and drum parts on top of the sequenced synthesizers and drum machines and they were often doubling the programmed parts. My intention with the new album is to make every instrument track fit together in the mix while also having its own special sonic place to live in.

How much has your sound broadened since you started writing with VSTs? Can those devices generate sounds that come across as organic?
I prefer to use hardware and not VSTs but they can both sound great. Having hands-on control of the synth parameters and how they interact is part of the sound exploration that I enjoy and it can be done with VSTs but that just isn't part of my writing process these days. Most hardware and software instruments can reproduce organic sounds but I would rarely choose to use them in our productions since I prefer synthetic sounds.

Have you recorded at The Terrarium and mixed with Jason Orris on your past releases? If so, in what ways has doing so benefitted the completed product?
“Conquest 3000” was mixed at the Terrarium with Jason and I have mixed several other tracks there for Zwaremachine and solo Mach FoX releases. I look at this process a bit like changing the oil in my car... sure, I could do it... but there are professionals with all the right tools and equipment that have better skills. While I do come from a punk/DIY background mixing and mastering is something I prefer to have others involved with. Not only does it give an outside perspective to the sound it also is a way to make sure all the frequencies are in the right place. Since I consider Zwaremachine an electronic rock band I knew we would benefit from all of Jason’s experience in engineering, mixing, and producing, and considered the fact that he was not generally working with electronic artists to be an advantage for us. I want our mixes to stand out not only in the electronic genres but also in rock music in general with the guitars being replaced by synthesizers in our songs.

Is there a particular lyrical content you're writing to match the band's sound?
Many of my lyrics have a social or political aspect but many are based on horror, cyberpunk, and sci-fi themes. For instance, many of the songs and the title track for “Conquest 3000” were written by Dbot and when they were presented to me they already had titles that inspired the lyrical content. I am not sure there is a connection between the lyrical themes and our sound as a band as I have always written songs with those same topics in mind for Zwaremachine and my other band projects.

How did your lyrics fit with Dbot’s lyrics on “Conquest 3000” when it was being compiled? Did you have a method to make them complement each other? In what ways was this also done on your other releases?
In the demos that Dbot sends me there are no vocals or lyrics so I have complete freedom to write and sing in my own style for Zwaremachine. However, for his songs we used on “Conquest 3000” he did have titles for the demos and they were used to inspire the lyrics and even help form the entire concept storyline from that album. With our band releases, I stick to a certain performance style which I refer to as a layered “monotone monster voice” which is often distorted and aggressive. With Mach FoX releases which cover more genres, you will hear a bit more “singing” style and I let myself explore more melody in those performances. You can reference the recent Mach FoX collaboration I have done with synth-wave producer Maroco on the track “Now Beginning” where I even move into a bit of pop-style vocals while still keeping it a bit dark and melancholy.

What is some of the subject matter you wrote for your newer songs?
We are still producing demos for our next record; I have not started the lyric writing since that is usually the last step for the songs. I have many pages of lyrics I can get inspirations from and I imagine I will still explore those themes of modern society from a horror and sci-fi point of view. On “Conquest 3000” there was an overall concept and storyline but I don't think that will be the case with this new album.

What can you say about the lyrics you wrote for the band’s past songs? Talk a little about what you have penned in those pages you have saved? In what ways are they inspirational?
The main themes in Zwaremachine songs are science fiction and horror which unfortunately have also become parts of our modern-day society. The lyrics on our album "Conquest 3000" were based on a storyline about it being the year 3000 and after pollution, greed and war have devastated the earth most of the population had left the planet and left the rest to fend for themselves in a wasteland with little resources left that is poisoned by radiation.
The pages of lyrics I save are often a few lines that had a catchy turn of phrase or sometimes full songs with verses and choruses. These are often written quickly off the top of my head and inspired by real events, science and technology or books and movies. I will go back and pick a few lines to rework and refine when I am at the stage of song development when I want to add the vocals. I also like to use phonetics or the way certain words with the texture of the instrumental sound as a jumping-off point for lyrics and while I was editing the instrumental track “International Hero” I had moved a short drum part onto an empty vocal track that had a distortion effect on it and it suddenly sounded like the drum part was saying “you got a gun” so I then used that part in the song as a sample and also as an inspiration for what would become the song lyrics. I also keep the minimal approach for lyrics on most Zwaremachine songs and try to build around a strong line or theme that can be easy to sing along with but have a deeper or sometimes a double meaning. I don't want everything to be at face value of the words alone. On the title track of the first album “Be A Light” I used only one verse and five repeated choruses which seems like it may not work well but with the instrumental arrangement, it seemed to work as it was a popular song both live and on the album.

Is “Conquest 3000” meant to reflect any current world events? What events, books or movies are the lyrics in your pages based on?
That album was written as a mostly fictional story set in the year 3000 and the album was released in 2021... So much has changed and much is the same. I doubt we will ever make it to the year 3000 on this planet the way we are managing earth's resources and with the political climate but if we do it will probably be a bleak scenario like many of the songs on the album. Those lyrics and songs are bits from many science fiction movies and books woven together into a new storyline about corporate greed, pollution, body modifications and the human conditions in a society and world that has little resources and those left on the planet are forced to scavenge and fight for what little is left. These situations will most likely happen sooner than later!

What were some of the books and movies you borrowed from while writing “Conquest 3000” and what about them helped inspire the story you were putting together? Are listeners responding in any way to the statement you’re making about the world’s current state?
Movies like “Mad Max”, “Soylent Green”, “Hardware” and so many others that have post-apocalyptic or cyber themes. The “Conquest 3000” storyline has its own twist and I would encourage people to give it a listen if they want to dig deeper as it isn't really based on a specific movie or book but references many of those ideas from iconic sci-fi movies. I think most reviewers and listeners picked up on the overall concept and got the general tone I was going after with those lyrics.

How much do you think the twist in “Conquest 3000” will come as a surprise to people who take the time to dive deeply into the storyline?
Since I wrote and sequenced the running order of the album it is a very clear story line for me to follow. I am not sure how others will put the story together in their head when listening to the full album but we did print the lyrics in the CD artwork so that may help.

What melodic styles do you usually adapt while recording with Mach FoX? Are your vocals for Zwaremachine generally rougher, rawer, or more aggressive, or what moods are you looking to evoke in them?
With Mach FoX songs and collaborations, I often explore more melodic and even softer styles of singing and allow myself more freedom in terms of effects and harmonies. There is a melancholier and more human vibe when I am doing Mach FoX songs and I am also allowing a little bit more of myself to come through in those moments where I consider my voice in Zwaremachine to be more limited and a character that I play. When I write and sing for Zwaremachine it is usually the more aggressive approach with heavy effects like distortion or delay and many layers and I am also considering what can work in the live setting. There have been several Zwaremachine songs that are rearranged slightly from the album for the live versions as I realize the spacing of words needs to change so I can get in some breaths while I am stomping around and head banging on stage.

How do you go about deciding which vocal style fits Zwaremachine and Mach FoX songs? Does it depend on the song or do you go with what you feel?
There is a defined sound I focus on for Zwaremachine vocals while Mach FoX tracks are usually a bit more melodic and it really depends on the genre when choosing a singing style... so the song does often dictate my vocal approach.

Do you think you can recreate live what you’re doing in the studio?
It is actually the opposite... the goal is to recreate and capture our live sound in the studio. The first Zwaremachine album was written and arranged during a time when I was able to try out the songs during live performance sets and get a feel for the energy and crowd response. There were several songs that I liked but they did not have the vibe I was trying to present on stage so those were considered outtakes and I spent time arranging and sequencing the songs that would become the album “Be A Light”. Right now, we don't have the option to rework the songs in a live setting as one of the members is in the Netherlands so I just have to go with my instinct and try to imagine how they would be on stage. The volume and intensity of our live performance will be a key factor in selecting which songs make the cut on this new album.

How much do you think audience participation has to do with your intensity onstage? Or is it generally consistent from show to show?
We would perform with the same intensity to a festival crowd as we would to a crowd in a small venue and it is always a thrill to see fans singing along and excited about our music. I put Zwaremachine together with the purpose to be a live performance band so we bring everything we have to each show. When on stage I really enjoy looking to my right and seeing Dbot banging his head and then looking to my left where Dein Offizier is pounding on his drum and mouthing the words to our songs.

Do you get chances to preview songs from the next full length when playing live? If so which of them receive the biggest response?
I was able to do that on the first Zwaremachine album but it is not possible right now so our shows are few and far between. After the new album is recorded, we may book some shows later this year and possibly add something from that new album into the set. Since we wrote and released music during the Covid shutdowns we still have our last album to promote so it's not a priority to fit new songs into the set list and we want to give "Conquest 3000" some time to be taken in by fans during our live shows as it was the first album recorded as a trio.

How often do you get to correspond between the US and the Netherlands? How is live chatting going as far as sharing ideas?
We talk as often as needed and mostly those discussions are about upcoming rehearsals and live shows when we are in the preparation stages for gigs. Since the bassist and I do the songwriting and I have a defined idea about our sound on the next record we mostly have discussed the songs that inspire us and that we think can be influential to our new recordings whether it is a particular rhythm in the drum parts or an overall texture and sound in the production by other artists. We do want to develop our own sound with the new music and production so when we do reference another artist's song, we still want to do our own version instead of mimicking something already done. We also can chat about which songs can or can't be performed in the live set for various reasons.

Besides the work you’re doing with Zwaremachine’s new album, how soon do you expect to work on new material with Mach FoX?
I have currently been working on many collaborations with music producers from around the world and have some new Mach FoX music being released soon in genres other than dark electro/ebm. I am currently finishing up vocal production on a synth wave/synthpop EP with Maroco from Portugal and we released our first single collaboration already as Maroco & Mach FoX. There has also been a single released as Mach FoX & Zeven Odd Gods which is the title track from our debut three-song EP which will be out February 3 and is titled “A Sickness”. This EP is written and produced with D.Corri who is a music producer from Ireland who I worked on The Zwaremachine “Ripping At The Fabric” EP with and we continue in the hard-hitting ebm/electro-industrial style. The most recent collaboration is recording vocals for a lo-fi pop-punk EP with more details to follow... and that has been a lot of fun since I am getting back to my early band roots and there are some rocking guitar riffs and cool melodies to work from. I also do remixes for other artists as Mach FoX when requested but those are not a high priority at this time. After these recent collaboration tracks are mixed and mastered, I will be focusing only on the Zwaremachine album. The process of writing and exploring these other styles in collaborations will also benefit our Zwaremachine album since I am getting a workflow and template set up for the album session and exploring combinations of effects and layers for recording my vocals.

Will all these new projects be released on the same label as Zwaremachine? In what ways will they stand out individually from all other genres?
The Mach FoX collaboration EPs I am currently working on will be digital releases on all major platforms and also available from the Mach FoX Bandcamp page. Some singles from those EPs are already released and available there.
With these recent collaborations, the instrumental parts of the song are already written and that dictates the genre so I try and write lyrics and have the performance match that style while still imparting my own character into that vocal performance and production. Right now, I have a modern ebm/tbm/electro-industrial EP with Zeven Odd Gods coming out to celebrate International ebm day 2023, a synth wave/synthpop EP with music producer Maroco from Portugal, and a batch of songs from a collaboration with SonikDevil (USA) which range from pop-punk/powerpop to industrial rock... so those may become two separate EPs as we are still finding what works on the songs as we continue to record and mix them.

How do you expect Maroco will help you improve your sound and how will this lead to increasing your fan base?
Maroco produces his own instrumental tracks so I am not involved in his sound choices. I am providing lyrics, vocals and my vocal production for this collaboration. I am interested in producing music in many styles and have already seen our synthpop/synthwave collaboration song on many playlists from DJs who usually support my dark electro/ebm releases so that was a pleasant surprise. We have a couple more songs in final stages of production and intend to have a Maroco & Mach FoX EP out in spring 2023. I think there is a lot of crossover in fan bases and most people just want good songs and are not hung up too much on genres nowadays.

Mach FoX & Zeven Odd Gods - A Sickness The Mach FoX & Zeven Odd Gods debut 3 song EP will be released on February 3rd 2023. Modern EBM/TBM/Electro-Industrial.

Maroco & Mach FoX - Now Beginning Released January 6th 2023. Synthwave/Synthpop.

Mach FoX official website:
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Zwaremachine official website:
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-Dave Wolff

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