Nina and Gaya are the purveyors of industrial madness behind Designer Violence, a fairly new project with influences from old-school legends such as Skinny Puppy with a tendency to serve their material on a raw plate. Having their start in 2018 and releasing an EP in January of 2019, we are celebrating the release of their debut album "When Beauty Expires" with this interview! Check out what Nina and Gaya had to say about their new album as well as their history with one another. Be sure to check out the album directly below! Physical CDs can be purchased HERE.
Hello Designer Violence and thank you for joining us on Brutal Resonance! Let's start off by getting to know your music taste; give us three of your favorite albums of all time and why you love them so much.
Nina: Hey Brutal Resonance, thanks for having us! Asking us for our favourite albums is like asking us for our favourite food. It's such a hard question because there's so much good music out there. "Cleanse Fold and Manipulate" by Skinny Puppy. Picking an album was hard, 'cause they're my favourite band, but this was the first SP album I owned and the first album I really "got" in a sense. 'Addiction' is a song I hold very dear in my heart and which helped me through some very tough times. "The Land of Rape and Honey" by Ministry. My choice could just as well have been for "Twitch", but I feel that Land is a bit stronger in songwriting and more consistent in quality. From the cover art to the music itself, this album continues to inspire me conceptually and musically. "Halber Mensch" by Einstürzende Neubauten. I'd been listening to Depeche Mode a lot at the and I was curious as to where they got their inspiration from. When I encountered the video for ZNS I was creeped out intensely, but also intensely interested in what was going on. When I finally got the album, I loved the intensity of the other songs too.
Gaya: Hi there! My favorite albums change from time to time, but these are three albums which have greatly inspired me in terms of songwriting the past year. "Any Day Now" by The Legendary Pink Dots. Ka-Spel is a brilliant poet who has a distinctive singing voice that really moves me. It’s hard to pick a favorite LPD album since they have so many, but this was the first one I owned. Every song feels like a short story. My favorite one on this album is 'Waiting For The Cloud', which feels like the apocalypse happened in just over ten minutes of music. "Sex & Death" by The Cassandra Complex. When Nina and I first heard this band at a festival in 2017, we were immediately grabbed by the up-tempo beats and raw electronic energy. Whenever I put on this album, I immediately feel energized. "Horse Rotorvator" by Coil. There are so many layers of sound and so many different emotions on this album. Listening to this album feels like you have entered the mind of someone who is on the verge of insanity. There’s beauty in that sadness.
And let's dig into some history on the project. There are two of you in the band. How did you two meet and how did the idea for Designer Violence come to light?
Nina: We first briefly met at Wave Gotik Treffen in Germany, in 2016. At the time, I already wanted to start a band, but I really had no idea how to. Fast forward half a year later when we were becoming closer friends, and I kinda jokingly mentioned if Gaya wanted to start a band with me. We were thinking out loud and I mentioned the name "Designer Violence", which I got from an '80s interview with Sigue Sigue Sputnik mastermind Tony James, at which Gaya mentioned "Why not have that as the band name?" It's kinda stuck with us ever since.
Gaya: Though we initially wanted the band's sound to be in the vein of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, we decided to go for a grittier, more industrial oriented approach after seeing Skinny Puppy perform live twice in 2017, which had become our greatest inspiration. Not much later Nina bought her first drum computers and I bought my first synthesizer. With zero experience in electronic music we just started to press the buttons until we thought it sounded cool. At the time, we didn't get around to making much music due to the distance between where we lived. This changed when Nina started to live with me around the time of our first live gig.
What roles do each of you play in the band? Do your ideas ever collide or do you two generally get along when making hard electronic music?
Nina: I'm generally the rhythmic half of the band. I usually program most of the beats and bass sequences and jam that out along with Gaya, who then sprinkles some melodic parts on top of it. It doesn't always work that way, though! For example, the tracks 'Suffer' and 'The Faces ov Change' off "When Beauty Expires" were both programmed by Gaya.
Gaya: We do not wish to have assigned roles in the band, neither in creating the songs and in performing them. Live, we both do vocals and we both play synths. The only thing Nina does that I do not is triggering the samples. Musically we have the same vision. We do occasionally collide in the studio, but nothing too heavy.
Your first release, aside from the 2018 "Demo Trax" double, was "Unplanned Madness!" that was released in January of 2019. What was it like creating this EP? Did developing "Demo Trax" help a lot when planning out the sound and noises for "Unplanned Madness!"?
Gaya: When we released the two demo tracks, the idea was primarily to showcase what we had been doing up until that point, ideas which we could refine later. With a little help from someone who saw potential in us, we learned the very basics of music production. “Unplanned Madness!” was called into existence shortly after.
Nina: We didn't really plan to release "Unplanned Madness!" at all at the time it came out, hence the title. For me, "Demo Trax" helped in the sense that I knew what I wanted to do differently and what I wanted to rewrite. At that point, we figured that we'd better release something sooner than later, especially if we wanted to play more shows. Having released the EP also helped us learn some of the ins and outs of music production. For the album we experimented with our sound and workflow a lot more than we did on "Unplanned Madness!", and it shows. This did, however, make production and writing a tad rougher than the fairly streamlined way we worked on the EP.
And now you have a new album coming out titled "When Beauty Expires". There's a great deal of personal struggles written in this album. What kind of struggles have your experienced and how do you vocalize them in the album?
Nina: For me personally, I came out as trans early this year, and it shaped at least some of the album's content, at least on the songs I do vocals on. With my lyrics, however, I prefer being vague and open to personal interpretations rather than preaching needlessly, or targeting specific public figures. This leaves the opportunity for people to find their own meaning in the music and lyrics. It's a form of catharsis that I can share with the world, in a sense.
Gaya: For me it’s also trying to fit in into a world that does not always like the real you. People will project their expectations about how you should behave on you. When I made big changes to my life that the people around me did not expect of me, they were talking behind my back that I had gone completely mad. While the reality was that I had finally chosen for myself.
You told me that there is a theme within the album. But I feel as if it is better explained by you then stated by me. Tell me about your "beauty" or "mask" theory that is presented within "When Beauty Expires".
Nina: The idea behind the "beauty" is that, once they interact with others, everyone puts up a certain facade. There's always a “mask” you put on before you go outside or interact with others. This mask is usually a mask of beauty, popularity or another act. When push comes to shove, however, everyone is confronted at some point or other with a situation whereupon they will have to take off the mask; the beauty will have expired, and the real person underneath will be revealed. Whether or not the personality we find is ugly is obviously up for debate.
Gaya: Sometimes it can feel as if the expectations of others oblige you to behave in a certain way. That means the facade of “Beauty” does not always have to be something you personally want it to be. Behind this “mask” of obediently executed expectations lies your true self. It takes courage to drop this “beauty” and find peace in what others would perceive as lies.
Being that "When Beauty Expires" deals with personal experiences, I imagine that the album was a little rough to write at times. Did writing and producing this album help you through your struggles? Did it serve as a bit of therapy?
Nina: It was very cathartic to have to deal with such personal topics, and it definitely served a therapeutic purpose, at least for me. During the writing of the album there were absolutely moments where I was dealing with a lot of stress and pain. While the album is full of examples of me putting my emotions into my writing, I think the best example for me would be 'Non Compos Mentis', which is literally about depression and negative thought loops. I'm directly addressing myself from the very first sentence with "illusions, a poet's home", and then asking myself "what do we fear when we feel so much?" These lyrics were written mere weeks before I came out, so they're very personal and very confrontational to myself in a sense, but the song is now one of my favourites to perform and very therapeutic.
Gaya: In the first part of the album we are looking back at times when we were unhappy, insecure and afraid. For 'De Spiegel' I used lyrics in Dutch that I wrote when I was 15. The first sentence translates to “Who are you, who do you want to be today, when the mirror does not recognize you anymore?” In 'Name Less' I am speaking to my 15 year old self, telling myself that I am good enough, which is a very therapeutic thing to do. Another song that helped me process my emotions was 'The Faces Ov Change'. I was about to make a big life-changing decision. It involved having to hurt other people. Would I regret decision I was going to make? The future felt unpredictable, which scared me.
Out of all the songs on "When Beauty Expires", which song is your favorite and why?
Nina: Oh you're asking a hard question there, haha! I really like all songs on the album, but for a favourite it'd have to be a toss-up between 'Non Compos Mentis' and 'Name Less'. The former's samples are, to me, placed at perfect points within the song, highlighting key emotional moments and serving a purpose to tie everything together. Name Less to me exemplifies everything we're about, from the beat to the bassline to the heavy samples. It never fails to put a smile on my face.
Gaya: I agree 'NoCoMe' and 'Name Less' are the best songs, but my favorite song has to be 'Faces ov Change', mainly because of the long process to get this song right. We initially planned to have this song on the EP, but it did not really feel quite “right”. The song deals with the painful fact that some people choose to turn their back to you when you drop your “mask”, but it sounded way too much like a happy synthpop song to convey those painful emotions. At some point someone asked us why we don’t sing in our native language, which we decided to try. We completely rewrote the song with lyrics in Dutch, and we’re really happy how that turned out.
And what else do you have planned for 2020? Do you have any other EPs, singles, or remixes in the works? Do you plan on hitting the stage for any live gigs or shows?
Gaya: Since we live together the creative process is always going on, we are always discussing new ideas. We've also started working on new material again.
Nina: We're going to be releasing an extended single remix of 'Suffer' called 'The End of Suffering'. We have a fair amount of live gigs planned for the first months of 2020. You can find a full list on our Facebook!
Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time and I wish you the best of luck for the future. The space below is yours to say anything more that I did not cover! Cheers!
Nina: Thank you so much for having us! We hope we'll see some of you readers out there on the stage in the coming months!
Gaya: Thank you so much for this opportunity! I’d like to say, support your artist friends! It really means the world to me when I see familiar faces in the audience.
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
Share this interview