Technophobia is a band that I discovered through a very lovely E-Mail containing a lot of information about them and, more importantly, links to their music. When I started listening to their music I couldn't help but think - as I shall later state in the interview - that this duo is part of the old school industrial/EBM renaissance that other acts of recent memory have launched. They seemed like decent enough folks who would give out detailed enough answers in a good interview and they have done just that. Below you will read along my interview with Stephen and Katherine Petix concerning history, their charity raising label Working Order Records, and most importantly their just released album Flicker Out.
Hi there Technophobia! Nice to have you both on the site. Let's get a little introduction to yourselves. Who are you, what do you each of you do in the band, and what's your favorite movie?
Katherine: Dude! I’m stoked to be here! I’m Katie, primarily I am the singer of Technophobia, but also I play synths. I don’t know how anyone can have a favorite movie, doesn’t it just depend on your mood? The time of day? I’ll go for a movie I can recite word for word, even though it isn’t necessarily representative of my fave films as a whole, Wayne’s World. It’s a classic.
Stephen: Hello and thank you for having us! I’m Stephen and I do most of the programming in Technophobia along with playing synths live. Hmm, I agree with Katie, that is a difficult question. I will say I am very much into science fiction and John Carpenter films.
So, since I don't know much about Technophobia, I'm gonna ask about some history. What was the first instrument that each of you played and what inspired you to start playing? Did you have any musicians that you looked up to?
Katherine: I’m actually a classically trained musician. I began playing clarinet when I was 9. I wanted to play saxophone, but my uncle had a clarinet he was willing to give me. I played through elementary and middle school. In high school I had an amazingly supportive teacher, he really helped shape my confidence as a musician. If it wasn’t for him, I’m certain I wouldn’t have gone on to major in music at university, which for the record was a disaster, but that is a whole nother story. Right around the nervous breakdown period in my musical training I was exposed to the ‘goth’ scene in Baltimore, MD. It really changed me. It was the first time I ever felt really free and accepted, though that had less to do with the music itself so much as the people in the scene.
Stephen: I was pretty fortunate to grow up in a musical household as my father is a drummer. The first instrument that I played was trumpet when I was little, but I got over that pretty quickly. My older brother exposed me to punk and hardcore at a young age and I inherited his Dead Kennedys records. It’s really been all downhill from there. The first real instrument I played was guitar, a Fender Telecaster I believe, and my interests grew from there. I have always been into electronic music and into programming. I remember I had a Boss Dr. Rhythm when I was younger, that was a bitch to program by the way! But never really did anything with it. I have played in a variety of bands over the years, everything from punk, deathrock, ska, post-punk and now in this dark electronic project.
That being said, could each of you list a couple of musicians that you look up to as inspirations? And how have they impacted your current career?
Katherine: I’m gonna switch gears since classical and jazz woodwinds is no longer my focus (duh). Again, I question how anyone can pick?? WHY ARE YOU PUTTING PRESSURE ON ME? While my list of inspirations is massive, I think my biggest love lyrically and vocally is Fiona Apple. Her vocal range is epic, and she is a poet, her lyrical content is so good it makes me angry (screw you and your stupid talent you dummy face magical creature). She performs with such intensity that it at times can feel exclusionary. It’s internal, it’s personal, it’s of herself, it’s for herself, but she shares it anyway. Powerful shit.
Stephen: For me the early era of sampling is everything. Bands like Depeche Mode, Ministry, Pop Will Eat Itself, De La Soul…hmm. They have definitely impacted me creatively in my approach to music. All these bands layer sounds and samples to create something unique and I hope that is what we have achieved on this new record.
And how was it that you two met? I'm assuming based on last name that you're both married. Did you possibly meet because you both have love for the same type of music?
Katherine: We actually met not because of our mutual love of music (although that was a nice bonus), but rather our mutual love of horror and gore movies. After my university disaster I stayed in Baltimore and fell into a crowd of people performing horror musicals, which eventually evolved into B-Horror movies. Talk about fun times. Steve found me online because of this, and after a few months of back and forth chatting and missed opportunities to meet (movie stuff in Bmore that he couldn’t make, shows in DC that I couldn’t make) we finally met up in December of 2004. By February of 2005 (nope, not a typo) I had moved and we were living together in DC.
Stephen: Yep…What she said! It was definitely meant to be!
And when was it that Technophobia was born? Since then, how has your sound matured?
Katherine: Steve had been itching to do a project of his own for a while. School was in the way and it was easier for him to just play in other bands rather than start his own band. Once he had completed his Masters degree it was full on building mode. Finding the gear, creating the sounds, and most difficult finding bandmates. As a former musician it seemed natural that I join the project, but I was hesitant for a variety of reasons, the main being I was nervous how people would perceive me. I know, kind of shallow I suppose, but I was worried people would assume I was just "the wife". I couldn't keep my nose out of it though, always having input, tweaking sounds, writing lines, and I finally caved and officially joined playing lead and bass synths as well as singing backing vocals. Finding a lead vocalist proved to be VERY difficult, but in the end we were so stoked to have our good friend Denman take the mic. I feel that original set ups sound was much more "retro" and a lot less "dark". We definitely fell more into the realm of synth pop at that point. The thing that really made us stand out at that point was our BIG sound (we are anything but minimal) as well as dual vocals (Denman on lead and me harmonizing). Alas, everything was forced to change when Denman relocated to New York. We were stuck in the same lurch as before with the unpleasant task of finding a new vocalist. After some time of fruitless searching, Steve finally convinced me to leave my synths behind and move front and center. From that point on our sound changed drastically.
Stephen: Katie is totally right. After Denman moved we scraped all of the songs we previously had and started writing this album. Out of about eighteen tracks eleven ended up on the LP and single. So to answer your question, our sound has definitely evolved and I feel it is much darker now. I feel we are much more focused and sonically cohesive. We have spent a great deal of time and effort creating a unique sound through sampling and using different reverbs and delays. A lot of the sounds we use are found sounds that we recorded and manipulated into something we could use. I personally feel I have matured greatly as a song writer from this process of rebuilding. I am very happy about how far we have come.
Skipping to the present, you guys have your full length album Flicker Out due out soon. It’s going to be on your own label Working Order Records. What’s different about the record label, however, is that it’s a non-profit label. Which charities are you donating to and why?
Katherine: This first release is supporting an awesome charity based here in Washington DC called Life Pieces to Masterpieces. Life Pieces' After School Program is a unique daily opportunity for African American boys and young men to build their leadership and academic skills, advance their social/emotional development, and build their confidence through creative expression. The program teaches individuals to use their own unique set of gifts, talents, and abilities to make positive choices and navigate through challenging circumstances. I couldn't be more proud to be working with them. The social climate in America right now is a scary one. I can't imagine what it must feel like to be frightened just because of the color of your skin, I am honored to be donating the profits of our art to assist in the cause.
Stephen: The idea for Working Order Records really happened during a snow storm last January when we were trapped in our apartment. We had discussed the idea of having all the proceeds from the record go to charity, but I really had one of those “light bulb” moments. I told Katie, we should just start a nonprofit and we went from there. Working Order Records really merges our passion for music with our drive for social impact within our community and ultimately nationwide. The tagline for WOR is Music-Vinyl-Impact-Change with a mission to partner with musicians to leverage their music to raise funding and awareness for the community based charity of their choice. We are very excited to be working with Life Pieces To Masterpieces (LTPM). All of the proceeds from both the 'Negative Space' single and the Flicker Out LP sold between May 12, 2016 and October 31, 2016 will be donated to support LPTM’s summer program. The summer program includes breakfast, lunch, and three field trips a week, and serves to prevent summer learning loss, while engaging the program participants in a cross-cultural experience. The fund raising goal for this campaign is $3,000. We are already 1/3 of the way to our goal and our album has just been released. We ware really excited about this.
Now, I understand the Working Order is non-profit, but when you go and play shows and the like, do you still donate all proceeds from those shows to charity as well? Do you find it wrong to be making money off of the music you produce?
Katherine: Well, yes and no. The campaign for Life Pieces runs for 6 months. During this time, yes, all the proceeds from our shows, record sales, and merchandise are being donated to the charity. But no, we don't at all think it's wrong to profit from music! And in fact we will once the charitable campaign has finished. We didn't start the label because we thought it was wrong to profit, rather we started it because it aligns with our passion to support organizations making a direct positive social impact.
Stephen: I agree with Katie, I definitely do not feel that it is wrong for bands to make money for performing their music or make money from the music hey produce. We just decided to take a different approach.
So far, how has Working Order Records helped out in the community? What has it done so far that you can look back on and be proud of?
Katherine: We are three months into the campaign and thus far we have raised over $2000. Pretty fucking exciting! Beyond the financial aspect we hope to be able to set up times in the programs curriculum to bring in our synths and drum machines to let some of the boys learn about programming. Life Pieces focuses on painting as their artistic expression, we feel this might be a excellent opportunity to get hands on experiences with a different expressive medium.
Stephen: Awareness is also big part of this campaign. We have been lucky to have some very talented people help us out with this mission. Our good friend Kylos Brannon has shot a bunch of footage at LPTM and we have created several awareness videos. These videos are interviews with people inside the charity doing the great work they do. We want the awareness piece of this to outlive the actual campaign.
Flicker Out seems to be on the same page of what I like to call the old-school Industrial/EBM revival. When you were writing the music for the album, did you have in mind that you wanted to create music that spoke to a past dark electronic era? Or was it just an unconscious choice that so happened to work out perfectly?
Katherine: I feel like it wasn't absolutely unconscious, we are definitely heavily influenced by that dark electronic era and the majority of our machines are of that era, so naturally we lean toward that sound. But on the same note, I don't think we were "trying" to be anything in particular. Especially after we lost Denman, it was more of a "well, let see what happens now" moment in our sounds evolution. I had never sung anything but backing harmonies before, we didn't really know what would happen. And it wasn't all good, Ha! It took us a little while to figure it all out, my vocal leanings are very different than our old sound. Everything had to shift accordingly.
Stephen: Honestly, when we started to rebuild our sound the first thing we did was restructure the way we used our gear. I felt we could do more with less and we focused on the synthesizes that we wanted keep. We use analog gear, some of it being vintage, and spent weeks, months even developing sounds before we even started writing sequences and structuring songs. I feel we use a classic approach of layering and sampling definitely used in the era you suggest. That being said, I do not feel that this record is derivative. I feel the melodies and vocals set us apart a bit. All this being said, we are more than happy to be included in that categorization…honored even.
Technophobia seems like the type of project that doesn't make music just to make music. It seems you guys always have a theme or message involved. Lyrically, what does Flicker Out invoke? And do you think the tougher music matched with soft vocals reflect your opinions?
Katherine: Absolutely, this album lyrically is very existentialist. Heavy themes of isolation and at times anger. I feel that most of us can relate in someway or another to feeling hopeless, helpless, alone. It's funny, I never thought of my vocal approach as being soft, but reflecting on it now I suppose that comparatively it is. I don't think there was any intention to have this juxtaposition of hard and soft, it's just what happened naturally when I stepped up to the mic.
Stephen: Agreed! I would add that I am definitely drawn to melodic music and I feel that shows through on this album. We wanted this album to be as cohesive lyrically and vocally as is it was sonically.
And now that Flicker Out is all said and done, how do you guys feel about it? Do you think it could have been better or worse? Or are you content with what you made and don't find reason to change it in any form?
Katherine: I am so pleased with Flicker Out. When we went into the recording studio there were definitely some tracks and lines that needed help. It was all good at the core, but needed an outside ear to really make it that much better. Were are so lucky to record with Mike Fanuele at Lavabed Recording. He and I get on just famously. The positive creative environment completely elevated all of our tracks. Especially considering I am so new to singing. It's one thing to sing at band practice in front of your mates, completely another to be put in a vocal booth with a microphone that cost as much as your car!
Stephen: Writing an album is a daunting task at best and that is what we did with Flicker Out. What I mean is, this wasn’t just a collection of songs, we wrote each track with an overarching theme and sound in mind. Again, we were very lucky to have some great people help us achieve this goal along the way. Mike produced and recorded Flicker Out, and was a great help to us in attaining the sound we were looking for. We were also extremely fortunate to have Sarah Register from The Mastering Palace in NYC master the album and single. We were really excited to work with her as she had mastered several bands we admired. The most difficult thing is knowing when to stop fussing over a track or the album as a whole. We put in a lot of time and effort into this records and over all I am very happy with the outcome.
So far, have you had any reception for the album? Good? Bad?
Katherine: So far it's been overwhelmingly positive. A couple reviews expressing personal distaste for particular elements such as our use of sampling, but nothing bad really. I'm surprised really, I mean in the age of the internet it seems no matter what you put out someone is going to hate on it just for the fun of hating! I suppose there is still plenty of time for that though, haha!
Stephen: TOTALLY! Haha. Being a relatively unknown band internationally we are excited to have this record as a vehicle to get out name out there and play LOTS of more shows!
And what are your future plans for Technophobia? Do you have any live shows planned? If so, when and where will they be held? Any singles, EPs, or remixes in the works?
Katherine: We will continue to play shows regionally (in the North East and Mid Atlantic US) throughout the summer and autumn months, but ideally? Ideally I would love to get over to Europe and tour there. Getting our record label up and off the ground while simultaneously writing, recording, and releasing Flicker Out has been intense to say the least. I'm pretty content to just be playing out and supporting it for now. That being said Steve and I are always in create mode. You can definitely expect to hear new songs out at our live shows in the near future.
Stephen: We definitely have a focus on playing live and we want to come to Europe this fall if at all feasible. So any and all booking agents feel free to contact us!
Lastly, I’d like to thank you for your time and wish you the best in your career! The space below is yours!
Stephen: Thank you so much for your interest in our band and in our new record, we really do appreciate it! You can get a copy of Flicker Out on colored vinyl and/or digital download at Working Order Records. Both our LP and single will also be available on vinyl (all vinyl comes with digital download) in Europe through Kernkrach; save on those crazy US shipping costs. Keep a look out for us in the Fall!
...on tour you live excessively, faster than real life, you suck it all in and ride the bomb, so to speak, and after the touring is done, you spit it all back out in the studio, however, it has undergone a process of digestion in the meantime, and that is the motivational momentum for me.
KMFDM, Apr 25 2011
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.
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