It's been long time since we had first interview. It was back in summer of 2001. How much did your life changed as a musician?
- Wow, has it been that long? Needless to say, a lot has changed since those days. Our fanbase has grown quite a bit and we've had the opportunity to play shows in places I never throught we'd get to visit.
How big is your studio now? One of the new pieces of equipmenet you said you bought back in 2001. Was Roland XV-3080. Do you still use it?
- To be honest, I haven't even turned on the XV-3080 in quite some time, but at the same time, I can't bring myself to sell it. It's a bit out of date, but it still is capable of some very cool sounds. It just isn't very fun to program. The interface is not the best. My studio has changed quite a bit since those days and is a good mix of hardware and software synths. To have a look at what I used on Compass, readers can go to: http://assemblage23.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=30&Itemid=61
Lot of new bands use only software to produce new music. Are you more into hardware? And how much do you use software in production?
- I like to use a mix of both, although I'd say A23 is about 75% software these days. I could switch over to 100% pretty easily, but for me, hardware synths are much more fun to program. Although I am getting used to it, programming by pushing a mouse around just isn't as satisfying as twisting real knobs. I also picked up some vintage analog stuff like a modified SH-101 and a Pro One and there is a certain quality those things have that hasn't been fully captured in software yet, although it's getting damn close. Give it another 2-3 years and I think they'll be indistinguishable.
You have toured a lot in the last couple of years. Can you mention some of your favourite shows?
- We visited Russia for the first time last year and that was pretty amazing. Playing South Africa many years back was incredible although our drummer got mugged. Serbia and Bulgaria were great... It's really hard to nail down just a few shows. Really, there are just too many awesome places we've played to mention.
The situation at the beginning of this decade was not so bad reagrding mp3 illegal sharing but has become bad in the last years. How much did this affected you as a musician?
- There's no doubt that file sharing has had a really severe impact on our little scene. A23 has been fairly lucky in that our sales haven't suffered too much, but they've definitely gone down since file-sharing has become so common. Legitimate digital services such as iTunes have helped offset the dropping sales of CDs in the US a bit, but these services haven't caught on quite as much in Europe just yet, so piracy is more of a problem in Europe than it is in the US it seems.
You have set your own label few years back 23db Records and have released some interesting new bands and your own older material. What are the future plans for 23db Records?
- I don't want to get into specifics too much at this point, but we're expecting some new releases from artists already on the label and I might have something up my sleeve for the future as well.
Spark is a new single taken from the new Compass album. Do you have plans at this point to release another single also?
- No. The single is really a dead format. People still buy them, but not like they used to. It's good for promotion and to build hype for an album, but you can't make money off singles anymore. In fact, at the end of the day, we probably lose a little money doing them now. I imagine Spark will probably be the last physical single we ever do, at least in the traditional format. It makes me sad to see this format die out, but the music industry is always changing and you just have to adapt as best you can.
Your new album Compass, is just to be released. How strong is that album for you, any special statement that you wanted to say with new material?
- It's definitely the happiest I have been with how an album came out. I put a lot less restrictions on myself this time and was less concerned with making the songs fit into what was expected of a specific genre. I just wanted to make good songs and let them stand on their own in that sense. So far the feedback I have received has been really postiive. I am sure there will be those who don't like it, but you can't just release the same thing over and over.
Is the inspiration for the Assemblage 23 lyrics now more mature than it was 10 years ago?
- I'd say so. I think the lyrics are certainly more articulate than they used to be, and they're a bit more reflective than the early days where they were a bit more angry, perhaps.
Early, Rare, & Unreleased Vol.1 and Vol.2 are well received. Do you have additional material for a possible Early, Rare, & Unreleased vol.3 release or even vol.4?
- There's probably enough material to do 1 more volume, but I don't have any plans to. I think the 2 volumes give people a good enough idea of where Assemblage 23 came from, and I'd rather focus on moving forward at this point than looking back.
In the past on your maxi cd releases you used to do your own remixes (except Document), and now on the new Spart there are Combichrist and Blaqk Audio remixes. Will there be more remixes from other bands on your future releases?
- I can't say for sure, but the main reason for going back to using outside remixers for this release was that I wanted to do a limited version of the album with bonus tracks. So I wanted to concentrate on making those bonus tracks as good as they could be, so letting some other bands do remixes took some of the pressure off that I would've had if I had done all the remixes myself.
What is the situation with Assemblage 23 remixes now? Is your remix for Combichrist only remix this year, or are they few in the works?
- Nope, I've done a bunch this year. In addition to the Combichrist remix, I did mixes for KMFDM, Gentleman Junkie, XuberX, Mood Organ, The Gothcicles, and the Perfects. Next year will also finally see the release of a remix I did for Imperative Reaction almost 5 years ago. Now that I'm done with the album, I have some other remixes coming, but nothing solid just yet.
Talking about remixes? Have you been approached by any label to do Remix Wars (like it was done my Off Beat/Metropolis) with other bands or Klangfusion series release with your european label Accession Records? Who would be your choice (if you could pick one or few) to go into remix war?
- Honestly, I think people are a bit sick of remixes at this point. There was a period in the early 2000's where every band had a remix album, the remix wars things were more common, and not all of the remixes were that interesting. If I ever did a remix war, I think it would be far more interesting to do one with a band outside the scene, but I don't see that happening.
Beside your own production, have you been involved in any production for other bands?
- Yeah, I've produced albums for backandtotheleft, SD6, Lost Signal, as well as vocal production on the new Cesium 137. I've done some production for single tracks for other bands as well. I really enjoy production quite a lot!
You are still with Accession Records in Europe as it was with your first release. Can you say you have some kinf of family relationship with them now? And what about your domestic label Metropolis Records?
- Yeah, obviously when you've been with a label for such a long time, you develop a pretty close relationship with them. I've been through a lot with both labels and am quite happy that I've found good homes for A23.
Thank you Tom for your time. Wish you all the best with new album Compass and future of Assemblage 23 and other musical projects.
ASSEMBLAGE 23 official website
Interview made with Tom Shear in October 2009. by Danijel Levatic for Elektronski Zvuk.
2009. Elektronski Zvuk