Hello again, James ! How are you feelin' these days, since the official debut “Panic Lift“ album, “Witness To Our Collapse“, is about to be published soon? Can you concentrate on your daily job, or is your life currently just a bunch of utter mess currently due to this official NoiTekk release?
- Life was a mess for the last few months when I was finishing the record, but now it's pretty quiet waiting for it to come out. Other than my day job I hardly know what to do with all this free time since so much of my life was consumed with working on the Witness To Our Collapse for the past 2 years!
Who exactly is “Panic Lift” and why it was given the existence in the first place?
- Panic Lift is mainly myself with live support from Dan Platt, who plays keyboards for me. Occasionally, Gus Yoo and Brad Atek fill in live for me on various different instruments. I do all the recording, writing, production and of course sing. I started the project in 2005 shortly after my last project 'Symbiotic' disbanded. I originally wanted to quit music and focus on production but I was going through a tough time in my life and I felt like I needed an outlet of expression to better deal with my emotions at the time, so Panic Lift was born.
I am pretty sure that many electro-industrial, elektro, electronic/industrial rock listeners have heard for your's ex projects, but still, could you sum for us yousr involvement in music again to us? I personally know all there is to be known about “Symbiotic”, “Eye Kandy”, “Neuroplague”, “Panic Lift” and so on, but I think it would sound much more legitimate and sincere if you could present both your ex-projects and currently active and ongoing project – “Panic Lift”…
- Eye Kandy was my first project, we started back in the mid 90's and it was industrial rock, we released a demo and one cd EP before we disbanded and Kaliss and I moved on to form symbiotic with Gus Yoo, while Chris created Life Cried, and Tom joined Bile and later Godhead. We worked on Symbiotic for several until that project came to an end, and here i am now. For Neuroplague and also Porcupine Defense my role was only that of a live member, I played guitars for both bands.
Your’s first involvement in some well-known band was “Eye Kandy”. Some songs can be downloaded can be download via Primordial site, but this is little argumentative as it can be called “You and Kaliss”, rather than “Eye Kandy”… Really, I am just interested – after the group was disbanded, from where the need to make something out of this unfinished demos came? You’ve felt like this was some unfinished business that needs to be finished?
- Yes, we definitely felt like there was some unfinished business, as the Eye Kandy break up was never anything to do with our friendship. Kaliss and I and the rest of the band are still very close friends today. For some time after Chris, Jen and Tom moved on to other projects Kaliss I kept writing music, hoping one day to move Eye Kandy forward but obviously that never happened. so Erasing The Past was the album we wrote in that time period.
- It sat on our hard drives for several years because we did not know what to do with it, until Matt Collins started Primordial Music. Putting out this record digitally and for free for the fans seemed like a perfect idea, we were able to get the music out of the people who wanted to hear it, as well as support Matt, and giving it away for free was great because since it was not an active project, we had no intentions on making a living from it, It was more about closing a chapter for us personally and artistically, than it was making a 'commercial release.
Its seems that you, over the course of time, progressed more and more steadily from electronic/industrial rock to pure elektro/electro-industrial/dark electro sound… “Eye Kandy”, then “Symbiotic”, and, at the very end – “Panic Lift”. I am mostly interested: why did you choose this genre for “Panic Lift”, and not the… let’s say – continuation of “Eye Kandy” style or similar?
- I was 15 when we started to work on Eye Kandy, now I am 26, so what your hearing through all these projects is the progression of my skills as a writer, and a producer, and my evolution as an electronic music artist. I feel there are elements of all my past projects within the Witness To Our Collapse record, and anyone who's been a fan of my work over the years will not be disappointed.
At the time when you started doing music, you were mostly into industrial with guitars... As we already stated – you started moving toward more electronic sounds with each of your release and each of your project… so, where does it ends? Did the whole East coast scene moved at the same direction like as you did, or this is just a natural following of trends? I mean – in last six to seven years, dark electro / harsh ebm / aggrotech has grown in popularity… do you made this kind of music because you are influenced by current trends, or do trends just luckily coincidence with your current taste?
- It is never about keeping to trends, it's about not being afraid to branch out and try something new. i am hoping the next Panic Lift record continuous the evolution of my writing and sounds completly different than "Witness To Our Collapse' just as Eye Kandy and Symbiotic sounded completly different. Even though my vocals at times can be fit into the 'harsh/dark electro sound' i think what i'm doing is somewhat different, as there are several tracks i sing without any effects at all. My music has dark moments but i like to emphesize more postive and uplifting subjects and overtones, so i really dont identify with many of the current 'terror ebm' bands.
You also played live guitars for “Neuroplague”, and these guys helped with “Eye Kandy” when it was recording it’s first album… Why all this good bands are now inactive? I mean – “Neuroplague” is inactive, “Eye Kandy” also… Gus Yoo has active “Azrael Trigger”, and you have an active “Panic Lift” (reason why we are talking at all), and three of you (Gus Yoo, Kaliss, you) had briefly a group called “Symbiotic”… Why all this experimentation with band names, band members, projects being released both as a free download (“Azrael Trigger”) and both as commercial (“Panic Lift” soon)?
- A lot of listeners on the Primordial site do not realize that a lot of those bands are several years old. Eye Kandy was active between 1995-2001 , Symbiotic was active between 2002-2005, Neuroplague was active between 1994-1999, so Primordial Music to the artists involved is like an Archive of all the music we've ever created and released. Panic Lift, Hazmat, and Azrael Trigger are our only new and active projects.
- Gus decided that he wanted to release Azrael Trigger on Primordial, so it would probably be best to ask him. I think he believes in the vision Matt had with the "label". I think that album is just as good or even better as any commercially or signed band or album out there now.
- However, I personally wonder since when did art have to be commerce? Can’t art just be for art's sake? I dont understand why this backlash about 'free downloads' when an artist should be able to do what they want with what they create. It's nobody else's business what you wish to do with the art you create. That's how the purity in music gets ruined.
- Davyd from Hive Records, and Marco from NoiTekk offered to release my record and I am thankful and honored to be a part of their labels, and I will do my best for them and I hope for great things out of the relationship with both of them!
You have signed for NoiTekk in Europe, and Hive Records in USA. Since we both know that you are well connected to the New Jersey acts like “Life Cried“, Primordial label in general (actually, you ARE one of the Primordial guys), “Xentrifuge“, “Cenotype“, and so on – was it really so hard for you to receive NoiTekk offer, or did Chris Reject (from „Life Cried“) and Chris Corrado (from „Xentrifuge“ – both Chris R. and Chris C. are signed on now official “Panic Lift” label – NoiTekk) – along with many other musical friends you have helped? – helped you?
Well, Matt is solely responsible for the creation of Primordial Music, Gus and I just try to help him when we can, We are all apart of the Primordial family but when it comes down to it, Matt Collins calls all the final shots!. The NoiTekk offer came after I met Marco Gruhn at the COMA Festival in Canada last year, he was there with Tactical Sekt and we met and talked music, I gave him my self released "Dancing Through The Ashes" Cd and asked him to email me what he thought about it. Several months later he emailed me asking if he could sign me! He did not know I was close friends with Chris Reject or Chris Corrado at this point. The Hive deal came also around the same time, Davyd is a close friend, and he came to me with an idea to start a subdivision of Hive Records focusing more on EBM acts, and asked is Panic Lift can be the first band he signs. I hold both Davyd and Marco in the highest regard as label owners and talent scouts because I loved all the acts on their labels for many years before meeting both of them, so for them to sign me it is an honor!
“Life Cried” got signed to NoiTekk when Chris Reject came to “Grendel” show when they played in the USA, and from there things started easy to roll… Tell me – did the “Life Cried” signing to NoiTekk maybe brought some glimpse of hope and light you guys from New Jersey/New York ? I mean – I personally think that Primordial as label wouldn’t be founded is there hasn’t been recent NoiTekk interest in America elektro/electro-industrial/harsh-EBM.
- Life Cried's signing may have helped, I really don’t know for sure, things just happen to heat up here I guess. Primordial's conception had nothing to do with NoiTekk, but I'm sure with Life Cried's record being out, and mine on the way, some people may have caught on to Primordial from the connection to NoiTekk…
Tell us more about Primordial music net-label – what are the goals that you, Primordial guys, think you’ll accomplish with this net label?
- We just hope to cover our bandwidth expenses really, not everyone on the label has time to devote to touring, and music full time, so they don’t seek to make a living from the music they create, so it's really just an outlet for them to get their music to anyone who may enjoy it. If you don’t like what we do, you don’t have any commitment to listening, but if you appreciate the art, music, and work, please support, spread the word, and donate!
- There seems to be a type of stigma put to 'free downloads' that many people think that the material isn’t as strong as something you can pay for. I completely disagree ! With Primordial, the music has just as much talent and time put into it as any signed band in the scene! Have you heard that Hazmat release '4 point perspective?' It's absolutly brilliant!
strike me above the average in “Panic Lift”, are the lyrics. They are not about
some misanthropic rage, end of humanity due to nuclear war, information overflow
and so on, but the sound is pretty… well… indie rock alike.
Do you think you could be the breath of new air into NoiTekk releases, having in mind that what are you doing is not very in “We want to make a revolution” style, nor typically NoiTekk alike darky dark… Do you consider yourself different from most of the guys on NoiTekk ?
- I think Marco signs great bands, so that's what we all have in common being on NoiTekk. We are all really strong projects, however I don’t not personally consider what I do to fit into the 'dark-terror-ebm' profile, my lyrics are mostly personal, so I feel a lot of people can identify with my lyrics since I'm talking about real everyday human emotion. I cant personally identify with torture, blood, guts and horror movies, I dont even really like horror movies. I hope my sound can reach a wider audience, but i also think many harsh electro fans will like my music as well, so it seems like a win/win situation, hopefully people can stop worrying about categorizing and sub-genre's and just enjoy the music.
Few years back, futurepop was HUGE. Baloon has bursten, and now – harsh ebm is getting really really big. What are you doing by the song structure really looks like average harsh ebm, but something really set you project aside from all the other “distorted ebm” stuff… what think this is? What is the key component that you think justify it’s “Industrial / Experimental / Alternative” tag that you use for “Panic Lift” myspace?
- I think there is a certain flow to my album that some 'dance-ebm' bands lack. I love having a bit of everything on an album, something to catch every atmosphere and mood. When I'm at a dance club, I love hearing dance music, however when I'm laying in bed... I like something more mellow. So I tried to put a little bit of everything in there and make it flow so it's a good consistant listening experience, not just 12 dance floor anthems. Also, I incorporate a deeper sense of song writing, and many different acoustic elements, like bass, guitars, and strings. I also think my lyrical content can relate to the listener more than the 'war, blood, terror, sci-fi' stuff some of the other bands do.
Trigger” project was a really big surprise for me, for having the typical electro/industrial
rock soundscape reminiscent of “Neuroplague”, but without guitars, and everything
sounded very… well, experimental.
How come – since you were the second in line concerning “Azrael Trigger” project – the sound of “Season to Sever” is still so ‘90ees alike, having just a small dark electro influence? If I didn’t read it in the winamp’s playlist, I would be thinking I am listening to some “Neuroplague” album, haha. Offcourse, Primordial team’s good friend Chris Death Condition from “Life Cried” did excellent “Strife” with Gus, which sounds really something in recently popular dark electro/harsh ebm style…
Anyway, tell me more why all this effort in “Azrael Trigger”, just to ‘publish’ a free album? And why the whole album sound really far from what is considered a dark electro/harsh ebm today?
- Gus's voice commands a certain sound. It really dictates what we all did musically for the project. Gus, Matt, Chris & I and all the other collaborators have been great friends for many, many, years so we knew what kind of sound Azrael Trigger needed to have. Personally, I try to write as many different styles as I can, I don’t ever want to only be able to do one certain kind of song, and Iguess this is apparent when listening to both Azrael Trigger, and Panic Lift. Gus wanted to publish the album for free because he believed in what Matt was doing with Primordial, and we knew free or not that we were presenting a great album to the world, and the most important part is that we all had fun creating it, we weren’t looking at it as a business, it was all about creating art and mutual respect for each other's talents, and having fun!
"Terminal Sect", "16 Volt"… these are not unknown names… what’s like to be a good friend with this guys?
- Colin from Terminal Sect has been a good friend for many years, but even before I became friends with him I was a huge fan of his music. Terminal Sect and Neuroplague were two of my largest influences, without Neuroplague, I would not have been able to have the knowlege I have today with creating music. Matt & Gus are mentors to me, and taught me everything I needed to know, I have a great deal of respect for them, and Colin. 16Volt is another big influence on me, as was Nine Inch Nails, Front Line Assembly and X Marks The Pedwalk, but those guys I do not know in person, but I would love to chat with them one day!
Now, after you signed to NoiTekk, you’ll have to make yourself name and space (and room under the sun and so on :P) next to such well-established names like: “Tactical Sekt”, “Aslan Faction”, “Grendel”, “Psyclon Nine”… Does it sound little… frightening?
- I'm friends with many of those guys so it's not as frightening as it could be. But sometimes it is a little scary! I've worked on this album for so long, what scares me most is not having the option to change any of the songs now. That was the hardest part. Just letting the album go. I have a great deal of respect for all the bands on NoiTekk, and I am a fan of all, but at the end of the day all I can do is make the best music I can and hope people like it.
I have read the sad blog post on your’s myspace concerning that girls death. I felt so sad for it, but hell, that’s life… Do you still are holding the idea to have this track just putted up on myspace as instrumental, or will you write the lyrics and fuse a complete artpiece? If this track is really one of the best you have written, I would really like to see it on the some official album, anytime after already finished “Witness to Our Collapse”…
- No, I dont think I'm ever going to do any more to that track. It just wouldn’t seem right because I know she could never hear the finished product.
Do you enjoy doing remixes, and, if you do – from all the remixes you’ve done so far, which is your favorite? Also: your soon-to-be-published official album has absolutely no remixes by other bands… why is that? There is twelve songs on the album; four to five remixes from other bands could fit into album…
- Remixes are fun, so far the best sounding remix I think I have done was for Derma Tek's 'Payback'. I have a few more I have worked on but have not been released yet. As for my record, I don’t like the idea of having remixes at the end because I feel the album has a flow and concept to it, so to throw remixes at the end would be like adding someone else's life story at the end of your own autobiography. However a remix disc i would consider doing, under the right circumstances.
From all the guys on NY/NJ scene, who would you consider is the best? And please – I mean outside Primordial music… yes, we know your friends are good musicians, but I want some never-heard-before names…
- I don’t consider one of us 'better' than the other. What we are doing is positive for everyone involved, and it feels good seeing many of my friends, and other bands from my area getting attention. so much focus has been put on Europe over the years, I am glad to see some of it turning towards us for a change!
Recently, it seems to me, there a resurrection of electro scene that is not related to guitars, in both America’s… Black Sun festival, Das Bunker in both Atlanta and California, there is more and more bands emerging nationwide… Is it Internet, that did this? Saturation by MTV? “Every-kid-has-the-computer-at-home-and-a-downloaded-music-program” effect? What are the reasons?
- I think the bands have always been there, but there has been more exposure to all of them since the invent of myspace. It has made a worldwide scene seem much smaller, so a band like mine can get exposure overseas much quicker than we normally could. I think it is mainly a positive thing, but now instead of only hearing bands who are signed and up to professional standards, the average fan has to sort through many unsigned bands who they normally not have heard otherwise. Sometimes you can hear great ones, but mostly you have to sort through many up and coming bands that may have not perfected their writing and production yet.
How important is for you to play live?
- Very! Coming from a rock band background, I am very much comfortable with bringing the band's music to a live setting. My band and I do everything we can to make the show as energetic as possible, and I hope to further expand the live show with more members as the album picks up speed. We have played shows with several very popular bands in the scene already, and hope to tour after the album's release. There is nothing better than to watch people enjoy the music live, it's the most rewarding experience of all.
What are the plans after album’s release? Could we expect some sort of European and American tour so that you can represent your material?
- I hope to do a full fledged tour sometime in 2008/2009, but as of right now we are only doing shows on a 'one-off' basis. Our contact info is on our website and myspace, so any promoters looking to put together any events/tours should contact me or the labels there.
Recently I talked with Daniel Graves of Aesthetic Perfection/Necessary Response fame, and he told me he moved to Europe because scene here is, by his own words: “HUGE!”… Do you ever considered moving from the States? Also, while we are at it – what are the differences between East coast and West coast scenes? Is there any at all? Did Internet really broke all the cultural barriers for this scene?
- I don’t plan to move to Europe any time soon, as much as America has its problems, I am in love with the New Jersey/New York area and i plan to stay there. I have been to europe and i have enjoyed my time there but there is just something about my area that keeps me here. As far as the coasts go, I don’t see much of a difference, our scene is a small community spread out globally, so trends and opinions seem pretty universal.
How much your production skills have evolved since your beginnings? What musical equipment have you changed during the years?
- With Eye Kandy the first demo and "Dream Kill Dream" was done on hardware, my first experiments on software became when we started writing for symbiotic, but I still incorporated some hardware into that as well. Panic Lift was the first project I’ve done completely with software but I’ve felt like I learned so much from working with hardware that I know not to take creating music on a computer for granted. Things were so limited and tough with hardware, but it made you work harder and you took your craft very seriously, if you wanted a new synth you couldn’t download it, you had to buy it, so you took your time and learned every possible way to get as much out of your synth as possible because you could not afford anything else, and when you did buy something, you researched that product for months before purchasing. Taking that mentality over to writing with software taught me to focus harder on whatever software I had, than worrying about 'downloading the latest versions' I don’t believe better software makes a better musician. This is why it does not worry me that everyone who can download is trying to start a band, at the end of the day, the real musician will be the one who gains the respect.
How did you get into this kind of music at all? I mean – mainstream rock and metal and pop… is still something that’s popular all over America. How did you ever get interested into this kind of music?
- Like many my first taste of industrial came from Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, I was so intrigued by the sounds and atmosphere they created, that I had to dig deeper and find other bands that were like them, that soon spiraled to me liking many of different so called 'sub genres' of electronic music, including EBM, Noise, Drum&Bass, Coldwave, and others. to me it's all the same though. It's all industrial, it's all electronic music, I don’t worry myself with subgenres.
Your’s attitude towards piracy?
- That topic has been so over-killed lately to me, that I kind of stopped caring about it to be honest. The people who illegally download know they are wrong and that’s the simple fact of the matter, if they can sleep at night knowing they are destroying the scene they stand for then that's on them, not me. All I can do is make the best music I can and hope that listeners and fans respect and support that. To be honest, I throw all my fans lots of free music via the primordial site that for them not to respect and support a commercial record I release would be a complete disrespect to me. I go to college and I’m broke too! But I can afford my CD's, Music Gear, Rent, a Car, and Bills, because I learnt to spend what little I have wisely. There is no reason why others cannot do that as well!
And, at the very end, tell us something more about yourself !
- There is not much more interesting about me actually! I just would like to take time to thank everyone for reading, and there continued support of my music projects! Watch the website and myspace for any new developments, and tell your local DJs to check out our music! Support what you stand for!
you on this opportunity, James ! I want you all the luck in the world for your’s
“Witness To Our Collapse” album and I hope we will hear some more from you !
Panic Lift myspace
Interview made with James Francis in May 2008. by David Kirinic Rodic for Elektronski Zvuk.
2008. Elektronski Zvuk