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Sonic Seducer magazine | Interview with Retrogramme

by Marc Urban | Rob speaking for the whole band |

Your third album is called “Feed”. Who do you want to feed and how does your feed look like?       

We want the public to feed on our music with the obsession of a serial killer.  Just kidding (sort of)! That description DOES match the cover art though.  The album starts off with a short intro of drums, electronic noise and feedback.  We were going to close the album with a proper song based on the intro.  That didn’t happen but we kept the album name anyway.   We just sort of do what we’re feeling at the present moment so the full length version never materialized.

I’m a bit confused about the vocals. Though I read that your singer is Dmitry one can hear a female voice on many tracks of the album…

We’ve been so busy that we haven’t gotten around to updating the various social media sites.  We should do that soon!  Jenna recorded the female vocal part for She Gives Me Nightmares and we liked her voice so much we asked her to record on a few more songs.  She visited our studio in Virginia all the way from Iowa so we were able to coax her into recording even more parts! After that initial recording session we asked her to join Retrogramme. She is a skilled musician as well, and will be performing live with us. She also contributed her synth playing skills to Flesh Drive.  We are very happy to have her.

In addition to Jenna and Dmitry, we have several more vocalists on the album.  We like to mix in different singing styles depending on the song so it makes sense for us.

Can you generally say something about the members and the working process of Retrogramme, please?! Who’s got which function in the band, how do you work together (virtually or all in the same studio), how do tracks (and lyrics) develop…?!

Nikk and I have been friends since high school.  We’ve been in various bands together since the early 1990’s so we can pretty much read each other’s mind.  We live about 10 minutes apart so we’re able to work together in person.  We also work virtually quite a bit because we have very similar computer and software configurations.

Nikk is the main songwriter/instrumentalist and I am the main producer/engineer, although we do switch roles at times.  Nikk will start off by writing a handful of 30 second musical ideas.  I’ll listen and suggest what I think has the most potential.  Nikk will then flesh out a skeleton version of the song and arrangement and I will put the meat on the bones in terms of synthesizers, additional drums, etc.

Jenna lives in Waterloo IA and will come to the studio to record and rehearse once every couple of months or so.  Dmitry lives in Chicago IL and records his parts to an MP3 version of the song.  He will send back the separate vocal parts and include a demo of the vocals over the MP3.  Both Jenna and Dmitry contribute musically as well.

Once we have all the parts recorded I will do the final production/mix and then master.

Lyrics are written primarily by the vocalist for the song.  However, on a few occasions it’s been a collaboration.  I do not write lyrics or sing, and that’s a good thing!  My main interest is in the music, although the vocalists do take their lyrics quite seriously.

Retrogramme is not that popular in Europe and Germany yet, although I think there is enough interest in the kind of music you produce. Are there german/ European bands you see paralleles to Retrogramme to or vice versa?

Because our music is so diverse we have been compared to many different bands.  Fortunately they are all influences of ours.  Some examples are New Order, Underworld, Royksopp, and occasionally harder EBM bands. So yes, we are somewhat all over the musical map.  If you think about it, many people put their MP3 players on shuffle.  So, we don’t see a problem being so musically diverse.  It makes us hard to categorize, but categorization is not our concern.

How important is Retrogramme for your life? Is it some kind of an outlet? A device that holds your mind in balance? Or the only possibility to be creative?

After a 7 year musical split between Nikk and I, in 2007, we started talking about music again and he introduced me to Ableton Live and the world of software synths.  The ability to avoid a large hardware footprint, save each complete song in a self-contained project, and having very powerful music making tools at my fingertips inspired me again.  I asked Nikk if he wanted to start another band and he was into it.  Since that time it’s been an obsession of ours.  We go to our “real” jobs and then come home and make music.  My mind is certainly NOT in balance. It leans very heavily towards music and the studio!

One song is called “Flesh Drive 2”. Sounds like a sequel..! But I couldn’t find part 1…

Haha, the “2” is a social media typo!  It’s just Flesh Drive.  Vocals, Lyrics and song name are by Jenna.

Another one is called “Wars and Fear”. Thoughts about the wary world we live in at the moment? And what is your biggest fear? A new world war? Or a cold war between Russia and the western world (again)?

Wars and Fear expresses a general mood, not a specific event. That’s usually how it is for most of our songs.

The world does certainly seem like it’s falling apart, doesn’t it?  More now than any time since WWII.  The brutality we are seeing all around the word is sickening and very worrisome.  I have no idea how this will all end.

You offer a bunch of remixes on the second Cd. A way to get some (more) club rotation or generally to get a foot in the door of other scenes?

The second CD came about because several bands asked us if they could do a remix of Nightmares and we couldn’t say no!  There were too many remixes to be added to the main album so we decided to fill up a whole second CD.  All remixes were created by label mates or close musical friends.  It was a way to show respect for these artists, and it’s always fascinating for us to hear different interpretations of our music.

Okay, that’s all for the moment.

Thank you!