by Evan South
Originally published by side-line.com
The new album “The Undoing” is already technically 2 years old. What was the reason for the delay? Were you trying to do a self-release and it fell apart?
Skold: Yeah, that’s what I did. I listened to some people that had some advice, and as we pursued those avenues I came to realize that it was not the way I wanted to go, and many moons later I am very fortunate and happy to be back with Metropolis. The 2 year thing, and I understand that, especially to young people, seems like a very long time, and it can be. I made records for a few different scenarios and setups, and working with major labels, there is no way you deliver a record and it’s going to come out within 6 or 9 months, that’s a minimum setup time for any of those labels. So it’s not unusual at all for them to take a year, or a year and a half, maybe 2 years, it’s not really that strange. Today, with the internet, it seems bizarre, but it’s kind of cool, too. At some point I decided this record was done and I’ve been hanging on to that ever since. It would have been really easy to start poking around, do little tweaks. As time goes along you hear things differently and you figure out different ways to do things but I swore a sacred oath to myself not to do so. The problem with the rabbit hole, once you start doing that, it will never be done again, and you have a Chinese Democracy scenario. I’m kind of proud of that.
You were disciplined enough to not touch the record and leave it alone for the most part?
Skold: Disciplined or pig-headed? There’s a fine line. I was doing other music and working on other things, Motionless in White being one of those things. To me, the piece, it’s like a painting, it’s dried, it’s cured, why should I mess with it? I went back with an inner dialogue debating this a few times, but I decided just to stick to it.
In that time frame, were you able to start on another album?
Skold: No. I was able to work on other music and in other concepts and different formats. I’ve been more or less writing, but I haven’t started work on a follow up or sequel. This record feels very pivotal for me on a personal level, whether this is something I should really be doing. It sounds funny, but I’m pretty serious. I’m not necessarily a youngster. I’ve done it a few times, the weird part about it is it’s still magic to me, it’s still really cool, I really like making and working with music. I understand that’s just fantastic, it’s a blessing! It’s all of those; I don’t even have words for it. To still be able to do that, and I think that’s because I try to treat the whole process with the respect to make it special and keep it special and not go down certain roads that are quick and easy and streamlined and sold or presented to you. I try to avoid all that stuff and go my own little side path down the maze.
All of a sudden with this album you have a tour. How did you come to the conclusion that not only were you going to put this album out but you were going to tour with this?
Skold: I started toying with the idea, and thinking that this actually could translate... I even did so previously with the Anomie album in 2010, thinking that the music I make should work in a live setting. The music I make as Skold should work, at least theoretically in a live setting, and I’ve messed around, I’ve been with people in rehearsal rooms trying out things, and when it really came together was with Tiffany Lowe and Eli James. And we said “We’re going to have to do this!” Do I, at my age, a man of my stature… I’m not here to compete with 21 year olds, I can’t do that, I’m not going to pretend that I can either, I do something else, and I have a bunch of catalog that I hope a bunch of people might want to hear presented again and in a different way but still true to the originals. I have a curious little set I hope people will get off on and I have fun playing the music, and that’s what it comes down to at the end of the whole debate and analytic dissection of the proposal… It is fun to play music!
You mentioned wanting to tour for Anomie, but you did not actually tour for that album, correct?
I had read a lot of interviews around that time that you were really excited to tour. Was it just not the right time, the right album, the right lineup?
Skold: Yeah, not the right people.
That’s a big reason.
Skold: And I know I take ridiculous liberties with these things. I’m in a luxurious position when I can do that. I mean who the fuck can entertain the notion of sitting on a record for two years? So I’m going to do that. It’s not a guilt thing, I owe that to having been given that success, I kind of owe it to the art itself, to treat it with that respect. That it was enough to turn my back on it, and sell-out, so to speak.
How did you come to work with Tiffany Lowe (keyboards) and Eli James (drums)?
Skold: I knew Tiffany socially for some time, we were introduced by mutual friends, and we started talking about it. She provided a lot of fuel for that fire, spurring me on and bringing an enthusiasm. Together we started looking for drummers, and I think she came up with Eli. She told me to check him out. We talked to a few different drummers, then we talked to Eli, and then we stopped talking to other drummers. I make it sound like it’s all complicated and convoluted, and some of it is, at the same time it’s really not. I’m fairly pure when it comes to that stuff. Some people you want to work with and some people you don’t.
How did you determine the band was going to be 3 people, and not your typical 4 or 5?
Skold: I really like to play guitar, and I really like to try to sing… I have a hard time calling myself a singer. I’ve worked with Peter Murphy, what gives me the fucking right to say I’m a singer? I wanted to see if I could do that, if I could play and sing at the same time. And going back to the competing with the 21 year olds, doing things in a different way, what do I have to offer in this big picture? What could I possibly be bringing to the table? And maybe that is some of the chops that you’ve earned over a longer period of time… It also makes the song sound a little different then if you sit down and just play the guitar take, and get that done, and then you stand over there and record the vocal, sometimes it’s a little disconnected, sometimes the disconnection is a really good thing, but sometimes it’s rad to have it feel like it’s connected. There are some fantastic people that have done that stuff very, very well in the past. Jimi Hendrix hated singing, but can you fathom Jimi recording without singing? Sometimes things make sense even though you can’t justify them on a technical level. So that’s my excuse, Jimi fuckin’ Hendrix!
You talk about competing with 21 year olds, but flipping that around; Don’t 21 year olds think the same thing? “How are we going to compete with Tim Skold? Look at his credentials!”
Skold: I didn’t say it was a fair fight! If you show up to a fair fight you didn’t bring enough shit!
Continuing with the tour and you singing and playing, how is it different when you are at the forefront of the attention compared to when you’re part of a group?
Skold: I’m not sure how to answer that. I think I just focus on the task at hand, so to speak. That dimension of it kind of fades away and becomes non-important. When I’m playing a song, I’m not really thinking about how that person over there is interpreting the song; I’m just playing the song. I don’t have time to take it to that level of analysis. My approach stays the same; I try to do it as well as I can. And I dedicate myself fiercely.
Something you mentioned before our interview, and I have to follow up on this because you brought it up, what was this incident with you and Sascha (KMFDM) being escorted out of the TVT building?
Skold: It was just vicarious; Sascha’s had some issues with that record company over time. By now, me and Sascha had been working for some time and we were in New York and we went down to TVT and within mere minutes of our meeting escorted (out), friendly but briskly, by security. You know you’re leaving and your feet aren’t touching the ground anymore? No, it really wasn’t that much of an altercation. It was peculiar. It wasn’t about anything besides the beef between Sascha and Gottlieb. I was really just the third wheel.
Back to the current album “The Undoing”, are there any plans for any singles, EP’s or remixes?
Skold: We haven’t talked about anything. I said that I should tour for this, and they said “Fuck yeah, do that!” and that’s really all I’ve been concerned with for now. I haven’t thought much about it, really. We’re leaning in hard trying to put a cool set together and there’s a plethora of material, but there’s also songs I don’t think I do well, and I’ve been trying to give a lot of material a fair shake, but you come to a point where you decide that this not a song we’re going to play and you have to nix it, and then you look at what else should we play, so that process becomes arduous.
What do people have to look forward to on this tour as far as your set list? Any surprises?
Skold: I think a lot of people who are going to show up, hopefully, to see this are somewhat familiar with my catalog, so I don’t know if they will be all that surprised. But maybe some of that stuff will still be surprising; it’s surprising to me actually! It might be surprising. It’s weird, there’s songs I wanted to play and I thought should translate well, but when we were playing them, we don’t do them the way I wanted to do them. Then there were songs I tried almost like a joke, “let’s try this and see what happens” and it came across quite well, so we pursued those.
Going back again, with your KMFDM vs. Skold album, I found it interesting with the notable absence of guitars. Your thoughts on that?
Skold: It was very much a conscious decision, up front, and it was part of the agreement of making the record, and it was my request that we don’t put any guitars on it, make it purely, strictly an electronic record. I think at least in part was I came fairly recently off of a guitar playing gig. So I was… I don’t know if I was overplaying guitar, I was very enthusiastic about working on all electronic. Its super cool to be able play both sides of the fence, and to be able go back and forth. And it goes in cycles, I’ll be really into guitar stuff for a while, and then 6 months later I’m all into electronics. I don’t think about it, I just let it happen. And Sascha was willing to do that. However, there is guitar on that record. There’s some sneaky guitar on “Alkohol” I think.
There were a couple tracks where you hear something and you think you’re crazy, “That could be guitar, but…”
Skold: It is. I grew up on the new wave of British heavy metal, to a large extent. I think it was Iron Maiden had a disclaimer on their records that said “Absolutely no synthesizers were used in the recording of this album.” And it came from back in the day; there’d be a bit of a pop-synth vs metal and guitar scenarios, so you couldn’t be into both. And as a youth I was fairly one sided, and there was a lot of music I missed out on that I’ve been lucky enough to experience later on in life, but if you would told a 16 year old me that Human League had cool songs I would have slapped you silly! Your ears aren’t necessarily ready for everything all the time, so there’s a time and a place for everything, and at that point I wanted to make a record that was purely electronic and Sascha was willing to go down that road.
Did that allow you guys to experiment since you knew you were doing 100% electronic?
Skold: Yes. But it’s also a bit of a challenge. I’m not giving away any secrets here, but a lot of industrial bands use guitars as a fall back safety net type of thing that saves the day and it’s fairly generic in its approach. That doesn’t make it bad, but it also makes it something that sometimes you should try to avoid, those standardized pitfalls. Try to do something a little different!
Shifting back again, do you own the rights to the Shotgun Messiah catalog?
Skold: Nope. I have inquired about “acquiring” said catalog, which seems like an incredibly daunting task. So unless you know someone who knows someone, and I’m talking about lawyers, than you’re pretty much shit out of luck.
Skold: It’s just buried so deep into the catalog vault that it isn’t worth anything by itself, it’s worth something packaged with hundreds and thousands of other recordings.
I think there would still be a demand for that third Shotgun Messiah album “Violent New Breed” if it was remastered, reissued. To this day it’s still ahead of its time, very influential!
Skold: To pull that catalog from the deep, deep vaults of the people that own that seems just incredibly impossible.
Skold: Yes and no. As much as I appreciate what we might have done, and what that led to back in the day… Sometimes people like to show me old pictures and expect me to cringe, and to some extent I do, but one thing led to another, and if it wasn’t for some of those photos I wouldn’t be here right now today, I wouldn’t be able to have done a lot of the things I’ve done. All that shit goes hand in hand and you can’t really pick and choose that. If you’re not making a few mistakes every now and then you’re not really pushing any boundaries or envelopes or trying to do anything different, you’re just playing it safe and that’s fucking boring!
What is it about Sweden that they consistently put out some of the most incredible music?
Skold: I think ABBA broke the dam! And from that it just inflated the ego and self-esteem of the average Swedish musician and for some reason there were 8 million people who thought they could do no wrong and they just went full on with no holds barred and they did some really cool shit! Now, they’ve done some really fucking awful shit too, it’s just in the mind of the Swede. Because you have that mental situation, it puts you in a different seat where you might go further and try a little harder.
The ABBA effect. Is there something in the water?
Skold: It’s an old Viking curse… I don’t know!
Another recent project, Doctor Midnight & the Mercy Cult was a very straightforward rock/metal project…
Skold: Yeah, it’s funny, that record got a couple reviews that said it had an industrial sound to it, and I thought “What fucking record are you listening to?” I think it’s just my name on there made people listen to it a certain way, and I might have been to some extent a blessing and a curse for that band because I provided a curious angle and a nice fuel for those Norwegian guys to do music in another realm. It’s metal, but it’s metal with a very melodic singer and a really unique approach, it was an interesting super fun project to make, and people didn’t get into it at all. On a personal level as a musician, producer, writer, any of those things, I even did the artwork. To me that all makes perfect sense, and I’m still super proud of what I did.
I had to give props to the guitarist from Doctor Midnight & the Mercy Cult, Anders Odden (Apoptygma Berzerk, Magenta)!
I’ve been listening to him for a long time with his Magenta project, which I think is a severely underrated project.
Skold: She (Vilde) has a great voice and together they make a really nice team.
It’s another band that I think if they had been in the right place at the right time…
Skold: It’s tricky stuff… But Norwegians are a little bit like Swedes that way, there are some really talented motherfuckers!
Talking about being in the right place at the right time Tim, your observations over the years in the music industry, how much does that play a factor? Regardless of how good you are…
Skold: That still matters, but it’s still not fair, because there’s a very large amount of super talented people doing incredible shit that just falls by the wayside for several different reasons. It’s not fair to say that (right place, right time)… It’s an important factor, and to some extent a determining factor, but it’s not the only factor, there’s more to that than just the right place at the right time.
I wanted to touch on a question you’re asked all the time, about the so called “Dead God” EP, which I’ve re-named as the “Beating a Dead Horse” EP because it has been asked so many times.
It was supposed to be part of what was going to be the “Disrupting the Orderly Routine of the Institution” album…
Skold: It got a ridiculous amount of downloads, and it was never released. It was a leak. It was material I was working on, I made about 6 cd dupes, and I handed them to trusted friends in the industry who I thought I could rely on to keep it to themselves, and maybe give me feedback, point me in the right direction, connect the dots, all that stuff. None of that happened, but it found its way on the internet.
For me to try to sell that to a record company, or promote that in a sales world is completely impossible because it was already free for everyone, so I was forced to abandon the project.
Was it a full album that was sent out and only 6 tracks were leaked? Were there only 6 tracks?
Skold: There were a couple different versions; there were some people I trusted more than others.
I was going to watermark them, back then there was no proper way to watermark them like there is these days. I was messing around with super low and high frequencies and doing a very rudimentary barcode type system that I could see on a computer display but wouldn’t affect your speakers or ears.
But it was pretty cumbersome in its implementation, so I did not pursue that. I still to this day do not know what copy actually leaked!
But one person ruined it for everybody…
Skold: As doom and gloomy as that might be, at some point you have to let go, and laugh at it, what are you gonna do? It got out, it got away, it’s the one that got away! Move on!
Just my personal opinion, but it’s been so long now, I think if those tracks were remastered, or remixed and re-released, your fans would buy it! There are still possibilities…
Skold: Thank you, and I appreciate that as a positive criticism, but you don’t know that you’re dealing with a temperamental motherfucker who long ago deleted all that shit. There’s no way to remaster or fix those files. That hard drives been shot repeatedly with a high caliber rifle! I went looking for those files; I go looking for those files every so many years, like “Maybe they’re in that box”, and I’m talking about boxes of floppies, but no. I think they’re a moment lost in time.
Lastly, back to the current tour, it’s about 3 weeks long. Is this a way to “test the waters” so to speak, and if all goes well you’ll be looking to do a bigger tour later?
Skold: To be brutally honest, which is something that’s kind of rare these days, I don’t have a “name” to sell tickets and put people into concert venues. I have a track record in the studio; I have a track record in a few outfits that can do this. I, by myself, have no track record to do this. So when I talk to promoters or bookers or all the people involved in this scenario, they ask me “So what do you normally do?” And I have no answer. “Well, what did you do last year?” And I have no answer. “Well, what did you do back in the day?” And I have no answer! Because you never really existed (solo), right? So this is not a repeat of something, but it’s definitely testing the water, and yeah, if people don’t come out and see this, if this run is not successful… Let’s phrase it the other way. I’m hoping this run is really successful so we’ll go on and book more dates and do more touring. See, I’m learning to be more positive in my outlook!