“I fucked Bono in the ear and had a rocktung baby”
Yeah, that’s right, it’s another feature named after a Gary Numan song. This time out we’re asking musicians to reflect on an album they’ve just released. Imagine replicants in Blade Runner shuffling through their snapshots in an attempt to show indexical proof of their own lives and works, only with more sawtooth leads. Anyway, who better to inaugurate this new feature than one the first people we ever interviewed for ID:UD, Brian Graupner of The Gothsicles, and one of only two people to ever have been interviewed twice for the site, Matt Fanale of Caustic, on the occasion of their debut collaborative release as The Causticles? Eric Gottesman, named after the Kevin Bacon of industrial music (and ironically the other person we’ve yakked to twice here), is the first release on Matt’s new Undustrial Records label, and we asked the guys a couple of questions about process and distro before passing the mic to them.
ID:UD: Although this is the first Causticles record, you’ve both worked together numerous times. How long has the idea of doing a collaborative record been on the table? How long was the gestation period for Eric Gottesman?
Brian: Caustic and The Gothsicles used to play a ton of shows together and “The Causticles” started out as a way to refer to that grouping, but during the 2009 tour with Prometheus Burning, Matt came up with the idea of actually making the name into an actual “band”. The album, Eric Gottesman, has actually been in the works for almost 4 years between releases from our own individual projects and whatnot.
Matt: I came up with it? Awesome! I TAKE ALL THE CREDIT. And yeah, it took a long time. Between me and Brian cranking out albums, shows, festivals, blow, hookers, construction jobs, library dedications, and the creation of several maple syrup companies we’ve been pretty busy. The Causticles was definitely a start/stop type of project until the last 10 months or so. Basically one of us worked on stuff while the other worked on their own main project and then switched when shit started getting busy for the other person. I remember distinctly writing Causticles ideas in at least 3 countries…with the U.S. being one of them.
ID:UD: Both Caustic and the Gothsicles have worked with outside producers recently, but Eric Gottesman feels like a much more DIY effort with much of the album’s production kept in house. Was that a specific decision you made for the sake of efficiency and cost, a creative decision, both, or something more?
Brian: Heh, opposite day for you. Most of the album was produced by Josev F of Dagger Eyes Studio and CTRLSHFT with individual tracks done by Dan Clark (The Dark Clan / Magma Dragon) and Andrew Sega (Iris). This decision was made so that the album would sound gooder.
Matt: Josev’s been a pal of ours from when he lived in Madison (he’s played as part of Caustic several times as well) and I brought him in to do some production on The Man Who Couldn’t Stop last year. It, unsurprisingly, ended up sounding awesome, so we just kept chucking him tracks to work his magic on. I think it ended up helping the overall consistency of sound on the album, plus Josev just knows how to mix flawlessly, so every track he got his hands on came out sounding incredible. We were really lucky to get so much of his time.
“I don’t care as much about maximizing profits as making sure as many people as possible hear the music.”
ID:UD: You’re also making this the first release on your own label Undustrial. Can you speak to the goals of the label, and how they might dovetail with the release of Eric Gottesman?
Matt: Undustrial was something I more or less just whipped together in the last few months. Metropolis wasn’t interested in taking on the Causticles debut or the Caustic EP (EPs don’t sell very well if they’re released as physical CDs), so I figured it’s a good time to start self-releasing again. The basic philosophy of Undustrial is to create a label that’s more relationship than business based. I don’t care as much about maximizing profits as making sure as many people as possible hear the music. With that in mind I’ve tried to go out of my way to be massively fan, DJ, and artist friendly. I’ve been able to (as of this writing) build a fanbase of over 1000 people on Facebook right off the bat, and I’ve relied on word of mouth to get people news on our releases. I pretty much just made the label I’d want to buy from and support.
I’ve basically just tried to be as transparent and honest about the release and label as possible, like letting people hear a full album preview the day before it went on preorder. That could have totally backfired if people didn’t like the album, so it forced us to not only be ready to defend our output, but also allowed us to really believe in what we made. Luckily people seem to be enjoying the album a lot, and even more luckily the marketing and deals I’ve offered have been getting taken advantage of, so while we’re not making a lot by doing specials we’re moving copies and trying to put together a solid foundation of people that will ideally support what we do and help spread the word on our music. Since this is pretty much exclusively related to releasing projects I’m related to it’s a direct extension of how I work as Caustic, so I hope people are excited about what’s to come. I know I am.
I really hope that whatever success Undustrial has can inspire other people not to worry about getting on a label to try and do their thing and maybe strike out on their own. It’s not easy, but it’s a lot more rewarding, plus, honestly, it’s a lot more fun when you know you can pull it off.
Matt: This is an expanded version of the intro track we did when we did our first show opening for Assemblage 23 and Espermachine in November. I just realized it, but for some reason I always seem to have an opening track when I do the first show for a new project – I had one for Caustic’s and Parasite Twin too, I think. Weird. Mostly I just wanted to use the “Inbetweeners” sample because I think it’s hysterical. Our UK fans pick it out right away, as do some of the cooler US folks.
Brian: After reading Matt’s above statement, I had heretofore forgotten the actual scope of how long we’ve been friends and how much this project means to me. I did guest vox at that first Caustic show and am realizing now the implications of that. Damn, man. Way to open a commentary.
I was looking through physics lectures to try to trick my girlfriend into thinking that I’m smart, and then this dude just served up this awesome dreamnugget of a sample about the resultant forces being F and G. Our last names are Fanale and Graupner. (GET IT?)
Matt: We’re very clever. You know it, girlfriend.
Ruin The Party
Matt: I actually think this is the first track we wrote and/or finished for the album, so this one is at least four years old. I tossed together the demo for it and Brian fleshed out a lot of the sounds and fortunately we actually got the structure right pretty much the first time. We collaborated some on the initial lyrics, but I ended up changing some of them because they were all about getting hammered and destroying the party and, well, I quit drinking in the time the initial lyrics were finished. At one point early on I suggested we call the album Los Hermanos Borrachos (poorly written “the drunk brothers”)
Brian: Not only was this track the first foray into figuring out how we were going to work together on a mechanical level, it also represents some of our initial collaborations and agreements on what could be done thematically. When Matt proposed a chorus of “DOUCHELAND ÜBER ALLES”, my Spidey-sense ramped up to 11 as in, “Holy smokes, that could completely be taken as really fucking offensive” but something about that coming from the combined energy of our two monumentally irreverent projects quickly made me ready to jump in head first. I also love the punch-ups Josev was able to do in production and mastering on this one, particularly with the drums, which became much more crisp.
Matt: I thought this was a great lead-off track—a manifesto of stupidity. Plus I liked saying we fondled cops.
Headbutt To The Guts
Brian: The working title on this was “Fragrant Mushrooms”, which was a road joke from the 2009 tour with Prometheus Burning. I think we saw that listed on a menu somewhere and thought it was funny, and that’s sometimes all it takes for a song title. I couldn’t get any lyrics out of that concept, however, and had this weird idea to basically steal Covenant’s “One World, One Sky” while referencing tiger-uppercuts ’cause Street Fighter II is my jam. I love the song’s contrast of big soaring Gary Numan pads against these grindy little screwed up industrial noises. Dan Clark produced this one and made the second of my “YEAH”s be in outer space, and I thought that was cool.
Matt: This is just the first of many examples where I sent Brian the skeleton of a demo and he basically just whipped it into an anthem. This is probably the most “Gothsicles” track on the album, but it’s still totally Causticles. One of the really fun things about working on this with Brian was the give-and-take in terms of who did what wasn’t really defined—sometimes one of us had a skeleton of a track, sometimes just an idea, or sometimes a full instrumental demo, but we just worked with what we had and tried to knock it out of the park every time. No egos, no bullshit.
Brian: Matt came to me with this track’s raw structure and goofy ass sample which he explained was from Children’s Hospital, and I shamelessly shoehorned it into being about H.P. Lovecraft’s “From Beyond”. The video game riff that kicks in towards the end is also pretty shamelessly Gothsiclian. I mean, I do have a lot of shame in my life, but not as far as this track is concerned.
Matt: This is a great example of both how nerdy we are about stuff and how many layers there are (okay, it’s only a few) for some of the tracks. I’m not familiar with Lovecraft very much so I don’t get the references, but it’s just so damn fun it can be enjoyed on the surface level too. I think this is by far the catchiest track on the album, too.
(I’m Not) Funtional
Matt: This one musically was all Brian. I think I may have added some pads or something and relooped the samples, but this is kind of the “surprise serious song” on the album. Brian did the music and samples and I did all the lyrics. The chorus was actually something I wrote years back but never found a song for, so it’s kismet that this came along because I think it works perfectly for it. It’s a really personal song for me, almost a prequel to “White Knuckle Head Fuck”. I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out.
Brian: This is my my favorite song on the album for many reasons. It’s a double barrel blast of Matt’s surgical command of lyrical content, both in the razor-sharp economy of its word choice and in its knife-edged ability to cut me wide open. When I was writing it, I’d envisioned this song as being a vocalless “sample track”, but the addition of these searing verses that I know could only come from a place of addiction are now indelible to the track. It’s possible I’m putting too much emphasis on the lyrics because Matt was able to overcome his drinking and I’m not quite there yet, but that’s also another reason why this song is especially weighty for me. Musically, this is one of the few where I did the majority of the percussion, which is usually Matt’s domain, and that was fun. The little Nintendo drum loop that kicks in at the break was my attempt at chiptune reggaeton.
Matt: This track means a ton to me too, Brian. It was kind of hard revisiting where I was in my head when I was drinking as hard as I used to, and I wrote and rewrote the lyrics a bunch of times until I just hit on the simple “you don’t understand…” line, which, for pretty much anyone hooked on booze or drugs, becomes a very standard expression. I kept the lyrics pretty simple, which is hard for me as I automatically think “simple” means “bad”, but in this case the directness really added to the power of the song. It may be weird but I think this is the song that really bonded Brian and I over the album. Not that we had any problems, but this song has an obvious depth and deals with subject matter that’s close to us both. I’m just glad it’s gotten as positive a response as it has, as I was worried about this one since it’s the one really serious song on the album.
The Matrix Is Real
Matt: To the best of my knowledge this was one of the only random demos I sent Brian that actually kept it’s stupid draft title. It was also the song on the album I had the most trouble with finishing as I couldn’t for the fucking life of me lock it down. Brian added some good layers to it and I finally realized how much I hated the drums on it, so when those got swapped out for the final version’s I ended up being really happy with it.
Brian: It’s funny ’cause they say dick and shit. I like the jaunty little riff it has, and also where they say cock and fuck.
Matt: This song pissed me off for more than a year. Now it’s one of my favorites on the album. Why? Total Causticles stupidity. That and better drums.
Matt: This is an in-joke from the 2009 Caustic/Prometheus Burning/Gothsicles tour. I’m not sure who came up with it but we ended up chanting it during a ProBurn set or two when I popped up on stage. Of course it’s kinda obvious that it sounds like “Hail Satan”, so we’d giggle when people would start throwing super serious devil horns at our stupid joke. Nikki could really sell it though, so who’s to doubt her Satanicness?
Brian: Big ups to Nikki for the vox!
True Tales Of Made Up Adventure
Brian: Most of these tracks are, unsurprisingly, created by sending material back and forth electronically, but this is the only one on which a good chunk of it was made by taking turns on the same physical set up. I’m actually still using little audio tricks and tidbits I learned/stole from that session for Gothsicles stuff. As for the track itself, Matt had this amazing idea to approach a D&D style adventure in song format, but only vaguely paying attention to any sort of established premise or rule standard beyond that. That shit about the gnome urine makes me laugh really hard in my body.
Matt: Yeah, I forget why I was in Chicago but Brian and I spent an hour or two just messing around and this little riff came out of it. The fantasy adventure scenario was just an idea that made me laugh, as I’d never heard it happen in a song before. I think it’s funny that Brian’s talking more in time and I’m just narrating during the track, too. And since we’re sucking each other’s dicks on lyrics, Brian’s “I can take it or leave it” line makes me chuckle up in my guts.
Brian: Another one where Matt gave me this awesome title and I had to spin my wheels trying to create lyrical content around it. I know the line “I fucked Bono in the ear and had a rocktung baby” makes it sound like after I fucked Bono in the ear, I also had the baby myself, which obviously doesn’t make sense, but what I meant to say is that after ear-fucking Bono, we had the baby together, like when couples say “we’re” pregnant. This track is also another example of Josev really injecting that dancefloor “pop” into the kick drum.
Matt: I’d envisioned this as a little electro instrumental, but then Brian sent me this fucking awesome demo with this big chorus (I used vocoder like a madman on this album—or as mad of a man as I could). The title was something my wife said when we were at a carnival so I made a mental note that I needed to write that. Is it sad that I googled it to make sure there weren’t any other songs called “Rocktung” out there?
We’re (Literally) Here For Your (Figurative) Pussy
Matt: Chalk this one up to a stupid title that I decided just had to be made. If it wasn’t evident from some of the other songs and lyrics I let a lot of stupid hip-hop stuff get into my skull for this album, and so this was kind of a passive aggressive, lame 2 Live Crew parody, title-wise. Then it became a test to see if I could say essentially the same thing in the lyrics using synonyms. Yup, I’m a total shithead.
Brian: I mean, it doesn’t need to be just figurative.
Matt: I’m married. It’s figurative. Also, I think Causticles is instrumental cockblock music anyway. Our groupies will be few on this one…
A Case For Hate Speech
Brian: Originally appearing as an exclusive track on the first Resistanz Festival compilation, now largely remixed, punched up and vocalized. I was having a shitty day at my tech job and couldn’t get anything to work right and was able to channel that into this song. Matt makes a Kraftwerk reference that keeps it from getting too mopey, though.
Matt: We talked about redoing this for the album just so we’d have a different version, and Brian took over the production and remixing on it while I pumped my energy into “Causticles Ain’t Nuthin Ta Fuck Wit”. Those were the last 2 tracks for the album and I think we finished ‘em with a bang.
Also, I not only made a Kraftwerk reference, I also made a Philip K Dick AND Nitzer Ebb reference. I originally made a Bishop (Aliens Bishop, not comic book or chess Bishop) reference too, but the Kraftwerk one worked better. If anything can be said about the album, it’s definitely got a lot of dorky references.
Brian: When Matt showed me the source material he intended to sample, they go through a bunch of different “stranger” scenarios and I was like, “Okay, this could work” and then they suddenly, they drop this “I’LL KILL YOUR DOG” psychopath and I’m like “Oh, fuck. This is gonna be really good”. I was able to make what I think are some cool dancey arps and whatnot to go along with Matt’s cool effects and snares and I dig the result. “Sorcerer Supreme” is another appellation for Dr. Strange (GET IT?).
Matt: Again, here are the dorky references – Camus AND Dr Strange. We’re so good it hurts. Also, let’s give it up for stupid 80’s PSAs on child molesters! I don’t want to minimize children getting kidnapped, but I do want to minimize how awful those PSAs were and how little I think they did to help anyone.
The Causticles Ain’t Nuthin Ta Fuck Wit
Matt: There’s a Wu Tang reference in “Ruin the Party”, so why not end the album with a stupid rip off of a Wu Tang song title? This song came about for a few reasons: 1) Brian and I had contemplating doing a rap song where we complimented each other a lot, and 2) People kept calling for a “duet”, and even though Brian and I did a lot of vocals together on most of the songs none were actual split tracks. Also, it amused the shit out of me to do a song called “The Causticles Ain’t Nuthin Ta Fuck Wit”. Which, I guess, can be said for most of the song titles.
Brian: Some pretty good lyrical content on this one, I think. Matt’s little half-laugh is totally bad ass, I really like the visual of my good friend and I showing at the Iditarod registration in band shirts and cut-offs, trying to convince the lady that we didn’t bring any dogs and were just gonna pull our own sled.
Matt: The Iditarod reference may be the funniest thing on the album. Keeping up with Brian lyrically on this track was a bitch, and I wrote my verses first!
Eric Gottesman is now out digitally and on CD.