We’ve had the pleasure of listening to the forthcoming Male Tears record KRYPT for a few months now, and at the risk of jumping ahead to our as yet unwritten review, it’s good. Real good. If you’re largely familiar with Male Tears via their online presence or seeing their name associated with the burgeoning Los Angeles darkwave scene, you might not know exactly how broad the pallette of sounds and styles that James Edward and Frank Shark draw from on their sophomore LP. Pre-release tracks “SLEEP 4EVER”, “I EXPIRE” and “SLAY” tell some of the story – electro-disco dramatics, alternately sneering and wounded vocals, and some honest to god hooks – but that isn’t the whole story. We reached out to James to ask them what some of their musical influences were on the LP, and their answers were by turns validating, unexpected and enlightening.
Ministry, “We Believe”
Much like Ministry in the mid 80’s, our move to a harder, darker style was an intentional change in sound. “We Believe” was a track that sparked a fascination with aggressive, arpegiated bass grooves that can be heard in a numberof songs on our album KRYPT. Despite the song taking you on a harrowing journey, we appreciate that the track’s rhythm is a constant pummel, rarely changing course. It opened us up to experimenting with similar song structures, eschewing standard structures and chord changes in favor of amping up the excitement with added layers of noise and sound effects.
Lady Gaga, “Government Hooker”
A lesser known song by a widely known artist, Lady Gaga’s “Government Hooker” features a marching, mid-tempo ebm-lite beat with a metronome-like synth beep ticking throughout. The DNA of this song can be found directly in the makeup of our song, “DOMIN8”. “Government Hooker” was the song that first showed me that pop music could be brooding, mischevious and exist in seedy, underground atmospheres.
Miss Kittin & The Hacker, “Frank Sinatra”
This song from the debut Miss Kittin & The Hacker album, arguably their most impactful and recognizable track, altered my DNA and caused irreperable damage to my psyche. From the minimal production to the deadpan vocal delivery, “Frank Sinatra” made such an impression on my teenage self that it became like a comfortable return-to-center or palette cleanser when the complications that come with music production became too overwhelming. It served as a reminder that a good dance track doesn’t need fancy studio production or acrobatic diva singing to get stuck in club goer’s heads.
Mannequin, “Take Me To The Club”
I first heard this song in the 2003 cult film, ‘Party Monster’ and like a number of tunes from the soundtrack, Mannequin’s “Take Me To The Club” became my “getting dolled up” song I would play as I got ready to go clubbing. I used to really push myself to sing in ways that took a lot of breath, but because of songs like ‘Take Me To The Club’ coming back into my life after years of it being forgotten, I began to adopt a more laid back, mantra-like vocal delivery on certain songs on KRYPT.
God Module, “Lucid”
Back in my baby bat days when I was young, ignorant and a frequent Vampire Freaks poster, I was obsessed with terror-EBM, hellektro whatever. God Module was one of the bands that I religiously listened to during PE in high school and I was endlessly excited by the trance beats and goblin vocals combination. At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing to take music that my dad would’ve loved in the early 00’s, but totally mutated and distorted by Jasyn Bangert’s style. In particular, “Lucid” was a go-to track from God Module’s magnum opus, Viscera. When I wanted to feel dark and edgy, posing with knives for Myspace pictures, “Lucid” was there on my iPod nano to soundtrack the moment.
And One, “Deutschmaschine”
And One’s “Deutschmaschine” is so premium. Frank and I always play this on our way to shows, like it’s an anthem meant to hype up a sports team. The plinky synth leads and warbling synth bass combined with that gutteral, baritone voice is a prime example of dark-dance music we tried to emulate on some tracks from our album KRYPT. The thing that really excites us about this song is that it’s still essentially a dance-pop record but with shaved heads and cargo pants.
Benassi Bros, “Every Single Day (feat. Dhany)”
A beautiful, uplifting trance-pop anthem from 2005, Benassi Bros’ “Every Single Day” was like a revelation when I first heard it over a year ago. Frank, the synth player in the band, introduced this song to me when we were on the road and we both agreed to pull ourselves out of the darkness for a song or two when it was time to write the next record. The euphoric qualities of this track along with the sentimental, romantic lyrics filled with longing and desire inspired us to create our own dance songs meant for lovers.
Tiga’s “Plush” is another example of a dance record that provided the blue print for a number of songs on our KRYPT album. Beyond taking notes from Tiga’s vocal delivery, it was important for us to strip down the number of individual tracks used for each song and rely on the strengths of minimal, repetitive synth hooks like in “Plush”. Also, really utilizing our hardware synths to get LFO experimentation for tracks, like Tiga does.
Prince, “Make Up (Demo)”
Originally released as a Vanity 6 song, Prince’s posthumous demo compilation, ‘Originals’ unleashed the initial recording of this track upon the world. Prince’s low voice lazily reciting his cosmetic routine, “base, mascara, erase – I wanna look good for you” was a direct influence on the lyrics for our song, “DEAL3R” as well as the rigid, early EBM synth beat. Very rarely did we ever get to hear Prince vocalizing the songs he wrote for other people, much less one’s clearly meant for a female singer. That juxtaposition on this version of “Make Up” served to inspire a similar vibe, having a low, masculine voice talking about applying lipstick and fixing your hair over these aggresive dance grooves.
Kim Petras, “XXX”
As mainstream as Grammy winner Kim Petras is in current year, a year back, she released the Slut Pop EP, featuring hyper-sexual electropop bangers like “XXX”. The hedonistic energy and girly-pop beat was my daily hit of dopamine and sugar during the writing of our record, which comes out in the more sexy tunes we created. There’s this sense of raw excitement from this Kim song that I wanted to encapsulate in the themes of ‘KRYPT’, as bitter and jaded as our tracks turned out.