The Crystalline Effect - Europe is great for inspiration! |
interview by Side-Line
Everybody will agree to admit that the Australian duo from The Crystalline Effect isn't the most famous band in electroland. Releasing their 2nd full length album entitled "Identity" on the Hungarian Advoxya Records, Elenor Rayner (vocals and lyrics) and Pete Crane (music) definitely marks a noticeable evolution in sound and style. "Identity" gained in maturity and seems to have found their own sound, which I would define as progressive EBM leaded by female vocals. The songs are quite diversified making the album accessible for a wider audience. Pete Crane and Elenor Rayner are both excellent ambassadors for the Australian electro underground scene… even if Pete claims that… (By Stéphane Froidcoeur)
SL: Hello Pete and Elenor. Can you briefly introduce our readers to The Crystalline Effect?
Pete: Hello Stéphane and Side-Line! We're an electro duo, originally from Australia. Our music is a kind of female-fronted EBM with trip hop elements.
SL: You've just released your 2nd full length entitled "Identity". What have been the main ideas behind this new album (musical- and lyrical wise)?
Pete: We had been writing this since 2005, and simply kept on composing as we live to do!
SL: What does the title of your album "Identity" stand for?
Pete: In writing the album, I had come up against certain obstacles. When you simply write what you want to write, you find it hard to fit into a pre-existing genre, which makes your music hard to market and so on. This brings up all sorts of issues of identity and wondering where you fit into the world. I also saw that there were a lot of people in this scene who seemed to have 2 identities - one where they produce music, DJ at clubs, write for zines, or contribute creatively to the dark scene in some way, and another where they work an unrelated day job where their co-workers don't know anything about what they really do, so the issue of sheer identity is really fascinating and one I thought people could relate to.
SL: According to you, what's the main force behind the "Identity"-album?
Pete: With such a strong and all-encompassing title as "Identity", we were really challenged to stamp out the identity of The Crystalline Effect with this album. I think it is a typical second-album syndrome - our first album put us on the map and we experimented with sounds and styles, and now we want people to know what we sound like and remember us.
SL: Speaking about identity, how would you analyze/describe the 'musical identity' of The Crystalline Effect?
Pete: We have been told that we hold our own place in the electro scene and I think that's pretty cool. I don't think I can really describe our identity in words, but I like to think that we can be recognized when our music is heard.
SL: Tell us a bit more about the 3 remixes on your album?
Pete: The 3 remixes, by Endif, Lee Bulig and Impact Pulse, were originally made for the "Do Not Open" remix EP due for release back in 2007. The EP was cancelled due to a leak and the label asked that we rework 50% of the EP and create a new title for them to release it, so I took half the tracks off the release. One of the tracks we lost was a song called "Every Truth Is A Lie", which I never really loved, so that is lost forever and now available only on the torrent networks, as well as the full and unabridged version of the song called "Do Not Open", but the other tracks I removed included the above remixes. I didn't want these artists' work to go unreleased officially, so we decided to put them on the album. Impact Pulse is a label-mate on Advoxya, and occupies the EBM/club elements perfectly. Lee Bulig, since Stark, is stamping out his own unique solo sound with his remix which is haunting as hell and the Endif remix is a masterful IDM reworking that turned out beautifully.
SL: I guess Pete you're now living in Europe while Elenor still lives in Australia so how do you guys work together and how did the composition of the album happen?
Pete: Actually I have just returned to Australia for the time being. My wife will be finishing her masters in Architecture, after which time we may be returning to live. Elenor and I work together via separate studios anyway, even when we're in the same city. I write the music and send it to Elenor, who has a great studio with nice mic's and preamps, where she writes and records the vocals and sends it back to me to mix.
SL: But how do you run a band when the members are living that far away from each other?
Pete: We communicate regularly via e-mail. I keep Elenor posted when we have cool opportunities come up like compilation appearances and upcoming gigs, and occasionally forward playlists and other articles we've been featured in. We send audio files to each other as mp3s or on CDRs and collaborate that way.
SL: Pete, what made you move to Europe and what are the main differences with Australia?
Pete: Basically for the music and for the experiences. There really is so much going on in London and Europe that you would never see in Australia. In the industrial scene, you may get the bigger bands tour Australia very occasionally, but in Europe you get to see the lesser-known bands live in an underground-club environment who couldn't feasibly tour Australia, which is equally as inspiring as seeing the big bands at festivals. Not to mention the non-music related things like exhibitions, art and architecture. Europe is great for inspiration!
SL: Do you feel it's easier to live in Europe and especially for your music?
Pete: Being in Europe is definitely easier for music. The amount of opportunities for us over there was staggering. Besides the tours we did already do in 2008, including supporting Hocico in Estonia and Latvia, playing with x*8 in 2 Dutch cities, going to Hungary and the regular gigs I did in London, we were also offered things we couldn't do. For example Mindbase Management tentatively offered us a Rotersand support slot throughout Europe, as well as other things that were in the pipeline which we couldn't accept.
SL: How would you analyze the evolution from the "Glass"-album released in 2005 towards "Identity" released at the end of 2008?
Pete: There were a few very important elements that came into play over this period between Glass and Identity. When Black Flames closed down and we had to find another label, I contacted a lot of labels, some of whom I'd worked with in some capacity before. I got quite a good response from labels like Artoffact and/even COP, but in the end both said that we weren't club-playable enough for them to promote. Then Advoxya e-mailed me and offered to take us onboard, and they liked the album that I sent them straight away, so we decided to go with them. This feedback from other labels did make an impact on my writing though. Even though Advoxya were happy with our softer material, I took the others' advice and created a much more danceable edge to our newer tracks while trying to retain our own sound, especially when I was reworking new material for Identity after "Do Not Open" got cancelled. I also wanted to make more of an effort to get our original songs onto the dancefloor, whereas in the past it was only the remixes of our material that was able to be played. This to me establishes our identity further as people can hear us directly rather than only hearing remixes.
SL: How do you look back on this debut-cd (cf. "Glass") and are there some elements from the album you would change?
Pete: In terms of the music, it's a representation of my influences at the time, and looking back I think I am simply lucky that it was released at all. It sounds strange, but as recently as 2003 I believe it was easier to get signed by a record label and have an album released if you didn't sound 100% club playable. There's nothing from the album-disc of "Glass" that is club-playable I believe, so to me it's amazing that the CD even exists! These days I am personally into more energetic music, but I wouldn't change "Glass" as a debut album, no.
SL: What have been your experiences on the Polish label Black Flames Records, which now stopped all activities?
Pete: At the time Black Flames closed down, there was a lot of shit being spoken about the label from most of their bands. After a while, when it took over a year for them to press our album, I even joined in the shit-talking, and I can say now that I regret that, because they really put us on the map. They were just so slow in doing anything and kept signing tons of new bands and making too many promises they couldn't keep, for example promising us slots at Castle Party and WGT.
With Advoxya though, things happen right on schedule and communications are a lot more open and honest. We are a band that is hard to put into a genre or really define. Some people suggested we promote ourselves to the trip-hop and even ambient market, and others that we promote ourselves to the club market. This has forced us to establish an Identity of our own, and we are happy to have a label like Advoxya who lets us do so!
SL: You already did some live performances in the homeland of Advoxya Records (Hungary). Tell us a bit more about these experiences and the scene over there?
Pete: Yeah we did 2 performances in Budapest in 2008. The first one, in April, is probably my favorite gig experience. We were booked to play a large warehouse which is essential to the scene over there (I think it's called "Red Pill Blue Pill" or something), but the police closed it down 3 days before the gig. We were re-booked at a Depeche Mode party which was already scheduled. It was a tiny venue but there was a great vibe; full of DM fans, and the entry was cheap, like 1Euro-equivalent. Now I realize though, given how incredibly important DM is to the European fans, I'm glad we weren't competing against a DM party after all because I hear that is death to any competing event! The other gig, in August '08, was supporting Snog (who Elenor also plays in). This was kind of a bad gig for us. The turn-out wasn't great and it didn't have the amazing vibe of the DM-party. I hit the cheap wine pretty hard backstage and was very sick the next day flying back to London. The Hungarian scene is great though and we made a few good friends over there.
SL: I heard that your live performances are quite 'visual', so tell us a bit more about it?
Pete: Well the basis of the band as a live unit is Elenor on vocals and me on synths and guitar, and then when we can we have our 3rd member VJ Straylight providing visuals, VJing live onstage with a laptop. I think, because our music is not as energetic as some of the bands we've played with such as Hocico, we have to be more visual if people aren't going to be able to dance as hard.
SL: Are there some new live dates in the pipeline and can you already reveal some more details about it?
Pete: Only in Australia at this stage. We're playing with Dandelion Wine in Melbourne next week, but that will probably be in the past by the time this goes to publication!
SL: In times of copying and increasing downloading, you guys had some real bad experiences! What did exactly happen and what's your opinion about the question?
Pete: We had an EP entitled "Do Not Open" which was due for release in late August 2007. It was mastered with completed artwork and I had already sent it to the label, along with a completed 2nd full-length album. In late July '07 I was at a festival, Castle Party in Poland, playing keyboards for my friends' band Angelspit. I burned about 6 copies of the EP to CDR and handed them out to people I was talking to backstage. A week after the festival I got an e-mail from the label with a link to mp3db.ru which contained the EP in full, with thousands of downloads already racked up. The label said they would no longer release the EP unless we replaced 50% of the material, obtained new artwork and came up with a new title. I still don't know who uploaded the EP, but clearly it's someone I would have thought of as a 'friend' at the time. However, it also must be said, that I had our first album "Glass" for sale through our website at this time, and at this point in August 2007, orders for "Glass" went through the roof! We hadn't sold many copies in a while and all of a sudden I'm getting dozens of orders for our first album since our new stuff is being downloaded and shared so much. So a certain percentage of those who downloaded the EP illegally must have liked it so much that they looked us up and bought what we had available, so it is hard for me to feel animosity towards downloaders and I'm starting to believe that if people like something enough they will buy it. I don't necessarily think it was the best decision for the "Do Not Open"-EP to be cancelled due to the leak for this reason, but it forced us to re-work our album and I think it is a lot better for it.
SL: We all know the cd-format is slowly, but surely coming to an end. What do you think about it and what do you expect from the future?
Pete: Honestly I don't believe that any more and I think there is a market for CDs still. Personally I'm blissfully unaware of exactly how many CDs any of our releases have sold, but our upcoming 3rd full-length album will be licenced by Shadowplay for the Russian territories, so there will be a cool exclusive Russian edition I guess. I take this as a kind of sign that they are at least confident that The Crystalline Effect CDs will sell enough in the territory of Russia alone to justify this, so I still think there is a place for CDs in the world.
SL: Pete, you recently set up a new project called Shiv-r, which sounds quite powerful (2 songs make me thing to Combichrist)! Tell us a bit more about this new project and what can we expect from Shiv-r for the coming months?
Pete: Thanks! Shiv-r is the new project between myself and Lee Bulig from Stark/Neon Womb. The concept of the project is that it is the harshest, darkest and most energetic music we have ever made. Heavily distorted beats and aggressive vocals (provided by myself) and incredibly dark and haunting melodies (provided by Lee). Basically after going to Europe, seeing the gigs and going to the festivals and seeing bands like Combichrist and Hocico, even playing at gigs and festivals, I really had an urge to make harsh, energetic music that could really get people jumping. This is Shiv-r. We put out an EP in August 2008 entitled "Parasite" which was mastered by Soman. We're finishing off our full-length album and you can stay updated at www.shiv-r.com which also doubles as a daily blog for Lee Bulig and myself. There will always be a place for The Crystalline Effect though…
SL: Elenor, what's up with Sobriquet? Is this project still alive?
Elenor: Sobriquet is still alive. It's the music I make for myself, so it's always going on. I actually have two new albums finished but they're not released yet. And I enjoy playing new songs at Sobriquet gigs. But at the moment I'm really excited about "Identity" and playing songs from that at The Crystalline Effect shows.
SL: Do you guys have more plans for 2009?
Pete: Advoxya has asked us to create a remix EP containing 2 new tracks + 8-10 remixes, which they will release as soon as we've finished it. So we will write some new songs and then look for remix artists. As for a 3rd album, well, usually I start with the music and then send it to Elenor. But at this point, Elenor has written 8 sets of vocals and I will now make the music for them, so working backwards almost. So that is a solid start to our next album!
SL: Last, but not least, how would you define A Crystalline Effect?
Pete: It is the desired effect of our music. Cold, intricate, flawed and beautiful.
Band: www.thecrystallineeffect.com / www.myspace.com/thecrystallineeffect
Label: www.advoxya-records.com / www.myspace.com/advoxya
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