Vinyl-clad warriors sprung up in droves with their synthesizers to dish out nothing more than programming by numbers; a regurgitation of Industrial's most mediocre moments became the standard. All of this actually the product of you and I, the fan and listener.
This fate for a swelling underground phenomenon is nothing new. The same can be said about Hardcore, Metal and Grunge. By buying records that we said sounded like this band or that band, we choked off any progress or innovation that may have happened.
In 1997 synth-based Industrial got a much deserved kick in the ass with the release of The Synthetic Form, Gridlock's first full-length release. Gridlock found a way to get underneath the listener's skin by turning the harsh electronica equation inside out. And what followed was a hybrid of industrialism returning to form and avant-futuristic patterns of sound. They proved that this genre could indeed progress. With the April release, Further, Gridlock have made strides that make them the most important band on the harsher side of electronic music right now.
Earpollution recently tracked down Mike Wells and Cadoo of Gridlock to find out what makes them tick and try to get into the center of a real industrial musical complex.
What's the concept behind the name Gridlock, and how does that relate to the musical style you guys have developed?
Mike: Wow! Well...you ask like a heavy ass question first. Actually the story behind our name is pretty simple. We were looking for a name that was easy to remember and easy to roll off the tongue. And I used to work with a guy who is a writer, he writes a lot of stuff that comes out in science fiction magazines, and he would come to work with between 5-20 names. I would take them home and Cadoo and I would look at them, and one day he stumbled upon Gridlock and we both loved it. So in all truth, neither one of us came up with the name. And the music came first, so the name had to represent what we sounded like. So if you have ever been stuck in gridlock, you kind of go through different emotional stages. Being trapped, helpless etc...
Tell me about the sound of Gridlock--did any of your previous projects sound like Gridlock?
Cadoo: From a darkness aspect, I started out doing more gothic stuff. From there I moved more into the Shoegazer realm, My Bloody Valentine, Catherine Wheel. Then from there it got heavier and heavier and I was into Godflesh-type bands. Then I was in a death-metal band.
Mike: I came from a completely different background where it was all metal. A friend of mine from the last band that I was in turned me on to industrial music, so I was trying to push that band in a direction where we could have kind of a melding of a bunch of different styles and that didn't really work out.
Cadoo: Yeah, man, we are a spawn of metal.
I've read that you had a real sense of what the band was going to sound like before you started to search out other musicians, could you talk about what you were thinking then and what influences you drew from to come up with this concept?
Cadoo: (whispers) Skinnnnny Puppppy...
[Lots of giggling]
Mike: Now don't give it away like that, They were a real big eye-opener for me. They were the band that stuck out. They had such a wide range, and that's where I saw that you can take these instruments and do anything that you want with them. And I didn't see any limits. What I found that I liked was when someone took a real destructive, heavy, brooding and moody approach to it, which is where the whole metal thing started in the first place.
So it's just transferring the idea of writing a song that would have that attitude and putting it into an electronic forum. The tools that I had at the time also played into how this thing turned out. Because you know, I started out with hardly anything, and it was a matter of "how can I get these machines to make the sounds that I hear in my head."
Cadoo: I think that the limited gear thing is why we have a certain sound. It developed out of making the best with what we have, and making it sweat as much as possible. We were gonna get this equipment to do what we wanted no matter how because we couldn't afford anything else.
The first thing I ever read about Gridlock (and this is no joke, maybe you guys remember it) was an ad for The Synthetic Form which read something like, "If you died and went to heaven and there was a new Skinny Puppy album, this would be it." What do you guys think about all the Skinny Puppy comparisons?
Cadoo: It's not really a problem. I think that we have some similarities. But in some ways it's also defeating.
Mike: To be honest the whole Skinny Puppy reference has greatly reduced in the past year and a half.
What artists and/or bands are your influences for the sound--both past and current?
Mike/Cadoo: Fields of Nephilim. Elysium is a very important album for us in terms of the past. But without really having the same background, we both still had the same approach to doing something big, dark and heavy.
[I'm having a hard time getting either one of these guys to admit to what they are listening to currently, but finally manage to get Autechre and Architect (Daniel Myer) out of them.]
Cadoo, can you tell me specifically about your vocal style?
Cadoo: I was actually in a Death metal band before. I sang and played bass, and that's where I got the gravelly vocal chops. That's the most extreme on your throat, so from there is where I came up with a style that would work with Gridlock. And the point is that my vocals are part of the mix, it's not "listen to me fucking sing." I hate singing that is up front and just doesn't stop.
Mike: The idea is that it complements the music. We write our songs and then we put vocals on them. Never, ever, ever once, did we say "ok this is the verse, the chorus, etc."
Why/how is Further so different than The Synthetic Form?
Mike: Both albums are just the sum of the part. Neither is pre-meditated and the sum of the parts is the state of mind that we were both in over the last year and a half.
How do you choose your artwork?
Mike: For The Synthetic Form we scoured the web to find something that would represent what we were trying to present. We didn't have an idea out of the gate of how we wanted to present the information, but we did have the title of the album before we actually had the artwork. So we were trying to find a picture that would represent the title of the album. Cadoo found an artist down in Southern California that he felt pretty much represented it and he showed it to me and we argued about it, and then agreed.
Cadoo: Actually the label talked us into it, to be truthful.
Mike: As far as the new cover it was "slam, bam, thank you ma'am." We had several designs for the new cover. The waveform that's on the cover now was on the inside and just by chance, I was moving stuff around in Photoshop, and I put it on the front.
What's up with the song number mystery?
Mike: They are the in-between songs. The bridges. Not actual songs but just pieces of music.
Percussion is such a huge statement for you guys, it's part of what really sets Gridlock apart from anyone. Do you both write the drums?
Cadoo: Up until about the last half of Further, Mike wrote about 90 percent of drums. On Further you have more of the two-step type stuff, drum 'n' bass influence like "Scrape," the end of "Egeszseges" and "Without" are more my type of beats. Mike writes all that crazy fuckin' stuff. We try to find the subiest, grittiest, thickest thing we can find that fits the context of song.