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There definitely seems to be an onstage chemistry between the five of you. There's an obvious current of electricity running between you all when you're playing.

Jon: I think we realized that you can have a lot more fun doing this.

How does the band prepare for live shows?

Jon: Satanism!

Your albums are so layered with different sounds, I'm curious how you translate that kind of complexity into a live format.

Jon: Live, I've split the channels into eights...the samples into eight channels. Jason is playing to a click track and there's seven channels of samples. There's no vocals on tape, there's no guitars on tape, there's no bass guitar on tape. There's some light drum loops--little jungly loops--there's the little synth patches that you hear in the verses of "Hidden Agenda" and "Keep It Clean" and stuff. They're all split up into separate channels so the soundman can EQ the bass channel up a lot. Actually, we get more definition live then we do on the CD, because we've polarized each channel so much. The old way we had everything firing out of the sampler on the same two channels and it was a complete mess. Stuff like "Triad," live, you really hear the "boommm" at the end of it because it's being EQ'd differently than everything else.

[ the brothers clayden @ cbgb - photo by craig young ]
photo by craig young

"Wafer Thin" MP3

I think this album translates better live than any of the other albums. We've actually made songs like "Microwaved" and "Genius" fit into this album. We kind of moved them around to be this way. Songs like "Triad" we've remade to be like the new album, which we do anyway when we're editing and doing remixes and stuff.

You really try to distance yourself from the band's older music.

Jon: Because I'm fucking bored of it.

Is it simple boredom? Are you unhappy with it?

Jon: Umm... Only with the last two albums has the band had enough time, enough money, and been good enough as musicians to fucking create anything that we've been happy with. We started doing this shit in 1988. Back then, using drum machines was alien--molten lava technology handled with kid gloves. When we did shows back then I remember people used to come and look at the drum machine, 'cause they'd never seen one. And it was a little box, ya know? An Alesis HR16 is about the size of a Sega fucking Dreamcast. People would come and look at it and go, "Is that it?" And I'd go, "What did you think it would look like?" "I dunno... Something bigger, with wheels maybe..." Ha ha ha!

Now jumping ahead twelve years to the recent past when you were in the studio with Dave Jerden. Did you get a lot out of that experience, working with him?

Jon: Umm...technically, yeah. And a bit of song structure. We burned a demo of twelve songs and sent it to him, and Jerden sampled the CD in its entirety into Pro Tools, made a few changes to arrangements and sent the CD back. We didn't want to make some changes, but we agreed on some compromise changes and then sent him that CD back. And that was it for pre-production. The intro riff for "Wafer Thin" originally was just the middle-eight, but Jerden said, "I fucking love that riff, why don't you make it the theme for the tune." So we worked on it and changed it. And he was right...totally right about that song.

He shortened some songs a little bit, which I think was the right thing to do. He was never like: "You have to do it my way or I'm not recording the album." He was like: "I'll record it any way you want, but I just think if you try this..." And it was on only about three tunes.

Working with him I learned more of the technical side of recording: how many channels of guitar he would have, what specific pre-amps he used and why. We kind of did this album sloppier than any album we've ever done. I mean, we're like digital fucking surgeons. I'll go in, bring up the waveform and shave off the ends so there's absolutely no spill or dirt whatsoever. Dave Jerden was like: "You're taking all the life out of the thing. I don't care if I can hear the fucking music in the background on your vocals. It just gives it character." He was kinda like Steve Albini.

[ new guitarist matt grundy - photo by craig young ]
photo by craig young

How did you choose him?

Jon: I totally enjoyed the recording process for with Machine. He was the right guy to use on that album at that time. I always try to use people who understand samples, electronica and guitars. And I'm getting to the point where I feel like I don't fucking need anyone. I don't need someone to go through all my sampling and then resample it. It's a waste of time. I need someone who can make a band sound amazing live and then I'll come in with my digital chaos engine and put all the digital bits in it. I think people like Jerden are good for us because he knows how to make a guitar sound good. There's a much warmer sound to this album than any other album we've done. You can actually sit and listen to this album, something that's hard to do with That one is just digital fucking overload.

There's good dynamics going on in Deviant; it's warmer and there's a better defined build and release in the songs that you don't hear as much on the aforementioned album.

Jon: Yeah. We'd just gotten off tour with the Deftones and Quicksand and had just been playing live for a really long time with a lot of "live" bands. The things that worked well live went into the three months of writing we did coming off those tours. Jim and I wrote a more "live" album, but that's one of the joys of Pitchshifter. Motörhead wouldn't be able to do what we do. If they put one sample in or deviated one degree from anything they do people would be like, "Ohmigod!! Lemmy's lost it!"

We can do a really digitally enhanced album like and then do a more rocking one like Deviant. Then if we wanted to we could go off and do a more dance-y album for the next one. People wouldn't be like "Ah hell, they went off and changed to be dance-y!" People would accept it--they would expect it in a way for us to do something different.

That's one of the things that keep Pitchshifter good, I think. You keep surprising people with every release--you're always pushing the sonic envelope of music and technology. There do always seem to be people who only give your work an initial listen and then go, "Oh, they're selling out; they've lost the plot," for whatever reason... I remember thinking back when Infotainment? came out, "Wait...this isn't the Pitchshifter I know! This sounds nothing like Desensitized [Pitchshifter's previous release]." And then after a few listens into it the sound really grew on me and I was like, "Fuck! This is the most fantastic thing I've heard!" And when came out, again I was like, "Wha...this sounds nothing like Infotainment?" And then four or five listens in, "Fuck! They've done it again!"

[ jason bowld--the next keith 'the loon' moon? - photo by craig young ]
photo by craig young

That kind of brilliance in being able to push that envelope--changing your approach to music without changing what the band is about--is an amazing thing. It's something most bands are lucky to pull off but once. Pitchshifter seem to have the kind of genius and determination that allows you to do it every time 'round.

Jon: A lot of people have said that about Deviant. It's because they're good songs. We've spent a lot of time writing good songs.

In our last interview, you said...

Jon: That you're all fucking gay and I hate you and Earpollution can suck my dick! Ha ha ha!


Jon: Did I say that? I don't remember...

Kerrang! recently nominated the band for three awards: Best Album, Best British Band and Best British Live Act. Three nominations says quite a lot about the band.

Jon: Yeah, well, we'll never fucking win any of 'em. We won a Kerrang! award once...and I think the gods only allow you to win one. [Pitchshifter won Best Video for "Genius" at the 1998 awards ceremony]

Looking at who you're up against in the various categories: Iron Maiden, One Minute Silence, Stereophonics, Bush, Nine Inch Nails, Korn... You're being put up against some heavyweight contenders here, which says a lot about how people view Pitchshifter.

I mean, Iron Maiden, for example...they're getting the "nostalgia" nomination. What have they done for music in the past ten, twenty years? And similarly, bands like Bush are getting nominated, from my point of view, solely on their "hype" machine. The music is nothing but empty calories, but because they have these great, massive publicity engines pumping them into every orifice 24/7, they get nominated.

[ infotainment? ]

"(We're Behaving Like) Insects" MP3

Pitchshifter are obviously not getting nominated because of nostalgia (Iron Maiden), because of alternative/easy listening songwriting (Bush) or because of radio play (as we mentioned previously with the incompetence of DJs), you're getting nominated because people are aware of what you're trying to do musically and the importance of it.

Jon: It's nice to get nominated, because a lot of those things are actually voted for by the readers of Kerrang! It's not some bullshit Mercury Music Award where some execs go, "Uh...Roni Size!" You know?

It's because we rock live. There's only Pitchshifter and One Minute Silence in England that do that. And, well...we're bigger than One Minute Silence. They can't fill two nights at the Astoria like we can. There are very few of us in the noise band genre that can kick it live. It's like Pitchshifter got big without anyone's "permission." Bush got New Music Express' "permission," Queens of the Stone Age are getting Radio One's "permission." This band has gotten big without that. All the major media have ignored us and said that we weren't very good.

Does that upset you or does it make you feel like you've really earned what you've done?

Jon: Well, it's irrelevant. In NME they'll write a two page spread about Six by Seven or some band, and these bands are playing to only 200 people. We'll go and sell out the Astoria two nights in a row to 2,000 people each night. They can say what they like, but I know what the truth is. Like I said, Pitchshifter got to this level without anyone's permission. We've been consistently ignored by the likes of NME and Melody Maker this whole time. They would come to massive, sold out shows and say, "Oh, the band sucked." And I'm like, "Were we at the same gig? 'Cause all I saw was 2,000 people going crazy."

[Since our interview, both Melody Maker and NME have finally given Pitchshifter some well deserved and long overdue press. --Ed.]

[ 'were we at the same gig?' - photo by craig young ]
photo by craig young

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