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Assemblage 23

DNA Lounge, San Francisco
April 7, 2002

Assemblage 23 live is:
Tom Shear — Vocals
Paul Seegers — Programming
Kevin Choby — Electronic drums

KZSC: Tonight marks the third date in your North American tour. How has the reception been so far? How has this tour differed from your European tour last autumn?

TOM: The tour's been going really well so far. We've gotten a pretty decent response. We had a very nice response in our home town, Seattle. As far as differences between our European tour: the European tour was an opening slot so we had to play a shorter set. So in addition to a longer set, we're also playing a brand new song tonight that will be the next single. And obviously just the differences between Europe and the US in general in terms of what the venues are like and the audiences.


KZSC: I understand from various sources, including your web site, that your gear and merchandise was stolen a few days ago in Seattle. A lot of fans have been asking how they can help. What is your advice to listeners?

TOM: Really, the best thing people can do is just come out to the shows. I mean, one of the really touching things that happened was in Seattle. Word spread really quick about what happened and we had one of the biggest crowds that they've had there on a Thursday night. Just having people there who might be on the fence, who might be like, "Ahhh, I don't know if I want to go. I've got to work tomorrow," or something like that. Just having those warm bodies in the audience, you know, dancing and having a good time -- that's the best kind of support we could possibly get.


KZSC: In terms of progression from album to album, the lyrical content on FAILURE appears to contain more personal elements than the lyrics on CONTEMPT. However, I actually think it is the melodies on FAILURE that make the songs resonate more. Can you discuss how the differences in musical styles used on FAILURE create a lasting impression with listeners? What conscious effects are you employing to make the music powerful, catchy and personally accessible? (instruments, styles, hooks)

TOM: It's not so much a conscious effort like I sit down and say, "Ok, I'm going to make this song sound this way and the purpose of this song is to make the listeners sound this way." I try to make music I would enjoy listening to so when there are melodies and hooks and stuff like that -- that's an aesthetic that appeals to me. It just so happens, especially with the last album, we've been very lucky it also seems to have appealed to a lot of other people as well. So, really first and foremost, I write the music to satisfy myself. The fact so many other people have been enjoying it is really almost just kindof a side effect, you know? Which is not to say I don't appreciate it immensely, but even if the audience wasn't there I would still be doing this just to entertain myself.


KZSC: Unlike many bands classified as industrial or EBM, you do not mask your vocals with multiple effects or bury them in distortion. Though I am a personal fan of strong, clear vocals, why the obvious break from the norm? As the singer/song writer, what is your desired effect when delivering your lyrics?

TOM: I think a large part of how people identify a band or part of what the band's identity is is in the vocals. My opinion is, the mistake a lot of bands in this scene make is they go the "ultra distorted route" where you can't hear the character of the actual singer or vocalist's voice. Therefore it's harder to retain an identity where people can listen to a song they heard the first time and go, "Oh, that's the new VNV," or "That's the new WHATEVER." In terms of forming a band identity, that's very important, but it's also important to me that the vocals be comprehensible because I want the lyrics to be intelligible for the average listener. You know, in the club, which isn't the best listening environment. Lyrics are 50% of a song so I think they should be treated as being that important.


KZSC: Are you still working as a producer with other bands? If yes, who and what can we look forward to?

TOM: I'm working on the next album for a band from Portland called OMNIBOX and they released an album, I guess about a year ago on ADSR, which is a Seattle label. They approached me about producing their next album. I think they have a lot of promise and I think their vocalist is phenomenal. I was really eager to work with them.


KZSC: What’s next for Assemblage 23? Side projects? New material? World domination?

TOM: There will be a new single in September that again, will be European only. That will be followed, in four to six weeks, by a new album. And then hopefully a second single after about a month. As far as side projects, I really want to do something with NERVE FILTER which is more experimental, kindof techno type stuff. Assemblage 23 really takes up a lot of my time and I don't want it to suffer just so I can have the menagerie of side projects I want. It's important to me that as much attention as possible can be paid to it so it's all going to depend on how much time I am able to devote to it. I have a laptop now so I can work on music on the road so hopefully that will give me the opportunity to work on stuff when I might otherwise not be able to.


For more information on Assemblage 23 or their label, Metropolis Records, please visit their official web sites.

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