For those that have yet to hear DHI, how would you describe your band's sound? What do you feel are the defining characteristics of DHI?
Our sound is (what I would hope to be) an "organic" blend of samples, synths, guitars, treated violin, and (belted) vocals. Most of our songs involve pretty driving rhythms - often with a sort of "mechanical funk" to them. The material is undeniably dark, and at times quite abrasive. Our two albums also feature a few instrumental tracks on each disc, where we tend to explore a more laid back aspect of our musical sensibilities.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of DHI, at least for me, is in the samples and programming. What sort of things do you sample, and are there any particularly unique things that you have used on your songs? Has DHI's style of sampling and programming evolved over time?
Of course it's evolved. How could it not, right? I mean, a band had better
improve over time, or what's the point?
We've sampled a really wide variety of source material: facial razors, bathtubs full of water, metal drums, acoustic drums and percussion, guitars, basses, violins, my vocals (for backing vocals and effects), rare old records, news clips - you name it.
How did you come up with the name DEATH & HORROR, INC., and how do you feel that it represents the band?
The name was stolen from a rare BBC sound effects record from the '70's.
The title of the record had the words "Death and Horror" worked into it
somehow, and at the time we were pulling samples from it and mangling them.
As far as representing the band goes, I can look at it two ways: On one hand, I could say that the name does a fantastic job at capturing the dark side of the music, lyrics and electronic textures. But on the other hand I could suggest that the name is "too far gone" and it has the potential to give people an unjustly preconceived idea of what we're about.
But at this point, I've been living with the name too long to be able to commit to an absolute opinion on it! I'm too close to it, and I can't look at it straight-on anymore.
Could you go over your past releases, and could you offer your comments on them, or describe how you feel that they show the band progressing?
1) Need & Ability
Our first demo ('88). A reflection of our initial inspiration. Recorded and released quickly to a lot of (suprisingly) favourable reactions here in Toronto.
2) Chemical Land Showdown
The second demo ('89). Some definite growth in terms of tightening up our grooves. It was a very exciting time - we opened for The Young Gods and Front Line Assembly on the strength of that cassette.
3) Chemical Land CD EP
We actually got some commercial airplay with that one! Yikes!
4) Machine Altar Transmission
This disc, along with the Chemical Land EP, featured re-recorded versions of songs from our first two demos. It was our first time in the studio, and we had a hell of a great time! By the way, M.A.T. saw two videos released: Chemical Land and New Vision (our fave, for sure).
5) Bitter Alloys
Remixes of tracks from Pressures Collide. One of the cuts - Underdub - probably most closely resembles what we're up to now with our new project, Transformantra. (We're not writing or performing as DHI any longer).
6) Pressures Collide
The final DHI release. An obvious progression from M.A.T.. If a third CD had been released, this one would have been the "bridge" between the two. But alas, there will be no more DHI albums!
7) Transmissions from the Chemical Land
Just came out. It's a reissue of M.A.T. and the Chemical Land EP on one disc. The EP was an extremely limited edition, and contained two rare tracks, so I'm quite happy that Transmissions has come out.
What are some of the details behind your new album, "Transmissions from the Chemical Land"? I understand that it is composed of unreleased and out-of-print material - what appeared where? Were there any changes made to the out-of-print material for this release?
No changes were made. The two totally-out-of-print cuts were Staircase Repetition and M1911A1, which was an instrumental. Staircase was one of our favourite pieces to perform - always with a metal grinder, showering the nightclub with blasts of red-hot metal!
Just looking at the titles and listening to your music, it seems as if there are certain ideas or concepts that flow from album to album - what would you identify as some of the significant threads that tied all of your albums together?
I would say the common thread was our desire to create an intelligent sound that, through its darkness and anger, tried to express the anxiety of Western life.
What are some of the details behind the band's breakup? Are you or any of the other members planning on undertaking any other musical projects?
Actually, the four of us never "broke up". What happened is we chose to
start a new project called Transformantra. This new concept came about as
we were working toward a third DHI album.
After we had written a few new songs, we realized that we were travelling far beyond what DHI should have been doing as a third album. We had totally broken away from traditional rock song structuring, and really began to delve into more experimental tonalities. We decided to leave vocals and "obvious" guitar work out of the mix, because it seemed that the instrumental electronic stuff that we were up to would hold up on it's own. In fact, guitars and verses and choruses, etc. would only have diluted the material.
A lot of influences that had been kind of "accumulating" in the background seemed to come to the fore, such as dub, hiphop, ambient, hard techno, drum and bass, etc.
Initally our writing sessions had a particularly ambient vibe (probably an unconscious reaction to all of the bludgeoning live dates that we played in support of the Pressures album). But, by the time we completed our new CD (due out January 27, 1998), we managed to cover a lot of territory. At times the record is downright aggressive and driving, at other times funky and fucked up, and still at other times spacious and textural.
Incidentally, the label putting out Transformantra's material is Silver USA (related to Silver Recordings, Belgium - home of Starfish Pool).
What were some of the highlights of DHI's existence, in your eyes?
The live shows, unquestionably. We met a lot of dedicated fans, too.
What would you identify as some of the difficulties that the band encountered?
Ahhh, the usual industry bullshit...
Did basing the band in Toronto positively or negatively affect the DHI?
Positively. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in Canada.
Do you have any recommendations for young bands?
Forget about money, fame and big record deals - just make the music that turns you on.
If you could name a song or album that is the culmination of all that DHI was, what would it be and why?
Do you listen to your own music? If so, what sort of reaction do you get from it, as somebody that participated in its creation?
In terms of our music, I only listen to Transformantra these days, actually. There's a really wide palette of sounds on the CD. I'm quite proud of it. There's a definite energy running through it. I catch a vibe off it.
What are some of the lyrical topics dealt with on "Transmissions from the Chemical Land"? If you could pick out a few lyrical lines from your album that have the most meaning, what would they be, and how would you interpret them?
Well, I don't know if this song has the "most meaning", but Regenerate comes to mind. It's about waking up to the realization that you may have sold yourself short by succumbing to things you once despised, such as hypocracity and greed. But in the end - if you're willing to be strong enough - you can forge an opportunity for yourself. You can renew. You can begin again on a new path.
Is there any aspect of DHI's sound or lyrics that tends to get overlooked or misinterpreted?
No. We're not Marilyn Manson!
What's your worst nightmare?
For us to create a video with a "video girl" in it!
Looking back at the band now, what kind of impact do you feel that DHI had on the industrial scene? If you had the chance, is there anything that you would have done differently?
No, there's nothing we would have done differently. And, as far as the
"scene" goes, I have no idea what kind of impact we had. (I honestly have
never bothered to follow any particular "movement"). I only know the impact
that our live shows had on me personally, and I think I can safely say that
we connected with a lot of people throughout our years of performing.
Speaking of performing, if you're in Toronto this New Year's Eve, Transformantra will be playing at Sky High, a massive party that will be going down at the Sky Dome.
DHI PAGE | NEXT INTERVIEW