Laughing at the Robots

Industro-Metal is not always a Quaker's Meeting

Interview with Myk Jung of TESTIFY by Eric Ewing

Ah, American Industrial-Metal crossover bands.. Snarling, guitar-abusing, sequencer-driven, sampler-loving ghouls. Nobody you'd want to meet in real life. In a country where image is everything, these musicians must play a role. Look at Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. A poster boy for techno-alienation, he creates music that reinforces the role that has been created for him. Look at this from a marketing standpoint, and it gets interesting. What's the best way to reach the borderline suicidal post-punk nihilist teen introvert? Yeah, you can write the music that appeals to that crowd, but if you create a character that appears to fit this demographic, BOOM, a star is born. It's like a black leather version of the Backstreet Boys, except sneering skill is more important than dancing ability. Well-trained media consultants try to minimize the fact that Trent is heir to the Reznor Heater fortune. When the kid who has just downed three bottles of sleeping pills says "Man, that song .Closer. really speaks to me," when Trent's only real adversity came when Daddy's servants wouldn't let him beat them at Space Invaders, you know the marketing campaign has paid off handsomely. Now that the formula is in place, there's no escape. Hordes of copycat bands are popping up on Alternative. radio stations all over the US, and none of them seem to be enjoying life. Remember the old children's game of Quaker's Meeting? "Quaker's meeting has begun. No more laughing, no more fun. If you show your teeth or tongue, you must pay a forfeit." In this case, the forfeit is royalties. Americans want their music aggressive and their recording artists dour. But what's going on overseas? Music of the same genre, but made by European bands, is MUCH more aggressive and adrenaline-fueled. Hold on to your seats, though, because these people actually seem to be having fun! [oh the horror!] A band that is not shy about showing their sense of humor is Testify, who hail from Germany.

Founding member of Testify Myk Jung was also a founding member of the electronic band The Fair Sex. TFS is not known for ferocity, and the fan base is your generic industro-goth set. You know the type. Dress in black. Barely move. Never smile. For the band with a sense of humor, keeping up an image like that can be draining. Pressure from fans forced TFS to remain in 80's mode, and the sound has been fairly consistent. In an effort to release energy without losing TFS fans, Testify was born as a side project in the early 90's. Testify is way over on the metal end of the industrial-metal continuum. Make no mistake . this is some really hard stuff. Other reviews of Testify use the term "crunchy" to describe the guitar sound, and that terminology applies quite well. Distorted guitars and frenetic drum programming dance with samples from old horror movies. In the US, this sound was being defined by Ministry et. al., and it's too bad that many reviews of Testify material would take the shortcut of making the comparison between the two bands. In reality, Testify takes harshness to levels that bands at the time could only fantasize about. The CD entitled MMMYAOOOO has several standouts that even impress noise fans (speaking from experience). The song Lethal Viper is spirited, and the chorus will make you want to jump and kick things (a good feeling). Today, many years after Testify arrived, the rest of the world is catching up. Show me a band that DOESN'T use electronics and guitars. It must seem inconceivable to the youth of today that there ever could have been a palpable bias against combining the analog and digital. Bands like Testify have been challenging those biases while pushing the envelope of sonic hostility. Now both Testify encounter another bias. A band with an absurd sense of humor, no matter how hard the music or how ready the members are to change preconceptions, does not fit the American marketing schemes. You can just picture the robotic horde outside the record company offices chanting "We want something that sounds exactly like White Zombie! We want Nine Inch Nail clone bands! We want something that won't challenge us! And we DON'T want to have fun!" What's a European aggro-industrial-metal band to do? Testify is on the Van Richter label, home of Sielwolf and Plastic Noise Experience. The label.s web page is

Other reviews incessantly compare Testify to boring bands whose only similarity to Testify is that they used sequencers and guitars. Does this ever get irritating?

Does that mean that in contrast to other bands which you think are boring you think that we are not boring? Does that mean the whole interview starts with such a nice compliment? And what does it mean that we might be irritated by the comparision with those bands? Perhaps you mean that we ought to be a little irritated that the whole world does not perceive our real, perhaps a bit hidden quality? That would be very kind of you, and we will follow your suggestion and will be irritated.

The industro-metal hybrid has only recently come into its own in the US. What's the situation in Europe?

In Europe this hybrid has only recently started to come OUT off its own again, harr, if you allow this probably non-right language-construction: Since 92/93 this genre is somehow present in Germany. As long as Testify, by the way- being one of the hybrids of The First Hour. This has served neither the whole genre nor Testify itself. For it seems to me that this style soon will be vanishing into the darkest abyss of oblivion. (I fear I say this only because so far all my predictions turned out to be wrong - hoping that this prediction will also be unfulfilled; and Industrial will live on with Testify as godlike headmasters har)

How do fans of your other project react to the direction you've taken with Testify?

Fans of the other project - and it is likely that you speak of The Fair Sex - are mostly sentimental weeping willows that are not skilled walking the paths of inaccess able noise peaks. They thoroughly do not understand what Testify is all about, always see king the way back. Back to the dawn of their youth which was somewhen in the late 20's (of the predeccessing century, of course, when Dark Synth Pop was modern, round about 1829).

Have you ever unintentionally (or intentionally) alienated fans? Have there been any instances where audience expectations (right or wrong) were not met with interesting consequences?

This question is not that easy to answer without any difficulties. The difficulty is that I am not familiar with the word alienate. Have to look it up. ----- Aaah -ja! That means something like: the fans were totally at a loss wondering what metally insane idea must have been in the heads of the band-members when they created that crap-stuff which they suddenly call their new style - or something like that. This indeed was reality some years back, by which the break-down of our TFS-career was cleverly brought about. We shocked the Indie-fans with a bit pop-dance-orientated arrangements. That is something a real Indie-listener will never forgive! We are still very proud of this step -this tricky alienating bit. It saved us from the troublesome toilsome work that a successful band might have to face - and gave us the stillness and boredom and loneliness we craved for.

Song titles on MMMYAOOOO refer to queens, knights, goblins, and snakes. Describe, please, the affection some metal folks have for big axes and swords. Do you own any? Does the electronic side of you like guns, and the metal side of you like blades?

That is a funny idea, this one with the guns and the blades - as metaphor of the different attitudes of the hand-made-music-creators and the electro-freaks. Did you make it up when formulating this interview-questions, or is it a standard of yours, Eric?
But the secret metal-side of our souls still feels no affection for big axes and even not for swords. We are more for speers and Morgensterns, if you are so kind to look it up what that might be in English.

Ever shoot a machine gun? Would you want to?

In Europe the habit of shooting the driver next to you only because you feel kinda offended by his driving style is yet not that spread as in the US - but we urgently await til this US-attitude has been swept to the Old World. We already made a list of drivers we'd like to kill via machine gun.

Why do most European bands sing in English? Do you watch much American television? How often are you in the US?

Why do most European bands sing in English? Is it because of the tradition of Rock We are not often in the US; and we don't watch American television. In both situations we would have been forced to gaze into the dictionary endlessly. That would be too toilsome. We want to enjoy our still oblivion.