MxCx Interview#8 "Dead Fader"
※ This interview was recorded on February 19, 2016 ※
Dead Fader, UK-born, Berlin-based John Cohen draws on ambient, noise and techno to create panoramic and hard-hitting electronic music which packs an emotional punch. In 2014 Cohen released two Dead Fader albums – Blood Forest and Scorched – which saw his music evolve into a signature style as moving as it is excoriating. It would be a gross oversimplification to suggest that the project now occupies a liminal space between revered Scottish duo Boards Of Canada and Australian sound artist Ben Frost but as a rough guide it’s not entirely misleading. Cohen reactivated the project in June of this year with the HYP 30 EP (available as a free download) followed by this month’s Sun Copter 12″. Both serve as appetisers for new full-length LP Glass Underworld, out October 22nd via Robot Elephant. In addition to his Dead Fader releases, Cohen has released work under his own name via Broken 20 (Tar River, 2011) and Exotic Pylon (Deaf Arena, 2013).
I heard that you moved from UK to Germany. How do you like the life in Germany? Is there any change (in your life) caused by this environment change?
Definitely, i would say Berlin is a bit different from the rest of Germany. For me its a great place to live ‘off the radar’. its not so restrictive, i think its quite an open city compared to others i have lived and visited. and not too expensive, which is so important as an artist. It did take me a couple of years to adjust to life in a different country, but i think i have become a more rounded person because of the challenges it brought up.
You made your first Japanese tour in 2013 and performed two live shows. How did you like the concerts and the life in Japan?
Of course i was blown away when i visited Tokyo. It was 2 of the most exciting weeks of my life. because i felt everyday i was a kid again, discovering new things for the first time. i really would love to come back soon, just to take in more experiences and culture, art and music and Food. I miss the food. and of course the lovely people i met.
Could you tell us the concept of your new album "Class Underworld"? How long did it take to compose this album? I could hear some kind of "techno" sound and "techno" atmosphere in this album. Do you think it is because of an influence from activity in Berlin? How do you feel after finishing your new album?
Glass Underworld was recorded from June 2014 to February 2015. It was a very emotional and personal album for me. i had fallen in love with someone very special. As soon as this happened i started writing the album. i would say there isn’t much concept that goes into my albums. it just happens, its a very organic process, and very emotional, rather than conceptual. Its the same when i write a piece of music, i have no concept when i start the piece. i just go with what emotion i feel.
i also had a break through with with my writing process. i bought a new hardware synth that heavily influenced the album. i feel my sound is now maybe a bit more limited, but also at the same time more coherent. You are right, there is definitely a more techno influence in the rhythms. I would say less of a ‘berlin’ influence, just a more subtle and minimal approach. Maybe more like going back to some nineties techno, aphex twin or jeff mills. I think i used to feel that techno rhythms were too simple when i was younger. But i feel less stigma these days about creating simple things. simple is better.
Since your previous release "Blood Forest", you have more and more melodic tracks, the listener enjoys this side of a great melodymaker.
On the other hand your symbolic "strain" sound has become less. Was there any change in your mind?
I think again, i feel less stigma about exploring melodies and emotion in my music. i love melodies and i want to make music that i listen to again and again. And for other people too. it wasn’t a conscious choice. i still make extreme music, all types of stuff. just whatever i feel at the time. Maybe i get less excited these days if i make an noisy track, than if i create a beautiful melody, that makes me very happy.
Your album "Scorched", released at the same time as "Blood Forest", consisted of only aggressive, noisy tracks. Was there any reason that you didn't put melodious tracks and noisy tracks together on the same album and split them to two different albums? Do these both styles, melodious and noisy have different meanings for you?
Now that i look back at ‘scorched’ and ‘blood forest’. I think they would have been really cool as one big album. but i think at that time i still felt some pressure to separate the two. because that was what i was known for, the distorted beats. Yeh i guess they are slightly different parts of my personality coming through. Sometimes u need to go to both sides of the extreme. Either too cheesy or too crazy, to find the right Balance. maybe a bit like cooking. Too much salt, or not enough. and then eventually u find the right balance ‘hopefully’ :)
Please tell us the process of track composing. What kind of situation brings you musical ideas usually? Which kind of instruments are you using for your compositinal process at the moment?
U need to have a lot of creative energy. and brain power. I can’t usually make good music after a long days work. Being bored is also very good. having lots of time to think and create. And no pressure either, it has to be natural. The instruments i am using now are 1 hardware synth (prophet 12) and 1 drum machine (analog rytm) and a few effects, reverb, delay and distortion, with the laptop and Reason to sequence the tracks.
Your music is valued highly by members of other bands such as ISIS or GODFLESH. Are you also influenced by such kinds of acoustic 'band' music, even if your music is 100% electronic sound?
Of course, i am influenced by so many different styles of music. electronic and acoustic. Godflesh and Isis were a great influence on me. so heavy, and very emotional music too. Recently i have been listening to a lot of Film music by Ennio Morricone and Toru Takemitsu. Wow, such amazing composers. I love acoustic instruments just as much as Electronic sounds. They can both be incredible when used in the right ways. i would not say one is better or worse than the other. the same as i would not say analog is better than digital. is just different. And yes i want to work with more acoustic instruments in the future.
I feels like personal of you are reflected in your music. Do you sometimes consider others (the listers, scene, market etc) when composing tracks? Are you sometimes troubled by value, or lack of, in the scene and sales of your music?
i do care what people think about my music. All humans are social beings. and look for acceptance and praise and recognition. i care about other people. but i dont necessarily think they are right. so i will always make the music i feel is most important to me, and most honest.
so yes i do care, but i try to not let this influence my writing.
What kind of impression did you have get from "DOROHEDORO"? Do you have any character or story which impressed you a lot after readingthis comic?
You offered the track "Kaimans Head" for this comic. What concept or image does this track have?
Oh yes it was great fun reading the comic and writing the music at the same time. i love the dark parts to the story. the mystery man inside Kaiman. was a very cool idea. i found it more difficult to incorporate the more comedy/funny side of the comic to my music. as i haven’t made music like that in a long time :) but the dark parts i thought worked very well together.
I heard that you are interested in Japanese animation and comics. Could you tell me your favorite works?
Yes some recent Anime i liked were Attack on Titan, very cool. fast paced and intense. Kaiji i also liked intense drama. One manga artist i got into recently is Suehiro Maruo , but is quite difficult to get his work in english. but his paintings are amazing :) i mean my all time favourite work would have to be still katsuhiro Otomo’s. My dream would be working together with him on something.
Please tell us the release schedule for the future. Do you have anything new you would like to tell us about? Comments to your fans in Japan?
I have a new 12” EP will arrive in June on a new label. I’m not sure that it is very different or new.but the tracks are very popular amongst the people i have played them to. maybe is a bit more up tempo dance music than Glass Underworld.
oh comments to my fans in japan. first of all thankyou! for supporting me, i love u. And i hope u enjoy the Kaimans Head track :)
Interviewer : Ume (Murder Channel)