Interview – Grave Concerns

Julie Johnson What the name of your band and who are the current members?

Null Device:

Eric Oehler – Vocals, synths, various and sundry weird world instruments.

Dr. Eric Goedken – Lyrics, addl vocals, video, production and to a smaller extent

Dan Clark – Guitars

Chuck McKenzie – Bass

Heather O'Brien – Gutiar, backing vocals

How did you become connected to make music?

Null Device: Dr. Goedken and I met in college and have been intersted in electronic music ever since.

What are your musical influences?

Null Device: Right now: Kraftwerk, Tarkan, Uwe Schmidt, Hybrid, Panjabi MC, and The Streets. Subject to change without notice.

What is your live show like?

Null Device: Energetic. Our live guitarist is an insane genius. I play electric violin on a track. Our bassist is…well, he's pretty low-key, but he's a bassist after all.

Tell us about your own unique style of music?

Null Device: Right now, just to be pretentious, we're calling it “Progressive Ethnobreakpop.” Electronics, breakbeats, strong world music influences, and pop hooks. But that was just our most recent album. Who knows what the future will bring?

What serparates your band from all the other bands out there?

Null Device: I don't know of too many bands that have duduk soloes and small string ensembles on what are nominally synthpop records.

How do you go about writing songs?

Null Device: Depends on the song, really. Usually I get lyrics from Dr. Goedken, and I write a song around that, starting with melodies and hooks, then build the track from there. Sometimes I just get a hook in my brain and start writing a song, then have Dr. G add lyrics to it.

Pick one of your latest song and talk about everything from writing it, meanings, the challenges of recording it?

Null Device: “Travelogue”, the almost-title-track, was a heavily collaborative effort between Eric Goedken and myself. I started with a snipped of an idea for lyrics, and he just ran with it. I added some drums, and the foundations were laid. I'd at the time been studying up on arabic and middle-eastern musical traditions, so I approximated a maqam (a traditional “scale” in middle eastern music) and wrote the string parts. Then it became a question of layering instruments and recording a small string ensemble. None of which was easy, but it was probably the most musically satsifying track I'd written for the album. Then a few weeks in I decided to do a semi-acoustic version of it, recording my own dumbek (a type of drum) tracks, playing fiddle, adding duduk (an armenian reed instrument) flourishes, etc. When we put that version on the album I thought it was either going to get great reviews as something unusual, or it would get us metaphorically lynched as a pretentious novelty band. So far, we haven't been lynched…

What is your latest news with the band?

Null Device: We've recorded a new track for a compilation on A Different Drum, we're playing live quite a bit around the country, we've started recording new music, and I'm doing a fair bit of remixing. Oh, and Eric Goedken just got married.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years with your band?

Null Device: It is my goal to be big in Iceland.

How are people currently reacting to your music?

Null Device: Reviews have been great, and people really seem to be “getting” what we were trying to do with the album. We weren't out to make a snobby world-prog album or a touchy-feely new age album, we just wanted to bring in some different elements to our sound that aren't traditionally used in electronica, and I think most peopel are catching on to that.

What would be the top 3 reasons for listening to your music?

Null Device: * It's something a bit different

* it's the kind of thing you can appreciate without having to be on a dancefloor

* it's the only way I'll achieve international pop stardom.

What is your best experience as a band?

Null Device: PLaying our live shows, even to small crowds or with technical issues…is just such an amazing feeling.

What is your worst experience as a band?

Null Device: 17 hours in a van with a sinus infection on the road back from a show. The Ohio Turnpike is no place to be unable to breathe.

What is most important to you in your band?

Null Device: Continuing to do things that is musically interesting to us. We would easily – and have, in fact – scrapped songs that we'd know would have more popular appeal, just because we thought we'd enjoy doing something different more.

Do you have a personal favorite song?

Null Device: Of our own? “Easier” is a blast to do live, and it's got some groove to it.

What was the hardest song to write and why?

Null Device: “Someone Else.” There was just a lot going on in that track and it took quite a bit of time to get it to balance without being awkward or stilted.

What do you think of the current gothic/ EBM/ Industrial/ noise/ synthpop etc scence today?

Null Device: About six months ago I was pretty depressed about it – I'd been listening to demos and hearing a lot of clone futurepop bands. Now, all of a sudden, there's been a flurry of creativity in some of the new acts, and I'm really happy to see that.

What music do you currently listen to?

Null Device: A variety of things…Turkish pop music, Indian Desi-hop, breakbeat of various kinds, The Postal Service, The Streets, Hybrid, a substantial quantity of trance, weird glitchy electronic stuff…

How do you keep changing your music from album to album or plan to change it?

Null Device: I'm all over the place musically – I have sort of a genre-attention deficit disorder. It really keeps me from falling into a rut. We're always trying new things, so the end result is always pretty varied.

What kind of recording environment do you have?

Null Device: I've converted a large chunk of my basement into a recording studio. It's not perfect, but it's comfortable and well-protected from ambient noise. I'm starting to run out of room, though.

How long did you spend on your latest effort?

Null Device: It came together much faster than our debut, despite being more complex. I think it took just over a year, start to finish, to write all the music and record it.

What is the hardest thing about being in a band for this genre?

Null Device: Since you're never going to sell much, even if you're a huge band in the genre, it can get hard to keep throwing personal resources – time, money, etc – into the band. You never see much of a return and it's easy to fall into the “why do I do this, again?” trap.

What is most rewarding when it comes to your band?

Null Device: There is no better feeling than holding a CD in your hands and thinking “We made this. This is ours.” That's just so damn cool.