RoD header


Interview with

Bon Harris of Nitzer Ebb

British legend NITZER EBB just finished their North America tour before Christmas and will embark on a European tour early next year with their ex-label mates DEPECHE MODE, and also release their long-awaited new studio album ‘Industrial Complex’ on January 22nd. It’s the band’s sixth long player, and the first since 1995! Production work began already 2006, shortly after the first gigs of NITZER EBB’s reunion tour. While ‘Industrial Complex’ has been already available as a special tour edition at the US shows, and on iTunes USA for that matter, it will be released in most European countries via Major Records (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia) and Belgian Alfa Matrix label (Belgium, France, Netherlands, Italy and Luxemburg) in early 2010. Bon Harris of NITZER EBB took the time to answer our questions while still being on tour in North America.

Reflections of Darkness (RoD): You started working on the material for ‘Industrial Complex’ as early as summer 2006, and as far as I know you finished the recording process about one and a half years ago. Could you please elaborate on the recording process itself?
Bon Harris (BH): We decided on a very minimal, instinctive approach. We wanted to go back to our roots. We had a couple of synths, a midi mallet controller, electronic drums, and a microphone. We would improvise according to the mood of the moment and develop any promising ideas from there. We wanted to keep it as spontaneous and interactive as possible, and stay away from huddling around a computer or working in isolation and emailing files to each other. Once we had an idea in basic form, we'd move on to a new idea. I'd take some of the basic sketches home and develop them further, and we proceeded like that until we had a quite large collection of songs.

RoD: Were it short studio sessions between gigs?
BH: Some were short sessions, but we did manage to get quite long stretches in as well. 

: How has present day technology changed the recording process compared to the days of, say, ‘Belief’ or ‘Ebbhead’?
BH: Technology has made the whole process much quicker. You have more options these days. Somebody with a laptop and software has access to more resources than we had on ‘Total Age’ or ‘Belief’. That has good and bad sides. I think the old limitations breed creativity in interesting ways. We tried to keep a balance between a traditional working style, and using technology for what it's good at - mainly post production. In the writing stage sometimes it was as simple as piano and vocals, for instance, very raw and non-technical. Very musical.

: Was the reason for the delay in releasing ‘Industrial Complex’ simply because of the search for a label, or were also other reasons? 
BH: The search for a label, and a modus for releasing. There's many ways to release music these days, and no one method is accepted as a standard. So the choices were large. Also the global financial situation worsened just as we were in negotiations, so that changed the landscape as well.

RoD: Simple question: What are your personal faves from ‘Industrial Complex’?
BH: ‘Once You Say’ is a big fave. I think it contains many aspects that represent the album. And of course Martin [Gore, of DEPECHE MODE] sings on it as well. It has a bit of everything. I also really like ‘Going Away’. It was written on piano then orchestrated on synthesizers. It's a simple, gentle song that conveys emotions that I think most people can identify with.

: What were the first tracks you wrote and finished for the new album?
BH: ‘Payroll’ and ‘Once You Say’ were the first tracks written in basic form. They came from the very first session, in a rehearsal room in LA, a couple of quick improvisations on the midi mallet keyboard, using a Cwejman synthesizer.

RoD: Instead of the standard single / album / second single release pattern you decided on some rather unusual ways to promote and release your music prior the album. Like free downloads and streams via your web site, approving songs for computer games soundtracks or TV series, having some tracks remixed by rather unknown artists, selling USB sticks at your shows, and so on. How has this worked out so far, and how was the feedback (Both from fans and media)?
BH: It's worked out quite well. The Film and TV placement was good. It enabled us to preview the songs to a wide audience, and earn some cash to help pay production costs. In the absence of viable mainstream radio, that's a new method for promoting bands to the larger public. Sometimes it felt like we had built a large body of work, and were cutting it up and giving away small pieces, we didn't want to feel like everybody had heard the whole album before it was released. It turned out OK though.

RoD: Which of these new marketing tools have been the most beneficial for the band, and which had the biggest impact on NITZER EBB's popularity?
BH: A good website is hard to beat. We've been lucky that fans have maintained a great web presence over the years. Linking that with our own site enables us to get straight to our audience.

RoD: Are there some among these marketing tools which you wouldn't try again for future releases?
BH: Too early to say. A lot of it comes down to experimentation, and we are still evaluating the results. 

RoD: Who did the cover design for ‘Industrial Complex’?
BH: Douglas designed all the graphics, album, merchandise, tour posters etc, and worked very closely with Slender Fungus, who does our website, on the look of the site. 

: Can we expect any extras for the physical release on Major Records, like a digi pack or anything like that? 
BH: We have some extras planned. We have been commissioning remixes; we have some extra tracks from the recording sessions, lots of tour video etc. So there are a lot of options. We've yet to decide exactly what will go on, but there'll be some bonus items.

RoD: You've presented some of the ‘Industrial Complex’ songs at your live shows for quite a while already, and some like ‘Once You Say’ seem to be live staples already. Was the decision to include unreleased songs in your shows also some kind of testing the grounds in some way? How did you decide on which new songs will already be featured in the live sets? 
BH: It wasn't a deliberate decision to test the songs live. It just happened that we were able to do that. Songs that had been featured in Film and TV were obvious choices because people had already heard them and were interested in seeing them live. It did give an opportunity to see how they fit with the existing material, and they fit very well.

RoD: Did the live performance have an influence on the recording, e.g. did you change and tweak tracks after performing them live to make them work better?
BH: Mostly the tracks were complete before we played them live.

RoD: Your last full-length release was ‘Big Hit’ in 1995, an album which got mixed reviews from critics back then and which still divides the fan base. How do you feel about this particular album today? 
BH: We all feel very proud of ‘Big Hit’. It is a great album. It was very experimental, and maybe went a little too far from the roots of the band in some ways. Looking back, I think that album would have been different if we had our other projects going at that time (Maven, FM etc). There were probably too many ideas and directions to be contained in one album, or even one band. We still stand by it though. There are some classic Ebb moments on there.

RoD: Any chance that ‘Big Hit’ tracks will be featured in future live sets?
BH: We have been asked to do some of those songs live. I think we might remix or re-arrange some in a more electronic way and see how that sounds. It would be interesting to see what fans would think if we took those songs and approached them the same way we approached ‘Industrial Complex’. We'll see... time is always the big factor.

RoD: Around the release of ‘Industrial Complex’ you will tour with DEPECHE MODE again, for the third time after 1987 and 1990. How did this come about? Were you asked by the MODE boys themselves, Daniel Miller or is it a completely different story? 
BH: We've stayed in touch with DM over the years, and obviously Martin sang on ‘Once You Say’, so we had a dialogue going anyway. We asked them initially. With a new album coming out, of course it made sense to work with them again; it's a fantastic opportunity to reach a lot of people. We played the DM fan club show in Berlin, the night before DM played. They came down to our show, and apparently enjoyed it. Soon after that we were seriously talking about touring with them. To our surprise and delight, it became a reality. Not sure how much Daniel was involved in that specific decision, but he has been incredibly supportive and helpful ever since the reunion in 2006. There still seems to be a lot of love for NE at Mute, and we are very lucky and thankful to have that.

RoD: Do you think that DEPECHE MODE's audience will embrace NITZER EBB?
BH: Yes. We've been very well received in the past. There is enough in common between both bands, without us sounding too alike. It's familiar enough, but different enough for the DM fans to relate to. 

: I remember that in 1987 you got also some negative feedback (booing off and the likes) and at the same time there were lots of MODE fans at the next NITZER EBB tour. Apart from the long time MODE fans, DEPECHE's audience is a different monster than 20 years ago. These days there are surely a lot of “mainstream” people who go to see U2, ROBBIE WILLIAMS or DEPECHE MODE, for that matter, just for a nice night out. Do you look forward to give them a nice kick in the a** with your sonic attacks?
BH: Well I think it's also true that the mainstream has absorbed a lot from the "underground". Just look how much dance music has influenced pop music. I don't think there is such a big gap. Maybe some of our songs will have a harder edge than people are familiar with, but usually the energy and performance convince people that something good is going on. It can't be a bad thing for band and audience to operate outside the comfort zone. It's a challenge for us, and we always relish that. We are looking forward to taking our music to a new, wider, audience. Cheers. See you there!


Comments powered by CComment