Nik Fiend and Mrs Fiend from Alien Sex Fiend
Dark Munich Festival will start already next week, but until this time we have one more interview for you. I am very happy that Nik Fiend and Mrs Fiend from ALIEN SEX FIEND (Headliner of first Festival Day) have found time to answer few our questions. Hope you will enjoyed it.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Your band continually surprises the audience with new, unconventional musical creations. How do you manage to remain so original? What inspires you to write songs?
Nik Fiend: Thank you for the compliments, it is great that it is recognized that our music does keep metamorphosing. I suppose that is why we keep doing it. Without tempting fate, up until now, the music has kept evolving, and there are still infinite possibilities for us. Good luck to them but it seems to be that a lot of bands’ music is like “painting by numbers”. It is very well done, indeed faultless, but that sort of music and style does not appeal to me. There seem to be less bands taking chances with their music. At the end of 1970s and into the early 1980s there was a lot more experimentation from a number of different bands, which does not seem to be the case now. So thank you for recognizing that we are not playing “safe” music! I think that is what keeps it interesting for us, that we keep experimenting, that it keeps moving.
Mrs Fiend: As ALIEN SEX FIEND, we are not afraid to take such chances. I wonder if perhaps some bands are worried that if they venture outside their perceived "style" that their fans might not like them anymore? But that can happen if you keep doing the same thing, fans would get bored anyway. We feel that it is best to make the music that YOU yourself like, then if someone else also likes it, that’s even better.
Nik Fiend: As for how we manage to remain original...
Mrs Fiend: We were talking about a similar thing yesterday - we think it is about remaining true to yourself. There is only one of you, you are unique, an individual, so if you truly “do your own thing”…
Nik Fiend: and you believe in what you are doing...
Mrs Fiend: then it is bound to be original. No-one else can have your own personal “style”, it is uniquely yours. And of course then when you combine your style with someone else’s – like Nik and I - it really is a unique mix.
Nik Fiend: Also, some bands seems to pay too much attention to the rule book…
Mrs Fiend: We never had one! (Laughs)
Nik Fiend: and we'd have burnt it if we did! (Laughs)
Mrs Fiend: As for inspiration to write songs.... any weird noise can set me off! or a good beat.
Nik Fiend: Life inspires me... who knows where ideas come from? Things form in my mind, it is hard to analyse. The reason I do my art and do music is that it is a form of release for me, it is - I think - far healthier and certainly cheaper than for me to have a psycho-analyst!! Also I prefer to go my own way, rather than be medicated by some quack (doctor)...
RoD: Your performances are filled with theatrical aesthetics. How do you feel about the theatre? Do you visit it from time to time?
Nik Fiend: No we aren’t really theatre goers, although we have been. It turned out that it is in our blood. My great uncle, Sir George Robey, was a famous music hall (vaudeville) singer / entertainer / comedian and he was quite visual, he wore make up & different outfits. But I did not discover this about my ancestry until Alien Sex Fiend had been going for some years! But I can only presume that is where the theatrical side came from...
Mrs Fiend: My father was a jazz drummer and after Nik discovered his connection to Sir George Robey he told me that he had worked with George Robey - which is really strange!! Also my grandfather worked in the theatre in London’s West End almost until the day he died, when he was younger he was a theatre stage manager and worked with people like Orson Welles.
Nik Fiend: So the bottom line is that the theatrical aspect is on our blood... we were doing the theatrics anyway it was only later that we realized that it was in our genes!
RoD: In 2010 you released your 13th studio album ‘Death Trip’. Are you planning to record a new album in the near future?
Nik Fiend: Yes, we hope so. We have some ideas underway, but it will take a while to have anything ready for release, so we cannot give you a date for a while yet. We have also been toying with the idea of releasing – perhaps in a small way - a completely alternative version of ‘Death Trip’ - different mixes & so on. In the old days such mixes would have been used as extra tracks on a CD or cassette album release or as B-sides or on 12 inch singles, but over the years we seem to have become more of an album band rather than singles. As you know the record market is now completely different to how it was in the 80s when we started! We don’t want to just release via downloads because a lot of our fans like to own our CDs or the Vinyl LP and they like to have the artwork too, the whole package. So it takes quite a while to put all of that together, and it is all self-financed now on our own 13th Moon Records label.
RoD: How do you see your band after next 10 years?
Mrs Fiend: Wow! Another 10 years?? (Laughs)
Nik Fiend: Quite wrinkly!
Mrs Fiend: VERY wrinkly!!
Nik Fiend: And more decrepit! We have to be realistic, I haven't found any way of stopping getting older, the only thing you CAN do is to stop your mind from becoming old. If your mind is still active and still wanting to create more than that is great, but whether the body can keep up is another matter. I never thought that Alien Sex Fiend would have continued for this long.
Mrs Fiend: We had no plans about it, we just took each thing as it came along and here we are 30 years plus later... it’s unbelievable really...
Nik Fiend: Its fucking unbelievable!!
Mrs Fiend: We really did think that our very first gig (at The Batcave in London in 1982) might be our only gig!
Nik Fiend: (Laughing) The first & ONLY gig!! It was weird - but it felt fucking good and we got a real buzz (high) from it - and we still do, otherwise we wouldn't be doing it. Sometimes you have to work your balls off to do it but you get an inexplicable "something" from it, you cannot explain it, it is an otherworldly feeling, but that's what makes it worthwhile pursuing. And hopefully there will be more otherworldly feelings to be had from the music and from being within the music, that is why we do it, otherwise there would be no point. If you want money or acclaim there are far easier ways to get it - and certainly not with Alien Sex Fiend - it will not work.
Mrs Fiend: It is strange but it seems that people who have only those sort of motivations (money, acclaim) seem to eventually get pushed away from ALIEN SEX FIEND…
Nik Fiend: Away from the nucleus… The entity that is ALIEN SEX FIEND will not put up with that outlook. It is a lifestyle, it requires blood sweat and tears - nothing less.
RoD: Your tracks and your creativity in general are based on the sci-fi theme and on the horrors. What's your favourite science fiction or horror movie?
Mrs Fiend: It's impossible to list only one favourite, there really are too many to mention.
Nik Fiend: Yes I could be here all day listing all of the records, films and comics - especially 2000AD - that have inspired me and I am still discovering new things, even some things that were created years ago but which are new to me personally...
Mrs Fiend: We will try to list a few…
Nik Fiend: In no particular order - Barbarella, Eraserhead, Evil Dead, actually Evil Dead II that was THE one, Bladerunner...
Mrs Fiend: Apocalypse Now, Forbidden Planet!!
Nik Fiend: Oh yes!
Mrs Fiend: Also old TV series like Outer Limits and Twilight Zone.
Nik Fiend: Back in the early 1980s times were hard, and there was a lot going on in both art and music and comics, there was an explosion of underground comics and music, it was a really creative outpouring for a number of years. We were lucky that we were in the middle of all of that.
RoD: How do you feel about such holidays like Halloween? Are You celebrating it?
Mrs Fiend: Yes, of course! Whether it is Halloween or Samhain or Day Of The Dead like in Mexico, we always do something special.
Nik Fiend: Sometimes we have gigs but if we are at home we will decorate the house.
Mrs Fiend: Nik can carve a great Jack O Lantern! As you can imagine we have a big collection of Halloween-related items which we have collected over the years. The first time we went to the US on tour it was near Halloween so we went mental buying loads of things which we have managed to keep - despite all our moves of home over the years - and we have added to that collection over time. We are usually voted “best house” by the local trick or treaters because we have so many unusual decorations, it’s all great fun - the kids expect to scare us so they have quite a shock when I open the door!
RoD: Your attitude to imitate? When, for example, one music band copies style of the other band, the manner of performance and sounding of tracks?
Mrs Fiend: We touched on this area before on your first question I think…
Nik Fiend: Of course we are all inspired by our favourite groups, that is natural. Perhaps if you had not heard any music you would not be inspired to get up and do it yourself. The thing with ALIEN SEX FIEND is if we actually wanted to sound like THE BEATLES and we tried to do that, it would not come out right! It would go weird, and head off in an ASF-direction.
Mrs Fiend: We don’t know why but it is the way it is.
Nik Fiend: Everyone is inspired by someone. I think when you start out in music - particularly in the early days - you are imitating, that is how you learn. Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones learnt to play the way he does by copying the old blues guys like Muddy Waters, etc. and then later he developed his own style. But to continue to only imitate, I think, is limiting, you need to find your own path. But as I said before a lot of people seem to be playing it safe these days, not going outside their comfort zone.
Mrs Fiend: Or outside of the already done stuff.
Nik Fiend: When you consider the amount of weird stuff that was around in the 1960s, 70s and 80s it is a bit disturbing that there isn’t more "far out" music. Whether you call it psychedelic or acid rock or whatever, each band had their own take on it, each track didn’t sound like the 10th version of the same song, that's why - for me – there’s a lot of stuff from the past which I still revere because they were brave enough to make some peculiar records!
Mrs Fiend: As Nik said imitating is how people learn, but if it goes on too long then there is no originality because they have not developed their own style, in such cases I don’t think that band is likely to last for very long anyway. They will always be followers rather than innovators. Having said that I do think that some record companies are also to blame, they would prefer to sign bands that sound like bands they’ve already heard rather than something totally original, because something original is an unknown quantity, so again they are “playing it safe”.
RoD: It is known that you Nik, have a great passion for painting. Your drawings adorn not only the CD’s covers of ASF, they were also repeatedly presented at the exhibitions around the world. When exactly did you start drawing?
Nik Fiend: When I was a very small child, as long ago as I can remember. It was one of the few things that I really enjoyed and I was good at, both my parents encouraged me, but I was not so good at my other school work! I was bottom in almost every other subject! My art and my music go hand in hand together, I have said this before, the two are very interconnected. When ASF started the initial idea was that we would make a magazine and make weird music to listen to whilst reading the magazine. That magazine eventually became our “Fiendzine”, but the music took over as being the main activity. So we were doing the art to the music and vice versa, so art and music became interlinked from the very beginning.
RoD: More than 30 years on stage. This is a very great experience. If you had the chance, would you change something?
Nik Fiend: No I don’t think so, I have learnt something from all of those times. If I changed something then I might not have learnt that particular lesson and I might still be making the same mistakes!
RoD: Many modern artists refuse to release albums, preferring to produce verified singles. What do you think, LP genre is dead or not?
Nik Fiend: It's not dead for me! When we made ‘Death Trip’ we took a gamble on releasing a vinyl LP - mainly because I wanted to do it. I had a strong feeling about it and later we found out that a lot of other people felt the same way. We do not do things with a business brain, we do what we think is right and then try and work out a way of trying to achieve that.
Mrs Fiend: We don’t really care “what other artists” are doing, we make our own minds up.
Nik Fiend: We have gone our own way for so long that it is difficult to look at anyone else for pointers on where we should be going or what we should be doing! I tend not to listen to other people - whether that is a producer in the past who wanted to edit (shorten) a song, or the guy from the old record company who didn’t like a particular track…
Mrs Fiend: He changed his mind two weeks later!
Nik Fiend: Some friends have said we should do this or do that, people have said don’t play slow songs, and so on. All I know is if I had listened to any or all of those other people I would not have done anything! I would still be listening to other people's opinions instead of doing it! I don’t know whether that's arrogance, a thick skin or being determined, or knowing my own mind, that is just the way that it is!!
Mrs Fiend: Agreed! It is probably because of downloads that some artists think there is no point in creating albums, because with downloads people cherry pick tracks and often do not download an entire album. I think it depends on the particular artist, with ALIEN SEX FIEND I think most fans know that an album has been carefully put together track by track, it is like a good DJ who knows which record to play next. The entire album creates a mood song by song.
Nik Fiend: But ultimately of course it is up to the individual, if they only like one track then that's fine! You can’t force people to listen.
Mrs Fiend: I don’t know about other countries but certainly in the UK there has been a recent resurgence in vinyl, people can hear the difference in sound quality when they compare vinyl to a CD let alone to a download. It has been a real eye-opener for some young people who have only heard downloads, when they hear vinyl a whole new world opens up! So who knows where things might head in the future.
RoD: You often go on tour and perform abroad. It effect somehow on the well-being? Where do you get the energy for performances?
Nik Fiend: Life affects your well-being! There are worst jobs than this for your well-being! Personally I like travelling, part of my enjoyment of being on tour is the travelling.
Mrs Fiend: We have caught colds on tour, and the germs hit everybody quickly because you spend so much time together.
Nik Fiend: But you have to battle through, you have to keep going…
Mrs Fiend: What's very strange though is that you can be coughing and sneezing backstage and then literally as you walk on stage it stops! Thank goodness. And I'll feel great until we get back to the hotel room…
Nik Fiend: A couple of hours later the cold is back! I think that's part of why we do it, it's like musical healing!
Mrs Fiend: Adrenalin does kick in of course so even if you have had no or little sleep you can still play, sometimes even better than when you have slept properly! Well that’s the case with us anyway. So it is a very weird process! The songs give me energy...
Nik Fiend: And the atmosphere, the people, there is a bounce back of energy between us and the audience, and it’s better than going to the gym for a work out! (laughs)
RoD: You played on the big festival stages, and in the compact clubs. What form of communication with the audience you prefer?
Nik Fiend: I like both. They are both very different. No two shows are alike for us anyway. Even two club gigs would be different from each other, every show is different. We are flexible enough to deal with both situations, thanks to the good road crew that we have who help put the show on. It is a team effort. It is hard work, but also "those special moments" happen which everyone shares in.
Mrs Fiend: Big festival stages are usually quite high so the audience can see more of the stage and more of what Nik is doing and of course the lighting. So that is more of a spectacle perhaps.
Nik Fiend: Whereas in a club venue it can be more intense because you are closer to the audience. I prefer not to have stage barriers too far away from the stage, but that is not always under my control, some venues or festivals have rules about such things for safety reasons.
RoD: How important for you to look good during the performance?
Nik Fiend: I'm not sure if I ever "look good"! (Laughs) Getting ready for a show has become a ritual for me, everything starts to come together, we are moving towards doing the show, that is the most important thing. Looking good isn’t something I set out to do, it is more about using the make-up to bring out different sides of my character in order to put the different songs across to the audience. Sometimes the character is mischievous, or on songs such as like ‘Manic Depression’ or ‘Isolation’ I become more “detached”.
Mrs Fiend: Yes getting changed is all part of putting on the “show” of course, but for me it is about being practical. I cannot wear anything with long dangling sleeves because they would become tangled up with the knobs on the keyboards. It is the same with jewellery, I have to wear things that will not get caught on the keyboard controls. Also because I use a foot pedal to control one of the drum machines I need to be able to feel the pedal switches under my foot so I cannot wear shoes or boots with thick soles or platforms! And if the shoes are too wide I could accidentally press 2 switches at once instead of just one. Yes some of these things have happened in the past, I have learned from such mistakes!
RoD: On April 25th you will be playing on Dark Munich Festival. I am not sure, but it will be your first show in 2014. What are you expecting from it? Are you preparing some surprises for audience?
Nik Fiend: I hope that I am preparing some surprises for myself! In a positive way! We are all looking forward to playing live again - as you say - it's our first show of this year. Also it will be good to return to Munich, we have not been there for a long time, so that's great, we've had great shows there in the past. Every ASF gig is a surprise, we don’t decide the set until last thing, so right now we’re not even sure of what songs we will play on the night. It is just us, the music, the atmosphere, the audience – all of those make each show special.
Mrs Fiend: My equipment is mostly old analogue keyboards and drum machines, so they can have minds of their own! And unexpected things happen in songs sometimes, we don’t rehearse like many bands do so that we can remain open to such ideas happening in the moment and we will improvise on parts of the songs. We were told by the Munich organisers that we could play an extra 3 more songs on top of the original time - we like to play for as long as is possible – but we had to ask them to be more specific and give us an actual time in minutes because ASF songs can be any length, we once did a 15 minute plus version of ‘Now I’m Feeling Zombiefied’ in Japan, so three of those would end up being 45 minutes! Time ceases to have meaning for us on-stage it’s a weird but wonderful place to be!
RoD: And finally, the traditional question, please tell any words to your fans.
Mrs Fiend: Thank you for sticking with us through all of the various ups and downs over the years!
Nik Fiend: Greetings earthlings! Thank you for allowing us to be "us"!!
Dark Munich Festival: http://www.d-m-f.net/
Written by Daria Szegeda & Iryna Kalenska (Ukrainian Gothic Portal). The Russian version of the article is available here.