Interview réalisée par Bertrand Hamonou



Label Artoffact

Version française de l'interview

« OHMelectronic »


Release date: 22th february 2019

Read our review

Following a remarkable and well received first album under the Öhm moniker back in 2013, Canadians Chris Peterson and Craig Huxtable whose friendship dates back to Front Line Assembly’s "Improvised Eletronic Device" and Noise Unit’s "Voyeur", are back with a brand new album, a brand new moniker, full of energy to spare and synthesizers loaded with news projects. We reached out to these two talented musicians from the legendary industrial Vancouver scene to know what made them join in their creativity to start Öhm together in the first place, and then record this new « OHMelectronic », both a heavy and precise record, through a long interview which also has to do with family and what it is like to be a musician in the twenty-first century.

Chris, Craig, I understand that both of you were involved in FLA's "I.E.D" and Noise Unit's "Voyeur" albums. How did you end up joining forces for Ohm's first LP, and were there speculations at the time that it would be a new Noise Unit album before deciding on the Öhm moniker?
Chris: I think the Noise Unit album was more of a clincher than anything that we should work together on something entirely new. Craig came over with a keyboard and we had some great results very quickly, running step sequences through it while he played the chords and came up with the phrasing. There was never any intention for me to work with Craig on something that would be an FLA side project after the “Voyeur” album work though. He is one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with and our skillsets complement each other perfectly. I’ve never had aspirations of being a solo artist; it’s just too much fun to share this with other people, however, having just two people, rather, two egos is really working out nicely. When we disagree, we’re like a stream that just moves around an obstacle and keeps going, which is a very big test of any working relationship. I value my time working with FLA, but you have to understand that it’s Bill’s thing and that’s fine. With Craig, this is “Ours”. It’s the difference between working “for” somebody as opposed to “with” somebody. At some point, most artists in bands want to step out and make their mark on the world. Myself, I see working with Craig on our own thing as the best way to do that.
Craig: When we did Noise Unit, Chris and I had already talked a lot about working on music together and as he said, it was instant chemistry. The way « Illicit Dreams » came together was magic and we were both excited about how easy it was to work together. When people talk to me about my brief stint with Frontline I feel like my connection to the band is misunderstood. I got involved with FLA because I wanted to work with Chris and add my own interpretation of the “Vancouver sound” to the greater musical fabric. Not as an FLA fanboy but as someone who wanted a seat at the table to contribute because I felt like I had something to say. I felt I had raised the bar with enough with Landscape Body Machine musically to get noticed in the music scene and I was looking to a new challenge. But Frontline Assembly IS Bill Leeb, which is fine because some bands need a leader or whatever. I prefer to work more democratically. I enjoyed my time there and feel good about my contributions to the band like co-writing “Shifting through the lens” with Jeremy Inkle, but there was no room for a guy like me who has strong opinions and wanted to create the next evolution of electro-industrial music. Chris and I have a very democratic way of working together where the best idea wins and that’s that. Ohm is a place where we can do that and I don’t have a shred of regret about the way things turned out.

You guys met around 2005 whereas the first « Öhm » album got released in 2013. Why did it take so long?
Chris: It would take some time of course with both of our lives being pretty busy, and myself involved in a lot of production and touring still before we revisited the idea of becoming a two man band. When we finally did, it was as simple as sending Craig a one minute ambient sketch and getting something back resembling a proper song within an hour or so. That same instant chemistry was still there, and after many more file transfers we were off to the races as they say. With Craig in Victoria and me in Vancouver, our time together to work in the same room is very limited, so that lightning fast response time we have together when songwriting is very fortunate.

When I first played "Ohm" I was expecting some instrumental tracks in the likes of the latest Noise Unit records but I was amazed it had catchy vocals too on pretty much all of the tracks. How did that happen?
Chris: Craig drew the short straw on the vocals, but I had no intention of ever trying. That would be truly horrible (laughs). We do love instrumentals, but we also both love performing live, so having the vocal element was essential for sure. I just think it’s more of a fun challenge to incorporate that element in our music, it helps clearly convey the message of the piece and give people something more substantial to grab on to. We could probably write a lot more material if it was all instrumental too, but that’s not where our hearts are at right now. There’s just too much that needs saying, and I’m glad Craig is up to it.
Craig: I’ve been singing since I was a child, but I never saw myself as a singer of my own music. I felt my voice was too soft for the music that we were creating, and I had always thought that synthesizers were my only voice. So when I finally or should I say “accidentally” sang something in front of Chris I didn’t know that I’d get stuck with the job! Chris encouraging me to start this new journey as a vocalist has been a great gift that keeps on giving. It was something we discovered organically and has helped create the sound that is OHM and now OHMelectronic. We never planned it but sometimes life has a way of planning things for you that you don’t expect.

By the way I find « Godspeed » and « Redshift », the two short instrumental tracks on the record essential to the whole album concept. Do you have more of these in stock?
Chris:There’s bits here and there, but we are thrifty with our efforts when it comes to going from a little concept piece to deciding to go full on with production, so not much ends up in the storage bin. I agree that the instrumentals are very important in the album context. It gives the listener a chance to reset their ears and separates it into two separate ‘acts’. I find it less fatiguing, but that’s just what felt right for us, it’s not a one size fits all thing for every album. It would be fun to do more instrumental work for sure, but that’s something down the road when time allows.
Craig: Any great body of work or album is best served by being interesting and dynamic while maintaining a flow that pulls the listener along like a story. All of my favorite records have flow, even if it’s a collection of singles it has to take you somewhere. If you look back at both Chris and I’s respective music catalogues you will find that we have always used ambient pieces as a bridge between movements in a very traditional way. That ambient side will always be a component of our sound.

« There’s also just maintaining a balance in life, especially as I grow older, and having time to spend with my wife, friends and family which becomes more important as time seems to speed up and go by so quickly now. »
It's been four years between "Ohm" and "OHMelectronic". What kept you busy so much?
Chris: We make plans but life makes other ones sometimes. In that time I have lost two people very dear to me that I worked very closely with (Tod Law of Unit 187 and Jeremy Inkel of FLA). I’ve been working on assembling unfinished works for both of these two beautiful souls for those they left behind. Also, there has been the ever present struggle of just getting by, work stability and such, in what is now one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. I’m also involved in my other band projects, Decree and Living Room Project, with the other people in my creative circle that like Craig, are what’s keeping my head above water and my feet moving forward. There’s also just maintaining a balance in life, especially as I grow older, and having time to spend with my wife, friends and family which becomes more important as time seems to speed up and go by so quickly now.
Craig: A couple of things happened to us, individually and collectively. We’ve both had personal challenges to deal with and for me it was putting my children and my partner first during a difficult and important time in our lives. Family first, always. The second is that creating art doesn’t always happen when you want it to. We knew what we wanted to say and what that would sound like in our heads, but you can’t do it without songs. And good songs, they must be good songs. Chris and I are not interested in putting out an album that doesn’t challenge us or challenge our audience in a new way. As a singer and songwriter, I had to push in to new and uncomfortable territory just like the first record; Chris had the task of creating a new angle on our sound. I am pleased with the results, we found something new to say and a new way to say it.

Also, what happened to the "Uppercut" official video which was banned from YouTube a few months back and which just made it back?
Craig: It’s the strangest thing. We’re not sure if it was the footage itself or if it was the message of the song that got the complaint. The video had been out for over a year on YouTube on our channel without a complaint then suddenly one day it wasn’t there. I received an email from YouTube telling us that we had received a complaint about the video’s content. I mean it’s ridiculous because our videographer Joey Chaos of Bad/Good (longtime OHMelectronic photography/video collaborator) was made up of a lot of footage that was from the nightly news. YouTube put it in jail for 4 months or something and put it back online just in time for Christmas with no explanation.

I read that you needed to change the name of the band for the release of this new record because it was difficult to find anything about your band over the internet. I actually tried it and found out that there is another band called Ohm which is led by a former Megadeth guitarist. Did you receive any pressure to have the name changed? Is it easier with OHMelectronic now?
Chris: I just thought it needed a little tweak to make it more specific to us and our concept.
Craig: I think when we started, we had no idea just how many people out there were using Ohm as a moniker and after a while it became cumbersome. Searches for our music led to Chris Poland of Megadeaths band, a record label, multiple DJs….it was just too hard to find us on the internet with all the noise from people using the same name. We had already registered all our domains as “OHMelectronic”, so it felt like a natural evolution.

The more I listen to this new record and the more it makes me think it was actually built in order to leave even more space to the vocals which I feel are more in the foreground than it was given onto the first album. Is it the case or is it just me?
Chris: Yes, you are correct. There’s less background ambience and thus more space for vocal clarity. We both agreed that this time around we wanted to make a more aggressive record. We still like balance on an album in terms of not all the tracks being blistering and noisy, but we just wanted to be more ‘direct’ and focused as opposed to how much we “explored” on the previous album. With our first record, it was perfectly natural for us to explore all manner of song styles and push each other to see what we were capable of doing. Also, I’ll be very honest and just say I really wanted to make an album I can play insanely loud without causing blood to flow out my ears like Decree might, so there was a “less is more” approach to how many parts would be playing at once; for example let’s use four elements to execute one part as opposed to four separate ones doing different things and cluttering the mix. It was refreshing to simplify and intensify this time around.
Craig: When your first album turns out the way you hoped it to and is well received, you find yourself asking “what’s next? Where do we go from here?” Some bands have sustained themselves for decades putting out the same music over and over and that’s not us. So what now? We took some time to reflect on the first album, what we did like about it and what could we improve upon? I didn’t see myself as a front man for a band but that is what I became during the making of the debut Ohm album. For our second album, I wanted to challenge myself to write stronger songs that cut through and a more powerful vocal sound to match. The only way you can do that is by stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing your own limits. And just like the fist album, I realized very quickly how scary this was and I needed to find a way to make this drastic change. I had to find a way of developing a version of myself that could deliver these songs the way they needed to be performed. I took some tips from David Bowie and my own theatre experience from when I was younger to create a new version of myself that can perform this music, an alter ego of sorts. I don’t have to be Craig, I can be someone else. I started treating my voice like another synthesizer I could use to make a whole new palate of sounds for OHMelectronic and we discovered a whole new range of dynamics as a band.

There's a sense of rawness in your sounds, something quite abrasive to them which I believe makes them unique, as if it were punk-rock music played with machines or something. Having heard similar sounds on Decree and a few FLA records, I believe these are on Chris. How do you manage to do that?
Chris: I like how you phrased that and it’s a pleasant surprise to have somebody notice those details. Craig makes some nasty synth action too, but on my end it’s largely the use of my Doepfer A-100 system. It doesn’t do any one thing particularly well, but it’s a good foundation. From there it’s a matter of how I process it, running it through modified foot pedals, and effects. I’m very hands on as opposed to a softsynth guy. It takes longer, but I much prefer the results and sometimes the surprises that happen in the physical machines. Knowing some very basic electronics, like building an oscillator or a simple effect and then integrating it into the system is also very satisfying and certainly makes it your own too. Before I got the Doepfer setup, it was pretty much whatever I could get my hands on and find a way to twist it into something I felt was interesting to me. I like to remind people too that it doesn’t take the latest, greatest and most expensive gear either, just some patience, imagination, and hopefully friends that will lend you stuff too. Just for fun, the breakdown on the drums for “With » kick is a homemade oscillator lowered to single clicks, compressed, etc. and sampled. Hi hat is the Doepfer, and Craig added white noise as an open hat. The snare is the Doepfer again, and then a second layer comes in, which is made with the Arturia Mini Brute. That’s about as stripped down of a drum kit as I’ve ever used, and damn is it fun making synth drums. Doesn’t work on every track, but it suited this one perfectly.
Craig: I think the “punk-rock music played with machines” observation speaks to the fact that we are both headed in the same direction together and that is what makes OHMelectronic work. We agreed on where we wanted the music to go and set about developing our own ways of getting there, both individually and collectively. We’ve both spent our music careers taking the most minimal amount of gear and bending the machines to make them sound the way we want them to. We both LOVE riding the line between terrifying noise and beauty and we do it by working so closely that after a while the line is blurred and you don’t know who is creating what.

« I’ve been writing about these themes of alienation, war, human conflict and salvation my whole career. Even when I was only writing instrumentals, these themes seem to be ever present. I guess that just goes to show the more things change the more they stay the same. »
I might be wrong, but I feel that the lyrics in this new album are about fighting to find salvation in a world that's about to enter into a third world war and where common sense has gone, where alienation is the common human state. Craig, can you provide some hints on the lyrics and what inspires you when it comes to write lyrics?
Craig: You are correct on the theme of the lyrics though I have to say I feel like I’ve been writing about these themes of alienation, war, human conflict and salvation my whole career. Even when I was only writing instrumentals, these themes seem to be ever present. I guess that just goes to show the more things change the more they stay the same. All of my lyrics always have two sides to them. On one side, a public theme that people can understand that is less personal and more of a collective experience like war or conflict. On the other side, each of these songs is deeply personal and describes a part of my life that either is or has been in the past. Take a song like “Decline” for example: it is all at once about being in a controlling relationship while it is at the same time about how money controls our wants and destiny.

« it’s something we need to do to feed our souls. It’s a sacrifice for us every time we decide to make more art. If we judged our musical merit by our record sales we wouldn’t be doing it at all anymore. »
Both of you have been around for more than twenty years now. What does it take nowadays to keep a band going for several albums?
Chris: It’s actually been over thirty years now for me. Time really does fly. It’s not easy to have that balance. You have to really want to make and share music in a bad way to keep going. There were only brief stints where I could work on music all the time, but mostly I kept my day job, screenprinting until just last year. It allowed me to work on music for my own reasons and on my own terms and not take a gig only because I needed the money. Fatigue can really set in, but working with someone else means you have somebody pushing you when you might want to just watch TV and call it a day after a terrible shift. Your social life shrinks considerably too, so it takes some understanding and support from the people around you as well. So mostly it’s about your determination and how much you are willing to sacrifice to keep going. I have no intention of stopping, I love it too much.
Craig: It is a matter of will. I have a family and a full time job. Finding the space to write and perform, let alone market the music, book shows and tours, do interviews etc is very challenging. You must want it. For us, I don’t think we have much of a choice it’s something we need to do to feed our souls. It’s a sacrifice for us every time we decide to make more art. If we judged our musical merit by our record sales we wouldn’t be doing it at all anymore.

Lately I read that Bill Leeb said in an interview that in order to keep going as a band, touring was the essential key these days more than it ever used to be since less and less records were being sold. Do you agree with that?
Chris: I don’t think that’s true for every band. Each case is unique and people keep coming up with new ways to monetize their work besides touring. Myself, I just think in terms of wanting to play as much as possible, but there are many hurdles, especially in Canada. Our geography to population ratio makes it very hard for lesser known acts to do this. To play elsewhere you have the financial barrier of US permits and a border that feels more like a wall. Getting to Europe means expensive flights, but at least they welcome you there. So factor in time, rehearsals, lost wages for most people, small guarantees from clubs, stolen equipment sadly for many, insurance, transportation, meals and lodging, etc…it’s a wonder that it happens at all, and I salute those that pull it off without their parents footing the bill. If you want to get going and keep going as a band, write good material and hope that it leads to these doors and barriers coming down. For me, playing live and touring is a great reward for all the time and sacrifice put in, and you get to celebrate your accomplishments with the people that support you and care about your music. I hope with OHMelectronic we can do that as much as possible. Touring can sometimes test your limits and put a lot of stress on other aspects of your life as well, so everyone needs to find their own balance or it can all fall apart and then you’ve gotten nowhere.
Craig: I agree with Chris: every band and every situation is different. And maybe touring income for FLA is their new bread and butter. That said, that money is achieved more and more by established bands having newer bands buy on to their tours and other creative tactics that they didn’t used to have to resort to. And for these younger acts like us that creates a whole new set of hurdles in order to get your music to the public. The music industry, weather its labels or streaming services like Spotify is pretty broken at this point and requires a whole new approach and laws to reflect technology’s new delivery systems. Chris and I have only got as far as we have with OHMelectronic by being very creative in tackling these problems.

OHMelectronic first played Europe last year if I'm not wrong and I'd like to know whether some gigs are being prepared for some European festivals this coming summer?
Craig: We are putting together some shows in Europe as we speak but nothing firm that we can announce yet. We are expecting to be in Europe summer 2019. Festivals and promoters that are interested can contact us for booking at ohmelectronik@gmail.com

Are there any other projects that you’re currently working on these days?
Chris: Still working on Decree material but it’s been hard to keep momentum with it. Decree requires a secure space where we can get distressingly loud to record, and we’ve had a few situations come and go. Affordable space that isn’t absolutely disgusting and hazardous to your health is hard to come by in Vancouver these days. I’m also getting close to finishing the writing stage of a new “Living Room Project” album. The name is a reflection of what happens in my tiny apartment where all of my production work happens. Many an interesting character comes by in my creative circle and I enjoy tasking as many of them as possible with contributing a song or idea for it. My wife Kerry has taken the lead for vocal duties for this album, but Craig Jensen still chips in from Toronto since he moved there a year or so ago. So Kerry and I are more like the core this time around and she’s really stepped up and impressed me with her work. Some new contributors have really helped with keeping this one fresh too and full of surprises. It’s a lot of fun having a project like this that is essentially an open door for the people I really like being around, and they get a kick out of seeing the process of transforming rough jam sessions into finished works.
Craig: The last two years I’ve been consumed with pushing my skills as a vocalist for OHMelectronic so it feels like a good time to pivot and apply those new skills to other projects. I am at the demo stage for vocal duties again on the new Damage Control album for a couple of songs and I’m already developing new material with Colin Cameron Allrich of Slighter for a collaboration to be release some time in 2019. But what excites me the most beyond OHMelectronic is focusing back on my own solo projects for a bit. It’s been ten years since the last Landscaper Body Machine album so I’m feeling like it’s finally time to revisit LBM with new material and possibly the remastering of the 1st album. I’ve also been working away at another project for the last few years called Polaris that shows a much softer side of me both musically and vocally, kind of a Pet Shop Boys meets synthwave thing so we will see if that finally surfaces time willing.

« I was inspired by Skinny Puppy and Frontline etc because they were bands from my city who were successful and that made me feel like that was something I could achieve too, that I could have a career in music because they did. But the Vancouver of that time has long since passed. Vancouver is a very hard place to be a musician because it’s a long way to the next major Canadian city and the United States has become a place that is hostile to ALL foreign musicians. »
The industrial scene has always been so big in Vancouver with all the bands we all know from Skinny Puppy to FLA with Numb and many others. Do you guys have an idea what Vancouver has that is so special and that led to it all?
Chris: There was a great energy going on here in the 80’s and the city had a different vibe than it does today, and those bands you mention were all born of that time. Affordability played a large part in having a lot of creative people living in the city and doing their thing. Venues to rehearse, perform, or have exhibitions, never mind a place to live and work goes a long way to having a strong creative core and support network for artists. I don’t really think the industrial scene is as big here as people think though, especially now as the city has become too expensive for most artists, and venues close their doors and become condos for foreign investment. I’m proud of how many of my fellow Vancouverites, and Canadians have done so well on the world stage however, and it’s hard to explain why we have so many notable artists beyond talking at great length about what it’s like to live here. I do think the Canadian experience builds character in a unique way and you would be well served to spend some time here.
Craig: I feel like I came in to the Vancouver music scene in the final chapters of that story. I was inspired by Skinny Puppy and Frontline etc because they were bands from my city who were successful and that made me feel like that was something I could achieve too, that I could have a career in music because they did. But the Vancouver of that time has long since passed. Vancouver is a very hard place to be a musician because it’s a long way to the next major Canadian city and the United States has become a place that is hostile to ALL foreign musicians. Adding to this is the fact that Vancouver has become one of the most expensive cities to live in the world, artists can no longer afford to support themselves in such an environment. I’ve lived in Victoria for a decade now because Vancouver became wholly unaffordable for me to raise my children.

Is there any special record from 2018 that you found greater than any other or that you found inspiring?
Chris: No, for my own listening I go back in time more and more now. The old industrial and electronic classics, or Blues, Big band, etc., but the odd new thing pops up once in a while thanks to friends who point me to things like Sleaford Mods, which makes me smile. The music is simple and, in my eyes, says “this is all you deserve”, and the words are hilarious, even if my British is a little rusty, but for a certain type of bad mood I get in sometimes, it cheers me up to hear someone just open up and haul off on things. Anything with a soul is nice and refreshing instead of a bunch of buzzing hyperactive softsynths and mashed up A.D.D. beats or the Halloween acts that you can literally pave the streets with these days.
Craig: “7” by Beach House is a great record and they absolutely killed it live, one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages. They’ve been one of my favorite acts over the last couple of years. I’m also big in to Bossa Nova at the moment, I can’t get enough Gilberto in my life! And swing of course. I laugh to think of the difference between what the fans imagine we listen to and what we actually listen to. People always picture us lighting shit on fire and hitting oil drums when we’re usually sipping on a drink, riffing on Tommy Dorsey or Benny Goodman.