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read our review of Transmission by voice industrie in our archives 

~interview by Adrian
(photos courtesy of the voice industrie website)

It seems that over the past three years, many electronic acts have gone two ways …. Synth pop or techno. Much of what we see within these realms are bastardizations of what was once pure and simple, but lately, we have seen a new era coming about. One that takes the elements of both and creates in itself a new form of sounds, one that takes that step and risk to merge the scenes together, to push the proverbial envelope of what “should and shouldn’t” be as far as the rules go within the scenes. This is a good thing. Too many groups are afraid of what will be thought of them if the (gasp and cover mouth) “sound techno”, which in my eyes is totally silly and they deserve to stay in that void that they place themselves in. Voice Industrie is not one of these groups, but they are ground breakers who have taken that envelope and not only pushed it, but have rearranged it like a origami swan, and they deserve MAJOR props for what they are doing and have achieved over the past decade. Haven’t heard of them? My, my, my……..time to be educated. May I present to you, out of Canada, ladies and gentlemen…..Voice Industrie.

StarVox: Give us a brief history of Voice Industrie.

voice industrie: Basically, it evolved out of a project called "Boys in Factories", an electro dance project started by two keyboardists and myself in 1989. After the addition of a second drummer and my migration from the drum kit to front-man/vocalist, we took to the stage for the first time in 1992 as voice industrie. Over the course of 11 years, v.i. has ventured into different areas of electronic dance music. but the concept is pretty much the same now as it was then, and that is to release music on CD, take slightly re-worked versions of that music out to live audiences and provide a (hopefully) entertaining show.

SV: What kind of philosophy do you have with the band and your music?

VI: I don't profess to be able to write powerful lyrics, so voice industrie isn't out to influence or amaze anyone. The themes of the songs are mostly based on situations that human beings are faced with on a daily basis. some desperate, some tragic, and some good. I try to offer my interpretations of those situations in hopes that they will be exposed, understood and maybe even corrected or alleviated. I think people extract their own interpretations from the songs, which I think is great! Personally, as an artist the most difficult question to answer is "what does this song mean?". or "what is this about?" I usually turn the question back to the person asking what he or she thinks instead and agree with them. It's easier that way, and I don't get in to this long drawn out and boring explanation trying to defend my reasons for choosing the particular topic to write about.

SV: Who are your current members?

VI: The band has been compared to Nine Inch Nails in that I basically do all the writing and producing, then rely on players to support the live show. Fran Tetrault (keyboards) came in to replace the two original keyboard players in 1995 just ten days prior to our anatomie CD release show. We did numerous shows as a duo until Shaen H joined us in 1998 to shore up the keyboards and provide another live presence on the stage. At one point, we experimented with a female vocalist, but things didn't work out. I wanted to push the band into new areas but eventually realized that a female voice was going to change things a bit too radically. and I wasn't prepared to accept that. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the female voice in electronic music. but I just couldn't see it become a major piece of the voice industrie sound.

SV: You have been around it seems from the amount of time the band has been alive. How have the styles of music developed over the past ten years in your eyes?

VI: I believe an artist is the product of his or her environment. and I think the changes in style you speak of are basically the results of those artists creating music by listening to what others are doing, interpreting and reworking those ideas to make them work for themselves. possibly creating a new genre in the process. The styles have all evolved in this way. and I hope it continues. If we all just remained static and never ventured beyond the invisible borders of particular genres, electronic music would get boring awfully fast.

SV: You have seen the early days of the "rave" scene and the techno explosion and even opened up for a few live techno PA's. How has this influenced your style and sound?

VI: As much as I love house and rave music, I've never really wanted voice industrie to reproduce it. I've always felt that this type of music belongs in clubs to be played very loud to a group of sweating bodies tripping out to it under the influence of the prescribed drug. There are plenty of artists doing it, and doing it very well. I'd be honored to hear v.i. at a rave, but I wouldn't be disappointed if I didn't. It's just not that type of music. The v.i. sound has gone from one of a vocally driven harder-edged barrage of beat-filled rhythms and melodies to one that is still beat-filled but smoother, more musically prominent and less harsh. Dynamics and complex rhythms still play lead roles in the new music as in the older stuff. I think the newest v.i. offering "Transmission" encompasses elements of both the old and new sound, and is the CD that best depicts the transition I made to writing longer and more "balanced" tracks. I find now that some of earlier works tend to be too "quirky" in that the changes within the songs are too dramatic, too cutting. I've gotten criticism for the lack of this "edge" in the new stuff. so I guess you can't please everyone. The next album is gearing up to be much more aggressive than Transmission, so we will see what happens.

SV: What is the process you use to write your music? What kind of influences do you look for?

VI: It varies. sometimes inspiration comes from something I hear on an album, or from something I listen to very loud in a club. I sometimes find myself jamming vocally or just humming abstract melodies over top something blaring out at a thousand watts while I trip out on the dancefloor. it gives me ideas and feeds my addiction to loud pounding beats. Earlier on, most of my ideas began as drum patterns that I'd hammer out on the pads, and I'd build from there. Layer by layer the songs would evolve. I now approach the process from a different perspective in that I refrain from using drum patterns as the foundation for songs. This is more challenging, but the material will tend to sound less repetitive and more dynamic and flowing. I have only ever written one song around a vocal or lyrical idea, as I don't see myself as a very good lyricist. At this point, music is THE important ingredient for me, and vocals are kind of just there to fill things in. Transmission has far less vocals on it than the older stuff did. but I may have more to say in future offerings. who knows.

SV: Who are your greatest influences over the past decade?

VI: I think if you heard any "Boys In Factories" stuff and early voice industrie you would hear a heavy Gary Numan influence. then of course came the comparisons to Depeche Mode with the release of "psychotica" in 1992 and "the anatomie" in 1995. With "Transmission", I have yet to hear what we are being compared to now. My first taste of electronics in music came way back on my 15th birthday when I got a Pink Floyd album entitled "Obscured by Clouds" which blew me away. I became fascinated by the electronic sounds and wanted so much to hear more of them, thus I was led to bands that used electronics in their music, which included pretty much every 70's art-rock group such as Yes, Genesis, King Crimson. Later on came Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Depeche, Front 242. and now I find the likes of Fluke, Underworld and Banco De Gaia to be some of my "go-to" artists for inspiration. I like Curve a lot, Massive Attack, Prodigy, and still like the mainstays of the past but don't really draw much from any of them anymore.

SV: Who have you toured with?

VI: Does opening for 2-Unlimited count? (LOL) We have yet to actually "tour" with anyone. We've opened for Cassandra Complex and several other acts, but never really left the confines of the city yet. I'm rather leery about doing that. I've heard so many horror stories about bands getting screwed while on the road that the thought of going on a tour is not a high priority. Given the nature of the music industry and the predominance of "ex used car salesmen" that populate desks professing to be agents and AR people, I remain tentative to venture out anytime soon. Despite this, I would love to go to Europe for a month or two, and maybe the West coast. If I knew all the people involved in the setting up of a tour, then maybe I'd feel more apt to take the show on the road. I have yet to be convinced that this would be a good thing for me. Unless we headline, I doubt I'd be content with the outcome. Warm up bands have always been discriminated against in that their volume is always turned down, their light show subdued, and no matter what happens they always get stiffed by a short set limitation. Fuck that. If we venture anywhere, it will be to play a minimum 90-minute show with as much sound, lighting, and value for the dollar as possible. I suppose it sounds arrogant, but that's how I feel about it.

SV: Any collaborations?

VI: Not with voice industrie, no. I did use words from poems written by an ex-band member's sister on a couple occasions, but that is about as close as I've come to collaborating with anyone. When I was drumming for bands in the past, I used to convey my ideas to the other guys and we'd write stuff. but I found that my ideas didn't get transcribed as I'd imagined. Very frustrating. Thus, my move to electronic keyboards that provided me with the means to do things on my own. This continues to work very well for me because I am a control freak and find it difficult to share my ideas or rely on anyone to get the job done. I'd rather just develop everything on my own then present the finished work to the players for them to learn their respective parts. If I were to collaborate with anyone, it would be with people I have utmost respect for, but even then, the "individuality" of the ideas would tend to get lost or watered down in the other person's interpretations. It wouldn't be so bad if I weren't so passionate about what I write, but I am.

SV: How is the scene in Canada? How does it differ from those in the US or overseas?

VI: I think Canadian electro artists are highly regarded everywhere except in Canada. I really don't know why this local snubbing occurs, but with an obvious lack of promotion and support of the genre by SOCAN and other music services and organizations, it's no wonder. We will sell 20 times more CDs in Europe at any given moment than we would here in our homeland. Here, we have pockets of dedicated supporters of the genre scattered about the country, but the scene is basically underground. I can't see this changing anytime soon. unless the government suddenly declares pop, rock and country music illegal to own. I don't really know how it is in the States, but I assume it is the same situation.

SV: With the synth-pop explosion that is happening now, do you think this will help you or are you trying to steer away from that style all together?

VI: I'm not really steering toward or away from any particular style, and trends come and go all the time. It would be a mistake to try and "catch the wave" because your sound would get old very fast. And, deliberately going the opposite route simply to counter-act the trend and fill a void might throw you into unknown territory, possibly forcing you to abandon your original aspirations and alienating you from your followers. You'd always be trying to catch up too. I think that maintaining one's own direction despite what happens around is the best route to follow.

SV: I have read that people use to compare you to Depeche Mode. Care to go into how this myth was started?

VI: At first, I was honoured and quite happy for us to be compared to such masters of electronic music. so I began describing our music in such a way that Depeche fans might recognize in hopes of attracting them to our shows. As it turns out, this was a mistake. Accusations of "DM wannabe's" and "rip-off artists" began coming our way. We had to defend ourselves time and time again in interviews. What people didn't understand is that it was NEVER our intention to copy DM in any way shape or form. We were just using DM as a guiding light that pointed the way to the style of music we did. Nothing more. Frankly, I don't think I sound anything like Dave Gahan, either. Nor do I want to. There already is a Dave Gahan, and a Depeche Mode. Still, I am the target of false accusations of wanting to be a Dave Gahan clone. Hopefully this will all go away soon. I'm hoping that with the release of subsequent albums, people will accept us as voice industrie. period.

SV: Do you think that the collaboration of techno and industrial that is happening so often now is a positive growth for both scenes?

VI: Yes, definitely. Globally, I see hardcore fans of the genres getting upset and complaining because bands or DJ's who used to serve up the "bread and butter" industrial or techno are now expanding into other areas and offering something new. Good. Change promotes longevity. Not so good for the hardcore follower of the industrial bands wanting to hear the same puppy-esque distorted vocals and grinding riffs until the end of time or the raver who has to contend with vocals and aggression in his music now. These people have to learn to accept change. Otherwise, electro music will stagnate and will die out.

SV: How is your relationship with Inter-Dimensional Industries?

VI: Generally, I am very happy with them. I.D.I. is a small label led by a hard working individual that makes things happen despite a next to non-existent operating budget. Barring any major catastrophes, I am prepared to release the next two v.i. albums with them. I just wish they had financial resources available allowing them to establish themselves firmly as serious contenders in the marketplace. In the meantime though, they do what they can with what they have. and they do it very well.

SV: You have the patience of a saint when it comes to holding on and getting your name out. What was the hardest part over the past ten years?

VI:  About six years ago when it became evident that I wasn't about to become a musician by trade any time soon. That affected my behavior, and how I approached things that involved the band. Early on, I had great expectations; I'd hoped that I could eventually earn an income by writing songs for voice industrie. I'd have time to develop my ideas, without having to worry about working at some mindless job just to pay the bills. I'd release an album every 18 months, and play live about 4 to 5 times a year. So much for that great idea. Now, I am quite content to accept things as they come without any expectations, and am happy just to be able to find the odd moment of serenity to allot to writing music. It seems I have less time commit to the band, with my real job getting in the way more and more. but every available second I get to do music is welcomed.

SV: What kind of advice would you give to those who are also still waiting to break through but close to giving up?

VI: Be patient. If something is meant to be, it will happen. Be proactive, keep on making noise, and don't form any expectations. Accept what you do as the best you can do. Most of all, have fun! Enjoy what you do. If you are merely in this for the money or whatever, you'll get discouraged real fast. If you don't enjoy yourself, then what is the point?

SV: If each of your band mates were muppets, who would you all be?

VI: I'll probably regret this. but I'd be Kermit, Fran would be Beaker, and Shaen would be... Ummmm... hmmmm... I don't know, I still haven't nailed him down.

SV: Who is your favorite visual artist? Favorite director, Favorite writer?

VI: Ridley Scott, David Lynch, and Arthur C Clarke have all left lasting impressions on me.

SV: What has been your best live performance?

VI: Playing "in the round" on a circular stage at the center of a planetarium under a laser light show immersed in crystal clear sound.

SV: Any plans for a tour anytime soon?

VI: No. See above for explanation :-p

SV: When should we be expecting another cd from you?

VI: "power" should be out in the fall or winter of 2001, but the "psychotica" re-release will be out this summer.

SV: Strange Brew or Kids in the Hall?

VI: Both, but kids by a margin.

SV: Thanks for your time. It was a pleasure! Any final words?

VI: Thanks for the opportunity to do this. Best wishes in all your endeavors.

V.I. is:
            Alan Levesque
            Francis Tétrault
            Shaen H

Label: Interdimensional Industries 
Contact info: teknik14@oanet.com 
Website: www.voiceindustrie.com