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Soul Is In The Software [2002-02-03]

One of the leading acts in the Norwegian EBM scene is without doubt Icon Of Coil. Currently the band is working hard on the follow-up to the highly successful debut full-length album "Serenity Is The Devil". So far only the album title is revealed, "Soul Is In The Software", but I had the opportunity to talk to Sebastian Komor to ask him some questions...

First a little history. Icon Of Coil was formed by Andy LaPlegua as a 1-man project back in 1998. Sebastian wasn't in the band back then tough. "For me it all started back in 1989 with a crappy keyboard and an unreliable 4-track tape recorder. Iíd just started to listen to electronic music, and wanted to create as well. Back then I released some demo tapes under the name Melt and I got two tracks on the Norwegian "Psychoactivated" compilation." At that time, Andy had been active in several bands already. Law (Detroit / old school hip hop) was the first one he was involved in, followed by D.I.C. (Devils Into Crime), which he joined in 1991. The band played industrial but changed into the punk-rock band My Right Choice. Sebastian tells: "A few years later, right after Iíve started on some Trance/Club tracks, Andy and I hooked up to work on some trance tracks. That was the start of Sector9 (now renamed to Moonitor). Andy started working on some tracks for a project he called Icon Of Coil. Back then I wasnít that involved in Icon Of Coil, but after the release of "Shallow nation", we both started working together. Our different musical backgrounds fitted well in Icon Of Coil. From then I became the main programmer and producer. Andy wrote the lyrics, together we wrote the songs. This is the set-up we have today as well." Soon it became clear that the band needed more members to set up a live show. Christian Lund, member since April 2000 is apparently also seen as a "real" member now: "Christian is also getting more involved in the studio. Doing backing vocals, sharing ideas and giving criticism." The female part of the band is filled in by Benedicte Sveinsson (live keyboards and backing vocals). The first single was released in February 2000 "Shallow Nation", followed by the EP "One Nation Under Beat" and the full-length "Serenity Is The Devil" later that year. The latest output, "Seren E.P.", was released in May 2001.

When listening to Icon Of Coil's music, one can hear that the music has some synth-pop influences, combined with harder techno beats. Synth-pop is a popular music style, but did Sebastian expect the success they have today? "Never. That is something one cannot imagine. I mean, we just make music the way we like it, and when we get good feedbacks from people, that just makes it all feel worthwhile. The thing for us has always been about doing things the way we want it. Itís essential for us to have control of it all. Success or not, we would still do our thing." Sebastian mentioned "control of it all" here. Is that why he produces the releases himself? "Itís absolutely necessary for us to have total control. Not only in the music but also when it comes to cover design, merchandise and stuff like that. Nothing gets through us without our approval. But then again you have the internet, witch is hard to control. Mastering is the only thing we let the "professionals" take care of." But is there still room for improvement? "We are never 100% satisfied. I can think of a lot of stuff we could have done different and better on "Serenity Is The Devil" and the EPs. But I would freak out if we felt that weíve just created the perfect song. Then the whole point of making more would kind of disappear, if you know what I mean. There would be no goals to reach. We always explore new ways of doing things, new sounds, grooves, and to find new ways of combining things. I think thatís the only way to stay creative and innovative. Preset is banned in our studio. Sometimes I can sit for three hours, creating a bass with the right sound and vibe. When it comes to the new album, there will be more experimenting with sounds and fx. A bit more distorted sound, but still melodic and moody."

Let's hear what Sebastian can tell us more about the new album "Soul Is In The Software": "The release date is set to 15th April 2002, if everything goes as planned. Things are a bit difficult now when Andy moved to Germany, and Iím sitting in Fredrikstad producing the songs. But thereís a lot of ideas going, 5 songs are almost finished. Expect massive basslines, groovy drumtracks and melodic vocals. So thereís some of the vibe from "Serenity Is The Devil", but things have evolved a lot. Itís hard to explain it from my point of view. The album will contain more variations in style and song writing than on "Serenity Is The Devil": everything from 90 to 145 BPM, noisy and dreamlike." The club friendly music has always been popular when played live. Is there another tour planned when the album is out? "We are going on a Europe tour sometime in may2002, and after that, USA. Weíre also going to have a new set up on stage, and our own light production. Our light engineer Jokke, is in the process of designing our new light show. He`s doing a great job, things will be more complete on stage. So stay tuned for tour dates." Playing live is apparently important for the band: "Playing live is very important for us. To reach out to the audience, be on stage and feel the energy from the crowd, is a feeling we canít be without. To meet new people and hear that they enjoyed our show, is sometimes the thing that get us up on a bad day. And we DO play live. That is essential for us. Once we did a show without sound on the keyboards, due to some technical problems. The worst gig ever. And I think people appreciate that we play live, and not faking."

Icon Of Coil more or less leads the current EBM scene in Norway together with Apoptygma Berzerk. On the Apoptygma Berzerk album "Welcome To Earth" the track "Starsign" was partly programmed by Icon Of Coil. Time for Stephan Groth to do something back? "Actually I produced the track "Suffer In Silence" for the new Apoptygma Berzerk album "Harmonizer" (due to be released 25 February 2002)", Sebastian answers. "Stephan asked me if I was interested and got the time to work on it, and since I liked the track, it happened Iím currently also working on a remix of the same track. I donít know about further collaborations in the future. Maybe, if time is on our side." Talking about remixes... Icon Of Coil have done some, including Theatre Of Tragedy's "Lorelei" but also music that is more in the same style as Icon Of Coil. I was wondering how they pick the songs to remix... "Well, usually the label or the bands themselves contact us to do a remix. If we got the time and we like the track, weíll usually do it. Thereís actually been a lot of remixes lately. VNV Nation "Genesis", De-Vision-Heart "Shaped Tumour", Stromkern "Perfect Sunrise", Count To Infinity "Undertow" and Crusiform Injection "Breaking Skies". To remix a track is usually a lot of fun. We totally let go of all rules and just get a groove going, and make the vocals fit and just turn those knobs and use anything that feels right. But these days we have to work on the new album, so remixes have to wait right now.

Icon Of Coil have been on the Tatra label since the beginning, one of the biggest distribution companies in Norway for alternative music. It did not only help Apoptygma Berzerk and Icon Of Coil to reach the status they have today, but also has varied divisions, including the black metal label Moonfog. How did Icon Of Coil end up with Tatra? "Our first manager Atle Marcussen, knew Tormod in Tatra. He sent a CD with some tracks to him. Thatís how it started." Apoptygma Berzerk recently left Tatra to work with the relatively small underground label Hard:Drive. What's up for Icon Of Coil? "Now after 4 releases, things are changing, both in how we think and what we want. Tatra has done a great job for us."

A popular questions in an interview: where does the inspiration come from and what bands do you listen to yourselves? "These days Iím into bands like Underworld, Hardfloor, Leftfield, Timo Maas, Orbital, Juno Reactor, Fear Factory, Orb and Prodigy. Andy and Christian listen to basically the same stuff, except from Andy, heís also into noise and stuff like that. Christian is also into the 80`s stuff. But artistís that influenced us back then were acts like Frontline Assembly, Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, Depeche Mode, Jean Michel Jarre and bands like that. Frontline Assembly is still the band is respect the most in the EBM/industrial scene. They have always been years ahead, when it comes to sounds and programming." Icon Of Coil is not present on this list. Do you listen to your own releases, Sebastian? "When it comes to listening to our own music, well, after being in the studio for weeks and hearing the same song over and over again, we tend to get totally sick of our songs. But after a while we may sit down in the studio, putting on the album, and listen through it."

It still seems that Norway, the country where Icon Of Coil originates from, is one of the most interesting countries when it comes to music. Is it the environment, climate, or what? "A lot of people are asking us about the scene in Norway, especially in Fredrikstad.Hard to say why all these bands come from the same city. What can I say, the electro scene in Fredrikstad has always been good. Everybody knows everybody in the scene.Weíre like family, hanging out at the same places, going to the same parties. APB`s, IOC`s, Echo Image`s and Sweep`s studios are at the most 10 minutes walking distance from eachother. Small town we live in. I think the main reason for the explosion of successful bands from Fredrikstad, is that most of the guys here listen to a lot of different music styles, not only EBM or synthpop. This way we are open minded when it comes to creating music. Using elements from a lot of different styles." Any new good bands coming? "New bands, well, there is a band called Spektralized witch just got signed to Hard: Drive. Also from Fredrikstad. Iím going to work with them as a producer on their album, out sometime in April2002. They got some really good songs going. A good mixture between EBM and synthpop. Absolutely recommended." And this ends the interview. Many thanks to Sebastian for answering my questions. Follow the link to the Icon Of Coil websitehere (only in German unfortunately) for more information.

Justin Faase
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