My preference for talking to interesting, progressive bands within what we do continues this week with Canadian industrialists Encephalon, as they prepare to release their third album We Only Love You When You’re Dead.
Talk Show Host: 039: Encephalon
Encephalon on amodelofcontrol.com
Talk Show Host: 2017
I’ve been quite the fan for a while, as have my friends over at I Die: You Die (the band’s first two albums being #1 and #2 on the respective end of year lists, and they were #18 and #25 on this site), their unusual, punchy take on electro-industrial sounding very different to their peers.
Their third album is once again a dense, striking listen, so I caught up with Matt Gifford from the band over e-mail to discuss it. One interesting thing from it was that the creative tension and differences highlighted here perhaps help explain the band’s often changeable sound.
amodelofcontrol.com: There seems to be a sci-fi related concept to the new album (although I must confess I’ve not worked it out myself yet). What’s the thinking behind such a concept?
Matt Gifford / Encephalon: It’s like a Frankenstein story set in the near future, so it encompasses a lot of classic sci-fi tropes with the negative aspects of modern society. It’s basically about some type of modern day artist who creates purely for the joy of creation, dies, becomes posthumously famous, and is (through super cool science that I don’t/can’t explain) resurrected unwillingly to fulfill societies fanatical need for nostalgia and icons. Now, the ultimate breed of science and media he becomes the most famous person on earth but rejects the corporate spokesman life he has been assigned, and the world turns on him as he is not the perfect idol they had dreamt up.
Matt Gifford / Encephalon: I have made a bunch of psychedelic videos and live visuals for our songs in the past but the amount of time it takes for me to create is insane versus the response they have gotten. I also don’t really want to be a “content creator” depending on creating weekly content for patreon support. I know what I am good at, so I want to focus all of my time of writing/singing/producing/performing music, but if I ever had the proper budget and access to various multimedia artists then I would love to create a huge visual presentation of our music. Like some kind of futuristic musical, with intensely psychedelic projection mapping, creating different sets and visuals and telling a story with a gigantic sound system crushing out our jams. Maybe an orchestra. And a lot of dancers…
amodelofcontrol.com: The band have returned to Artoffact Records to release your third album, after the second was released by Dependent, and indeed this third album seems to me to have a similar, snappier sound to the debut. Why make the change back?
Matt Gifford / Encephalon: Our first album was signed by Dependent and licensed to Artoffact, so we got to work with both labels extensively. and the promotion and response was way better than I ever imagined. As the music industry evolved it has become much less common for bands of our ilk to get extra licensing deals like that, so by the time our second album came out we had to choose one label or the other. I went with Dependent because they are a legendary label who had given us the opportunity to make the first album, and I wanted to stay loyal for at least another album. Psychogenesis was a weird-ass second album, and it probably wasn’t an easy sell but it felt like when it came out there wasn’t as much of a buzz about it, especially not in Canada. I really like the Artoffact dudes and they are much more accessible to me being fellow Canadians, and I feel like they can help out with more opportunities that are more accessible.
amodelofcontrol.com: You’ve made great use of vocal treatments across your work so far, were there practical or stylistic reasons for this?
Matt Gifford / Encephalon: Practical at first because I had no confidence in my vocal abilities but really enjoy melodic and rhythmic vocals that feel like they are telling a story. I discovered midi-controlled vocoders and pitch correctors when they were still fairly new, so I had a good grasp on vocal engineering right out of the gate. As time went on I tried a lot of different vocal styles and eventually found a few I could sing without too many effects, so we have always had a few songs per album that doesn’t rely on pitch correction. On this album I wanted some of them to be really brutal and anguished where the vocals were done in one take, but running through a big effect chain that guaranteed a warped unpredictable sound, however others were scrutinized and processed heavily. I have a few different characters that Alis and I are portraying on this album, and I aimed for the processing to apply to each narrative.
amodelofcontrol.com: The title track has what feels like a Wagnerian pomp to it, not an influence I’m often bringing to mind in industrial.
Matt Gifford / Encephalon: I just love epic and dark music, I think it’s always been there in our sound. If anything the classical elements are scaled back on this album from Psychogenesis, but perhaps my programming of all the samples has gotten better. I love writing in odd time signatures and having songs with a lot of elements that build up and disintegrate, along with the wealth of vocal processing it creates the sound I want, but also kind of what comes naturally for some reason.
amodelofcontrol.com: In a totally different direction, the following track Lunacy has an almighty drop, delivered not unlike CHVRCHES Clearest Blue. That’s quite the spread of influences, there – Prussian classical, to British electropop, via classic electro-industrial.
Matt Gifford / Encephalon: That is the most perfect example of the contrasts between Sam’s production style and my own. Most of our big club jams like Lunacy start out as a simple EBM song, that I write and record vocals on, and send Sam a very basic remix kit to work with…and then he takes it and gives it an enormous electro dance sound. He has always had a MUCH better ear for modern electronic music than I have, and I’m always amazed by what he comes up with. Songs like Illuminate, Starscorch, Drop Dead, and the album version of Limb From Limb really show off his huge floor pounding style. The stupidly epic slow build songs like Killing Horizon, Puppetry, Nephilim (Parts 1 and 2) and the title track (from all three albums) are better examples of the songs I produce independently. But there is a crossover anyways, as we hang out and listen to each others mixes and suggest stuff as we go.
amodelofcontrol.com: You’ve been around for some time now, but took a great many years to get to the first EP and album (I remember hearing an early version of Teenage Hitman on a Glitch Mode compilation as long ago as 2006 or so – which I perhaps unfairly dismissed on But Listen: 020). Was it a case of honing your sound first before unleashing more?
Matt Gifford / Encephalon: I think our earliest demos still hold up! [amodelofcontrol.com: So do I, in hindsight] We had a few labels interested back then but twice we had them close up shop so we had to keep looking. I eventually went back to school for a bit so that was another setback. In 2009 we self released a few of the songs that had been floating around as the Drowner EP. We likely have enough material from 2005-2011 to make a double album…
amodelofcontrol.com: How did the band initially form, and did you have a style or mission statement in mind from the off?
Matt Gifford / Encephalon: Sam and I have been writing music together since grade 8, writing music is my favorite thing in the world.