Karl Learmont aka ‘Zoog Von Rock’, better known as Angelspit last year released the new album “Bang Operative” (Black Pill Red Pill). It’s a kind of conceptual work inspired by the early synth-wave sound of 1978-1981. Zoog Von Rock who got the help of a few contributors transposed that influence into a new and heavy production, which I like to call ‘cyber-punk’ or ‘cyber-rock’. But in the end it’s pure electronic-anarchy. Zoog always is a fascinating artist to interview so here’s what he has to say about this new production.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: I remember after the release of your previous full length “Black Dog Bite” you claimed it was your ’most highly produced album to date’. So it must have been a serious challenge to start working and achieving this new album and what would you say about “Bang Operative” right now?
ZOOG: A lot of thought went into “Bang Operative”. I released each track on my Patreon first, and asked for feedback. The Patreon supporters helped shape the album. (I gave out a bunch of free copies to them as a thank you). It was awesome to build an album like this -it’s a completely new process for me. I try and make each album different. Different approach to composition, lyrics, sound design, synth programming, drums and production. I cannot constantly churn out genre specific albums – that is so boring to me, it’s just not Rock’n’Roll. I’ve changed, my audience has changed, the world has changed… I try to be inspired our collective experience and we all grow together.
“Black Dog Bite” was focused on production. “Bang Operative” is more about overall mood. Dark, grand, cold and tense. The objective with “Bang Operative” is to create something new -to evoke new imaginations and emotions in the listener. The challenge was to produce something that promoted an emotional response -not just make people want to dance.
Q: On the “Black Dog Bite”-album you focalized on the cyber-punk sounds of 1988 to 1992, even using synths from that era. “Bang Operative” is now influenced by the early synth-wave sound of 1978 to 1981. What do you especially like from that era and how did you incorporate the influences in your work?
ZOOG: “Black Dog Bite”’s late 80s early 90s industrial sound had no rules, no bigoted genre, just a tribe exploring and supporting something new. It was a similar vibe in 1978 to 1981 -it was a golden era for synthesized music. Synthesizers were becoming more affordable to more sonic explorers. There were no rules. New labels were emerging to support the new audiences who had an unquenchable thirst for this new synthesized sound.
This booming new micro-economy allowed awesome new sounds to thrive. Bands could experiment because they were not tied down to genre labels -they were inventing the genre as they went -such an inspiring time!
Bands from this era was punk. They were rough and unpolished. This raw aggression is what I am always aiming towards.
I try and capture the sound from this period in “Bang Operative”. Old synthesizers playing huge sonic clouds -as thick as LA smog. Lyrics and moods are more reflective and melancholy.
Q: Talking about influences, you’re living in Los Angeles (USA) so does this place has an impact on your work as musician and your career globally speaking?
ZOOG: LA’s influence is huge. The people and politics are greatly shaping my music. There are many songs which celebrate New-York, Berlin, London… but not many songs that celebrate LA. The lyric that best sums up LA is when Tool said ‘learn to swim’.
Q: The early 80s was important for the further development of electronic music because of the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) that was progressively used by electronic musicians. It for sure remains one of the major ‘technical’ evolutions in the history of electronic music. What can you say about it and can you also mention specific instruments from that era, which had a great influence on your own work?
ZOOG: MIDI is a curse and a blessing! The politics
behind it are insane… almost funny. MIDI definitely revolutionized the way
music is made. I made a video about it recently -it’s history, how I use it. I
posted it on my Patreon:
Most of my studio uses old-school analog CV/GATE voltage signals to communicate with all the synths. I love old gear and am the proud owner of 2 Jupiter 8s, a Prophet 5 and a barrage of other old synths. I also love modular synths -I have been collecting synths for over 30 years. My weakness is old samplers -particularly the EMAX by the US Company E-mu -I own 4. They have a wonderful sound. It’s gritty and crunchy with lovely analogue filters. It creates wonderful soundscapes and adds great character to the tracks. These old machines can be tedious to work with, you need to spend time to create sounds. However the time spent on sound creation greatly shapes the production process and therefore the sound.
I doubt I could be what I do if I used plug-in synths. Old synths add so much character to the music. They greatly influence each album!
Q: You might be inspired by past electronic movements and eras, your music to me remains a kind of ‘electronic anarchy’! Does this ‘description’ fit to your own vision of electronic music and purposes in the release of your albums?
ZOOG: ‘Electronic Anarchy’ -LOVE IT! That definitely fits describes what I am trying to do. Electronic music can be very tame and lifeless -it’s important to push the boundaries to create something new. An electronic musician must challenge themselves first. Be inspired by Bowie -each album must push something different. An artist’s music must grow and adapt like the artist does to life.
Q: How do you see your further evolution as musician/artist and what do you expect from further & main evolutions in electronic music?
ZOOG: There is so much territory to explore! If you get a chance, check out ANGELSPIT’s Patreon -we are secretly testing ANGELSPIT’s new album there. Hard, darker, faster. If “Bang Operative” is a flying car from 2019, this new material is a bastardized V8 charger from the beyond the waterless apocalypse.
Ten years ago most people did not absorb music on an iPhone. They listened on a dedicated stereo system. That stereo system was sonically superior to an iPhone and could produce both higher and lower frequencies more accurately -bass that could loosen floorboards. These days an album MUST be produced to be iPhone friendly, as most people will hear it on that device -usually without headphones. As a result, music production has been forced to change… or if they are headphones, they are buds which have a terrible sonic response. The challenge is to create something that will sound massive on all systems. Increasingly I need to make the music less dense, as rich thick complex music does not work on a mobile device.
Funny, we though cyber-punk would be this huge movement that would free us… but instead it’s trapped us in a mall, forced to watch Disney on a tiny screen, while the ‘great algorithm’ feeds us what it deems fit for us.
I’ll be using a sledgehammer on the next album…
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