British formation Cubanate were active in between 1992 and 1999! It were seven years of sonic terror; pure crossover like we used to call it in the 90s. A harsh and unpolished sound mixing electronics and guitar with a f****ing, enraged singer and live performer as image of the band. The band released successful albums (cf. “Antimatter”, “Cyberia” and “Barbarossa” all released on Dynamic and a last album “Interference” released on Wax Trax! Records). Songs like “Body Burn” and especially “Oxyacetalene” became some of the band’s greatest hits. After a long hibernation the ‘Cubanate-monster’ got reactivated in 2010. Marc Heal and Phil Barry first started to play some live gigs, but 2019 is for sure the year of the ‘real’ come-back. This is their first new work in twenty one years! The EP “Kolossus” released on Armalyte Industries reveals five new songs plus two remixes. I didn’t know what to expect from this new release, but one thing is for sure, this is probably the best production I’ve heard from Cubanate! I got in touch with Marc Heal.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Cubanate was already back to business for a couple of years now, but “Kolossus” is the first new work since 1998! How did it feel to be back and where do you place this work in the band’s discography?
Marc: We decided that we were only going to do Cubanate again if it was fun and good. We were persuaded to play the “Cold Waves”-festival in Chicago back in 2016. Chicago always felt like a home city for us, because we were signed to Wax Trax and all that. I hadn’t played live at all in about 17 years at that point. I mean, not just with Cubanate, nothing at all! But I was curious to see how it would feel. I was nervous that first time. I was living in Singapore, Phil was in London, so we both flew over, did a few days rehearsal, then – bam! Scary.
But after we had dipped our toe in the water we decided to do some more. We played with FLA, Revolting Cocks, some UK dates.
Same with “Kolossus”. It’s a test. I wanted to try an EP first, to see how it felt, before committing to making an album.
Q: I think to remember you once said (back in 2011) that no new Cubanate album would be ever released! And look now, here’s “Kolossus”, which is according to me the best Cubanate stuff in history. How did it finally happened and what will be next?
Marc: Thank you. I think it was important to reconnect as a band first. We didn’t mind playing a few retrospective dates. The old songs still sounded fresh. Also we had released the “Brutalism”-compilation, which was a remastered “Best Of” from the days we were signed in Berlin to Dynamica, so all good.
But after a while we became curious about what new material would sound like. We needed to find a way to record. I was in California by then so it was still hard to find a way to work together.
I had made a few new songs with Jean-Luc Demeyer for my other project, C-Tec. So I realized working at such distance could be done, so long as you trust the other person artistically. That’s very important, because you aren’t in the same room together to persuade or negotiate. Next up, we will try an album.
Q: How much of the ‘early’ Cubanate sound, the way of composing and producing songs do you recognize in “Kolossus”? And what have been the main changes/evolutions?
Marc: Cubanate has to give you a rush. It has to be nasty and thrilling in your gut. But these days we feel able to throw anything together to get there. Any sound, any influence, any instrument. We’re more experimental now.
There are a lot of technical changes since the 90s. In those days we would write in the studio and whatever came out at the end, we released! That was because you couldn’t take the mix down from the desk without losing the whole sound. These days, with digital, it’s easier to go back to a mix. But we still try to keep things loose, not to over-think everything, to keep it raw. We still have to work with my ragged old voice, of course. And Phil’s guitar, So it’s never going to sound too polished!
We’re older and more experienced. We’ve learned to work harder at making things better, but also to know when to stop.
Q: How did the writing of the new songs happened? What has been the main focus and possible sources of inspiration?
Marc: I write the bones of an idea, with a rough lyric and vocal. Then I send it to Phil, who adds guitar. Then I rearrange and often re-do some vocals and lyrics to make it all work together. Then Phil will finish it off and do the final mix.
I’m always interested in the dynamics of power, within relationships, within society. I always thought you had to be messed up to write dark lyrics. As it turns out, it’s easier when you’re not. You can visualize more clearly. And your moral perspective is less blurred.
Q: What did you try to express on the “Kolossus”-clip and what’s the importance and impact of making clips today?
Marc: It’s good, isn’t it? Gabriel Edvy directed the video. I’d used her for “Adult Fiction”, which was one of my solo songs and she did an amazing job. So I learned to trust her and give her freedom. I told her wanted something that merged a kind of industrial, factory feel but with a threatening feminine contrast. Also, Phil and I had to record our parts separately, which I thought would be tricky, but it adds a feeling of isolation, which I like. Then she just got on with it.
Back in the old days, people were impressed by just seeing you mime along in the video. These days there is so much video online that I think you need to approach the moving image as integral with the music, or else there’s no point. It’s almost like Gabby is an extra band member in charge of film.
Q: Cubanate has been active and successful during the 90s. It was a decade wherein it was easy to sell CD’s while today it rather appears to be an item for collectors and die-hard fans! How do you perceive this evolution, but also social media, streaming etc?
Marc: We ended up making a lot of money in the 90s, mainly through games music. I bought a couple of houses. But I have no expectations about making money from music now. I do it because I love it and I like the people I work with. Our label, Armalyte are into what we do and we split any profits with them. There’s no contract, everyone does it because they enjoy it and they get off on the music. It’s like going back to the old punk rock days. I much prefer that.
Also I like social media. I can talk directly with people on the Facebook page. And they can compliment or insult me directly. It’s almost like starting a new band again, really. And it feels better than it ever did.