Set up as a solo-project in 1997 by Eric Van Wonterghem MONOLITH became a true reference in the Industrial music genre. This dinosaur from the Belgian and international Electro-underground scene has been involved with numerous projects such as ABSOLUTE BODY CONTROL, THE KLINIK, INSEKT, SONAR, DETUNE-X while contributing to the writing of DIVE-albums. He this year strikes back with the eleventh (!) full length album of MONOLITH. “Unnatural Bodies” has been released on Hands and sounds like symbolizing the fusion between Techno- and Industrial music. I talked about it with Eric Van Wonterghem.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: “Unnatural Bodies” seems to be inspired by the work of Jim Whiting, which I remember from the great “Rockit”-clip by Herbie Hancock. What caught your attention by the work of Whiting and how do you transpose this inspiration into music?
Eric: Yes he did the “Rockit”-clip and the “Frankenstein”-movie effects I think. I liked his exhibition work in the 80s, the weirdness behind, and how he created ‘human – machines’,
different from robots programmed to do certain things. The “Unnatural Bodies” like Jim Whiting called it first were combined mechanical elements with air-pressure connected with parts of ‘dummy’ bodies. His ‘moving art’ seemed suddenly to be organic and alive.
I somehow liked to achieve something similar with my music, art without rules! When you follow the book how to make art or music, that will mostly never bring something interesting.
Q: What can you tell us about the different stages you’d to go through to release “Unnatural Bodies”? What have been the main difficulties and eventually challenges in the writing and production of the album?
Eric: To produce a MONOLITH album, I know the creation of sounds is a progress that will take me the most of time. It also is the most difficult part for me, but also the most interesting one. There got always to be some excitement in hearing a melody or sound, if not I start the next day from scratch. After several albums, it can become sometimes more complex as the listeners often like to hear what they know you for, and as a artist I like to evolve, I take my time until I’m satisfied with the creative part making sounds and feeling all fits into that album.
After that follows the editing, mixing and producing part, that goes fast. After all this year of studio work for my projects and other bands it became something natural… almost immediately I create what I’ve in mind.
Q: I think it’s really interesting to see the evolution in sound and influences of early MONOLITH releases versus the productions from the past few years. Is that like you said because you like to evolve? And what has been the impact of the Berliner Techno scene on your music?
Eric: I was always interested in a wide spectrum of electronic sounds and music. I liked making the first albums with MONOLITH, back then I searched something new in sound, the ‘Tribal-Industrial’-sound was the result and it was not really fitting in any style, it got the attention by a certain audience, and that’s what you need as artist to keep on releasing albums.
But after years of performing, underground parties and realizing by my own the evolution and concerts everywhere, Berlin was kind of heavier than most parts in the world, as the weekend counts 7 days there… There it was very nice to discover that the techno scene start liking harder beats and harsher sounds, less melodic music was played, Ambient drone-sound mixed with loud reverbed kicks became a way to escape from reality and in the Industrial scene there was also a search for a more open sound… less distorted!
Both scenes crossed borders and started to experiment with their sound. Like many other Industrial artists I liked this evolution, it’s inspiring and so you can reach a new audience and more events. The music played in both scenes was pretty similar, only the mixing was done a different way.
Q: It’s an evolution you can also hear on the HANDS productions, which became more Techno-driven. How do you explain this phenomenon and what’s the connection between both genres?
Eric: Like I said, both scenes are crossing their borders. Adam X’ label Sonic Groove created back then a good name for a party; it was called ”Crossing the Parallels”; different scenes that fit together, but have another audience. So that phenomenon was a normal thing to happen, people going out, meeting people and discovering that there’s more…
Q: You earlier this year also (self)released a digital productions entitled “The Disco Buddha Variations”, “Disco Buddha” being probably one of the biggest MONOLITH hits. What makes the magic of the original edit and tell us a bit more about the different variations/edits of the song?
Eric: The magic in that track was the never ending kick drum. The end of the sound was connected to the start, in that time a not so often heard, with a simple Noise hi-hat making the mechanical rhythm and when I created a singing Buddha on this beat, the track became very recognizable and hypnotic…
The “Disco Buddha”-variations were made 20 years later, although there were in already made some different versions in the years on request for compilations. I performed all these versions as a special on Udo Wiesmann’s birthday event from the famous industrial HANDS label. To keep this memory I released it also on my SoundOfMonolith Label found on Bandcamp.
Q: The Covid-19 pandemic has seriously affected all artistic life –especially live performances for musicians, so what’s the impact on your own activities? How do you try to manage and face this fact and what are your plans for the coming months?
Eric: It’s heavy for all of us. I’m lucky to get my music, listening records, playing synths, creating sounds… The live action is gone for now and that’s very, very sad; unbelievable when thinking to all events and festivals that have been cancelled. I keep to be creative during- and after lockdown, but I’m patiently waiting with all of you together until this is over; till that moment that we can get back to concerts and festivals in the same way as in the past. We will enjoy that so much and even more than ever before!