July 9, 2024

Click Interview with NOVAkILL: ‘Why does it matter that Ai makes better music?’

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NOVAkILL

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More than twenty years after their debut-album the Australian duo Warren Bones (‘Bones’) and Craig L. Saunders (‘<Sik>’) aka NOVAkILL have released their sixth studio album. Released by RepoRecords, “Artifice” confirms the talent of the duo that stands for a dark, powerful and elaborate form of EBM. NOVAkILL stands for intelligent Electro and texts with content while the new opus sounds to me like their best production ever. (Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)

Q: Your new album “Artifice” comes more than twenty years after the debut album “Hard Tech For A Hard World”. How do you feel your sound has evolved on the new opus compared to your earlier releases? And how would you describe the sound DNA of NOVAkILL?

Bones: The simple answer is that what we do has evolved in every way. The technology we rely on has gotten better and better and our skills as artists, performers, song writers and producers has also improved a lot. Of course, after 20 years you would hope to be a lot better at what you do.

I think we have a very broad idea of what NOVAkILL is and over the years that has shown up in our albums. For me, a NOVAkILL song can be whatever style we feel like making it, it only needs to have the right attitude. It needs to push the right buttons and, I think we’ve managed to achieve that with slow songs and fast songs and Electronic songs and Noise songs and even straight out Rock songs.

Sik: I think we are still doing the same thing, just better, though by not wanting to just repeat ourselves we have allowed ourselves to experiment and to push our own boundaries of what we want to put on an album, so I think our sound has become more ‘confident’.

Q: I think that the main theme of this new album revolves around the relationship of man and machine which brings us immediately to AI. Can you tell us a bit more about that and how do you experience this whole, and so important technological evolution?

Bones: We both work as graphic artists and AI is having a massive impact there. A lot of people are very negative about it but to us it is just another tool we can use to achieve our creative goals. The thing with the AI’s we have at our disposal today is they only do what you tell them to and there is real skill in crafting your prompts to get the result you are looking for.

Luddites keep saying that AI will never be able to put the emotion into a performance that a real person can but there are videos on YouTube that prove that they can already do this, and we know that in a year AI will be ten times better than it is today. Sooner rather than later, AI will be able to create music that is the equal of the greatest music ever made. So what? We don’t pretend to be the greatest band of all time, we know there are better bands out there than us but that doesn’t matter. So why would it matter that AI is also making better music than we can? I’d have thought that more great music would be a win for everyone.

People will say that AI will make it impossible for anyone to get their music noticed but that ship has already sailed. There hasn’t been any money for artists like us for a very long time and AI isn’t going to make it any worse, because it’s hard to imagine how it could be worse than it already is.

Q: It is no longer a secret to anyone that AI is also quietly but surely making its way into the world of music. How do you view that and did you use AI in the production of “Artifice” -or would you ever consider using it?

Bones: We used AI to create the images in the artwork for “Artifice”. The album cover is a composite of a couple of older images Sik created more than a year ago. We also used AI to write the lyrics for “Madhouse”. Initially I was only interested in finding some inspiration to help my own writing but ChatGPT came up with such a great couple of paragraphs, we decided to use them as they were. We only changed one word. Then I went to use another AI to create a vocal performance, again for a bit of inspiration. Unknown to me, Sik had already trained that AI to sound like me and, again, it did such a great job we decided to use the AI vocals in the song. I don’t even sing it on stage, we’re happy to let the AI do it (a recording of the AI, at least).

Q: Can you tell us a little more about the various stages you had to go through to achieve “Artifice”? And what did you experience as the greatest difficulties and challenges on the one hand and the greatest satisfactions on the other?

Bones: It sounds very boring but it sort of came together over a couple of band meetings, which is something we had never really done before. We had quite a few ideas floating around, one or two we’d had while working on the previous album, but we needed to focus to get the ball rolling and the meetings did that. We picked the best candidates and started working to turn them into proper songs.

I don’t think we had any real challenges, once we got started. It all came together fairly easily and quickly. One of the most promising ideas turned out to require a lot more effort and it was bogging us down, so we decided to shelve it. We may end up using it in whatever we do next but maybe it will never end up being finished. I’d started writing something while we were doing the rest of the album and that became “Darkness”, which filled the gap made by the shelved song.

The greatest satisfaction is when it’s finished! I really don’t enjoy the production process, it feels too much like hard work, but once you get to the point where you feel it’s as good as it’s going to get, there is a real sense of accomplishment.

Sik: Getting started wasn’t hard, and banging out a few ideas/demos was fun and easy, and shortlisting down to 12 tracks was not very hard either, and, other than that one track we couldn’t make work I don’t think there was ever a stage in making this album where we questioned our song choices.  We did question a few times if anyone else would like it, but we know it was what we wanted to do at that time.

Q: Is the newest album always the best one and do you think there’s always something to improve? And how self-critical are you with your work?

Bones: The newest album has to be the best one, otherwise it’s not ready yet! Seriously, though, I do worry about the time when maybe we stop getting better. If I’m honest, I didn’t thinkwe could do a better job than we did on “Iconoclast” so it was extremely pleasing to realize that “Artifice” had managed to improve on what we’d achievedpreviously. I think we are objective about our music, by the time an album is ready for release, we’ve listened to the songs a million times and we’d know if we hadn’t managed to do as good a job as we could.

Q: I noticed “Articice” already got very positive reactions  but how important is the opinion of the fans on the one hand and the press on the other for you?

Bones: It’s always good to know you haven’t wasted half-a-year, so both things are desirable, although nothing that affects what we do or how we do it. I don’t think there is any mileage in trying to chase an audience, we are happy to put our music out there and if it finds an audience, then all the better. If we don’t find an audience, that’s OK too, as long as we’re happy with what we’ve done. It’s always interesting to see which songs turn out to be favorites with reviewers and fans. Sometimes a song we think is just there because we like it, gets great comments in a review or on YouTube. That’s always pleasing.

Sik: Ultimately we do what we like, and aren’t trying to have a big hit, etc.  We know we have limitations, (time/money/talent etc)  but we have to work within those parameters as best we can and have confidence that the choices we make are ‘right’ at that time.  It isreally nice to know that other people are accepting of those choices and it is always good to read a review or comment from someone who seems to understand where we were coming from, but it is not what ‘drives’ us… we just ‘gotta rock’, and if other people like the way we rock that is great.

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Inferno Sound Diaries
I have been working for over 30 years with Side-line as the main reviewer. My taste is eclectic, uncoventional and I prefer to look for the pearls, even if the bands are completely unknown, thus staying loyal to the Side-Line philosophy of nurturing new talents.

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