Rodion Skityaev is a Russian musician operating from Moscow (Russia). He last year released the official debut album “Resonate” of his sonic brainchild Outpost 11. The CD format has been released on Advoxya Records and sounds as a powerful sonic bridge between EBM and dark-electro. The sound has something 90s-like reminding me formations such as X Marks The Pedwalk and early Skinny Puppy. It’s a real promising debut from a band we’ve to keep an eye on.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Outpost 11 is a rather new name active at the wider fields of EBM and dark-electronic music. How did you get in touch with this music style and what do you consider as your main sources of inspiration?
Rodion: Well, I first got in touch with this kind of music not even knowing what I was listening to. Back in time I was just a kid playing video games. And those games featured pretty good soundtracks. I played a lot of C&C games, featuring brilliant music of Frank Klepacki. I also adore Quake franchise, especially the first three games. The soundtrack of the first game was done by Trent Reznor, the second game was scored by Sonic Mayhem and third one had Front Line Assembly bashing in the background. I’m a big fan of “Silent Hill” series, and it’s music done by Akira Yamaoka, respectively. That’s some good quality music right there! And so this kind of sound etched into my mind and stayed there for a while. Until much later, when I consciously researched what was the music that I liked so much. Since then I was exposed to all the good stuff we know and appreciate today as post-industrial music.
As my source of inspiration I consider acts like Nine Inch Nails, Ministry (mostly early records, but I like their metal stuff too), Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly, to name a few. It is also worth mentioning recent L.A act Youth Code. Basically, there was no Outpost 11 before I saw them live in 2016. I had some demos that would end up on “Resonate”, but I didn’t consider developing them into a finished record, until those two fellas came to my town. It was just mind-blowing! I had no idea that people are still playing this kind of music and listening to it, rather passionately. Besides electronic music I listen to a lot of stuff, I think something occasionally can slip through into Outpost 11, but that’s not something that I consciously control 100% of the time.
Q: What kind of album did you have in mind when writing the songs for “Resonate” and how do you look back at the entire composition- and production process?
Rodion: To be really honest with you, I didn’t have any concrete vision of what “Resonate” would be. I have a serious background in the local metal scene and so doing electronic music in any capacity was an experiment for me, I haven’t done any before. Surely, I was applying my songwriting skills from before, but it would not always fit into the sound or mood I was trying to achieve for Resonate. I wanted to get that sound and vibe from my earlier experiences with this kind of music. When I think a bit deeper about it, It’s somewhat romantically odd, trying to capture experiences from your past, using yet to be developed skills from present. Kinda weird…
Though the biggest issue for me on that record was the production of the vocals. Now I’m a bit better singing, but before then it was like a clean slate, tabula rasa, you know. I had to figure out the way of singing that would fit into my music and this raspy kinda subtone vocals worked well for me. I got that idea from one of my favorite movies –“Escape From New-York”. The character of Snake Plissken speaks in this kind of dramatic action-hero tone and I thought, well who cares, I’m gonna try that and see what comes out! By the way, John Carpenter is awesome. So to summarize, the process was somewhat chaotic, but I managed to tame it and extract some valuable knowledge from it.
Q: “Resonate” clearly reminds me to the good-old EBM from the late 80s/early 90s with an extra personal touch on top. What can you say about the Outpost 11 ‘sound’ and do you’ve personal criteria/references when it comes to production?
Rodion: I tend to produce relatively simple sounds, but I like big instrumentations. It starts usually with drums and bass, and then I add the other stuff; a pad chord progression (I also like extended chords), some noises to accentuate passages, a lead, a harmonized pluck, a few more elements to the drum kit, occasionally movie samples, a filtered sweep… It can go on and on, but sometimes it’s better to keep things simple. The main criteria in the arrangements is to find the right balance between all elements.
I have a few sources of inspiration when it comes to song writing generally speaking. I can start a song from a weird sound, or I can start it with a nice riff, or just a chord progression. It kinda depends on my mood actually. Heavier songs are usually taking off from a riff, like “…But He Likes You” for example. More melancholic stuff has more musical roots, so to speak. Then I develop this initial idea into a complete song, or at least into verse-chorus combination, to tackle it later.
As for sound design, I use very few VST plugins. Synths are mostly VA, with wavetable or FM occasions here and there. I tend not to layer instruments, it doesn’t fit really well into my approach to instrumentation. It’s hard to fit a lot of fat sounding stacks of synths in one song, for me at least. I also like my pads and leads to be a bit wide in the stereo field, so when they come in at some point in a song, you can really hear them, but not in an obvious way. Probably this overall approach gives my music this old-school vibe. And I like it that way!
Q: What have been the main lyrical themes for this album and what’s the importance of the lyrics when composing EBM-like music?
Rodion: The album is called “Resonate” because of certain topics are resonating with me, sometimes violently. That’s kinda silly idea, to name an album this way, but it works for me anyway. The album’s themes and ideas come from me being a part of a modern world and my experience of it so far. That results in lyrics related to my perspective on current global political climate, or about religion, war, propaganda and other nasty stuff. There are few more introspective songs, where I try to reflect on my more personal side of things. Or sometimes I just had fun paying homages to favorite pop cultural pieces. It’s a bit of everything. Kind of like life itself, in a sense.
A few times I stumbled upon an idea; that lyrical content of successful musicians tend to resonate strongly within their audiences. That’s true, and I hope my lyrics do the same, but I don’t think it is strictly necessary. Any musician is an artist (in a greater sense) in a first place, genres are good at describing what musician do, but they aren’t definitive, they can’t dictate what you can do and what you can’t. Hell, if I want to write an EBM banger, featuring a sax solo, with lyrics about pink ponies having nasty fun with some BDSM gear, no one’s gonna stop me from doing that 🙂 And I bet you, some people are even gonna like it! My point is simple, do what you feel necessary, but beware for the consequences. And yes, there’ll be always somebody telling you that you’re doing it all wrong, you can’t get away from that…
Q: The artwork of the album is quite intriguing. What does the front cover stands for and what’s the parallel with the sound and the lyrics?
Rodion: A: Cover art is product of imagination of a good friend of mine. He’s drawing style features many techniques, but this particular image was done with ink on a thick cardboard as a canvas. He did a few death metal covers in this style and i thought that i could use that for my little project, somehow his artwork resonated (he-he) with me. I approached the man with a simple task: listen to the music, read the lyrics if necessary and do what you think fits the mood. As a result, his disturbing art reflected my obsessive desire to share my music pretty well, i must admit. I did a few tweaks in Photoshop, to make an image a bit surreal and i think our combined result is representing an album pretty nice. It’s sufficiently rough, a bit surreal and somewhat disturbing. Pretty much like Resonate sounds, i think. I did the CD packaging by myself, i was just extending the mood of cover art by using grungy textures as backgrounds.
Q: A debut album is always something special, so how does it feel for you and are there some elements you want to improve in the future and what are the plans for the next few months?
Rodion: Well, maybe it’s a debut for Outpost 11, but for me as musician it would be the second or even the third album. This experience gives me a certain perspective on things that I need to improve. You can expect a new album this year, that’s for sure. At the moment I’m focused on perfecting the vocal parts here and there, but I’m almost finished. So you can expect me singing better than on “Resonate”. I also learned a few sound design tricks, which I used on the new album. But I think the main contribution to the overall improvement would be the mixing. This time I did it myself and from what I gathered from my listeners, it’s a big step forward. For the “Resonate”-album I was at the very beginning of that mixing-engineering path. I had serious doubts about my skills so I outsourced mixing and mastering to another buddy of mine. He did a great job, but there were moments where we took a few improper decisions, so to speak. Thankfully, now I can fully express myself and I’m happy with the results. Sound’s gonna be brighter, a bit wider and punchy this time.
Regarding live performances I think I’ll do a few shows later on this year. For the moment Outpost 11 still is a studio solo-project, but I’m also in the process of recruiting musicians to form a live line-up. I’ve managed to recruit a keyboard player. No idea what parts she’s gonna play, but we have a lot of enthusiasm. I think we’ll figure this out somehow! I hope that we’ll do a few shows this year and I’m really looking forward to it. Further in time, I’ll do at least one more album released by Advoxya Records in 2020 and next we probably will extend our contract for a few more albums.