American Paul M. Graham this year unleashed the fourth album of his Tragic Impulse sonic project. It’s the third opus released by Distortion Productions. “Distant Worlds” takes the listener away to visit a dark- and danceable experience of EBM empowered by Dark-Electronics and Industrial, but also polished with Pop elements. Most elements of the production process have been improved so in the end you get a varied, danceable and efficient work.
(Picture credits by Sergei Photography / Interview courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: I remember a previous interview you were talking about growing maturity and studio equipment, which both are essential aspects in the evolution and development of an artist. How did you see both elements evolving from your very first song till the new album?
Paul: I’ve definitely had growth in my production skills since the first album (“Machine Parts”). I felt great about the writing on the first album, but I just didn’t feel the mixing and such was at a similar level. I was still very much a newbie at the time. Rather than farm out that work to a more accomplished producer, I’ve stuck with it and feel pretty good about where things are now. There’s always lots of room for improvement though and I’ll never consider myself a finished product.
As for studio equipment evolution, almost all of that has happened in the form of soft-synths and software tools. I’ve found that I can create the music I want without the extra expense and physical space it takes to keep all the hardware. There are advantages to hardware for sure, but I’ve found that for my needs, I really don’t need that anymore. “Distant Worlds” was done entirely without any hardware synths.
Q: I can imagine “Distant Worlds” was mainly –or entirely, written during the ongoing pandemic. In which way did COVID affected your artistic activities and your mood plus creativity when composing the opus?
Paul: The album is definitely a product of the pandemic and the track “Oubliette” is a great example of that. The term by definition means: ‘a dungeon with the only entrance or exit being a trap door in the ceiling’. It’s a dark song that parallels the confinement, fear, and uncertainty we all felt/have been feeling during this time. Other tracks also have hints of this mood and feel as well.
Q: What have been the different stages from the moment you started writing the first song for “Distant Worlds” till the moment you got the production finished? What have been the main challenges when composing this album and what are your biggest points of satisfaction?
Paul: I tend to ‘nibble’ with my song creation, moving around from one song to the next and back again, and this album was no different. Sometimes everything falls into place with a song and I finish it in one pass but that’s rare. Giving me time between songs helps me prevent listening fatigue and keeps me inspired. My method might seem strange to some artists, but it works for me.
For “Distant Worlds”, the bulk of the album writing was done during the pandemic and since I had spent more time indoors, I created lot more material I considered viable for the album. At one point, I had considered doing a double-album but the ten I went with just felt right. Having all that material is both a blessing and a curse because while I had a lot to choose from, deciding what stays and goes is always hard.
I’d say the biggest point of satisfaction is that the album seems to have successfully provided a little something for everyone and avoids pitfalls like repetition and predictability. I asked fans shortly after the album was released what their favorite songs were, and the answers were all over the place. Hearing that kind of feedback is always very satisfying and rewarding.
Q: I experienced “Distant Worlds” as your most diversified album to date; from familiar EBM/Dark-Electro songs to sophisticated passages reminding me Clock DVA to a furious cover version of Ministry. Tell us a bit more about the content and different influences running through the work?
Paul: I touched on this a little bit in the last question, but I feel great about the diversification on this album and that’s probably because that’s an approach I favor in the artists I listen to as well. “Oubliette” is dark and brooding, “Failed Reality” up-tempo/high energy, and “Dance Till You Die” stompy so there’s some ground covered there. “Parasite” is also an interesting example of that diversification because it feels so very different than the rest of the album. It’s actually been a very popular track and that’s probably because of the throwback EBM vibe it has to it. As for the Ministry cover of “Just One Fix”, I really wanted to pay homage to a song that was a gateway for me getting into Industrial music. I was mostly into Metal music back-in-the-day and when I transitioned on from that I was looking for something with an edge to it and bands like Ministry, Front Line Assembly and KMFDM bridged that gap. To this day I’m still heavily influenced by those bands.
Q: I think you’ve live dates planned in the US so tell us a bit more about Tragic Impulse on stage? What might people expect when going to a live show and how do you transpose the studio sound to the stage? What about European shows?
Paul: Our live shows have always translated well from the studio and part of that is by design. For example, I never use too many FX or heavily process my vocals for that reason. When you hear me sing live, I want you to have a similar experience to our recorded material, so I put an emphasis on that. Also, I’m not sure why, but we tend to surprise people (in a good way) with our live shows. It’s happened so many times, we started referring to it as “The Response” lol. I think this may happen because we don’t have the same name recognition as some of the bigger bands so we surprise people when they see us. So while they expect someone like Suicide Commando to be amazing (and rightfully so), us…?, not so much. We’re working hard to change that however!
As for live dates, a few months ago we played the Dark Side of the Con festival and that was an amazing experience. We also just finished performing at the Distortion Productions (Jim Semonik) 200th show extravaganza and we had an awesome and energized crowd for that one as well. Upcoming shows in 2022 include a date in New-York City with Rain Within, Red Lokust and Interface, and one in Pittsburgh with Solar Fake. We had hoped to tour more in support of the album this year but have had some unexpected interruptions in our schedules so we’re looking to hit that hard next year.
We haven’t played anywhere in Europe yet but that’s definitely on our ‘to-do’ list. Playing at something like WGT would be a dream for us. For you promoters out there, we can be contacted at email@example.com
Q: What place did Tragic Impulse take in your life? What are the further plans and ultimate goals?
Paul: Since the live show is my wife Heidi on keys, and me on vocals, it’s been a great way for us to travel and meet new people. The recorded music is great but the real thrill for us is live shows since we get to connect with fans, other bands, promoters, DJ’s, etc. We’ve been into the Goth/Industrial scene the entire time we’ve been together (almost 19 years) and the band is just another way we get to spend time together doing what we love.
As for the future, we’ll keep making music and keep playing shows with the intention of playing more gigs in more places. Hopefully we can keep that momentum going!
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