Erie Loch is well-known in the circles of creativity and for never sitting still long enough to allow any rolling stone to gather moss. Erie is in constant creation mode. Erie is known for his songwriting skills, video and studio work, along with remixes with bands such as like Ministry, Gary Numan, Peter Murphy, Rob Zombie, Faith No More, NIN, and many more.
Song River: Looking back Erie as to where your music journey first began, do you feel it has taken a 180 or done a full circle?
Erie Loch: It's absolutely done a full circle. When I started, in 1983, I was just a kid with a Commodore 64 computer that wanted to make PURELY synth music. No guitars, no real drums etc. But as time passed, I found myself more and more interested in ANYTHING that made a sound. At that time, computers really couldn't keep up with where I wanted to go, sonically, and after I started purchasing "real" synthesizers and sound gear, the fact that every piece cost so much in those days, it meant that every time I bought one, I literally had years to learn every last little thing about them. Even then I knew that everything I learned was something I now "owned". The gear was inconsequential in the long run because the knowledge and experience were what I was collecting.
For years I had been looking for heavy synth-based music. The closest I had come to find it at the time was Depeche Mode's "Some Great Reward", which, from my understanding, was influenced by early industrial bands that I had not yet gotten access to. I also liked to listen to remixes because they would take a lot more chances with the sounds, and I found bands like Sigue Sigue Sputnik that were doing crazy shit other people weren't. Then, in 1986, watching 120 minutes on MTV, I saw a video from Front 242 for Quite Unusual, which I immediately went out and bought... on vinyl! (Laughed) And that led to Wax Trax, and that led me to what I had been searching for. Heavy, synth-based music. But Wax Trax bands weren't limited to just synths. Industrial meant "no rules" in my head. And I began to get into bands that would hybrid many styles together. Early Faith No More, KMFDM, Ministry, Die Warzau and so many cool acts were suddenly available.
I had rented a piano and tried to really force myself to learn to play better. I took a lesson or two but it wasn't what I wanted. I took a couple music theory and studio classes and also became disenchanted quickly. I found I could learn more just by doing, asking questions and reading every article I could get my hands on in magazines. Eventually, I became interested in the sounds that guitars made and began adding them, so I learned to play guitar and bass and drums as well. During this time I also started working on my voice. The biggest problem I had was that I had a very "nice" voice, and the bands I liked were growling and screeching. So I tried a million different things vocally and instrumentally and eventually learned how to do it all how I wanted it done. How I sing now and the sounds I chose to use are really a distillation of all those things in a meat grinder.
So the first band I was in was called "Immedia", which consisted of mostly very melodic and "musical" rather than "dissonant or harsh" songs. We started playing live in 1990 and we were all-synth, but eventually added bass, guitar and live (electronic pads) drums. So in looking back now, being back to an all-electronic band again doing very melodic and "musical" songs again with Crash is definitely full-circle.
SR: How complicated has the road been in creating and finding the speed at which you work?
Erie Loch: I guess I kinda answered this question already. (Laughed) I've always worked VERY fast but progressed VERY slowly. It took me years to start playing live. It took me years to find a modicum of success. But I was always constantly writing and recording. Even when "digital multi-track" meant buying two DAT machines and recording back and forth to each other, adding a track each time. But again, having to move at a snail's pace from lack of funds to do what the "big artists" were doing made me really learn all I could about every step. Hell, my smartphone can download a better studio now than I had for the first 20 years of doing this. But I see so many artists now who are overwhelmed by the choices. If you're just getting started now, you are inundated with a million choices, a million ways to do things, and a BILLION opinions on the “right way” to do everything. It's daunting, to say the least. I don't have a problem with any of that. I know what I want and how to get it now. And every tool I could have ever dreamed of all those years ago is now at my disposal. It's very freeing.
SR: What have been some of the bands along the way that you yourself either formed or came into that you gleaned the most from musically?
Erie Loch: I gleaned something from all of the bands I've been a part of. I've probably learned even more from working on or recording, other people's music. Doing things I didn't want to do. Learning things I didn't know that I didn't know. Ha! I've had a ton of little whim projects along the way, but in order, the main ones were: Immedia, Luxt, Wiccid (which was actually a covers-only project I did as a side project about 15 years ago), Blownload, Chalkhead, Cock Diesel, Razing Eden (which was originally a Luxtish side project but was recently re-worked into a full-fledged metal project), Exageist, Gods of the Wasteland, Dream In Red, Esther Black and finally, back to Wiccid again. I'm sure I forgot one or two in there somewhere. (Laughed)
For you, the industrial sound, has it always been what you created?
Erie Loch: I think it's been unavoidable that industrial elements have been present in some way in everything I do. Even the light, pretty stuff will sometimes have crunchy loops or strange vocal effects. I think that being a “producer” really just means that you have a big bag of tricks that you've collected and learned. The wider the variety of styles you work on, the wider the variety of flavors you have to work with. And since I think industrial really just means “no rules”, it has worked out well for me having worked with so many styles over the years.
SR: Along the way, you have worked with many other bands and musicians. Who have some of them been and what were you contributing to them at the time?
Erie Loch: The first “bigger” or “national” act I had the opportunity to work with was Velvet Acid Christ way back in the 90's. After initially learning synth programming and sequencing on computers in the 1980's, I moved on to working solely with hardware for many years because they were far more reliable, especially for live use. Bryan from VAC actually had a lot to do with encouraging me to get back into computer-based music creation. I did a remix and also co-wrote the song “Slut” with VAC. Strangely, after all these years, that song has gotten more YouTube views than anything else I've done personally. Which helps me keep perspective. Ha! Years later, after touring with Revco, I was given the opportunity to remix a Revco track and Al Jourgensen liked what he heard. I was asked to remix Stigmata for Ministry for a soundtrack or something, and I did several different mixes over a couple days. It must have impressed someone because before I knew it, I had remixed two entire albums, Mixxxes of the Mole, and I also remixed the entire Animositisomina album (which never got released for various reasons), and several other tracks for Ministry. Many of which are scattered around on various compilations and box sets now. It's hard for even me to keep up with where they all are.
Then I got to remix Revco's Got Mixxx record too. I really have to thank Chris Kniker for believing in what I was capable of and pushing me to Angie and Al at the time. And I really have to thank Angie and Al for giving me the chance. Since then I've gotten to remix, do videos for, master (or re-master) for bands like Lords of Acid, Pig, Front Line Assembly, Tweaker, Scum of the Earth, Bells Into Machines, and so much more. I am also part of Primitive Race, the genre-shifting super-group. So now between that and all of the other studio projects, I've gotten to work with members of Skinny Puppy, Prong, Rob Zombie, Faith No More, Melvins, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Sex Gang Children, Pop Will Eat Itself, Peter Murphy, Mission UK and the list goes on. Now, being that this is the digital age, that doesn't necessarily mean I've gotten to actually meet them all. Hehehehe...
I've also gotten to write music with a number of these people. One of my all-time favorite bands is Prong, and after working with Tommy on Primitive Race he expressed interest in my songwriting, which led to me co-writing several songs with Prong on their last two releases. I also wrote many songs with Riggs from Scum of the Earth and Rob Zombie for his Zombie-Boy project.
This has all been within the last 9 years. So it's been quite a fast and strange trip. But, WOW! What a blast it has been.
SR: Is the creation of music, could it be looked at as a crafting a craftsperson type of defining?
Erie Loch: I think it's whatever you want it to be... or more to the point, whatever YOU make it. My “day job” for years has been in graphic design. I've also learned video, and light programming, and HTML and the list goes on. I have done it out of necessity, or not wanting to have to pay others to do it. Or maybe I'm just the ultimate control freak, ha! But I look at it all as the same thing. The writing, creating, shaping, remixing, producing, engineering, editing. They're all similar. It's all art. IMHO
Over the years I have been a producer, an engineer, I ran a professional sound company for 3 years, I ran a commercial studio for like 5 years, I owned a practice spaced facility, I play a bunch of different instruments, I sing in a plethora of styles, I ran an industrial/fetish club for 5 years, I've been a DJ, a promoter, a stage manager, a tour manager, a roadie... you name it, I've done it... extensively. It all adds up to understanding all parts of it and gaining the perspective of seeing it from BOTH sides. That's important. I know when to shut my mouth and when to speak up. But, that doesn't mean I always do it when I should. (Laughed)
SR: Can or will you talk a bit about Luxt and Blownload? Where are both bands now?
Erie Loch: Sure! Luxt started in 1995 and ended in 2002. I started it with my girlfriend at the time, Anna Christine. At first, we were a strictly industrial, or a “Coldwave”, band which, at the time, basically just meant we used guitars. And we quickly got signed to 21st Circuitry Records, after they heard our cover of “Cars” by Gary Numan and our self-released Jezabel 13.3 album. At the time, Jared from Chemlab and 5th Column records were interested in signing us too. Sadly, shortly after that, the label head became more interested in purely electronic industrial and we became an afterthought for the label. But we went on several tours. With Scar Tissue, Hate Dept. And even a very successful tour on our own in 1999. But shortly after that, the music scene in our hometown had really started to take off. The Deftones, Papa Roach, Cake, Oleander and many more were all signed to big labels out of Sacramento and the local scene for all of Northern California got really big, really fast. I said, fuck it, let's concentrate on just Northern California for now. We came out, doing our fully industrial-rock, electronic drum pads, no-amps sound, and before we knew it, we were one of the biggest acts in the scene. We won several awards in Sacramento and even one in, Modesto, a city 100 miles south of us, which oddly enough is the area both Crash and I are from originally.
For a while, we were playing over 100 shows a year... for several years. It was constant work, which I LOVE, but after a while, Anna wanted something more and got tired of doing the work. So we started focusing on getting signed by a big label. We had been on our own label for several years at this time and sold more Cd’s than we ever had with a label. Of course, what you think would happen, happened. The labels wanted us to change our lineup, our sound, or even just try to steal her away for their own projects. So we changed lineups, changed our sound, and eventually broke up because I didn't want to do that anymore and Anna did. During that time, Anna and I also broke up as a couple.
In the end, trying to do something other than what we originally started doing killed the band. BUT I learned a LOT from going through it. One of the biggest things was that I learned how to write pop songs. And I also learned that I was good at it. I had always written melodic music, but I never developed the discipline it takes to say, “I'm going to write a bunch of nursery-rhyme type hooks and I don't give a fuck what you think of me for it”. THAT is important. Not caring what anyone has to say.
After that, I was so irritated from dealing with big labels, who focused only on image and major radio play and were now in the beginning of the death throes of the music industry as we knew it, that I started a band called Blownload. Crazy, loud, hard, a million-genres-in-one, and filthy lyrics in every song. Kind of like saying “Fuck you, try putting this on the radio”. Our live shows were intense and insane. We ended up touring with Revco, Jim Rose, Lords of Acid and Thrill Kill Kult. It was wonderful, it was freeing and we still do it when we get time. But it had a bit of a glass ceiling and was definitely more of a novelty. So I began working on several projects; Dream In Red, an alternative-radio-rock kind of thing, Razing Eden, which was very metal, Esther Black, kind of like a more industrial Blownload without the “dirty-only” lyrical content, and Wiccid... and here we are.
SR: How long have you worked with bass player, Crash?
Erie Loch: I've worked with Crash in ALL of the bands I've been in for the most part. He is actually primarily a bass player, but he also does keyboards, occasional guitar and sings. He started with Immedia in 1993. But he's been my best friend since we were seven. And we're both 48 now. So when I call him my brother, it's true.
SR: What have been some of the projects you and he tackled along the way?
Erie Loch: We have a joke. Crash isn't in bands. He's in MY bands. (Laughed) It's not actually true, he's been in several other bands over the years; IGD, Malcom Bliss, Slip into Coma, but I love to work with him. I've never met anyone who “gets it” like he does. That it's about the work, the work ethic, the DOING. The fact that no matter what you do, or where you play, you need to impress EVERYONE. Down to the janitors. Respect where you are, who you're working with and the fact that it could all disappear at any second. I'm sure that many people we worked with over the years, that we're no longer working with, think one or both of us are assholes. But we're still at it. Still out there rolling with the punches.
SR: Why WICCID now? Why has its time come and is it true with WICCID you did 10 songs in 10 days? How?
Erie Loch: I did Wiccid on a whim. Years ago I had done an “all covers” project that was all-synth. I did it for fun and because I wanted to really sing (I've always had a voice that's suited for Broadway musicals). (Laughed) So I named it after a Luxt song, “Wiccid”. It was fun, a few people got to hear it, and shortly after I started Blownload and moved on to that. So over the last 12 years, I had been working on the same computer and software. Almost all the work I had done with, or for, “bigger bands” was on that setup. So last year, when I bought a new computer system and got all new software, it was a like having these massive ankle weights taken off. I had so much power and so many choices. All of my experience and skills were suddenly ten times more useful. I wrote and recorded the entire 12 song album of Esther Black in three weeks, and a month later we were practicing as a full band. But shortly after, someone asked me to do a few remixes, and I suddenly realized that I had a shit-ton of new software synths that I hadn't really dug into learning how to use. I tend to look at work by myself in the studio as entertainment. Kinda like watching a movie or playing video games. So I was like, “This will be fun, I'm going to do an all-synth project, I'm going to write ten songs in ten days and finish everything in a total of two weeks just to learn how to use all this new stuff better.” Not only did I finish that, I also made a video promo-reel video in that amount of time. The finished album is actually 11 songs because a song I had written for another project seemed to fit well. But I learned how to use all the new synths! Next thing we know, we're signed on Cleopatra and going on tour with Lords of Acid and Combichrist. Hahaha! At the end, I realized how similar what I had done was to the all-covers project, Wiccid, years ago, so the name worked well.
SR: Are you finding yourself more pleased with a quicker process of creative bursts over taking an extended period of a method to create?
Erie Loch: I can't take a long time to work on things. I tend to lose interest. If I don't do it quickly, I'll usually scrap it and move on. I've worked with other people who really had a problem with that. We end up with little bits and pieces of songs but never finish anything. That's not me. I work fast. Regardless of what I'm working on. It's my workflow, my process, and my psychosis. (Laughed)
SR: Is there a particular brand of synthesizer you like working with?
Erie Loch: I like ANYTHING that makes noise. But I vastly prefer software synths. I was using analog synthesizers when they had wood siding. I was glad to see them go. They were unreliable, fell out of tune, and I've gotten a few pretty bad electric shocks off of them on more than one occasion. Yes, some sound really good, I don't question that. But so do software synths. And with software, when I load up a session, everything is EXACTLY where it was. No hum, no hiss, no charts to remember how to set everything. Like I said, I prefer to work quickly. I have no use for the old way of doing things, and I have no nostalgia about it. I know what I'm doing, so having a ton of knobs isn't a necessity either. It does speed things up, so I like them for live use, but I'm not into big consoles, tons of patch cables, or having to have a huge room to store it all. If that's your thing, more power to you! I get it. Everyone likes what they like. But I have my “bag of tricks” and my way of doing things. I think it's great that we all have our own thing. But I love the lack of limitations that working 100% on a computer gives me. If I like a synth, I can have 10 of them... or 20. And I can run a ton of different effects on all of them, and layer them, and fuck with them all I want and still be able to load up that session and have it all ready to go. It's a no-brainer for me. I have no interest in the status of owning expensive shit. I had all that. I sold it. Ha! We do use synths on stage, but they're all virtual analogs and fairly inexpensive. That's just good business sense IMHO. Bringing a $4000 Nord on tour would scare the shit out of me.
SR: It has been said by other composers who use synthesizers that the reason they love them so much is they feel like there are endless possibilities to create sounds with them. What is your insight to the instrument itself?
Erie Loch: Yes! But not just synthesizers. A DAW (digital audio workstation) is that way as well. It's that the synths, the recording capability, the effects, the possibilities are endless once the sound is on the machine. I often joke that my main instrument is actually the DAW. As for synthesizers, the beauty is that once you understand how synthesis works, it's like knowing a language. And every synth speaks its own variation of that language. So it just takes a little playing around and you suddenly know that language too. It's the same with DAW's and effects. Pro Tools, Sonar, Cubase, Digital Performer, Ableton, it doesn't matter. They're all just instruments to me. Absorbing knew abilities is simple, and you learn by playing. It's awesome! I love the sound of synthesizers, but I REALLY love the sound of different distortions on synthesizers. Musicians have been doing it for years with guitars... So much so, that every amp has its own particular “tone”, that affects the harmonics of a guitar just so. It's no different with synths. I use a LOT of distortion on my synths, but it's not always apparent. Sometimes it's just slightly over-driven. Sometimes with the distortion built into the synth PLUS a separate distortion as well. I love being able to try a million things and settle on what I like best.
SR: A debut album, Be Design, and on tour with Lords of Acid, Combichrist, etc... do you ever feel like it is about time you held the golden egg or do you sense you have been holding the prize all along?
Erie Loch: It's one more chapter IMHO. Success comes in all forms. For me, more than anything, it's about the work. Being able to constantly have something to work on. If Wiccid can become monetarily successful, that just means I'll be able to put out more music that more people will hear, that more people will come and see, so I can tour more. It's not about paying bills. I'll gladly work a day job, especially the one I have now, which I love, to be able to keep doing this. I think if you rely on the music to pay all your bills, your decisions might be driven by that. I'd rather be able to put out what I think people might value, rather than what someone else thinks people might value. And Crash feels the same way.
But yeah, it's pretty fucking bad ass to be putting out a record with Cleopatra, and be on tour with a bunch of bands I really respect.