A Conversation With Neon Insect
12/10/2019, William ZIMMERMAN
Neon Insect is an alias by German vgm/soundtrack artist and audio engineer Nils Sinatsch, who is heavily influenced by the industrial music genre. Neon Insect covers a wide variety of genres ranging from classical compositions to experimental electronic music. Regardless of the genre, the music of Neon Insect usually has a dark and heavy undertone and usually features very experimental sound design on its tracks. Neon Insect has just released their new album, New Moscow Underground. We'd like to thank Neon Insect for the interview.
Can you give us a little history of Neon Insect including your projects that lead up to it...also the meaning behind the name?
The year 2006 is the year I started with "Neon Insect", while I was in a dark-electro band called "Eternal Nightmare". During that time I was also highly inspired by Juno Reactor, soundtracks, space- and some other trippy stuff. So I needed a project to get this somehow out, as it didn't fit to the band. So it was really just for fun at first. But it became quite serious, after there was some sort of a blockade in the band, as we had a very rough year, after one of the former band-mates committed suicide. He wasn't in the band back then anymore, but it left its marks. So "Neon Insect" became my main project for some time and I made a weird album called "Enigma". Which was for very long the single release I had under this alias.
Fast forward a couple of years, I moved away and there was no more band. And I also had to figure out a way to earn a living, as I spend all my life on music. And jobs could be found in the realms of soundtracks production, were I found some well paid opportunities. I liked to take the old "Neon Insect" name back, as I always loved it and it had an association to soundtracks. Today Neon Insect is a blend of my old band and my recent soundtracks work. The name is inspired by a series of space games I liked to play in the 2000s, which was the X series by Egosoft. They had an item called spaceflies. And I always imagined them as neon green glowing insects.
About the upcoming release "New Moscow Underground", can you give us a background on the concept for the album?
"New Moscow" is New York in a world after world war 3, which was won by a fictional state, the New Russian Empire. A lot of places of the United States have been nuked, and have been turned into a wasteland where nobody could really survive. The city is ruled by the Empire, and serves a bit as a playing field to try out new technology. So, the concept of "New Moscow Underground" is a very dystopian, 1984-ish, cyberpunk mix. It exists since "Glitches", which played in the same world. It was just not that obvious and things were hidden on this album. For my new album I decided to make it more obvious.
The reason I do this, is my desire to tell stories and to keep the soundtrack element in my music. It has a self-serving purpose as well, as it inspires myself to create lyrics - since I don't like to sing about real events. I like to think about, what a group of people or a person would do. How they feel, and so on. That's what the songs are all about.
Could you talk about some of the tracks on the new album: "Fist, Hit, Cracking Bones" and "Blossom" for example?
"Fist, Hit, Cracking Bones" is a direct part of the story. Both pre-released singles came with a voice acted audio snippets in the perspective of the Empire. The song is about the purpose of the cyborgs in the empire. The previous singles though, tell a bit of a cyborg going nuts. This again is part of the story, where this cyborg plays an essential role in the audio drama.
"Blossom" is more of an idealistic song. The underdog, that the resistance is, trying to keep their head up in an unwinnable fight. It really is unwinnable. I tried to underline it with the orchestration at the end, which has a chord progression from hopeful to sad and devastated.
Another interesting song is "It's gotta be me", as it tells the story of a worker. Workers are forced to stay in one block, where they live, sleep and work. But one of the workers decided to break out, as this person was of a curious nature. And the things he found made him question himself even more than the regime. The view of the world has changed drastically for this person. Who wouldn't be overwhelmed by this?
How do you think this new album is stylistically different from the last album, Glitches?
"NMU" has more focus on story telling than "Glitches". And not everything on "Glitches" was about the concept and it had me not singing that much. This is much different with my new album, where I used my own voice quite often in different styles.
But other than that, I think musically it is more of the same. Of course, I got better in certain areas, just naturally, but I liked what "Glitches" was and I wanted more of it.
You have an interesting and intricate fusion of sounds. Can you talk about the recordings that meant the most to you, those that influenced you?
There are so many other bands and projects I am inspired by, that it is really hard to name them all. Sure...a lot of industrial music, but I think what is responsible for the fusion of sounds, how you called it, is my love to listen to unique and modern soundtracks. One of them, that stands out to me since years, is the soundtrack to "Killzone Shadow Fall" by Tyler Bates and Lorn. There are so many interesting sounds going on, that I just discover new stuff every time I listen to it, which is so inspiring.
Please give us an insight into your studio. What are the tools that you create your work with?
My studio is a one man cage. It's very small, so I am a bit on a limit, when it comes to hardware. Things I love to work with are certain stompboxes, as they are small and easy to combine. I like to re-amp quite a lot (sending a recorded signal back to the effects and re-record them) through them. My most favorite tool is a Korg kaoss pad, which is capable of massive glitch effects. Another thing I came to good terms with, is to just collect trash, put them together to drum-kit. You'll hear a lot of trash on my new album being punched. Obviously a lot is happening on the PC, due to the space I have. I work a lot with self constructed synths on "Reaktor 6", where you can go down to the micro electronics level. Usually I work with subtractive and FM synthesis.
You once did the soundtrack to a game called Abatron. How was that different than the other Neon Insect material? Would you ever go back to scoring games or perhaps a film?
Soundtracks are an essential part of the project that "Neon Insect" is. Scoring for games though, is a part that I left behind me. As I never had luck finding projects, that actually ended up being finished or paying me for my work. It also ruined games for me, as I felt a lot of frustration at the time. I did a lot in terms of sound design, implementation and a lot of other things. But many games - even "Abatron" - were never finished. The soundtrack exists, because I felt like I owed it to the people who already spend money on the game. But I have material for five other games done, that will never see the light of day.
As for "Abatron" - I have to say, the people were genuine and nice. And I really enjoyed working on that game with this group, as it was also a lot of fun to play. Unfortunately the game took too long and the investors stopped putting money into it out of personal reasons. So the consequence was the development being stopped.
The difference in music...hm...they were all instrumentals, but I was free to do what I wanted. That's why I am happy about it being released. I like the tracks and the different styles in there.
In the future I'd love to score a movie. And maybe other games too, if I just can deliver the music and that the game is being released.
You appear to have had some interesting developments in the last year. Your last release, "Glitches" was a ltd. cassette and digital-only release. Now you've got a larger quantity, more merch and for the first time, a CD edition. What do you hope to do creatively and product-wise next time?
I'm a big fan of the cassette. I collect myself and of course I wanted to have them with my own music as well. For NMU I found a great partner in GoTapes in Saint Petersburg, who dubbed my tapes on original Russian tapes. Sticking with the concept here, made it more tempting. I also upped the number of the edition to 40. I sold 20 with Glitches, so I am confident I can sell 40 with NMU.
T-Shirts are there, because people asked for it. And the black ones were an affordable run. I made only twenty of them. The red shirts are possible as I am working together with a local print shop. Those are print on demand though. That's why they are a bit more expensive. But the quality is amazing, because the color is literally burned into the cloth. It won't break, unlike the silkscreen print. And more so, I can get it in all sizes.
You were born in the Netherlands but live in Germany, right? How has the German culture or society shaped your music or lyrics?
That's right, I was born in The Hague. I don't know how Germany has shaped me, because I can't know how my work would have been different, if I was an American for example. It would be different, I'm sure about that, but not sure how. Maybe I wouldn't do industrial music, as we have a big scene in Germany, but other than that...I think art of any kind eventually is an expression of the personality of the artist. And we all are just the result of how we've been raised and the experiences we've made.
What plans do you have for the next few months and into 2020?
To be honest, I'll take a few weeks off. The process has been very draining, so I deserved that. I have a few ideas in mind for afterwards, but nothing to speak about yet. I want to reach out to some bigger artists, to see if remixes or collabs could be a thing in the future. There are two I have in mind. But it might as well just not work out too. Another thing I will do, is to release some unreleased orchestrations under the alias of the "New Moscow Exile Ensemble". They are actually Neon Insect material, but it doesn't fit in anymore. So..yeah. Other than that, no detailed plans, just ideas.
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