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03/02/2022 : PANIC LIFT - 'I have been blessed with bands and producers giving me absolutely fabulous remixes.' 03/02/2022 : PANIC LIFT - 'I have been blessed with bands and producers giving me absolutely fabulous remixes.'

PANIC LIFT

'I have been blessed with bands and producers giving me absolutely fabulous remixes.'


03/02/2022, William ZIMMERMAN


Industrial band PANIC LIFT has become a staple in the scene now with eleven singles, EPs and LPs under their belt. Their latest release is an EP titled, Pieces. It's the second part in a five-part EP series which includes a different physical product James Francis is the main guy behind the project. We'd like to thank him for his time in this interview.

Hello and thanks for taking some time with us today. Can you give the readers a short background on Panic Lift in case they might not already be familiar?

Hi! and thank you! We are an industrial band from New Jersey. We got our start around 2006 signing with Noitekk Records in Europe, and later Metropolis Records in the United States. We’ve released 4 full length albums, toured nationally several times, and have been lucky enough to play a few legendary festivals including Wave Gothik Treffen, Kinetik Festival, Terminus Festival and others. I write and record all the music for Panic Lift myself, but when I play live, I bring along with Dan Platt on keyboards, Ben Tourkantonis and Cristian Carver rotating on drums, and Aedra Burke (from FIRES) occasionally playing bass.

Your latest release is a cassette called, Split. This is a part of a themed series. Why the decision to do that? Are the next editions different formats?

Writing full length album’s has always been tough for me. A lot of times, I tend to go off on tangents on certain songs and the styles of each song can be opposites at times. I’ve always found myself having to adjust songs or add things into songs to make them all fit together as a whole. I decided that if I didn’t release albums, I could just write whatever I wanted, I could experiment more, and I didn’t have to worry about changing or adding parts just to create a cohesive 40 minute listening experience.

Beyond that, I also took into account the overall market right now. I noticed over the last decade when seeing my royalty states that I sold less and less CD’s every time I put out a full length, but at the same time my streaming revenue began to skyrocket. I just don’t feel like the average listener consumes albums like we all used to.

Lastly, I also looked at my engagement. I noticed a window of about 2 months where traffic would increase to my social media when I released something new. People wanted to hear what I had to say about it, they were checking if I was touring, watching videos.. then after that time, It would drop off almost completely. I couldn’t image putting out 10 songs just for the attention span of the listener to be that short. At the end of the day, I am an artist, but I also have to promote myself and as a business it didn’t seem wise to dump out all of my music at once, just to end up having to beg for people’s attention after 2 months.

I decided on the EP structure because I knew I didn’t want to just release singles. I also knew I wanted to include remixes. I thought, why not do something thematically connected so I’m able to experiment sonically all I want, but there is still this umbrella over the whole project that will connect it at the end.

Yes the physical “component” will change with every release. However, the fun part is, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a media format like a cassette or compact disc. It may be something completely different, but it will be ultra-limited, and specific to the EP that goes along with it. Could be a t-shirt, shot glass, whatever fun thing I can think up.

Do your individual releases revolve around certain themes?

Yes, the theme for “Split” was around the song “Tribute” which I took literally. I felt both “Tribute” and “Nowhere Fast’ leaned heavy on my musical influences specifically bands like Nine Inch Nails, or X Marks The Pedwalk. So these songs were tributes to those bands in a way.

The next EP that’s coming out in the fall is titled “Fragments” and what connects those next 2 songs will the lyrical content. I found that both these songs revolve around a difficult period in my life last year when I was incredibly stressed, and I felt like everything was falling apart around me.

How has your studio and production evolved over the years?

I found over the years that for me, less is more. I begun Panic Lift using a ton of different software synths, hardware synths, and about was very much about amassing lots of gear. I think over the past decade I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff, and really just focused on learning the few things I have inside and out. This approach has really helped me learn how to create the sounds I want, instead of spending all day looking for a sound. I also found that instead of focusing on buying expensive microphones, it really just focusses on warming up my voice and learning better control. I think all the gear in the world is not a replacement for having discipline with your craft.

Have your influences, both musical and not musical changed much since the start of Panic Lift? We noticed that two of the tracks on “Split” are said to be homages to the legends that inspired you.

I try to always keep my ears to the ground and see what’s currently popular. But I don’t think I listen to many new bands. I certainly appreciate a good production, or a great voice but I think I more or less stick to the same bands that influenced me starting out. In that sense, I always want to see what tricks new bands are using and incorporate that into what I do, but as far as a fan - I think I understand now why my parents listened only to music from there generation. I find myself gravitating towards records that were put out in the 90’s or the 2000’s. I don’t think any new music is better or worse, but there is a comfort in the music I grew up listening to that I prefer.


What makes a good remix? Who do you think are the most skilled remixers today?

Maybe I am biased, but I have been blessed with bands and producers giving me absolutely fabulous remixes. I wish I knew more producers outside of my colleagues but I’ve been so focused on these EP’s I haven’t listened to much else. I will say, for the next EP there will be remixes from Assemblage 23, and Kalcyfr. Obviously, Tom needs no introduction, he’s a legend and his remixes are always amazing. I was introduced to Kalcyfr from my buddies Mechanical Vein and Moris Blak. It’s a great industrial bass project and his production is some of the best new material I’ve heard. I’m happy to showcase him a bit on this release.

What’s the strangest or funniest accident that’s every happened to you during a live show?

Too many to count. I don’t think a lot of my shows ever go smoothly. I think the biggest mistake that ever happened during a show, luckily no one ever noticed. We played a set at Aftermath Festival in Toronto. At this point, we were on tour with Aesthetic Perfection and Surgyn and we rolled into the festival for one night to do our sets. For this tour, we had a dedicated sound engineer so we left our backing tracks up at the board and he would start them every night.

Somehow, instead of queuing up the set in playlist order, I must have handed him the computer with files just playing in file alphabetical order from the hard drive, which means on stage we had no idea what song we’d be playing next. Luckily, I knew the songs wouldn’t repeat which would have been completely embarrassing but we got through the whole 40 minute set on our toes! The best part is that complete show is on youtube! If you look closely you can see us look at each other laughing in between songs.

Has the pandemic influenced your music and lyrics, maybe mental health? What’s some good that’s come out of it for you?

It’s been rough. I had actually not planned on releasing any new Panic Lift for a very long time before that Pandemic started. However, when we first had that ‘lockdown’ it really started to affect my mental health in a bad way. I used to work on these songs as an outlet to keep me occupied. In a way, the pandemic is what forced me to focus on Panic Lift again, I guess that’s the strange messed up consolation prize in all this.

One of the next EP’s that will probably be out around spring of 2022 will deal with my thoughts on the Pandemic, I really tried not to be so blunt and obvious lyrically. I think a lot of people really don’t need any more reminders about what’s going on around us, but it was important for me to get it off my chest.

Do you think there is much need for band management or labels these days or does it just depend on the needs of the artist and the market?

This is a long and complex issue. But I feel, Yes. There is absolutely a need for labels. I could not have gotten the eyes on me that I have without being associated with a label. Signing to a label, especially one that is credible in the scene gives a validity to what you are doing. Many labels also have audiences that are “built in” in a way, so people will buy your product since it is associated with a label.

That is different than the actual physical mechanics of releasing music. You can absolutely do that without a label. But then you are just putting it out, and no one knows its there.

I’m blessed because I spent a decade of my career on very well-regarded labels, and my fanbase followed me to be an independent artist. I don’t think I would have the following I do without first having been associated with a label.

As far as management. I’ve never had a manager. But I can see how it benefits larger bands. Its something I would definitely consider if I was more popular. There are a lot of moving pieces once you are really established.

Other than the themed series, what do you hope for Panic Lift in the coming months?

We have 2 shows planned. Once in Salem MA, for the Darq events on October 9th. I’ve been wanting to play Salem during Halloween month for a very long time so it’s a show I couldn’t say no to. Next spring we return to Dark Side Of Con, to play that festival. We’ve done it 3 times now and have a good relationship with that crew. It’s always a lovely experience and I’m looking forward to see all my friends after this long shut down. After I’m done releasing this music, which in total will be 10 songs and 10 remixes. I will probably take another break. It’s nice not having anything planned, it makes it all the more exciting when I get inspired to come back to it.

For more information:

https://www.facebook.com/paniclift

https://paniclift.bandcamp.com/

William ZIMMERMAN
03/02/2022


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