An Interview With Electro-Industrial Artist SPANKTHENUN
15/08/2019, William ZIMMERMAN
SPANKTHENUN is an electro/industrial group focused on bringing big catchy beats, hooky synth lines and catchy lyrics to dark music. Sometimes you will get pulsing EBM designed to shake the club, like the collaboration with legendary EBM band Leæther Strip – “ROTTING MEAT (Mind Control)” or you will get an old school Industrial beat programmed like a Trap/Hip Hop beat with a vocal track reminiscent of early goth and industrial records from past decades. Mind Control is the latest release from SPANKTHENUN available on Bandcamp. We’d like to thank SPANKTHENUN primary member, Eric for the interview.
Can you give us a background on SpankTheNun and where you came up with the name?
My brother and I were picking out band names before there was a band. I don't remember any of the other ones, but we fell upon this one pretty quickly. We thought it was different and could be evocative while also being mysterious. The name came about when I was at my girlfriend’s house talking to her mom and we were talking about when her daughter was in high school at an all-girls catholic school of course and how she used to get in trouble with the nuns. And that the nuns would spank her or slap her hands with a ruler. Her mom was upset about the nuns misunderstanding her daughter and that the punishment wasn't a good solution. She also recalled a time when she saw two of the nuns smoking in the parking lot. She said who disciplines the nuns? I said, "Yeah who spanks the nuns?" It was a story I told my brother and the name stuck. At the time we thought it would look cool if spelled it all as one word, and thought it looked like a German word or something. After we launched the band our first PR rep told us how much she liked it and it stuck forever.
So far you've just got the "Regression Complex" EP on Bandcamp but you've already started working with some amazing artists. How'd you hook up with some of these guys like Claus from Leaether Strip or God Module?
I am that guy that when I go to a show I end up backstage and talking to the band forever. I have no fear. I look like I fit in and I don't cause any problems. I met Claus last year when he came through town when I was hanging around talking with the guys from Front 242. I got his email and reached out to him. I made sure to pick something I thought would compel him and speak to his creative side, so I sent him the track for Rotting Meat. He heard it and reached out and we talked about it and how it evoked that old school early 90s Industrial vibe. He loved the track so much he sang on the chorus too, what else can you ask for. I look forward to doing more with him for sure.
I haven't actually met the God Module guys yet, I just bootlegged their song and added my vocals to it and remixed and mastered it. I heard the song driving into the office on Friday morning when it came out, immediately thought of lyrics and a hook and made a note on my phone. Went back home that afternoon and 2 hours later, done. I hope to meet them and officially get to do a remix of the track, that would be awesome, there are some things I would like to do more with that track.
But I am working with some other amazing artists on the new album and the singles. Assemblage 23 did a great darkwave almost goth remix of Slow Suicide, which we will be featuring on an upcoming single. It really evokes some great memories for me when I was DJing back in the day in the Industrial clubs in L.A.
I am working with Scott from iVardensphere on the new album, he is helping me produce, mix and all that. I am learning so much from him. While we put out the iVardensphere version of Rotting Meat on the new single, we are still holding back better tracks that I think will blow people away. We are going for good solid engaging tracks, but not compromising on the noise and dirt we love so much. I am also working with some other names you are familiar with but I am gonna keep those names under wraps for now.
To what do you attribute your drive as an artist...both from a musical and non-musical perspective?
Its in my blood... that's the cheesy answer, but it’s true. Actually being creative is in my blood. Music is just an outlet for it. I just have to be creating. I love music the most though because I can control it and I am pretty good at it. I am not a talented musician and suck at guitar and piano and traditional instruments, but I know what sounds good and have learned how to get it.
Talk about the genesis of a SpankTheNun track. Do you typically start building around lyrics or a musical line (either accidental or in your head). Do you utilize samples from any particular sources for inspiration and context?
Generally it starts with me and an idea. I like to work on many different tracks at the same time. So if one isn't going anywhere then I move onto another one. Sometimes I go back to those tracks later with a fresh approach and sometimes I'll send it over to my brother or whomever I am working with and see if it inspires them at all. I have sent a loop out and got back a whole song, that I then take a part and rebuild from the ground up.
All of our songs start with an idea for the hook, either a bassline or a beat or a vocal. Often the ideas come while driving or doing other things and I have to quickly make a note of them or I forget. Often I will wake up in the middle of the night and had a dream of a song and I'll try to get it down before I forget it. One time I dreamt of an entire new Bauhaus album and I tried to capture it. I came up with about 6 songs from that.
But mostly I start with the hook and go backwards from there, get a structure and then start figure out the vocals. The lyrics sometimes come immediately like with the God Module bootleg and other times it is many iterations. The current single Rotting Meat the lyrics came fast and I have more that I never used for that song. I generally know what kind of song I am looking for before I even start on it, but sometimes I will just experiment with loops, effects and plug-ins and find something cool there that I use later to turn into a song.
What separates SpankTheNun from other artists in the ebm/industrial arena? What's something we should know about you that perhaps isn't obvious?
We are definitely not trying to fit into that space and in fact next year we are planning a release of Hard Trap and Hard House remixes with some rap on those tracks. We even have a few country versions of our songs we haven't officially released yet. We like to go where the inspiration takes us... but for me personally it is the sound you hear from us now and it is definitely more EBM or Industrial for sure. But, maybe we will do a goth album next year.
Our music stands out because it evokes some of what made the 90s industrial great. We are trying to bring some of that back and bring the excitement and the energy. We are not hearing a bunch of great music that will stand the test of time these days. There is some for sure, but I feel like a lot of it is uninspired and I want to inspire so others create better music.
What albums were landmarks for you with regard to getting involved in this music?
I remember hearing Aqualung for the first time, when it arrived instead of the Janes Addiction CD I thought I had ordered didn't. I was in awe. I just wanted to learn to play those songs. I was really into Bauhaus at the time, but I always felt like their music was out of reach for me... now Bauhaus is a major influence. We throw away so many good vocals and entire tracks because they sound too similar. I almost didn't release The Clock because of that reason, but you got to be able to celebrate your heroes too.
Our early unreleased music sounded like a mash of Love and Rockets, Joy Division and Revolting Cocks. It was a mess. I was listening to some of the studio rehearsal tapes of those songs and I was thinking we should go back and redo them.
If you look at remixing a song from the perspective of the original artist and also that of the remixer...what do you think makes a remix done well?
I think the remixer has to like the song or they aren't really going to be able to get into it the way they need to, to really do something special. Often I hear so many throw away remixes, like the artist just threw on a remix because they should. I have remixes I have got back that I will never release or talk about because I don't feel like the remixer was inspired and it didn't take the track to a different place or the next level. With SPANKTHENUN tracks I try to send the right songs to the right people to challenge them yet also inspire them... I want them to be excited to work on that track. I need their emotion, blood sweat and tears in the track and that is not always possible. Sometimes I am not inspired to remix my own stuff. When that happens I just stop and move on.
But also a poor track in the hands of the right remixer can become gold. I had a track I was struggling with, it was done per say, but didn't have the energy I wanted it to have. I was struggling with the chorus and didn't really like it. I threw it to a guy I had worked with before and did some magical. He loved the track and immediately heard the things I was missing and went to work, he turned that track around in a day... which is really fast. That gave me what I needed to go back to the original song and get it to were it needed to be.
I am getting into doing more remixes myself, I can’t wait to do more.
What can we expect from SpankTheNun in the coming months?
MIND CONTROL is our second of three singles that we are releasing leading up to the full-length album in November. Each single or EP, whatever you want to call it, will have four songs on them and the album will have 12 songs that aren't on the singles... or at least the same versions of those songs. I am working with several well-known names in the Industrial world on these releases, because I want them to be great. We are working in the CyberPunk/Futuristic Serial Killer motif with these releases. I have been finalizing artwork for these releases and it is all about done. It has been fun working in that world. It always has been a favorite of mine and we will revisit often. Also, all of our release will have non-traditional videos known as visualizers to accompany them. The idea is that you can use these in the clubs or in a playlist at home or on the computer. They are cool, animated videos that move to the beat of the song.
If you had the chance to re-score an 80s horror movie, what movie would it be and why?
Wow there are so many I would love to do. I was actually thinking about scoring a horror movie recently, no time for it right now. Gotta stay focused. As I see I work on multiple releases at a time and I am already working on stuff for next year. Any John Carpenter movie would be awesome, he made some classics. I would take his synth work to the next level. Not exactly a horror movie, but we just wrapped up a bad ass Blade Runner remix of Slow Suicide and it is straight up 80s Synthwave.
Situation: You've arrived at the WGT Fest where you are scheduled to perform. The problem is the airline lost your equipment and it won't arrive until after your show. Fortunately, your laptop has your backing but you have to use another band's equipment to get through the show. The condition is, the band wants to share the show with you. What band would you like this to be and why?
There are so many great bands to choose from. The Lord of Lard would be epic, especially if I could convince Mr Raymond Watts to sing on a few of my tracks. I would love to do a set with Claus Larsen or any of the guys I have been working with. It would be fun to see some of the remixing and production cross over live.
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NICKY GARRATT (UK SUBS, HEDERSLEBEN) • 'Putting a krautrock band together I always wanted this fearlessness.' (Interview Part 2)
NICKY GARRATT (UK SUBS, HEDERSLEBEN): PART II • 'In punk, I found the vehicle for skepticism.' (Interview Part 1)
MARK PLATI • 'I always felt that I should keep moving!'
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JG THIRLWELL (FOETUS, CLINT RUIN, MANOREXIA, FRANK WANT, STEROID MAXIMUS) • 'I’m still an avid listener!'