GEAR: State your name and what you do in the band.
MIKE: Michael Ditmore, and I am the drummer and percussionist.
GEAR: O.K. With many of the electronic bands you usually don't find regular drummers etc., is there something special that you do in the band. I mean do you have a special set up?
MIKE: Yeah, I play an all electronic kit, except for the cymbals. I actually have an endorsement through a company here called Boom Theory.They make the Space Muffins triggers, which are like the Rolls Royce of drum triggers basically. I don't have to give up anything because it's just like playing real drums. They feel like real drums, they look like real drums and in essence they are. They have got a wood shell and everything. They're pretty nice.
GEAR: Now, what kind of approach do you take with the band? You obviously have an infinite amount of sounds which you could at any point trigger, as opposed to a regular drum kit. How do you approach that?
MIKE: I'm kind of like the frosting. d.A writes the songs, and because of the way he writes, which is in fits and starts. I mean, he's the kind of guy who would wake up at three in the morning and start writing a song and finish it. You know, that kind of thing. So usually by the time we hear the songs they are like three quarters the way done. Then I get it and I do my bit over the top of what ever percussion set he's done already. I match it in some places and in other places I don't. I add more the human element to the electronics,you know, backing track. It sounds a little bit more like a real person playing [the drums] too, that way, because there is a real person playing on top of that. There's enough flop in there to make it sound a little more live.
GEAR: How organic do you feel the band is? So many of the electronic bands get sort of, I guess tagged, they sound very mechanized, which I understand is part of it. How is that, you yourself, or the band itself is more organic as opposed to the bands that get up there with the D.A.T [digital audio tape] and just kind of sing along.
MIKE: Well we use a D.A.T. backing track, but we're playing other stuff on top of it. So it's about fifty/ fifty. To tell you the truth, if you close your eyes, live I mean, I've listened to sound checks when I haven't been up there [on stage] and everyone else has. if you close your eyes you can pretty much visualize no sequence tracks up on track or up on stage. It's pretty easy.
GEAR: What do you say to people that think that's less than a band?
MIKE: I look at it this way: The song initially had to be written in the first place. That takes just as much effort as actually going up there with every piece of instrumental gear you need to play it and doing it that way, I don't see what the point is really. It's an idea. it's a song and you put it across, and how you put it across is pretty much your business. If they don't like it, fine.
GEAR: Good answer. How many guys are in the band now?
MIKE: There's three. We just added Paul on bass.
GEAR: So you do have a live bass player?
MIKE: Yes, we do have a live bass player. The three of us are really starting to gel. Paul is like the guy who was just like in your backyard all along and you never really noticed because he was in another band we were pretty good friends with and stuff.
GEAR: How would you describe both d.A. and Paul?
MIKE: d.A. is a very intense, focused individual. He goes like a hundred directions at once. sometimes he does things really scattered but it usually ends up coming all back into line towards the end of the project. It's hard to keep up with him sometimes. Paul's a little more like me. He's a little more practical practical in the way he goes through the thought process of doing something. You know here's point A, here's point B. Now how do I get there. d.A.'s more like the kind of person who just starts off at point A and when he gets to point B he gets there.
GEAR: How much does your live show differ from the CD or from organically what you do?
MIKE: it's pretty close. It's a little more spontaneous. Cause I make up stuff on the fly as we're playing and I'm sure Paul does too. d.A. doesn't always sing the song the same way. That's what I really don't like about electronic bands. Going and hearing them and having them sound exactly like the CD.
GEAR: Do you guys have any kind of special show?
MIKE: No, not really. d.A. has this sculpture thing he built. He can probably tell you more about that one. He plays it. It's got metal scraps on it and it holds a slambar and has many triggers on it and stuff like that.
At this point d.A. takes the phone and we proceed to talk about blah, blah, blah...
GEAR: From Mike's viewpoint you are pretty creative. He describes you as a guy that goes in a hundred different directions but gets from point A to point B in a real creative way. Why don't you tell me about your method.
d.A.: I like to break the boundaries of what I have done before, or try to set new parameters all the time, as far as trying to make the song writing part of it more interesting. Part of the reason that I built the slambar was because i found myself playing the same things over and over again on guitars. You know, you play the same riffs or fall into the same habitual patterns, working on the same instrument over and over again. I do it on the bass and then I do it on the guitar. I thought," how do I get the same type of sound, but break what I was doing," and that is why I made the slambar. I do the same thing for different songs. On the album there is this song called "Keep On Laughing Until The Cops Come", and that was written completely without computers. My drum machine has a midi out and our computer was in the shop, and I said God we're on a deadline to get this album out, and I want to do something. So I started using this ditty using the midi outs, triggering the samples, and simple little vocal parts, and that became the parameter of that song. You know, writing something without the computer, I think that is one of the ways that I make it interesting for myself for this type of music is to constantly be thinking of different ways, different parameters, and things that can change.
GEAR: Explain the slambar to people.
d.A.: The slambar goes all the way back to my punk days. I used to hang out with a bunch of rambunctious punks that was my band at the time. A drummer friend of mine started banging on a guitar with his drum stick and ever since then the idea has always been stuck in my head of how I can combine percussion and strings. It's one of those things that sticks in the back of your mind for years, you know kinda there but not? Right after I got my sobriety, I had alot of anxious, heavy duty energy and that was about four years ago, and I was sitting in my apartment and I was like "I know how to do this," so I went out and bought two pieces of @x4 and put them together and got a bunch of bass hardware and mounted strings onto it. The I got two screw drivers and started playing around with it. I went to this guitar store and this guy gave me the formula to finding all the notes on it and then I put the whole thing together. It was like one of those things that germinated for years and just came to a head all of the sudden...and boom "this is what I needed to do."
GEAR: How large of a palette do you used on each different song? Meaning palette as to a painter can get any color he wants mixing red, yellow, blue. and a little black and white for tints and hues. But how large is your pallet?
d.A.: Well it restricted pretty much financially. I usually max out my rack mount sampler. I gave a drum machine that i use for little parts, and a Yamaha sound module that I use for little parts. There are alot of colors that I see in my mind that I can't get to the canvas, because of financial limitations on the equipment side of it. I mean the whole thing (album) was done using a reel to reel eight track tape deck synced to the computer (an Atari Mega 4 ST) with a $70.00 sync box. So we had $1,300.00 to record the entire album (including buying the equipment).
GEAR: So it is pretty gutter tech. Do you think it forces you to be more creative with what you have?
d.A.: Exactly! I have to sit down and give it alot of thought. I mean I can start with the rhythm idea and then i can add one loop and that's it, because that is all the time I have in my sampler. So it is real restricted that way, but it does force me to maximize what I have. I have talked to alot of guys and they ask what kind of gear do you have> And I tell them what I have and they are like, "Are you kidding? Is that all you have?" I have two 1980's drum machines and a little $300 sound module, which is the Yamaha one, and a sampler that was from the late 80's and an old Atari computer and that is it.
GEAR: What is your approach to the live show? I know that your instrumentation is half art sculpture, half usable instrumentation. Why don't you tell me about that?
d.A.: The most recent thing we did was this Genre-fest show and for that, since it was going to be a big show and we knew there were alot of people there, I wanted everything right. That kinda pushes you always to get stuff finished. So what I did was, I used a bunch of PVC pipe, because I make alot of sculptures using the stuff, and because I used to work landscape irrigation for three years, I knew how to cut and use PVC and make it into stuff. So I made a percussion rig that my slambar sits in and I have pieces of filing cabinet hanging in it. So it looks pretty artsy, but is really functional at the same time. It's also collapsible and lightweight, so it's easy to tear down and put together before shows.
GEAR: What are you trying to accomplish musically and what are you trying to accomplish lyrically?
d.A.: Lyrically it's like you know things that I see on television or in my daily life, which is typical of any songwriter. You feel a level of frustration or helplessness, so rather than beat your dog or something, you turn it into a song. You turn that energy into a song. You try to find other people who feel the same way you do or whatever, and it is a kind of way to vent frustration. "Object of My Desire" is about men who stalk women. You know it was something that I saw on television. I guess alot of my songs are about things that I see on television. "Celebrate The Misery", which is like the first cut on the album was actually the title of an album I did with a kinda new wave punk band back in 1984. So I do recycle alot of lyrics. I have big books of lyrics, and as I am writing a song if I can't find anything new to go with the piece, I'll go through the old books and find stuff that fits and sometimes modify it. There is alot of different feelings that span alot of different periods of time.
GEAR: Fair enough. "Beat It To Fit, Paint It To Match?"
d.A.: Yeah, that was the title that Mike came up with. We were sitting there talking in the garage or something one time, and he was talking about his work and how it's like a term used by mechanics to say, "Oh yea...we'll just cover it up. " Beat it to fit then cover it up with some paint to match. I thought it was a really cool phrase and it stuck in my head. I had been cutting out some guys from Kent State photos for some kind of flyer art and it just came together. Kinda like the police state beats people to fit and then paints them over to match in society. The way that it's used in the album title it's kinda a statement on police brutality and the fact that I think alot of people are brow beaten by the police department and the bureaucracy to keep them in place and not ask too many questions.
- interview by Michael Brighton