Chimera Magazine recently spoke with Man Woman Machine co-founder Joe Lupia and vocalist Tracey Moth to discuss the band’s beginning’s, current projects, and how Joe makes his own machines to help create their band’s distinct sound.
– Tell us a bit about Man Woman Machine, and how the band formed.
Joe: Man Woman Machine was formed in January 2013 when my good friend (original MWM vocalist) Brandi Kotlarz called me up out of the blue and asked if I was interested in working on some music together. We decided to try something completely new and different for both of us, stylistically speaking, and we just totally dove headfirst into the project with wide open minds and let the outcome be whatever it may. The next 10 months were a whirlwind of excitement as we crafted the “From Darkness” album, which we released in November of that year.
Unfortunately, shortly after the album came out, Brandi decided to step down from the band. So I continued the band, mostly doing remixes for other bands while I looked for a new vocalist. Several months later, MWM got some really good show offers that were too good to turn down just because we didn’t have a singer. So I asked Tracey (whom I knew through the industrial/electronic scene and her other band, Antidote For Annie) if she would fill in for the shows… and it wound up going so well that she decided to stay on permanently.
Tracey: I first heard MWM’s track Bearing the Palm on the Electronic Saviors 3 compilation. I immediately loved their sound, and was stoked when Joe asked me to fill in on vocals for one of their live shows. I was disappointed when I heard that Brandi was leaving the band because I loved their debut album so much, but excited that I could step in to help keep the project going and steer it in a new direction.
– Who are some of the band’s major influences, both musically and non-musically?
Joe: That is something that is constantly changing, as I love to check out new artists that are trying new things and finding new sounds. But some of the major ones that have always inspired me include Front Line Assembly, Mind.In.A.Box, Skinny Puppy, Comaduster, Delerium, Lords Of Acid. I’m also very inspired by the Batman Arkham video games and their scores, as well as The Dark Knight Trilogy and their scores by Hans Zimmer. My whole studio is filled with Batman action figures and memorabilia, which keeps the vibe of that room really fun so that I am more tempted to hang out and work on music.
– Your music is electro based, with a ton of complex mixed melodies. Can you tell us about what sort of equipment do you use to help create your sound?
Joe: Aside from my Pro Tools DAW, all of our music is done entirely with hardware equipment. These days, a lot of electronic musicians seem to get by with just a laptop and a midi controller and make all of their music with software, but I personally don’t see how that would be fun or interesting. I prefer a more tactile approach, and I like to design sounds and commit them to tape in analog, rather than recording in midi and spending endless hours tweaking software synth sounds. I also like our music to have lots of layers and ear candy, so that listeners can discover hidden treasures upon repeat listenings.
I use an old school Korg EMX-1 Electribe to program all of my drums, bass lines, and the occasional synth part. I currently have about a dozen synthesizers that I use, but I definitely have my favorites that tend to end up on most songs…synths like my Access Virus A, Virus TI Snow, and Korg Radias.
When we started to write the follow up to “From Darkness”, I built a modular synthesizer, which completely changed the way I approached making music. It really allowed me to wrap my head around something totally new and exciting, with limitless possibilities… and do an insane amount of experimenting. I think people will be very surprised by our sound on the new record.
– If you’re introducing someone to Man Woman Machine for the first time, which songs would you play for them and why?
Joe: At this point, I would have them check out “Destroy” and “Whisper Sparks A Hurricane” off our “Destroy EP”, which serves as a teaser for our new album, as well as a proper introduction to what Tracey brings to the table. In addition to all of the lyrics, our original singer Brandi wrote a lot of music for the first album, so she took a lot of the early sound of the project with her when she left. That really gave me the opportunity to reinvent this project from the ground up when Tracey came onboard. Even though I tried to retain some elements of the original MWM sound and vibe, there was definitely a big metamorphosis. I think we are much more streamlined, grittier, and definitely heavier this time around. Also, Tracey encouraged me to step up my role as a vocalist on this record. On the last album, I only provided a few small backup vocals. Now we are more of a co-vocalist team, in the vein of bands such as Lacuna Coil. It has definitely changed our dynamics up a bit.
– Your album “Darkness Rewired” features several songs remixed by other bands. Tell us about how that came about, and what it was like to hear the various takes on the originals.
Joe: I was always a fan of the remix albums that I bought when I grew up in the 90’s, so I have always wanted to do one to see what other talented people would do with my material if given the chance. When MWM first emerged into the electronic scene, we quickly realized that the artists/bands in this scene are a tight knit group….they are very supportive of other bands within the electronic/industrial genre. And remixing each other’s songs is a symbiotic way to cross over into new fan bases while also helping out friends. A handful of the remixes on “Darkness Rewired” were trades from bands that I had previously remixed, others were favors from friends, and I decided to do a few self-remixes, taking a fresh crack at our material and reinventing it to the best of my abilities. And the end result was extremely satisfying. All of the artists did an extraordinary job….some even took our songs to entirely different realms. And we have had a great deal of fun performing the self-remixes live in place of the album versions.
– At times your music seems to nod in a way trailblazing industrial acts such as Lords of Acid and KMFDM, while still maintaining a fresh, new sound (such as in the song “Whisper Sparks a Hurricane”.) Is this a conscious decision, to give listeners that little hint of familiarity?
Joe: I definitely think it is important to give credit where credit is due. I have had the pleasure of seeing a lot of my biggest electronic influences perform live and even met a bunch of them, and it was always an incredibly positive experience. They always inspired me to keep going and keep evolving. Without those artists, I very well may have not been inspired to go down this path in the first place.
But when I write music, I am not particularly mindful of sounding like any certain artists or genres. I usually just write with the intent to create a vibe, a mood, or just a really fun groove that people can easily get into. I also like to experiment heavily, so the new fresh sounds just come with the territory. And bringing modular synthesizers into the equation definitely opened the doors to an endless supply of crazy new sounds and possibilities that I have only just begun to explore.
– If you could build your dream line up of bands to tour with, who would you choose?
Joe: We have had the chance to open for some pretty cool bigger bands in the past few years… bands such as Angelspit, Grendel, En Esch (of KMFDM), Ludovico Technique, The Gothsicles…to name a few. And I’m sure we’ll get more exciting opportunities as we continue on. But as far as a dream tour, I would love the chance to tour with legends such as Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Delerium, KMFDM, or Lords Of Acid. It would also be cool to tour with bands like God Module, Velvet Acid Christ, Comaduster, Mind.In.A.Box., Conjure One. There are so many excellent bands in the electronic genre, and it would be a privilege to play with just about any of them.
– What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about being in a band that you didn’t know prior to being in one and playing out?
Joe: I think the biggest one I have noticed is the difference in the ability to accomplish things in the electronic genre. I spun my wheels as a bass player in the metal scene for about 15 or so years before I finally figured out how to properly make electronic music and switched genres. During my time playing metal, I was in some pretty decent bands, but never felt like I accomplished much in all of that time. But as soon as MWM broke out into the scene, we started landing bigger shows in cities all across the northeastern US, we landed a track on Electronic Saviors 3 (a major cancer research benefit compilation put out by the biggest electronic music label, Metropolis Records), and we remixed a bunch of much more established artists and they actually included our remixes on their releases. Then we were actually signed to a Florida-based industrial label a little over a year after our formation, until the label eventually dissolved. It’s just really nice to see some of the effort finally paying off.
– What does “being successful” as a band mean to you?
Joe: I would absolutely love to see the band gain enough support that we could eventually work on it full time. But in the meantime, I would be thrilled to put out music that really makes a connection with people. I would love for people to be excited about our music and our band and just get a good buzz going in the underground. And I would love to do a couple short tours every year. That would be amazing.
– What can fans expect next from Man Woman Machine, and where can they keep up to date on your latest releases and shows?
Joe: I am very happy to say that we will finally be releasing our long awaited sophomore full length album early this year. Tracey and I have been working really hard on it since September 2014, and I really think we have captured some very intense, energetic, and downright catchy vibes on this record.
We will also be releasing a non-album single for a really fun 90’s pop cover on Valentine’s Day 2017.
And we also will try to hit the road as much as possible this year to support the album. At this point, we have tested just about all of them out live at least once or twice, and it really adds energy to the live shows.
As far as keeping tabs on us, we announce all of our shows on Facebook (www.facebook.com/manwomanmachine), but we keep a more comprehensive show schedule at www.artistecard.com/manwomanmachine . All of our music can be found at www.manwomanmachine.bandcamp.com.