For over 20 years Suicide Commando has annihilated dance floors all over the world. A figure head in the industrial scene and a pioneer for HarshEBM, Suicide Commando is definitely a force to be reckoned with. On a more personal level, I’ve drawn countless influence from many a Suicide Commando song for my own music, and Hellraiser holds a special place in my heart from back in the Dungeon days in Hawaii.
First of all, really big congratulations for making it for 25 years! That’s pretty phenomenal for any band, let alone an industrial band. Your sound has grown largely throughout the last 25 years, but I feel like you are still true to the original Suicide Commando signature sound. A lot of bands have problems with either repeating the same album over and over again, or completely changing their sound and alienating fans – How do you “keep it fresh,” for lack of a better term, in the studio?
I don’t know, I never gave it any real thought as I’m just doing what I feel is right. But I guess it’s a combination of a lot of things that keeps Suicide Commando fresh. I just try to blend my roots of old school electronics with today’s sound and I guess that still works for me. I think many people soon get stuck in a certain time and don’t evolve anymore. I just try to keep the good things from all periods in time, so from the eighties electronics till today’s more upbeat club stuff, and combine those elements into my sound.
With The Suicide Sessions, you went back and re-mastered the first few CDs as well as some unreleased material – what was it like going back and working with those older tracks, and did it give you any ideas to reincorporate into the newer material?
It actually was really interesting and fun to go back into time and my own history. Before I started working on “the suicide sessions” I didn’t listen to my older works for quite some years, so it almost was refreshing to hear those old recordings again. I realized how much my sound evolved after all those years and it indeed gave me a boost and hopefully new inspiration for the new material I’m starting on right now.
2011 seemed to be a pretty busy touring year for you, playing your first show in North America at the Kinetik Festival in Canada, as well as many, many other festivals around Europe – Do you have any plans to come back to North America, and will we ever see a full US tour?
Yes, the plans are there for sure, now we only need to realize those plans. Unfortunately it costs quite a lot of money to tour the US, only the necessary visa’s for our entire crew already are really expensive, but we nonetheless hope to find a way to make it all happen in 2012, so wait and see. With some luck we at least will be over with a couple of shows.
You’ve worked with Jan, from X-Fusion/X-M-P/Noisuf-x/Merch-x, on not only the mastering for the last handful of releases, but also Kombat Unit. There are stout rumors here and there of a full length Kombat Unit release – is there any truth to that?
Yes and no, plan indeed is/was to finish and do a complete album with Kombat Unit. But unfortunately both me (with Suicide Commando) and Jan (with his projects and mastering job) hardly find any time at the moment to work on more material, so I fear we’ll have to at least delay those plans. But we still hope to finish that album sooner or later.
What is one piece of equipment that is pinnacle to the Suicide Commando studio?
Well, without my computer I would be a bit helpless today, but who wouldn’t be in today’s society, so I guess that doesn’t count. So I’d say my Roland JP8000 is my most valuable piece of gear at the moment as it was responsible for so many Suicide Commando clubhits so far.
The X20 box set included a DVD of live footage; do you have any plans to release another live DVD/documentary?
I don’t have any concrete plans in that direction at the moment, also because it’s a very expensive thing to do if you want to do it in a professional way, but never say never. So I guess sooner or later we’ll do another live documentary, but not in the very near future as I now first plan to work on a new studio album.
If you could tour with any band, at any time in history, which would it be?
I’ve been touring with many of my favorite bands over the years, bands I admired when I started doing music like Front 242, Klinik, Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy … I never expected that one day I would join stages with these legends, but it did happen, so I’m already a happy old guy.
What was the most influential live show you have ever seen?
That’s a difficult one. For me the most influential shows doesn’t necessarily have to be big shows, for example I’ll never forget one of Front 242’s first shows in a small club in Belgium back in 1984. I guess most of my favorite shows go way back in time with bands like Front 242, Klinik, Alien Sex Fiend … from the more recent shows I guess Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly are among the better ones.
What are some lesser known artists that you are currently listening to, and that you think people should know?
I get to discover many bands while being on the road or through the World Wide Electronics label I’m running, some bands definitely worth giving a listen, in my opinion that is, are vProjekt from Australia, First Black Pope from Italy, or yet Nano Infect from Greece.
What are some new(er) releases you currently have on rotation?
The first album from vProjekt “exhilarate and disgust” got some heavy rotation, furthermore just checked out the first album from Surgyn, the new album from Project Rotten or even the latest album from John Lord Fonda which is quite different stuff, more minimal techno oriented.
What would you say are some essential CDs to have in any industrial musician’s library?
Essential definitely should be the first works from Klinik (like “sabotage” or their masterpiece “face to face”), Front 242 (from “geography” to “tyranny for you”), the first works from Skinny Puppy and Leaether Strip, even the older works from Fad Gadget. From the later works I’d say “music for a slaughtering tribe” from :wumpscut: is an essential release, or even “mindstrip” from myself …
When you’re not making music, or on tour, what other hobbies do you have?
Unfortunately there’s not much time left for any hobbies at the moment. Having a job, doing music and being a father of a 2 year old kid hardly leaves any free time I’m afraid … The few free moments I’d like to catch a movie or just watch some TV, even play some xBox once in a while, but that’s about it …
What advice would you give new, budding artists in the genre?
An advice I always give to the newer generation of artists is to do the music they love to do and not just try to be a copy of this or whatever band, they should enjoy making music without thinking too much of how they could sound like Combichrist or VNV Nation. The fun aspect of making music always was and still is a very important to me. I also would say the new kids should have some more patience. I have the impression that many kids starting to make music want things too fast, today they buy a computer and tomorrow they want to be the new big stars of the scene. But it doesn’t work like that. Sure it became much easier and above all much cheaper to create music these days, all you need is a good computer and some cool softsynths, but they forget that it also takes time to mature and create an own sound and be original. Nowadays you get way too many poor releases simply because they were done way too fast.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to A Dark Figure Music Blog, we are looking forward to future releases and many more tours!
Thanks and keep our scene alive !
Johan Suicide Commando.