In this interview, the leading figure of the techno-industrial metal band Ultraviolence, Johnny Violent, speaks about his early years, the history of techno-industrial and Clockwork Orange.
Are you a fan of the film "Clockwork Orange"? Considering the name of the band.
JC > Yes, when I chose the name of the project in 1991 the film was still banned...I proudly owned a copy on fuzzy VHS and used to watch it all the time. I was also well into the book and learnt the language...the little dictionary in the back is classic... I’ve never seen anything like it. The fact that anyone, and even many people would bother learning it is a testament to what a great work it is. A few years before Sigue Sigue Sputnik had used the Malcolm McDowell “Ultraviolence” quote in their track Love Missile F1-11 and I loved that. My favourite band at the time was New Order...they had a track called Ultraviolence on their brill Power Corruption and Lies album so everything fitted together nicely.
I’m a fan of many of Kubrick’s films...Eyes Wide Shut got a raw deal from critics and is one of the best, but my favourite has to be The Shining. When I first got a Blu-ray player a few years ago it was the first film I bought and I was blown away by the image quality...it is genuinely shocking...but when you switch to the standard def extras it still looks stunning...the film quality is astonishing and shows Kubrick was right to spend insane amounts of time on each individual film. All his films look amazing and you can watch again and again and always notice little details.
Who are some of your influences? Not just in music.
JC > As I type I’m listening to the Nero album Welcome Reality – the Crush On You is top modern pop...makes me want to dance and that’s not a pretty sight I can tell you! On the hardcore front I’ve been really impressed by material from Stocker on Motormouth Recordz, particularly the track Nuthouse which has a genuinely insane atmosphere to it which sets it apart from standard “crazy” gabber tracks which are sound conservative and dull once you’ve heard as many as I have. DJ Narcotic & Nevermind’s United States of Terror is a new benchmark in NY hardcore, reliving mid-90’s classics like DOA on the Industrial Strength label, but managing to be totally up to date at the same time.
One CD that I love right now is Portishead’s Third...it really is supremely miserable, almost embarrassingly self-deprecating in places, wilfully tuneless...I missed it on release but I love it now...can’t get enough of it.
Away from music playing the retro pinball game Williams Arcade Classics has been really fun in terms of the sounds...the raw chip bleeps and CPU speech are so good I get the feeling somehow I shouldn’t be having so much fun listening when I’m playing with the volume up...I’m working on something with those sorts of sounds in right now.
In general I’ve found my most satisfying music to be base on fictionalised versions of personal experiences.
What project is the band currently working on?
JC > I’m just concentrating on writing good music – I had to take a break for several years for a long term illness – so it’s good to be in the habit of writing again. I put some of the tracks online to get the Ultraviolence name around again. I would hope to be in a position to release an album in a year or two.
Do you enjoy playing live? What festivals have you played at recently?
JC > Further to the last question, the Resistanz festival in April 2012 will be the first Ultraviolence live show for six years...can’t wait. All the first three months of next year will be spent remixing and tailoring tracks for the event. There’ll also be a new stage show featuring UV regular Allezbleu as well as a new face or two... I’ve always enjoy the chance to play my music to people at very high volume. I don’t like too much travelling but it comes with the job.
Can we go back to the past - when did Ultraviolence sign with Earache?
JC > I joined Earache in 1993. Previous to that I had a major deal which fell through. Earache and I were both based in Nottingham which made things very convenient. They were looking to branch out from metal at the time and I thought that being on a label like that would get me away from the “rave” tag and more into the sphere of heavy music. Being on an independent label meant I could produce some very original music. We had a very productive relationship through the nineties, made many great records – today I’m so proud of my output in that era.
What bands were you in before Ultraviolence?
JC > When I was a kid Motorhead were my favourite...such an exciting adrenalized sound and I recently rebought some of their albums...No Sleep to Hammersmith is as killer as it ever was. Shamefully I met Lemmy once and was pissed up and made a twat out of myself...doh! I wrote up the incident for my blog and it was just so depressing I couldn’t post it up! I used to enjoy much chipped game music on my Commodore 64 computer...I first started to program music on that...Rob Hubbard made the best music and I still listen to that via SID (soundchip) emulator. There are many, many artists I loved...the ones a happen to remember this minute are...Sex Pistols, Ministry, NWA, Black Sabbath, New Order/Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, Beethoven, Wagner, Front 242, Ennio Morricone, Goblin, 808 State...
What was the techno-music scene like in the late 80's and early 90's?
JC > There was some great music, such as the aforementioned 808 State or Altern 8 but I was mostly just a fan of individual records or even sounds within records. Going out raving I found the music to be overly repetitive...I mean I’m a fan of repetition but many of those early tracks just sounded like someone had left the sequencer on during their coffee break, and the vocals were mostly horrible. I also found it dishonest that the scene was supposedly about “coming together” and “love” when many of the people involved were just greedy wankers once the drugs had worn off. I also wanted to just hear dark sounds instead of the horrible hands in the air piano breaks and the same old funky drummer and 808/909 drum patterns. To be honest, I didn’t like the whole thing much, but the great thing about it was that it enabled people like me to make and distribute records cheaply. I think when people go dewy eyed about that scene – like any nostalgia – it is just remembering particular moments as opposed day-in-day-out situation. However, it is a period that music and the music business were changed for the better in the long term.
Are you a fan of dark ambient-music?
JC > I haven’t heard much ambient music since John Foxx’s Cathedral Oceans – I tend to listen to classical music when I want a bit of quiet, but it I’m always happy to check out exciting new music. Can you recommend some?
What do you do when you are not working with Ultraviolence?
JC > No other commercial music projects. I do the odd guest lecture on electronic music...I’m doing one on the history of remixing and my experience of remixes in a few weeks...the preparation tends to reveal things about to me my work as I have to justify most of what I say with facts, instead of just holding opinions...everyone should try it! I’m also a decent cook, I do alot of cycling and some campaigning for animal welfare – I really wish I did more – the way our wealthy societies farm animals is pitiful.
Have you ever wanted to get involved with filmmaking?
JC > Funny you should ask this. I’ve recently been learning some video editing software – having “mastered” Window’s Movie Maker(!) I’ve moved onto Sony Vegas – its brilliant fun, especially the automations on FX – unbelievably cheap for what it is, too. My output is thus far confined to footage of soft toys, however I hope to be good enough to make my own promo vids pretty soon.
I don’t have any ambitions for feature film soundtrack music right now - just getting Ultraviolence back off the ground is work enough right now. Doing things like this again is really useful, so thanks for featuring UV in Damned by Light.