Music says much about the artist, when it is created with a purpose, self-commitment and love towards the process. However, people always have more questions to ask and want more answers to get. At the moment there’re louds of rhythmic industrial/power noise acts, issuing their CDs both on major (within underground, of course) and small, DIY labels all over the world, but quantity doesn’t always mean quality. Still there’re quite new projects that arouse certain interest and Cenotype is exactly the one of that kind. The person, who’s behind CENOTYPE - Lenny B. - was known for a long time as a DJ Wintermute and during years supported industrial scene. And it seems that finally the time came to reproduce all the experience gained during the years and all the ideas that were bugging the head - in an own project. I was lucky enough and had a chance to ask Lenny B. a few questions that interested me and I hope that his detailed and well-considered answers are going to bate audience’s curiousity of the audience as they bated mine.
Heathen Harvest: How and when did you start listening to music? Did someone influence your choice in the very beginning and does something/someone influence your choice nowadays?
I began listening to music at a very early age. My parents were very supportive and introduced me to many different styles of music. From classic rock to new wave to heavy metal, they never judged me or discouraged me from listening to any styles of music.
HH: Has your attitude towards music been changing during these years and did it change when you started your own project?
I think, through different ages I have listened to different styles of music. From metal to punk to hardcore to industrial, I have been in love. My love for music has only recently hit a rocky point. All of these manufactured marketing tools being forced down my throat, rather than real musicians, are discouraging, but I think that everything runs it course and there is always the underground.
HH: Is it your first project?
Yes, Cenotype is my first solo project, though the current sound is much different than what it started out as. I have also worked with Life Cried
as a live musician and observer for almost 6 years now, as well.
HH: How were the ideas for this project generally and “Origins” album born?
The ideas for “Origins” all came from a series of reoccurring nightmares and dreams. Normally, I can not remember hardly anything from dreams, but these stayed with me very clearly, even after I had woken up. I felt that it was best to try to keep these dreams for self-analysis. I wanted to put a soundtrack to them and to try and convey what I think the images should sound like.
HH: What were the criteria for choosing a designer of Origins booklet? What was the main idea lying under the design?
Well, one of the main perks of being signed to Hive Records
is that Davyd Pittman does your artwork! Aside from the label, I think Davyd has a beautifully unique, haunting vibe to his design, so pairing that with Polina Zaitseva’s photography was a natural fit. Polina and I had those pictures that you see on the album for a quite a few years. I always had the intention of using them for the “Origins” insert layout. When Davyd started working with them, I really think that the essence of the album comes together. The main goal for Cenotype is having visuals and music that compliment each other and act as different pieces to the story.
HH: Where are the lyrics/samples taken from?
The samples that I use vary from very obscure B-Horror movies to more known films. There is really no need to be specific, as the samples are just another element to assist the music in telling the story. Besides, it is always fun to watch a movie and go, “Hey! I know that line from X album!!” It’s like a game! There are only real human vocals on one track, “Justice”, which are performed by Leech for Navicon Torture Technologies
HH: What are the tools you use for composing? Analogue or digital? Why do you give preference to this or that equipment?
I work with both analogue and digital synths and effects, though most of “Origins” was written with software. I do think that exclusively using software production is prohibitive and a lot of people don’t understand my stance on this. It is my opinion that sometimes things shouldn’t be so easy and you should not have that many options. If you look to some of the most influential artists across many genres, you will see that they were writing an entire album using one or two synths that were not very advanced and they managed just fine, primarily due to the fact that they needed to be creative and did not have thousands of sounds in a sample pack that someone made for them. This also forced them to create the sounds that they heard in their head through synthesis. Now, you have unlimited tracks (depending on the power of your computer), which can be excellent, but I think that an artist needs to learn to be disciplined first. I think that you should be able to sit down with one or two sources and write a competent, creative album with minimal gear, this way, when you have developed the theme of your music and created a “sound”, having access to a wide variety of synths and effects will be additive to your music. There are too many bands whose music relies solely on the fact that they use the newest synths and software. Most simply get bogged down in the newest, slickest sound and forget that they are supposed to be writing a song.
It is also true that certain older gear has a certain “sound”. Yes, there is software that can emulate this, but there were subtle nuances and glitches with a lot of older gear that gave music character and let a musician play the instrument in a certain way. Software very rarely captures that correctly. All-in-all, however, I think it is up to the artist to experiment with different mediums and find which works best for their music.
HH: What is this project for you? What does it mean for you?
Cenotype is the side of me that I can never really express verbally or logically. It is the other side that everyone has that is too impractical, dangerous, emotional, etc. to display. Creatively, it is amazing to be able to feel angry or sad about something and compose a track. I consider myself a pretty balanced person. Cenotype is my way of fucking everything up safely. If that makes sense?
HH: Do you plan any live shows around the globe?
I would love to play globally! So far, most Cenotype shows have been in the New York City area, with a few trips to Canada (including performing for two COMA Festival
s in Montreal and a few Canadian shows with Terrorfakt
) and a select few other states. I am, however, very open to playing live shows. I hope to play more shows in the near future, as long as there is interest.
HH: What kind of a live show of yours you would consider successful?
The best live show for me is the one where you come off stage and are sweating, sore and maybe hurt! A show where you connect with the crowd that came to see you by giving a solid live representation of your music is always the goal for me.
]Live shows are becoming more and more important with the change in the music industry. For smaller, independent artists, who can no longer reply on albums sales, the live show is now the main way to get people to rally to your music. If someone downloads an album and likes the music, the hope is that they will now support the artist in a different way, by paying to see a show and maybe buying a t-shirt, or maybe even the CD that they downloaded? It is really time to start stepping up the live performances. More energy and more interaction between the artists and audience, which is never a bad thing.
HH: I read that you’re not only a musician, but a DJ. So here’re a few questions for you as for a DJ:
- What is DJing for you?
I have been DJing regularly for going on 8 years now. It started really selfishly, I have to admit. I always wanted to hear certain songs in a certain order, so I started to DJ, hahah. DJing used to be for me what Cenotype is now, but not so personal. It is a way to creatively let go off all of the bullshit in your life for a few hours. You drink, play some killer music and get people to party with you. It’s all about music and fun.
- What kind of reaction are you waiting from the audience in a club?
I think the natural reaction that every DJ tries to achieve is a club full of energetic people getting to explode and let go. Seeing a packed dance floor full of people moving to your selection of music is a great feeling!
- Should a DJ, in your opinion, comply with the expectations of the audience if they run counter to his own wishes and likes?
This is hard topic because I have been on both sides of this issue. I think that there are two types of DJ; The Specialty DJ and The Main Floor DJ.
The Specialty DJ may have a regular residency or maybe do guest spots at different parties, but they focus on one or two very specific styles and are known to play only those styles, so that is what people expect. The Specialty DJ usually will not worry about how obscure his set is and will push boundaries, musically.
The Main Floor DJ usually has a weekly (or multiple weekly) residencie(s) and has to cater to everyone. This DJ needs to have a basic knowledge of many genres, from New Wave to Goth to Darkwave to Batcave to EBM, Synthpop, Dark Elektro, Terror EBM, Rhythmic Noise, etc. The Main Floor DJ is generally older and can DJ for a whole night; flowing through various styles (sets) and can read a crowd. They are the staples of any long-running party. Without a good Main Floor DJ, no party will last.
With this in mind, I think it depends on what kind of DJ you strive to be. If you are working at becoming a great Main Floor DJ, you’d better do your homework, know a ton of music in every genre, sub-genre, micro-genre, etc. and be able to expertly mix these styles for long periods of time and be able to take requests well. The Main Floor DJ’s job is two-fold. You must make the crowd dance and play the expected hits (Send Me An Angel for the 1,000,000th time, anyone?), but it is also their job to introduce the brainwashed masses to newer artists and tracks. A lot of main floor DJs excel in one of these and fail miserably at the other, unfortunately, hence hearing the same hits every weekend.
All-in all, I think which ever type of DJ you are striving to be, it is important to educate. Show the crowd where the music originated by playing old school sets and then show them where it is going by exposing them to new artists. It is the only way!
- Is it true that power noise is commonly played in the clubs around USA and Europe?
It’s kind of sad, because a lot of DJs were playing Power Noise in the late nineties when some of the great albums, like Shock Front from Converter
, came out but no one gave two shits because everybody was obsessing over Future Pop. I know quite a few amazing DJs who were playing old Pro Noise / Ant-Zen
/ Daft Records
music to an empty room and simply quit because no one responded to it.
These DJs and promoters would throw the most amazing shows, including whole Ant Zen Label festivals, where there would be 5 people in a basement in New York City. Ironically, 12 years later and you can’t spit on a club night that doesn’t play PAL and kids would kill to see 1 of these acts perform live, let alone 12 of them in the same show. It is good that it is becoming more common, just funny how time works out.
- What kind of audience can be noticed on your performances?
The audiences at Cenotype shows are comprised mostly of people that are into EBM, Industrial, Rhythmic Noise, etc. I am kind of lucky in the fact that I can play a beat focused set for a more dance-oriented party or can do a dark ambient set at a smaller “noise” event, so the crowds vary, which I enjoy very much.
- What kind of clubs do you prefer to visit?
If I have my way, the club would play a good mix of older EBM and newer Rhythmic Industrial. It always helps if there is a good DJ. However, as long as there is Jack Daniels, I am usually ok.
- What do you think, is there any kind of industrial community, industrial subculture (as there’s Goth subculture, Goth community, for example)?
There is a strong Industrial community, just not a big scene. Everywhere that I have traveled, I have met people, stayed in contact with them and hung out when they came to where I live or vice-a-versa. There are people who I know that if I am in town playing a show and need a place to sleep, I can call them, no problem and I offer my home in the same way. It is very much like the Hardcore Punk scene in the early 80’s. The only thing that I see putting a rift in the community are people who categorize too much. I don’t really think that it is necessary for each band in a genre to have their own micro-genre. Death Industrial, Power Electronics, Noise, Rhythmic Noise, Power Noise, EBM, TBM, Hellektro, Terror EBM, Aggro Tech… the list goes on. Many people then feel that they have to be elitist (see: closed-minded) and only listen to a specific micro-genre, thereby limiting themselves. It is silly!! Stop it!!
- There’s an opinion that “gothic” and “industrial” are connected. There’re many discussions around this topic and I’m very interested in your opinion as you may be called a representative of industrial genre. What do you think about that? And if they’re connected, how and when did that happen? Any bands, as an example?
I can see why people associate the two. Most clubs that cater to an alternative scene have always played both types of music. Both genres of music, while not using the same instrumentation, are dark and focus on more negative social issues. My girlfriend and I joke that the difference between a person who listens to Goth and a person who listens to Industrial is the Goth wants to kill themselves and the Industrial kid wants to kill everyone else. =]
I think you can see the roots in a lot of older music. Everything essentially came from Punk. Goth was an offshoot that sought to defy the brightly colored, aggressive punk aesthetic by bringing in a darker, more morose theme. Early Industrial was the same, but rebelled by not using traditional instruments, such as guitars, but rather pipes, coils, etc. for percussion. The theme changed, but the mindset was very similar. We all heard that a wave of indignation is rising again when it comes to mp3. Dependent is shutting down coz of pirate mp3s being spread. What is your opinion about the whole situation with mp3 files being spread around the world? Should mp3 be forbidden? Is there any use in mp3 sharing?
Honestly, I think it all comes down to... honesty. If there is an affordable way to be honest, then do it. If not, then take the best way. I am a sucker. I have spent dumb amounts of money on "limited ed." or out of print music, but there is a line. I am not one for using P2P sites, simply on principle, but I may have to, as there are some releases that I have been searching for for ages that are waaay out of print, that I could not get legally, although I have tried. I think the people that really need to be taken out back and raped are the ones who do not even make an attempt to support the arts, but expect and expect like it is magic. People use the major labels and assholes like Metallica to base their stance on illegal file-sharing and downloading. Well-known, major label artists are still affected by this trend, just not to the extent that a small, indie artist like myself is. I mean, people like Christina Aguilera have made all of their money in other arenas, such as product endorsements and the like, so illegal downloading basically equates to them not being able to afford their 5th diamond hot tub. However, to a small label or artist who produces an extremely small run of CDs in a micro-niche genre (sometime as low as 500 copies), each and every physical unit sold means the difference of several factors:
- Will the label be able to put out another release by that artist (or any artist, for that matter)?
- Will the artist be able to take their two week vacation from their shitty job to go on "tour", covering initial costs such as a rental van, gas, food, etc?
- If the artist actually finds the money to tour, will they be able to afford to print merchandise, such as t-shirts and the like, which is the only real way for a small artist to gain any actual money?
- Will the artist be able to afford new gear, such as a drum machine for their next album or a new computer when theirs dies?
All of these factors are very real and will surely change the face of the way that we experience music. File sharing is killing music, but sites such as allofmp3.com and mp3db.ru are just a plain smack in the face, in that not only are they distributing music illegally, but they are charging for it! Fuckery, all of it! My hope is to win the lottery, give my music away for free under my own terms and travel playing shows for those few people who actually care. One can dream, right?
HH: What about the censorship in the US? Have you personally had any problems with that?
People use the whole “freedom of speech” thing as a crutch, but then want things censored when they are deemed “offensive”. I have not run into this yet, artistically, but I am confident that it will happen sooner-or-later. As far as the US goes, though, I am not sure just how different it is in these terms from the rest of the world. I think it is more a question of human nature and people’s personal hang-ups and insecurities being projected unfairly on to others.
HH: What do you think about a phenomenon called “American Dream”?
The American Dream can be a very real thing if you are either very lucky or are willing to throw any sense of morality, self and humanity out the window. Let yourself be absorbed by a corporate entity. Work your way up the corporate ladder. Stab your co-worker in the back for a promotion. Keep climbing. Don’t look down. Have a wife and 2.5 children, whom you will not have the time to see. Make yourself available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and soon you will have that wonderful home that you do not even own, the big, gas-guzzling SUV that you will drive home drunk, the family that wants nothing to do with you, and all of the money that you want to pay for everything that you don’t need. Sounds great, right?
HH: Now, let’s imagine a few things and play “what if”:
- If you were asked to compose a soundtrack for the movie, what kind of movie would that be?
It would be a delightful romp. A romantic comedy set in the south of France between a boy and his dog. Ok, I am joking. It would probably either be a thriller or a science fiction movie, as that is mostly what I am into and I am sick to death of seeing a good, dark horror movie with Lincoln Park some other generic Nu-Metal garbage soundtrack
- If one day Cenotype were forbidden, what would you do?
Write the same music under a different name or have a hefty psychiatrist bill.
- If you had an opportunity to come back in the past, would you like to change something within your music career?
Yeah, I’d make my parents send me for piano and guitar lessons and learn how to read music.
HH: Would you play for 20 people if they were those who really enjoy your music?
I have played for less. To me it doesn’t matter whether there are 5 or 5,000 people that come to see you. They came because they appreciate what you do and it would be unfair to react differently because there are not more people. I can not stand bands that pull that shit. Be appreciative of the people who support what you are doing, no matter what.
HH: I guess the readers are quite interested to know more about you as a person with human interests and weaknesses.(However, if you prefer the music to stay inhuman and not getting a human face, then I’ll understand) So, a few “personal” questions... What are your favorite genres of literature (or writers)?
I am a huge cyberpunk and horror fan. There are huge amounts of books and writers that I like, but I will say my two favorite authors are William Gibson
and Clive Barker
HH: And when it comes to the music, what are your favorite bands or music genres? Which 3-5 bands would you name as the ones who made the biggest impact in music evolution of 20th century? Can you elaborate a bit on that?
I like so many different styles of music, but I find myself mostly listening to Industrial, Punk and Hardcore (punk). I listen to a lot of Joy Division
, Johnny Cash
, Agnostic Front
, Skinny Puppy
… it varies by what mood that I am in and what comes up on my iPod.
I think the 3 most influential artists of the 20th century (in no order) are:
- Chuck Berry because he was one of the first black musicians to play real Rock n’ Roll, which was essentially, combined different styles of rhythm and blues, country and gospel music, and be recognized for it. This style is what really has influenced every major innovation of music for the rest of the 20th century.
- Kraftwerk because they are the godfathers of formulaic electronic music. They built their own instruments and effects from War-era military surplus radio parts and invented everything that we know and love about electronic music, from the first usable vocoder to sequencers. They influenced every genre in the 80’s from New Wave to Industrial, etc…
- Brittany Spears because she will be remembered as the person that ruined the concept of record labels signing an artist based on talent rather than developing a marketing concept. Prior to Brittany Spears, the concept of taking a slightly attractive, mediocre talented underage girl and spawning a sex symbol to sell everything from records to clothing to soft drinks, was unheard of. Bands used to get signed because they had a unique edge or sound, not because of a “demographic”. You can go so far as to say that she will also be recognized with the ruin of the entire recording industry due to the fact that she spawned the trend of the shit music coming out on an album that has one “listenable” song. 12 year-olds then started looking to buy singles, rather than full albums. With the advent of the iPod, iTunes enabled people to buy one song, thereby making the concept of music even more worthless. Subconsciously, people are being fed this music and hating it, realizing that is utter shit, but it is all they know. Wait, now you can go to a P2P site and get that one crap song for free, because, “Hey, the artist is rich, they won’t miss me not buying the new album”. There you have the steady decline of the recording industry. I don’t blame it all on Brittany Spears. It is, of course, the scumbag marketing and major label executives who have shot themselves in the foot, but Brittany will be remembered as the face of pop music of this time.
HH: I hope it won’t become a small advertisement, but where do you usually buy the CDs? Is it possible to find the music you prefer in a, let’s say, usual music store in your city?
I buy all of my music from a small, independent record shop, called Stomp and Sounds near where I live in Montclair, New Jersey. The store caters exclusively to Goth, Industrial, Hardcore Techno, House, etc. The owner, Bobby Lisi has been running the store for almost 20 years now! He has been involved in the New York and New Jersey scene as a merchant, a DJ, and an educator. It is important to support what you stand for!
HH: Are there musicians that became sort of an icon for you? Do you take a leaf from someone’s book, follow someone’s example?
I would not go in so far to say I consider anyone an “icon”, but there are surely some people who just did things almost perfectly.
For me, a few of those people are Johnny Cash for the sheer emotion and conviction that he wrote with, H.R. from The Bad Brains
for the message that he put out and the vibe that he had, which was considerably different from any other Punk/Hardcore vocalist at the time, and Ogre from Skinny Puppy for the pure poetry mixed with the intense stage performance and presence that he conveys.
HH: It is obvious that musicians within the scene communicate with each other creating a community. Do you communicate with any of them within industrial scene? Outside industrial scene?
I have a lot of friends that happen to be in Industrial bands, but I knew all of these people before those projects even existed. I don’t look at them like they are that particular band, or whatever. They are my drinking buddies, lol.
HH: Can you, please, describe a landscape/interior you would feel comfortable in?
Hmm. I’m pretty adaptable. I have lived near NYC for my whole life, so I am very used the fast-paced, day-to-day insanity. Conversely, it is always nice to go to a quieter, more serene place like a beach or the woods. Just depends on the climate and the mood that I am in.
HH: As far as it is my first interview, I’ve got the last question: are there the questions the musician shouldn’t be asked? If yes, could you name at least 3 of them?
Wow, this is your first interview? I am flattered! The questions that you are asking are more in-depth than any that I have been asked before. Keep doing it.
As far as questions that you should never ask a musician, I don’t think they exist. If you are a journalist, it is your duty to ask any question that you or your readers would want to know. There are questions that some musicians may not like to be asked, though:
What kind of gear do you use? Many artists get offended at this question because they do not want to give away their secrets, whether it is some special gear that they use that no one else does or the fact that they use the same exact gear as everyone else, but in a different way.
What do you like do in your spare time? This question seems to get evaded a lot in interviews. Not sure why? Maybe some artists do not want to ruin the image that they convey. It’s like, “Wow, really? You’re really not a zombie space pirate hillbilly when you go home at night??” Dumb to me, but I don’t take myself very seriously.
What does (insert song title) mean? Many artists prefer to leave interpreting their music to the listener. A lot of artists are also really full of shit and don’t want you to know it, hahahah!
HH: I’d like to thank Lenny B. once more for his interest towards the questions and time it took to give the answers!