The gentlemen of the San Francisco based trio, INHALT, are currently locked away and hard at work on their upcoming EP titled "Occupations". This being the follow up to their "Vehicle" EP. A fine and entrancing four song vinyl collection of pulsing, vibrant, rhythmic, and sometimes a bit abstract electronic craftsmanship. I remember being absolutely smitten after just one listen to each of the one minute samples. I desperately needed to hear them in their full glory and finally got the opportunity upon the official release. In fact, it was one that made it into our Top 20 EP's of 2012 list; rightfully so and well deserved.
Matia Simovich, Bryan Gibbs, and Philip Winiger incorporate the best bits and pieces of their early and current musical influences into their own songwriting. That said, they ultimately put their own personal spin on things. There is no blatant rehash to be heard here and that's something that's difficult to come by these days. The aforementioned three took some time out, from their recording, to answer a few questions i had. Here is what they had to say.
1) I'd like to start things off with talking about the origin of the band. How did it all come together?
Matia: Philip and I met several years ago over a shared love of analog synthesizers, drum machines, and authentic electronic music.
Philip: One day we just started to work together. From that first day on we sort of knew this was a collaboration that just worked. There was not much beyond that in the beginning.
Matia: That first session was deeper, more established, and honest than any other projects we had worked on individually. In 2009 I moved to London to finish an MA and met a great cast of characters in England. When I returned to California, Philip and I asked my old friend and colleague, Bryan Gibbs, if he would be interested in joining us with what at that point became INHALT.
Bryan: I was very interested in joining the project from the moment I heard the early songs. I had been developing a studio complex that, with the help of Matia and Philip, was finally christened "The Bunker" which has since become our main base of operations.
Matia: From there we put out our first 12" in London on Andy Blake and Joe Hart's imprint "World Unknown" and following that signed to Dark Entries Records and released our debut EP "Vehicle".
2) Do any of you have formal music training?
Philip: As a teenager I played trumpet and then moved onto the piano. I started to dislike trumpet and my teacher, who could sense I was more interested in electronic music, introduced me to the synthesizer. Since then, it's a love that's never died for me.
Bryan: I have no formal musical training, but I taught myself everything regarding composition and tone shifting by reading and exploring on my own. My interests, however, were more on the technical side of music production and recording rather than composing. This love of the recording arts lead me to finish a diploma in audio engineering.
Matia: Everything I know about music production, writing, and arranging I learned through my own passion for music and through my colleagues both in this project and in the numerous jobs I've had the pleasure of holding in the greater music industry.
3) Could you elaborate on your songwriting and recording process? Who takes on what particular responsibilities?
Matia: With INHALT we employ a multistage writing and production process. In short, there are typically two kinds of songs that we write: ones that are written start to finish with all of us in one room playing at the same time or ones that happen over a longer period of time where each of us contribute at different points in time. Often times I see my role in INHALT as the rhythm section, arranger, and co-producer, however, I feel as though we all take on various roles depending on the needs of the individual song.
Philip: I am the principal vocalist and melody writer of INHALT. We just fire up and go.
Bryan: I end up mostly doing recording and engineering and traditionally act as the other co-producer.
Matia: After we have a composition established and arranged we tend to move to a production stage where the focus is on tone shaping through effect processors, re-amplification and so on. Bryan takes the lead in utilizing physical spaces for reverberation and building very complex microphone arrangements. I've seen him do things with mics I've never seen in any other production that I've been a part of. Lastly we mix, always using a hardware mixing desk and stream down to Philip's Revox tape machine. Afterwards, we send the songs to Paul Lavigne in London to put on the final master. It's a team effort and everyone's energy, input, and creativity results in the finished piece.
4) I've watched the instudio videos on your You Tube channel several times over. It seems you have quite the arsenal of synthesizers and drum machines at your disposal. Is this something that carries over into your live performances? In the traditional sense of performing electronic music live.
INHALT: We have not performed a live concert with this project yet. However, we are currently developing our set up for live to meet our needs without compromising the health of the vintage analog synths that we use on our recordings. What that means is that we are assembling a combination of new analog technologies, DIY and hand built discrete circuits, and emerging digital mixing platforms oriented for live use to develop the live INHALT experience.
5) What was the idea of German lyrics instead of English as heard on the "Vehicle" EP? Is this something that will be revisited on the upcoming EP?
Philip: My native language is German. I felt that it was a natural expression for me to sing in my native tongue.
INHALT: On our upcoming EP, there will be songs in German and also French and English
6) Who were some of your early influences? Was it a strong enough influence to guide you in the direction of recording and performing music?
Philip: Kraftwerk, Oscar Sala, Stockhausen. It inspired me to find my voice within the legacy of such highly creative electronic music. There is no measure of strength, it is exactly what is guiding me through this voyage. Also seeing likeminded electronic musicians doing the same is both comforting and inspiring.
Matia: My early influences were always of the New German Wave variety and early New Wave like Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Pet Shop Boys. In recent times my horizons have opened to other music but I credit many of these artists as the initial spark of motivation to learn how electronic music is made. Culturally, I also feel aligned with a lot of the ideologies present in much of this music, including a very pan-European sense of humor. Looking more introspectively, the specific creation process of our music, for me, is a practice of honest self-expression which is a deeply personal voyage.
Bryan: The first real music that moved my imagination was the psychedelic story telling of Pink Floyd. This theme continued into the electronic sounds of 80's synth bands, especially Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and the like. Industrial sounds of Front 242 and Skinny Puppy activated the appreciation for the darker sounds and less pop oriented styles of electronic music leading into the emerging techno sounds from Prodigy, Aphex Twin and Leftfield. The use of the synthesizer offered such an other worldly soundscape that I could not ignore it. This technology became as much a passion as the music itself.
7) Can you remember the first record or CD you ever purchased? What effect did it have on you? Is it something you would or still do listen to currently? My reason for this question is that i hear some people shun some of their initial music purchases and bands they loved once upon a time. They'll say that they were a different person then and can't relate to a "that band" any longer. Me personally, i can always go back and listen to ABBA and many others from my adolescent years. It brings back memories...good and bad. Ultimately, it reminds me of where i've been and how much i've grown (mentally) since those times.
Philip: NWA's "Gangsta Gangsta". I bought this in New York and brought it back to my little Swiss town much to the confusion of everyone else there. I still listen to it as warped as that vinyl is.
Matia: The first record I remember getting was Depeche Mode's "People are People". To this day, I feel as though the masters of the songs on this particular compilation are more endearing to me than the same masters of the same songs on their respective albums. I don't know if it's because it was the first record I had, or if they do actually sound more musically pleasing. I'd like to think my ears are tuned enough to make the later statement confidently.
Bryan: It was the cassette of The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds". I had absolutely no idea what that whole thing was all about at the time but I really liked the vibe and the complexity of those records. I still listen to that album and I think they were geniuses.
8) What lies ahead for INHALT? Are there any current and upcoming activities you'd care to share with our readers?
INHALT: We just recently had the pleasure of working with the legendary Pete Byrne, one half of Naked Eyes, on an original INHALT composition. This song, as well as several new ones and remixes will be coming out on our next EP, titled "Occupations", for Dark Entries Records. Half of this EP was mixed just outside of Vienna, Austria at Werner Freistätter's exceptional SSL equipped "Vinyl Carvers" studio. Being in a little village in Austria, breathing fresh air in the morning, blasting the mix at night, and working with close friends was definitely an unforgettable experience. We have a new video in the works by Dmitry Semenov, who has recently been doing videos for Alan Wilder (which are absolutely incredible and full of Dima's unique visual talent). Our graphic designer and conceptual ally, Leo Merz, is hard at work on our website which should be launching soon. In addition to the DJ appearances that we have been making, we will be booking live concerts. Outside of producing our next EP we are also remixing Sally Dige's absolutely stellar song "Doppleganger".