Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! Can you share more about how you first got interested in music, and what inspired you to pick up guitar at 14 years old?
Well, the guitar was something that I had been wanting for a few years, and I was always interested in music but mostly singing. My sister and I were both into singing and putting on shows for anyone who would listen. I got interested in the guitar sneaking to stay up to watch MTV and I remember when I was 9 seeing the Rhinoceros video from Smashing Pumpkins and wondering how they were getting a guitar to sound so wavy and dreamy. So, I literally drew pictures of guitars for two years pleading with my grandmother and mom to buy me one. Well, two weeks after I turned 14 my mom got an unexpected back child support check that showed up. It was more money than my family had seen at once, so my mom looked at me and asked, “How much was that guitar you wanted?” and I said “$250 for the strat pack.” She took me to get it and thus started my journey playing guitar.
Your new single “Inside of Me” is particularly moving with a chorus that includes the line “Why can’t you see, this thing that’s beating inside of me.” Tell me a bit more about that.
Well the song was initially started about love interest that fizzed out before I finished the song. So, I kept that line and just changed who it was directed at. I rejiggered the song’s lyrics further to be a declaration of dedication to music itself. So, think of it as me pleading my case to the music force for her to give me the honor of being her conduit and/or vessel to facilitate changing the world through music.
Can you elaborate on how music serves as a form of communication for you, especially in conveying emotions that may be difficult to express through words alone?
I make the joke that I’m basically like BumbleBee from Transformers and how since his vocal processing units are broken, he uses the radio to communicate. That’s essentially what I’m doing with music, and why I say it’s life. I used to get accused of not having any feelings, and not showing enough emotions. I had girlfriends break up with me because they didn’t think I liked or cared about them, I’d even have family and friends have issues
with me because I didn’t say this or say that. I would try to, but it’s hard for me to tell someone, “I like you so much and you make me feel brilliant!” Instead, I would play “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder and just stare at her or something similar. I actually had a girl
ask me once, “Why are you playing this sappy song?” That kind of thing would cause me to actually shut down emotionally and that was usually the end of the relationship.
When my mom and I were having issues after her recovering from being an addict, we were butting heads because of the abuse I experienced living in a crack house for 6 years. I would play Disarm, to let her know what she had done to me. We eventually got counseling and my psychiatrist and therapist figured out what I was doing and actually went through the lyrics with her and I. We figured out I was waiting for an acknowledgment of what she put me and my sister through, but also an apology. When she got clean, I was happy and excited, but she acted as if nothing had happened and wanted to just go back to the way things were before, the difference being six years and I had gotten used to being on my own. To this day, if I send her a song out of the blue, she knows to listen to it and look at the words. She then knows what it is I am trying to say. Sometimes, it’s not even the lyrics, it’s just the sounds, and that’s the one thing that Jeanine has been able to do that no one else has. She can tell what I am trying to say by the time the first chorus of a song hits.
I don’t know why it happens. I can tell you what I am thinking about when it is something that’s entirely objective, but as soon as it enters the realm of the subjective, I get really tongue tied, I get nervous, and I get stuck in my head trying to figure out what words to use. Being on the spectrum, sometimes my tact could be better and picking up on when people are being sarcastic is extremely difficult, as well as knowing when someone is being friendly and actually trying to be my friend. Music has been my saving grace, and I honestly don’t think I’d be alive without it.
You cite influences like Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, and Smashing Pumpkins in your work. How do these influences shape your music?
I like to think they influence and shape my music for the better. I hyper researched every record that they’ve made, and it inspires me to push to create something new that will hopefully make someone else, somewhere, be inspired to create something, too. More specifically, I drew the inspiration to do everything myself, because I couldn’t find anyone who was thinking how I was, in order to create with them. This is one thing that I get from NIN. One of the things I get from Depeche Mode, is to not be ashamed of using a drum machine. And finally, one thing I get from Smashing Pumpkins, is to use guitars to create movement even if the drums don’t change, like in “1979.” I could go on and on for hours but those are just a few things that help shape my music.
What else inspires and influences your music, outside of the songs and musicians that inspire you?
Everything and anything can and does influence and inspire songs, really. The first 30 songs I ever wrote were about ex-girlfriends, and that was all I felt comfortable enough to write about at first. As I got further down the rabbit hole, it got deeper and even more personal. So, now, after more than 100 songs written, I can honestly say no subject that interests and or affects me is off limits. Sometimes it’s serious life changing things, and sometimes it’s silly stuff and then everything in between. I really have this burning desire to actually live through music and one of the things that comes with that is writing songs for every reason.
I love that one of the things you talk about in your bio is your collab with Steven Seibold of Hate Dept/Pigface on “Inside of Me.” Tell me how that came about and what you learned from the experience.
Well, Seibold and I have been friends for years, going all the way back to Myspace days. He taught me a lot about production, mostly the mixing and mastering part and saved me a ton of money when it came to equipment, as he also has been a guide for when I want to know about one piece of gear or another, and if I already have something that does something else I’m looking to do. We’re still really good friends, he and his wife, Michelle, are like family to me.
So, anyway, he’d had another project going with his wife called Americlone, which was very much a synth-pop, “Goldfrapp” sounding thing and I loved it. I had been a Hate Dept fan since I’d first gotten into Industrial music and so I was quite shocked that the same guy was involved in this kind of project. The experience of working with him was fantastic and I hope to do more of it. We did a few other tracks together and I plan to do more. We just tend to like to be in the same geographical location for that, as we like being in the same room.
I’m so intrigued by vour use of Al in creating vour music. It’s very controversial at this stage, but some people think it’ll soon be commonplace in the music industry. Tell me your thoughts on this, and how you integrate it.
I use AI for everything I can, and to me the controversy is much to do about nothing. I saw the same sort of arguments around Synths and Sampling. I think any artist that’s genuinely worried about AI needs to just shift their perspective. I think they’re letting the fact that everything has changed technologically throw them for a loop, but I think they’ll calm down
once they can wrap their heads around the fact that these are just new tools that think! I remember in the 90’s when I was a kid, before I even played an instrument, I’d hear old timers talking about how electronic music and rap music weren’t real because of synths and samples. Now, I get some old timers asking me how to put some of those cool sounds in their music. So, it certainly comes full circle and people will see what they’ve been missing, they just need to adapt and let their creativity run wild.
The way I integrate it is to keep it natural and to treat it like a member of the team. I have used it for all of the cover art for the Revisited Series, as well as mixing and mastering for this series of releases. I tend to start with a base mix and have the AI take a listen and make suggestions. It’s really like having mixing and mastering engineers in the room with me from demo to finished product. It has made finishing much faster and we don’t have to take 15 mixes out to the car to check only to still not be happy. It tends to be only one or two mixes now and mostly being the first round through the AI. I have just recently started letting AI suggest a part for a song. So, I’ll have it generate a base beat, or a bass line and/or drone type of texture. I may elect to tweak it or add to it, but it’s something to trigger a response from me. I’ll then just build and build like I do with anything else. I would do this same kind of thing with a Kaos pad, or a sequence on a synthesizer. It’s really not so different from hiring a session musician to play something you’re directing them to play, as you can also direct the AI to play as you want it to.
What’s next for Animals in Denial?
Well hopefully getting to play guitar for The Smashing Pumpkins, I officially applied for the position the day I saw their post on social media.
But, as far as what I know for certain, what’s next is more music from the revisited series and more new music after that! I’m also working on putting the live show back together. It’s been a bit rough since we moved from Asheville to find people who are willing to play the music I created on stage as it’s not really a band in the way it’s presented on stage. They’re literally just live band members, and that isn’t to slight anyone, it’s just the way it is. So far, it’s myself, with my wife on live synths and Cooper on bass. We’re still looking for other guitarists. Once the live band is fully back, I’d love to get back on a proper stage. I’m also doing weekly live streams. Sometimes it’s all performance and sometimes it’s a conversation and a couple of songs. On one stream, Cooper and I actually finalized the track sequence for the first ep while live.
My wife and I also have an EDM side project that we’re getting ready to put out more music for called “MOD CON,” short for Modern Convenience. There’s a free EP out on band camp
for that. Cooper and I also have a side project called “The Search Merchants” that we’re hoping to be able to put an ep out for this year.
Is there anything else vou’d like to add?
I hope you and everyone else reading this find something in this music that helps them, even if it’s in a small way.
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