INTERVIEW: Psyche

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

PsycheCanada can be proud. What once was the staple of Seattle's ADSR MusicWerks, or Detroit's DEC group and, if you want to go way back, Germany/Italy, has now spread to the north and in the form of Canada's ArtOfFact records comes out as the latest bastion in EBM and electronica music. One of the latest signings to the ArtOfFact label is Psyche - duo Darrin C. Huss and Per-Anders Kurenbach with ArtOfFact's first kick out from Psyche, and now the change of Remi Szyszka in 2000. For two decades now Psyche has been putting out smoothly blended tunes that showcase their uncanny ability to blend new wave, synthpop, trance, EBM and similar styles into music that runs the gamut from chill-out after-club tunes to dancefloor stompers. Latest releases since signing with ArtOfFact include the LP Misguided Angels, which I personally lauded as "an excellent release, and a good show for the band on this side of the Atlantic," with sounds that "keeps the old fans happy while infusing it with trance and modern EBM overtones, surely to make new and younger fans just as well off."(*) They followed up this quickly with EP Sanctuary and are still cranking out the tunes.

PsycheDarrin, beginning with brother Stephen, has been creating music under the Psyche moniker as early as 1982. Psyche, therefore, is about to hit two decades, and in another short year after that could even buy a beer in the U.S.! How have you kept yourself from getting bored with the project and what ways have you found yourself innovating to keep going while so many bands tire out after so long?

Well that word "project" is dangerous to use. Psyche is my life, and if I got bored with that then I guess I'd probably still come back as a ghost just to haunt all the wannabe's. But seriously there are moments where there's a lull in the development of synth music, and the most important thing is to try to break the rules again and again. Also we don't let ourselves get too straightforward in categorization; we are transgenre-ed!

Psyche has toured with an impressive collection of bands - Clan of Xymox, Alien Sex Fiend, Die Form, Suicide and many more. What are some of your most memorable live performances?'

All the big festivals we've had in Poland. This has really become a special second home to us since 1992, and now that Remi is on board it's more fun cause that's where he comes from. Psyche has mutated to a Canadian/Polish combination. I also love shows in Sweden because I like getting them all riled up and screaming for more over there. Remi found the Dark Rave in Toronto our best show in North America, and we both love France so our little one-off at La Locomotive in Paris was another great experience. I know I didn't mention Germany, but it's because since we live here it has become too familiar and so at the moment it's the concerts in other countries that are becoming more interesting.

The band has an impressive history of live performances. Which do you each prefer, or do you simply find that the nuances of studio vs. live are different yet with neither being preferred?

Live is my thing mainly. Studio is scarier because it's a one-time performance that lasts forever. But messing with effects and the building up of a song is still certainly a fine thing. I guess you could sum it up by saying I'd rather spend a month on stage than a month recording if I had the choice.

Also in the past Psyche has had other members that came on stage for performances. Is there a differing live line-up than there is for the studio?

No, there were only guest keyboarders involved from 1992-1995 when the original musician, my brother, wasn't available. All the concerts that we performed to the particular albums were given with the keyboarder who made that album.

Pers-Anders joined Darrin to form the line-up of Psyche in 1996. How did Darrin and Pers-Anders find each other and get together?

Misguided AngelsWell it's a bit sad to talk about it now that this period has ended, but basically as I knew that Psyche was not possible with my brother since 1994, I decided to look for a new start here in Germany. I've been living off and on in Germany since 1990. Stephen gave me his blessing as his involvement in the music industry was limited, and he also stayed in Canada. We never "split up." Anyway Per-Anders appeared at the suggestion of another singer I knew. We made some demos and I thought, yeah this could work. It did up until Misguided Angels but then I felt we'd already done our best and our Love Among The Ruined album was woefully ignored at the time. The "re:boot" with Remi took place in the beginning of 2000, and this is like a real long story, so suffice it to say a series of lucky accidents has kept Psyche on track regardless of setbacks until this very day. The Artoffact release of Misguided Angels summarizing the highpoints of all of Psyche's various stages in fact was exactly the release necessary to cross the bridge from 1998 to 2001 when things looked troubled.

SanctuaryMisguided Angels marks the last of the tracks recorded by Darrin and Pers-Anders. Psyche continues on with the inclusion of Remi Szyszka. Sanctuary marks the first look at material from the new line-up. The full-length The Hiding Place is expected soon; when is it expected to be available? Will Art Of Fact be releasing any bonus tracks on it?

The Hiding Place will be out on Artoffact by the time this interview is released. One remix exclusive to North America is added as a bonus. Also The Outsider 2001 which was only available on the European CD single of Sanctuary is added to the Artoffact edition of our album.

How did Remi Szyszka step into the role of synths and sound design for Psyche in the new millennium?

He basically redefined the whole sound, made it much cleaner, more danceable and in fact somehow poppier, but without loosing the edge that makes us unique. He writes differently and is not so "80's oriented" as some people felt Psyche sometimes was. I think my voice has also gotten fuller and more concentrated through the directness of Remi's style.

Tell me a bit about the new material coming out with the new line-up. What kind of changes or innovations can we expect and are there any new directions that Psyche will be exploring in the future?

Well we're going for the clubs this time with Sanctuary, Unbreakable, Renegades and the title track, The Hiding Place leading the way. Other songs will be moodier and still retain the melancholy lyrics that I like to write as I examine my past. I feel there's a spiritual tone to the new album that provides a nice contrast to the energy driven beats and that's mainly because I'm no EBM vocalist. My inspiration comes from doing my damnedest to avoid industrial cliches. I think The Hiding Place will not be considered a mega innovative record, that'll have to follow once Remi and I have established us with this sound. After all it's my ninth official album, but his debut so we think it's more important just to have a solid collection of well recorded Psyche songs. In a way we just want to reconfirm what Psyche is, and then we'll see what kind of sounds and songwriting follows from here.

How did Darrin find himself singing for Inside? Inside disbanded not long after, two albums later - was this so Darrin could pursue Psyche further or was the continuation of Psyche never really left behind in the first place?

The Hiding PlacePsyche was never really left out of the picture, but again this explains that period between 1992-1996 where Psyche had no real new releases per se. Ironically Inside's debut, Room Full Of Mirrors was followed by Psyche's Strange Romance, and then came Psyche's Love Among The Ruined followed by INSIDE's Beware. So I was pretty busy, but sadly Inside just never really cut it and therefore Psyche once again survived.

These days everyone has a side project. Does Darrin and/or Remi have any side projects besides Psyche at this time?

In a way I hate that everyone has side projects. Especially when they're in the same genre. In my case they didn't work out in the end after all. I mean Psyche is what I'm known for so if I did a side project now it would be completely different music, but only if I felt the need for this. Sometimes I do, and I have appeared as a guest vocalist occasionally. I recently did two songs with a trance group called Sphere that'll be out soon. I've always felt that if you do something outside of your main group then obviously you're not getting what you want out of it. Psyche usually fulfills my needs, but when I feel too boxed into a category of a particular genre then I occasionally want to go somewhere else with my vocals. Remi had in fact also made a couple tracks with friends outside of Psyche, but again we have enough to do with Psyche and the occasional remix offer. I can't relate to those people who think that everything they do is so great they have to release it under five different band names.

Sex Dwarf is an amazing cover, and one you picked up specifically to perform live in Europe. What made you decide to go with this obscure song?

PsycheObscure? That baby happens to be on a best-selling album of Soft Cell! But I know it's the more weirdo song from them for most people. I really did it in 1994 because I wanted to make a fun and sleazy club hit, and because everyone compares me with Marc Almond anyway! I chose to distort my vocals for the recording which I now regret a little. I sing it normally live and pay homage to Soft Cell within that song. I also like that this title is still somewhat decadent for the people despite all the scandal making groups of today.

Another personal favorite from Misguided Angels; Goodbye Horses. Where did this come from? It's quite different from your usual electro and actually tends toward more of a storytelling atmosphere with a slower, new wave style.

Goodbye Horses is the Q Lazzarus track featured in Silence Of The Lambs. That's a real obscurity in fact. But this is a cover. We have a special page on our website dedicated to the story of this song, and why we covered it. Although I didn't write it, it seems as if it was meant for us somehow, and is requested at every concert.

When you're not playing music, what are you two listening to during your down time?

Don't ask! No really we like all kinds of different things. In the electro genre, everything from Tangerine Dream to Haujobb. I like mainly what you'll see under the links of the Psyche website. Basically anything that isn't commercial Top 40. Although there may be the occasional hit that we like. At the moment we're both more inspired by trance sounds, and atmospheric soundtracks like Fight Club and Remi likes the one for Coppola's Dracula as well. I like to download a lot of unknown artists from all kind of sources just to see what kind of stuff people out there are doing.

The Internet and entities such as MP3.com and Riffage.com have seemed to be a boon for independent and near-independent artists today. The promotions available with the Web are amazing. Do you take advantage of this or do you still tend to enjoy paper-based or more conventional forms of promotion?

Well look at the lovely Loop.Tv mag's presentation for us under: http://www.corecom.net/geiger/pointcast/l44b1.htm. I don't know all the places to go yet because I do prefer if the people would just hear us or read about us directly from our record companies or from our website: www.psyche-hq.de. We love to do online magazines though!

How would fans contact you for more information? Is there a particular method, i.e. e-mail over a mailed letter, that you prefer?

I'm much more into the Internet, so I prefer email. We used to distribute a printed newsletter, but I gave up. I have a few people I write though cause still not everyone's "plugged into the matrix." We have a mail order service or contacts where people can get our CD's as well. We never added a forum; rather I have a guestbook on the site that people can say some stuff. I'm thinking of a forum, but it is very weird having people discussing you online where you can look or answer them as well. I'm not sure I'm into that cause then I might never find time to make music if I just chat with fans everyday! I do that enough already at concerts. I should say Psyche "listeners" as opposed to fans. It's not easy to change these standard industry formulas though. And there are times when an artist needs to keep a distance. My songs say quite enough I think. But that said, I love to be written to.

(*) Legends #112, July 2001.

Legends Online