With so much music in their stable, one entity seemingly doesn't suffice. They bring forth their ambient craft under a multifaceted repertoire of Goth, electronica and restrained angst, underscored with dark poetry and ethereal visuals, self-proclaimed as "art without limits." I'm chatting with the husband and wife duo, Steve Archer and Donna Lynch, operating under the noms de plume Ego Likeness and Trinity Project. Thanks for taking the time to hang with me, guys.
S: Hey, thanks man. Good to have a chance to chat.
Let's discuss the two names, Ego Likeness and Trinity Project. Tell me, are there any differences between the two, or do you, quite simply, have such an overabundance of material that one band doesn't suffice? In other words, is having two bands similar in concept a better way to outlet your music flux?
S: Its just different hats. Sometimes it starts with the writing, like "oh, this song will work well for this band." We can do things with one band that we can't do with the other. For instance, I play guitar differently depending on the project. There are also different rules for each one. With Ego, we try to be more aware of song structures and formulas. With Trinity, we have more room to play around with the songs.
For the uninitiated, could you elaborate with an example for each group?
S: Ego is very much a rock band. We don't go too off the cuff with song structures, nor are they particularly flexible. Like, you won't hear a 20 minute jam version of I Live on What's Left at a show. Trinity is much more open. It has structures, but they can be squashed or stretched depending on the situation. There is also a lot more room for random events. Actually, the Trinity live show is set up specifically to encourage that sort of thing. Most of the samples and a lot of the odd noizes that get played during a Trinity set are off of an MP3 player or random. We never know what will pop up when.
They both have advantages and disadvantages. Ego is very streamlined, so you can do all of the fun rock and roll stuff, jumping around and generally rocking out. Trinity requires a bit more concentration live, particularly because we do all the mixing on stage, and the parts are a bit more involved.
Do you find yourselves dedicating more time towards one band or the other, or have you found the balance necessary to float them both? I notice you have an evenly distributed amount of gigs under both groups.
S: Not really, we tend to work in spurts. This month we are going to do a lot with Ego, next with Trinity, etc. Also, because we're only doing regional shows right now, we kind of work in cycles. From a writing standpoint, most of the Ego stuff is written by Donna and I and then deconstructed by the band after the fact. About half of the Trinity stuff is done that way, the other half comes out of just playing around with the idea in practice. I think we love each project so much that we wouldn't want too much time to go by without having a chance to work on both.
You guys are taking off quite nicely from your Baltimore roots. You've gigged in Virginia, Delaware, Pittsburgh and Philly, and I see you've got an upcoming date in New York City. Ego Likeness' Second Skin has been selected for the upcoming Asleep By Dawn compilation, and Trinity Project has been selected for Supple Records' Supple Selections, Volume II. How psyched are you?
S: It's pretty cool. It's a lot of work, but it's supposed to be. It's nice that people are paying attention a bit. I mean, how flattering is it when people take something you made and make it part of their lives?
I can dig that. How has the road been treating you as you expand your travelogue?
S: It's great. We actually play in NYC on a pretty regular basis. Up until recently, more often then we play around here.
We have been working with a lot of solid acts all down in the trenches doing their thing: Anathema Device, Nicki Jaine (formerly of Torn Paper Dolls), Carfax Abbey, just to name a few. We are also lucky in that we have been able to open for a sizeable number of National Acts over the past year or so.
It's nice, because now that Ego is down to 6 people (from 9) we can all just pile in the van and go. Trying to fit 9 people, plus gear into a van gets very ugly.
As if Ego Likeness and Trinity Project weren't enough, you're also a big part of 40 Watt Son. You guys are starting to remind me of Alein Jourgensen, i.e. his side dabbles with 1000 Homo DJs, Pailhead, Revolting Cocks, etc. to coincide with Ministry!
S: 40 Watt, is one of those odd little projects. I grew up listening to Industrial music. I was attracted to it because of the noise and raw energy of it. It seems lately "Industrial" has gotten considerably more smoothed out. 40 Watt is our little attempt to bring back the noise. There are about 5 songs kicking around, I suppose we will try to get them released at some point. However with Water coming up, and the two Trinity disks we are in the middle of, 40 Watt is on the back burner.
D: It just seems natural to have multiple projects. I suppose that could be due, in part, to us being influenced early on by Ministry and all of its satellites, as well as Skinny Puppy and Pigface and all that goes along with those projects.
You betcha. I mean, half of today's would-be listeners have no clue Trent Reznor and En Esch alone were both involved with Pigface, one of the best experimental supergroups of our time. Just the manic schizophrenia of Esch and William Rieflen on "War Ich Nicht Immer Ein Guter Junge?" Bliss.
Forgive me if this next question sounds contrary, but with the two of you working as a husband and wife team, do you feel you tap into a deeper resource, as opposed to being mere bandmates or collaborators?
S: Once we learned how to work together without trying to kill each other it got much easier.
S: It's not that we have access to deeper resources, it's more that we know each other very well, and we know what we want. We work very hard at maintaining that balance. Particularly as we can't kick each other out.
D: We also recognize that due to the amount of stuff we do, if we couldn't get along and work together, we'd never see each other!
Fair enough. Explain to me your "art without limits" credo. Do you take as boundless a stance as you proclaim?
S: Yep. Just wait for our Deathrock Bluegrass project.
Hee! Hee! You've got me piqued. I'm getting a visual of Obituary meets the Foggy Mountain Boys. Next question, how do you see today's Goth scene in transience from the "glory days" of yesterday?
S: Humm...The thing is, back in the day, there was no Goth scene. Bauhaus, Sisters, etc., they didn't consider themselves Goth. They were rock bands, or at most punk bands who just happened to wear more black. Labels cause problems because they create expectations. My idea of Goth will be different from yours, or his or hers.
I can relate to that. The moniker never really caught on until a bunch of ragtag Robert Smith clones embodied and popularized the image.
S: One thing that is very cool, is a lot of venues we play at play a huge variety of music, not just the coolest spooky thing that comes down the pipe. I think the scene is opening back up to more open minds. Which is a very good thing indeed. Seems that people are tired of mopey bands. One of the coolest compliments we have ever received was, "you guys look like you have fun on stage!" If it wasn't fun we wouldn't do it.
What? People growing weary of the wrist-slitting anemia of, say, Staind's "Outside?" Bite thy tongue! (grins devilishly)
I want to talk about your music now. Listening to both groups, I hear a distinct Cure reflection, as in, say, "Above the Soil." I hear some occasional funky guitar syncopations, while a good bit of your music has a post-industrial feel, and above all, it feels atmospheric and occasionally moody. And Trinity Project's "Genesha's Mouse" remix has a distinct club feel to it. In other words, you flirt with many subgenres beneath your own genre.
S: It's odd, because we are influenced by so many things, that it's kind of hard for us to track any one thing down. I mostly hear things after the fact. Sometimes listening to other music, I'm like "oh hey, that's where I got that part from!" Whereas some elements are very deliberate. My guitar sound is totally influenced by bands such as Curve, Swervedriver, etc., whereas a lot of our production stuff comes from so many ends of the spectrum: The Swans, Pink Floyd, Skinny Puppy, etc. The trick is fusing all of those things in a way that seems to make sense.
Donna, listening to your vocals, I'm reminded often of Siouxie Sioux and Alison Moyet.
D: That's such a great compliment. Siouxie left such an impact on me when I was younger. There is so much strength in her voice and presence, without trying to be one of the boys. She doesn't need to scream to be heard. She just sings, and it all comes out. That's what I strive to do.
And, cool as they were, I believe she was sorely missed on the Banshees/Robert Smith collaboration, The Glove
Moving on, some of your synth arrangements have a notable eighties' kitsch to them. As a sidebar, the opening to "Genesha's Mouse" hints a local flavor, reminding me of Channel 45's wayward Ghost Host theme! Across the board, however, I'm detecting many electronica-influenced artists of today leaning towards the keyboard sensibilities bred in the eighties.
S: Heh, you're on to our secret...ALL OF OUR GEAR IS FROM THE 80's.
S: Also, I listened to a lot of Tangerine Dream and other seminal electronic bands, so I think I still gravitate a bit towards that aesthetic. As to the "Ghost Host" theme, I actually grew up in Virginia, so I missed out on a lot of that sort of thing. I'm sure somewhere there are bits and pieces of Hannah-Barbara cartoon music in the songs.
D: And I lived in the middle of nowhere, and only had three channels from which to choose, so I can't comment on that either. I didn't even get to watch Sesame Street. Now that I've been out of the house for ten years, they finally decided it was time to get a satellite dish. I'm still bitter about that.
HA! Hell, you missed The Great Space Coaster, Donna more 'tude than Sesame Street! It seems pretty crazy, the concept of the three to five snow-laden channels in today's society of crystal-clear mass media consumption, doesn't it? Oh, and Steve, I'm with you on Tangerine Dream, along with David Lynch, Kraftwerk and Art of Noise...Kraftwerk, incidentally, is reuniting for a new album.
D: Somehow, I managed to catch The Great Space Coaster. I couldn't tell you what it looked like, other than squiggly and jumpy but I do remember it fondly.
I want to discuss your live sound. You have a more sonic vibe when playing live, versus your decidedly digital resonance on the original recordings. Do you find it difficult to duplicate the original source in a live setting, or do you prefer to just let 'er rip?
S: It's fun getting up on stage and being a rock band. That was a very intentional choice. Also we have just grown. Dragonfly was written with what we had available to us at the time. Where as a lot of the Water to the Dead material has been performed live over the past couple of years, so the live band has had a strong influence on the sound.
It's nice to have the flexibility of the live band. We aren't harnessed to backing tracks, so sets can be re-arranged on the fly. Also because we play out so much, we try to cut down on things that could go wrong. Backing tracks can destroy your show, if they go down, so we try to keep them out.
The other cool thing is that the live band is so damn good that they can, for the most part, recreate, if not the sounds, the feel of the album - just magnified.
Trinity is completely electronic live. The only instrument that uses acoustic sound generators is my guitar, which is so processed that it doesn't really matter.
Okay, I'm beginning to see the trend between both bands you're outlining for us. So Donna, tell me a little about your poetry. I loved the hybrid of the spoken word with the smooth synth track on Trinity Project's If I'm Not Careful I'll Start to Get Scared of the Walls... Your prose has a paranoid and sardonic tone on that song, deliciously so.
D: I really love doing spoken word over ambient or noise tracks. I let Steve handle the background. He always writes really complimentary pieces, I think because he understands the tone I'm trying to set. He knows when I'm being sarcastic or dry or when I'm really trying to get an emotional response.
I can see how I come off as paranoid in my writing, which is interesting to me because I'm really not a paranoid person in life. I guess that's the point of my work, though. I write ugly things so I don't have to live an ugly life. The poems and songs and stories are where I put all of the static that comes up in my head.
Interesting, I've only subconsciously thought about that theory in my own work, but it makes total sense. The ugliness I'm afraid to confront at the forefront manifests itself subliminally, and hence, through the written word cool
I've had a listen to the MP3 of Second Skin and was blown away by the massive leap in your production. That one's an ass-kicker! Where do you see yourselves since recording Ego Likeness' Dragonfly and Songs From a Dead City, and the self-titled Trinity Project and The Subtle Movements of the Entropy Machine?
S: I have been learning a great deal about production. I'm very fond of all of the albums. From a production level Dead City isn't great, but it was recorded on a four track. However, I still like it a great deal. It has this dirty nasty sound to it that really lends itself to that style of music.
Oh, hell yes viva la four track nothing like it
It's really just doing the homework. All the information to produce a good recording is out there, you just have to look for it, and be willing to do the work.
Let's talk about Angelfall Studios a bit. You call it a "haven for the arts," and it has that feel with both the visual and the audial, plus you have the cafe for congregation purposes. Of course, Angelfall is your home label, as well as the label for your compilation, Emotional Overdrive.
S: Angelfall is our child, a very big, hungry child. We are very fortunate to be able to showcase many artists and poets there.
D: We are really grateful for people like our friend and partner in Angelfall, Hollis Albert, for affording us the chance to create a space for artists. It's nice to all have that same vision.
About Emotional Overdrive, tell me about your selection process. Groups aside from yours which you showcase display real promise, for example, Form/Alkaline, Boole and Echomatrix.
S: Form/Alkaline were at one point a project called Scar Tissue, who were on 21st Circuitry. Back in the day when I was a DJ, I used to spin the hell out of their material. I was really psyched when they were interested in being part of our comp.
Boole are local boys (DC), who have been making quite a name for themselves in the electro scene.
echomatrix, is Alexx, who also plays with The Trinity Project.
Keeping it in the family
I was moving a huge rock and Alexx was curled up sleeping underneath it. I poked him with a stick and he bit me. I had to get 5 stitches and a shot. But now he's ours, and all we have to do to keep him happy is clean his cage, and occasionally let him come out and make loud noises.
Like the Ramones say, we're a happy family
D: Seriously, Alexx frightens us a bit. He doesn't talk much. In general, he sits quietly, staring at the wall. When he does speak, it's usually to make fun of something. Usually me.
Me, Mom and Daaaaddyyyy
Really, we were very lucky to work with the people on the comp. I'd like to see another come down the line at some point.
Do you see Angelfall Studios as a permanent home for such artists who match your dedication to craft and work ethic? Are you looking to expand your catalog of artists?
S: Since we opened, we have already shown over 80 artists in the gallery. We are always looking for new work, though at this point we are booked till the end of the year.
What's next for you guys? Another branch of your craft? Yet another moniker?
S: Well, I wasn't joking about the Death Bluegrass project. But who can say when that will happen? Plans for the next 6 months or so go like this: Finish up Water to the Dead, and the as yet unnamed double Trinity CD. Once those are done, we will be hitting the road pretty aggressively. I also have some art shows going up in the fall, so I should probably paint something.
Not a bad idea
Donna and I are currently working on a couple of books so I'm sure that will be part of our lives as well. Otherwise, just staying home when we can and playing with our rats.
Alright, first you've got me thinking Ramones, now I've got the Misfits going on R-A-T-F-I-N-K Hey, I appreciate our time together, Steve and Donna. Best of luck in your multiple pursuits!
S/D: Thanks, man.
Steve's Art http://www.thetrinityproject.org/Steve/
Dingo's project http://www.giantrobotsoloutions.com