Anyone familiar with the darker side of music absolutely must be familiar with the irrepressible legends Alien Sex Fiend. Whether you dig goth, punk, industrial, experimental, avant-garde, synth, or a big old mental cluster-fuck of all of it, Nik & Mrs. Fiend have something sweet for youand likely a bit moreif youd just get off your ass and order a disc or two. I caught up with ASF for the first time since the late 90s, back when I did my own zine. This time theyre offering up the undeniably original Information Overload.
Daryl Litts: How spontaneous was the creative process on the new disc?
Mrs. Fiend: Spontaneous is the main word for us! Every song comes out of that. Writing and recording happen at the same time. We dont come up with a guitar riff and then Nik works out lyrics and sings on top, then makes a demo and finally re-records the whole thing. No, we try to capture it straight from the off. Nik doesnt like to do what are called ghost vocals either. He doesnt so much sing, he performsso we have to capture that very first take, because sometimes we were having to leave a track for weekssometimes monthsbefore we could go back to it. We were concerned about losing that initial spontaneity and energy that wed captured by sticking unnecessary stuff on top.
Nik Fiend: So sometimes when we did reconvene in the studio all we would do is just sit and listen to the track.
M: I expect it sounds strange to anyone who buys CDs and listens to them er, what else would you do except listen! But writing and recordingespecially with technology these daysmeans you can change everything, and of course thats the temptation: to keep re-doing or altering things.
N: If the raw thing was working, then we needed to make sure we didnt fuck about with that. The main thing was to capture performancesnot just minekeeping the live feel. I didnt want the album to be overproduced. Working on a project for a long time like this can make you get bogged down and caught up in technicalities. You can get lost in those and lose the very thing that was the essence of the track.
D: You guys are known for doing strange things to get the sounds and feelings you want on your songs. I wonder if youve done any unorthodox behind-the-scenes stuff with Information Overload
N: Everything about it is probably unorthodox! There are some very weird mixtures on there, and I dont think we write and record like other people do.
M: It doesnt really matter, especially these days, how you create a track. Its the final result that is important. The length of time spent on a track, or its simplicity or complexity are really irrelevant.
N: Every tune was approached differently. Thats just how we are.
M: Some of it is analogue 8-track tape, totally, engineered and mixed by us. Other stuff started out that way and was then transferred onto hard disc and everything in between. Somehow they all sound as a unit.
N: Even though no two songs were done in the same way. We create our own world for each song. I think we have always done that. We immerse ourselves totally in it. On this album we had to allow the tracks to show us where they wanted to go, we couldnt force it. If we tried to force them, we failed.
M: As Nik said, everything about it is pretty unorthodox and its always been like that. Weve never done things the way other people do. As an example, a bass line is usually one of the earlier things to be recorded, whereas on say, Baby, the bass was the last thing that went on there! And I have no idea where that came from; I just tweaked about with the keyboard for a couple of minutes and out it came! Its very hard to explain how we do what we do! (Laughs)
D: I hear youll be playing at the Zillo Festival in July. Why such a long gap since your last live appearance?
N: Aside from legal and family stuff, we also put together the Fiend At The Controls double CD , which took a lot of research because we went back through piles of old tapes, all different formats and discovered original demos (like Dead and Buried), alternative mixes that were never released and B-sides from singles that had been deleted, so there was a lot of work there. Also, that project was how we re-connected with Len Davies, who later helped out on engineering and production on Information Overload. Without doing that project maybe Information Overload wouldnt have happened. I had an emotional overhang from my fathers death as well. We had a Sweet remix to do the day after my dad died, and we were full on in the middle of doing Fiend at the Controls which had to be finished and until that was done I didnt have time to really take it in. Then when it hit me, it really hit me.
M: Also, we had to reissue Nocturnal Emissions: Special Edition in June 2000. There was business and legal stuff involved with that too
N: And we were also pulled in to work on the Best of ASF CD , which our old label released, but because there wasnt anyone there who was 100% up with our history we were asked to help out on that.
M: Wed already agreed before that to put out a live album (Flashbacks) but again, there were various contractual delays on that and it didnt come out till September 2001
N: We wanted to encapsulate the live shows wed done from 1995 to 1998. The previous live album was back in 93 (Altered States) and we knew that we wanted to get into other stuff so that the live thing would be changing again. Flashbacks was a way of capturing that particular live period.
M: So the original plan was to do a new studio album and then live shows, but we didnt expect it all to take quite so long, though!
N: But we got there in the end! When something is ready, its ready! You cant force it. You can try but other shit comes along!
D: Information is completely different from anything Ive ever heard, including any of your previous albums. What do you do to keep reinventing yourselves and stay on the edge?
N: Part of it is experiencing life. It just comes oozing out into the music and into the art. I dont know why it keeps happening to uswe dont have therapists. ASF is it.
M: I think that although we hear other peoples music, enjoy it and sometimes are influenced by it, no matter what we do it always comes out as us, as ASF. It just all goes into our blender and comes out our own way. We seem to have our own style. Some people have tried to analyze it by saying its a certain drum sound, but then if we change that it still sounds like us. Or that its Nik vocals that are the ASF style, but then the instrumentals still sound like us, so weve given up trying to work it out! We dont think that overanalyzing is a good thing anyway!
N: It is special, we realize that. Maybe thats why we have these gaps enforced on usso that we dont over do it
M: So were not overexposed
N: So it stays special, and it stays fresh It will break itself and then reassemble itself when its good and ready. We stayed true to our own ideals. The group started after the death of my sister, and Information Overload after my dadsso thats maybe where the edginess is. Maybe its my outlet, my therapy
M: Also I think its because we do what we like, what sounds good to us. We cant listen to other peoples opinions
N: Everybody has an opinion, but we wont be put off our course by other peoples opinions. Maybe some people would consider it an arrogant attitude, but if we dont know whats right for ASFno one does! I think self-belief is a better description than arrogance. I do listen to other people, but I cant take too much notice or wed never have done anything!
M: Weve always stuck to our guns. At times weve even had a fight with the record company to do what we felt was rightand not to be big headed about itbut weve been right. One example was with the Now Im Feeling Zombiefied single, which the record company didnt want as a single. We fought for it and fuck me, the damn video is on MTV all over the place! Even now, god knows how many years later!
N: And that was without record pluggers or anything like that. Its impossible to analyze how were still aboutwe dont really know. When I first set ASF up I never thought wed still be here all these years later. I thought wed be lucky to get one gig! It was a pretty weird concept back then, and it still is now! We dont fit neatly into a pigeon hole
M: I think thats another reason why were still aboutbecause we dont fit into just any one genre. The combinations are endless. Although I think were both essentially the same people as we were at the start, we are both interested in lots of different things and were not afraid to embrace new stuff. We dont have that good old days attitude
N: Oh no! We lived through it and experienced those days. Weve no regrets, but I dont want to re-live it! Weve always stuck our necks out; were not afraid of getting them chopped off. Weve always taken chances. We never sold out, weve never compromised. Maybe thats it
D: Do your paintings reflect the insane creativity of ASF music or is it the other way around?
N: Its a bit of both. The group was founded on art and music and there was no division between the two, and there never has been. Sometimes the paintings pay for food and music and sometimes the music pays for food and paints! They go hand in hand.
D: Youve said that your artwork is painted in tears and received with cheers and laughter. Since the bond is so strong, I wonder if the same is true of the music, especially on songs like Voices in my Head which have strong visual images associated with them.
N: After what I said before about the shaky times weve been throughall the uncertainty, upsets, etceteraall go into the blender to produce an album and artwork that turns somebody on. Its turning negative events into a positive result. Its like alchemy. Its like tears of a clown. Peoples perception would be that Im laughing all the time; some people see Nik Fiend as a clown, which is okay, but the reality behind it is that theres a lot of hard work and soul searching going on.
M: Its interesting that you get strong visual images with Voices. Once you release a track, you put it out to the world and its up to the individual listener to make their own interpretation of the song and get their own experience from it. Weve had ours in the making of it. Now its everyone elses turn!
N: Sometimes I feel like I am just one step away from discovering the meaning of everything. Without being corny about it, it is a magical feeling. That is why we do it.
D: I think the best part of ASF is that youre constantly pushing the envelope and your fans are open-minded enough to accept your evolutions. Do you ever worry about disappointing them?
N: No, because everything we do we believe in. Were 110% committed as weve said. I think Fiend fans know too
M: Expect the unexpected!
N: We dont do it deliberately. Were not that contrived
M: What happens, happensthe music comes out how it wants. Of course we hope that the fans will like it, wed be daft to want them not to like it! But you cant second-guess people or your fans. Theres no point in trying to be other than what you are.
N: Fiend fans have been through long gaps of not a lot happening because weve been tied up with whatever. But its their fault that were coming back nowthey wouldnt let us go.
M: They bought the album early through our website by postal mail order which must have been a pain, but weve got the online store open now so its easier [http://www.bluecrumbtruck.com] and it should be available in the stores too.
N: Our fans are a real resilient bunch. Theyve been tested since Day One; weve all been tested, the band as well. Theres nothing else like usAlien Sex Fiend is unto itselfand they have demanded that we come back and do the bollocks. This is why this interview is taking place. They do believe in the band. They are deep and individual people in their own right. It is quite a humbling situation. They must love us because fuck me theyve been tested. Were happy to be back supplying them with
M: A fiendish fix!
To keep up to date on ASF and receive their newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ADD ME. You can visit the Fiends and order the new album at their website, http://www.asf-13thmoon.demon.co.uk.