By Kim Mercil
Introduction by Mike Ventarola
It seems like just yesterday when Null
Device was signed to Nilaihah Records and the release crossed my desk for a
review. Then, as now, there are many electronic bands, each sounding rather
similar in their style of work. Null Device stood out from the crowd though.
They crafted a sound that was electronic, yet organic. We
werent clobbered with hyperventilating bass effects with growled vocals.
Instead, we were offered some songs that were dance floor friendly, some that
were more for a quieter time in our lives and all conducive for an enjoyable
Now, with their sophomore release A Million Different
Moments on Nilaihah Records, Null Device does it once again. Instead of
reaching for the tried and true success of a cookie cutter
electronic sound, they instead incorporated world rhythm between the song
layering. The opening Middle Eastern inspired track Destinies &
Symmetries certainly has classic written all over it! This is the type of
song that is sonic velvet to the ears where one hopes the song would never end.
Additionally, the disc boasts a variety of club friendly
songs delivered with delightful vocals that can and do hit the desired ranges.
The song styling of sound, lyric and delivery was meticulously created,
bringing a new experience as well as an offshoot genre from the typical
electronic fodder on the market today.
KM: Your bio starts us off in '91 with Eric Oehler
meeting Eric Goedken, but doesn't pick up again until '94. What was going on
between those years?
EO: College. I wasn't writing much music, nor
seriously considering recording any at that time, and both of us were up to our
necks in our studies.
EG: We also went to many films and concerts and
we talked about Star Trek a lot. I don't think either of us had any idea
we'd be releasing records together ten years later.
KM: In '94, how did you become involved in writing a
soundtrack for a software demonstration?
EO: I was a member of the lab that wrote the software
and since some of us had been playing around with writing music with software
(this was pretty cutting edge for amateurs in 1994) it seemed natural to
combine the two.
KM: In '96, Null Device's original line up
dissipates. Who was the original line up? Why did they leave?
EO: A number of the people who had worked on the
software demo were involved in various capacities. The guy who wrote the
music software left to attend grad school, another went to work for Microsoft
and another one just decided he didn't have the interest to commit to writing
EG: My understanding is that at that time, as
now, Eric was the chief force for writing music in the project.
KM: At this time, Eric Oehler begins recording and an
album does surface. But only six copies are made, why so few?
EO: Two reasons, really. One it was
pretty bad, and two CD-R's cost $10 a piece in those days and I was a
poor college student.
EG: I have some old stuff on cassette tape from
when the band was called /dev/null. I've been scared to listen to it for
a while now. Still, some of the old stuff is good. For the ten
people who have it, Eviscerate is a pretty good track.
KM: The two Erics of Null Device have been working
together since '91, but it isn't until '98 that Eric Goedken is made a full
songwriting partner. What was the reason for this?
EO: Well, we've known each other since 91, but we
didn't really start working together until maybe about 96-97. I decided
his lyrics were really indispensable at that point and asked him to come
EG: One reason that it took a
while for me to land a role in the band is that I'm not a musician in any
conventional sense. I love music and it's something I enjoy on a daily
basis, but I have no previous experience as a performer. My
knowledge of musical theory and keys and things like that is near zero.
But I have always enjoyed writing and song lyrics are a great way for
KM: The first available release from Null Device was
The Crimson EP in '99. Why did it take you a few years to put your music
on the market?
EO: It was a question of resources. I
didn't have the time or money to really produce or promote a complete recording
until then. Crimson was also the first thing we'd done that really
felt cohesive as an entity.
EG: It was also the first piece of work that we
thought something might actually part with their cash to hear. It
was around the first time that Eric started to really sing on tracks, rather
than just apply pseudo-growled spoken word on top of the music. This
opened a huge new set of possibilities for us and led directly into the type of
songs that appear on Sublimation and A Million Different
KM: Your second EP, Submariner, was released a
year after The Crimson EP. Musically, how would you say each EP
EO: Submariner was a one-off we'd done with
another local band as a sort of remix trade/split single deal. The song
itself was sort of our early transitions from EBM to a more poppy sound and the
remix by the other band was a pretty straight up hip-hop revision.
Meanwhile the other band was sort of a glam-rock act and I delivered an IDMish
version of their song. It was an odd little release that seemed a lot
better in concept than execution. It was fun, though.
KM: Eric Oehler, you recorded guest vocals on a
couple of projects a few years back. How did this come about?
EO: The first set I did was for a band called The
Dark Clan, which is an anagram of our guitarist's name, Dan Clark. It
seemed like an interesting thing to do and it was a lot of fun. Recently
I've done guest vox for Epsilon Minus, which was also interesting. It
gave me a chance to try my hand at a different side of the recording process
and get a feel for how other people work.
KM: Null Device produced a video for the track
Word and Deed. Was this video ever shown or released?
EO: It was destined for our website from the start,
basically. It's up on the site right now.
EG: I directed and edited the video. It
was the first one we ever made. It was shot in an afternoon with the help of a
friend of ours.
KM: In 2002, Null Device gets signed to Nilaihah
Records. How did this come about?
EO: We'd sent out a few demos to various labels,
including Nilaihah. The night before I was about to leave on a long
vacation I get an excited phone call from Dr. Goedken telling me I needed to
call Kristy Venrick from Nilaihah right away. We managed to figure out
how to get my phone to do three-way calling, talked with Kristy about what we
wanted to do musically and how we might fit in with Nilaihah and a few weeks
later we had signed contracts. Kristy has been great to work with, too.
She's very enthusiastic and supportive, and I don't think she ever sleeps.
KM: Who's currently part of Null Device?
EG: The current Null Device line-up still has
Eric as chief musical force and includes myself as lyricist and production
adviser. The live band crew also includes Dan Clark on guitar whose work
was also featured on a pair of songs for the new album. And Chuck
McKenzie is our bassist.
KM: It wasn't until '03 that we finally got to see
Null Device perform. What were your thoughts before and after your very first
EO: Right before the show I was thinking, "I hope
nothing breaks." For weeks before we'd been practicing regularly and I
was nervous about how we'd be received. The live version of Null Device
takes a bit more of a rock turn I thought it more exciting to have a
guitarist moving about than a few guys tweaking knobs and I was afraid
that our core audience of electronic fans might be turned off by this. My fears
were unfounded. After our first show I felt great, the crowd had been
excellent and it was quite a rush. The other band members, all of whom
were pretty seasoned live veterans in other genres, all were pretty impressed
with how well it came off. Now, it's just a blast. We're comfortable with
how it all works and confident with our performance skills, so we can relax and
just have some fun onstage, and the audience seems to react to that.
EG: From the beginning I wanted to incorporate
video to give the live events more visual flair. I made a backing video
for each live track and at venues that are equipped to project these, I think
it really adds another dimension to the show.
KM: Another video was done for the track Sad
Truth. Do you plan on releasing a sort of Null Device video DVD/VHS any
EO: It'd be nice, but we'd need a lot more
material before we could pull that off. Perhaps someday.
EG: The Sad Truth video does appear on
the Living On Video synthpop DVD compilation from
Copenhagen. If more videos [are made and] available past what's on
our website, they will likely be as CD-ROM extras. The Azoic had a remix
single with a video last year and that's something we could do.
KM: Null Device is planning on releasing a collection
of demos, remixes, and oddities called Footfalls EP. Why will this only
be available through the internet?
EO: Actually, we've already released
that. Footfalls was sort of a bridge between our first album and
A Million Different Moments. We're thinking of doing a second free
EP of oddities and remixes now. We decided to make it essentially free through
the internet, since it's tricky in such a small market to release a
single. Giving it away over the net gave a lot of people who didn't know
who we were a chance to try out our music without paying a lot of money for
it. It worked pretty well there was a surge in album sales shortly
after the EP became available. The internet is a great marketing tool in that
EG: An actual physical Footfalls EP is also
for sale from our website. It just hasn't been mass-produced or heavily
promoted but it's there if people prefer it to the downloadable version.
KM: I didn't become familiar with Null Device's music
until I got a copy of A Million Different Moments for review. What I was
expecting was a straight forward electronic sound and what I got was quite
remarkable. Middle Eastern layers mixed with electronics, can you give our
readers the creative breakdown that became A Million Different
EO: Thank you! We're quite pleased with how
this album came out. How it came about is sort of convoluted. I've always had
an interest in world music and I'd finally decided to sit down and study some
of it. Some of this started creeping into the music, and Dr. Goedken ran with
some of the "international" themes lyrically. This encouraged me to dig
abit deeper, try a few more things...everything sort of fell into place after
that. I was also getting bored with a lot of the recent club-music
trends, so I decided to experiment a bit more with making electronic tracks
that were danceable, yet not strictly dance floor tracks.
KM: If you could have any one you wanted do remixes
for Null Device, who would it be? And why?
EO: Nobody we could afford! Hybrid has never
done a bad mix in my opinion. John Creamer and Stephane K do excellent
work in the trance arena and I think Decoder and Substance do some pretty
interesting things too. There are a lot of acts out there that do good
mixes, and I'm sure there is a whole mess of them I've never heard who could do
KM: What does the future hold for Null Device?
EG: In the short term we're going to be contributing
a track to an interesting project called Listen to the Future on Todd
Durrant's synthpop-powerhouse label A Different Drum. The concept
is to pair short-story sci-fi with songs inspired by the stories so that the
audience gets both a book and CD of thematically-related music. I wrote a
short story that is going to be included and Null Device is going to be doing a
song for another story. It's a new idea and I hope people who like
electronic music and science fiction give it a try.
EO: That's always a hard question for me, since if
you'd asked me that last year at this time I would've told you to expect an
album that isn't all that much like the one we delivered. But we do plan
to play live more and are trying out some new material in that direction right
now. And I'm already starting to write some new tracks for future use...I
think we'll be evolving in a pretty logical direction from here.