By Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Comparisons to New Order may abound upon
first listen to the brothers Bustamante who comprise the underground duo
Fektion Fekkler. Unabashedly eighties-minded with a new millennium progression,
their current album Into the Sun is a culmination of electronic and
acoustic schools of alternative thought with splashes of psychedelia just to
make things interesting. It is an album you dont get everything upon
single listen; rather, its subtle textures unravel themselves the more it is
sampled. I caught up with John and Robert Bustamante to discuss Into the
Sun and a little bit about Americas superiority complex.
RV: I know this is a rather obvious question, but how
much has eighties new wave influenced your current music? I know Fektion
Fekkler was formed in 1989, which I'm sure accounts for much of what Im
drawing from your sound. I can hear New Order, early Human League, some
early industrial like Front Line Assembly, even some Herbie Hancock and
Kraftwerk stylizing to your drum machine layouts. Yet, particularly on your
current album Into the Sun you inject enough differentiating factors
(principally the stream of acoustic songs) to make it your own. Talk to
me about the process of your craft as applied to Into the Sun.
JB: I think most of our sound is totally from
the early new wave era. My brother and I were impressed with
the type of music that was coming out of Europe bands
like Cabaret Voltaire, Blancmange, Depeche Mode. In the U.S., with
the exception of The Cars and Blondie, we did not hear a lot of bands
with this sound. So yeah I can definitely see why people think we have an
eighties sound. My brother and I are still stuck in the
eighties...but with our own twist and newer version of new wave.
RV: Many of us are still stuck in the eighties! Ask
my wife! Since you and your brother Robert have been in the underground since
1989, you began by releasing your first album Distressed Tension on
cassette. Talk about an eighties motif! Cassettes, argh! I was in
my sophomore year in college in 1989 and I remember the frustrations of
cassettes. I had a friend in particular who kept buying me CDs before the
transition took shape! So many tapes that ended up in the trash can from
wear and splicing, the pieces of shit! Before I end up making this a
question about me, let me ask you about Fektion Fekkler at this beginning
period of time. Tell me about the groups inception, your game plan
back then and perhaps a comment on having your first release on cassette.
Im sure many listeners today weaned on CDs and MP3s can hardly relate to
JB: At that time we were glad to get any kind of
release! Thank God for durable cassettes! As far
as the inception of the band, it was for the love of music we
RV: By the time you recorded Kling Klang
Bedlam youd decided to branch from your harder industrial sound in
search of groove, which is now fully realized on Into the Sun.
Only a handful of groups can make such a transition and get away with it.
I mean, lets see Ministry try that and maintain their fanbase! At
the time you opted to change your approach; was it a difficult decision or did
you have faith your fans would understand where you were heading?
JB: Robert and I did not want to produce another CD
along the same vein as before. We wanted to take chances and hope that
someone would be willing to release and promote our newer beginning, so to
speak. Actually, Robert and I have always written music like this, we've
just never released it.
RV: Hmm, something to hold onto until the right time,
then. Now, what do you suppose accounts for the resurgence of eighties new wave
and alternative motifs in todays underground scene? It seems that
as the metal scene has resurged to the point where not only are the performers
of the day returning, but many practitioners are adopting eighties themes in
the form. Ditto for todays underground in electronic and
alternative. Other bands like yours that come to mind who encapsulate
eighties alternative nuances are Mephisto Walz and Nothing Inside. Since
Ive lived in both the original metal and alternative scenes at the height
of each scenes popularity, its interesting to me to see it all
circle back for todays cream of bands.
JB: The people who grew up listening
to new wave and true metal are now in control of our air waves and now it gives
us (people in the their thirties) a chance to bring back the old sound.
WE ARE IN CONTROL!! (Pumps fist in the air!)
RV: Horns up, baby! (laughs) I want to talk about the
song Generations, which I dig especially for its lyrical content.
Theres a sarcastic attitude in the verses, shaking things up with the
line This is the generation we live in, this is the world we spit in, we
are the people we talk to, this is the religion we believe in. It
seems to me that in a wartime society as we live in, there are those who join
rank and file in the mainstream of acceptance, while everyone else forms
counterculture subdivisions outside the norm. Even at 34 I kind of
retreat from society as I did during the Reagan years and the first Bush
years. So tell me more about your thought process behind
JB: When I wrote Generations
I was thinking about our acceptance of the world we live in, a world
controlled by greed and hate. It's sad to say that we
accept the things that are so obviously wrong racism, war and
repression. "We are the people we talk to."
RV: I totally dig what youre saying. Continuing
with Generations, I find the questions What happens to
eternity? What happens to utopia? intriguing. Words of a
dreamer, Id say, and I say it because I too find myself clinging to
ideals and a code of ethics I dont think society-at-large is capable of
meeting. Its a particular frustration in my own mode of thought
that our culture isnt cosmopolitan enough to accept the precipice of
peace and enlightenment. Its too busy forking over five bucks a cup
to Starbucks and making fun of the local gas station attendants accent to
seek a more righteous path. Your thoughts?
JB: I agree. Everyone is the same no
matter how they talk or what color their skin is or how poor they might
be. We all breathe the same air! Its kind of like
hearing a homeless person say "Sorry about bumping into you, its
your world, I just live in it." That is total bullshit!
RV: Hell yes! Okay, youve really opened my
floodgates just on that one song, so let me ask you this; do you feel America
has a superiority complex? I most certainly do.
JB: I think America has always felt a little "better"
than everyone else. I don't agree with this mind set. I think
America tends to put itself in other nations businesses, such as
Iraq. It's just another way for America to flex its muscles. I
think us helping the Iraqi people on a humanitarian level is great, but I
believe there are other agendas besides that. Oil, anyone?
RV: (laughs) And dwindling at that, given our gas
prices lately! Shifting gears lyrically, a lot of Fektion Fekklers songs
deal with love, loss and remorse. The melancholy Visitor,
Sunsky or Bleed from Into the Sun for example, or even
many of the songs from your previous album Kling Klang Bedlam.
Lacking the whininess emo band practitioners use for the same themes, Fektion
Fekkler adopts more of a Cure methodology to relinquishing its verbal pain.
Perhaps its not as wrist-slittingly dramatic, but perhaps you get
what Im saying? What is it about love and pain that stirs the muse
inside the musician, in your opinion?
JB: Good question. I don't know what really
evokes me into writing sad love songs, I just do. But I can tell you
this every song about love I sing comes from true life
experiences. I could not sing them wholeheartedly if they weren't.
RV: Thats an honest answer. The instrumental
Heathen is another of my favorite songs on Into the Sun. Forgive
me if I sound blasé, but tell me how what you were trying to embody
without words on this song.
RB: Just having fun in the music room.
RV: By any chance, does the repeated suck it
and see line on Pigs Feet have anything to do with the Grim
Reaper song by the same name?
RB: No, but I can see what you mean. The song is
RV: I know I went out on a limb there, but Im
going to find someone out there who likes Grim Reaper besides myself!
(laughs) Now, I really enjoyed the ending of Sinsa with the
Hendrix-esque psychedelic guitar finish, which kind of leaves you ripe for the
acoustic-drive that dominates much of the second half of Into the Sun
such as Through the Days, Its Over, Saved and
Instincts. If new listeners have pegged you as a strictly
electronic band, you prove them wrong here. Through the Days is
ironically one of your strongest songs on Into the Sun because it socks
you from left field when you first play the disc. Its like a Blur
moment, if you take my meaning at all. So if theres a question
behind the compliment, it would be: how important do you feel it is to be
multi-dimensional? Some bands adopt the
if-it-aint-broke-dont-fix-it mentality, but I dont see that
at all with Fektion Fekkler.
JB: I don't want to be looked at as a band that stays
with one formula, never evolving. I want to be known as a band that takes
chances. Acoustics have always been part of our music. We just haven't
put it out for the audience to hear before this. My taste in music is all
over the board and I draw inspiration from many different genres.
RV: Speaking of psychedelic, the ultra-groovy
Liberate Tutemet. Wow, the groups I hear embodied here
little Depeche Mode, a little Rush, a little Electronic
nearly six minutes
of trippy groove followed by dead air for another three, which I suppose is
what, the break leading to the untitled bonus track? I'm particularly
interested in where you went to mentally when composing Liberate
JB: I wrote this song with Legendary
Pink Dots in mind just a sort of jam song. I took it over to
Robert's house and laid it down on the mixer, did some live vocals and a few
mixes and then left it as is. A few months later Robert called and asked
if I had left some recordings on DAT over there. I had basically
forgotten about it until this time. Robert liked it, so we added some
dialogue samples and more live keyboards and decided it would be added to
the CD. For it to remind you of Rush is cool I had to listen
to it again to hear the influence. I have always admired their ability to
write great songs, merging strong guitar and keyboard elements.
For you to even remotely compare this song to Rush is extremely flattering!
RV: My pleasure, I call it as I hear it and hope
others think the same way. If I could summarize Fektion Fekkler at this point,
your group embraces simplicity, not overabundance. You and Robert focus
on the discovery of feelings, emotions and groove without concerning yourselves
with multiple layering. Grass roots electronica with a heavy dose of
troubadour acoustics. If you could summarize yourselves at this point,
how would do it?
JB: To not be afraid to take chances with our music
and hope others will like it too.