Music Interview

Fektion Fekkler

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Fektion FeklerComparisons 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 don’t 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 America’s 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 I’m 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 group’s inception, your game plan back then and perhaps a comment on having your first release on cassette.  I’m sure many listeners today weaned on CDs and MP3s can hardly relate to the cassette.

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 both had.  

RV: By the time you recorded Kling Klang Bedlam you’d 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, let’s 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 today’s 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 today’s 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 I’ve lived in both the original metal and alternative scenes at the height of each scene’s popularity, it’s interesting to me to see it all circle back for today’s cream of bands.

Call OutJB: 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.  There’s 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 Generations.

Into the SunJB: 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 you’re saying. Continuing with Generations, I find the questions “What happens to eternity?  What happens to utopia?” intriguing.  Words of a dreamer, I’d say, and I say it because I too find myself clinging to ideals and a code of ethics I don’t think society-at-large is capable of meeting.  It’s a particular frustration in my own mode of thought that our culture isn’t cosmopolitan enough to accept the precipice of peace and enlightenment.  It’s too busy forking over five bucks a cup to Starbucks and making fun of the local gas station attendant’s 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, it’s your world, I just live in it." That is total bullshit!

RV: Hell yes! Okay, you’ve 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 Fekkler’s 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 it’s not as wrist-slittingly dramatic, but perhaps you get what I’m 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: That’s 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 Pig’s 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 about death.

RV: I know I went out on a limb there, but I’m 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, It’s 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.  It’s like a Blur moment, if you take my meaning at all.  So if there’s 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-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality, but I don’t 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…a 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 Tutemet.

Call OutJB: 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.