By Kim Mercil
Kim Mercil: In 1982 brothers Darrin and Stephen
Huss formed Psyche. Soon after the self produced Insomnia Theatre was
constructed under disguised names. What was your reason for this?
Psyche: We were big Chrome fans and we loved the
freaky names Damon Edge and Helios Creed. Also we thought since the Sparks were
already a known brother duo, we just wanted to be mysterious, and weren't quite
certain at the time if we would ever say who we truly were. It was in those
days when you wanted to be kind of obscure and all that. We changed our minds
as we got more pop I guess cause we didn't want to be seen as some unknown
figures. Who knows, maybe it's still cooler to have a fake name, but I'm happy
to just be who I am now.
KM: In 1985, how did you go about securing a record
deal with the French label New Rose Records?
P: Well, we tried Mute Records first of course, and
maybe a few others, but New Rose had just released a solo album from Damon Edge
of Chrome, as well as The Cramps, so I thought they might find us interesting,
and we also wanted to be on a label where not too many other synth bands were.
They loved Insomnia Theatre and we got along very well with our ideas,
so that was basically just luck, or fate for Psyche's first three albums.
KM: Why did you decide to record Unveiling The
Secret in Paris instead of your own home town?
P: We wanted to leave Canada as soon as we got our
deal actually. We had played enough locally, and just wanted to go to Europe
where all our favourite bands came from. We bought open return tickets, and
just went over to Paris. We ended up staying longer, and New Rose arranged a
practice room and recording studio. It was great fun, and gave us the chance to
be at the source of our record buying public.
KM: Your release Mystery Hotel achieved radio
play, what was it about this album that got it the attention that it did?
P: It was more commercial, we were no longer under
our pseudonyms. Eternal and Uncivilized were quite friendly
little tunes, and the success of the Unveiling the Secret album, plus
the even more polished sound of Mystery Hotel, brought us to a wider
audience. At the same time, we were leaving the dark wave scene behind a bit.
Nocturnal Passenger was the only real reminder of our past, and one fan
actually called me long distance on the phone to complained that the whole
album didn't continue in that darker vein. We were originally going to call the
album Dario Argento! but decided it was really too pop to be named after
the Italian Horror director. So you see even we were torn a bit with our
official direction. But we never were over the top commercial really. At least
we got to make an official video for Eternal that got played.
KM: In 1989 Darrin found David Kristian and a new
line up was formed. What caused Stephen to leave?
P: Stephen never left. My brother unfortunately
was diagnosed in 1988 as suffering from schizophrenia. It was not something we
really wanted to publicize at the time, it was more important to understand how
to live with it, so there was a period of uncertainty if we could continue
together. I moved to Montreal for a while and in fact originally had no idea if
I would continue Psyche without Stephen. I made an industrial album under the
name Vanishing Heat, but had also met David Kristian at the very last concert
with my brother in 1989, and somehow the music David was making, and my drive
to continue ended up becoming the 4th Psyche album.
KM: Being The Influence had a more darker over
tone than previous Psyche material, would you say David Kristian had something
to do with that?
P: I think it was exactly the right music at the
right time for my situation. I was ready to leave the pop stuff behind, and was
looking for a new way of making songs. I didn't want to explain about my
brother in interviews at the time, so instead all the pain and woe ended up on
The Influence. I was only 24 years old, and already experiencing a
midlife crisis. David is a genius really, and for anyone to replace my brother
for a whole album, I couldn't have been luckier than to have this follow up.
However New Rose didn't like it, so we moved directly to the main label of our
German distributor, SPV Records.
KM: In 91, you got back together with your
brother and generated Daydream Avenue. But when it came time to tour
Europe in support of this release Stephen stayed behind in Canada, why?
P: Well originally I thought the next chapter of
Psyche would be with David, but after coming to Germany with me and recording
the album, he decided he'd rather live in Montreal and continue developing his
own music as a solo artist. I ended up doing a tour for The Influence
with various hired keyboarders, and went home to see if Stephen and I might
work together. He wasn't so happy with my decision to make The
Influence. As we are brothers, and founded Psyche together, we decided to
record again and despite his illness, Stephen still makes music. The problem is
that he will not perform anymore. It is too much stress, and in fact he doesn't
really want to take active part in the "business." Until I knew whether I might
have Stephen's agreement to continue Psyche without him, we decided we would
still write and record together. We managed Daydream Avenue and later
Intimacy in 1994. After that I was living more often than not in Germany
and wanted someone permanent for the albums and touring. That came later in
1995 with Per-Anders Kurenbach and the Strange Romance album that
KM: Darrin, when you wrote Heaven in Pain you
wanted to reach the dance charts and instead it hit the pop charts. Why did you
take a creative break after this happened?
P: Mainly because the song kind of flopped. It sold
ok, mostly to Psyche fans, and I had done a tour in support of Anne Clark that
didn't really raise my audience level as I'd hoped, so I went back to Canada
for awhile to rethink the whole thing. Heaven In Pain is a story unto
itself; at least it enabled me to meet Karl Bartos (ex-Kraftwerk) as he worked
on the mix. I put it on Legacy just to round out all the territory of
electronic music I've covered in my life.
KM: Why did you choose to cover Sex Dwarf by
P: In 1994 Intimacy was the last album with my
brother, and it was very slow and moody. I noticed that a lot of new bands in
the 90's all had dance hits, and so I thought, I ought to do something a little
more freaky and aggressive, but wasn't really interested in writing my own
song. I had one called Freaks on Intimacy, and I figured
Sex Dwarf would make a nice companion to that. I was making demos with
my keyboarder from the Anne Clark tour, and we came up with this wicked
analogue version that reminded me of the early Psyche. And let's face it,
without Soft Cell, Psyche probably wouldn't exist. Through some cosmic twist of
fate, I am like a fraternal twin of Marc Almond, and since I have been compared
to him most of my life, I thought I'd just take the bull by the horns and do
the song that set them apart from all other synthpop bands. I distorted my
vocal though because I didn't want to sound exactly the same. Ironically
Leather Strip did a very similar version later on. Psyche's version remains a
standard concert favourite to this day however, where I also add a small homage
to other Soft Cell favourites into the lyrics when I sing it live. I mean
honestly, the title of the song alone is reason enough to cover it! I like the
fact that those two words together still really upsets people. I actually found
a website recently where a synthpop fan complains about the lyrics. That always
cheers me up a bit!
KM: In 96, why did you decide to create a more
friendlier up beat sound for Psyche?
P: I was still young and wasn't thinking properly?
Honestly I don't know. In retrospect the most loved songs from the Strange
Romance album are Tears and Goodbye Horses, so we won't be
remembered for the friendly stuff anyway. I think it was the invention of all
those boy bands. I wanted to compete. I wasn't interested in being a part of
the Skinny Puppy/Front 242 generation of followers like Project Pitchfork. I am
first and foremost a vocalist, and Psyche is meant to try new ways of
electronic pop, so that's my explanation. Also because Per is a good piano
player and live musician. I wanted to hear that in the music. But songs like
You Ran Away were perhaps too indulgent, and ignorant of what our public
sees in our music. Audience opinion is very valuable to me, so the sugar pop
phase of Psyche may never resurface.
KM: Psyche released a live video to accompany the
Strange Romance Tour. Any plans on doing this again?
P: I'm still feverishly working on my 20th
anniversary DVD. It will include all videos we have made, including a TV
performance with Dwayne Goettel when he was the third member of Psyche. Also
live performances with some of the highlights from the Strange Romance
VHS. I had to hold off the release until February 2006 because I'm busy with
concerts, and the volume of material and work was too much for me. I regret
that I wasn't faster with this because a lot of my colleagues have already
released DVD's. But this Psyche DVD should be as definitive as possible for
KM: In 2000, you signed to a new label, ArtofFact
Records,and released a best of, Misguided Angels(1), which contained
material from 83-00. Then in 2001 you were signed to Accession Records. Why did
you change labels so quickly?
P: Actually we didn't change from Art Of Fact to
Accession. We signed to Accession for Europe, and both labels released The
Hiding Place(2), Endangered Species and Babylon Deluxe(3) in
their territories. In 2000 we had no European label. We left SPV, to make
Love Among The Ruined on Strangeways (home of De/vision and Wolfsheim)
in 1998. It didn't go so well, and we had no single release either so
Misguided Angels gave me the chance to re-issue some of the songs I felt
had been overlooked in the North American market as well as an overview since
1983.In 2001, Psyche was Remi Szyszka and myself and we both wanted to release
Sanctuary(4) as a debut single for Psyche's new lineup. Strangeways
wasn't interested, so we signed with Accession Records.
KM: When you returned to play in Paris it was the
same venue you had performed in with your brother 13 years earlier. How was
that experience for you?
P: I was very pleased and proud, other than the fact
that it was already a whole decade behind us, and it was simultaneously a
release party for Depeche Mode's Exciter album! Other than that, a great
return to Paris.
KM: You finally performed in the USA in 2001, why did
it take you nineteen years to play here?
P: Simply because I had made a
conscious decision to "make it" in Europe and not until Metropolis was
releasing some of our contemporaries did I even become aware of the North
American market. I had given it up as belonging to Skinny Puppy and Front Line
Assembly, and figured we'd never reach a large audience for Psyche. That may
still be true, we'll see. Metropolis took us on in 2004 for the first time, and
with Legacy, a compilation of tracks from 1991-2004, plus the new album
The 11th Hour it remains to be seen if we can pick up anew after all
this time in self imposed exile. I really would like to have Psyche do a cross
country tour, but we still need to set that up, and with the fact that we are
unknown to a whole generation of listeners, we have quite a gap to build a
KM: Psyche is without a doubt more popular in Europe
than in America, why do you think that is?
P: The main reason is what I mentioned before. When
Psyche first started we were independent, and had no backing from a label such
as Nettwerk with which we could really get known. When we left for Europe, for
me it was a bit out of spite even though we had a fairly good following in
Canada. Finally I think our music and my singing style may just naturally in
fact be more European. The rest is just marketing. I think the US audience just
hasn't had the chance to get to know us as well. I'm sorry about that too.
Would've loved to support someone like Bauhaus on their comeback tour, but
we'll just have to find our own way.
KM: In 2005 as a solo project Psyche released The
11th Hour. This is a rather mellow album compared to the past material,
what was your reason for this?
P: It was a return to the feeling and style of what I
developed with David Kristian at the time, but with new influences. I think
there's still danceable tracks, but for me Psyche is art, and making clubby
trance sequences is not right for us. We have had some songs in that direction
such as Sanctuary and The Beyond, and as much as I like those, I
still feel it's too much of a compromise to the completeness of my vision for
Psyche. I prefer to stay away from trends, and I'll be glad when the concept of
"futurepop" has diminished. At least for me, this kind of music is not really
an option. People need to find a new way to dance.
KM: Since you created The 11th Hour by
yourself was anything different (recording,mixing etc) from your past releases?
P: I didn't create it by myself, I just decided that
I will represent Psyche on my own from now on. It's better that way. I don't
want to run the risk of having to make new press photos with a different
musician every album. Most of The 11th Hour was written with Per-Anders
Kurenbach. the difference this time is I have decided exactly what I want from
the songs, and I may choose to work with various musicians in the future.
KM: Why did you decide to call this album The 11th
P: Without trying to repeat the press info, I'll just
reiterate that I have reached an end. I am writing about the last Psyche album
as I see it, until I may arise like a phoenix out of my own ashes, and see what
is in store for me next. Goodbye Horses, as it were.
KM: Where is Psyche headed in the future?
P: Psyche was never a career, Psyche is like the John
Lennon quote, life is what happens while you're making other plans. The fact
that we as human beings get older and eventually die disturbs me greatly, and
now that I have made 11 albums and several EPs/Best Of's I am still looking for
purpose, but also finding that I would like to just be reborn and start all
over again somehow. My albums are my library, and biography. They can be
cherished anytime, they are a solid and finished work. I am unfinished and
still growing. If The 11th Hour would be the last Psyche album, I would
be happy with that. If there is more to the story, then I shall and will find a
way to tell it. Until then I always say the future's uncertain, so fasten your
seatbelts and just enjoy a ride. Actually, Jim Morrison said it best, "The
future's uncertain, and the end is always near." Right in between lies Psyche.
It really is best not to get too hung up on things. To quote from my own song,
all we have is "holding frozen pages, unforgotten rhymes." That's from
Salvation Stranger on The Influence.
KM: With ten official albums and a little over 20
years under your belt, Darrin, what do you feel has kept Psyche alive this
long? With all this experience, what advice can you tell someone just starting
P: I wanted to write a book called "How not to make
it in the music business a survival kit." I am in fact working on my
biography, but I've never felt famous enough to sell my life story. If I do
publish it, the title will be Imaginary Life which is also a Psyche
song. I hope people will just be interested in what crazy stories I have to
tell. My advice as I have said once in another interview is, believe in luck,
and you will be lucky. Now I would add to that, but try to get a sponsor. I am
not a "major" commercial success, but I am successful in terms of living from
the privileges of my talent. I am thankful for every listener, and ever member
in the audience who appreciates what I do. It's hard for me to call people
fans; if they like my songs I feel that we are friends even if you do have to
separate the person from the art sometimes. However, with a name like Psyche
it's kind of all in one.
(1) Reviewed in
Reviewed in Legends #119.
(3) Reviewed in Legends #141.
(4) Reviewed in Legends #116.