Music Interview

Psyche

By Kim Mercil

PsycheKim 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?

PsycheP: 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 followed.

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 Soft Cell?

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 PsycheIntimacy, 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 now.

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?

Psyche LiveP: 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 bridge across.

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 Hour?

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 out?

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 Legends #112.
(2) Reviewed in Legends #119.
(3) Reviewed in Legends #141.
(4) Reviewed in Legends #116.