Music Interview

The Machine In The Garden

by Jett Black

Jett Black catches up with electronic artist Roger Frace of The Machine in the Garden this February and presents a few curious questions:

Austin, Texas is now home to Machine in the Garden, formerly of Denver, Colorado. Roger Frace & Summer Bowman unite classically creative literary themes with unique and progressive modern music. Crossing over several new music genres, tMitG continues to create and experiment under their own independent label, Deus ex Musica. Ever industrious, Roger Frace takes a few moments here to illuminate The Machine in the Garden...

Machine in the GardenWho *is* The Machine in the Garden?

Roger Frace and Summer Bowman.

Which musical classification would you prefer to be known for?

We'd rather not be classified. Worst case scenario: Gothic-Ethereal-Darkwave.

When will tMitG record next?

We're always working on new material and/or re-recording or remixing old material. We're in the process of recording material for a new release this year and demoing for a second new release. Currently, we're planning for these releases to be a mix of both old and new material. The material is, again, a diverse mix of styles ranging from Ethereal to more accessible, danceable pieces. Possibly you'll be hearing a lot more guitar on the next releases than on Underworld.

What is the title of your latest and next release?

The current release is "Underworld" which was released in December 1997. We have a few ideas being tossed around for the titles planned for this year including "When Angels Peer Favorably Upon Us" and "Movement." Hopefully one release will be available by late spring.

What changes in style & membership has tMitG undergone since its inception?

The band was founded by me (Roger) in about 1991. For many years I recorded and played shows alone. Summer joined tMitG in Spring 1997. The most significant musical change occured in tMitG between 1994 and 1996 when I was in graduate school for electronic arts. Being exposed to and being encouraged to be more experimental in art really developed the direction I wanted to take the music of tMitG.

What has been most effective in holding tMitG together?

Well, when you're solo, there's not a lot that can tear a band apart :) As for being a duo, I think it's the very personal relationship between myself and Summer in addition to our creative similarities.

How would you describe the music that tMitG ultimately performs and records?

A little bit of everything. We range from Ethereal to Darkwave to some Industrial to Dance. Live can be a little different because Summer tends to do most all the vocals and I just hang out and play guitar (even to songs that didn't originally have it).

Since the late '80's, differentiations in "underground" music have resulted in distinctions such as "Gothic," "Industrial," "Electronica," "Darkwave" and others not as trend-setting. Where do you believe these distinctions in darker music are headed?

I think the distinctions are going to become more blurred. A lot of bands are going for crossover styles, so expect to see a lot of hyphenated genres in the future.

How would you describe their evolutions from the late '80's to today?

It's hard to say. In the 80s, Gothic tended to mean "Goth Rock" and a lot of other stuff considered "Gothic" in the 90s was called "New Wave" then. The 90s classification seemed to have been invented to some of the diversity of 80s music that didn't have an appropriate label at the time.

What is the general motivation behind tMitG?

We have no political motivations. We infuse our music with a lot of emotion reflective of our lives. People can, theoretically, understand the emotion in the music and possibly relate to or understand it.

Looking back upon the progression of your music, how have your messages evolved throughout the evolution of the musical styles?

Again, since we don't have any sort of political motivation to our music, I can't really say that the message has changed. I do think that the way both Summer and I paint pictures with our words and/or describe feeling and emotion is similar. The music, though, has changed and I believe become better over the years.

What experiences have been most influential in the development of your music?

It's hard to say because I write what's in my head, and it's not necessarily derived from any particular source. It could be as simple as, "I want to write something in 6/8 time.

What do you believe is lacking in the industry that if added would stimulate evolutionary new growth and creativity?

I certainly think there's a drive to be popular. Cetainly if you make music that sounds like a classic band or sounds like the current fad, you can have your 15 minutes of MTV fame. What we look for is music that can last years and years, and have respect for ourselves, even if the music doesn't pay the bills (which it doesn't).

What impressions do you have of the new music festivals? (Some examples include Convergence, CopFest, and ProjektFest).

I've only attended one of these (Convergence 1) and also the final NMS back in '94. I think the idea is cool, and it's a great way to get to know people and meet new people. It's also a lot of new music for a reasonable price.

How do you believe these festivals impact the growth of the scene that supports your musical talents?

No, I don't think so. Something like Convergence only happens once a year and in one location. The people that care enough to go to it are going to be people who already like what they're going to see there. I don't think they're going to "convert" anyone who isn't already way into Goth/new music.

How do computers and the Internet impact how tMitG presents itself?

The Internet has helped us a great deal by allowing for this free media to be accessible by anyone. We've also noticed that goths tend to be very net-savvy, so it's helped a not-so-well known band like ourselves get some exposure. Just by posting on a newsgroup, mentioning the band on IRC, or even adding the band so search engines has helped a lot.

Do you utilize computer technology to develop the music itself?

Yes, because we do use a lot of keyboards & digital audio sequencing to create the music. Now, by no means is our equipment state-of-the-art, but we're generally pleased with its performance and we get to express our music sufficiently.

Who would you say characterizes the personality types of people most likely to identify with your music?

It's hard to say. Our audience is predominantly Goth, but really anyone with a "dark" attitude can enjoy what we do. There's quite a lot of "normals" of all age groups who enjoy what we do as well.

Which record label is tMitG currently signed onto?

tMitG is managed through the label Deus ex Musica, which we founded ourselves in fall 1997. Apart from tMitG, we also distribute the bands Zia and Wench, Shadowed Sky magazine and a novel by author Eric Muss-Barnes. We have some licensing prospects for 1999 to get new tMitG released in other markets as well.

Where have you found the largest positive support for your music?

People who have some connection to the Internet and people who enjoy music with compositional merit.

What activities occupy your time outside of recordings and performances?

I have a full-time job as a graphic designer/techie. I also enjoy paying a lot of attention to Summer and our surrogate cat, Freeway.

What problems have you experienced with audio during your live performances in the past?

Too many. Mainly lack of stage monitors or very poor stage monitors. Clueless sound guys.

What really adds to your personal satisfaction of your own live performances?

The audience actually coming up near the stage, paying attention, some people dancing and everyone looking like they're enjoying themselves.

How do your recordings generally evolve?

In any given way. They can start with any instrument and evolve all at once. A fragment can evolve and then be finished 3 years later.

Which writers have had influence upon the development of your music?

The 2 biggie writers are Aeschylus and Shakespeare. We've used they're words as lyrics twice each now.

Where might fans specifically look for the most recent reviews of your music and interviews with band members?

We try to keep reviews and links to interviews on our website at http://www.rpi.edu/~fracer/. Most recently, we had an interview in the January 1999 issue of Outburn magazine.

How might fans reading this be most likely to contact tMitG for more information?

People can visit our web page at http://www.io.com/~tmitg/, email us directly as fracer@rpi.edu, or snail mail us at 4815 W. Braker Lane, Suite 502-234, Austin TX 78759.