Craig Joseph Huxtable is best known in electronic circles as Landscape Body Machine, a dynamic live electronic act with a career spanning many albums and tours, collaborations, video games and film soundtracks.
Interview (June 2017)
[CyberNoise] How did you meet and what prompted you to join forces and record together?
[Craig] Well, I think the first time Chris and I met was probably at Gracelands, most likely, there is a mutual friend Isaac Terpstra who ran a few nights in Vancouver for a long, long time and he was working out of a club called Gracelands for a while there. And Chris became a regular and myself as well so we just became acquainted socially and somewhere along the lines Chris probably saw me play as I used to play at these nights on a somewhat regular basis for a fairly long time and so we became acquainted through that. I guess really we became friends first before we started making any music…
[Chris] And Craig playing Oh Canada as part of the Canada Day celebrations so I'd like have Craig come and play it on the keyboard and everyone's singing along - it's really silly. But I'd seen a couple of his solo things and then put that disc out and I was like, this is brilliant. This guy speaks music in a different language, it's intensely mathematical but melodic at the same time. I just figured I'd gotta work with this guy at some point.
[Craig] …And I, so I think the next thing that we did together which brought us closer at that point was the Music West gig when we both played at Love Affair. And it was kinda, sort of somewhat wasn't too long after that we jammed out the beginnings of Illicit Dreams…
[Craig] …for the last Noise Unit album. And that was the first time that Chris and I had worked together and it was actually a pretty spontaneous thing - we were actually just hanging out for the evening and Chris offered up, he said "well you know, hey, I've got this thing that I've started and you know, what do you think?" and me, like, I love to play and record all the time, so I was like, yes, let me have at it, and so Chris would just hand me beer after beer after beer and I would be dropping take after take after take and it was a really great rhythm that we could see. Almost like two halves of a coin where what I do is not what Chris does and vice versa but where we meet in the middle nicely rounds and complements everything.
[Chris] Yes. It just felt very easy and natural and there was no bickering about anything. Just brilliant, excellent…
[Craig] …the best idea wins and no bitchin' about it you know. Cos I mean I know one of the reasons why I played by myself for so long was because I always liked to get my own way [laughs] but it's good, Chris you know, has some incredible ideas and sometimes I've been reluctant at first because I would hear something so much one way and then, oh! okay never mind, no, you win hands down, this is the best thing for this song. This is what serves the idea best. Cos I don't think between us it doesn't really matter where the idea comes from, it's just that its applied and it makes the song even better.
[CyberNoise] You've both worked with other artists/people - has working with them influenced your own music or do you deliberately try to record something different?
[Craig] I think, I mean for me personally, the people that I've worked with influenced me in, more in working habit ways and, you know, knowledge sharing. I always like to bring something to the table in hope that, that offering creates this great trade where I'm bringing this and then for someone to go, oh - let me meet you halfway and so I would say most of the people that I've worked with closely always have to, that's a sort of criteria I have, that they have to meet you halfway. And the thing coming out of that by being like that, you learn from each other. And then you're ready to go on to the next thing after the fact, and so it's not even necessarily the style that you produce but like what you learn in the process and taking it on into the next thing.
[Chris] I think for me it would be I've got a producer mentality on that so I am always looking how I make artists sound better and just magnifying their personalities. So I wouldn't say I'm artistically influenced but it certainly makes me better every time I do something and the process of stripping away stuff you don't need then intensifying the parts that best reflect that character, so it's more about just making better what I do every time I work with someone because they all present their own unique challenges. You couldn't say any person I have worked with is the same, obviously so, I don't look it as influence as much as, hey thanks for helping me hone my craft.
[Craig] Exactly, exactly and I think that's why we also have a lot of fun the two of us because I find that almost every time we do a new song we each learn, we both get something out of it that we didn't know before. Sometimes from each other and sometimes a mutual discovery in the process, where we go "aha" you know?
[Craig] And that makes doing this really enjoyable.
[Chris] Craig is the closest thing to an influence working with someone that way because he's making me a better musician and I'm making him better at mixing and engineering his own stuff that he sends to me, as it's gone from some sludgy, fast fired off ideas, which is fine, but now it's like I hear refinement going on and he's upped his game and now I can figure out some chords and stuff now and I feel much better about playing than I used to, so that's nice.
[CyberNoise] Are you able to talk a little bit about the instruments that you use especially in the live setup?
[Craig] Oh, yes, absolutely.
[Chris] I'll go first - mine's easy - he's the better musician so when we're talking about live… well, we had to strip it down for this as, obviously, you can only take so much gear over here. So I really enjoy though my modular synthesiser which is a Doepfer A100 system - they give you the full package with everything in that you need to get going on it. And having a modular synth around lets me come up with things that are on the spur of the moment, like I feel like hearing this now, so I like the freedom of being able to do something different every night and still work within a framework . The keyboard I'm playing is a Korg R3 isn't it?
[Chris] It's very handy because it's got some decent bass sounds, some strings and then there's the vocoder banks. And (live) you would have seen my string reverb and I can just remodulate that with the Korg and it's like, fun just to get away from the rigidity of just playing so at least I have that there. And then I run some, make a bunch of sketches at home so that there's like different ambient flavours that I can pull up and just bring in and out and put through a filter so you can have a little phone up there with different things like here's some power tools that I run through some filters at home and whatever else, just click crazy sounds, it just helps you, gives me a little more spontaneity that I can cover those gaps in between songs and keep things moving. That's about it for mine. To have some random elements still available no matter how small you make your setup. You don't want to do the same show every night.
[Craig] So for Ohm live, I'm using an Access Indigo 2 and that's actually, I've pretty much only used that on the debut Ohm album as well - I think I only really used that synth with maybe a little bit from a Roland JP8000. And so that Indigo 2 for me is very much my "Ohm" instrument. So that's been coming with me everywhere I go. In spite of its weight [both laugh] which kinda sucks, you know, that's the thing that I love about it is that it is a nice chunky metal keyboard but for travelling it's a chunky metal keyboard [both laugh]. And then on the top half that's a Novation UltraNova which I originally purchased just after we did the debut because I needed a proper vocoder for doing some of the live vocals and I was pleasantly surprised in buying it because it was pretty reasonably priced the power of the synthesis as well on the keyboard - it's actually quite remarkable for its size and price so with the new stuff we've been doing I've been using it more and more and more. And then the third thing that I have is a TC Helicon voice player live module and that's what I've been running my vocals through. So I've setup a series of patches and you know it's got a nice little foot thing so I can just tap ready for the next song as we're going.
[CyberNoise] Are there any changes you would like to see in the music industry?
[Craig] Oh! [laughs].
[CyberNoise] What gets you down the most?
[Craig] I think the biggest thing that gets me down the most about the music industry is there's certain personalities that I see the music industry enable. That take advantage of other artists, that treat their fellow band members poorly. I find that when the business rewards that bad behaviour I find that the most repugnant thing. At a distance and close as well I've worked with a couple of people like that and to me no matter how much I want to make my career more successful I'll always choose integrity first and back away from that. I just find that's just horrible, some people can get away with anything.
[Chris] I don't like that we're, as musicians, providing content for services like YouTube that they are making a lot of money off the backs of creative content and we have a performing rights society in Canada called SOCAN and they collect all the radio play royalties and what not, take their cut, and away they go. And so they recently said they had made a settlement with YouTube but you gotta sign up to this different company to get whatever has been monetised and I'm looking at, I've got a wee bit of material on there if you look at the back catalogue and everything related to Front Line, Decree, blah blah blah, there's a lot of stuff going on, like a lot of plays, so I'm generating a lot of ad revenue and then SOCAN sends us a letter saying, well register with these guys and then you can get some money, maybe, and I'm like why don't you do your fucking job and take care of that for me? Why am I having to register with yet another company and make some deal and put my name on that, you know? Wait a minute that's your job to do that so it feels like you're offloading that. I just think that's bizarre.
[CyberNoise] And we've heard from other artists that the proposed new contracts are also punitive, the fact that like you say these people should be collecting the money/doing their job and yet when they're pushing you off to these other guys they're totally in it for their money anyway and so these contracts are punitive.
[Chris] This is where I wish I had a publisher because they just take care of chasing everyone down but if you sign something for any of that stuff maybe you're limiting your rights in the future. I don't like it. What am I agreeing to here? This could harm me in the future.
[Craig] But I mean shitty deals have been a part of the music industry forever and ever. You hear artists in the 20s and 30s about how badly they got shafted. That part of the industry has never shifted. Scumbags are hiding under rocks everywhere right?
[CyberNoise] Do you guys agree or disagree with music streaming e.g. Spotify, Apple Music, etc?
[Craig] I agree with it in principle as a technology. The one way that it's been poorly planned, poorly executed and poorly presenting a proper monetisation model for artists is my whole opposition to it at this point. It needs to be completely reworked because the whole way that streaming has come together on the internet in the last five to ten years, it has come together in way that it is very pro corporation and literally almost cuts the artist right out of the equation.
[Chris] I don't like the difference in scale between a digital sale versus physical either. You get a statement from you label and you made more from five CDs than 800 digital. Why is the price for digital, I know you're not sending a CD to someone, but jesus, it's like if you get a really really prorated number on there, you guys just found a way to screw people and you figure we'll just go along with it. How does that work?
[Craig] What I don't understand is why they don't because like radio royalties are half decent, why weren't they brought into line with radio royalties? I don't get it, it's internet radio, so why not that congruence.
[Chris] So here we are providing content again and we get 0.00001 of what you would get off of physical, so?
[Craig] It's nonsense. Just to line silicon valley pockets.
[Chris] Yup. Pretty much.
[CyberNoise] Question for Craig - your bio states you've worked on many video games, soundtracks and several albums but there's actually not a lot of your content that you can actually buy so is there a lot of unreleased stuff and will we ever see it?
[Craig] I've been a part of quite a few different things and with some of it for a while there, about three years, I was just doing short soundtracks and sound design for short films. Some of which you can find online and some of which you can't. One of these days I'm gonna get my shit together. I have tons of stuff sitting in closets from video game projects and in fact actually next year, funny you should ask that, there was a 3D tank game that I did in the late nineties with a few friends of mine called "Gun Metal" and the 20th anniversary is gonna be next year and we're actually going to, the original plan was actually for us to release a double album soundtrack when the video game came out and our financing for the game company had started to run out at that point so we couldn't do it, so with my friend Keith Gardner we are looking at releasing that next year. So in these pockets of silence there's lots of stuff and in-between Revolution and say Manifest Destiny there's starting to work with Chris on Noise Unit and then working with Front Line Assembly in the middle of the 2000s and with Stiff Valentine for a couple of years there, so you know I'm actually always busy. But at one point I should properly do out a timeline for people so they can really see where I spent all those gaps. And plus I also had two kids and that became an incredibly important focus too.
[CyberNoise] Question for Chris - you've worked with lots of artists. What were your favourites and do you have any crazy/special moments that you want to share?
[Chris] Oh gosh - I'm going to find a good answer for this on the flight home. It's hard to pick one moment with any of that and you just put it all down and move on so quickly.
[Craig] London squad? [laughs]
[Chris] Let's see. Most of it's like with Decree you're working with friends and so that's just where your favourite moments are, are when you are working with true friends whereas opposed to getting paid to do this, it's someone else's show and you just gotta meet their standards and whatnot. I would say the best memories are always going to be from projects like Decree, or this, or Unit 187. Tod Long who passed away just two years ago roughly, huge influence. When you meet a guy like that's just so giving, he works his ass off, he'd do anything for you, to help you out. Those kind of people touch your heart - you carry that with you forever. You want to pay tribute to those people. So I'd say the people I work with are the biggest influences rather than the people I work for, the one's you tend to just move on from.
[CyberNoise] What do you guys like doing when you're not making music?
[Craig] Well it's kind of funny. A lot of times when Chris and I, because we do a lot of work remotely, I live in Victoria and he lives in Vancouver and so we usually get together like maybe every four or five months sometimes not even that much. When we do we usually speed demon through the work and find ourselves after a couple of hours going "Ha! We thought that was going to take a whole day " and so we spend a lot of time just hanging out and discussing music , listening to different things, to just having a drink, having a laugh…
[Chris] Where we're from there's a lot of nice places to go and just have a walk, get out to nature, and just getting in a canoe or going hiking, something like that. There's lounging on the beach - I really like to get outside as much as I can, freshen my mind, fill your soul.
[Craig] Everything Chris said, absolutely!
[Chris] Grand Island market is a little thing across from me, take a little ferry and there is the most amazing seafood in Vancouver. Despite you never seeing me eat I actually really like cooking [Craig laughs] I really do enjoy cooking. It's a good thing my wife likes my food so I make Thai food for her. I am a bit of a foodie in the evening but I just don't eat until about five.
[Craig] Nature access is actually why I moved to Victoria from Vancouver because there's so much beach access or you can drive for thirty minutes and be in a proper tall tree rainforest. I found that like, yea, it just balances, it balances you out. I love urban life - I'm a city guy but you can't just have one, you need to balance it out with both. And there's nothing like the ocean.
[Chris] Oh yea, yea. Mountains and oceans. Just go outside and play. Clear your mind.
[CyberNoise] We love the ocean too but you know, Prague/Czech Republic is landlocked.
[Craig] Ah but this place is beautiful - this could sway me, honestly this place could sway me and that really surprises me because I've always had a massive aversion to living away from the ocean.
[CyberNoise] We loved the new material you played last night in Prague. Are you currently working on new stuff, a new album?
[Craig] We are indeed. At Wave-Gotik-Treffen we actually played three other songs that we didn't have time to play last night so we performed those for the first time and it's actually the first time that those have ever been played out. We haven't put any sneak previews or anything like that online…
[Chris] We were rushing to get those done before we left because…
[Craig] Yes, cos, well…
[Chris] We've gotta play for an hour at WGT. Good one Craig [both laugh]. We'd better write some more songs…
[Craig] So I set this up because WGT, I'd talked to them a couple of times over the last couple of years and the timing just hadn't been right when we'd spoken before and this year I thought I don't think this invitation might come again so we need to take advantage of this and kinda just go for it and so they said yes, we'll give you an hour slot and I said great knowing full well that the last full show that Chris and I played was 35 minutes and so I didn't really tell him that for the first little bit and then said, ooh by the way we need to come up with half an album's worth of material to finish the set! [laughs]
[Chris] Yea, cos you can't play every song off that album live. It just wouldn't translate so that was a good thing for us because it made us very task specific about things we can do that will automatically translate to the stage so I'd say we're just about halfway there on new material. So as soon as we get back obviously we'll be pretty inspired by this whole trip, lot of the feedback we got while we're playing or the people we're talking to after is going to help shape what we come up with for the rest of the album. very excited about that.
[CyberNoise] Well, more things like 4AM and Brute then you've got our thumbs up.
[Craig] Excellent. Well I think this is, without saying this is going to be the "heavy" album, Uppercut is probably a pretty good heads up at the beefier slightly more, not so much aggressive, just I don't know, more…
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