Scene Point Blank: Standard Issue completes the trilogy of Dismantled albums, as it were. What are your future plans, both for Dismantled and more generally?
Gary Zon: For Dismantled, I think it's something that's maybe less focused than my work earlier. Haven't given it too much thought but I do have a general idea of what I'll do next with that.. I will continue to seek a career in the music industry and since I can't do that with Dismantled, I'll keep trying with my indie rock project Aerodrone and if that fails then I will do a hip hop band and if that fails then I will do another rock project and if that fails then I will go back to college when I'm thirty and burned out on everything and just get a shitty office job and die a slow painful death.
Scene Point Blank: You've started to use clean vocals more and more as time has gone on. Back on Dismantled, practically everything was vocoded. Has this been a deliberate change, or something that merely reflects musical evolution?
Gary Zon: Evolution, definitely. On the first album, I was obsessed with vocoders and synthetic sounds and drones and all that good stuff. I wanted to convey something completely inhuman and apocalyptic, where everything is more of an atmosphere rather than an actual presence and that's what I succeeded in doing with that. For the later albums I felt like I was done with that phase of my life where I wanted everything to get annihilated so I decided I should go in a more emotional direction because I had feelings of failure to convey. I got a condenser microphone and did just that. If for some reason I decide I'm into seeing everything get tactically nuked to hell again, I will definitely drop all my clean vocals, unlearn all my experience with actually trying to sing instead of growl illegibly, and go back to the sound of the debut album.
Scene Point Blank: You've been working on a couple of other projects as well as Dismantled recently. Aerodrone and DFECTIV. What are those about and how have they been going?
Gary Zon: Aerodrone is all indie rock with popular influences like The Killers and The Faint and reflects my desire to be an indie pop rock icon and to piss off everyone who still pouts that I can't sing and should just go back to the sound of my debut Dismantled album. Most of all, it's a ploy for me to get on a major label and get a lot of cash so I can buy a Lamborghini. No, but really it's just me expressing the fact that I'm not limited to any musical genre and can do whatever I want within that realm and still get away with some marginal success. After playing locally with Aerodrone and putting out our demos in town, I still get people staring me down at the mall and saying "You're from Aerodrone, aren't you?" That band basically gave me local recognition. And to me that says that somehow somewhere, I have the potency to affect people. So, I guess that's a good thing?
DFEKTIV is something that's a noise offshoot of Dismantled that only the hardcore industrial fans will appreciate or people who like Download. But honestly, I'd want those people to pay more attention to my hip hop project when I get around to putting it out because I think it will create a big splash.
Scene Point Blank: You've been quite critical about the state of industrial and alternative-electronic music over the past couple of years. What is it about the current crop of artists that you find so disagreeable?
Gary Zon: No passion or energy, just thirty something guys sitting in front of a computer and making the same shit because they know they have name recognition and all they have to do is milk it and put something out and make some money off it. There is no innovation in that whatsoever and that's what bugs me the most. If the label was full of bands like Psyclon Nine where there's actually passion and energy behind the music and some real message then I wouldn't be critical of the scene. But there isn't so I can pout all I want. Another disturbing thing that I've found to be wrong was the VNV Nation live video on the Metropolis 2005 compilation. That was the best example to date of why I can't relate to most of the artists on my label. The music is great but the passion and energy of the live show is something that I find foreign and alien to me. And I'm sure the audience that I see in that video are the same people who are into Dismantled and if they're into VNV's live show then I can't imagine them liking anything about Dismantled live because my aesthetic is just too different.
Scene Point Blank: You've covered / re-mixed a few odd songs with Dismantled. AFI's "Morningstar" and Madonna's "Music" come to mind. What is it about these songs / artists that lead you to believe they were worth interpreting in your own way?
Gary Zon: They hit me in some way or another, I can't seem to recall why or how, but they definitely made an impression. â??Morningstarâ? is something my friends would play all the time at their apartment and after finding out Davey liked Dismantled, I gave a shot at covering it. Madonna was something that I just ended up doing for a remix contest to see if I'd win when the only mixes that did sounded like funk crap to me. They obviously weren't checking for any creativity when they picked out the winners from that and I ended up putting it on the site for free just to confuse people about my influences. Hell, I've seen Britney Spears twice in a row and loved every minute of it so I think that tells something about how random I am with being influenced by bands.
Scene Point Blank: Dare I ask what the "Easy to Swallow" mix of The Swarm was all about? It comes across as a little tongue-in-cheek. What was the intention behind remixing the song that way?
Gary Zon: It was the first stab at trying to make a remix that was Standard Issue and club oriented and I enjoy the result so much that I downloaded it off Soulseek and burned it onto a CD in my car the other day because I couldn't find my Breed To Death CD. It reminds me of all the trance songs that I love so much as well as electroclash. I sampled Ladytron and Afrika - Planet Rock on that track and I think that says a lot about the feelings I had while making it.
Scene Point Blank: The rest of Breed to Death featured remixes by Psyclon Nine, Haujobb and :Wumpscut:. Why those artists in particular?
Gary Zon: Haujobb and Wumpscut are both bands that I have a lot of respect for and they are actually the ones that came forward and told me how much they like PostNuclear. Daniel Myer also recently invited me to his show in Portland and wanted us to play but I don't have a band right now and don't feel like playing shows. Rudy from Wumpscut I ended up working with for a while remixing his tracks and it was time for him to return the favor But anyway, I wanted to have some big names that I was influenced by on this EP and having these bands do that for me meant a great deal even though I was surprised by the results as they were quite unusual from what I'd come to expect.
Scene Point Blank: Are there any bands in particular you'd like to tour or play with?
Gary Zon: Psyclon Nine. Period! I think they are the only industrial band that I could have a good time with on the road since we are the same age and have the same attitude about things. I'd also be down to play with some big bands like VNV Nation or Covenant because that would mean that we'd get a lot of people at our shows and we'd get some big exposure. Uh, also Nine Inch Nails for that very same reason. Basically anything that gets the word out or us and Psyclon Nine.
Scene Point Blank: Given the political climate in America at present, it seems that some bands are becoming more and more political, and others are sequestering themselves further from that, almost retreating into writing more introspectively. Do you feel you've fallen into either side of this?
Gary Zon: Politics are boring. I think the most political thing I did was â??On Your Kneesâ? for my first single Dystopia and I didn't even want to put it on a CD because I thought it should be free and people shouldn't have to pay for hearing about something that I wrote as a result of a tragedy. But even in that song I'm not really being political although I am condemning the terrorists for their actions. But ever since then, people wanted to tell me that PostNuclear was political and that â??Armed and Readyâ? was about Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth and I just used war as a metaphor for people's relationships with each other. I think the most political thing that I'll end up doing is this one song for Dismantled called "Change The World" which will be completely against any political activism whatsoever and states that the world is going to end no matter what the outcome will be. It will be very fatalistic and stylish.
Scene Point Blank: You're originally from Russia. Given the difference in political and social ideologies of Russia and the US, do your political / social values tend towards one or the other?
Gary Zon: Having that background is actually a huge advantage to me because I find that most people in the States are only exposed to their democratic way of life and while they actually think socialism is cool or that other systems are the way to go, they have no firsthand experience with it. I can't say that I have either since I left when I was nine but I'd still say it was substantial enough to make me look at both systems and compare them for what they are. I think whatever system allows me to do what I do with my music is the way to go but whenever I see something about Russia on the TV telling the US how its gonna be, I always smile. Cause usually it's the other way around and I always want to root for the underdog!
Scene Point Blank: You've written a song about the events on 9/11 early in your career. The question might have an obvious answer, but have the feelings you put into that song changed in the time since, given the actions of the US since?
Gary Zon: I've addressed this song earlier but in terms of feelings, I think they have definitely changed since that time. I remember being in New York on tour and going up to see the ruins of the World Trade Center and for some reason, it didn't really hit me as I thought it was going to. It just seemed like a huge construction zone and I didn't get the sort of tragic feeling that I feel I should of gotten. Maybe time just moved on and wiped it out or maybe it was because I was never in New York before so I couldn't compare to what happened before and after with the towers? I'll never know..
Scene Point Blank: God this is getting heavy. Can we talk about your artwork instead? Is the original idea of the skull taken from Space Invaders? It looks shockingly similar to those retro little alien dudes. Go on, you can tell meâ?¦
Gary Zon: I'm sure Space Invaders was subconsciously in my mind somewhere or I saw something that looked like it before I made it but I never made that connection conscious. I just wanted a skull to represent what I felt with the image of Dismantled and that's what happened. It was all just me making sketches in PaintShop Pro (fuck Photoshop) and editing them the way I saw fit. My major influence for the artwork was actually the Quake logo since I was a huge Quake nerd before/during the time I started making music. For proof of this, visit http://qhtml.telefragged.com. Pretty crazy how a few years later I get to play at QuakeCon and visit ID Software headquarters and seeing a sneak preview of Doom3.
Scene Point Blank: You're still using the skull. It seems to have moved from expressionless to an almost derisive, sardonic grin, of course through the rather evil looking fanged creation from PostNuclear. Are the various changes in the skull a deliberate change, representative of your feelings at the time, and the music contained within?
Gary Zon: Obviously. I was listening to No More Pain by 2Pac when I made the PostNuclear skull and I just looked at a poster I have of it in my bathroom and noticed how cool the eyes looked and the texture on it. Probably the closest to the Quake logo as I could get. A flying fox's skull was also used in the making of this and I'm proud of the way it made the skull so cat-like. The grinning Standard Issue logo was based on this wallpaper I found with an evil grinning smiley face and I remember the first time I sent it to the label they thought it was a big joke. Well, it wasn't except I had to make it slightly less smiley. I have a huge banner with that logo at my dad's house in San Diego as my window curtain and I loved having that banner hanging down on tour and watching everyone dancing to shitty club music after our set while the thing grinned at them. I think that was the most satisfaction I've ever gotten on that tour, next to having our keyboardist's backpack filling up with shaving cream of course.
Scene Point Blank: Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Any famous last words?
Gary Zon: When I'm dead I want my body strapped to a bomb and dropped off an airplane at my funeral just to show how much I care.
Interview: Neil F.
The new Dismantled Album, Standard Issue is out now on Metropolis Records in North America and Dependent Records in Europe.