Although Death and Horror, Inc. can claim a sizable fanbase in their home country of Canada, they have yet to make a significant impact south of the border. Formed in 1987 by gear-heads Vicar (vocals, synths, samples) and Graf (credited with airwave appropriation), the band's first demo, "Need and Ability", was released locally a year later to resounding college radio and critical approval. With the success of their second release, "Chemical Land Showdown", DHI accepted a support position on 1988's A Split Second and Front Line Assembly tours. Cyberlogue recently caught up with the duo and newer members Nocturne and Speed (formerly of Kk Records' Dogpile), while they were in a Toronto studio recording tracks for their junior record.
Rik: For years the Canadian elektro scene has been much of an old boy's club with the majority of both local and international press continually focusing on the same established acts, ie. Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly. Has that posed a significant obstacle in the way of DHI's success as a band, or affected your outlook on the music industry there?
Vicar: Well, I could care less about it, actually. We're just interested in creating the sound that we create and we (continue to) get together and write and record as we're doing right now. That'a all that we're thinking about; and if it goes beyond that then that's fine. And it has gone beyond that. We've ended up on Fringe Product, the label in Canada, and Kk Records were interested, but that wasn't my motivation for doing this thing at all. We've been working together for quite a while ...
Rik: It's going on ten years now...
Vicar: In various forms yeah. And this lineup we've been together for...it's coming up on three years now.
Speed: I know Don Gordon (from Vancouver's Numb) pretty well, as well as I know and knew the guys from Skinny Puppy and the whole scene and...it does wrinkle a little bit (for me). I think a lot of it has to do with, you know, Don and Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly are all from the same area and I have a feeling that they just happened to be in the right place at the right time as far as press. Obviously, Toronto has more press (publications), but perhaps because there is more press they tend to deal more with mainstream stuff. DHI is pretty successful. I mean we do pretty well with live shows and still seem to be basically ignored by press in general. There are bands that draw far less than us and are still more likely to get airplay just because of the type of music they play....
Rik: Perhaps people are intimidated by the name alone. To what does it refer to?
Graf: Well it was sort of borrowed during our early phases when we were getting some heavy sampling from sound effects records. So we decided to sample a name off one of the sound effects records. And I think we'll just leave it at that...it seems to describe our mood at times.
Rik: Another electronic band that comes to mind when you think of Toronto is obviously Digital Poodle. But aside from the locale DHI seems to have very little in common with that band. Musically there's the usage of guitars in your work; whereas, DP is very anti-axe. Lyrically they're angry politicans and you're just plain angry...
Vicar: Yeah but I heard a leak of information that the next DP album is going to be called Heavy Metal and the majority of it is going to be comprised of metal guitar samples.
Speed: They asked me to go in and play guitars for them and they're gonna sample it.
Vicar: Lyrically speaking things just come to me. It's a bit of a sanity provider and it's a release. It's just the same as playing an instrument. I love doing it, it's nothing more than that. And if a song doesn't seem to call out for any words it becomes instrumental. That's why you'll find about three instrumentals on each of our records.
Rik: So you're implying that the musical structure of the song comes before the vocals.
Vicar: Definately. And the lyrics are usually the result of me just deciding to articulate something rhythmic with my voice. There are always a few words that come out...some topics that are kicking around in the back of my head. If I'm working with a rhythm that I think will work out for a vocal I can usually apply a word or two from something that I might be thinking about and throw out a couple lines. Or get a verse done or a chorus done. It always starts off in a pretty primal fashion, actually. I think that's the greatest way of going about it because for the most part you don't end up knocking someone over with too much of a heavy handed message. If you begin with the words, or some knid of grand statement, I think that's your first mistake because it's the music that's going to draw people in.
Rik: Because it's been rather difficult for American audiences to obtain your recordings at the local mom and pop record store, a large percentage of Rivet Head culture remains unfamiliar with your output. Do you feel as though the recent double album offering "Bitter Alloys + Pressures Collide" (on Van Richter Records) is fairly representative of your work to date?
Vicar: I think that the difference in sound that you'll hear and the different flavors are just the result of the fact that that's what we do. We definately like to explore different textures and different ways of making music, atmospheric or heavy. And if it isn't really appropriate to have full force, chugging guitars in every song...then the guitar line doesn't get recorded and it doesn't get written.
Rik: Does that philosophy reflect a negative or positive reaction to the recent onslaught of guitar oriented industrial bands? Five years ago everyone would have simply sampled the guitar line.
Graf: My question is: Are these industrial bands or are these metal bands using electronics?
Vicar: It's more interesting when you have a potpourri of sounds, if you will; different sound sources. And that's what we're always going for.
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