Sister Machine Gun was formed in the late '80s along with the other cornerstones of industrial metal and way before their time. At least it's the way I see it. Killing Joke, KMFDM, Young Gods, Godflesh and SMG led the movement from different parts of the world.
Q&A with Chris Randall
Sheila Rene': Hello, Chris. Hang on I'm trying to get through the first 100 ads in Rolling Stone to find the timely article on the return of "hair bands." Damn the radio flunkies who left them out of the mix.
Chris Randall: (laughing) You're right. That's the thing a lot of people had the impression they were gone.
SR: Everything lasts forever if you want it to.
CR: You're right.
SR: I like the "Pantera" opening here. Recording is low and you turn it up so by the time the second cut kicks in, it takes you out of your chair.
CR: I used it on Torture Technique in 1994, and we didn't get it right. I'm going to use it again on the next album.
SR: This new album opens in a very provocative manner. Did your wife Lisa write that opening?
CR: Yeah, I had asked her to write something for me to talk in, but I didn't sound as good as she did, so she read it.
SR: In 1989, you and Killing Joke, Godflesh, KMFDM and the Young Gods set the cornerstones of industrial metal.
CR: I'd like to think that.
SR: Did you know any of the musicians in those bands back then?
CR: I knew the KMFDM guys because we toured with them. I knew the keyboardist in Killing Joke who was my roommate.
SR: Back in the late '80s what were your goals?
CR: I only had one goal at that time and it was to put out a record.
SR: Let's talk about your success with your songs in the movies.
CR: It pays my rent. We've gotten more soundtrack appearances than most bands.
SR: Have you noticed an upswing in sales of your albums since your movie successes in "Scream" and the "Mortal Kombat?"
CR: On sales? Definitely a yes. When "Mortal Kombat" came out it took a week for our sales to go through the roof.
SR: You worked in more than one studio on this album ending up at Battery Studios.
CR: It doesn't hold up as well as it used to do. I can't write any other place however. I've tried to write other places but I can't. I have to be at Battery. What I do is take a smaller room for three months or so and just sit down and write songs. When we get to the recording part I head for a different studio. I love it there and I can't explain it.
SR: This whole idea of going right off the road into a studio makes sense to me for a lot of bands. You're good and warmed up plus you're carrying the vibes from the fans.
CR: It worked well for us. We went right in and wrote an album.
SR: Did the title come first or the writing?
CR: The album title came first.
SR: The first thing I thought of when I saw the title is that old movie which is in keeping with the band.
CR: We brought in a VCR and played it for two months or so. Every time you looked up it was playing.
SR: Is John Fryer just too much? You must really like working with him.
CR: Yeah, he's great in the studio. He brings an honest pair of ears. I can produce by myself, but I don't want to.
SR: You've had the pleasure of working with some mighty talented folks such as Reeves Gabrels from the David Bowie/Tin Machine camp and Sasha from KMFDM for starters.
CR: You're right there.
SR: On "Torque" I hear the Gibby voice. He says "coming down the mountain" and yours is "coming down the pike."
CR: I was a little upset by that. I've been doing that voice for a long time and here they come with it. He sounds like my first album.
SR: It's the first big hit they've had.
CR: Whatever. They got airplay and that's cool.
SR: Soon everyone will be able to hear uninterrupted music from the Internet while you're bopping down the street.
CR: That will be great. To be able to listen to this music, without commercials all day long and not just a couple of hours a day.
SR: Back in the early days did you have the plan to move back to people. When it gets to the rave/industrial sound I go crazy.
CR: There's quite a bit of that going on now in Europe at least. That's what I don't like about it. You can't sing "Firestarter" in the shower. That's what it ultimately comes down to, does it have staying power. The song matters.
SR: Could we clock what's gone on in your life by listening to each album?
CR: Yeah, it's pretty obvious. The first album was full of anger and bad relationship break-up album, the second album was the drug album and the third album was the fall in love album and the fourth album is I hate the industry album. I try to make every album different.
SR: That jazzy piano is just perfect for "Temptation" and the slide guitar on "White Lightning" is splendid.
CR: There's actually quite a bit of piano on this album. You can't hear it sometimes, but it's back there. It fills out the tracks nicely.
SR: That sultry, low voice is great on "Living Without You" along with the horn parts.
CR: Reeves does the great guitar and I did the folkie stuff. All the real guitar was him. I'm a lefthanded player on keyboards trying to play right hand guitar.
SR: You took Gravity Kills out with you on the Hi Tech/Lo LIfe tour.
CR: They got a little big for their britches. They're a silly band.
SR: Have you toured with Type O Negative before? I think they get a smarter crowd who have an open mind.
CR: No. I was looking for something a little different. It's hard to describe their audience. It worked out really well. When we play to our own crowd, we think we're better than we are. It's a reality check for sure.
SR: Do you really enjoy collaborations?
CR: I would like to do more. I've never written songs with anyone else
SR: Does Reeves come off as the intellect I think he is.
CR: Yes, but he's really nice about it. He doesn't talk over your head. He's just played with everyone.
SR: Tin Machine helped me understand this music more.
CR: Yeah, they were brilliant. Reeves can play anything.
SR: Is Sasha easy to work with. He's such a perfectionist.
CR: Very much so. If you're in that frame of mind he's great. He's easy to work with and he likes to ham it up in the studio. I haven't worked with him in a while. He's still a good friend. We talk every couple of days. Their new album is in the can and it'll we out in October. It's brilliant. It's more back to the old days.
SR: You've done a very focused album.
CR: I'm not good at focusing but I did it. It was hard for me. I'm going to be more focused on the next one. I have a tendency to just write songs and throw then in there. We've got a little bit of everything on this one. I've been doing this for the better part of a decade now. You get all these guys who go around to all the conventions and brag about selling so many records. It's the musician who does all the work. It was a rough album to make. I've couched my feelings on the business.
SR: These songs work on a lot of different levels.
CR: I don't write anything beforehand. It's just what I'm thinking about at the time.
SR: Did you use a computer on this album?
CR: No, we did analog. The last few albums were mixed more than this one.
SR: Are you constantly listening for great sounds?
CR: Yes, I am. I bought a DAT just for that purpose. Ninety percent of the loops come from the drummer. I tend to record the sounds for each album separately.
SR: How do you rate yourself as a guitarist
CR: On a scale of one to ten I'd say I'm about a four. I'm a good rhythm player.
SR: Did you play guitar first or start writing first?
CR: I started playing guitar as a result of not having a guitar player. I'm one of those people who play a lot of instruments but not well.
SR: What was your first guitar?
CR: I bought a Flying V. I play left handed and that was the only one I could play. I taught myself how to play right handed. I have several guitars now. I play every day now. We have a real guitarist in the band now.
SR: What's you take on the Internet?
CR: It's important but I think it's taken too seriously. It's just another method of getting information.
SR: I hope it works for musicians to sell their own albums without a label some day.
CR: That's the purpose and it's possible. I have a CD burner at home. I can cut a tune, burn it on CD and get it up on the website for you to download onto your computer. For $3,000 bucks I have the capacity to be a record label. It's quite simple really. Anyone can do it. That's the beauty of this process. If we could cut out the middle man, the record label, it would be so much better. It's the label who dictates what radio plays and what America hears.
SR: Thanks so much for your time. I'll keep my eyes open for a tour coming my way.
CR: We just finalized a tour today with all the bands on the Wax Trax! Tour. Every band on the label. It's supposed to start in September and go for three or four weeks in all the major markets. That'll be brilliant. After that we'll go out with Prong.