Monday 21 July 2014

Interview: Alter Der Ruine

State of ruin...

“Everyone needed space. We took it. We honestly thought we buried Alter der Ruine the day we signed off with that stupid video.”

Alter Der Ruine quickly established themselves as a diverse and engaging act with a quick succession of releases including 'The Ruine Process' (2006), 'Sate Of Ruin' (2007), and 'Giants From Far Away' (2008). The band, founded by Michael Trevloni and Michael Jenney, quickly evolved from dirty power-noise into a full-on dance floor assault with each album bringing new ideas and influences to the fore. Then in 2012 after a trilogy of albums 'Son Of A Bitch', 'There's Always One More Son Of A Bitch' and 'I Told You Not To Listen Tonight Didn't I?' the band announced Alter Der Ruine was no more.
Luckily the hiatus was short lived and the band announced they were working on a new album last year. Fast forward to 2014 and the band made a triumphant return with 'I Will Remember It All Differently'. We caught up with the band before embarking on their tour with Mr Kitty to talk about the hiatus, the reformation and where the band will go from here.

Intravenous Magazine: Your new album 'I Will Remember It All Differently' is out now. What has the response to it been like so far?

Alter Der Ruine:

It has been received really, really well so far. Both by fans and fellow artists. Apparently we did something right on this one ha-ha.

IVM: You went on hiatus in back in 2012. Where there any particular events that led to the decision and what had changed in the band?

ADR: The 'Son of a Bitch trilogy' (we know how dumb it all sounds) took more than three years to write. The writing sessions for that started off fun but as time drew on tension and stress settled in. That was just on the production side of things. Outside, our lives were all drastically being reshaped and formed due to personal events. Some happy, some tragic. It was just a weird vacuum to be writing music in. Everyone needed space. We took it. We honestly thought we buried Alter der Ruine the day we signed off with that stupid video. Then we sorted out our issues and reanimated this thing and put out 'I Will Remember it All Differently'. While it is our most polished album to date, it is also our rawest. We exorcised some weird, dark stuff while writing it.

IVM: Thankfully you reformed Alter Der Ruine in 2013. What led to that decision so soon after breaking up?

ADR: Even though we proclaimed ADR dead we kept working together on music. We were going to start a new band but hated the idea of breaking in something new. Rather than start over we just wrote the music with no aim for where it would land. Then we had the opportunity to play Resistanz as ADR (thanks to Surgyn, Leighton and Phyll. Without those names our band would probably not exist anymore). We wrote a new song for the festival compilation, had a great time playing the fest and by the time we landed back in the US, Alter der Ruine was back in action.

IVM: The band has a new member in the form of Tamara Jenney. What impact has this had on the band dynamic?

ADR: Well, it has been low impact and high impact. The low impact side comes from her being involved with the band since before we even put out the first album. She's been almost like a silent producer/critic behind the scenes, offering suggestions and improvements. We were consulting with her on everything. All songs, albums, even live setups. So In that aspect she wasn't a new face or personality to work into the fold. The big impact she's had is she brings a new energy and skill set to our group. She sings, plays keys, writes music. It's great. Our group thrives on creativity and spontaneity and she's right there throwing down with everyone. Also she tears it up live. Yup, Tamara is awesome. 

How did you approach writing this album and how has the process changed?

Alter der Ruine has never been a defined project or experience to us. It's always something new. When we started working on this album, it was almost like we had all just walked through a wall of flames. Everyone was kind of readjusting to their new lives. We talked about things with each other. For a group of friends we had let a lot of that stuff slip away over the years. We reconnected with each other. Then we wrote.

The process was a lot less stressful this time. We also didn't care what direction we wrote as long as we liked the results. That was the biggest change. Before we would pigeon hole things to fit a certain style, or we would go bonkers and put twenty song ideas into a three and a half minute song. This time we let everything relax and took our time to explore what we were after. This is the first album we've put out where we think you get a bigger picture of who we are.

What were your primary influences in terms of music and themes going into this album?

ADR: Lots of stuff at play here. The music is influenced a lot by folk and 60's doo-wop. It doesn't sound that way but it is. We took a lot of that inspiration and funneled it through a retro-electro vibe then stacked more influences on top of that. If you want us to name names, done: Trust, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, Hank III, Timber Timbre, The Shirelles, The Notwist, Big Black Delta, Russian Cirlces, Sky Ferreria, The New Division, Julian Casablancas, Ladytron…you get it.
Thematically we won't bog things down as for us that's part of the enjoyment of dissecting a piece of art. Suffice it to say there are multiple story lines woven through this album (some all the way back to SoB) and while there are broad themes, they are more like sign posts than album descriptions. If you need a jumping off point though there is an underlying rumble that wonders: is love the genesis or the burial of us all?

IVM: One constant of Alter Der Ruine's sound is that it is always evolving. Is this something that's ever planned or is it a more organic process?

ADR: It's not planned, we're just different people every time we sit down to write. We used to try and steer things one direction. We were pretty horrible at it too. Also our influences change pretty regularly.

IVM: You chose to stick with Negative Gain Productions for the release of 'I Will Remember It All Differently'. Were there any other offers on the table and/or did you consider self-releasing?

ADR: We thought about self releasing it. When NGP heard what we were up to though they made sure we went with them. It's worked out great so far. We had other offers too but it came down to us doing all the work, or us working with our friends to put it out. We went with our friends. 

IVM: At one point you had been releasing an album per year. Is this a schedule that you will try or are deadlines not a concern?

ADR: We threw deadlines out. We used to have a calendar in the past. The SoB album was supposed to come out in 2009. it came out in 2011. If you adhere to deadlines and fall that far behind you can see why stress brought us to the breaking point. Deadlines are great though, just make them realistic. Luckily we write faster and better than ever these days, but still we're not rushing things anymore. 

IVM: Despite the break-up there was a lot of Alter Der Ruine material being released. Was this a case of tying up loose ends and what was it like to work together during that period? 

What you're talking about sounds like the glut of the SoB trilogy. Man, wish we could rename those. So anyway, it took nearly four years to write what was supposed to be one album. We wrote three ('Son of a Bitch', 'There's Always One More Son of a bitch' and 'I Told You Not to Listen Tonight Didn't I?') and when boiled down we had too much material and didn't want to shelve it. So we had three albums come out, all drastically different. You can hear all our frustration a creativity spiking on those. We redlined it for three years straight, boozing and writing and screaming and quietly being frustrated to tears with each other. Those are probably the most volatile things we've put out, even with our power-noise days. We just wanted everyone to hear it all, get an even bigger picture of what we had done to that point.
We're doing similar things currently with the new album. We're remixing it as we speak and uploading the remixes for free on our bandcamp. It's a further exploration into our sound and influences. It's like a bridge or another rung in a ladder headed someplace weird. 

IVM: You're about to embark on a tour with Mr Kitty. How did that come about?

ADR: It was amazingly simple. We liked his music and asked if he wanted to go on tour with us. He said yup. This is Mr. Kitty's first tour! We don't know if the stars aligned or no one asked him up to that point but whatever happened we're thrilled. We hung out with him a ton at Terminus and finally saw him live. Needless to say, this tour is going to be intense. We're both similar in how we approach our live sets. We both try to be the best in room and we acknowledged this to each other. This tour is going to be two acts doing their best to own the night. It's a super win for fans as well as us. If everyone is bringing their best to the table everyone stands to gain, from the crowd to bands. 

IVM: How important is playing live and how does it work for you as a band?

ADR: We like playing as live as possible. We're not 100% live obviously, we still have a few sequences and backing stuff, but for the most part Mike J plays drums, Tamara is on keys and backing vocals and Mike T sings and makes noise on whatever is around. If we mess up, you hear it. We've played some terrible shows. We've played some great ones too. For our money, the live show is the best place to catch us. It's us working out whatever we bring to the stage that night. Emotionally and technically. If we relied on faking it or anything like that we'd probably have stopped long ago. That is part of the enjoyment for us. It's the connection to each other and the crowd for that 40+ minutes.
Conversely we recently saw a band play that left a lot of what they were doing live up for speculation (obviously not the first band to do so, definitely not the last). It was pretty sad as the album they released is awesome. We wanted to see a live set, not a theatrical send up, so the sourness is our own fault because we went in looking for something other than what they intended to provide. The rest of the crowd however really dug it. So there's that. It all depends on what you're looking for these days and what you're willing to entertain. Our shows are live if that's your bag. 

IVM: You played the UK at Resistanz festival last year. How was that for you guys?

ADR: It was an amazing experience. We hit the ground running. Didn't sleep much, played a crazy set and were welcomed back by a ton of fans and a ton of our peers. It was overwhelming in the best possible sense. There were also a lot of bare asses on stage with us thanks to Scott from iVardensphere.

IVM: Are there any European dates on the horizon?

ADR: Yes! That's about all we can say for now though.

IVM: Finally, what are your plans for rest of the year?

ADR: After the tour with Mr. Kitty we'll be doing some one offs and most likely hitting the rest of the US. Europe has to wait until 2015, sorry. We're also hashing out a game plan for an EP. If all goes accordingly it will be the most ambitious, concentrated and unexpected thing we'll have done to date.

Alter Der Ruine's latest album 'I Will Remember It All Differently' is available now via Negative Gain Productions. For more information on the band, including tour dates and new releases, please visit their official website.

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