Monday 22 December 2014

Introducing... The Walking Wounded

“The way I see it, there's no avoiding the clear lineage between our music and the dark, alternative music of the 80s and 90s. I won't deny that part of this project is rooted in nostalgia. But I believe many people of my age – millennials – are sort of caught in a nostalgic time warp, anyway.”

Name: The Walking Wounded
Members: Ron Lipke (vocals, lyrics), Kyle Porter (synths, programming, engineering)
Year formed: 2011
Location: Seattle, Washington, USA

The Walking Wounded is a dark, electronic pop duo based in the Pacific Northwest. With three full-length albums and more released since 2011, the project was born out of a mutual love for electronic and industrial music that arose during the late 20th and early 21st century. Using a myriad of synthesizers and other production tools, TWW has created sonic scenes of carnage and introspection while deploying thoughtful, incisive lyrics. Rather than relying on shock or the grotesque to distinguish itself from others, TWW presents a cleaner and more dignified aesthetic - discussing adult themes like substance abuse, broken romantic relationships, war and historical conflict, self-preservation, and sex – all while wearing a three-piece suit and tie.

Intravenous Magazine: Who are you and how did the band/project come to be formed?

I am Kyle Porter, co-founder of The Walking Wounded. Over a decade a ago, I met singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ron Lipke by sheer chance on the street and we struck up a friendship based on a shared love for bands like Skinny Puppy, Die Warzau, Prick, Pop Will Eat Itself, Depeche Mode, Einsturzende Neubauten, and many others. For a time, we would frequent the dwindling "goth industrial" scene in Seattle, especially the Noc Noc. After one or two previous efforts to build large-scale bands with sometimes up to seven performers, we formed a trio called Control Keys with Seattle electronic music maverick Vox Mod. After nearly two years of extensive performances and two records later, the band dissolved. Rather than give up altogether, The Walking Wounded was born out of the wreckage. Our first official record, "Pornography and Propaganda" was released in 2011.

IVM: How would you describe your sound/style, and how did you arrive at it?

I would describe our sound as being on the "pop" end of the electronic/industrial music spectrum. I grew up listening to primarily mainstream music handed down from my parents' generation: Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, etc. so it wasn't until my early, rebellious teens that I discovered and began to appreciate electronic music: 80's new wave, 90's house and jungle, and the rise of electronic rock that dominated the last half of the 1990s. I'd listen to Marilyn Manson and Enya in the span of the same ten minutes – I wasn't part of a scene, so there were no rules and no dress code. I never really wanted to play guitar and I grew up with an upright piano in the home, so keyboard synthesizers seemed like the right direction to go. I started with nothing but a Casio and a reel-to-reel. By 2001, I'd amassed a couple of good synths like the Nord Lead 2 and the Korg Triton, and an old Mbox with ProTools. I'd mix and edit music all over Seattle's 24-hour greasy cafes, at all times of day and night - back when it wasn't so common place to do that sort of thing and before Seattle was regentrified by tech industry yuppies. For a long time, I was hung up on hardware – I didn't like the idea of a soft-synth running off of a laptop. Since then, I've become more open minded about the tools I use to compose and perform music. I have no proper musical training, so what I do is largely by ear and feel. The decisions I make with regards to the sounds, samples, melodies, and beats for The Walking Wounded are largely informed by Ron's voice and my impression of it. In the early days of our previous projects, there was a lot of screaming and roaring – but Ron began to open up his singing voice more as time went on and revealed himself to be a very unique crooner. I now compose music with him as a singer, and not a "blast-beat" poet, in mind – closer to Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen than Trent Reznor or Al Jorgensen. That said, we're still plenty aggressive.

IVM: Who and what are your primary influences both musical and non-musical?

Our main influences are bands that are, for the most part, no longer around. For me, The Machines of Loving Grace (Concentration) and Gravity Kills were and still are significant touchstones for our sound. Depeche Mode, Front 242, and Die Warzau also left a mark. Other bands like Goldfrapp and The Prodigy were more influential from a production stand-point. Lyrically, Ron has his own writer's voice, but I know he admires Oscar Wilde, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and Leonard Cohen. TWW also takes some inspiration from films, like Cronenberg's "Crash", "Ghost in the Shell", Lynch's "Lost Highway", "Hannibal", "Gattaca", and even certain television shows like the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. My dream is to make music for the end credits to a Cronenberg or Fincher film, or perhaps the live-action adaptation of "Ghost in the Shell".

IVM: Do you perform live and if so where can we see you perform in the near future?

The Walking Wounded have yet to perform live. However, this year we began the process of building a live show that is intended to immerse the audience completely. We've teamed up with designer and engineer Wing Gee, who is custom-building an elaborate lighting scheme comprised of high-powered LED lights in a number of different configurations. Our philosophy is that since there's no drummer or guitarist to state at, we needed to create a visual experience that was unique to us and one that complimented our guitarless sound. Using our own programming, we've devised a way where nearly every sound is triggering or part of a trigger that cues lights, colors, etc. we plan to début live in the Spring of 2015. While the project is in its advanced stages, no shows are currently scheduled.

IVM: What is your current release and where is it available from?

Our newest release, 'Valediction', arrived on Tuesday, November 18th of this year. It is available from Bandcamp, and can also be found on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, eMusic, and Spotify.

IVM: What have been the highlights of your career so far?

Throughout my career as a musician, I've been very fortunate and I've had many amazing experiences. I used to play piano in a folk rock band called Exohxo, and one evening we performed with an entire orchestra – that was a rush. In the predecessor to The Walking Wounded, Control Keys, we were invited to open for a big Japanese pop band in front of a large crowd at The Showbox in the Market, my second favorite venue in Seattle (we got terrible reviews, but that's never stopped us from having a good time). With The Walking Wounded, our self-produced music video for a song called "Heel" was a massive and deeply gratifying experience – forcing Ron and I both into unusual roles that challenged us in many good, creative ways. And, honestly, every time Ron debuts new lyrics to me – always in an earnest spoken-word performance – I get chills. I work with Ron because he's my friend and he shows incredible trust in me as a composer - but tantamount to that, he's the best wordsmith I've ever met. When one of our records comes together, and I hear his voice over these tracks, the feeling is pure elation. The most recent highlight was when I saw our new live performance rig in action for the first time. It's brought me back to that initial level of excitement I had when Ron and I were just starting this journey as TWW.

IVM: What are your plans fro the future?

From here, we are primarily focused on putting together a solid, entertaining show and getting ourselves booked on appropriate bills. With our stage scheme, there's no room for a "punk rock" mentality of smashing the guitars, shoving the drums off the stage, and tossing cables out of the way of the next band – but we still have to tear down our lights and hardware in a short amount of time out of consideration for others. Unlike any other band I've been in, TWW is drilling our set ups and removals, timing ourselves and then repeating the process to measure progress. This project, from the music and up, has required a certain level of discipline that is very foreign to me. Aside from the live show, I couldn't resist writing new material for the next TWW record. Ron has already heard it and we are both very excited about the direction it's headed. There may even be a music video shoot for one of the songs from Valediction – but that remains to be seen.

IVM: Finally, is there anything that you would like to add?

The new album, Valediction, marks the beginning of an era for us – a time in which we will work harder to expose more people to what we are doing. And what we are "doing," I think, is a little lofty as concepts go. The way I see it, there's no avoiding the clear lineage between our music and the dark, alternative music of the 80s and 90s. I won't deny that part of this project is rooted in nostalgia. But I believe many people of my age – millennials – are sort of caught in a nostalgic time warp, anyway. Post 9/11 reality has been fairly shitty – even the movies haven't improved, for all their bloated budgets and CGI. Why not look to the past? Something imperfect, sure, but in many ways a vast improvement from the current reality – one that doesn't feel all that oriented towards the future, anyway. The past is "the devil you know." This isn't to say that I'm not trying with all my might to produce a "modern sound" to appeal to modern ears -- but I can't seem to help evoking an older, sometimes dated vibe. And I think that comes through, despite my conscious efforts, because subconsciously that older sound is what I want to hear. I'm making the music I want to listen to. I think other people my age and perhaps ten or fifteen years older know or appreciate that tendency for things bygone. While their favorite bands break up or become irrelevant – or their heroes die – they will feel less inclined to rock the black leather, face paint, or piercings that they used to. They – we – are getting old. Ideally, our music creates a bridge: creating music for adults that fills them with the feeling of an earlier time – and not in the cynical, commercial, "ironic" way Franz Ferdinand or others have. We love the youthful energy of mosh pits and blood and sweat – in theory, anyway. What we actually want is an elegant evening out, dressed well, drinking for enjoyment and not pain management, and dancing only when we really feel like it. It's time for dark, electronic music to grow up again and embrace adulthood without fear of limiting its market demographic. The rock star is ostensibly dead, and the folk singers, lounge lizards, and garage bands are back – this time with better technology and slightly fewer substance abuse problems.


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