An interview with globalwavesystem
July 5, 1998
by Titi Ala'ilima and Terry Leifeste
Back at the turn of the decade, an impressive demo tape began circulating around the industrial scene by a creative little group called globalwavesystem, who were based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It found its way into the hands a subsidiary of Blond Vinyl, the Slava Music Group, and led to the inclusion of gws's unforgettable song "Commitment" on the label's 1992 compilation. A brief run of notoriety bore a performance at Cornerstone 1992, the release of a short tape Will Not Play With Power 1.35, and finally the release of the full length album Life Equals Death in 1993. But the band dissolved in 1993 due to various frustrating circumstances.
In 1996, circumstances worked the other way and facilitated the rebirth of this brightly burning Phoenix, and with the gear out of mothballs, the story could continue. The Tollbooth found gw's front-man, Christian-e!, at Cornerstone, a couple days after their smashing new live act debuted at the festival's Industrial Night.
Tollbooth - Where did you come up with the name globalwavesystem?
E! - I don't have a good answer for the origin of the name other than it was in a computer science class at the University of Illinois.
Tollbooth - Has it taken on any sort of meaning to you now?
E! -Well, you could think of it as a spread of Christianity, a global wave of the Spirit, or something like that, and the system by which that happens, if you tried to read a lot into it. But the spirit of the music definitely has to do with Christian discipleship issues, which is a wave we would certainly like to spread.
Tollbooth - Do you have any particular vision for the band?
E! - I went through a period recently where I was thinking, "This is just music, and it doesn't matter what it is. I can make a song about nothing, and it doesn't matter." But after thinking about that, I decided that the point of the band is to bring up issues that Christians deal with, and talk about things that would help people become more holy. Or talk about issues that I'm dealing with.
Tollbooth - Do you feel like you are directing your work at Christians specifically?
E! - Yeah, definitely. I was really into industrial music, but none of the bands that I listened to had anything good to say. I was already a Christian, and I thought, "I could make this music, and have something good to say. Something that was more relevant to me and people like me." It's not an evangelistic band. It's music made from a Christian perspective, about issues that Christians deal with. Somebody who is not a Christian probably isn't going to have much of a clue about why I'm singing what I'm singing.
Tollbooth - So what happened? The band kind of disappeared for a while.
E! - I think that we lost a bit of energy when the whole Blond Vinyl thing collapsed. Just as we were getting ready to record, it was almost like watching the thermometer drop: "You've got this much money, now you've got this much money, now you've got no money." So we went ahead and recorded, and Blond Vinyl folded; and we just left with the record, which we owned, since we had recorded it on our own budget. In the process of finally getting it out through Frontline, we got fed up with the whole process and decided nobody's going to like it anyway, and who cares. That was near the end of college for me and Chris, and my brother was going away to college. We all went to separate parts of the state and decided that's enough for now, it was fun. Our equipment went in all different directions, too, so it wasn't even possible to make music anymore.
Then Carson Pierce, of Flaming Fish, called me up. He asked "What is happening with globalwavesystem? I'm trying to put together some new industrial stuff." I thought about it for a while and decided that would be interesting. It's just kind of mushroomed since that point, since the Full Frontal Lobotomy coverage.
Tollbooth - What equipment are you using now, compared to what you used then?
E! - We ran all of Life Equals Death on an Incenter DPS sampler which has a sequencer on board. And at the time, we were using various other synthesizers when we had more stuff in one place. Since that time, I've been able to use a Macintosh to do the sequencing of the stuff that we sequence, and that has been a breakthrough for me. I can't believe I ever used a DDPS to do that stuff (laughs) because now we've got so much more control over the music. And most everything that we do is recorded into the computer now. We use a Macintosh with some sequencing software, and then, well, (laughs) I like to borrow.
For "Smog" we borrowed the Roland JB 1000 that we used on stage the other night. For the new stuff, I used a Juno 106, which is my favorite keyboard of all time, but it's broken now, and I'm really upset; a Super JX module; a couple of Yamaha TX81Z's, which I rediscovered. I used to think it was a piece of junk, but now I think a lot more of it than I used to. For all the drums, an Emu pro-cussion module, the same one we used on the old stuff; a D 50; and then the sampler again.
Tollbooth - Didn't you use an ART for the vocals?
E! - We used to use an ART and an Oasis Qudraverb TT. For this, I used a Digitec GXP 101, which has a much warmer sound. On the new stuff, I thought I was steering away from the total vocal distortion. That didn't really happen. (laughs) As I listen to it, it's more distorted than I thought it was, but it's not that buzz-saw digital distortion that we had on Life Equals Death.
Tollbooth - What led you to all the Japanese references in your art and your songs?
E! - I've always been interested in Japanese animation and comic books since I was in junior high school. I was determined that when I got to college, I was going to take Japanese so I could finally read some of these things. That's also how I met my wife, who grew up in Japan.
I think the whole connection with the cyber-thing, like in William Gibson's novels, and the whole technology thing seems to be very Japanese-based, and so it seemed appropriate. Since Shelly knew how to read and write, I asked her how to write the band name in Japanese.
Also, I enjoy a lot of the Japanese films, besides just the animation, like Kurosawa's movies. The song "Yukionna" is from Dreams. That movie is a lot of little short segments based on dreams that Kurosawa had. The samples for that song are out of a segment about mountain climbers who are in a snow storm. The Japanese believe a lot about spirits residing in nature. The Yukionna is a snow spirit who kills people in snow storms. The mountain men are trapped in a snow storm, and she comes and tries to convince them that the snow is warm and the ice is hot, and tries to lure them to sleep so they'll die. The samples in the song have her saying, "The ice is hot, the snow is warm." And the guys are shouting to each other, you know, "Hey, are you all right? Wake up!" Just by itself, it's such a cool segment of that movie. And in the end, the snow storm clears up, and they are able to escape.
Tollbooth - Are there any other samples that you've used that you find particularly meaningful? I noticed one where you used some stuff from Star Trek?
E! - At the time Life Equals Death came out, we just used whatever we thought sounded cool. There's some in "X" from the old Fugitive TV show, there's some from the Twilight Zone movie. For "Smog," I didn't use any samples because I decided I'm just not going to use that stuff anymore.
For the new ep there are samples on there, but we manufactured all of them. I'd thought about using some samples, some science fiction stuff, but in a way, it's kind of cool to be able to manufacture your own and just do crazy things. Using other people's stuff has been done a lot; it's not new.
I've really enjoyed working with Cory who plays guitar on Smog, on the ep, and on our live show. We've written a lot of the new stuff together, and it's been great.
Tollbooth - What's influencing your stuff now as compared to what influences you had?
E! - There's a lot of different time signatures on the new stuff. Smog is full of time changes and tempo changes. I'm interested in being more dynamic with the music, not so-(beats it out) four-four all the time. I like overlaying different beats. Actually, I have really eclectic musical tastes--everything from old jazz to, well, industrial. I don't know if there is an in-between.
Tollbooth - But not ska.
E! - I'm also enjoying some of the melodic stuff, too. There are some sections on the new EP where there are some quiet, melodic parts, and I've kind of been into the dark, ambient stuff, recently too, so that's been an influence.
Tollbooth - What led you to go with the live show?
E! - Well, I never really ever thought that globalwavesystem would be a live show. In my opinion, if you're industrial, you pretty much go with theatrics, like Skinny Puppy does/did, and/or kind of dance, just all tapes, and it ends up being pretty boring, unless you've got something special about your stage presence. So I just decided, if we're going to do this live show, I want to do it as a band. The guys in the band were really up to the task of doing it and it just ended up sounding great. It has everything that the original had, but is so much different that it ended up being more than I had ever hoped for. The reaction that we've heard has been really positive. I would never go back to using a tape or a sequencer live because it is possible to pull it off without it.
Tollbooth - Are you planing on doing more live shows?
E! - Well, at this point,
we don't have any immediate plans. We were kind of waiting to see how well
it would come off. Obviously, it was a lot of fun and really good. When
Carson Pierce booked us for this show, he said, "Doing a bad show is probably
going to hurt you more than doing a good show is going to help you." We
decided we'd take the risk anyway because it's trash and it's fun. I'm
definitely psyched to do more of them. But I've got to learn how to conserve
my vocal cords a little better.