Interview: Digital Negative

I do think we achieved our goal of creating something heavy in the realm of digital music, I’m very happy with the outcome.

Digital Negative, a new project who consist of Richard Johnson  Agoraphobic Nosebleed / Drugs Of Faith) and Daniel Euphrat (Person918x / Timmy Sells His Soul) make music that is as uncompromising as it is intense. Their electronic/industrial hybrid simply crushes all in its way with its thrillingly unrelenting beats and rhythms and is a harrowing but so satisfying listening experience for all who love their music to be discordant, harsh and brutal. The duo hooked up to make music during the lockdown period and the results of that is their debut self titled EP which is will be released very soon. Echoes and Dust is proud to present Digital Negatives’ first ever interview in which they talk about how Digital Negative started, an insight into their music and its creation and their other projects, as well as that we also present an exclusive steam of their EP ahead of its release on Friday 21st May so you can revel in the power of  the music of Digital Negative.

E&D: Digital Negatives’ eponymous debut EP is out very soon. How does it feel to be getting music out there?

Richard: It feels good to be able to have an expression during the pandemic.

E&D: How did the creation process and recording of the EP go?

Richard: Daniel and I work well together with bouncing ideas off each other, and we agree on a lot. Some of the process was him doing a thing and handing it to me, and me working on it and handing it back. We gave each other feedback, from the music to the sleeve for the cassette. We communicated over messenger about it. I don’t think we ever had a live conversation during the project, and I recorded my vocals separate from him working on the music. We would have done it a lot different if not for the pandemic, but I figure it would have turned out the same in the end.

Daniel: After scouring the internet for thematically-linked sample sources and brainstorming a few riffs, I started building songs out of the raw materials.

E&D: What has the reaction to the music of Digital Negative been like so far?

Richard: It’s been pretty awesome. Prior to getting any promotional activities, we got such positive feedback from the few people we spun it for.

Daniel: I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it seems to resonate with people, since it felt like a bit of an experiment going into it.

E&D: How did Digital Negative start as a musical project?

Daniel: Richard and I had been in the process of forming a metal band before the pandemic hit with Richard on drums and myself on guitar. After social distancing started, I was left without an outlet for heavy music and began to formulate some vague ideas for an industrial metal project. I’ve always been a big fan of Richard’s vocals, so I asked if he would be interested in such a thing, since our other project was on indefinite hiatus. I put together a proof-of-concept song, he liked it, and so we set our sights on writing an EP’s worth of material.

E&D: What are the biggest influences on the sound of Digital Negative?

Daniel: I’ve been interested in metal bands that make use of electronic drums, partially out of necessity because I’ve always had difficulty finding drummers. I was into bands like Red Harvest, Aborym, and the Berzerker in the early 2000s, but by the 2010s the genre started to feel stale to me. More recently, I started to hear some musicians who approached the dark and heavy aspects of electronic music from a completely different angle. Swan Meat’s 2016 album Bounty, essentially a digital sound collage of unsettling noises, and Prison Religion’s 2018 album O FUCC IM ON THE WRONG PLANET, which I would describe as industrial scream rap, both made me excited about the prospect of heavy electronic music again. Ultimately, Digital Negative doesn’t sound much like either of those artists, but they were important for getting me over my feelings of stagnation.

E&D: What do you both bring to the sound and ethos of Digital Negative?

Richard: We collaborated on the lyrics, but I came up with the vocal approach on my own. The music was all Daniel. I gave him a few pieces of feedback and we decided on a sequence, but only after he had already done the bulk of the work.

Daniel: I’ve been exploring sampling and more specifically microsampling (combing brief samples from a broad variety of sources into a single song) for indie-pop purposes in Timmy Sells His Soul for some time now. Digital Negative was a chance for me to take those techniques and apply them to heavier music.

E&D: What were your intentions when you started with this project and do you think you achieved them?

Daniel: I do think we achieved our goal of creating something heavy in the realm of digital music, I’m very happy with the outcome.

E&D: Have you had any thoughts about further material from Digital Negative?

Richard: We talked about that, and it’ll start with Daniel seeing if he’s inspired to come up with material that’ll be appropriate for another recording.

Daniel: We are hoping to create more, but the first step would be finding new sample sources to use as raw material. For these five songs, I used more than 50 sample sources, all of which had to share some thematic elements to fit together in a coherent way. I would love to write more songs in this vein if we’re able to find a large enough collection of new sounds that have the proper dystopian feel.

E&D: Have you discussed any plans for Digital Negative to play live at all?

Daniel: Richard has proposed the idea, but we would need to work out the logistics of performing it so it doesn’t end up being a karaoke session.

E&D: What have been some of best gigs that you have ever played?

Richard: I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had a few I could list. I play in a Sepultura tribute band, and we played a Decibel Metal & Beer Fest afterparty that was completely nuts. One highlight from Drugs of Faith was opening a local stop on one of the Decibel tours. Enemy Soil played Fiesta Grande back in the ‘90s which was a moment for us.

E&D: What have been some of the best gigs you have ever seen?

Richard: One that jumps to mind is Carcass when they were touring for Symphonies of Sickness. They were opening for Death. It really did blow my mind. I’m sure to Carcass it was just one of the shows on the tour, but back then it was still shocking. Kreator, Holy Terror, and D.R.I. was a good one. D.R.I. took a step block from the side of the stage and put it on the stage in front, so the stage divers could run up and off the stairs when they dove.

Daniel: Power electronics artist Dream Crusher put on a great live show at DC9 in 2017, creating an alien-feeling environment and physically confronting the audience in a way that felt just unsafe enough to be really fun. Seeing Pig Destroyer for the first time at Ottobar, I think in 2014, was also a great experience. They were one of my favorite bands back when I lived in Arizona and before I moved out here I didn’t think I would ever get a chance to see them live since they don’t tour widely.

E&D: Richard, Have Agoraphobic Nosebleed got plans for a follow up to Arc or any other new material at all?

Richard: Yeah, Scott Hull has been working on music on and off and hasn’t presented anything to us yet. He’s been working on Pig Destroyer a lot for a while instead. I’ve written some lyrics that I’m sitting on until he starts coughing up some riffs.

E&D: What have been some of the most memorable moments in your time with Agoraphobic Nosebleed so far?

Richard: When the band started playing shows, that was my first experience with the “big leagues” as we called it. That was a reference to me having to step up my game, because I was used to playing houses, churches, halls, and clubs. Some of those Agoraphobic Nosebleed gigs were the biggest shows I ever played. I learned about trying to play to a huge room. And when we were recording the vocals for Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope, that was a freewheeling, collaborative, improvisational time. We would come up with ideas and record them right after.

E&D: Will Agoraphobic Nosebleed do any live shows whom it is it just a wait and see thing?

Richard: At first Scott was going, “We’re done playing shows. Let’s go back to being a studio band like it always used to be.” But then he’d follow with, “But you can never say never.” So yeah, we’ll wait and see. I don’t know.

E&D: Are there plans for any new Drugs of Faith material?

Richard: Yes! I already have a bunch of songs demoed and a few lyrics written. So we’re going to start getting together after we’re fully vaccinated and working on it.

E&D: What have been some of the highlights of your time with Drugs of Faith so far?

Richard: A friend told me once that nobody sounds like Drugs of Faith, and for me that was a big compliment. When we opened that tour I mentioned, we were supporting Magrudergrind, Immolation, Napalm Death, and Cannibal Corpse. That’s a pretty awesome bill.

E&D: How does it feel to balance your time between multiple bands and is it a challenge?

Richard: The most trouble I ever had was in 2018. Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Enemy Soil, and Drugs of Faith all had shows that year and it really wore me out.

E&D: Has your time with Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Drugs of Faith had any impact on the music of Digital Negative?

Richard: I don’t think I brought any vocal influence from either of those into Digital Negative. I tried to do something a little different.

E&D: You’ve guested on albums by Misery Index and Pig Destroyer. How were those experiences?

Richard: The Misery Index one was interesting because they wanted something a lot more specific than what I gave them on my first take. Jason went, “That was great, but …” They explained what they wanted and it took me a few tries to get it. I’m used to performing in kind of a loose style, and Misery Index isn’t loose at all. With Pig Destroyer, the first time I did vocals for them was a different set up than the last few, but that has to do with recording location. J.R. let me do things how I would naturally do them.

E&D: Daniel, what else, musically, have you got planned for the future?

Daniel: I’m hoping to get back to playing live music once we’re all vaccinated, both with the aforementioned metal band and the electro-punk band I’m in, Narkotronik.

E&D: What have been the highlights working as Person918x and Timmy Sells His Soul?

Daniel: Timmy Sells His Soul is the music I write and record by myself in my bedroom, which is a necessary creative outlet for me whether anyone listens to it or not. A Timmy Sells His Soul highlight for me was getting to collaborate with the digital collage mastermind behind Computer Jesus Refrigerator, which resulted in an EP we released under the name The Face Eaters of Hong Kong. My digital art project Person918x has been very gratifying for me. I’ve never considered myself a visual artist, so the images that I’m able to create using free 3D software and assets are as much of a fun surprise for me as they are for anyone else. I’ve achieved far more success as a visual artist than I have as a musician, which is surprising in that I didn’t set out with that goal in mind but unsurprising in that visual art is so much easier to spread via social media than music. Creating dream-like narratives, what are basically surreal 3D-rendered comics, is very gratifying for me and I’m glad that other people seem to like them also.

E&D: How has your work as a digital artist been an influence on Digital Negative?

Daniel: I do think that sampling and using free 3D assets require similar skills: the value of the end-product has more to do with how all of the pre-made elements fit together than with any individual asset or sample. The goal is to synthesize disparate pieces into something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

E&D: Which album has had the biggest influence on you as a musician?

Richard: It’s hard to pick just one. Unrest; Utopia Banished; Extremities, Dirt, and Various Repressed Emotions; Killing Technology.

Daniel: That’s a difficult question. I think I would have to say The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis because I heard it at a formative moment in my childhood. I don’t know how well it holds up musically, but it’s a very bizarre concept album and Peter Gabriel’s Jodorowsky-inspired narrative that underlies it blew my mind as a kid and made me excited about the possibility of pushing boundaries in music.

E&D: What are your favourite grind albums of all time?

Richard: Jouhou, Need to Control, From Enslavement to Obliteration, World Downfall.

Daniel: Prowler in the Yard by Pig Destroyer is an all-time favorite for me. While a lot of grindcore albums end up sounding like mush, Prowler in the Yard was able to fuse raw intensity with a surprising clarity to the riffs and personality to the vocals. Extreme metal can also sometimes feel like a technical or athletic exercise, but that album has a very distinct mood; angry, sure, but also kind of sad and alienated. Full of Hell’s debut Roots of Earth Are Consuming My Home has also been a favorite of mine. Getting harsh noise and metal to mesh is surprisingly difficult for some reason, but that album finds the emotional common ground between the two genres.

E&D: What have been some of the highlights in your musical career so far?

Richard: Musicians I look up to telling me they like my band. A record from my band getting recognition in the press. These sorts of things make you think you’re doing something right.

Daniel: I moved to the DC metro area in 2010 knowing almost no one in this area and pretty much all of the friends that I’ve made since then I’ve met by participating in the music scene. Every musical collaboration I’ve been a part of has expanded my horizons and enriched my life both artistically and personally.

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