AUTO2 spring 1996

don campau interview

martyr colony interview





Interview by Ian C Stewart
6 March 1996

This is the unedited director's cut of the interview which appeared in MOO.
Click here to see the cleaned-up, pretty, edited version.

Martyr Colony is a Columbus Ohio electronic act comprised of Arturo DeLeon, Jeffrey Muth, Mitch Meredith and TJ Steppe.

AD: Of course you have to mention Mitch Meredith, formerly of the Virgin Dingleberry Dispensers.
IAN: He's obviously the sex of the band.


JM: Obviously, he is.
AD: Fuck yeah.


AD: Okay, well, um…
IAN: What the hell is Martyr Colony so pissed off about?
AD: If we're pissed about anything, I don't think it's anything specific, just the general dirt of everyday life that gets me all fired up.
TJ: People make me pro-nuclear. What am I so pissed off at? Humanity. I hate every person that doesn't hang out in this house on a daily basis.
JM: Yeah, we're all pretty much misanthropes.
AD: And we're pretty proud of it too. I mean, so many other people want to save the world and spread a nice, cheery message and I'm not interested in any of that. Martyr Colony is the perfect vehicle, it allows me to shriek and vent and spit and that makes me damn happy.

JM: The band started out as a duo in 1987, became a trio in 1989, returned to a duo in 1994, and then became, in early 1995, the four of us, although it's had a rotating lineup for the most part and I've been pretty much the only consistent one through the whole thing.
AD: This current incarnation is known as The Four Horsemen incarnation.
JM: So it's been around since 1987. Listening to too many Cabaret Voltaire records, thinking "hey, any old schmuck can do this."
IAN: I don't notice those influences so much in the music now, but I remember seeing you guys open for The Wake in 1991 and leaving with a distinct Skinny Puppy sort of feeling about the band.
AD: One thing we always head back to is that none of us are skinny enough to be a good gothic band.
TJ: Except for Jeff.
JM: But I'm an electronic band. And a gothic band. At the same time.
MM: You don't have the hair for it.
IAN: Which is why I resented the MOO of the CD, because I don't think it's really gothic/industrial like they said. It's not even vaguely gothic.
AD: It's always been really easy for people to label Martyr Colony as industrial, and people say we sound like Skinny Puppy or Nine Inch Nails or this or that. And we've gotten tagged with a million things that we thought we had nothing to do with. Or things that were maybe a vague influence. But I think we've kind of given up. If someone says we're gothic, sure. If someone says we're industrial, sure. We used to get slammed because people thought we were too arty and involved to be considered industrial. And now that we've got guitars and bass and a lot more of a drivey sound, which is more in place with what is currently called industrial, people say we think we're an industrial band.
TJ: "These guys aren't industrial, they're too RAAHHHHHCK." Anything as dark and hateful as this shit comes off is always just instantly hit with the Goth tag. I mean, there are no colors listening to this shit than black.
AD: Chrome.
TJ: We actually consider ourselves the return of Grebo.
JM: Yes.
TJ: We want to take goth, Grebo and industrial and mix it all up in a big fruit-filled pie.
IAN: What fruit is Grebo then?
AD: Dingleberry.
JM: We've come full circle.
TJ: The funniest part of the Grebo joke is that we really are grebo… Fuckin' dance music played by guys who look like bikers.
IAN: (pointing to Jeff) Absolutely.
AD: it's really funny that we've gotten a really decent reaction from the metal kids, who I figure dig the aggression of it and the heaviness.
JM: Ministry has crossed over into that and somehow paved the way.
IAN: I remember a time when every other Martyr Colony show was with a metal band.
AD: Well, no one was giving us shows at any other venues. We had talked to other bands and expressed an interest in doing shows and trying different things but, though Columbus has a killer scene, that just won't happen.
IAN: Here it comes. Time for the Columbus dis portion of the interview. I wanted to ask you guys how it's been for you, trying to exist here in Columbus.
AD: The cool thing about Martyr Colony is that its tentacles reach a bit further than just Columbus. I mean, we've gotten a nice reaction from people out of the country, and out of the state and we'd like to get a better thing here, but we're not as concerned about it as with taking care of the rest of the world.
MM: We're not going to win over any Columbus audiences.
IAN: But at the same time you're not going to be one of those bands that never play here.
TJ: Oh no… Playing out is a ton of fun, and it's easier to play down the street than in Cleveland.
AD: If we could get nice regular gigs at Bernie's or Stache's, then we'd be doing it every other weekend. But there aren't really other likeminded bands to play with, and the bands that are in town that have those slots aren't going to give us an opening shot because it just won't work.
TJ: Beer-drinkin' Stache's kids don't want to see a band without a drummer and kids who buy Martyr Colony albums don't go out to see bands. It's a lose-lose situation really. That's what we're pissed off about.
IAN: Fucking Columbus.
AD: So instead of just sitting here and bitching and whining, we don't think about it. We'll go play out of town. People from out of town ask us what the Columbus industrial scene is like and we're like "Well, there's us and then there's Evolution Control Committee."
IAN: Who isn't strictly industrial.
JM: Probably more industrial than we are, tons more old school industrial.
AD: Especially now that Mark Gunderson is doing Gaga, which is like Test Dept revisited.
JM: But he's more of a conceptual industrial musician. Just by using found sounds and the fact that one song doesn't sound like the next and each one is completely out there. He also has a really bizarre comedic bent that is in everything he does. And we're just like the evil side of that, we have no sense of humor. We are humorless. We're dark, we're heavy, we scary and we eat our ice cream with the lights out.
MM: Don't print any of what he just said.
AD: Martyr Colony just dwells on the dark element and anyone who steps in usually understands that. It's a real comfortable vehicle. I mean we're not here to make pop songs or make anybody happy or just do anything for the kids.
JM: We wallow in our anxiety.
MM: We are the Bad News of industrial.
IAN: Okay.
MM: Artie is Mr Lead Fucking Everything.

AD: I never know what to say on this kind of thing because I always read interviews with other industrial bands and I just don't get it. It's morbid entertainment.
JM: They usually end up slamming all the other bands.
TJ: I don't have enough time to listen to any other bands.
IAN: All right, Mr Up The Irons.

MM: We don't sound like Pavement or the Supersuckers so we can't get gigs in Columbus.
IAN: Well, as I see it, Columbus is a barren musical wasteland to be avoided at all costs. I keep trying to move away but for various reasons keep winding up back here.
TJ: It's a total sucking black hole. There's never escape. I moved away five times. It's the lonely girls who get drunk and fuck that bring you back.
AD: Yeah. Cornfed.
MM: TJ, you ran out of money.

AD: So when Martyr Colony started over with this lineup it was agreed that the four of us would write together, and I think that's one of the things that separates us from a lot of bands. You usually see someone who is the keyboardist and the other guys are there playing parts he's written for them.
TJ: We all write together. Every sound gets voted on with a one collective thumb.
JM: And we're constantly trying to find new stuff to sample.
AD: And then we all start coming up with ideas and it takes off from there.
JM: We're getting faster. It used to take us two months to write one song, just because we would needle it and tweak it and just baby and pamper the thing into creation. And now we can do that a lot faster.
AD: And I really don't know what we sound like to other people, either gothic or industrial fans. Because along with all four of us writing the songs, we all come from completely different schools of music. Jeffrey is into experimental and electronic, ie Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, Coil, John Cage.
JM: Whereas Artie has more of a mariachi Eskimo feel.
AD: Mitch is like old school punk and hardcore. TJ is like glam and sleaze and Keith Richards.
TJ: Keith Richards.
MM: He's into both kinds of music. Glam and sleaze.
AD: And I just listen to trash.
TJ: And we all listen to three tons of hiphop.

The CD: Abrasive Technology

AD: "Abrasive Technology" came about because there was a record label talking to us and they asked if we had any other songs, and we had all these loose ideas that hadn't really come to fruition yet. It's basically what we sounded like a year ago. It was all four of us writing together and just shitting it out. And it came together with a lot of experimentation and mutation, so all four of us just came down here to our studio from midnight until about 7am and we'd just get lost down here. A lot of the lyrics came about because I had a lot of things just lying around forever and I would apply the cut-up technique because I write really automatically. I don't really read it. And so for a lot of the songs we just cut things up and started slapping them together. Some things would make sense, some wouldn't and sometimes it would just trigger something else.

After the interview we all talked about Columbus, listened to a Naked Raygun cover they did for a tribute compilation, clashed wildly over Scorn, made up, and the whole thing ended in a typical fit of band in-jokes and datemaking. You know. Typical band stuff.