Friday 4 May 2018

INTERVIEW & TRACK PREMIERE: End Christian deliver a masterful dose of electronic pop music

Dante Torrieri (c)
End Christian’s “Energy and Strength” was one of my favorite unclassifiable or “outlier” records of last year.  On the surface, you’d assume you were looking at a metal supergroup, with members from Brutal Truth, Fad Nauseum, Starkweather, and Hex Inverter all making contributions.  But you’d be dead wrong.  A multi-genre sojourn through electronic, hardcore, goth and industrial experimentation, it was original and oddly moving.  

On May 25th, the loose collective drops their 2nd album, “Bach Part One”, an even more dramatic step away from metal expectations.  Despite some killer guitar work and key contributions from modern metal legends, it is a masterful slice of electronic pop music.  Founder and key member Christian McKenna took the time to speak with me about the project’s foundations, the collaborative process on the new record, live performances, and the wealth of material coming from End Christian in the future.  We also have the honor of debuting one of my favorite tracks of the record, “Great Escapes”, featuring featuring Justin Broadrick of Godflesh/Jesu.  “Bach Part One” is available for preorder at here

Christian can you tell us a little about your musical background and your story of the genesis of the End Christian project?

CM: I’ve been playing in a bunch of bands over the years.  Usually a more traditional band-type setting… 4-5 guys where we met with some frequency to keep a set sharp and to be ready in case something came along.  I felt kind of stagnant with doing things that way and just rehashing things over and over again in order to stay sharp for some kind of performance.  I got fried from doing gigs and wanted to pull back on that and focus on writing a bit more.  I wanted to blow up the way I was doing stuff.

I’ve been able to play with great musicians over the years, but I felt like I was stagnating a bit.  I wanted to be a bit more spontaneous with my writing and try some ideas I hadn’t gotten the chance to try before.

On “Energy and Strength” you worked with Richard Hoak, Gillian Dreadful and Vincent Rosa.  How do they figure into End Christian as it exists on the new record?  How structured is it as a key core of musicians?

I think I did a bit of a disservice to those people by saying that those people were in the band before I even asked if they’d be in the band.  I was fortunate enough that when I reached out, everyone was in!  A band I played with, Hex Inverter, had played a show with Starkweather a year or two ago, and I remember Vincent had come up and commented that he dug what we were doing.  I made a mental note that maybe I’d have the opportunity to work with him.  And then I reached out to other bass players who fell through, but when I got back to Vincent, he was willing.

I had done some stuff with Rich in the past.  I made it clear to him that, even though he played drums on the first record, I was coming at him more for his openness.  He has another project called Peacemaker that’s kind of an ambient, noise, jazz freakout stuff, and I was thinking more of THAT kind of stuff, but I’d never specified that.  When we first got together he’d focused on drums.  On this record, he doesn’t play drums at all.  He does some soundscape type stuff and he wrote lyrics to “Anywhere with You”, which I think is a beautiful song.  He sings the lead on that one, and does some background vocals.  That’s some of the stuff from his wheelhouse I wanted to integrate into what we were doing.

That song, “Anywhere with You”, is particularly affecting.  I wouldn’t have figured that the guy who plays drums on the key Brutal Truth records would have created that.

Right on! That’s what’s beautiful to me about it.  It’s a simple lyric.  It isn’t vague or anything.  It’s not deceptive, it’s just a love song he’s singing to his wife.  It’s very vulnerable!  Alap and I were sitting at the board and the song started from a loop I’d created from “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes.  We manipulated it a bit and Alap had thrown down some beats.  Rich was sitting real quiet in the background and he popped up and said “I think I have something!” And that song came out of nowhere and I was just blown away.  We threw on some harmony vocals and tweaks but it was pretty close to what he originally laid down there.

I know you’re a progressive rock fan, and it’s funny to hear this and compare it with the often forgotten, 80s synth driven era of a lot of those bands – Genesis, King Crimson, even Rush.  How do those influences play out for End Christian?

A lot of people are always like, “I only like the Peter Gabriel Genesisand I like that stuff too, but I like the stuff in the 80s!  I think that it doesn’t get enough recognition with bands later – like Radiohead, I think that’s where that stuff came from.  And that stuff, King Crimson and Genesis and Yes, that holds up really well for me still.  The same way that Black Flag and Minutemen records hold up.  That all sounds relevant when I listen to it now.

What is the story behind the title, Bach Part One?

Originally the record was supposed to be a double album.  Alap engineered and produced on “Energy and Strength”, but he got really involved on this one.  He co-wrote maybe 75% of this one, and got really waist deep in it and is a member of the band for this one.  When we were going back we had tracked around 20 songs, and when we were sequencing everything out, he talked me out of releasing a double album.  Which is not a terrible idea because I know attention spans are limited, so we’re releasing in two parts.  “Part Two” will be released at a later date.  We have about four albums worth of stuff right now recorded and a couple other records we’ll start recording in the fall.

You have a lot of people stepping in for guest roles in this: Justin Broadrick from Godflesh and Jesu, Kevin Hufnagel from Gorguts, Andrew Southard from Giant Squid, Mike Hill from Tombs, Sheena Powell who I hadn’t heard of before but I can absolutely see why you’d want her to contribute to the record after hearing her vocals.  Can you tell me what the process is of approaching these people and saying “Hey I want you on an electronic pop record!”

I don’t think I directly said “Hey let’s do an electronic pop record.” *laughs* I’m half kidding. Kevin I know from working at Relapse and we’ve known each other a long time.  He’s only on this record for one track but he’s all over the next record playing baritone ukulele.  Almost as a percussive instrument along with 808s.  Alap has me convinced that the 808 is the new riff.  I’m almost of the mentality that guitar is dead, and the space and room between 808 hits on these records are letting listeners connect the dots by themselves.

Has there been any talk about performing in a live setting?

We had a rehearsal last week actually!  We got together last weekend for like the first End Christian practice ever with the mindframe that we were trying to work on a set.  We do want to play some shows and celebrate all the different records that we’re making.  When we got together over the weekend we only tried material from “Energy and Strength” since it was the only stuff three or four of us had gotten into a room and tried to jam together.  It’s not going to sound exactly like the record but that’s pretty cool.  Rich had the idea to maybe do a live record since Ballinger and a few of the other songs are true to the spirit of the writing but sound a lot different.

 “Great Escapes” (premiere above), one of my favorites, was a spooky track but almost had a sensual feeling – like a late 80s, early 90s R&B track.  It wouldn’t be out of place as a Sade track.

I’m a huge Sade fan!  I’ve been a huge Sade fan.  You made my fucking life with that *laughs*.  I can’t believe you said that.  I’ve been on a huge Sade kick.

I had some keyboards and lyrics and Alap had some electronic stuff.  I reached out to Justin and wanted him to finish mixing the song.  He talked about going for a Jesu type vibe and turned it into a kind of mood piece.  I can’t say we were trying to do a Sade thing at the time but I’ll take it as a compliment!  And his guitar at the end is abrupt and kind of ambient but you can tell it’s Justin.  He definitely left his mark.

When you said sensual – Alap and I, joking around, said we wanted to be playing music for women and not dudes with beards and wallet chains.

What’s the plans for the rest of 2018 and 2019?

“Bach Part One” is coming out in May.  We have a series of vinyl coming out on Alap’s label, Internet and Weed.  It’s kind of a new world for me but those will have some songs with a capella versions and maybe some instrumental versions for DJs to use.  Then we’ll finish up the other record with the baritone uke.  We’re talking with some other labels now and I think that one will come out in the fall.  It’s weird that we’re talking about this Bach record now but I can’t wait to NOT talk about it again.  I think in the fall we’re going to record another zigzag from some of these things.  A kind of doomy, noisy record, with Vince doing what he’s known for and Rich doing drums again, and do it as a power trio.  And then a string of shows in the fall to celebrate the release of all this music.  We just gotta figure out how to play it.

The End

Band info: facebook