Interview: Army of the Universe
Published on June 24th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
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In 2008, Milan-based trance/techno DJ Albert Vorne and Kult of the Skull God front man Lord K decided to bring their disparate musical backgrounds together, figuring that their shared love of Nine Inch Nails represented the perfect middle ground upon which to set up camp.
How gosh darn handy, then, that they should wind up with former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna as both co-producer and live drummer.
Army of the Universe have now spawned a debut album – the dark, stomping Mother Ignorance – and are set to embark on a US tour with Vrenna on the sticks wherever possible.
Rocksucker caught up with Vorne to find out a bit more about his Army’s battle plan…
How are you?
I’m good thanks. I’m in Florence and it’s thirty-six degrees!
Good for you. It’s it’s raining here.
(Laughs) Funny thing, I’m from Milan; I was listening to the radio the other and they were talking about shitty weather or whatever, and they said that Milan is much worse than London. It rains I guess twenty-five per cent more in Milan than it does in London.
Rocksucker finds that hard to believe!
Me too but being honest I come to London every month and in the end I started to believe it.
Is the whole band based in Milan?
Yes but for this first album it’s more like a duo between myself and Lord who’s the singer. We also have a guitar player who’s based in Milan and a keyboard player. When we are in the US, our drummer is Chris Vrenna, who is my co-producer, and when we play in Europe we have other drummers. Sometimes we play without the drums and I’ll do electronic drums myself but we prefer to have a live drummer onstage.
So, did you get Chris to come to Milan in the end?
He came, yeah. We did six gigs back in January/February and we also came to London. We did the Dingwalls; it was more like a showcase, like a mini tour of everyone and everything new. Myself and Lord have known each other for four years now – we started this thing in 2008 – but this is the first album so it’s like a new project and these gigs were a very good test to see if we are ready. It was great to have Chris with us – obviously he’s got a lot of experience – and it was a great opportunity for all of us. Chris is going to join us for some of the gigs we have in the US but at the moment he’s working on Marilyn Manson’s new album. It’s not easy to have him as our drummer anyway of course because we’re in Europe and he lives in Los Angeles.
How did you come into contact with Chris?
We have a common friend who works in the music industry – he works at Geffen – and I gave him our very first demo back in 2009 and he told us we were missing some kind of real drums. At that time, he met Chris in Los Angeles who was working on a couple of projects and he thought it was a good idea to put us in touch. We sent two or three tracks to Chris, he liked it and we started to work on the track like three weeks after. It was very spontaneous and quick but it worked perfectly since day one.
What’s going on in the video for ‘Lovedead’?
It’s about a serial killer who is killing his own personality. It was our first video so it was important for us to show our faces but not too much. Lord plays the character of a serial killer and the woman is another side of his personality that he’s trying to kill.
Are you pleased with how the album’s turned out? It’s quite different to what you’ve done in the past…
I haven’t been producing trance or techno music for many years. I’m still DJ’ing doing Army of the Universe DJ sets but finally I can play what I want to! I got stuck in that kind of trance chamber and, although I didn’t want to get rid of my trance background, I decided to start a completely new challenge. I never had a band before but I knew it was a lot more work than being a DJ which is pretty easy. I’m very happy I did it, it’s given me a lot of satisfaction. If you listen to the tracks, you can hear many influences from my past but not too much; I just wanted to do something different, something that I really liked and I’ve always liked industrial/electro/metal.
What’s the significance behind the title Mother Ignorance?
We think there’s a lot of ignorance in this world and we think that someone wants human beings to be ignorant, like a George Orwell/Big Brother kind of thing. The example I always use to explain this concept is, if you turn your TV on, there are so many stupid shows and so many stupid things going on in this word: the way humans get entertained today, I think ninety per cent of it is just to make people not think about what’s going. I’m not that much of a conspiracy guy so I’m not talking about “they want to keep us under control” – I don’t even know who “they” are – but this is the era of cheesy, easy entertainment: think of the iPod, the iPad, applications and whatever. I really think this world is going in a very bad direction and ignorance is the mother of most us. It’s funny because, in the end, everyone kind of accepts this. It’s a weird situation; we can easily fall into this ignorance thing even if we don’t think we are so we also make fun of it.
It sounds like you’ve got something to rail against! Is that why you named yourselves Army of the Universe, because you feel like you’re on a mission?
Maybe. We liked the idea of someone coming from the universe to rescue the human race (laughs). Also Lord and I are big fans of visionary literature and movies, the way that people thought the future was going to be back in the sixties, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Strange Days or even The Matrix. I was born in 1982 and, when I was a kid, the future we expected was more like space ships and stuff like that. In the end, in 2011, the future is actually the iPad or the iPhone, small things which is exacty the opposite of what we thought the future was going to be: the universe, conquering other galaxies and planets. Today it’s the opposite: the future is in our pocket.
Do you have any plans to return to the UK in the near future?
Yes, we are now discussing the possibility of touring Europe, including the UK, in November but it’s to be seen.
Do you have any recommendations for other up-and-coming artists?
Lord and I come from very different backgrounds: he’s a rock guy, influenced by Danzig, and I come from more of an electronic background; I’ve always been listening to The Prodigy, Underworld, The Chemical Brothers and that kind of thing. We met in between because we’re both big fans of Nine Inch Nails: they were definitely our biggest inspiration and Chris won a Grammy with them back in ’96 or ’97 I think for Best Metal Act.
Finally, would you be able to name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral. Kosheen – Resist: that was great, great work, I’m a huge fan of Kosheen. Then I would say…(thinks it over)…Underworld – Second Toughest in the Infants.
Army of the Universe’s debut album Mother of Ignorance is out now. For more information, please visit armyoftheuniverse.com