Monster In The Machine's Shannon Crawford: I Kept The New Album Minimal

artist: Monster In The Machine date: 08/21/2007 category: interviews
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Monster In The Machine's Shannon Crawford: I Kept The New Album Minimal
Shannon Crawford is the mastermind behind new outfit Monster In The Machine. On the band's debut album, Butterfly Pinned, Crawford has crafted a record that entrances the listener with swirling acoustic melodies and haunting, hypnotic electronics. It's also the flagship release from Emotional Syphon Recordings the new independent label set-up by Korn guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer. The album though is not Crawford's first foray into the recording world.In 1997, his band Cellophane signed to Virgin Records, released one album but imploded while on tour. Disillusioned with the music industry, Crawford pursued another passion, painting that has seen his work acquired by celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to author Jerry Stahl. In the midst of painting though, he never lost sight of his musical ambitions I have really developed my career as an artist says Crawford, and as a painter I really wanted this record to be an extension of that art too. I wanted to put out a beautiful record for people to hear. Butterfly Pinned features Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle) on drums and ex-Cellophane/current Puddle of Mudd, Doug Arditio on bass.Joe Matera recently caught up with Shannon Crawford to discuss his new band and record and long time friendship with Munky. Ultimate-Guitar: First up I want to talk about the rumors that were circulating last year that Cellophane was going to reunite and tour again? Shannon Crawford: There was talk about it last summer. When Doug and I started working on the song One Way Trip that was our initial plan. We were thinking about touring over the summer as Cellophane on the Family Values tour so we tried putting that thing together but that never worked out. So I just concentrated on doing this record. How did the whole concept behind Monster In The Machine evolve? Basically I had some songs I had been working on. But one day Doug brought over this song called One Way Trip that he had written and recorded that had bass and a little bit of guitar on it. I listened to it and it was a simple song yet sounded so inspiring. So Doug asked me to sing something over it so I started singing some words over it. And what came out were pretty much the final lyrics that appear on the song. Those lyrics are what came out at that precise moment. After that, because I was feeling happy that the song sounded so good, I started writing more music. I kept writing and writing because it inspired me to write more until I had an album's worth of material. And then when most of these songs were written Doug came in and played bass over all of the rest of the songs. I did this whole record really minimal because I just thought that I was just at home writing down ideas and recording them on my Mac and Digidesign 002. But it turned out so great that once James heard it he wanted to basically start a label. All as a result of hearing how great the material was. He had told me that he always wanted to start a label but once he finally heard my stuff he said, 'I'm going to start it now! This is amazing stuff'. Though Doug is involved with this record, he is still a member of Puddle of Mudd? Yes, actually Puddle of Mudd is currently on tour promoting a record. So when you put your touring band together, who will comprise the line-up? At the moment I'm just rehearsing with a few guys. I'm not using any big names as of yet unless there are a couple that may want to be involved. I'm just putting together a really great sounding band. Having said that, there will be shows where live I may even be playing with just an acoustic. And then there will be shows where I may have a full orchestra with me. At the moment though I'm rehearsing as a three piece and using triggers for certain sounds like for some of the drum sounds. What I plan to do is before we actually start the tour, about week before, we're going to get a keyboardist to come onboard and actually play some of those trigger parts. Going back to the album, musically it sounds very Stabbing Westward-esque. Were they an influence or reference point musically? There is no influence. But it's really weird you say that because even when we were in Cellophane, people were comparing us to Stabbing Westward. I only remember hearing some of their singles but I never really listened to them a lot or much so because of that, technically that would not be enough to be able to use them as a reference point. But like I said, it's funny you should say that now because people were saying that to us ten years ago.
"The whole record is about the evolution of the human race."
Lyrically it's a very dark record, what inspired the themes behind many of the songs? The whole record is really about everything that is going on in the world today and the evolution of the human race. I don't know how we've survived as a species as long as we have with all this religious polarization that always happens in the world. I can't believe that we're still alive as we're going to end up killing each other because of it. You would think that religion would be this uplifting thing? Yet it has become this judgmental thing especially in this country. It's like we're creating this path to the world's end. Religion has become all about control and fear and judgment. Being an independent project, was the budget to make Monster In The Machine fairly small? Well I had the whole record already done in my own time and recorded it all on my home computer. I could have - though it wouldn't have been sonically as amazing - totally have just mastered the thing and do minor mixes and mastered it and sent it off. So money wise it cost basically nothing prior to going into Henson Studios. It was zero cost as it was all done. So basically the only costs incurred was just our time at Henson mixing it which is where I spent the money along with paying Josh Freese for his drumming services and the food we were ordering while at Henson and stuff like that. That is where it [money] all went out on. For an indie label it's kind of high but the actually money used to make this record was like $60,000. What sort of gear did you use to record the record? For guitars, I used a Guild acoustic that I've had for over ten years now and a Gibson hollowbody, an ES-135. I used those two guitars for the whole record. There are no fancy guitars or anything on there. Amp wise, I used this old Fender Tweed amp, a one speaker portable Fender thing and this tiny little Rickenbacker amp that had this one 12 inch speaker in it. And I basically miked those using a Dragon mike which I used to record my vocals with too. The record has some amazing electronic effect type sounds on it, how did you go about achieving them in the studio? A lot of those effect type sounds were added at Henson, using some with their outboard gear that was there. Having said that there weren't a lot of effects used, they were just mainly used for the vocals, keyboard sounds and things like that. I just wanted to make my own noises because I didn't have all this great stuff, like major keyboard gear or anything. Like for example on Savior I used a Roland Juno-60. I also had this old Ensoniq keyboard too. Like I said earlier, I kept it very simple and minimal. How did James come to play guitar on the album's closing track, Don't? That was a song that I had written earlier and of which I didn't think much about as it was just an idea. He actually played on it like a few years ago when I had no lyrics for it. It was just something we jammed together on at the time. And then in this last year while I was writing the record and putting it together, that's when I added the vocals and started writing lyrics to it. So it really came out of a total jam thing we did and I created a song out of it. Do you know what guitar James played on the track? He used his Ibanez seven-string guitar.
"I had the whole record already done in my own time and recorded it all on my home computer."
Your relationship with James actually goes back to when you were both in high school? Yeah I've known James since probably around 1986 in Bakersfield, California as I grew up there too. And I've known David [Silveria] since we were in fourth grade. I first met James in high school. Later David dropped out of high school when he was 16 and when all of the guys were 16, 17 and 18 years old, they left Bakersfield and moved to L.A to start a band called L.A.P.D. And because I used to go to L.A on weekends, as I was only about an hour's drive away, I would go to all of their early shows and it was a fun time. James is a very skilled guitarist and I remember him being a huge Steve Vai fan something he still is today. He had and has a real appreciation for the shredders. L.A.P.D was basically the same guys as Korn; L.A.P.D was David, James, Fieldy and a different singer. And Brian [Head] always lived with them as he had moved to L.A too to live there but wasn't in a band with them. But after all the years of hangin' out with them, Ross Robinson told the band they needed a second guitarist and that's how Head came to join them in Korn. L.A.P.D was more like old school Red Hot Chili Peppers ala rap-funk-punk. And from there, their sound just evolved over time. Back then James was playing a seven-string guitar as he had did with L.A.P.D and I remember their sound being really low end-y and that it eventually evolved into what became their trademark Korn sound. How does feel to be the flagship release for James' Emotional Syphon Recordings label? It feels great. At the end of the day those big bad record labels, they're only interested in making money out of the artist if it all goes well rather than loose money. So I'd rather it be him, my friend James making money off the thing than some multi-million dollar corporation. I'm glad it's his label and I'm excited. I'm glad I can release it without any major record label influence and fear, you know looming over me. I had no-one whispering in my ear from a major label on how I should sing or where I should put this chorus and this and that like when I was on Virgin with Cellophane. Ultimately, I ended up doing for the most part what I wanted. Virgin was so unclear on how it was going to turn out and so fearful that it was going to fail that I believe, they made it fail. By trying to spoon feed us by telling us how to make a record. So I'm glad that Monster In The Machine is independent. 2007 Joe Matera
For more about Monster In The Machine and Emotional Syphon Recordings go to:
  • myspace.com/monsterinthemachine
  • myspace.com/emotionalsyphonrecordings
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