Known as one of the founding fathers of industrial metal Pitchshifter must be regarded as a band way ahead of their time. Their use of drum machines and fusion of electronica and metal paved the way for many of today’s acts. With dark social commentary a strong part of the band lyrics their timing for a series of reunion shows in the UK could not be better. Devolution had an exclusive chat to singer and band founder JS Clayden. Up for discussion was the forthcoming anniversary tour, what they’ve been up to the past decade whilst hibernating and who would play who in a film.
So you have decided to get the band back together for a select string of dates in November this year to commemorate twenty years of the www.pitchshifter.com album – was this always on the cards? Had it been planned a while ago then set in stone? It’s also 25 years since Desensitized came out. Was this also in your minds?
“With band members living in different cities on two continents, as well as the fact that we’re (allegedly) grown-ups now with children of our own (may The Universe help them), although we’d spoken of playing some shows together over the last decade, it was by no means set in stone. However, now that I’ve finally catalogued all of those species of rare butterflies I captured in the Congo in the west wing of my library, there’s time to kick it live. I can’t even read your comment about Desensitized being 25 years ago—that’s just insane.”
You guys have always had a dark dry sense of humour and releasing the news of the tour via social media on April 01st – April fool’s Day of this year just seemed so apt for Pitchshifter – was this also intentional?
“I cannot believe that forthright and beloved pillars of the community such as we would ever be spuriously accused of anything so unashamedly mischievous.”
Who will be playing live for this tour? And for any readers that need reminding or for those that may not know who you are – give us a brief reintroduction to yourselves.
“The band’s core line up is still Claydens and Rayners (shirts vs. skins). Unfortunately, Jason Bowld couldn’t join us. We love Jason, but he got a real job with a big band during our hiatus. And so, sadly (yet totally understandably), he can’t help our motley crew of survivors patch up the Millennium Falcon for one last trip around the void. And so, the line-up will be as follows
In terms of a reintroduction: we’ve been around for more years than we’d care to (or most likely actually can) remember. We’re a UK band that made 10 or so albums, toured in 25+ countries, we were in 2000AD once, on some magazine covers, in crop circles, had stage invasions, got banned a few times, much loved by some, much hated by others—still have most of our own teeth.”
Back in the day you were added to festivals and bills with major acts that were storming the Metal and Industrial scene, but you always held your own and gained a respect and a dedicated following because you did things your way and practiced what you preached – how do you think you guys would fair in the current scene?
“We decided not to write any puke-making ballads for the cash. The band was more of an art/politico collection of like-minded individuals, and, although money is fabulous (and I condone its squandering wholeheartedly), it wasn’t really Pitchshifter’s core focus. Regarding the current scene, I have no idea how we’d fare. Let me pop my heart pills, put out my pipe and stick my reading glasses on to do some research on WTF Gen Z likes.”
What exactly have you guys been up to for the last decade? I read that you stated you had been ‘up to no good’ – can you elaborate on this? Ha-ha
“I read somewhere that we were developing a plan to upend the Military-Industry Complex by reducing the world’s population to a manageable 500 million and redistributing wealth and power to the great plebeian horde of unwashed hoi polloi via political back channelling, skulduggery, simony, usury, sedition, partisan miscreantism, and collective double-agent ne’er-do-welling of an inexorable yet stunningly cunning nature. However, I am unable to confirm these reports at this juncture.”
I remember how brutal the mosh pits would get – at festivals – at support gigs and the ones at your own headlining shows were just so fierce and so full of passion. I have seen people break bones and noses at them and yet somehow they always seemed so cathartic. How in shape are you guys for this tour? People are going to want to feel this free and wild again when listening to those songs – are you guys ready?
“We are 100% in shape to play from the safety of the stage and watch in awe as people our age attempt to massacre each other in the pit as if we were all still 25. To accomplish this, we’ve undertaken a strict and exacting regime of repetitive eye exercises that should see us through the tour.”
You have stated in a Q & A posted online that you won’t be releasing any new material in the future—why?
“We’re just not in the place to work on new material. The focus of this tour is to connect with those that have an affinity for the music and beliefs that held the band and fans together. Sadly, many of our number have gone. Our old sound man and agent unfortunately both lost cancer battles, and our merch guy was tragically killed. However, many of us are still here (despite battles of our own). We’re just coming together as we felt the time was right for us. The haters can hate; but the appreciators know what’s what—and we’ll have a great time sharing our connection with the faithful. The core focus is to connect, respect, and enjoy. Stay home if that’s not right for you.”
You guys have chosen Earthtone9 and The Blueprint to support you on specific nights of the five date tour – why these guys and what can the crowd look forward to?
“Why would we not choose Earthtone9 and The Blueprint!? Two awesome Nottingham bands to rock it with us and bring this damn thing home! (Didn’t someone even name a festival after Earthtone9’s Arc-Tan-Gent album? http://www.arctangent.co.uk/) I think that the closer at Nottingham Rock City will be madness. It will be the last night of the last time that I envision these three Nottingham bands will be playing their home town together (I assume some of us may have croaked another decade hence). Although, of course, Pitchshifter respects and appreciates its fans in every location (our socials show fans travelling from Europe and the USA for this tour—which is amazing, much respect), there’s something special about playing again after a decade with three bands from your home town, and closing that tour in your home town. I don’t want to give the game away, but were currently scheming on a few things to make the Nottingham gig special.”
JS Clayden – although you emigrated to Los Angeles a few years back you always had an open issue and were very desensitised with the political system and the way that the country was run – as many of us do of course – which inspired some damn fine tracks from the EP including the anthem ‘Un-United Kingdom’ which went down an absolute storm at Metallica’s Big Day Out on the Kerrang! Stage at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1999. In 2018 how do you feel about the system now? Are you still politically charged?
“I think that our elected officials are doing a wonderful job and that the entire planet is just peachy. What could go wrong?”
What do you miss most and least about the UK? And what’s the best and worst the US has to offer?
“Regarding the UK: I miss the history, architecture, humour, friends, and the ability for the common man to come together to help those in need. I do not miss the weather or food. Regarding the USA: I like the food, weather, the inherent currency of my accent, and the ability to create and present yourself as you wish to be seen. I dislike Trump, the Republican Party in general, guns, the healthcare system, evangelical Christianity, and the inability to put the emPHAsis on the right sylLAble.”
When you think of your career and look back, what three things do you fondly remember and which three things do you look back at with gritted teeth?
“Fondness: that’s a tough question, as we did tons of amazing things over the years, but to criminally boil it down to me personally:
Gritted teeth-ness: I, personally, made innumerable mistakes in my youthful exuberance to find my place in the world and so this list would need to be as long as your arm, but, in the précis:
Twenty years later and that record still sounds so timeless, unique and so relevant with those heavy guitars, breakbeats and dirty bass beats. What was and is it about www.pitchshifter.com that as a record has stood the test of time and still remains a firm favourite in a lot of people’s collections?
“Well, as a wholly subjective art form, it’s challenging for me to tell you why that record resonates with others; however, from my personal perspective, I just think that it was so different to what was around at the time that it struck a chord. That record was a lot of fun to make, and I still can’t believe that we did it on an Atari 520ST with a few Akai S1000 samplers.”
Which of the songs from the “.com” album are you really looking forward to bringing to life again on the tour in November?
“As a waxed-moustached, polymath, renaissance man, I like the classics: ‘Microwaved’, ‘Please Sir’ and ‘Genius’.”
If you could play God for a day – who would you make an Angel and who would you send to Hell? And why?
“Man created heaven because he was afraid to die. The ongoing idiocy of those centuries-old fair-tale creation myths (and accompanying bigotry, ignorance, delusion and hatred) has limped on to the present day. And so, not to be Debbie downer, but I’ll skip this question on principal. Humans don’t need gods.”
Pitchshifter are back live on stage next month!. But if someone wanted to make a film of the band who would be the best actors to play each band member and why?
“Some of these are characters not actors, and I can’t give the reasons as to why I chose them (on the advice of my legal team), but here are my suggestions:
* This also applies to Si (or any rock drummer, really)”
Would you like to take this opportunity to say something to the fans coming to see you this year?
On behalf of the band, families, and crew, I would like to state to all fans that we greatly appreciate your ongoing support, encouragement, and partnership in this crazy thing called Pitchshifter. We never thought that we’d be playing music this long (or even be alive, in some cases), but we couldn’t have done it without all of you nut-jobs egging us on. We’re looking forward to sharing some great shows with you on the November tour, and I encourage everyone to bring positive vibes, a love of music, and compassion for their fellow revellers. See you down the front.”
By Nickie Hobbs & Gary Trueman