God is an Astronaut

God is an Astronaut

by Jason

Hello all in God is an Astronaut. Would you please introduce yourselves to our readers and let us know what you do in the band?  Where are you from?  How did the band form?

Hello! I am Torsten I play keys and guitar and vocals.

Niels, I play bass and guitar.

I am Lloyd, I play drums and synths.

Niels – On record we all contribute different parts and instruments. It is not like a regular band where everybody has just one function. For example I played a lot of the guitar work on the new record.  I suppose Live we tend to stick to a more standard lineup – drums, bass and guitar-keys-vocals.

Torsten – We are from Ireland (Europe) just outside the capital city of Dublin. Ireland is really small place compared to the U.S.A., there is only about 5 million people living here.

Lloyd – I have known the guys about ten years now and helped them with some gigs over that time, they were stuck for a drummer for the Oxegen festival last year and that was when I joined GiAA.

Niels – Torsten and I have been playing music since we were kids. Being twin brothers we have been writing and performing together for years. We have been playing in bands since 1994.  God is an Astronaut was put together officially in 2002. We wanted to make music we really liked and would be fan off rather than making music the mass public wanted to hear.

Torsten – We were signed to Peer Music at the time. Their idea of good music was writing cheesy crap and putting a blond with a short dress and high heels to front a band. For most of our time in the music business this kind of thinking was very evident. God is an Astronaut for us stands for free thinking and musical expression and not manufactured crap. We are real. We wanted to put ourselves into the music.

All is Violent, All is Bright is a brilliant disc.  Can you tell us a little about the journey toward making that record?  How were the songs written and what caused you to use these particular songs on the disc?

Niels – “All is Violent, All is Bright” is our second album. We wanted to make an album that had real emotion.  I think with the first album we touched on this. With the first album “The End of the Beginning” we were still working on the overall sound of GIAA. It was an important album to make. It allowed us to be more focused for “All is Violent, All is Bright”.

Torsten – The first album was made with a Akai sampler and keyboard sequencer. It was very limiting when it came to recording live performances due to memory restrictions. With the second album we invested in a Pro Tools HD system. This allowed us to record live performances from beginning to end without the need for looping stuff. This really helped to make the music more expressive and help personalize our sound.

Lloyd – It took a long time to write and record the new album. We spent a year in the recording studio.  We wanted the album to reflect our live sound we had developed playing shows for the first album.  I think the addition of live drums to the album helped to achieve this.

Torsten – The writing process varies a bit and changed for the new album.  For the first album a song would sometimes start from a drum loop up or a synth-sound sample, this is a electronic writing style.  For the new album most of the songs would start from a melody – guitar line or piano.  We wanted to ensure their was a really strong melody from the start. It was more important to have a good foundation to the song than just a cool  sounding loop or sound. People remember melodies and emotion of a song rather than something that is just style over content. The idea is to have someone 10 years from now listen to the CD and still be moved by it and not say it sounds like something that hasn’t dated well like so many other records. This was one of the main criteria for picking the songs for the album.

How does your band go about writing a song?  What makes a song worthy of the  public ear and at what point do you, if ever, feel satisfied with a song you are writing?

Niels – I think most bands thrash out ideas in rehearsal, write as many songs as they can and pick the best at the end. This method doesn’t work for us. For “All is Violent, All is Bright” album we wrote about 12 ideas.  We would write the initial idea on a guitar or a piano, bring it to the studio, and work out the structures and melodies. If an idea was not sounding good to us after a short while we would simply not continue on it.

Torsten – When we finish a song it is very hard to tell if it is worthy of the public ear. We usually come back to the finished songs after a couple of weeks and if we still feel the same excitement we did when we wrote it we are happy enough for the public to hear it. There also has to be a point where you let go, I think to be 100% satisfied isn’t possible, those who try for the perfect record never end up releasing anything.

I am told that you use visualizations in your live performances.  Can you tell me who comes up with the images/video and what they look like?  Can you describe the images you might use with a particular song off of All is Violent, All is Bright?

Niels – We always wanted to put visuals to music. When we formed GIAA this was always in the back of our minds. With other music projects the lyrics dictate the visual subject which can be very limiting. Most videos you see on MTV are just of bands performing their song, the video does nothing to enhance the emotion of the song. We take a lot of time to come up with a music video for our songs. The video for “Fragile” is a good example of where the visuals enhance the emotion of the song. The images are of man’s betrayal of animals for often needless experiments.  Live we use visuals for all our songs, the main goal is to enhance the emotion and structure of the song.  Subject matter would range from atmospheric visuals, dark stuff like animal testing, war, suicide, some funny stuff like spoof b-movie horror and some uplifting stuff too like beautiful sunsets. The only setback to putting videos to music is that people may in-vision something completely different.  I think live the music is quite dark and angry, although there is a mix of light and shade throughout.

At what point in your lives did you realize that you wanted to make music?  What sorts of music did you write before you were in God is an Astronaut?

Niels – I started playing guitar when I was 11, our father was a professional musician. I guess when you are young you have stars in your eyes. The reality is a lot different for most musicians. Most musicians barely get by. As long as I can remember I always wanted to play and write music. All three of us have been playing music since we were kids. I think we all made a conscious decision to play music when we left school in the early 90s.

Torsten – We played in everything from rock bands, metal bands to making sample based music and dance music. We also use to do dance remixes for EMI and other record companies. The pay was dreadful.

Lloyd – I started playing drums when I was 9, My Dad was a really big influence on me as he played guitar professionally and got me hooked on music, from those early years I always wanted to be in a band.  I’ve played in lots of different styles of bands (blues rock dance) and also made electronic music. I think all our past endeavors enhance our music now.

Is Astronaut a full time gig for you or do you hold day jobs like most of musicians?  If so, what do you do for cash and how does that play a part in/interfere in your music?

Niels – Torsten and I work part time jobs. We have done lots of crap part-time work. Everything from construction to flooring work. Also occasional PA sound stuff.  We have our own recording studio now and get some recording work from time to time. I think the worst job I can remember was pulling up piss stained carpets in an old folks nursing home.  I can still remember the overpowering smell.  We spend a lot of time on the music especially when writing, we would take long periods of time off then.  I don’t think it is possible to work a full time job when writing music, recording music and then having to manage the music business side of things as well.  If you want to have something that is comparable or better than other music you need to put in as much time as possible. Torsten and I spend a couple of hours everyday of the year doing something that is music related. Bands who are fortunate to have a decent record deal can spend all their time on their music and not worry about a paycheck, most other musicians who have to work a job have to work extra hard to compete.

Lloyd – I work full time as a piping designer. I would love to do music full time but at the moment its just not feasible option for me, it can get very frustrating at times.  When necessary I take some time off work for the band, But who knows maybe next year!

If there are any, what artists would you say have had an influence on your music?  What artists are you listening to now?

Torsten – We are bombarded by all kinds of music everyday. All music is influenced by what went before.  We grew up listening to rock and metal music. We don’t listen to much music especially if it sounds someway similar to our own. It is very easy to be influenced by other music particularly if it is done well, even on sub conscious level. We are compared to various post-rock groups most which we were not aware until recently, some of which I’m sure are very good. The first album was made without any knowledge of post-rock groups.  The last CD I listened to was AC/DC.

Lloyd: The last CD I listened to was Frank Zappa (Man from Utopia).

I see that you are playing some gigs in England and around your home area. Do you plan on coming to the States to do a tour?

Niels – We would love to play in the States, but we are completely independent, it is not a matter of will but money, the visas alone would cost 1500 each.  If we get  offered any decent opportunities we will be there to play.  Playing in Europe is very expensive as well, getting out of Ireland is a bit like escaping Alcatraz.  We would like to play a lot more even in Ireland and U.K. but most higher profile acts  wont give us any gigs because they are too afraid we would upstage them with our show. Gig agencies rarely get back to us and when they do they promise a lot and end up offering us nothing with some notable exceptions like AC Club 30.  We plan to be around for a while yet so we will try our best to play more shows everywhere.

Now that All is Violent is out, what is your next step in recording? Have you written more songs or are you just working on your live show?

Lloyd – I broke my arm in late January, it was a very bad break, a spiral break of the upper arm.  So we are just back to rehearsing now. We have been working on a few ideas in the interim.  We plan to start writing and recording new songs in late August. There won’t be a new album for a while, I think at earliest late 2006.

Niels – We have couple ideas for songs but most of the attention for the last while has gone into the live show. We only played two shows in support of the new album and that was with a session drummer.  So we are eager to play a few more shows.

You only have three members.  What is like having three members with such a full sound on stage?  What is it like for each of you during a set?

Torsten – We like the idea of a three piece, it is a lot easier to get an agreement on things.  I remember playing in bands that had multiple members, it would always disintegrate.  Live we use visuals, so everything is synced to a click track. Lloyd has a click fed to has headphones.  It takes lots of concentration and rehearsal to play in unison. Each visual scene changes in time with the music. The sound is more sparse live then on record. Too many layers live sound very unclear.  We use some backing track and sampling technology to fill out the parts we can’t perform live.

Niels – During the set when everything comes together it feels great.

Lloyd – Playing during the set is always the best and easiest part. The setup before is the most nerve racking, especially when we have little time to make sure everything is working 100%.

If you could open for any band, what band would that be?  Are there any artists that you would like to collaborate or just tour with?

Niels – We would be happy to tour with any left of centre bands in rock/electronic/post rock fields.  Collaborating with a visual artist would be very interesting.

Torsten – For the moment we are happy to make music without any collaborations with other musical artists.  We still have musical ideas we want to explore and develop ourselves.

Lloyd – I would love to open/tour with Pink Floyd, I like their mood, dynamics and attention to detail. So that would be one for the books if that ever happened!

Any other comments?

Thanks for the interview! God is an Astronaut

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