Q5 – How much time did it take you to write and record 20 full-length studio albums? And what do you make of this achievement?
A5 – We aren’t quite there yet. Our debut album was a 4 CD Box set back in 2007, so obviously audacious goals aren’t new to us. We put out a follow up album in 2014, but started on the series of 20 themed albums in 2018. This metal album, “Face Their Fears,” is themed album number 8. We have numbers 9 and 10 done, and those will be coming out next year. It takes a while to press vinyl records these days.
Themed album #9 is called “Surf the Web” and is an album about the internet backed with surf and garage rock. We got Scott who played most of the metal guitar to keep hanging out with us and roped him into another guitar-centric album.
Album #10 is the halfway point, so it’s a pretty epic milestone. It’s called “Have an Existential Crisis.” If you know one thing about our band, it’s that we have a robot singer. So in addition to the songs being about the meaning of life, parallel universes, alternate timelines, and existence in general, the vinyl has parallel grooves. Listeners will drop the needle, and not have control over which reality they are about to enter. One in which a robot sings our songs, or one where guest vocalists sing them. Guest vocalists that include Spencer Moody (Murder City Devils, M.Krebs), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession, Three Mile Pilot, Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects), Jacob Turnbloom (Mrs. Magician), Pat Beers (the Schizophonics), Elena Fox (PLRLS, Candy Smokes, Concrete City), Marie Haddad (Baby Bushka, Super Buffet), and Sean Tejaratchi (Graphic artists and writer, Crap Hound, Social Justice Kittens, LiarTownUSA).
It’ll take a few more years for us to finish all 20 themed albums, but we are well on our way.
As for what it means, I’m not one for spending a lot of time dwelling on the past or focusing on the destination. It’s about the journey, and looking ahead at what’s next. I can’t wait until next Monday when we meet up to start working on another new song. I’m excited about figuring out some of the wild details going into our next couple of releases. By the time I get to 20 albums, we’ll have some new dream we are chasing down.
So why declare we are working on 20 albums in the first place? What a fun and absurd thing to get to tell people. Who does that? I mean aside from us, of course. Plus I think it helps keep the pressure on. Releasing this metal album last week wasn’t the finish line. It’s no time to slow down. Having specific themes also helps spark ideas and give some guardrails to the creative process.
Big, public goals like that are also great for getting people’s attention. I spent years telling people we were working on a debut 4 CD Box Set, and I think most people thought I was joking. Those same people now realize when I say we are doing 20 themed albums, I’m 100% serious.
Q6 – How is the feedback so far after your latest album, Face Their Fears?
A6 – I think we caught people by surprise. There aren’t a lot of clues in our discography up to this point that we are fans of metal, so this one probably seems like it came out of nowhere. I wasn’t sure how well it would be received by the metal community, but so far the response has been positive. There’s elements of what we do that are poking fun at some aspects of metal, like the included corpse paint face stencil that comes inside copies of the 12” vinyl, but people seem to understand that it’s coming from a place of appreciation and love.
Q7 – What were the main influences in Face Their Fears album, subject wise and musically?
A7 – All of the topics on the album revolve around the central concept of fear. What are people afraid of? Are those the things they should be afraid of? The world we live in is terrifying these days, and this album is our way of trying to process that. Sometimes we take an exaggerated view of the situation to play up the absurdity of it, but underneath that initial layer we’re getting at something bigger.
Musically, we tried to touch on various sub-genres of metal. I don’t know when we’ll get back to making another metal album, so I wanted to make sure we covered as much ground as we could. Classic heavy metal, thrash metal, desert metal, symphonic black metal, metalcore… there’s a variety of styles in there.
Q8 – What would be the three things that make this collective special, in your opinion?
A8 – First, we have a robot for a singer. There’s no sense in trying to dance around that one. When you come to our show, there’s a 6’ 4” giant metal robot there to serenade you. It’s just not something you see every day.
Second, we treat satire and humor as an art form. Humor is pretty rare in music to begin with. People take it so seriously. As soon as something is funny, people write it off as frivolous. We try to write songs with enough layers and substance that you can keep coming back. I think humor in high art is generally lacking, but people seem to appreciate and acknowledge our deadpan Dadaism. We are actually taught at San Diego State University as experimental fiction alongside writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Louis Stevenson, which I think speaks to the fact that there is a depth to our approach to humor.
Third, our themed vinyl releases are works of art. The lyrics and music all adapt to whatever that album’s theme is, and I like to think we find unique spins on those topics. And some of the themes themselves are unusual. Our first themed record was all about the grocery store, for instance. Next, there are elaborate liner notes with each themed release. We find experts on the topic to help set the stage for what we are doing. Our outer space record? We got an astrophysicist. Ice cream record? Food historian. The cover art is done by Derek Yaniger, and he’s one of my favorite artists around. They are instantly suitable for framing and look so cool together as a series. The vinyl itself is clear with songs on one side, and elaborate laser etchings on the flip side. Then each release comes with a piece of ephemera that ties in with the theme. The nautical record? A sheet of temporary sailor tattoos. Our financial album? Two custom minted coins and a huge stack of purple dollar bills. Sure, you can listen to our album on Spotify, but you are only getting part of the larger experience created for it.
Giant Metal Robot there to Serenade you in our Shows, not Something you See Every Day, says Professor B. Miller of Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra