interviews - regen


An Interview with Christian Weber of K-Nitrate
Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2007
By: Ilker Yücel

K-Nitrate was among many groups in the burgeoning underground electronic scene of the early '90s. Founded by Graham Rayner and Steve Etheridge, the duo established a sound that was aggressive as it was danceable, full of harsh beats and blistering synth leads not unlike those heard in EBM, but with a speed and energy that was more akin to techno. Their first album, Xenophobia, displayed the band's signature sound alongside political commentary on the first Gulf War. Following this in 1996 was the remix companion, Hyperphobia, which saw the inclusion of a guitarist, helping to bring K-Nitrate into a more live setting. While this would create a heightened tension and a new dynamic to the band's sound, Etheridge would soon leave the group, forcing Rayner to tread the path alone. Shortly thereafter, Rayner would become involved in a breakbeat-driven side project known as Tramazi, during which he would meet Christian Weber. The two then toured as K-Nitrate for the next several years, contributing remixes to a variety of artists, although never releasing an album of new material until 2007, that is. Active Cell came 10 years after their last official release, showcasing K-Nitrate's sound in full force amidst the current sea of waning EBM and pop-induced electronica. Producing their music entirely with hardware instruments, Active Cell sees the band progressing forward into today's music with an old-school approach that recalls all the best elements of the genre's infancy. Now signed to MoMT Records, K-Nitrate is poised to embark on a new series of live shows. Christian Weber speaks to ReGen about the band's history, the reasons behind so long a hibernation, their use of hardware over soft-synths, and just what sorts of surprises K-Nitrate has in store for today's underground electronic music scene.

It's been a decade since you released an album as K-Nitrate. What did happen to K-Nitrate after the release of Hyperphobia? What was the impetus for returning to this moniker after producing music as Audio War and Audacity?

Weber: In 1996, after the release of Hyperphobia, Graham wrote the true follow up to Xenophobia, the album called Hardline. At this point, Graham was the only member of the band, and he decided to put K-Nitrate on hold until he could find enough people to form a proper band. When I joined K-Nitrate in 1997, we re-wrote some of the Hardline material as well as writing new material. We then gigged constantly for nearly four years. Hardline was renamed Power-Speed-Aggression and was very nearly released. We were in serious negotiation with a couple of labels, but we couldn't reach an amicable agreement with either of them. Both of the labels wanted significant changes made to the sound of the band to what was then a more fashionable sound. This was something we had absolutely no intention of doing! We continued playing live until the end of 2001, when we pretty much burned out, and at one point seriously considered disbanding K-Nitrate completely. We weren't 100 percent sure, so K-Nitrate was put on hold and kept only as a remix project whilst we decided what to do with it. We started work on Audio War as the main project until we could decide what we wanted to do with K-Nitrate, and Graham wrote the Audacity material on his own when he had the time. In early 2006, I bought a new synth, and I started playing around with it using some of the old K-Nitrate demos we'd written, one being a very rough track I'd written in 2005 called 'Transmit.' Doing this, I was literally inspired to start writing new K-Nitrate material. I knew exactly what I wanted to make the next album sound like. I contacted Graham and we started writing Active Cell.

How has the sound of K-Nitrate developed since then?

Weber: K-Nitrate was born in the clubs and has always been about fast, aggressive sequencing and vocal hooks; the new material carries on with that tradition. However, rather obviously, none of the new tracks on Active Cell have full vocals in them. Graham has never particularly enjoyed being the vocalist, and because of where we live, finding an ideal vocalist is almost impossible. It was decided early on that the new material would either be instrumental or only have vocal hooks.

In the liners to Active Cell, the band declares that no soft-synths were used in the making of the album. What was the band's reasoning behind this?

Weber: I feel like soft-synths have stifled creativity, which is rather ironic because when they were first announced, they seemed like such a great idea. They meant that people could buy really cool obscure synths that tended to be quite unreliable in their hardware versions for a decent price. Unfortunately, what seems to have happened is that there are an awful lot of electronic acts out now that are all using the same preset sounds on the same soft-synths, and they all sound the same. We wanted to point out that we're not part of that.

How does working with hardware today compare to a decade ago?

Weber: A positive knock-on effect from soft-synths is that they've forced the price of hardware down. This means that you get a lot much more power for your money, which is great. Synths are much more hands-on now than they used to be. You no longer have to go through menu after menu to program your synths. This used to be quite mind-numbing, and you'd usually forget what you were trying to achieve by the time you go to the part of the patch you'd initially wanted to alter.

Will K-Nitrate ever use software?

Weber: We've investigated them, but we struggled to get excited about them. You just seem to lose part of your musical identity when you use them. I'm not saying that using soft-synths is wrong; if they work for some people, then that's great. They're just not for us.

Along with Active Cell is the downloadable EP companion, Mutagen, which features remixes by the band, as well as groups like UCNX, The Pain Machinery, and Gusto Extermination Fluid. How do you feel the music and mixes by these artists fit conceptually with that of K-Nitrate? What are your thoughts on these groups as they are part of the new wave of electronic music?

Weber: Although we don't write even remotely the same style of music as each other, the bands you mention are all very individual and uncompromising in their own right. I think that's what draws us together, and this comes across with what they brought to the Mutagen remixes. In other words, the styles are different, but the uncompromising attitude is the same. I remember when I first heard The Pain Machinery, when they played their first date in the UK, back in 2001 (I think). I was absolutely blown away with them. Their Terminate Transmission EP was one of the most exciting things I'd heard in the industrial genre for years, and watching them live was like being repeatedly smacked in the face with a baseball bat and loving every single minute of it! It's been great seeing them continuing to release some seriously good music. What I really like about UCNX is their very punk attitude towards making music. It's refreshing to find a band with that kind of attitude and how they put that across in their music. Also, Doug from UCNX has done vocals for some very early Audio War material, and that's been working out well. I now just need to find the time to start writing the next Audio War album! The Gusto Extermination Fluid album, The Cleaner, seemed to appear from nowhere, totally out of the blue. Their album was unlike anything else I was listening to at the time, and had a unique atmosphere, like some dark and twisted soundtrack. I was hooked immediately. I cannot wait to see them play live.

As the band has been in hibernation for a decade, what are your thoughts on the progression of techno and EBM music over the years as it's become more popular in the electronic music underground? What differences and similarities do you see now compared to 10 years ago?

Weber: I have to be honest and say that I don't actually listen to that much electronic music anymore. I found that a lot of modern techno and EBM had lost the aggression and attitude that it used to have. I love fast aggressive riffs, and because of this, I spend most of my time listening to heavy/thrash/speed metal. That's what was influencing me when I was writing material for Active Cell.

The band is currently signed to the new UK-based label MoMT Records. What is it about MoMT that appeals to K-Nitrate, and how do you feel they compare to past labels you've been associated with?

Weber: It's great being signed to a label that has a passion for releasing interesting and innovative music. They're taking risks with what they're signing, which in this day and age seems to be against the norm. We have a very good working and social relationship with MoMT. They understand what we're doing and are extremely supportive with it.

Also released on MoMT Records was the Chemlab tribute, Songs from the Hydrogen Bar, on which you performed a cover of 'Codeine, Glue, & You.' What made you decide to cover this song for the tribute? What sort of influence has Chemlab's music had on K-Nitrate?

Weber: Doug from UCNX asked if I was interested in doing a remix for a possible Chemlab tribute. I didn't have much going on at that time and thought it'd be fun to be involved with, so I said 'Yes.' One of the reasons why I covered 'Codeine, Glue, & You' is because my wife is the huge Chemlab fan and 'Codeine, Glue, & You' is her favorite track. The other reason was that with the Front Line Assembly tribute, I covered an extremely obscure track, 'Solitude of Confinement,' and I think that was a mistake. This time around I wanted to cover a more obvious track. Unfortunately, by the time the ball started to roll with the tribute, I really didn't have the time I needed to write what I wanted, and this resulted in a rather hasty, and very literal, cover of 'Codeine, Glue, & You' being written. With music, sometimes that's just the way these things go; you do the best you can in the time available. The tribute was then delayed by about 12 months, which gave me time to work on another, much heavier version of the track. I was really pleased with this version, but due to some miscommunication behind the scenes, the original version was used on the tribute and not the new version. Ah well, these things happen! This new version is now available in full from our MySpace page.

What's next for K-Nitrate? Are there any plans for a tour or live shows? As you've had a decade to refine your approach, what sort of surprises can audiences expect from a K-Nitrate live show today?

Weber: We have literally just started the process of planning out gigs for next year, with our first warm-up date already booked. We're trying our best to ensure that K-Nitrate live will be just that: live. We're very keen to avoid the cliché of two guys standing behind synths looking serious, because that's extremely boring to watch. As for surprises, expect a couple of old favorites from Xenophobia to be a part of the new live set.