Where the soul is
Icon of Coil discuss their rising popularity, the futurepop scene and playing live.
Icon of Coil are, without doubt, the rising stars of the futurepop scene. Unlike the "big three", they do not have a long history with which old fans can beat them, claiming they've "sold out". On the contrary, "The Soul is in the software" has been greeted as a worthy follow-up to "Access and amplify", acclaimed by fans of their debut. Its sales and chart position show that they are now almost part of an expanded "big four".
The success of "The Soul is in the Software" has largely put rumours of Stefan Groth's involvement in the band to bed. There was a time when people claimed that Icon of Coil was no more Apoptygma Berzerk under a different name. This couldn't be further from the truth and IoC's second album has proved they have a very strong identity of their own.
"We've been getting a little pissed off that people think that Apop did things for us through the history of Icon of Coil, but they've never done anything and we've done our own thing all the time, all the way. We'd didn't do this album like we did it on purpose to be not compared to Apoptygma, we just did what was right for us and Apop did what was right for them. I think VNV Nation, Icon of Coil, Covenant and Apop, by now, on their new albums, are taking a very big step forward for their own sound."
Andy acknowledges that there has been a crossover between these bands' sounds in the past, with similarities here and there, but says that this year's albums have started a new era. He argues that this is the most important time for each band to show what really sound like.
They're not fans of the futurepop tag that they've acquired, arguing that, if they're anything, it's "futurerock". However, they see that being in the scene is helpful, that when Apop go into the Media Control Charts in Germany, their sales go up too. However, they also welcome being part of the mixed scene represented at Dark Jubilee.
"I think we're gone a step further. It's no secret that, if you bring up some people that we really admire, people that we're really inspired by, it's Nitzer Ebb, Hardfloor, stuff like that."
They welcome their burgeoning popularity, rejecting the argument that electronic bands should aim to be underground and cult. They like being able to make music the whole time because it's fun. As Seb puts it, "who doesn't want to do what's fun all the time?" Andy points out that the bigger their name gets, the more records they sell, the better it is for the band, because they can concentrate more on developing their sound.
"If you are able to gain popularity over time, you can actually live off it and you don't have to think, 'oh shit, why am I doing this music'? You can just continue doing it, you can explore it, you can do other parts; you can just go further into what you really want to do. And, of course, that's an issue of popularity, because if you don't get popularity, you don't get money."
The name of their new album, "The Soul is in the software", is an obvious reference to their status as electronic music artists. Electronic music is often regarded as soulless, harking back to the likes of Kraftwerk or Devo's image as robotic rather than human. Andy says the title means that they bring as much soul into their music as a rock act, as well as referring to their dependence on electronic equipment.
"All these years of work is stored on one hard disk. Imagine if this hard disk would fuck up, we would be totally lost; we would lose it all. This is what we do, this is where our soul is - this is our music."
The constant criticism that they and other electronic bands attract because of their need to use a certain amount of backing tracks annoys them. As Andy points out, they'd need 80 musicians to play the 80 tracks on their album and they couldn't possibly do it, even if they wanted to. He's not even convinced that it is something they'd like to do.
"Sometimes maybe it works, sometimes it does nothing, but sometimes they're really, really bad. And some bands who bring along a drummer and the guitarist and stuff like that, some of these bands you don't even hear the drums, you don't even hear the guitars, it's like 'yea, we play live' and they go off stage 'Hey, did you hear how much live we played at this show?' This is not what it's all about, what it's all about is to bring out music, to do a show, we do a lot of stuff live, but it's additional to a lot of the original mix. "
Their aim when they play live is to meet their fans, not to show off how much can do live. Seb does point out that they play live as much as they can because they enjoy it, while Andy argues that the energy, the performance and the lights, everything they've got onstage is part of the show.
"You don't want to stand onstage and pretend to be playing, then there's no point to it. The more live you can manage to be onstage, the more fun it is, but there is a limit to how many things can be live onstage without additional musicians. At least at this point in time, we don't have drums on our album, we don't have guitars on our album, why should we use them to play live?"
by Girl the Bourgeois Individualist