Species 2017 was excited to welcome Species newcomer the dynamically talented SurgeryHead hailing from Co. Cavan! We love his sound! and were not disappointed along with his theatrical guest vocalist Alojla all the way from Sweden. Surgeryhead showcased the very best in strange odd and dark sounds from the Irish Gothic and Industrial underground!
We are delighted to announce Surgeryhead will be back this June bank holiday for Species 2018 with another elevating operation of awesomeness! We recently caught up with the mysterious character Surgeryhead early 2018 with a new exclusive interview ahead of this years festivities to learn more about the artist and his divinely dark soundscape.
An Inteview with SURGERYHEAD
- Tell us a little about yourself as a musical artist living in Co. Cavan:
All the cool kids left Cavan a long time ago to pursue their dreams and desires, no matter how far I go I just keep ending up back here. It’s lonely where I live, out in the middle of nowhere, but I like it that way. There are no chances to network or meet cool music folk organically so it’s tough to try and become part of a gig scene or any kind of collective, but that’s OK with me. I spent way too much time trying to “fit in” around the metal scene and just the general drinks n’ banter n’ clubbing thing and it was largely a waste of time. I like having time to create and a quiet place to be loud with my friends.
- Your alias ‘SURGERYHEAD’ is unique as it is intriguing. Is there a story behind the name? And how did the project come into existence?
As with everything in Surgeryhead, the name is stolen from more creative but less prolific friends of mine. I used to be in this facebook horror writers group and a couple of the guys were tossing around ideas for this slasher project called Surgeryhead, about this guy who was experimented on, used for medical experiments. He gets loose and kills people.
I started messing around on reaper making music for this film concept that captured my imagination. The first two tracks I did were called “Love theme from Surgeryhead” and “faeces smeared on an asylum wall”. They don’t exist anymore, ha! They were not good. The guys, Joe and Mike, let me appropriate the name and it sort of is its own thing.
The meaning of Surgeryhead has changed too. I don’t think I’m ready to talk about the concept yet as it am still forming, but it’s not supposed to be a singular entity. It’s a new archetype, one that hasn’t finished forming yet.
You’ll see glimpses of it in movies like Detention, and Lake Nowhere. You’ll see people embodying this walking down highways in the middle of a Sunday night, hanging out in places where people really shouldn’t be. You might even say it’s a… species? ?
- When we initially stumbled across you we were blown away by the extent of the body of music you have created. How long have you been creating music and what drives you to do it?
I’ve been slowly working out what music is, and how to make approximations of it since I was like 10 or 11. I used to take guitars we had around the house and like mash the strings into a mic and put the resulting cacophony over badly drawn Halloween themed flash games I would make. I can weirdly enough still remember how some of those tracks sounded.
I started messing around with some DAW (digital audio workstation) in college, I forget what it was called but I was making really bad.. I suppose you’d call it Cybergrind now but I was just this really stupid kid who thought he was making dance music. I’d never even listened to dance music! I was bad at picking things up through cultural osmosis.
What drives me to do it? I dunno. I’ve tried to do different things with my life but I always end up coming back to creativity and music especially, since it’s most immediately satisfying of the art forms.
- Species is not the first time you have played live. Tell us a little about the other types of events you have been involved in:
My first gig was at this huge venue in France! It was for a night called Synthzilla put on by the amazing Delilah Dahmer, and I played alongside legends such as Dynatron, El Huervo and Gost! The sound was totally awful that night, guys. Every few minutes the sound would cut out and there was me standing with bloody bandages all over my face, in complete silence, DJing off of a fucking laptop with a bunch of bored looking French people staring at me. Absolutely terrifying.
After that, though, at Species and in other venues like when I opened for Carpenter Brut in Dublin and played at Tech Noir in Glasgow, it has been absolutely thrilling. I can’t wait to incorporate live keyboard/synth playing so I can feel more like a “real” musician, ha! DJing is crazy fun though.
I won’t deny that I love it, mixing tracks is such a rush. It’s pretty easy but making the tracks in the first place isn’t, ha!
- Your music has a industrial dance feel but at the same time is elevating and unique. Tell us about the other types of music that feed into this dark fusion of sounds:
I just tried to make Synthwave, and ended up making something completely different! ‘Gost’ really showed me that you can do a lot just with distortion, and you really can just do anything. I’m also hugely influenced by a couple of years I spent bombing around the countryside with my friends, getting… um.. elevated.. and listening to old school techno and obnoxious big drop EDM.
I’m a big death and thrash metal fan, as well as progressive metal. Horror soundtracks really spoke to my soul in my early 20s, and I used to have religious experiences listening to Goblin and Fabio Frizzi. I really want to connect to that deep love for that kind of music again, but I feel like my tastes have changed a little, the mysteries of life once evoked by that music now dwell within life itself, the music is just a beautiful soundtrack to the exploration of them. Right now I’m really getting into noise, jungle and grind. I just really wanna make things sound unique and somehow important. I don’t want to make something that feels like it doesn’t have a life if it’s own, that it’s “just more music”. I probably still do that though, ha. You can’t win ’em all.
- Tell us a little about your most recent album Beyonna Nuit, such as concept, themes, narrative etc:
Beyonna Nuit… Where to start with that?
Beyonna Nuit started developing even before ‘Lords of the Video Wasteland’ did. After the ‘Garbage Day’ EP I had started laying out a sketch or two for ‘Strike Midnight’ and ‘The Demiurge’, and then went off to spend the summer working and living in Wales. I was living in a tent, doing a lot of introspection, studying the occult, having weird experiences in the hills and meeting strange new people, and one night in the midst of a strange experience the words Beyonna Nuit came to me. I wanted to make an album that was somehow a spell or subconscious trigger to get the listener to destroy whatever forces in their lives were terrorizing and controlling them, kill their own personal dictators and take their rightful place as the God or Goddess of their own world. Lofty goals, I know, but art has got to try to have a function, or else what’s the point?
That’s the story, anyway, this robotic angel, Nuit, who realises that the God she serves isn’t all He’s cracked up to be. She sort of wakes up and teams up with the spirits of those countless dead by imperial/religious genocide to bring it all down. In the “canon” of my work it also serves as a creation myth for the world that ‘Lords of the Video Wasteland’ takes place in.
- With so many tracks online, often remixing them anew; we are interested in your take on ‘the culture of the remix’ refining and going back over tracks or totally changing them up. Do you feel this practice is important for artistic growth?
I don’t really have an answer for that. I know that in this world of instant feedback people, myself included, make a lot of really crappy work and post it up knowing that it’s not of a good enough quality or maybe being delusional that it’s of a good quality.
I have a few tracks I’ve done over the years that I don’t feel I’ve ever managed to nail properly… ‘Trick or Treat’ (I’ve done several versions of that), ‘A Real Hard Rain’ (people keep asking me to put it back online but I still need to get it just right), and there’s this one track off the original (absolutely terrible, and now impossible to find) Shocking Dark EP called ‘Madman’, which was one of the most insane, unbound to genre, just totally bizarre compositions that I’ve ever done, and I’ve been trying to perfect ever since. Maybe I’ll get there someday.
- Tell us a little about the steps you make to bring a new track into existence? And what equipment/Instruments/software you use?
It varies. Sometimes I’ll have a cool idea for a riff (Strike Midnight, Conform, Revelations, Bike Fist), other times I’ll have a cool idea for an intro ( Revelations, Mecha/Physical, 3D ), and other times I’ll just have a mood I feel the time is right to unleash (Corpse Monger, Physical, Malware) and if I’m lucky, the power will turn on, I’ll enter a state of visceral connection and flow and the guts of a song (or an entire song!) will flow out of me. Most of the time I struggle and fail.
I’ve been trying to get back into “new LP” mode for a while now but I haven’t been able to tap into the industrial dance powerstream for a while, I don’t want to keep dropping atmospheric EP’s like ‘Windows’ or the ‘Occult Ritual Waifu’ Fail soundtrack. I’m in a weird creative place right now.
Gear wise? I use Reaper. I have a Novation keyboard but I just use that for live, really. I like Synth 1, Reaktor 6 and massive. I have a Prophet VST but I haven’t quite figured that one out yet. I really should open up and try more synths.
- At Species 2017 you brought theatrical guest vocalist Alojla all the way from Sweden, how did this collaboration come about? And what preparations were made for this on the run up to Species?
I had my Lords of the Video Wasteland LP released by Luc, the guy from Gloom Influx. He’d gotten Alojla on a track or two before and I really liked the sound of her voice, so I brought her in for ‘Hunt’, which is a track I’m really proud of. I didn’t want her to just get up and sing one song so I worked on those covers of ‘Edge of Seventeen’ and ‘Blue Monday’ especially for that gig.
Preparation wise I just sent her the tracks and hoped that she was gonna be practiced enough to knock it out of the park! We were gonna practice the songs at soundcheck but we showed up too late for soundcheck, which was scary. But Louise knocked it out of the park! She has such a strong voice and we had a great time hanging out. I can’t wait to collab with her again!
- How often have you worked collaboratively with other artists and performers? Have you ever had creative differences? If so how do you work through them?
I used to be in a metal band that was one giant creative difference, ha! I’ve collaborated with a couple of people and I also write and direct short films and feature screenplays with a couple of different people. Creative differences are par for the course, and it’s always just a matter of re-explaining what each party’s vision for the core truth of the project is, how those visions align, and if what we’re doing is working towards that core truth.
- If you could bring any other elements to your music and/or performance through collaboration across the arts, what would these be?
I’d love to have a big crazy show with people juggling fire, and visualizations based on ‘The lore of the music’! It’d be really cool as well to project up a video game on a big screen based on The lore and have people play it in the front as the music went on! I’m working on that game but its taking a long time. Game dev is hard.
I’d like to get more synths and lights, but I don’t know.. I’m working on other things in life, and I didn’t get rocketed into super success like some of the other Darksynth guys, so I think I’m gonna stay punk for now.
- Which artists have been influential to the development of your sound?
Skinny Puppy, Infected Mushroom, Goblin, all the Darksynth boys and girls, myriad old school metal bands of all genres, composers like Joe Hishaishi and Graham Norgate, and PS1 game soundtracks!
- Is there any new projects, recordings, events etc coming up or you have recently been involved with that you would like to share with us? Tell us the news!
Beyonna Nuit is coming out on cassette through Playmaker Records!
Also, me and my creative partner Rob Keogh are working on a 2 man industrial/noise rock project called Coup Motif! We made a 13 minute EP over 12 hours during our Christmas break called Desolate Plain, which you can hear on soundcloud, and we’re working on an LP right now! It’s SO much fun, I get to sing and play guitar and just none of it is about pristine clean sounds, it’s all about noise, and hooks and melody, and unbridled creative expression! We’re hoping to get to play live some day, but we need to find a drummer and just sort of get our live chops down.
We also have a short film up on youtube called ‘Occult Ritual Waifu Fail’ which I’m pretty proud of, I made some claymation monsters for it, which was fun, and we’re shooting another one soon, called THE INSIDE OUT MAN.
Short film by SURGERYHEAD ‘Occult Ritual Waifu Fail’ November 2017.
- What advice would you give to new artists who would like to pursue a career in creating music?
Be honest with yourself as to whether you suck or not, learn how to figure out what makes a piece of music bad or good, beyond bullshit buzz terms like “compression”, “dynamics” and “loudness war”. Are you making art or are you just jerking off to kill time and boost your ego?
- What part of Gothic & Industrial culture intrigues you most?
Embracing the fact that the world is horrible, we’re all traumatised and hurt and every day is a fight. Industrial and Goth subculture is also of the only subcultures that often embraces that magic is real, witchcraft works and spirits exist! Sure Industrial as a genre was invented by English witches!
- What is your view Gothic & Industrial culture in Ireland today?
It’s a tough call to make, really. In terms of Goth club culture it seems to be a bit limp, but all club culture is, really. I think the Goth thing is starting to return amongst younger people but I don’t know. There’s this thing in Ireland where people are really terrified to express themselves and look outlandish and really customize their human forms for fear of ridicule or making a spectacle of themselves. But I think that is changing. I see younger people expressing themselves more aesthetically and that’s wonderful, although that also raises questions of cultivated identity, capitalism and ethics, which are worth thinking about.
Species, this gathering, is wonderful, I was very tired last year but I hope to talk to more people this year, make some connections and work towards there being more events of this flavor around the country. We Goth/Industrial musicians need to come together, work together, and push each other to create bigger and bolder works of art and really try to get out of the basements and down from the hills and do some fucking cultural pillaging! Not that anything’s wrong with basements or hills… But we can’t keep ourselves hidden forever.
- What parts of Species did you enjoy most?
The beautiful location, the eco-conscious nature of the facilities, the wonderful food, and the beautiful people!