Today we chat to South African band, Terminatryx.
What’s the origin of your band name?
Paul: Initially when we started in 2002, a dominatrix image was going to be upfront, and as fans of Sci-Fi movies like The Terminator, Tetsuo The Iron Man, The Matrix and Bladerunner (with its Nexus replicants), as well as moods of impending doom to set a foundation of drama even before listening to it (like the mythological river Styx), this mash-up became ‘Terminatryx’ – an entity, a movement, a projection of futuristic rebellion.
What genre of music do you consider your work to be?
Paul: The Terminatryx sound is harder to define than it seems. The quick and easy description would be Industrial-Metal, but there’s more to it.
Sonja: We never aimed for a particular sound (besides a blend of heavy and electronic elements) and have tried to remain original. We do what comes naturally to us. There is no pressure to fit into a particular genre. We have always taken influence from cinematic soundscapes as is noticeable especially in our instrumental tracks.
Paul: It is a blend of Alternative styles, which comprises Metal, Industrial, Gothic, Darkwave, electronic, soundtrack moods as Sonja mentioned, a basic Rock ethic can be found in some songs, while occasional tracks skirt Punk terrain, others can even display a smattering of Doom – again, none of these can be considered full-blown representation of those styles (I can hear the ‘purists’ having a communal prolapse!), but rather our absorption of it and reinterpretation through our Terminatryx filter.
Sonja: “Alternative” has become such a wide term, but people who like these mentioned genres can all find something in our music. Different people hear different things in it, and it projects both energy and repose when needed.
How would you define your work?
Paul: An audio-visual journey – while set in its intent, always able to morph and expand as we try to create music as true and honest to ourselves as possible.
Sonja: It is a journey into something new, with lots of winding in the road.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Paul: In the early stages it was far more basic (yet effective). For those who had a PS2 console, there was a music game MTV Music Generator 2 – we used this as a basis to create loops, samples and various electronic components for song structures. On top of this I added bass guitar as basic guides for the riffs (with distortion FX), and Sonja’s vocals. We used the PC programme Acid as our recording method (but after getting a Mac, we invested in Pro Tools, with which we recorded our self-titled debut album, released in 2008). In 2003 our first guitarist Tom left for Scotland, so I was forced to pick up a guitar for the first time, but it wasn’t too painful as I pretty much approach the bass as a guitar (and this led directly to our guitar sound and style).
With the addition of Ronnie on live drums and Patrick on guitar, the music shifted from a far more clinical electronic basis to gaining a more organic atmosphere. “Remyx v1.0”, the full remix album of the debut by local and international remixers (2011) also had a more electronic feel and dance-floor accessibility to it, but with our latest album “Shadow” (2014) that fusion of Industrial / Electronic and organic Metal reached an almost perfect match. Theo Crous co-produced it with me and our combined experience and his technical knowhow in his studio resulted in an album with real impact.
We’ve also evolved from a predominantly more in-your-face attack, into a more matured balance of intensity and subtlety (a lot of this attributed to Sonja co-writing many of the songs on the new album, and a natural evolution in ones experience). In a live environment we combine the pounding debut material with live versions of some of the remixes and of course the new stuff, for a very cool blend of energies conveyed to the audience (in stead of limited to either a total barrage or chilled mood – not all songs can necessarily translate well live) – Life is a balance and we like to convey that fluctuation with valleys and peaks. Everyone finds something different in our songs, some preferring the older ones, others the new (many don’t like it at all), but we’d like to strike that balance to have someone dig everything we do without forcing it into a popular / commercial niche.
Sonja: If I speak for myself on this question, I can truly say that I knew very little of the process of developing a sound or writing a song. My ability grew along with the band. My involvement in our other project, The Makabra Ensemble, assisted me to a great extent with the basics of creating a song and sound.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Paul: Where would you like me to start?(!) Besides financing your own work and hoping you’ll recoup (because it is not exactly radio pulp), one of the biggest challenges would be to reach as many people as possible – the endless goal of all bands from all genres. You can never have too many people to be into your music – too few, yes, but never too many. While we’re hardly commercial, we also don’t want to be so far underground that no-one has access to it (and spend a fortune on creating music no-one can hear – art must be shared, legally, of course…). But having said that, there is just so much music out there and with the easy accessibility of it, the listener has become spoiled for choice – there’s so much to skip through, a lot may get overlooked, and new bands give everything away for free in stead of selectively – together with illegal downloads, this is creating a culture where it’s expected to be a free public service). That’s why it is important for bands to have something unique about them – unfortunately that has resulted in attention seeking pandering tactics (especially from mainstream Pop morons – while it works and they’re raking it in, this is something we could never feel at ease with).
I wouldn’t say needing to expand your audience is a challenge to overcome, but more an ongoing process that never stops.
Sonja: It is not always easy to stay relevant and in a world that moves at lightning speed it can feel like a marathon. Shortly after finishing our new album “Shadow” some of the first questions I got was, “so when can we expect the next one”…! People don’t always realize what an indie band has to do and sacrifice to get a decent sounding project out there… it takes time, money, more money and serious commitment and teamwork to end up with a great product (all with the uncertainty whether people will take to it). Cost-wise we didn’t overcome that issue, but it was alleviated somewhat by generous crowd-funding supporters from around the world having enough faith in us to back the project and put their money where their mouth is.
Paul: Those questions on “when’s the next one coming out” is also a symptom of the new instant on-line consumption of music. Chill the fuck out, relax, let it dissolve into your being, let it simmer, consume it slowly and let it consume you, in stead of flicking wildly though endless playlist and losing that important connection we used to have with music, and the way it speaks to us.
The title track from your newest album “Shadow” is a beautiful and hauntingly melodic piece (in my trollish opinion) – what has been the reception to the release of the video and the album as a whole?
Paul: Both the album and the title track’s music video received glowing reviews (to date we’ve tracked around 20 overwhelmingly positive reviews from all over the globe, ratings in the upper echelons with some of them hitting near- to full scores). Where trolls so easily tear into a music video with dumb, ludicrous comments and ripping it for the sake of ripping it, currently people have only had praise for the video, which is encouraging, as a lot of work and sacrifice go into making our videos as internationally competitive as possible.
Sonja: A large amount of people from all over the planet also contact us directly via Twitter and Facebook to tell us how much they love the album and the video. The “Shadow” video was selected to screen in Canada at the Montreal Comicon’s Horrorfest!
Paul: There are still quite a few music videos on their way for this album – keep an eye out at YouTube.
We produce all our own music videos, and I directed all of our previous ones. Sonja had a specific idea for “Shadow”, so I suggested she handle the direction this time as well (with me co-directing) – which turned out to be a very good call.
Sonja: We wanted to portray a séance in a video for a very long time, but we never had a song where it would fit. “Shadow” lent itself to this scenario very well. We wanted to keep the look clean and simple, with a timeless retro feel. What you get is the glimpse of an incident at a séance – We don’t know the characters and we observe the event as it takes place, simple, stylish and eerily stunning, with a chilling conclusion.
We love making movies and combining it with our music is a perfect match. We don’t get a fortune thrown at us by a record company to make a killer video – we have to do it ourselves and rely on being creative with our execution. The ectoplasm VFX was going to be very costly, but just like our previous productions, we’re privileged to have friends and connections who assist us to create something memorable, professional and of international standard. Jean-Pierre Allers, a friend of our cinematographer Leon Visser took care of the ectoplasm FX. He was involved in a car accident while working on it, so it took a bit longer than anticipated (but it led to the new release aptly launching on Friday the 13th). We wanted the look to be a departure from our previous videos and, whilst in keeping with the “supernatural” theme of our videos, we opted for black and white, going full circle back to our very first clip for “Midnight”, which is also black & white with a very basic but effective premise.
Paul: We got a great Sony camera from Media Film Service in Cape Town that shoots high speed 4K, and one Saturday late March we blacked out a storage area at (frequent collaborators) Cosmesis Advanced Prosthetic Studios, set up the circular dolly tracks and lighting, and hammered it out (but with a whole lot of pre-production and hard labour to make it happen). Leon also edited and graded the final cut. The response has been very positive.
Who shot first Han Solo or Greedo?
Sonja: Greedo shot first 🙂 In the original release Han shot first, but George Lucas was scared that he would come across as too evil. The 1997 re-release saw an altered scene showing Greedo shooting first and Han retaliating by killing him. I personally prefer the original 🙂
Paul: Sonja is the Star Wars super fan in Terminatryx (watching them almost daily as a kid in the late-’70s / early-’80s), but from what I can remember, and his personality dictating it, the hothead racist Han shot first! OK, that’s maybe a bit harsh (not the hothead bit), but I don’t like the fact that Lucas went out and altered “history” (like Spielberg replacing the agents’ shotguns in the E.T. re-release with walkie-talkies!) But I guess if musicians are aloud to remix their own songs, moviemakers should have the freedom to do so as well (but the Star Wars universe / culture / mythology is such a huge one, the slightest tampering can cause an uproar).
How has being a South African Band influenced you if at all?
Paul: In many ways the isolation (which is far less extreme than when I started playing Metal / Alternative music in the mid- to late-’80s with my band V.O.D) has forced us to find our own style and approach. The lack of bands here in our style was also a motivating factor.
Sonja: The South African Alternative scene is sadly not as big as we’d like it to be, and pales in comparison to other parts of the world – it is unfortunately also the nature of our geography. Abroad this can become a sustainable career, where here it has to be squeezed in during your free time… Of the Alternative genres, Metal seems the most active. The Punk scene is waning, I can’t think of a single Gothic band, and Industrial bands are virtually non-existent. Rockabilly seems to be having an upswing (our drummer Ronnie also starting one, The Flaming Devilles). So, by default we need to link with Metal bands and shows – while this is no problem for us, we would like to diversify and play with bands of other Alternative styles.
Paul: The thing is, the local audience is there for Alternative music, they just choose not to be as active in supporting local acts as international ones – when a band like Rammstein or Lamb Of God tours SA, you can get over 5000 people to come out of the woodwork and pay 10 to 30 times the amount for one band compared to a show with up to 5 local acts – and you won’t see 90% of them at these local shows… While unfortunate, that’s their choice and you can’t hold it against them – freedom of choice and all(!)
Do you see more of a following in SA for your music in the future?
Paul: We’re always optimistic (but also realistic!)
Unless our music conforms to certain commercial prescripts appealing to the homogenized hip-hop and sports-mad nation, the local public won’t see beyond what they think they’re expected to like – expendable fast food music that passes by without much taste, filling gaps between work and going out on the town.
Maybe our remixes can pique some interest and have people check out the rest of our stuff.
But we have faith that younger listeners will continue to think for themselves in what they like, and what they’re expected to – not faux rebellion, but a real liking for that which is different.
Sonja: We’re not Pop enough to afford a publicist and marketing team to get us out there, so we bite down and do it ourselves, but want to reach people who would actually like our music for real. For that you have to cast your net wide, as you don’t know where those individuals may be hiding, those who can become one of your biggest supporters. This way we have been reaching wider press here and especially abroad (although mostly alternative press), and we expect these ripple effects to translate into local music lovers who lean towards the alternative to get into our music.
Paul: But, with our fusion of Alternative styles, people who like those specific flavours are often very set in having it adhere strictly to those foundations, so it may not be heavy enough for a total Metalhead, can prove too hectic for a Goth on the other end of the scale, or not electronic, distorted or danceable enough for an Industrialist…
Sonja: Some people may also like our music videos, but not necessarily the music…
What’s the ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
Paul: We want to make cool audio and visual art with longevity that both we and the people enjoy, not necessarily pushing boundaries or causing controversy for the sake of it, but thought-provoking music that stays with people when they hear it. We don’t care much for fame, and to get fortune you need to compromise what you’re doing to go mainstream. We’ve put enough money and energy into this monster, so we certainly won’t turn down fortune if it comes our way. What we would love is to have our music sustain us (not turn us into gold-chain wearing idiots!).
Sonja: I agree wholeheartedly with Paul on this one, Terminatryx is more an art project to me than a band. I love what it is, what it has become and am looking forward to see what it is going to turn into 🙂
What are your future plans?
Sonja: We’ll be pushing the new “Shadow” album by playing strategic live shows (like the Metal4Africa Winterfest and Women In Metal 2014), accessing as much press as we can, and will also be producing as many music videos for the songs as possible.
Paul: As a more long term mission, we would like to focus beyond South Africa in spreading the word – not relocating, but networking to get the word and our music out there. We have received encouragement from many other places in the world and would like to focus our attention in those areas where we are finding receptive prospects. That in itself is of course virtually a full time job, so we’ll do it in our way.
Sonja: We’re confirmed for Witchfest alongside international bands Epica, Kataklysm, Belphegor, Septic Flesh, Alestorm, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Aborted (and Paul’s band) V.O.D, plus loads of other local acts (early-April 2015) – it is set to be the biggest Metal event in the country, and we’re happy to add our twist on the genre to proceedings.
Paul: Besides more music videos, we’re also contributing a track to the upcoming Ingrid Jonker compilation later in the year (with local artists creating songs for this legendary South African poet’s work – spearheaded by her daughter Simone and her husband).
Any last words?
Sonja: Our love of movies not only find its way into our music and videos, but we also aspire to make them and created & run various film festivals like the HorrorFest, Celludroid Sci-Fi & Fantasy Film Festival and the X Fest. From the HorrorFest flowed our linked movie soundtrack project The Makabra Ensemble with which we compose and perform new soundtracks to legendary silent films with a wide range of instrument, voice, FX & more (like Nosferatu, Metropolis, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, Haxan etc.) and perform it live beneath the big screen (with our collaborator friends Sean and Fuzzy from Lark, and violin player Matthijs Van Dijk). At our HorrorFest’s 10th anniversary over Halloween we plan on performing our soundtrack for the German expressionist classic, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari.
Paul: TERMINATRYX “Shadow” and previous releases are available on CD and DVD at selected SA stores, and on-line stores like Oneworld, Kalahari, Takealot, Subterania, as well as reputed on-line locations including , Bandcamp, Soundcloud and others, as well as updates on Facebook.
Sonja: Thanks for the interview, and thanks for reading!