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©2006 website by Gone West

Mankind Is Obsolete

Interview for Girls and Corpses Magazine
by Ron Sawyer

(courtesy of Livid Looking Glass webzine)

©2006 GirlsandCorpses.com. All rights reserved.

issue #9

Singer Natasha Cox and Drummer Jon Siren relocated from different parts of the US to Los Angeles where they met and started the dark rock band Mankind Is Obsolete. A few years later and a couple line-up changes and they now have two albums under their belt (Metamoraph and Rise). We met up with them and keyboardist Brian as they prepared for their North American summer tour.

G&C: It's a miracle you guys were able to come down for this interview because Natasha, you had a bit of a mishap last night.

Natasha: Yeah, our stage shows tend to get rather physically intense and I ended up throwing out my back and ended up in the emergency room.

Brian: How did you do that, by the way? We played a really fun show at the Cat Club in Hollywood and it was a really small stage...

Natasha: It was too small for me.

Brian: What did you do?

Natasha: Well, I think I move a lot. Everything is sort of a blur when I move onstage.

Brian: Natasha went unconscious. But she kept singing.

G&C: The amazing thing is that you managed to finish your show before having to go to the emergency room, where you spent the entire night.

G&C: Well, I'm glad you're OK and that you were still able to come down for this interview. Tell us about the history of MKIO and how you started out.

Jon: I met Natasha at music school. I'm actually wearing the T-shirt that helped start this band. We were both wearing a Sisters Of Mercy shirt, actually, and I said, "Nice shirt," to her in the hallway. And from that point on, we started discussing music, since we were at a music school.

G&C: Musical love at first sight.

Jon: Yeah, musical love at first sight. So we found kindred spirits. That was really cool. So for a while, we were just talking about music. We weren't really proactive at it as much in the beginning. But from that point, we started recording demos at my place and at her place and that slowly turned into a band. Then, we met Mark, our guitar player. We recorded Metamorph, which is our first album and went through our base player line-up and also a different keyboardist line-up. Eventually, Brian came into the mix too. So now it's Brian on keyboards, Gordon on bass, me on drums, Natasha on vocals and Mark on guitar.

Brian: And Natasha plays guitar too.

Natasha: Yes.

Jon: We all do other instruments and duties in the band but I guess those are our general roles.

Natasha: Actually, yeah, the other guys sing as well, besides Jon. Jon is not allowed to have a mic.

Brian: Damn straight.

G&C: Sorry?

Brian: Oh, I was just...

Jon: He's trying to be cool but it's not working.

Brian: It was a lame comment, but you know. But he is correct. I'm the man, basically. That's what he was trying to say but it came out wrong.

Jon: Maybe when I'm out of the picture you're the man but I'm pretty much the man and we all know that, so...

Natasha: This is what I deal with on tour.

G&C: Yeah, I can imagine.

Natasha: Imagine nine weeks of this, ladies.

Jon: Yeah, it's gonna be a 'bro'deo in the car, I guess, because it's gonna be pretty much a bunch of dudes and then Natasha. But we might have another girl with us. It might balance...

Natasha: Yes, I'm working on that. I need girl time.

G&C: You don't want to be the man?

Natasha: No.

Jon: She might balance the estrogen factor out there. We'll still talk about each other's moms and make lewd comments to each other the whole time and be gross and disgusting and probably fart a lot so, anyway, yeah.

Natasha: Actually, that brings up touring. We're working on finalizing our nine-week tour. We're trying to finish up booking all the shows and trying to really get our street team together, promoting it, passing out lots of CD demos, flyers, posters, all that good stuff. So, it's been intensive, getting ready.

G&C: Tell us about the current music that you're working on.

Natasha: Yeah, we're actually finishing up a track that we wrote for our photographer. He has a website called timeofthefaeries.com. An amazing photographer. He does a lot of fantasy/sci-fi kind of photography and he's about to get published. So he's putting together a trailer that we're writing music for. We've actually been performing this song live, which is really neat because it's our first fully collaborative song. It's called "Awake."

Brian: In regards to "Awake", what's been interesting is that this is the first time I've had the opportunity to write with other people and it's a really cool learning experience because we all come from different schools of composing music. I've noticed that and it's really been a cool experience both lyric and music writing. We all start writing songs differently, we develop songs differently and we all have different takes on how lyrics should go into the song, where they should go. It's been interesting, it's been a challenge and it's been a learning experience at the same time and I'm looking forward to writing more songs because I feel that we're getting into our groove as a band as far as composing together. Of course, a lot of what was written on Rise and Metamorph sort of stem from Jon and Natasha's brains. So it's gonna be cool, a lot of the stuff we're working on. We also wrote a new song called "Picking At The Scab", which we perform live as well, and that was collaborative as well.

G&C: A lot of your older music was mainly written by Jon and Natasha. For your newer tracks do you each share in the songwriting duties?

Brian: Well, actually, the songs we just spoke about, "Awake" and "Picking At the Scab" I think also sort of stemmed from Jon's ideas so we actually haven't really started off from scratch yet. Well, yeah, we have worked on some stuff.

Jon: Recently we've come together and jammed a little bit, and that's traditionally, I mean, at least for myself, I've never been really good at writing in that sort of a method where we all sit in a room and kind of jam out a part. Usually, a lot of the process for composing music, at least from my end, just comes with me sitting at a computer with maybe a guitar or piano nearby and I record tracks individually and I record a melody line and maybe a base line and I start off there or I start off with a drum beat and a potential vocal part. It just really depends. So this is definitely kind of an interesting way of writing for us because traditionally speaking as well, electronic music that's heavy on the loops and sequences is usually always programmed first with many bands and artists. We're still going to be probably using a lot of those elements in newer stuff but we are going to try different methods of writing. It's not gonna just be like me on a computer or Natasha at home with a piano or something like that. We're gonna come together a little more often. We'll start off with an idea possibly at times and then pass the buck around, you know, where everyone will take their interpretation because we all write at home.

G&C: I imagine it meshes well since, as you say, you all come from different musical backgrounds.

Jon: Yeah, and we're all composers as well too. We're not just instrumentalists. So that's kind of an interesting thing, whereas before, with the band members in the Metamorph line-up it was pretty much Natasha and myself that were the only composers. You know, Mark and Jamie and Nathan weren't really composers so now it's kind of cool that we have a line-up with people that can add their two cents to the artistic vision.

Natasha: Yeah, because I think there's a lot of untapped potential in the band because everybody is so creative and expressive and I think it's great that, you know, everybody has a chance to sing, everybody has a chance to play, everybody has a chance to write because that to me is like a real band. It feels like a real community and very collaborative, which is how I've always viewed what a band should be.

G&C: Some of you have some other projects you're working on. Brian, you're doing an Internet radio show, right?

Brian: Yeah, I got involved with a website called www.gamemusicradio.com. It's a free 24/7 streaming video game music site that plays all video game music. We have two original programs on there that I host. One's called Reloaded. It's a composer interview show, so I interview video game composers. It's a lot of fun. And I co-host a show with a good friend of mine, Becky Young called The Next Level and that's more of a gamer community show where we interview musicians, video game cover bands, recording artists that do video game music, as well as just interesting people in the video game industry, gaming icons and such. And we play music on the show. We have musicians come in and actually perform live. It's a lot of fun and it's been a really cool opportunity to do some fun stuff in the video game industry. I do a lot of work in the video game industry. I compose music for games and work with an agency that represents video game composers and stuff. It's a really fun way to compose music and it's a different avenue to express music.

G&C: Jon, you're next.

Jon: Well, I also play in a Depeche Mode cover band as well. That's pretty fun. We do a lot of gigs, play a lot of '80s clubs around Los Angeles County but we also do the old casino circuit too, occasionally. And actually, some recent news on that which is kind of cool, the singer of our band, Chris is now singing for Information Society, so if you live in South America then go check them out because they're gonna be there this summer.

G&C: Where is Information Society based out of?

Jon: I guess from Minneapolis, originally, but now, the remaining members are out here in California.

G&C: Which Depeche Mode guy are you?

Jon: I'm the random drummer guy that they never usually talk about. We do have a Martin Gore and a Dave Gahan but we don't get super shtickish with the whole thing. Our guitar player/keyboardists guy doesn't wear that weird feather thing that Martin Gore has or anything like that but they kind of play those roles in some ways.

G&C: I know you have a really loyal fan base in different cities. On your previous tours, what has the experience with the fans been like?

Jon: We started touring right from the get go. As soon as we rounded the live band together about three years ago is when the live incarnation of MKIO formed. We immediately started doing small tours, maybe just a week long. The fan base, definitely with the advent of Myspace and word of mouth and just general Internet chat rooms, you name it, the name has gotten around. Each tour seems to be a little bit more successful as far as numbers, as far as people coming out. I mean, the booking process is still always difficult because it just is. I don't really understand that one but I book a lot of the shows myself.

G&C: It must be a strategic nightmare.

Jon: Yeah, it is. It's a lot like... I'm a big fan of games like Risk and Axis & Allies and it feels a lot like that. This tour has been really complicated because it's just huge. I mean, the largest tour we ever went on as a band was close to three weeks and this one is nine weeks so it's been a real challenge. I started booking back in January and I'm still trying to book dates.

G&C: What cities will you be playing in on this tour?

Jon: We're gonna be starting off in Flagstaff and we'll most likely end in San Francisco I guess on August 26th, I believe. A few places that I personally enjoy hitting, and I know the band probably feels this way too, El Paso's really cool, Phoenix is always really nice. I mean, the fans there and the people in general and the promoters are all really good people to work with and they really enjoy live music in some of those towns. Holbrook, Arizona which is a Navajo reservation always puts on a festival every year and they've been inviting us back each year. The fans out there are extremely appreciative of the bands that play there and have shown a lot of support. And I'm looking forward to playing more shows on the East Coast and our first international appearance in Canada as well.

G&C: It's usually a nightmare for bands dealing with Canadian border crossings. Did you get that sorted out?

Brian: Well, I'm basically gonna jump out and run as fast as I can with a hood on and a giant cape

Jon: I'll just gun it with the van pretty much right through. We'll nail through any barricades. We'll have machine guns and will be wearing ski mask and we'll make sure to take off our license plates when we do it.

Brian: We just got a new van, actually. The Vanawar is what we call it. It's kind of cool because, this is another advantage to seeing us live because you can check out our van afterwards, because it talks. When it backs up it, you know...

Jon: Can you imitate it for us?

Brian: Basically, what does it say? "Attention, please. This vehicle is backing up." But it's in a female. It's more soothing because it's female, right. Actually, our van came from a middle school so they sort of like pimped it out school-style, so it had to have all these safety features.

Jon: Equipped with lots of boogers and really bad graffiti as well on the inside.

Brian: But the seats are plastic covered, you know.

G&C: Yeah, that's important when you're in a band.

Jon: You check underneath the seats. That's where the good stuff is.

G&C: Natasha is cringing.

Jon: Yeah, we pretty much gross her out because there's a lot of testosterone in this band.

Natasha: The funny thing is that after three years you'd think I'd be used to it. But you guys continue to gross me out, so congratulations. That is quite a feat.

G&C: Remember, Natasha, the tour is only nine weeks.

Natasha: This is true. No, I do love my boys. We are definitely a family.

Brian: We're gonna totally pimp out our van though. We're sort of like the hi-tech/lo-tech band. Because we're DIY, we don't really have a lot of money to afford a lot of this crazy insane-o equipment.

Jon: What are you talking about? We've got sweet rims on the van.

Brian: But it's cool, we've all got laptops and we're gonna get the extra car battery action going on. It will be a van with a trailer and like five or six people with all laptops going at the same time. And we're gonna write on the road as well. We're gonna have mini controllers and soft synths running on our laptops because we really want to keep that inspiration going. Because when you play live, those of you that are in a band, I'm sure you can agree to this, that when you play live it's so inspiring that you just wanna go home and write. So we want to have the capability to compose on the road.

Natasha: Oh, yeah, you're in so many different environments, I mean, you're meeting people from all over. They have so many different backgrounds and cultures. It is very inspiring to be on the road.

G&C: Besides your upcoming tour, what are you future plans?

Brian: We see a very, very bright light, I guess.

Jon: There's no light at the end of the tunnel.

Brian: Oh, there's light and it's bright, baby.

Natasha: I guess it's always difficult to really say what will happen in the future. I mean, it's OK for us perhaps to plan six months in advance. So, for instance, that's why we have the tour that we're planning, and writing new songs. I think it's just so much easier to just work on what you have at hand and so I know that in the moment, right now, the band is completely focused on the tour and writing the best material that we possibly can.