Frequently Asked Questions
Hey there, Klok Kaos here.
I’ve found after having done this for two decades or so, the vast majority of questions fielded to me are the same; asked over and over again and are answered almost the same over the years regardless of how many times they are asked. This is an attempt to clear up a lot of the same questions that get asked a lot and hopefully help generate some better, more thoughtful interview questions in the future.
The questions are listed roughly in order of frequency I hear them and hopefully this helps inform some that are looking to learn a bit more about my work.
-Klok Kaos, AKK
What genre is A kLoKwErK kAoS?
I hate this question for all the reasons.
Short answer: Industrial.
Long answer: Most of my stuff doesn’t fit neatly into the popular vision of the industrial genre. I often mix in plenty of metal, electro and occasionally some weird stuff you might not expect like polka, Japanese koto and internet dial up noises (and much, much more) in more experimental tracks.
I tend to feel any artist worth their salt is defined more by their band/artist name than a genre. Consider that Slipknot is generally considered a metal band. So is Anthrax. They sound practically nothing alike aside from some exceptionally vague notions of what metal is (distorted guitars).
Good artists, in my opinion, also reinvent themselves and their sound from album to album, touching base with the core of their niche but elevating and experimenting in different directions. I think a good example of this is Radiohead. If you listen to their albums in order you can feel the difference and change in style happening gradually and over time the first album and the most recent stuff sounds practically nothing alike but all of it is still quintessentially Radiohead. The point being good artists evolve as well and you may not love every song the same by an artist.
So to be clear, I don’t like the concept of genres. I think they are useful as conceptual shorthand in some cases, but more often they are a manipulative marketing tool. “Do you like X band/artist? Well not try a new and refreshing Y band/artist Available now on iTunes!?! Buy now and you’ll get a free slapchop pro, absolutely free! As seen on TV!”.
The whole thing just feels really insulting and reductive to me. Are Snoop Dog, Biggie and NWA all rap artists even from approximately the same time period and even sometimes have similar messaging? Sure, but their art is distinct and prolific and worth a critical listen to each to gain the most perspective and insight from their work. The whole feel of each is completely different. Consequently, Kanye West is also a rapper, and while he does have some dope tracks (judge me if you will, but Power still gives me tingles), I feel dirty even suggesting a comparison between him and the prior three because the contrast is so stark.
The kinds of comparisons made with genres are frequently ridiculous to me to the point where I liken it to suggesting someone try apples because they say they like bananas. Both are food, fruits even, but absolutely nothing alike in all the ways that matter.
For better or worse, I’d rather the concept of musical genres go the way of the dinosaur because in my opinion they really do very little beyond base stereotyping and marketing to make parasites even more absurdly wealthy in most cases. The artist already has a Label you can refer to, it’s their (group) name, album and song title depending on how specific you want get and even then none of that should tell you on it’s own if it’s any good until you listen to it for yourself.
What does the band name mean? How did you come up with the name?
Clockwork: A mechanism that progresses on a regular/ordered interval
Chaos: Disorder in a randomly occurring sequence
Mashing the two together was done intentionally to demonstrate dichotomy and paradox, conceptually. I also wanted the title to be descriptive of the music.
I came up with it before I officially released Life in the Garden and Other Such Nonsense. Some friends and neighbors I showed some of my demos to kept asking me “What’s the name of your band?” I never really thought about it at that point. I wanted something that would describe the sound and meet the concept idea I had. It was also important to me that it have a three letter abbreviation that wasn’t explicitly taken for marketing purposes. Similarly starting with the letter “a” in those times was a relevant thing because CD bins were the primary way people shopped for music in those days, so being in the A section meant more people would see a potential physical release- at the time I still had the delusional fantasy in my head I’d be a rich rock and roll celebrity superstar in no time (and little effort) which looking back on is very cute and funny to me. To me, at the time, thinking about grandiose marketing stuff seemed important because it would only be a matter of time until I was discovered and made famous (lol).
The name itself was crafted while I was in a shitty studio apartment with my then girlfriend while getting ready, brushing my teeth for a shitty fast food job. I looked up in the mirror, stressing about finding a name and saw a poster behind me I had hung on the door from a dungeons and dragons campaign setting (Planescape) that had a map of the planes. I noticed that the planes were positioned on the wheel so that the two most extreme realms were positioned opposite each other (mechanus and Limbo, though i was more partial to the concept of pandemonium as it had a bit more of a nefarious bend). I put the two together and came up with the name “A kLoKwErK kAoS”.
It’s spelled funky because I was a bit of an edgelord in my youth (arguably still am, but in a tongue in cheek way) and I remembered seeing a Mudvayne promo with the alternating upper/lower case, and I really “dug” them at the time. Over time it just kind of stuck and turned into branding. Side note: I later appeared in one of their (Mudvayne's) music videos.
That said, I later learned that the weird spelling was actually how you spell “a clockwork chaos” in German which is neat since I have some German/Polish ancestry, and Germany is typically associated with the industrial scene. That said, the two “K’s” are not at all indicative of a third “K” if you get my meaning. I’m very vocal about being staunchly against fascism and racism and pretty much any "ism" that marginalizes vulnerable people. I mention because I’ve definitely met some folks that presume/assume there is some connection there, especially at the time when I did a song called “gas chamber”, which was about the horrors of the holocaust, not glamourizing it (classic example of people taking an artistic message and perverting the concept) and I in no way want to be associated with anything like that.
I'd rather say I more closely identify with, though I'm not the man he is, Corpsegrinder, in that the man performs about slicing up and fucking bodies but also donates toys to charity for underprivilaged children and plays too much WoW. To me that's the way to do it, enjoy what you like even if it's dorky, do what you can for those less fortunate, and make heavy music that repulses the right wing and other people that take something you're doing way too literally/seriously/out of context.
That noted, I learned pretty early on you can't control how people view your art and what they take away from it. I knew this happened somewhat historically from reading some old Nirvana liner notes as a teen, but I really wasn't prepared for when it actually happened and I realized people would pervert what I was doing and I had no control over that other than to say my piece and let my work speak for itself. I also kinda get it, when you make art that pushes boundaries in a questionable way and has darker undertones it's bound to attract some of the wrong crowd at least some of the time (if not more), and there's not much you can do about it beyond what I just mentioned.
At the time that lesson was kind of a big deal to me. That's what "The music speaks to you" was more or less about, kind of a tongue in cheek making fun of people that claim music, dungeons and dragons, the devil, etc. made them do it. Now though, especially with the internet becoming the background noise of existence and the modern political climate in the US, it just seems obvious and inevitable that people can, will and even sometimes/often intentionally pervert an idea and take it out of context to serve their own ends.
Can you explain the band symbol?
I’ll start by saying it always feels a bit weird when people call it a band since it’s not really a group per se and I’m almost always writing solo outside of a handful of collaborations over the years. Strictly speaking I’m a recording artist. I do sometimes have other live instrumentalists on stage, but they aren’t generally part of the song writing process in the studio versions of the songs.
The symbol though, that’s something I designed because I wanted a cool logo that fit. I think it was developed in 2005 or 2006? I can't recall exactly.
Firstly I have a weird obsession with snakes in that they freak me out (fear of, not phobia) in person, especially highly poisonous ones. I don't like touching them or any creepy crawlies really. I also think they are cool animals and symbols (representing both death/danger and life/medicine). The oroborus is also present there, mirrored on both sides to show duality and of course, the perpetual cycle of life feeding on life.
The slashes through the circles are meant to be firstly an embellishment, but I also drew influence from the Legacy of Kain pillar of conflict symbol. It’s not an exact duplicate, but if you know what you’re looking for you’ll see the resemblance.
All of that is held together by a balance triangle/pyramid. I felt like those elements helped reflect the music.
Is Klok Kaos your legal name?
Yes. I changed it in 2006. I was firstly sometimes/often called “the klokwerk kaos guy” by people that didn’t know me personally. I was also always into the idea of being a rock and roll star, ie, the guy with the band that is also his name. At this point it’s been so long since I changed it I’ve had the name almost as long as I had my birth name, so it’s not really a big deal these days even though it still catches people off guard sometimes, usually when I’m doing something relatively mundane like renewing my driver’s licence or paying a bill at a restaurant.
What are your primary music influences? What bands are similar that I may have heard?
The biggest ones are pretty obviously (to me anyway) Skinny Puppy/Ohgr and Ministry even though I don't think my stuff sounds/feels like either of them outside of some superficial similarities, they are easily the biggest influences to my work. I’ve also got a list of about 100 bands or so I can say have influenced me in very specific ways. That said, to grow as an artist over decades you kind of need to listen to and learn about all kinds of music and you draw influences from any media and experiences you ingest in total. Slightly related, I feel like the only show I’ve played where I felt my music really fit in well with a well known band was Genitorturers.
Regrettably, I was also influenced a lot in my early years by Marilyn Manson, and while I still like his early albums, when it became evident (even before he was name checked by ERW) he was not practicing consensual BDSM and was instead a predatory abuser (I really hate that the Right winger Evangelicals were right on this one, but credit where credit is due, they called it, and in hindsight, literally nobody was shocked except the stupid by the revelation). That said, while I still like the old tunes, I won’t support him financially, or at least not until he has made public amends for his transgressions to those he’s hurt in a meaningful way that shows growth, or alternately, that he's fully exhonerated of all accusations (though I really wouldn't hold my breath on that given the pattern behavior over years cited by multiple accusers and his own admissions).
I can also state that while my music sounds nothing like theirs, I've almost always tried to channel the story telling aspect of Pink Floyd (and other bands that work in conceptual modalities) into my albums with exception to the AKK presents stuff which was just one off experimental demo stuff that was otherwise unsuitable for AKK and I'd say about 1/2 to 1/3 of those tracks are still able to stand on their own today. I know it's a bit cliché and comes off a little pompous/self-absorbed, but I'm definitely someone that considers themselves an artist as a song writer since I'm working at making things to be experienced and meditated on rather than just catchy pop tunes in most cases.
When you speak on Consensual BDSM, is that something you’re some kind of expert in?
There isn’t a degree you get for being knowledgeable about BDSM or practicing in a reasonably safe and consensual way, at best you get a reputation and that's a system entirely prone to (and rife with) abuse, so, no, nobody is technically an expert. That said I do present on the topic to promote safety as a well regarded person of knowledge, have taught internationally on the subject, and also created and run the BDSMwiki.info as a free informational site to help people learn about and explore their adult sexuality with others in a reasonably safe and also mutually consenting manner. It's also safe to say that among well regarded peers I'm considered knowledgeable to educate on a plethora of kink community topics. All that said, the kink community unites under no one idea except perhaps to argue with itself and no actual standard exists to qualify one as an expert.
When is your next live show?
That’s a complicated question. I love performing, genuinely, it gives me life. It's also a net drain on my finances to do the kinds of performance shows I like doing while not being a huge mega rich rock star; incorporating fire breathing, hook suspensions, crazy lights and all kinds of other elements. While doing live shows is marketing that is good for exposing more people to your work, it just doesn’t financially work out to do it regularly for me even though I really wish it did. This isn't all that surprising when you consider I'm not writing mainstream pop hits to dance to and my writing style is often very intentionally abrasive and thus doesn't generate a mass appeal.
For a long time my answer to this question was “when someone picks up the phone and makes me a decent offer” and I did actually have some stuff in the pipe for 2020, but obviously then the CoronaVirus pandemic hit and threw a wrench into that set of plans. Since I got the vaccine the answer has again returned to “when someone picks up the phone and makes me a decent offer”. Essentially, whenever a good opportunity comes up I'll be on it, though I expect live shows will still be difficult even for bands with routine tour schedules until relative herd immunity is achieved, at least here in the US.
Do you ever experience performance anxiety?
Yes and no. The first time I hit an actual stage with a legit audience that paid to see me with people I didn’t know attending I was extremely freaked out for about an hour before I started, then within a minute of picking up the mic and playing I was in my groove and forgot about the anxiety.
Since then I always tell myself I won’t freak out like that, but I always have a split second when I come out on stage where I get a mini panic attack and it’s gone in about a split second so much so that nobody seems to notice and people tell me how confident my performance is, not knowing that I always have a massive wave of anxiety with every show, even though it’s managed to the point of being extremely brief and unnoticeable.
I like to tell people about that because I think it helps newer artists to know they aren’t wrong to experience something like this when performing and hopefully that encourages somebody.
In the early days of AKK you did a lot of vocals and lyrics, in more recent years most of the music is instrumental or supplemented with sound bites. Why did that change? When are you going to do vocals/lyrics again?
Technically I never stopped, it’s just as I get older I do less and less lyrics since I’ve already said a lot across my albums and I still sometimes create some of the sound bites I use myself with my own voice. I just have less to say that feels important as I get older. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, it’s just more rare.
I also like the idea that the musical experience is the message, because people almost never understood what my old lyrics were about anyway, and this way people can have the song mean whatever it means to them and be good with that.
Additionally I'm not trying to retread material I've already written. For my money, I'd rather support a band that takes risks and moves in new directions and fails (musically, lyrically, tonally), than one that cashes in by rewriting the same album.
That said, lyrics and vocals will always happen when they need to, it’s just more rare these days.
What is your favorite song or album you’ve written?
Generally speaking I’m most excited about whatever I just released/wrote.
That said I don’t favor one album or another, but every album has a couple bangers I can retro enjoy at pretty much any time, even the first one.
I know it's dorky to listen to your own music to some, but a big part of the reason I make it is because I actually like what I make and to be frank, there isn't a whole lot out there that feels like it in my experience. It's also fun sometimes just to go back and listen to the older records because I've written so many songs I sometimes forget they even existed.
This has led to some embarrassing situations however, where someone's like "yeah, track six off your third album, what was that called again?" and I'm like "bro, I have fricken clue". Half the reason the discography is listed on the site is so I don't forget all the albums I've made, much less the specific song titles.
What first got you into music?
So this has some embarrassing tangents, buckle up and enjoy.
I wanted to be a rich rock and roll star. Consequently that never happened as of the time of this writing, but I live comfortably these days and am happy just being able to make music and share it and keep my bills paid. In that vein I also used to do a lot of drugs in my youth, which I’m not proud of but at the time it seemed like a good excuse to get high all the time (self medicating) in that era in my life.
(What follows is a bit of a tangent but I'm hoping it gels in the end).
Later I just kinda grew into sobriety, not really on purpose. Like, I don’t even drink anymore, and I never really “quit” drinking. As it stands I still have a case of beer in the fridge in case I ever want one, but in the last several years I can count the amount of alcoholic beverages I’ve had on one hand and I don’t use other substances anymore.
I’m grateful for that too, I had several near misses in the height of my use. That said, I don’t think drug experimentation is necessarily bad, nor that drugs should be criminalized. I think that in moderation it can be a potentially eye opening experience for some, and in the case of others, micro dosing and prescription narcotic medication has not only improved the mental health and life stability of some, but has certainly saved countless lives from depression and anxiety.
I have a trusted mentor and friend that is a therapist, and he’s told me some pretty insane stories about his patients (keeping them anonymous of course), and a lot of what that boiled down to was “you help people get as stable as and healthy as you can, and sometimes that means just getting them through today even if the means is questionable and may have hidden taxes and fees associated with it.
This resonated with me a lot as an atheist/anti-theist as it reminded me of the film Religulous (I have some concerns with Bill Maher, but the movie has a really good highlight that resonated with me). In that film Maher interviews now deceased Catholic Priest Reginald Foster. I can’t speak to the rest of his career as I don’t know much of it, but he said, paraphrased, “it’s just stories, you tell people what they need to hear to get through the day and let them believe what they need to”.
As an anti-theist who believes religion is by and large a force for harm, this spoke to me a lot since it was naked and honest. Would I prefer people faced reality as it is and view it through the latest and most thorough science and reason available? Absolutely. But even given my hobby in these areas I can't be responsible enough to know and be an expert in all of it, so how can I expect others to? So yeah, I’d prefer religion not be used as it is a mostly and historically destructive crutch for humanity, but at the same time, if White Jesus makes Bob stop beating his wife and kids and put down the crack pipe, that’s good enough I suppose. While, sure, sociopaths exist, most people are doing the best they can, including believers, including drug addicts, including the mentally ill, and including other less fortunate communities, classes, and designations of people, and also including me when I was struggling against the current.
I mention this because I have a lifelong love-hate relationship with humans in general. I frequently enjoy individuals, almost always hate groups (especially if they have hats, big hats doubly so). Music, today, is a way for me to express myself and communicate/connect with others and a way to document my brain in a sort of diary sort of way to show I was here. This is especially important for me as a legacy to leave since my partner and I are planning/committed to not have children (aside from furbabies, we’re looking into getting a corgi as of this writing).
The point of all that being, I got into music for the wrong reasons, it still ended up being the right path for me and helped shaped me into a better person today, and I expect that others making decisions that aren't great may likely end up benefiting from their experiences as well, and in that I've learned a kind of tolerance (to a degree) and empathy that ended up being a massive boon and helped me to see and understand others better, even when I am diametrically opposed to their belief structures.
That's the professional side of it, not the personal side though.
When I first got into being a listener, I recall I liked Michael Jackson as a young child (bad, smooth criminal, thriller, etc.). Red Red Wine by UB40 and Take On Me by a-ha will also be forever etched in my brain meat.
The first album I ever bought with my own money was Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream, and that's still a baller record (I still really love Silverfuck on that album). I had seen the music video for Disarm back in the ancient times when Mtv actually played music videos and I figured the other popular tracks were pretty decent so I might as well give it a go. It was actually a really intense decision as I grew up poor as hell. Additionally back in those days, if you didn't own the record, you didn't get to hear the music you loved so the stakes were pretty high for my teenage self. It was going to be that or Nevermind (Nirvana), but my buddy had that record and we shared music a lot. Buying an album was also a risk for us poor folks too, since it's possible the record might have one good track on it with the rest being mediocre poo poo (I'm looking at you, 1994's Sponge! /jk... sorta).
I got into Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and early Radiohead a lot around that time also, but I didn't become a ridiculous music enthusiast until junior high school and I first heard Dope Hat by Marilyn Manson and then shortly after The Downward Spiral/Broken/Fixed albums by Nine Inch Nails. To me that sinister element to that track (Dope Hat) was everything I thought was always missing from music up to that point and presented a musical epiphany in my tastes. It's really lame to say out loud, but I'm just into spooky edgelord music and that trend has stuck with me even though my tastes have broadened significantly over the years.
By the end of the years I should have been finishing high school I was a pretty strong disciple of Skinny Puppy and Ministry and it would only be a few more years until I managed put my first band together. I'd been a poet for a while so lyrics and vocals was a good fit for me at the time. A few years after that I went solo, taught myself to play something and started AKK. I'm pretty sure I started the first recordings that would end up being Life in the garden and other such nonsense in 2001, so I would have been about 20 years old at the time even though I didn't release it till 2003.
My first record took a lot of time to develop because I literally had no idea what I was doing, no money and no help while also going through a fair bit of awful and on top of that hating a dead end job that worked me to the bone. I didn't really know any decent musicians outside of my then girlfriend's brother who was a blues guitarist who was really good but he was really kinda no help for what I was doing. He'd say "I don't know, it's not for me but what you're doing is interesting I suppose" which was pretty firmly not all that helpful. I had to save up for an 8 track and barrowed my then partner's keyboard (she used to play it a bit with my first band).
Things were rough but I just knew I needed to do it and make it work... it was a sort of "let the hunger drive you" situation, punk but in a non musical sorta way (poor, rebellious, struggling uphill against established societal power structures). I'm still shocked that any of those songs still hold up to my ears... not the production quality mind you, but the songs are still good jams.
What is your creative process like?
I don’t like this question much.
It’s hard to answer with any degree of regularity. Firstly, every song of the literal hundreds I’ve written is by the nature of it being a different song, a thus was created with a different process by which I came to create it.
I do recall a fun story about one track in particular. I was trying to get a guitarist on board for some live shows at the time and he just didn't understand the process of digital music production, which is weird in retrospect but made sense at the time since nobody was really doing much of that in those days. Anyway, I was showing him briefly some of my software and how I wrote stuff by throwing together some loops and I was trying to explain I could make a song out of just about anything. At one point he points at the screen and goes "what's that do?" and it was a robot voice emulator. I was like "just come up with a line, literally anything and I'll mix it in". He didn't believe me at first so I pressed for literally anything and he goes "I don't know..." and that ended up becoming the song "Earth is for Losers" which was me just demoing some software for that guy but I kinda dug the riffs so I ended up putting it on the record I was working on at the time.
Sometimes when sitting down to write I have an idea for some kind of hook, sometimes I don’t and just make noise till something sounds good to me. I don’t necessarily start by tracking a certain instrument, I just track whatever is in my head and keep fucking with it till I like it. Eventually I end up with a basic “feel” for the song that emerges which helps inform the story I end up telling.
I'd guess that on average most of my stuff is aproximately about 20% knowing what I want going in, 30% happy accidents and 50% dissecting it and fucking with it to make it work.
When it comes to lyrics I’ll usually write stuff down, in the old days in a notebook, but these days in a document with the understanding that I am likely to rearrange, mangle and dissect it, then I pull stuff from it to shape the story of the song that is congruent to what the feel is for me.
With sound bites, I usually have no idea what that is till the end and then I start thinking of things that will fit with the message and story tone I’m trying to create that also fills in the gaps and alters the feel tonally.
Then mix, master and print… and all of that. The process usually takes somewhere between a few hours to a week or two depending on how inspired I’m feeling about the subject and how long the song ends up being.
Sometimes I have an idea or a need for a particular kind of song for an album, sometimes I don’t.
The reason I don’t like this question is because I just said a lot of words that basically mean “I dunno, I just do stuff and a song comes out at the end”. It’s a whole lot of words that don’t mean much and maybe someone finds the description interesting, but I never did when telling it.
I can think of another quasi interesting story. I had written a track with a pretty kick ass riff and threw it on a record. Was chatting with one of my old live guitarists from NY and he asked what I was producing these days. I was like "I dig this track, it kinda reminds me of Master of Puppets a little.". So I show it to him. He goes "No dude. It's not Master of Puppets." I'm like "Nah, you can't hear the drive in the rhythm?", He's like "No, I do. That's E1M1."
"E1M1, from Doom?" I had never bothered to check any of the track names from Doom before, because you know, video game soundtrack from when I was a kid. He pulled up a more recent version by Mick Gordon on youtube.
"Well, I guess I'll just go fuck myself then." I replied. It's not exactly E1M1, but it's close enough where it looks like a pretty huge bite off of it and I certainly played the doom video game as a kid. Sometimes working in seclusion for years on end isn't always a good thing.
As a primarily digital musician, what physical instruments do/did you play? Which is your favorite? Least Favorite?
That depends on how you define “play”. I can get a noise I’ll like and mix into a song out of just about anything, even non traditional and improvised instruments; that said, I don’t consider myself more than moderately talented at best as a multi instrumentalist and don’t think of myself as an instrumentalist.
People that dedicate hundreds and thousands of hours refining their techniques and mastering their sound and improv skills, those are instrumentalists and I have the utmost respect for them. I’m not that. I’m a songwriter and it’s a very different set of creative skills from being an instrumentalist. Consider that I can play an instrument, but I’m not an instrumentalist, and many amazing instrumentalists suck at songwriting but are virtuosos of their chosen instrument.
I can also strum out some Nirvana and other simple tunes, but I hardly think that makes me a guitarist and more makes me a guy with a guitar (not to dismiss Kurt's contributions, I love Nirvana, but the genius of the music is in the song writing, not the technique, you could say the same about The Beatles).
As a kid I tried many instruments, keyboard, sax, drums, guitar, recorder and more, but I gave them up because I sucked really bad at music. Believe it or not, I started with zero talent. I had no rhythm, no groove, and I sang like an out of tune cow dying painfully. That's not just being down on myself either, it was the general consensus of literally everyone around me that ever heard me play at that time. I consider my instrumental skills to be sufficient enough to do what I want to do when writing, and when they aren’t I just work at it till it is.
There’s an old adage about a concert pianist who plays an amazing piece at Carnegie Hall and after the show a woman runs up to him seeing him at a bar and says “That was amazing! I would give anything to play like you!” and he responds “No. You wouldn’t.” It’s allusion to the notion that she only ever understood the end result of his amazing piece he performed, not the countless years he spent refining his craft, and if she would have given anything, she would have already done as he did with similar years and years of sacrifice. Simply put the secret to getting good is practice, patience, discipline, time, effort and elbow grease. Despite a million people selling “10 lessons for only $99.95 that will make you a music master in just two short weeks!" that’s all bullshit scam in my decades of experience. That said, you don’t have to start amazing. Jimi Hendix sucked just as much as I did the first time we both strummed a guitar, he just put the time in and got better.
I say all this to help encourage people to pursue music with a reasonable perspective if they really want to do it. You can do it, it’s just not easy and there are no short cuts and financial success is not only not guaranteed, it’s also statistically near impossible (so don’t let that be your motivation). Do it because you enjoy doing it and that will always be reward enough to do it again.
Regarding favorite and least favorite, that's a key difference between a recording artist and an instrumentalist. I don't view instruments as favorites, to me they are tools, you put the right tool into the job. What does the song need? That's what I'm playing and/or programming.
I have never met an instrument I couldnt’ get a sound out of I like (I even used some of those primary school recorder skills on my album “Suicide Note” and that instrument is heinous sounding, especially when played poorly). That said, I think I suck the most at drums personally. I can keep a beat, and definitely gotten some great compliments on my drum work in the past, but when I look at instrumentalists I admire I feel like that instrument is where my biggest skill gap is, not that I’m particularly good at any instrument, but that’s where I always feel most out of depth.
Do you have formal/classical music training?
Yes and no, not enough to say so, but also not none. I spent some time with my first band as a vocalist and I studied Bel Canto Opera techniques for a couple months (even though I was doing metal vocals, that was the only vocal teacher I could find in the area in those ancient times). I’ve watched a ton of youtube videos. Read a bunch of books. Learned a lot from other musicians I’ve met and from learning to play the music of other musicians. That said, I don’t have a degree in music, can’t play by ear or read sheet music at speed but I know much of what is taught in classes from independent study, whether it be what is taught in college or private lessons.
I think it’s important to learn all the music theory stuff, not because it will change your instincts, but studying it gives you perspective and makes you better at what you do as you can make better informed choices about your production, whether that means following a set of rules or breaking them on purpose in regards to theory.
I also had a bomb ass music history teacher in primary school. I think he got fired after just one semester because all he did was just play iconic music for us (Beatles, Elvis, Pink Floyd, etc.) and let us experience it while telling us a little bit about the band and some of why people were really interested in them, it's also likely that due to satanic panic in the 80's he was fired for some of the content by complaining parents (i.e., I think music is generally in most cases suitable for all ages, but I can see the right wingers screaming "what about the children!?!?" in regard to them being shown even an edited version of The Wall. It was honestly one of the classes where I learned the most and he was definitely underappreciated. This one course ended up being one of the things I used most in life from primary school up there with reading and basic math.
My dad and mom and various step parents were also very much into music, but I'd say I most identified with my Dad's collection (Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes, Tom Petty, The Cars, Kansas, etc.). He also had a six string bass he'd occasionally play out with a band though I never saw them play live, just him practicing. Eventually this would become my six string bass by the time I was recording Cacophonix. I do recall there being a rub with his band that they just wanted to play covers and he wanted to work on original material. It wasn't a big part of his life but I do remember it being a thing.
I also remember in that period of my life my uncle was into Deep Purple and Ozzie and I thought they were kinda freaky and it put me off of them until I was a bit older. I remember him playing Crazy Train on guitar endlessly trying to master the solos (he had a pedal that would repeat a short loop as well so he'd try to play all the guitar parts at once). He had me hit the foot pedals for him with my hands (I was too small to stomp them with my weight even though I was a bit pudgy) so he could try and focus on the notation rather than the sound. I haven't talked with him in years but I'd be willing to bet a dollar he still plays. I find that a bit funny I though of Ozzie and Deep Purple as a bit much in retrospect given that I consider their works to be pretty tame by comparison to what I enjoy and write as an adult. That said, I was probably only 7-10 years old at the time.
I can also recall that some of my earliest mass exposure to music was during summers with my great grandmother and she would have classic pop/oldies stations of the time playing whenever not watching her soaps. It was a basic torrent on a loop of 30's to 50's hits music (with a little of early 60's). What is odd though is while they did feature black artists like Chuck Berry, notably Jimmy Hendrix was very absent from their rotation as was Johnny Cash, both of whom I wouldn't discover until I started pursuing music more seriously (along with later artists like EVH, Bowie, Led Zeppelin, etc.). This station would feature all kinds of stuff from that pre metal era (starting with say, Black Sabbath), so you're talking The Who, Stones, Beatles, Kinks, Cream, Dick Dale, Elvis, Kingsmen, Eddie Cochran, Iron Butterfly, even some barbershop quartets, and a whole ton more artists (I particularly remember a lot of malt shop bop stuff being played that I haven't been able to trace) that while background noise that I wouldn't fully come to appreciate until much later, certainly formed a lot of what I would see as my subliminal foundation of music. Notably this meant that I didn't have a strong attachment to more classic blues elements early on so I never really had that strong blues foundation so many modern guitarists and songwriters seem to gravitate towards. As an adult I can say probably that Chuck Berry was the most important of the bunch from those days to helping develop what I would eventually come to create, not because of his style directly, but because he pretty much created the techniques and styles of how guitars are used in leads rather than just rhythms, which would go on to basically recreate music and create all the genres that would influence the people that eventually influenced me most directly.
Any plans on future collabs or other live performers returning?
I’m more of a doer than a planner. If something comes up you’ll likely hear about it as soon as it’s done. I used to be really big on schedules and planning and trying to control everything. As I get older it becomes incredibly apparent that life doesn’t conform and no plan of attack survives contact with the enemy, so adaptation is key. I’m all for it though if the situation feels right. Whenever those things do happen, it’s because it worked out easily enough, not because I forced it to happen.
Which aspect of being a musician is least appealing to you?
The business aspect. My actual degree is in business. I thought it would help with my music career. Turns out the only thing I learned in college was getting some time to read more philosophy. Everything else in my business I already had learned in life by that point that was taught. I remember taking an accounting course where the only practical thing they taught was how to fill out a ledger which I learned in junior high school. Honestly I struggled to remain engaged at all when completing the degree, much like in High school. This always made me wonder and get tested for ADHD/autism, which I am told I do not have several times over. Turns out I was just really bored and couldn’t be fucking bothered. I’m not like a super genius or anything, it’s just that school in most cases wants to teach to a test rather than practical application, and that makes my eyes glaze over. I’ve definitely had some inspiring professional teachers over the years, but they are definitely in the minority.
That said, the business end I just flat out refuse to do now, I’d rather pay literally anyone else with a competent ROI to do it because it sucks the joy out of making music and performing for me. In my experience it frustrates me and ruins my creativity to consider finance when writing or performing.
What was your most ridiculous “rock star” moment?
I’ve had plenty, but one incident definitely stands out. When I was first starting out doing AKK, like in the days when I handed out physical CDs to kids at the mall for free, at one point after a few months a couple of girls asked me to sign their cleavage. It wasn’t so much that this freaked me out, but A) how cliche it was, B) how absurd it was given that I was literally unheard of and had only played a few shows at that point. I did it of course, because I was an egomaniac in my youth (probably still have some of that, maybe, wink emoji).
To me the whole thing just comes off as ludicrous in memory… it was like beatlemania with two people for the weird edgelord kid in a fishnet shirt that nobody had ever heard of at the mall. I’m still confused as to how this sort of thing happens in context.
Do you consider yourself a good role model for young people/artists?
No, but I also don’t know that anyone should be elevated to that kind of status. I think if you look closely enough, anyone proclaiming to have the answers and live a perfect, purely altruistic life likely has some kind of dark shit in their past they don’t want coming out because we all make mistakes and take regrettable actions at some point... either that or they’ve failed to take any risks and aren’t worth emulating because their good fortune is either inherited or otherwise unearned and hard fought (cue example of an heir to a fortune telling everyone they worked their way up without help, just with hard work and gumption while their fortunes were actually built upon worker exploitation).
That said I’ve definitely subscribed to the idea of always having a mentor and someone that you mentor as a part of balance in life, so there are definitely several people I’ve taken on over the years and tried to share what useful wisdom I can so that they can benefit from the mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned to hopefully not repeat them. That said, none of those people are under the delusion that I’m some sort of puritanical example to be followed blindly. I tend to just offer a realistic approach and angles/possible consequences for them to consider when assessing something and maybe occasionally share some concept of my personal values. I also tend to prefer to do this one on one as well because context matters a lot in these situations, so what is good advice for one person can be terrible for another.
Even though as a young person I idolized rock stars, as a more mature adult I despise the concept of elevating people in that kind of way because it creates a bunch of false narratives and expectations that inevitably lead to disappointment. I’m definitely much more likely to suggest someone kill their heroes in most cases. That said, I do think it’s fair to say I have a number of redeeming qualities worth emulating for some and some areas of expertise, so I don’t think I’m a terrible/the worst example in most cases, but I’d caution anyone against blindly idolizing any fellow human as that never ends well.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians/artists?
Three simple things:
Keep being an aspiring artist, regardless of your level of success or lack thereof.
Do it because it makes you happy and for no other reason.
Learn as much as you can, always, about everything, music/art related or not.
Has your music ever been played on the radio?
Yes, both technically and actually. I get why it’s not commonly played though, I don’t generally fit into what sells and makes people dance between car insurance ads every few minutes.
I say technically because modern radio is more curated playlists on streaming platforms than traditional radio over the airwaves. That said most of my radio play was indie college stations from what I remember when I kept track of that sort of thing, but occasionally I’ve heard tales of late night FM and club DJ’s that would smuggle something into their sets that I wrote.
Do you have any nerdy/geeky hobbies?
Most of them, particularly those that fall into the basement dweller category even though most people tell me I’m pretty extroverted. I’m an avid tabletop RPG enthusiast, play way too many video games and still enjoy the bad writing present in comic books with characters I loved growing up, among other things.
What new band/music inspires you?
I don’t really keep up with modern popular music, and most of what I hear that is new to me isn’t terribly inspiring because I’m old and like what I like. I also feel pretty strongly that music hit a creative rut around the early mid 2000's with not much in the way of fresh sounds/exciting genres really being created. It didn't help a lot that in this time period "popular music" shifted into mostly uninspired butt rock and hip hop. I think the last thing that really popped as different/interesting was the brief stint of popularity with Dubstep.
That said, it’s a dated reference but the last “new” band as of this writing that really did it for me was Igorrr and Probably MSI (on frankenstein girls at least) and Tech N9ne before that. At this point even Igorrr isn't really a "new" artist.
Modern popular music is...
The same as it’s always been, mostly trash and rehash with a few good stand outs every now and then which withstand the test of time. That said, I tend to think new musicians and young people in particular are much more easily impressed because they haven’t heard the same crap retread and repacked a million times so it’s understandable that they will find something I find boring to be prolific because they don’t know the history of those sounds/messages and it’s the first time they’ve had that kind of experience. If you look at the music industry history as a whole, talent aside, the people doing something new and treading new ground in an exciting way (irrespective of genre) are always a very slim minority. This is why you get a few stand out bands and a few dozen one hit wonders every decade. I’ve long been a proponent of the idea that popularity does not directly equate to value and quality.
I do also feel, though am lacking evidence to prove, that there’s a case to be made that the digital commodification of music in the mid 2000’s, while it has been very fortuitous in some ways (particularly with accessibility and creation of the long tail which makes room for lesser known artists) has led to a steep decline in musical creativity on the whole; a situation where people stopped actively creating songs and albums and started instead focusing on making products-- and yes, I realize that makes me sound like a geezer. I’m not gonna trash talk because that’s juvenile, but I can say with firm fervor that the single “Gucci Gang” was not meant for me and represents a snapshot of a lot of what I’m talking about here. That said, props and respect to the artist Lil Pump on their success and credit on the bassline.
What are your favorite albums front to back?
OK, so there’s a person with a clone of taste in music that is identical to mine, only they have never heard any music and I am sending them to the inescapable desert island with one album on their music device with eternal battery life... those are the stakes and context I’m working with for this question. The album is also going to be listened to from front to back repeatedly.
That album is a very hard one to pick, but I’ve come to the agreement with myself that this particular GOAT album is Skinny Puppy: The Process and I won’t qualify that statement or argue about it. All other opinions are opinions and like most, my opinion is most frequently my favorite opinion.
When is the next album going to be finished?
Short answer? I don't know.
I've also very purposefully and intentionally worked myself into a position in life where deadlines are not a thing, especially regarding my creative works.
While I tend to release more often than most artists (usually about an average of a release every year) that has never stopped others from being impatient and to a certain extent I’m glad/grateful people are interested enough to be invested like that in my work.
That said, the next project is always done when it’s done and I don’t/won’t know exactly when before it’s done. When it is, I'll usually tell people on social media and while I’m not big on self promotion I’ll likely mention it again when it’s released for distribution platforms. I also sometimes leak a few demo versions of new stuff I’m working on at my soundcloud account to help keep people interested in the project I’m working on so that those interested can share in my excitement and have something to look forward to.
Much like when writing a song, I don’t have a specific process or timeline to give, it’s just done when I feel it’s done. This is why some releases have 5 songs and others have 21 (not counting the demo daze compilation with 96 tracks).
Are you ever going to do any cover songs?
I'm not real big on covers. I tend to prefer doing original stuff because I'm not trying to emulate much, plus you know, doing covers and releasing it can be expensive if you aren't connected to a major label.
That said, at one point, probably around 2006 or so I did a cover of the Dethklok song "Go Forth and Die" from the show Metalacalypse. I did it because I had some friends that were pushing/begging me to do a cover at the time and plenty of people made the comparison in similarities of bandnames between AKK and Dethklok. I never got the rights to it so I just performed it live a few times, but I stopped doing that when I think the following year Brandon Small released Dethalbum and I figured it would be rude to be doing a song he's currently touring on even if it was just being done it tiny venues in Albany. I did manage to catch them live when they went around that year.
That said, I have no fucking clue what happened to that recording and I'm pretty sure it's lost to time though someone might have some crappy nokia flip phone footage of it somewhere if I had to guess.
What's the best live show you've ever attended?
Tool: Lateralus in Boston.
It was a pretty sick show. I remember the drum circle was a pretty stand out moment for me, though Tool is pretty well regarded for being amazing live.
I've also seen some videos of Rush and Pink Floyd that while I didn't attend personally, I'd say would probably be in the same bracket of amazing.