Happy Ascension Day! We have been preparing for today for quite some time now! After interviewing Burton C Bell during City of Fire campaign, we thought it would be great to talk to other members of Ascension of the Watchers as well. And when John Bechdel, a true industrial rock legend, agreed to speak to the fans, we were more than thrilled. Mal teamed up with David J Mazur, the admin of AoTW official group on Facebook and they asked him all the right questions. Please read on – this interview is all you ever wanted to know about the band but never had a chance to ask! Have fun!
INTERVIEW WITH JOHN BECHDEL
Every instrument has its true master. Think about guitar and names like Steve Vai, Carlos Santana and others spring to mind. Drums? Gene Hoglan, Bill Ward, Vinnie Paul Abbott. We say bass and we mean Cliff Burton, Geezer Butler or John Deacon. Keyboards? John Bechdel is usually the first choice. Regarded by many as one of the creators of the industrial rock genre Bechdel played for legendary groups like Ministry, Killing Joke, Prong and Fear Factory. He is also a member of Ascension of the Watchers, False Icons and Arado. We caught up with John before the Ministry tour to speak about AoTW, ongoing projects and life in general.
Question 1: In terms of the choices of audio samples put into the songs of AoTW, what was the inspiration behind those you chose to put into such songs as Canon for my Beloved with the howling wolf, as well as the voice samples within Ascendant?
John Bechdel: Those were Burton’s choices. He had some old records and had those particular sounds picked out. When we first started, I didn’t know I was co-writer/producer. I thought I was simply recording Burton’s solo project. I figured it would sound like Fear Factory. I was wrong on all of the above. Burton showed up for what I thought was maybe a few weeks. Turned out to be 10 years. Anyway, he showed up with a guitar. No demos, no lyrics. I set him up to record and he played some guitar. I instantly knew we weren’t making something that was going to sound anything like FF. I wasn’t sure what to think. Then he told me I was going to be co-writer/ producer. So I started listening to him play guitar and suddenly, in my head, I heard music. Beautiful melodies started coming to me. I knew I could use a lot of my vintage keyboard sounds that would blend nicely with the guitar. So, to answer your question, if there was inspiration behind the choice of those particular sounds, you’d have to ask Burton.
Question 2: How do you view the deep impact and connection people have with AoTW? Did you expect the band to have such an impact?
John Bechdel: I didn’t know we had an impact. That’s good news. “Residual Presence” and “Moonshine” were the first songs to make me feel that we’d really captured something; however I didn’t fully grasp the depth of the music until we were out inTexas mixing. I knew then that it would be a very moving and inspirational record. I think the biggest challenge was to overcome people’s expectations. Like me, I think everyone was expecting something like Fear Factory. I think a lot of people never got beyond that to give it a chance. At first, the guitar parts may sound simple and not very interesting. But soon they begin to transform into something trance-like and take you away to the world of AotW.
Question 3: What was your main inspirations for the sounds and ambient music for AoTW?
John Bechdel: Like I said, I almost immediately heard music and began capturing it. I have a lot of wonderful keyboards and sounds that I never got to use with all the heavy bands I had been working with. Not including Killing Joke, that would be an exception. I used sounds from the Emulator, Synclavier, Fairlight, PPG as well as Moogs and ARPs. We went back to our early influences like The Cure and Joy Division.
Question 4: Where do you see the future going for AoTW?
John Bechdel: I didn’t know we had a future.Burton’s only mentioned a possible future on maybe two brief occasions. I never say never in this business. I loveBurton; I’d consider working on new AotW material.
Question 5: Will the demos for AoTW ever see the light of the day?
John Bechdel: There’s demo’s? I’m not aware of any. Like I said, he showed up with a guitar. The songs you hear include the original recordings. I never get rid of anything. I have every take. We started laying down tracks and the songs took shape. Ironically, he didn’t write the lyrics or melody lines until the music was done. He was inspired a lot by my music, and I was inspired from his guitar. We released Iconoclast which included the first songs. Those original tracks were then taken out toTexas whereBurton and Al worked with them, they changed a lot of the drum sounds but the keyboard tracks were virtually unchanged.
Question 6: In one of the interviews Burton mentioned that second album was planned as a collection of covers. Do you have any intention to stick with the plan and release it?
John Bechdel: Well I’m not big on cover records. I enjoy a cover here and there. I may recall him mentioning that at one point. Maybe we were inspired to do it at one time. I’d have to talk to Burton about it I guess.
Question 7: There are many stories involving AoTW on the Internet. If you were to correct one about you, what would it be?
John Bechdel: I never played keyboards for Static-X. My name is sometimes affiliated with them because I did a remix for them. As far as I know, they never had a keyboard player. Koichi Fukuda did some programming and may have played some keys at one point.
Question 8: Do you recall when and where you and Burton discussed the project that became AoTW for the first time?
John Bechdel: We were on tour with FF in the summer of 2001, we had a day off in PA and we went to my house for a BBQ. Burton was enamored with the area & the vibe of my studio and said he’d like to come to record there after the tour.
Question 9: Are you still in touch with other members of the band, especially the live line up? What have they been up to?
John Bechdel: I try to keep in touch with Edu and Alex, they were out withBurton once to my studio jamming on a project called Echoes and Shadows which I really liked. Not sure what they’re doing at the moment.
Question 10: On a different note, please give us some more details about your current projects. We know you have been busy recently not only with Arado but also with the False Icons.
John Bechdel: Arado is my most recent project with partner Steve Howard, a good friend of mine fromEngland. We met in the 80’s when we were both living in NYC. We collaborated a bit then and again when I was living with him inLondon during my time with Killing Joke. False Icons is the band that I wanted to have since the beginning. I just got caught up playing in all these bands but, have always written my own music and really needed an outlet for that, so, I stared my own band. I’m writing the follow up to the debut CD and it’s the best representation of my true musical style. That’s the cool thing about having your own band I guess, as long as you have your own ideas, and I did. I’m not just a keyboard player. I play the guitar and sing & write the lyrics. And of course, the keyboards.
Question 11: I want to also ask if your studio Music Shop has a website or anything of that sort. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to see how the place where AoTW was born looks like on the inside? Do you have any photos from the period that you andBurton worked on the Iconoclast EP?
John Bechdel: I’m sure we can find a few pictures. The studio hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. I can get you some. I don’t really have an official name for it. Everyone picks their own name since I just call it the studio. Davy Jones of The Monkees recorded with me there, he called it “Bechdel’s Tipi” ’cause we had a Tipi in the yard at the time.Burton chose “Machine Shop” ’cause it used to be a woodworking shop before. Arado chose “Space Lab” ’cause I have a little sign by the mixer that says space laboratory. Ironically I originally chose the name Sound Escape which I thought was kind of clever, it had the vibe of soundscape and sound or solid escape which it truly is. No one seemed to like it, it never stuck for some reason, so pick your own name I guess. It was called Furnace Lab on a CD at least once. So, there is no website. It’s really my private studio but people approached me about recording there, eventually I said yes.
Thank you very much for answering our questions!
John Bechdel: Thank you.
You can find the PDF version of this interview here:
www.facebook.com/people/John-Bechdel/752402213 – John’s Facebook page
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bechdel – Wikipedia entry
www.myspace.com/johnbechdel – John’s Myspace account
www.facebook.com/pages/Ascension-of-The-Watchers/256433624378658 – AoTW community page on Facebook
www.facebook.com/groups/21526817840/ – Official AoTW group on Facebook
www.myspace.com/falseicons – False Icons’ official Myspace profile
www.facebook.com/aradospace/app_2405167945 – Arado’s official Facebook page
Thank you so much for reading! As with other interviews: no copying, no re-posting, posting, screenshots without written permission. When quoting, please post a link to AoTW group on Facebook or to this blog. We worked our assess off to make it happen so please respect our work! Any questions? Write to rdabrowicz at yahoo dot com.
Have a great day!
And tune in soon, especially if you are a fan of New York music scene.
We have a special interview coming up!
Rita, Mal and (David J Mazur)