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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Front Line Assembly

In 1985, shortly after the Canadian band Skinny Puppy released its second album, their synthesizer and keyboard player Wilhelm Schroeder (Bill Leeb) left the band to pursue his own distinct musical path. He began right away by putting together Front Line Assembly, which at this point is a two-man group consisting of himself and Rhys Fulber. For some time now he has been successful in creating styles of electronic and industrial music that stab and puncture the eardrums, then go for the throat. Front Line Assembly is just that- a "front line" of music that fights with the senses. Bill Leeb also has worked on an arsenal of side projects such as Delerium, Cyber Aktif, and Noise Unit. Bill and Rhys have completed their eighth album for F.L.A., which may be their best effort to date. Recently Bill Leeb was interviewed about the new album Caustic Grip, his near future goals, and his past involvement with Skinny Puppy.


AC- When did you first decide to experiment with the realm of electronic music? Why do you find it appealing?BL- I started experimenting with instruments about seven years ago. It was mostly appealing to me due to the early industrial bands, like Throbbing Gristle, TestDept., etc.... I really got off on what was happening then.

AC- How did Michael Balch become involved with Front Line Assembly?
BL- Michael Balch became involved after the second cassette release, Total Terror. His girlfriend gave me a tape of his work, and then introduced me to him. I didn't like the music on the tape, but I enjoyed Michael's mental aspect of it.

AC- Was it difficult to get Front Line Assembly off the ground?
BL- Actually, after releasing the second Front Line Assembly cassette, Total Terror, we got a few offers right away to do an LP with various established labels.

AC- Which recording labels were interested in producing the LP?
BL- At that time the interested labels were Third Mind, Antler, KK, Crammed, etc.

AC- Why did you change your name from Wilhelm Schroeder to Bill Leeb?
BL- My real name is Wilhelm Leeb, but when I came to Canada Wilhelm was translated to Bill. Schroeder was a nickname when I was with Skinny Puppy.

AC- You've said before that leaving Skinny Puppy was good for you, because of inflexibilities in the creative process inside the group. Was this primarily the reason why you left?
BL- There just wasn't enough room for all of us to grow, I needed to have more freedom for my ideas, plus I wanted to go in a different direction.

AC- Were there any hard feelings between you and the members of Skinny Puppy for a time after you left?
BL- Yes, there was considerable weirdness, but that is all behind us now.... live and learn.

AC- Do you have any regrets about leaving Skinny Puppy?
BL- There were definite pros and cons in leaving the band. However, the rewards of my accomplishments are far too positive to make me dwell on any of it.

AC- Are you and Michael getting tired of constantly being asked about your involvement with Skinny Puppy, and comparison to that group?
BL- Well, Michael is no longer in the band, so he doesn't have to worry about it any more. For me it's just an old memory.

AC- I was unaware that Michael Balch is no longer in Front Line Assembly. Why and when did he leave?
BL- Last time Michael went on tour with the Revolting Cocks, me and Rhys Fulber started writing Caustic Grip. So when Michael came back there really wasn't anything for him to do. He moved to Chicago to work with Alain Jourgensen. I think he prefers guitar music anyway, so it was all for the best.

AC- One of your more recent side projects, Cyber Aktif, was done in collaboration with Cevin Key- a long time member of Skinny Puppy. How did that project emerge?.
BL- Cyber Aktif came about merely by chance. I had come back from a European tour, and stayed at Cevin Key's for a month.... we joked about doing an LP for a while, and before you know it we did.

AC- Would you tell us a little about each of your side projects and what they mean to you? How have they affected your work on Front Line Assembly?
BL- My only other main side project is Delerium, which will be a continuous project. I really like that part of music, the ambient ethnic, moody music. I feel it has affected Front Line Assembly in a good sense. The more different sounds available, the wider the spectrum for all music.

AC- Is the work you produce for your side projects done solo, or a combination of Rhys and Michael?
BL- Michael worked on two songs from the first Delerium LP, Faces Forms and Illusions.... Rhys has worked on all the others including Morpheus and Syrophenikan.

AC- How does the writing and construction of Front Line Assembly's music begin? Is it always a collaborative effort between the two of you, or do you work in separation on the material?
BL- All the writing we do is a collaboration between myself and Rhys Fulber. We really enjoy working together, but we have no set routine.... experiment, experiment.

AC- How did Rhys become involved with you?
BL- Rhys actually worked with me on Total Terror, so he has worked on F.L.A. since the beginning.

AC- Please tell us about the new album Caustic Grip. How does it compare with your other works?
BL- Caustic Grip surpasses everything we have done to date. There is twice as much going on, without being too much. Our ability to use technology has grown incredibly, and it's really showing with this LP. The LP is more mature, and also more intense.

AC- In the past, Front Line Assembly has been referred to as, "an attack on the media, pointing out disinformation and vulnerability." As F.L.A. grows with time do you feel that description/doctrine still holds true? If so, will you continue to do so?
BL- Our main goal is to make music that pleases us, and to use technology to its uttermost potential. Our "attack" is much wider than just on the media, but it is definitely our attack on everything in general. We will always keep a focus on the real.

AC- What do you consider to be some of your finest moments, or favorite songs?
BL- It is impossible to pick favorite songs because I like about 10 seconds from each song.

AC- What can fans expect from your upcoming tour?
BL- We are very physical and energy is high. Surrounded by an eerie backdrop, weird films, and intense slides.

AC- How do you feel about the use of video in live performances? How many F.L.A. videos exist right now?BL- We like using imagery on stage. We have three videos out now. Body Count, Iceolate, and Virus.

AC- Do your fans in Europe and Canada differ from listeners in the U.S.?
BL- The fans in Europe are a little more reserved (serious). The American fans are real party types, and much crazier. They are a great audience and we all feed off of each other's energy.

AC- How do you feel about the group being though of as "dance music," rather than "industrial music?" Do you like the exposure that F.L.A. is getting from dance floors?
BL- I don't mind people dancing to our music, it can be appreciated in different forms, and we make music for a physical/mental audience.

AC- What are your views about industrial music, and the present state of progression from the "factory scene" to the "dance club" that it's going through right now?
BL- Real industrial music doesn't exist anymore. It was around with early Throbbing Gristle, Test Dept., Nocturnal Emissions, Einsturzende Neubauten, etc. Most of the music that extended from these early bands is just heavy dance music now.

AC- Does the word "shock" relate to F.L.A.? Is there a "shock culture"?
BL- There is a certain amount of "shock" in our early music, which is the reality of what is happening in every day life. What's really shocking is watching the daily news.

AC- Does F.L.A. like to sit about and listen to music, or does it prefer to make music?
BL- We enjoy listening to a wide variety of music.

AC- Are there any plans to re-release the tape of Nerve War, or is it gone for good?
BL- It is gone forever.

AC- Got any really strange stories to tell us about?
BL- Just being in a band is strange.


This interview originally appeared in Antocularis issue #1, August 1992.
For more information about Front Line Assembly please visit http://www.metropolis-records.com/artists/?artist=frontlin and http://www.mindphaser.com/


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