mind.in.a.box interview:

mind.in.a.box - Interview for magazine 'ReGen Magazine', Interviewer:'Ilker Yücel', about: 'Lost Alone', Date: 2004-12-30
Link: ReGen Magazine
One could easily describe the music of Mind.in.a.Box as soundtrack music for?the techno apocalypse; perhaps fitting considering band member Stev's past with video game soundtracks, as well as his Die Gerechten project producing music for a stage play. Creating a parallel world upon which the concept of Mind.in.a.Box is based, the shattering truths of today's reality are shattered as the band's music plays the role of soundtrack. With the debut album, Lost Alone, themes of varying types of alienation come into play, mirroring the trials and tribulations of the world's turmoil. Read on as ReGen gets Stev to step out of the box and give us a tour of this science fictional world, revealing its origins, and offering glimpses of its future.

With so many bands in the electro scene today, how do you distinguish Mind.in.a.Box from the rest of the scene?

I think there are differences to other bands in many respects. On the one hand, I think that our sound itself is probably quite different and also somewhat hard to categorize. On the other hand, mind.in.a.box also builds on the concept of a dark science-fiction setting, a world in which the stories of our songs take place, even though they are metaphors for our real world. We ourselves are not the main characters but instead we want to convey stories and portray characters from this mind.in.a.box world. Still, the feelings and emotions that we want to convey and evoke in listeners are the most important part of our music. We are also doing songs that have a bit of a movie soundtrack character and portray certain events and the locations they take place in with sounds and little narrated elements. Examples for this kind of songs would be 'Forever Gone' and 'Waiting', which are kind of a mixture between radio play elements and regular songs. But these songs will just stay an additional element, because our focus is most of all on the music itself. We are trying to find a good balance between regular songs and songs with some additional elements from other genres to achieve more variety without being too experimental.
You are known for composing music for video games prior to Mind.in.a.Box. How does composing music for video games compare to composing for your own project?
Music for video games typically is very similar to movie soundtracks in many respects. Most of the time they are purely instrumental and fulfill just a supportive role. In contrast to this, regular songs have to stand on their own and are allowed to require the full attention of the listener. Vocals are of course also very important in this regard. In general I would say that there are a lot of really major differences. There is certainly also a lot more freedom in working on your own music project than when the music has to fit particular scenes in a particular game, which I really enjoy.
What influences came into play when you were writing the music for Lost Alone? Do you draw from the same influences when working on other music?
In general, I am trying to hit a very specific mood or convey a very specific emotion with a song, and the goal of the song is always clear from the beginning. Also, since the mind.in.a.box songs are based on story elements, these underlying stories also influence a song a lot. Personally, it is very important for me to constantly have a certain image or feeling in my mind that I can use while I am composing. I think if you don't do that you risk losing focus and the song loses its intensity or doesn't fit together anymore. I think it is very important that all the different parts, all the different layers, fit together very well in order to create a cohesive end result. With respect to influences from other music, my video games background is certainly an influence, as are a lot of different musical genres. However, I try not to be influenced by anything in a direct way as much as possible, although of course everyone working on music is influenced by their 'musical past'.
Electronic music is not normally associated with concept albums in the way progressive rock and metal are. What is the concept for Lost Alone?
I am not sure if “Lost Alone” can be described as being a concept album in the general sense. It is probably more the concept that is behind mind.in.a.box in general, and the themes we are taking on in “Lost Alone”, and the way that our songs are “stories” that fit into this concept. But the album doesn’t really have a fixed listening order for example, except for some pairs of songs such as “Waiting” and “Forever Gone”. The basic inspiration for mind.in.a.box is the world around us, the system we are living in, and we try to take that and distill certain aspects of it into a dark science-fiction world where we can tell stories that are metaphors for our real world. We think that what you probably first associate with a term such as “mind in a box” describes many people around us and to a certain extent we of course also cannot exclude ourselves. We do not really want to compare with earlier times, but right now we are living in a world that is dominated by technology and this has made themes such as certain kinds of loneliness and alienation an important part of it, which are the underlying themes of “Lost Alone”. “Mind.in.a.box” is a metaphor for not thinking for yourself, and for helping build the prison you are living in by your own behavior and attitude. But it also includes external influences such as not being able to do what you want to do for a living, for example. “Lost Alone” is one part of this, and to us it means many things that have to do with being both lost and alone, but we really want people to find their own interpretations, what it could mean for themselves, and for the world as they can see it around themselves.
Where did the title for Lost Alone come from? It sounds very morose and isolationist, which seems to be a recurring theme in much of today's electro music. Why do you think these themes are so prevalent in this kind of music?
Basically, the title of the album was fixed very early on since even two of the songs on it are called 'Lost Alone', and I think it describes the underlying themes of the album very well. The major themes are different kinds of loneliness and alienation, and we wanted to approach them from varying perspectives. Many of the characters in the mind.in.a.box stories are both lost and alone. Some of them are trying to cope with that state in a positive manner, others are simply bemoaning it without doing anything because they lack the strength to do so. I’m not sure why themes such as these are so common in electro music, but for us it is something that strikes us as a major trait of our world. Maybe electro music has a tradition of tackling important themes and going deeper than at least some other musical genres. It is something we can empathize with, and we wouldn’t really want to do music that is dealing with “happy happy feel good” themes.
With a heavy beat and dance presence in the music on Lost Alone, what are your concerns as far as people actually paying attention to the lyrics and themes?
We want to take listeners on a journey through the world of mind.in.a.box, tell stories, and evoke the corresponding feelings and emotions. Nevertheless, the most important part for us is the music itself, because we really think that music should be, well, good music to begin with :) I think it is quite natural that most people at first just feel the music and only later start to discover the lyrics and the themes and meaning behind them. So we are not really concerned about the music “hiding” the themes behind it, if that’s what you mean. But if people are enjoying the music and it starts to get them interested in the actual meaning then we are all the more happy. This is not to say that our lyrics and themes are not so important to us, they are very important to us, just that we think that the music itself should obviously be of high importance, and we are not “only” trying to convey meaning by whatever means. It is, however, also important to us that the music and lyrics are perceived as a single entity and are more than the sum of their individual parts, so to speak, even if people are exploring them in a kind of sequential order starting just with the music itself. Nevertheless, in the future we want to explore the world of mind.in.a.box further with additional media such as images, short movie snippets, and more text on our webpage, because the amount of specific detail you can pack into song lyrics naturally is quite limited. There is also already a three-part short story at www.mindinabox.com, which was not written by ourselves but inspired by our concept, and we think it is nice to see other people find somewhat different interpretations.
What can we hope to see as far as Mind.in.a.Box playing live? Will you tour for Lost Alone? Who would you like to tour with?
At the moment we are working hard on our second album, which has absolute priority, and we are very happy that we are progressing very well. In general, presenting the concept of mind.in.a.box live seems to be very hard, and there are still a lot of question marks. We are thinking about it, but right now we do not have any plans for touring.
Most concept albums have elaborate stage shows to visually complement the story or concept of the album (e.g. Pink Floyd's The Wall or Queensr˙che's Operation: Mindcrime). As Lost Alone seems to be a concept album, what sort of live show would you like to see realized for it?
Oh wow, it would be really great to have a liveshow a la Pink Floyd! :) I think that it would be the right general direction for a live representation of mind.in.a.box although of course not in the dimensions of Pink Floyd. This is also the general dilemma of presenting our material live, where the question is whether it is possible to find an adequate way of doing it that won’t overwhelm us in terms of organization and cost. And I also do not feel quite ready yet to take on this task, I don’t want to rush it and do something I am not happy with in the end. But Die Gerechten has also shown an interesting direction that we could build on to represent different characters in the mind.in.a.box stories.
Your music is also featured in the play Die Gerechten. How did this come about?
My girlfriend is doing promotion for this young theater group, and she has been friends with one of the main actors for many years. The actual idea for using mind.in.a.box music in it came up because it fits the basic mood of the play very well. And it also turned out to be a very cool play.
How does the music in Die Gerechten compare to the music on Lost Alone?
The main work for Die Gerechten was composing a classical intro and prologue. It is more along the lines of film music, and reminded me more of my work for video games. During the play itself, they were using instrumental versions of the regular songs from 'Lost Alone'.
Will the music for Die Gerechten be released commercially as a new Mind.in.a.Box release?
No. Apart from the classical music-style prologue there is no really new mind.in.a.box material in the play. But the next full-length mind.in.a.box album will be released quite soon.
How does writing music for a play differ from writing for a video game? What are the similarities and differences?
I would say it is very similar to working on film music. In films, there are basically two ways to use music. In scenes that are similar to music videos, the film itself is cut to fit the already existing music. For all other scenes, which are the majority, the music is done explicitly for the visual content. This is not so easy because it has to fit exactly in length and mood to already existing images. So when the scene changes the music also has to change. An exception are animated movies. In video games, however, music is used most of all for providing an audio backdrop, and the length of the different parts is not critical. It gets harder when the music should change interactively to fit in with what the player is actually doing. Although this is done in some games it is not very common.
The vocals on Lost Alone feature a wide range of effects. As it is somewhat of a trend among electronic artists, what is the appeal in using effects on the voice?
The human voice is probably the greatest and most expressive instrument, and I think it is fascinating to play with it and make it sound really different. It is a lot of fun to experiment with this kind of sound and look for new ways of using vocals, which also makes it so appealing in my opinion. Of course this is especially true for electronic music. For me, the fascinating thing about electronic music is that there are no 'pre-defined' instruments. You can change anything like you want to, and in this way it also can be very interesting for listeners which kind of sound is going to come next. And I also just like the sound of vocals that sound somewhat different. Another really nice thing is that effect vocals allow to introduce another layer that is clearly distinct from the main voice. This allows to correlate vocals with surreal places, such as in “Forever Gone”, where the person in the refrain does not exist in the real world anymore. In these cases, using alien voices is kind of the natural choice.
Mind.in.a.Box is on Metropolis Records in The United States, alongside such acts as VNV Nation, Covenant, Seabound, etc. What has the reception to Lost Alone been like in the States?
I think very very positive. We have received a lot of email from the US where people were extremely enthusiastic about the album. Since quite recently we also have a guestbook at www.mindinabox.com, where entries from many different countries and different parts of the US have accumulated quite quickly. This is really great to see.
With the world in political turmoil, especially in The United States, how much do politics and current events play into the Mind.in.a.Box concept?
Current politics basically do not play any direct role in the concept of mind.in.a.box. We want to narrate stories that provoke listeners to think for themselves, and to think about our world, but we do not intend to include current political affairs directly. Nevertheless, in times like these it is probably needless to say that it is especially important to think for yourself.
Gracing the cover of Lost Alone is a Giger-esque visual that also serves as the logo. How does this specific image play into the concept of Mind.in.a.Box?
This image symbolizes many of the different parts of mind.in.a.box and our songs. In the version on the cover of “Lost Alone”, it is actually part of a larger picture that is in the middle of the booklet. This picture was made for the song “Lost Alone” itself, and it shows an anonymous person running toward that huge head. The head represents both the essence of a huge city and part of the concept of mind.in.a.box. In the song “Lost Alone”, someone who has basically lost himself wanders aimlessly through a city without hope. It is, however, the city itself that tries to console him, because we think that there is always hope even though it might come from the most unlikely directions. So the head has a meaning for both the album and for mind.in.a.box as a whole.
Recently, several electronic acts have made it a point to incorporate acoustic instruments beyond artificial synthesis, yet Lost Alone sounds totally synthesized, even down to most of the vocals. Why does Mind.in.a.Box maintain a reliance entirely on synthesis?
I’ve always been fascinated by synthetic sounds, and they have also dominated almost my entire musical past. I also think that the artificial feeling of these kinds of sounds fits something like mind.in.a.box very well, and for the stories we wanted to tell on “Lost Alone” they were a natural choice. However, I do not want to restrict myself and it really depends a lot on what we want to convey in a particular song. There are some guitar elements on the second mind.in.a.box album, for example. I really like to experiment and don’t feel bound to any particular kind of instrumentation, although I have my personal preferences of course. In the hidden area of www.mindinabox.com that you get access to with a code that is in the booklet of “Lost Alone”, there is also a completely different interpretation of the song “Lost Alone” available for download. It is called the “acoustic.flavor”, and in exactly this way it is drastically different from what is on the actual album. It was fun to do this track, and although I suspect that many people who like “Lost Alone” are not so much into acoustic music, several people have actually emailed that they like it a lot even though it is totally different from the album. Nevertheless, mind.in.a.box is most of all an electronic music project and will stay that way.
It's also common for electronic artists to have more than one project at a time. Given your past composing video games and your work in the Die Gerechten play, what other projects do the band members have going currently?
Mind.in.a.box is my only real project right now. From time to time, I’m doing the one or other track apart from mind.in.a.box just for fun, but I wouldn’t call these a project. Msh is also only doing lyrics for mind.in.a.box tracks. But I have been playing around with the idea of something building most of all on guitars, although I don’t think this would be released under the name mind.in.a.box. Still, one of our major points is of course that people should be open for anything.
When can we expect to hear some new material from Mind.in.a.Box? Will it follow in the same vein as Lost Alone, perhaps a sequel?
The second mind.in.a.box album is quickly approaching the stage where it will basically be done apart from fine tuning. This also means that the majority of the new songs are already finished. We are planning for a release in the first half of 2005. The album will be called “Dreamweb”, and the intro track will make clear right away that “Dreamweb” in many ways continues where “Lost Alone” left off. The stories of the new songs take place after the events on the first album, and I think this continuation will be very interesting for people that like to read between the lines. This time we will also provide more background information on www.mindinabox.com, although we think that one of the really great things about music is that everyone listinening to it can have their own interpretation of what is actually going on or what certain things mean or are alluding to. And we do not want to take this freedom away from listeners. “Dreamweb” is a real sequel to “Lost Alone”, but it will not be the same album with different songs, there are definite differences. We are very happy about how the new material has turned out. Stay tuned!