mind.in.a.box interview:

mind.in.a.box - Interview for magazine 'Auxiliary Magazine 10/2004', Interviewer:'Mike Kieffer and Jennifer Link', about: 'R.E.T.R.O', Date: 2010-04-01
Link: Auxiliary Magazine 10/2004
Mind.in.a.box is the musical colaboration between Stefan Poiss and Markus Hadwiger. Often described as technopop, mind.in.a.box emerged in 2004 with a highly impressive debut album, Lost Alone. The name being a metaphor for everything that prevents our minds from truly being free, mind.in.a.box then released two more albums that weaved a narrative building on that metaphor. Their hard to categorize style of electronic music garnered the respect of fans and critics alike. In 2010, mind.in.a.box is in full force, after years of being a studio-only project, they are performing live and have a brand new album, R.E.T.R.O, with the goal of re-inventing the past for an advanced future.
Your new album R.E.T.R.O. is out now, musically, how is it different and yet similar from previous albums?
Stefan: There is quite a difference between R.E.T.R.O and our previous albums. Whereas our other albums focus on emotions and are connected in the background by a continuing storyline, our latest album is most of all a homage to the good old days of the Commodore 64 and the early days of home computer and video games. We tried to bring back the emotions, we personally connect with those times, using our music. So I think the feeling of the album is quite different from the other ones, but I hope people will still be able to recognize a lot of our sound in it. Also, the Commodore 64 produced very particular sounds and melodies, and I was hoping to capture that as much as possible on R.E.T.R.O. So the album is a tribute to those times and a homage to some of the incredibly great composers on the C64.
Markus: We were thinking about something like this for a very long time, and Stefan started to work on new interpretations of some of our favorite C64 songs. We liked the mood and feeling of nostalgia this created a lot, so at some point we also started to do completely new material like '8 Bits' and 'I Love 64'. It was a nice break from our other work, and an awful lot of fun.
R.E.T.R.O doesnít fit into the storyline that was established with the previous albums, was there any hesitation in labeling the album as mind.in.a.box rather than a separate side project?
Markus: Yes, we were thinking about that for a long time, and the initial plan was to release the album as a separate project. But in the end we decided to release it as mind.in.a.box, and our label also liked the idea a lot. Fortunately, it seems as if almost everyone who already liked minStefand.in.a.box also really likes R.E.T.R.O, which makes us very happy.
The subject matter of R.E.T.R.O will appeal to the video game fanatics, yet musically I feel it could appeal to people with no interest or knowledge of the Commodore 64 and games you reference. Was there any concern that this album would isolate your market or alienate mind.in.a.box fans?
Stefan: Yes, we were quite anxious about what our fans would think of such an album. But we had a really strong desire to release this material and were hoping that people that had known us before would also like it. So we finally made the decision together with our label to release R.E.T.R.O as a mind.in.a.box album, and we are very happy with how this decision has turned out. Of course, the album is very different from our regular albums, but musically it has a lot of similar traits, and now we can see that a lot of the same people that liked our previous stuff also like R.E.T.R.O.
Markus: The reception so far is extremely positive, which is wonderful. So there also seems to be no problem of a very isolated market, but I think we got some additional fans from the chip tune scene, which is terrific. Of course you cannot always do what pleases every single fan, but I think in the end the best thing is not think too much about that and do what you think is the right thing. Then you can never be really wrong.
With R.E.T.R.O it seems youíve created an homage to early 80s video games, how have video games influenced your music and your life?
Stefan: They have influenced us a lot! For me, the Commodore 64 was the beginning for making music on a computer. My early efforts were really bad, but it was so much that it got me addicted to making music with a computer. The C64 was the best selling home computer and the community was just huge. A lot of people made very good music with this computer, although it was technically so extremely limited with only three available channels that could play a sound at the same time. On the other hand, these technical restrictions generated so many ideas and workarounds that I still am extremely fascinated how people could do all of this. When you wanted to do a good track on the Commodore 64, you had to have this rare mixture of creative and technical thinking.
Markus: Video games were always a very important part of our lives. I was always especially interested in how they work technically, so even as a child I spent more time programming than actually playing games. These days there is not enough time, but even just looking at current games and playing them at least a little bit is great, so I buy lots of games. So now I am more of a collector, I guess it still gives me this nostalgic feeling of my childhood. [smiles] I also like to follow whatís going on in game design and development. Over the years, video game culture has influenced me a lot and it still does.
Would you say you have a greater passion for video games or music?
Stefan: We have lots of passion for both. [smiles] Especially Markus collects a lot of stuff in both areas. But we both donít have a lot of time to actually play games because it just doesnít allow you to get enough work done. But we always stayed in touch with video games. Markus: Thatís hard to say, they are both very important. I think music can convey much stronger emotions, and many great games are also supported by great music. But I would not pick one over the other. [winks]
Where is mind.in.a.box, the video game?
Stefan: We actually have thought about that. [smiles] That would be terrific, but the problem is that if you want to make a video game today it needs A LOT more time than making an audio CD. You cannot do a video game with two people in your spare time anymore. But it would be great if some game studio would want to do a mind.in.a.box game. It would be a pleasure, and of course I would want to make the music for it. [smiles]
Markus: There is quite a renaissance right now in smaller games that have great game play without a blockbuster movie development effort. But this only works for neat little ideas. For a mind.in.a.box science-fiction themed game, the development effort would be very high. But who knows. [smiles]
Recently mind.in.a.box went live, how do you feel your songs have been received by your audiences?
Stefan: I think really well. We have had some awesome experiences, especially in Arvika, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway. It was unbelievable for us and I never expected this. I still have to learn a lot, because for me it is not easy to be on stage. But for the first three big shows we did, it couldnít have worked better for us. At this point a big thanks to our hardcore miab fans! We always meet some people who travel very large distances only to be able to see us. Thank you guys!
Many electronic acts have morphed their sound to be more stage friendly. Did you find yourselves thinking about how songs will sound on stage when composing new material?
Stefan: In the past I never thought that Iíll be on stage some day so it did not play any role for me while working on music. Now I try to think about it a bit, but not for every song. In the ďmind.in.a.box goes liveĒ clip that we released some time ago you can hear a new song called ďRememberĒ. As I was working on that song, I was thinking a lot about how we would be able to play it live. It was the first song in this direction. On R.E.T.R.O there is also a song that I thought would work very well live while I was working on it. It is the last song on the album, 'Whatever Mattered'.
The question that has to be asked, are there any plans for a full tour? What about hitting some cities in North America?
Stefan: Yes, thatís a hot topic for us at the moment, but itís not easy. You know, we are four people on stage with a lot of stuff that we have to bring with us, so I think we have more costs than other electro bands. Thatís especially not easy when you have to fly some place. But Iím sure we will be able do it in the future. This year we might only play more European cities, but next year maybe we will be able to do a small US tour.
Mind.in.a.box is a well-rounded project; it is more than just music and has many visual elements. How do you plan to continue to develop these visual elements?
Stefan: For our live shows we made a special visual for every song. We have actors who play the main characters from our mind.in.a.box story in these visuals. Through all of this, mind.in.a.box has grown to a little family with a lot of people involved. It is really a lot of fun to work with them and we are all friends. Iím very proud to have all these guys around me. Of course, the basis for all the story elements are the lyrics and written stories from Markus and our author friend Andreas Gruber.
I find it very interesting that only one voice is behind all the vocals one hears with mind.in.a.box. When I first heard Lost Alone and had no background knowledge, I imagined three vocalists, and even now when listening to your albums I picture multiple people delivering the lyrics. My guess is that they are different characters in the mind.in.a.box story but are they also perhaps fascists of yourself as the true person behind them?
Stefan: I always tried to use my voice in different ways to tell the story and represent either different characters, emotions, or moods. Or a combination of those. If you change the vocal style or the sound of your voice, it allows you to create different layers on which you can convey emotions or tell something. This is one of the major parts of mind.in.a.box. I think if someone tries to tell someone else what mind.in.a.box sounds like, they probably first mention the variety of vocal styles that we are using. I can see myself in some songs more than in others but of course I always try to put all my emotions into what Markus wants to convey through the lyrics, and I always really love the process of adding the vocals to our songs.
Markus: I most of all think of different emotions and moods when I am writing, but also about different characters. Stefan and I then sit together and talk about how the vocal style should support that. I like the idea of different vocals conveying different emotions even more than simply different characters. But I think both of these directions work very well together.
What is the dynamic of the creative collaboration between the two of you?
Stefan: Markus and I have known each other since our childhood and our musical tastes are very similar, so the creative collaboration is very easy for us. I think Markus knows very well what kind of lyrics work best when I sing them afterward, and usually it is very easy for us to make both sides work together very well.
Markus: It is really quite easy for us to work together. Although we are working with different means, I think we have a great understanding of what the other one needs and how we can make everything fit together.
You both seem to be drawing off many things to create the project that is mind.in.a.box: a narrative story, emotions, each other. What often is the starting point for a track? Or is it different with every song?
Stefan: It is changing a lot and Iím not sure which of all variations we tried was the best. Sometimes we work separately and Markus gives me the finished lyrics which I then add to the music. Other times we are sitting in a cafť or at home talking about a lot of details how everything should fit together. Sometimes we have a lot of fun and crazy ideas when doing this, for example for the song '8 Bits' on R.E.T.R.O. That was extremely funny you can imagine. [smiles] When I sing a part of Markusí lyrics, I send that to him and often he then edits them again and vice versa, so we can make the two fit together smoothly.
What are the musical influences on mind.in.a.box? What are you personally listening to right now?
Stefan: Right now Iím listening to ELO (Electric Light Orchestra). For example 'Here Is the News' or 'Ticket to the Moon' are some of my childhood favorites, and I still love these songs. Yesterday I thought about covering 'Ticket to the Moon', but Iím not sure if we can do it. If Iím honest there are not so many electronic acts in our scene to which I am listening constantly. The latest two great electronic songs that come to my mind are 'Pitch Black Ocean' from Biomekkanik and 'Undisclosed Desires' from Muse.
Markus: I am listening to a lot of different things, both electronic and completely non-electronic. Now after listening to a lot of Commodore 64 music, I feel that I need a bit of a change and am listening more to guitar music. Right now, for example, Calexico.
It was stated in a past interview that when mind.in.a.box was created you both were unaware of the music being played in goth/industrial clubs and the popular bands in the synthpop/EBM genre such as Covenant and VNV Nation. Did you find your music changed after becoming aware of that scene and finding that mind.in.a.box was becoming a part of it? I did notice some more club friendly tracks on Dreamweb.
Stefan: Yes, I think we are always changing the style a little bit, but we definitely wanted to do our own style and stuff. I do not have so many CDs at home from our colleagues in the scene; Markus knows many more bands there than I do. But you are right regarding Dreamweb. There were some songs that were a bit more club-friendly, although that at least was not a conscious decision. I think in general the structure of our songs is often too complicated to be played in clubs. Of course it is always very nice when some tracks are played there nevertheless. [smiles]
Markus: Thatís only true for Stefan. [winks] I listened to a lot of Covenant, VNV Nation, and Apoptygma Berzerk, for example. But in our youth we were more into computer music and artists like Jean-Michel Jarre or Vangelis than industrial music, thatís true.
Do you plan on continuing the narrative that was established with the first three albums? When can your fans expect it?
Markus: The narrative was always a very important part of mind.in.a.box, and we really enjoy working on it, so of course it will continue after R.E.T.R.O. Black and our other characters will be back on the next album.
Stefan: I hope that we will be able to release the next album toward the end of this year. It is done about 70 percent, so stay tuned!