Interview With Portion Control

Portion Control

Innovators and elder statesmen of the industrial scene, Portion Control may be largely unheard of by today’s younger music listeners… Sit back and catch up with the latest from the band that helped inspire the almost Godlike Skinny Puppy, scene stalwarts Frontline Assembly and many more… Interview with main man John by Tony, Summer 2004.

TONY: Starting on a more immediate note… I recently saw you with Skinny Puppy in London.   You seem to have a hell of a lot of pent up but restrained aggression on stage…   How did you find the show?   I personally wanted more…

JOHN: This was our first live appearance for 15 years and we were pretty happy with it. The mixing of our live stuff over the projected visuals worked technically – our live material always needs adapting and changing so we are working on our next transmission for Sweden and Belgium. We are also considering incorporating a track from our back catalogue as well as some, as yet, unreleased material

TONY: How does it feel opening for a band that has obviously used you as direct influence in their musical style?   Do you think it’s typical of the music industry as a whole that you as an older artist are here now as the opener?   I personally feel that you are more of a cult underground act and probably haven’t had as much recognition as you deserve… What are your opinions on this and the scene in general?

JOHN: We have a huge respect for Skinny Puppy although they have taken a very different route to us. We have always ‘stood on the edges’ of any scene. The typical circuit demands releasing an CD album, touring etc… which has never appealed to us. We have always worked on our own level and expressed ourselves through our releases. Our aim has always been to produce challenging, difficult electronics, which hasn’t changed to this day. My critism of the ‘scene’ is that it is far too mundane and conventional and groups are pigeon holed into genres and sub genres. So much stuff seems to be 4/4 bass drums, distorted sequences and guttural vocals…most of it we don’t listen to beyond 20 seconds…

TONY: How do the gigs say… in 1980 differ from today?   Obviously technology has changed, but how if at all are they different from back then environment and crowd wise?   Any memorable shows spring to mind?

JOHN: I think the ‘wild planet’ scene was more industrial/electronic- it seems more gothic and techno influenced nowadays – I suppose partly because the websites lump this stuff together. We haven’t been abroad yet so it’s difficult to gauge how things have changed. Lots of shows are memorable from our past including Granada in Spain, NL Centrum, Gothenburg, Brussels, Dachau, Diorama in London, Ace in Brixton with Chris and Cosey, Knebworth Alternative festival with Skidoo etc…Technically today we can reproduce our studio set-up live with just a couple of laptops – visuals are streamed from a DVD… Anything that gets away from conventional keyboards has always been our aim- a cinema set-up suits us best.

TONY: Am I right in thinking that your new double CD release ‘Well Come’ is dedicated to the medicine man Henry Wellcome or am I barking up the wrong tree?   Either way if it is the Wellcome I am thinking of then why an influence?

JOHN: Correct, we devised wellcome at the British Museum during the Henry Wellcome – Medicine Man Exhibition. The Body Under Attack principle influenced our packaging design and to some extent the ‘feel’ of wellcome. We used keywords to guide the process… sterile, meatbag, dissolve, blood etc… It’s a loose connection but important to bind the project together. We have a new interim release ‘dissolve’ a sort of second dose of wellcome’ planned before the end of the year. This will be a CDrom and include a number of tracks that were created during wellcome that weren’t included as well as a few new tracks, short videos and remixes… the release will last for 66 days then expire… Dissolve will be strictly LTD & competitively priced to just cover the costs…this will complete our wellcome project, which was timed across 2004

TONY: Speaking of ‘Well Come’   its been a while since your released anything… Was this strategic planning or was it just the right time to get it out?   What have you been up to in the last few years?   Just writing music or have you been involved in any other projects?

JOHN: We took no active interest in music at all until mid 2003 when we decided to prepare wellcome. Music making technology begged us to re-activate – software like Reason, CubaseSX, Audio Mulch, Alberton Live, Acid etc…excited us and to some extent inspired us to create. Previous to this the sequencing packages we had used were very primitive although advanced for the period. Portion control is in our blood and we felt it was the right time to reboot. We collected sounds and processed samples solidly for 6 months before the sequencing began. We only use software deploying every softsynth and sequencer package. A massive amount of work is undertaken with wav editors to ensure we maintain our sound.In many ways our methods haven’t changed – the biggest single advance is the ability to ‘recall’ a saved song exactly as it was saved.

TONY: What I find endearing about your tracks are the genuinely older, dare I say it ‘post punk’ type vocals   over older and modern electronics.   Along with your imagery it still comes across like you convey an almost punk ethic across to the audience.   Is this intentional or am I straying off the beaten path?   Its certainly a refreshing change… as most bands in this scene are just industrial   to the max

JOHN: We formed as a direct influence of   UK punk – Wire, The Pop Group, The The etc. being our influences. Dave Henderson who coined the phrase ‘Wild Planet’ called us Electro Punks which is a pretty accurate description. Although we have always been associated with Industrial our music often follows a conventional verse chorus structure. Probably our inclusion on the ‘Elephant table’ underpinned our industrial association. Having browsed some of the better Alternative Electronic websites the profusion of ‘music by numbers’ – hardcore industrial imagery etc adopted by many new bands just seems pretty uninspiring.

TONY: Now you are ‘back’ so to speak, what are your future plans?   I have certainly been making noise to get people to put you on at their festivals etc and the scene is certainly alive…   What do you think of some of the younger acts out there in the scene now?   Any of them stand out for you and worthy of note?

JOHN: We plan no further than two releases ahead and will not compromise what we do or how we present ourselves – as mentioned earlier we are working on ‘dissolve’ for mid November 2004 – then a maxi single for early 2005. We are also adapting our live transmission ready for Tinitus and the Belgium Alternative Music Festival.

TONY: Any plans of getting some of your older material re released? Some of it is pretty hard to come across…

JOHN: This seems to be the most asked question on the wellcome website. We are considering this as an option as the original vinyl versions seem to be spread pretty thin on the ground …

TONY: I am trying to get inside the mind of Portion Control as a collective… for the reader can you give us an insight into your aims and beliefs, and generally just what makes you tick?

JOHN: All this should be interpreted via our audio, packaging and imagery.

TONY: Is there any advice you could probably give to any of the newer artists out there?   You have certainly done the rounds and probably experienced a hell of a lot in this business…

JOHN: Our best advice is not to copy what’s gone before…it’s impossible not to be influenced but if you can’t add something new don’t bother. Consider what you do in context. Utilise and abuse a wide variety of equipment either hard or software. Keep control of the whole process.

TONY: Well that’s all for now…here is your space to say anything you want unedited and undiluted (not like any of this is)… so feel free…


TONY: cheers for the interview…!