An Interview with Machinae Supremacy


543 English reads // 08.08.2016

Robert Stjärnström, the leader of the band, told us in extremely laconic Scandinavian manner about the role of technology in life and art of a metal-worker.

Machinae Supremacy is a Swedish band that combines modern heavy metal, power metal and alternative rock with chiptunes. Self-defined as «SID metal», many of their songs use a SidStation that features the SID chipof the Commodore 64. They have released a considerable number of songs for free download on their site, 32 original recordings, with approximately 100,000 downloads a month.

You can also read an interview with Machinae Supremacy in Russian here.

Let’s recall good old times: what did you do before the Machinae Supremacy? Played in other bands or worked as managers may be?

Sure, some of us, yeah, but just local bands at the time, nothing anyone’s ever heard of.

Do you remember you first gig? Were you nervous or even afraid?

I remember going to the bathroom like 3 times in the 15 minutes just before the gig.

What was the first song you ever played on stage?

Fighters from Ninne.

Did you do lots of rehearsal beforehand?

We always make sure we know our stuff before we play live.

What is the most terrifying thing at the gig (except for noone coming, that’s not your case)?

That some key piece of equipment breaks or someone gets seriously injured.

How is your touring life now? When are you coming to Moscow? We are eagerly waiting!

We’re touring September, October and November this year, then some more in January. We’re coming to Moscow in November! Check our site for details!

What other bands do you listen when you are not creating new material and performing on stage?

All kinds of music and bands. Really, a lot, not just metal.

Have you any friends among other metal bands?

Sure, we’ve had the pleasure of touring with a lot of great but lesser known bands in Finland, as well as our 2 month long tour with Children of Bodom and Ensiferum. Amon Amarth were part of that tour for a few gigs as well. There’s also Raised Fist, a well-known hardcore metal band from our home town.

Gamers are still considered to be infantile kids, even though many of them are top managers with families and kids. Are you treated like this? We mean, SID metal is a clever mix of gaming retro sound with metal.

Not really, no. It happens that someone thinks our music isn’t “evil” enough or that we should have scream vocals instead to be a real metal band, but opinions like that I feel says more about the person saying it than our music.

Have you ever considered abandoning sid samples?

No.

What gear do you use to create your unique sound (if it’s not a trade secret, of course)?

We have this hardware synth, the Elektron SIDStation, which is a midi-controlled synth with a SID chip. But we rarely use that these days because it’s a very fragile piece of hardware. We mainly use sampled sounds from the SIDStation that we sequence, as well as a virtual instrument called Chipsounds by Plogue. We also love the tracker software Renoise, in which many of our SID melodies are born.

Want to share with us some crazy facts about creating new album Phantom Shadow? Maybe the devil himself haunted your dreams, gifting new samples?

We decided to make a concept album (a story, through and through). We’ve had a lot of songs with stories or part of stories, but this time it’s one single story from the first song to the last. We also have the added value of our new guitarist Tomi Luoma, so even more awesome guitar parts than usual.

We are really impressed with your Kickstarter campaign for tour, it’s incredible! Whose idea was that? What have you promised to your fans, so they gave the money?

Well it was my idea to have one, but Gordon was the one who detailed and developed it, and then pushed it through. We promised things like VIP backstage passes, signed photos and albums, as well as certain unique items like signed guitars, rare debut album items, and so on.

Do you think that crowdfunding might become a stable source of financing for the musicians? Or it’s a safer way to stick with the publishers and labels?

Well, I don’t know about stable. But it’s one of many options to gage interest and then collect the money necessary. Sadly a lot of people promise too much and don’t deliver making trust in crowdfunding drop in recent years. Hopefully though it will be as with everything in the end: Fundraisers have to earn trust by reliably delivering.

We know you are into covers (we personally like your version of Britney’s “Gimme More” a lot). Any new covers to come soon? What about Lady Gaga?

We already did Lady Gaga (check out our Paparazzi cover).

I’d be really happy to see you working with Laibach. Would you like to do something like this?

I don’t see us working with Laibach. We have really no connection to them whatsoever.

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People often humming some tune when they are deeply in doing something. Do you? What tune is that, if you do?

I listen to music when I don’t make music, so it would be whatever is on at the time.

Tell us about your phones, please. Model and stuff. And why did you choose it.

In the band we have three iPhones (two 5s and one 5), one Galaxy S3 and one Nokia Lumia. Those of us who have iPhones also use Macs so it makes sense. Jonne has a Galaxy because he doesn’t care, and Tomi has a Nokia because he’s from Finland.

Could you remember your first mobile phone?

Philips Fizz. The ringtones were horribly detuned. It was awesome.

Does your current mobile phone help you in your work?

Yes. I write lyrics on it, I rehearse our songs, and record melody ideas.

How do you prefer buying the music, via iTunes or in an ordinary music shop? What about your music: which way is more convenient to you?

iTunes. And we use Spotify a lot, too.

How did you your life as musicians changed with all that social media, streaming audio and stuff? Is it easier now to get to the audience and make money or not?

For us, not really. We’ve done the same thing since we started, even before Social Media. We’ve always published songs online for anyone to listen, and we’ve stayed close to our fans through forums and IRC before Facebook, YouTube and MySpace came around. So to us, Social Media are just new forms of forums and chat.

Comparing your independent and current times, when you are working with the agencies and publishers and lots of the partners — when your life was better and funnier, now or then?

Being indie was bad for being taken seriously by promoters and festivals. They told us to “call the demo booking”. The moment we signed with a major label that changed. But being indie has a lot of advantages for sure. I still think a lot of the stuff we’ve learned from being a small player in the big leagues is stuff that might have taken us a long time to figure out on our own.

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Want to get back to those indie times? Throwing out your phones, just sit in the garage and rocking at your leisure?

If it happens, we’re ready for it. But we would not be lazy. We’d work even harder, because that means we’ll do everything label does but on our own instead.

Do you use any apps for your smartphones? Can you name some of the most useful apps for you?

Evernote and Dropbox. Could not live or create without those. We live in different cities so we collaborate a lot online when producing music.

Here’s our favorite question: do you like games?

We like good games.

Playing something right now?

Monument Valley, Krank, Tomb Raider.

What do you think about mobile gaming?

There’s a lot of shit games. Even more than in the console world, probably. But there are some really good ones.

Any mobile games you like?

Limbo, Monument Valley, FixPix, Angry Birds (obviously), Robot Unicorn Attack, The World Ends with You.

We are still listening to Jets’n’Guns OST (even right now, actually), it’s great. Do you have any information on the sequel? That’s a crazy little game!

No sequel in the works that we know of.

Any other game OSTs you’ve been impressed by?

Metroid Prime.

We think that Sky Force 2014 OST is also incredible, and it kinda reminds of your style. Have you heard it?

We have not heard it, sorry.

If you are proposed to write another OST — would you consider it? What kind of game should it be? May be you already have some titles or genres in mind.

Yes, we enjoy making OSTs. We’re currently contracted to create a soundtrack for an upcoming game called For My Brother, by Crooked Tree Studios. It’s a metroidvania sidescroller and the music will have celtic influences.

Let’s pretend a talented game designer comes to you and says: “I’m making a game, and it’s gonna be great (he shows you something like 10000000 for example), but I have no music yet. You are writing the music, and I’ll give you retro bonus”. Are you willing to work for the future interest or you prefer cold hard cash here and now?

Sure, we’ll work for a share of the returns if we believe in a project.

Have you ever used your mobile device in an unusual or non-traditional way?

If our backing tracks (synths etc) fail live, we can use an iPhone as backup.

What feature would you add to mobile devices, if you could? Modern engineers are quite capable these days, maybe your idea will play out nicely.

Infinite battery life really is the one thing that would be most preferable right now. And maybe a lot of other awesome things would become possible if energy depletion wasn’t a problem.