Heretics started out in early 2010 and have since then produced their first self-titled album named Heretics. Later on the single Epitaph came out, accompanied by their latest addition to the family Wealth = Success in 2012. They’re playing a mix of synth-pop, post-punk and witch-house. This year they’ve got a gig at Young Twisted And Black, over at The Finsbury in North London and one at Destroy the Silence – Underworld in Camden, London. I got the opportunity to interview one of the bandmembers, namely David Whiting – whom concentrates mostly on the more synth-oriented pieces but also do the vocals. Mostly about how their journey started, how they have developed and many more interesting things which you can read below.
When did you start your musical career for real?
- It depends how you define “for real” really. Like almost every other musical artist apart from those at the very top, I have a full time job as well as making music so I’m not sure I can say that I have ever started my musical career “for real”. I have, however, been producing music under various names since I was in my early teens (10 years ago now) and playing in bands from a couple of years after that. I guess Heretics was the first project I’ve been part of where there are genuine fans who like the music for what it is, rather than just friends and friends of friends, and that started up around late 2009/early 2010.
What kind of bands and artists have influenced you the most?
- I had a bit of a Depeche Mode obsession when I was a teenager, and a bit later on I listened to lots of The Smiths and Joy Division. I think those three come across on the songwriting side. I’ve also followed a lot of the modern electronic scenes as they have developed, so there’s a lot of influence from trip hop, dubstep and trance in the sound of the production.
Have you been in any other band or group prior to Heretics? If so, do you believe that those past experiences have forged you into what you are now?
- I played drums in a garage rock band for a couple of years, then sang and played keyboards in a nu-rave band for a little while. I guess both have probably left their mark on what I do now, but the genre is so far apart from Heretics that it’s hard to any direct relation. On the other hand, I produce music under a few other names too: Spectral Theory (breakbeat and electro), Demoscene Time Machine (8-bit) and bowchurch (witch house). I think it’s a great idea to make music in lots of different genres, as you can steal ideas from each of your different projects to mix things up a bit, and nobody’s going to sue you because they’re all yours.
In what way have you been influenced aesthetically? Where do you draw your influences from and in what way have they changed since you started out?
- For the first self-titled album “Heretics” in 2010, there was a clear 80s throwback approach to the kind of music we were making. Everything from the 4 to the floor drum beats to the stabby basses and the stringsynths was taken straight from the 80s electronic world. Even the image was very 80s, with our button-up shirts and right-angled photo poses. I think it’s fair to say that for Epitaph and Wealth = Success, we’ve jumped on the witch-house bandwagon a little bit, even if the end product doesn’t end up sounding that much like the other witch house music around. It made sense to go in a more gothic direction, as the songs were getting darker and slower – so we have borrowed a few of the audio and visual elements from that scene to integrate with what we do.
Could you describe how the creative process went with your first album Heretics? What do you think about it yourselves?
- The first album “Heretics” was much more of a team effort than Wealth = Success. Me and Lawrence worked in the studio together for the majority of the writing and recording process. Typically we’d start on the computer, sketching out ideas and sounds that we like, then I’d take them all away and see which ones I could write lyrics and vocal-lines for, then bring them back to the studio and we’d assemble the final song together. I think Heretics stands up well as a pop album, but in terms of sounds it’s a bit boring to listen to. It got a little formulaic by the end, and it tended to be just about the big choruses with loads of layers of synth and guitar on, rather than something that felt truly creative.
What do you prefer to do when you’re not making music or playing it live?
- I spend most of my time when I’m not doing those things at work, but I guess that’s not what you want to hear. I quite like going to small gigs where I don’t know any of the bands playing. There’s a certain vibe about East London which means when you go and see some bands, there’ll always be somebody trying something you’ve never heard before. It might be poorly thought through, or executed badly, but there’s always something creative there, which is something you don’t often get in the rest of the UK or even in the rest of London.
In what way have you progressed since that release and what’s the album name Wealth = Success all about? The name kind of makes you think that money buys success. Was that the thought behind naming it that way? And what does the album-cover resemble?
- Wealth = Success was much more of a solo effort for me. We ditched the guitars for this album, which was Lawrence’s idea, and I guess he wrote himself out of the creative process by doing so. I think that’s allowed me to spend more time playing with sounds and ideas than before, but perhaps it’s missing that extra layer of quality control that having somebody else in the room at the time gives you – it’s hard to tell. The album title is taken from the lyrics of the last song Ambition: “When your income is not the best, it’s easy to feel like you’ve failed, because wealth = success“. It’s framed as a statement, but really it’s a question that’s asked by a lot of the songs in the album, challenging the captialistic notion that wealth creation and growth should be the target for civilisation to aim for. Whether through financial speculation (Roulette), the rift between talent and earning potential (Engineer) or the historical context of imperialism (Beyond Hope), I’m giving examples of how a desire to create wealth and be “successful” can lead to a net decrease in happiness – asking why we define success in terms of wealth instead of in terms of happiness.
Which songs on your latest album Wealth = Success are you most satisfied with?
- I personally think my favourites are Engineer and Ambition. Engineer because I think the vocal takes and production and mixing all came together to sound great, and Ambition because I love the dynamic contrast between the first and second halves of the track.
Have you gotten any die-hard fans yet?
- There’s a few faces I’ve recognized from gig to gig, but we’re still new in the live scene so I’d probably say none of those were die-hard fans. We strangely have quite a few enthusiastic fans in Peru, thanks to a couple of blogs which keep writing about us, but I don’t think we’ll have the budget to fly over there any time soon so they’ll just have to stay as online fans for now.
Do you have anything in store for the near future besides the gig at The Underworld?
- May 18th: Young, Twisted and Black – The Finsbury, North London August 26th: Destroy the Silence – Underworld, Camden, London. We also might have something very exciting to play in June, but I can’t tell you about it yet because it’s not confirmed.
For those that don’t know what witch-house is, could you describe it? What does it mean to you?
- Witch house is one of those strange genre labels that’s overstepped its original remit considerably. It emerged from North America around early 2010 or thereabouts as quite a specific kind of music, but now in Europe it seems to mean any kind of slow, dark, electronic music with gothic stylings. The music we make fits the second definition, but probably doesn’t count as witch house by the first.
What do you think about the music industry as it is today? Have you had any trouble with it or is it all fine and dandy?
- There are very few places where we interact with the music industry, as we make and distribute all our records ourselves. I think the major label industry is basically dead. They’re trying desperately to scrape a living out of a broken and long-outdated model of content distribution, using legal action and intimidation to get money out of the people who could be their customers. They’re trying to make music scarce, but by digital means it has become abundant. If you can listen to music you can make a copy of it, if you can make a copy of it you can distribute that copy. Any fight against people who want to copy music is pointless.
- I see a new culture emerging – one I consider myself to be a part of – where anyone can be a content producer, and people pay for music because they want to reward the people responsible for creating it. This is one of the things I love about Bandcamp. It’s all just artists and tiny labels, so you know if you buy something there the artist will be rewarded. That’s something you can never get from a major label.
Could you recommend any new artists or bands that you like?
- If you want to listen to ‘actual’ witch-house, rather than the watered-down witch-pop songs we do, you should definitely check out CRIM3S, also based in London (http://soundcloud.com/crim3s).
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
- Go listen to Wealth = Success, we think you might like it.
Here’s their latest album Wealth = Success:
And here’s their first album Heretics:
http://open.spotify.com/album/22N5a5BGZy4RHcJQq36G08 and on iTunes.
You can find them over here: