Lakeshore Records recently caught up with Brian Liesegang, co-founder of the band Filter and former member of Nine Inch Nails. Brian collaborated with Geno Lenardo (also from Filter) on the Wednesday (Original Comic Book Soundtrack), and you can hear song previews below. John Bergin’s WEDNESDAY Book 1 comic is out now wherever comic books are sold. Go to Stompbox 13 for more details on the book!
Wednesday (Original Comic Book Score) and Wednesday (Original Comic Book Soundtrack) are out now on Lakeshore Records. Check out the interview below after the jump.
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Tell us about your past work. What lit the fire for you and made you want to write and record music?
After graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in Philosophy, I had a few options: teach, get my masters degree, go to law school, or… fortunately I was offered a job by Trent Reznor to go live with him in New Orleans and join Nine Inch Nails. It wasn’t a difficult decision at the time, as they were my favorite band. I have never needed a fire under my ass to write or produce music, as I always had one, but NIN was such a head turner for me at the time, as most of the music I had heard in that genre was tired and some guy gargling about some world condition over some noise loops in a non-melodic way, expressing the zeitgeist, but not the humanity I believed it needed to “transcend.” Trent absolutely 100% brought that, and put a person or rather a “vessel” in the machine. It wasn’t about being a synth band, it wasn’t about being an alternative band, it wasn’t about being a metal band. It was about communicating with a new or evolving sonic landscape, and with (surprise, surprise) actually bringing a melody to the fold, and a protagonist to inhabit it. That was a game changer for me. I loved Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, The Cure, etc., and I loved the Replacements and Bauhaus, etc. Nine Inch Nails brought the texture of the latter, with the song writing and personality of the rest. Since then, I started Filter with Richard Patrick, meeting and working and touring and touring a lot along the way with Geno Lenardo, whom I met in Chicago when he was working for Ministry.
A lot of things along the way since then: producing and writing for Sinead O’Connor, and Veruca Salt; my old production partner and friend were the official remixers for Sir Paul McCartney: providing all the music for his opening show (as it is a little hard to open up for Paul McCartney!); remixing and providing all sorts of content for Disney’s new Fantasia; I have spent a lot of time working with the esteemed Billy Corgan, in the studio and touring. Right now, I am working on producing some songs with Linda Perry with my dear friend Kerry Brown, (we just did a song with Miley Cyrus!!), working on producing David J (Bauhaus/Love and Rockets), Sonnet Whitaker, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Ziggy Marley, Skating Polly, and many other artists down the pike both known and unknown that I can’t quite talk about yet! Unbelievably, Kerry and I just produced His Holiness’ The Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday event, so to say we are a little all over the place would not be a hyperbole. We do what we love, and love what we do. and more importantly to me, we do it for the “right” reasons, at least in my humble opinion, but of course that is all subject to question…
Tell us about your contributions to the Wednesday album. You worked with Geno Lenardo and Nina Bergman. Which songs did you work on and what did you bring to them?
Geno approached me about writing some songs with him last year for Wednesday, and as a fan of John’s work, and with the always fun opportunity to work with my old friend, we got right on it. Nina is a star. Geno and I had penciled out some songs, and we went to town in my studio, recording the tracks, and we had a great time doing so. Geno was running back and forth from Chicago to Los Angeles (where I currently reside), but it was a joy, as we have known each other for so long. He knows what I want and vice versa. And then you throw Nina in the mix who absolutely asserts herself with such presence. It certainly was a labor of love. A lot of time spent, to get it right and to suit the vision of John’s work, but I think we all tried to inhabit the characters to some degree and bring out their ethos in a manner true to the art, and honest with ourselves attempting to live in it.
Check out these three songs from the Wednesday (Original Comic Book Soundtrack) featuring the work of Brian Liesegang:
How would you categorize the music you make? (Were you aiming for a certain genre sound with the Wednesday music?)
I never categorize the music I make, as I would both fail in adjectives or no one would agree with “my” vernacular on it (cop out?). Half the time I like to record loud guitar and become a recidivist child. Then, make sense of it later. So then I guess I spend the other half of the time recording backwards pianos or glockenspiels underwater coupled with modular and analog synths to give a visceral hands-on coldness meets aggression meets sensitivity. It is always important for me to have a tension of making the congruent incongruent, and vice versa. I hate “just” guitar bands, and I hate “just simply synth bands etc.” I think when you find the right ebb and flow between the two is where the magic happens — at least it does for me. Not to say I don’t enjoy Nick Drake or Kraftwerk, but for me, the sweet spot in that ephemeral in-between is where it is at.
I think the goal for Geno, Nina and I writing the music was mostly to inhabit the character, with a flawed aggressive/broken/never say die intention. John and Brian [McNelis] were very open to what we were doing and were very pleasant in giving us a fairly long leash, but they knew what they wanted, and we were just lucky that we were in the ballpark for the most part. It took a lot of time to develop certain sonic aspects of it that sound simple, but it was worth it, as we believed in the work.
Parts of “Somewhere Better Than Here” are very “filmic”: almost like film score music. Some of your other work has this quality, too. Are you interested in scoring films?
I have written film scores, and love to. On stage, I tend to play guitar more often as it gives me an opportunity to move around and what-not; but, in the studio, I am a computer geek, and an absolute synthesizer snob. I think I was taught well by Flood and Bon Harris to generally start from scratch on sound and employing the ethos of Brian Eno, completely believe in using the studio as a canvas. I am not into jam bands, not saying I can’t enjoy a good one once in awhile, but that is not what I do. I like to paint with sound and noise, and organize it in a fashion that communicates the intent. I spend way too much time going down rabbit holes of sound, and well, that is just fine with me. I have a lot of projects going on right now that encourage that, and so while I may write with a guitar or piano on the main theme, I tend to delve more into sound to express the world I want to create — and there is more joy to me in that then anything else.
In the story, Wednesday has no friends, so she builds three robotic sock monkeys to be her friends. If you had to literally make your own best friend, what/who would you build?
Ha. Probably my mac pro running a digital audio workstation and my sample collection and a few synths… but my best collaborators often are in the machine, and it’s when I work with some great people, great things can happen, but I don’t mind being left to my own devices, literally and figuratively.
But my best friend in the “Wednesday” sense would be that, a device that would allow me to communicate the way I intend, that I can control in that regard, but with the added mechanism of the surprise factor, or the left hook; one that posits questions I do not have answers for and demands I do; one that challenges; one that makes you grow…. is that not what we want from our best friends? Challenge, reward, confidence, confidentiality, trust, and someone to experience this thing we call life in a way that makes us better then by ourselves; someone we can give to, and something that can give to us in a positive light.
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