by Jedd Beaudoin
With a bevy of releases to their credit, dating back to 1995, Germany's Poverty's No Crime have only just now seen their music make it to American soil. But what an arrival it's been. With The Chemical Chaos has planted the flag of the Fatherland firmly on Miss Liberty's soil. I caught up with bassist Heiko Spaarmann around the time of TCC's release to talk about the band and this unique moment in PNC history.
Sea of Tranquility: What can you tell me about the writing and recording of The Chemical Chaos?
Heiko Spaarmann: After One In A Million was released we played some concerts in Germany and the Netherlands. Then we started writing the new songs. When you compare it to the old records, it's a little bit different. We've been using more parts that are catchier, vocally. They also have easier song structures.
SoT: You mentioned that the writing changed a little bit this time. Was there a conscious decision to make the songs easier in terms of structure or did that just sort of happen?
HS: It happened because we changed our style of writing songs. Before, it was a collaboration between all of us in the rehearsal room. We met and one of us would have an idea and everybody would put their ideas together. So, new parts would be created and the song would build up more and more until it was finished. This time, we started using the computer as a tool for writing songs. So, we shared our ideas with the computer. If I had an idea for a song, I'd put some basic structures down on the computer ... maybe some bass lines, some keyboards for the vocal melodies, some drum tracks and then I'd send it out by e-mail to the other guys and they'd add their parts. So, when we met in the rehearsal room, everybody already knew what to play. Everybody was working on the song for a long period of time than before because we'd only meet for rehearsal.
SoT: It's interesting because I would guess that in a rehearsal space you'd be able to say, "Hold on, don't play there," whereas with the computer, there's no immediate interaction.
HS: We meet just as often as we did before. It's just that you can put many tracks on the computer. Before that, I'd have an idea. I'd play it maybe on my bass. Then I'd say, "That sounds good," come up with an idea for the guitars or some drums and I had to go to the rehearsal room and tell the other guys what I thought they could do. I'd say, "Maybe this melody." Then I'd sing it or play it on my bass. Now, I have the chance to test it out. I can put a guitar track next to my bass tracks and I can check if something sounds better or if a melody sounds better. I can work on songs for a longer period of time. When I send it out, the other guys have much more time to work on it. I think that's a big advantage. The interaction is not missing.
JB: How long did the record take from start to finish once you go into the studio?
HS: It's took about two months but that doesn't mean that we were in there every day. We used the same studio where we did the last three albums. The producer is a good friend of ours and we really had the freedom to record when we had time. We can go in for a half day and then say, "Okay. We're done today. It wouldn't be good to go on today. We've been working so hard on this song. We need a break." Or if we need a break for two days, we can get it. I think that two months is a long time to work on a record. But we also had a 10 day break before we mixed the album. That way we could listen to the songs with fresh ears. You could listen to the songs with fresh ears. When you've been listening to the songs over and over again when you record it, after a while you're really fed up with them songs. You can't stand them any longer. If you have to mix them directly after recording, it's not good.
SoT: So, of all that's involved with being in a band, what's your favorite part?
HS: Playing live. I really enjoy it. It's my favorite part of making music. I love playing in front of a huge audience. That doesn't happen so often for us, though.
SoT: It's possible that people here in the States will think that this new record is the first one that the band has put out. If that's the case for someone and they find out that you actually have more records, where would you recommend they go from there?
HS: [Long pause.] I'd go to Slave To The Mind and then One In A Million.
SoT: How did this deal with Inside Out America come to be?
HS: It was planned for One In A Millionbut I think there were simply too many releases scheduled for IOMA at that time. It was just too much for them to handle, so they couldn't put out a record at that time. It got pushed back. And now we've released this album and I think the last two records will be released soon. I think it was organizational.
SoT: How does it feel, knowing that your records will make it across the ocean to the U.S.?
HS: It's great. I have a lot of friends in the States, in Seattle. I went there last year and brought some demos. My friends said, "Oh, we like it. It's great music. Can we get your CD here?" I said, "Unfortunately, not. But maybe when we release the next one." So it's good for me, I can tell my friends about it, say, "Okay, get our new record!" [Laughs.] But it's really a great feeling. The first few records were released in Japan but unfortunately the last three were not. So, it's good to have the U.S. as a special market for us.
SoT: There's been a huge controversy here in the U.S. over the last few years about music downloading. Has it been as much of problem in Europe?
HS: It's a problem for the industry, especially with the bigger companies. You can read about it in the newspapers and the media companies have been starting advertising. They've been started to make funny commercials against downloading music and movies. There's a scene in a jail where two young guys are brought into a jail. It's like, "You can get arrested and go to prison for five years for downloading music." Put people are not aware of that. They just changed the laws in Germany a few months back. It's now a crime. But most people aren't aware and so the industry is trying to build up an awareness.
It's funny because I wrote to some friends that I don't see all that often and said, we had a new album coming out and that they should check it out. I wrote an e-mail and said, "It'd be nice if you could buy it." I got a few e-mails that said, "Oh, yeah, it's nice. I downloaded it." [Laughs.] I said, "Well, that's not what I meant."
Especially for a small band like us, it's really crucial to have one thousand more or less CDs sold. It's not like we're selling hundreds of thousands of CDs. It's crucial to have those CD sales so that we can can go on making music.
SoT: Some in this debate would say, "Well, it's great for small bands because it's a good promotional tool."
HS: Who will buy the record when they've downloaded it already? I doubt that they'll do it. You've listened to it 20-30 times already and you say, "I've heard it so often that I don't really have to buy it." I really doubt that people will go to the store and say, "I already downloaded it, now I want to buy it." That seems unlikely.
SoT: So, we'll say that PNC is an anti-downloading band.
HS: An anti-downloading band.
HS: We don't go out on the street and say, "Don't download! Don't download!" It's okay. People have copied tapes and records for a long time. That's okay, as long they still buy the records. Everybody can download it but if they like it, they should buy it, especially for the small bands.