When it comes to describing Rachel Haywire for the uninitiated or just plain uneducated where does one begin? Beyond her own musical project, Experiment Haywire, She runs the independent record label machineKUNT signing new artists and putting together compilations. In addition she travels all over the world and has even been working on a book for some time. I never expected to be able to chat with her for an extended interview but I did manage to corner her and she was gracious enough to grant me an extensive, honest and intimate discussion on a wide range of topics. She makes for a great interview subject simply because she has so many ideas and she's not afraid to put them out there. She's a truly unique personality with a lot to say and even more to offer.
Interview by Christopher Roddy
DTC: As an artist using music as a vehicle for spreading your own ideas do you feel what you're doing requires quite a bit of patience on your part? By that I mean; can it get frustrating dealing with the typical club kid mentality of dancing the night away without giving thought to much else? How much of your message do you think gets lost on the people toward which you're reaching out? Do you consider yourself as someone who possesses a great deal of patience?
Rachel Haywire: Several years ago my answer would have been different but I think I've grown up a bit. While the mindless hedonism of the club scene can be
extremely annoying it is pretty damn harmless. If a bunch of kids who are only into fashion want to dance to music they don't understand they are not ruining my night. It's extremely ignorant and petty to declare war on them for "not getting it." My problem is with the greedy people who know exactly what they're doing and go out of their way to hurt others. The club kids are just there to have a good time. Maybe I can't talk to them about the origins of industrial or transhumanism but at the end of the night they aren't the ones harassing me. I definitely feel that the people who I'm reaching out to understand my message and I'm lucky to have fans who are this socially and politically aware. I don't care if they go out to the clubs or not. I've dealt with way too many shitty people and have grown to be a lot more patient over the years. If "annoying scenesters" were to suddenly dance to my music without understanding it I would simply be happy that my music was getting played in the first place. If they're not able to talk to me about philosophy or politics so what? At least they're not a bunch of assholes.
DTC: How did music play a role in your early development? Where did the appreciation for music actually begin? What specific artists inspired you to utilize music
as an enhancement to your own voice? And beyond the well-known, who encouraged you down this path, whether they be teachers, guardians or friends? What impact have these people had on your life specifically?
Rachel Haywire: When I was really young my mother forced me to take piano lessons. I actually couldn't stand it. I never got to play the songs that I wanted to and if I didn't practice 2 hours a day I'd be punished. I look back on this and am grateful that I had the opportunity to learn how to play the piano because later on it helped me program music and play the synthesizer. Yet at first I was just rebelling by making "noise" and I actively tried to unlearn all that I had been taught. I felt that playing the piano at such an early age was not due to creativity but exploitive parents. I did make up my own songs on the piano when I was really young though. I can name a bunch of industrial or electronic artists that were influential to me but that's been done
a million times. It was actually artists like Wendy O. Williams and Lydia Lunch that got me thinking. What would they be doing if they were my age during this time? Then there were all the outcasts I met on the internet in the early 90's who didn't know a thing about music but were always talking to me about the esoteric and bizarre. I felt that there needed to be a musical outlet for us because going to anit-cult-cult meetings was getting kind of old. My Grandma was always inspiring to me because she didn't believe in "reality" and I was able to talk to her about metaphysics. I also remember a lot of punk kids
who I hung out with on the streets. Not many of them were doing very well but we all shared a natural desire to challenge whatever system was presented to us. I actually don't think I'd be making electronic music if I hadn't started out as a street performer. One thing lead to another.
DTC: What's your take on all this recent talk regarding the "death of Industrial?" Beyond your own local scene how much experience have you had in other locations
around the country and can any credence be lent to this attempt at tearing everything down out of some kind of pervasive perception (however misguided) that this style of music has run its course?
Rachel Haywire: Industrial keeps dying and I don't think it's going to stop any time soon. The original artists were not club kids who wore all black and stomped to angry electronic music. They were geeks, intellectuals, and artists on the fringes of society who made their own instruments and put on shows that were very performance art based. I personally mark "the death of industrial" as when people at the clubs started going online and when people online started going to clubs. It became a
scene full of idiotic gossip. High school the musical. Industrial as a genre keeps evolving though. Or maybe devolving. Let's just go with
changing. Combichrist sounds nothing like Throbbing Gristle and I don't think the industrial bands that are popular in 10 years will
sound anything like Combichrist. Industrial is just a term. Some people hate it. Some people obsess over it. Some people just don't give a fuck. It's all just music.
DTC: Do you view filesharing as even more of a danger to the independent artist in relation to the big label artist?
Rachel Haywire: I don't think filesharing is going to stop in a generation that was raised on the internet. I'm surprised so many independent artists and labels are still around but one good thing that can be said is that we're obviously not doing this for the money. We do this because we love it. When CD's become like vinyl we'll remember the days when it was a legacy to have an album out that
we could actually touch. Even if only a few people ended up buying it.
DTC: So where does Industrial go from here, in your estimation? And do you feel that message-based music has been lost? Why does it appear as though nobody has anything to say anymore, particularly in a time when it seems like there's so much that really needs to be said? Long ago Woody Guthrie scrawled "This machine kills fascists" onto his guitar. What happened to using music as a vehicle for proletariat justice in the face of marginalization by the elite? Can (and should) Industrial be the new (old) Punk, clawing its way from the underground and into people's faces whether they like it or not?
Rachel Haywire: Industrial kills fascists! This is what we've been trying to do for a while now but we can't suddenly increase the desire for social change
in your average consumer. The bands that get promoted these days are the bands that do not contain a message. It's not cool to think. Consolidated did what they needed to and got remembered for it but I'm sure they faced ridicule by their peers. If people simply want to
dance to dark pop music that makes them feel like they're killing people they can go right on ahead.
DTC: So do you think Industrial could be the vehicle we need to kick a complacent society in its collective ass?
Rachel Haywire: I'm done trying to "wake people up" with my music. The people who get it do. If I can inspire pissed off women to program that is great but I'm not out to save the world. There are lots of thugs and boneheads who listen to industrial so they can feel like they're a part of some angry collective. They stay on the fringes for a reason. At least we have more of a chance than they do of infiltrating the mainstream. We don't advocate a might is right mentality. I'm not out to get machineKUNT albums sold at Hot Topic but
throwing a large festival would kick ass. We'll just have to see.
DTC: Where did "Rachel Haywire" begin and what were the defining moments over the past decade to which you can point and say, "It was a rough ride but I made it here because of..?"
Rachel Haywire: I never know where to start here. People called me Haywire became they named me after my personality. Originally it was just a street name
but eventually it stuck. Rachel is because my parents were Jewish. Every Jewish girl is named Rachel. I don't think very many people would be able to get through the life that I have. The mental hospital was the worst which I why I started the Sanity is Slavery compilation. I didn't know it was possible to feel like I was
completely dehumanized without my own will for such a long period of time. What really gets to me is how people assumed I was on some trust
fund because I was traveling across country and going to clubs. I was traveling across country because I didn't have a home. The clubs were just something I did on the side. I got sick of going to protests and punk shows because the aesthetic was getting boring and the ideas were getting old. I got kicked out of a lot of Goth/Industrial clubs for not being "classy enough" or whatever they're calling it. It's hard to believe I was DJing in NYC when I used to have trouble getting in the door. When I think of all the guys who abused me as they played industrial music I wonder if this is some sort of coping mechanism.
Maybe it is. Does it matter? When I think of all the people who betrayed me because of slander and libel I wonder if they could have gotten through what I did. I doubt it. If someone isn't a part of a group or established label it's very easy for them to crumple under controversy. Getting tormented in middle school helped prepare me for
getting mobbed by my own industry. It was like I knew what to expect because it had already happened to me as a child.
DTC: To what sort of diet do you adhere?
Rachel Haywire: Whatever I want. I really like Thai food and Indian food but the best food I've had has been Indonesian. I've gone days without eating because I've been too busy to even bother. Sometimes I'll just grab a slice of pizza. I try to avoid fast food joints because they're disgusting. For a while I was a vegan in Portland out of convenience. I couldn't find any meat there so I gave up.
DTC: How do you go about assembling your own songs? Do you still make an effort to incorporate the sort of noise that was prevalent in your early recordings? Do you get a rhythm in your head and try to build on that using equipment or does much of it stem from application and experimentation?
Rachel Haywire: Sometimes I'll still use samples that I created through field recordings and I'll incorporate them into the structure of the song. I like to distort them so they sound as clean as possible. I used to look down on anything "clean" but the challenge of making these sounds polished was too difficult for me to pass up. I'm crazy like that.
When I was working on "Unchallenging Complacency" I banged on a bunch of sheet metal and mixed these sounds with a trip-hop sort of beat. I still like to play around like this because if you haven't tried something how do you know if it will work or not? It used to be only about experimentation but now I can get a rhythm in my head and take it from there.
DTC: How often do
lyrical ideas serve as the catalyst to the type of sound you construct?
Rachel Haywire: For a while I was writing my lyrics before I was
writing my instrumentals but now it's the other way around. I write the instrumentals first and then I write the lyrics. That way I don't need to worry about chopping them down to make them fit with the beat of the song. I don't think I'll ever stop trying new ideas and I'm always interested in playing new synthesizers, working with new programs, and learning new VST's.
DTC: Is melody at all important to you?
Rachel Haywire: Very much so. I'll spend hours trying to play "the right melody" and I'm still working on playing those sorts of synth lines that will remain stuck in your head for days. I'd like my music to be a lot more memorable. I don't bother to sing on key though. I'm keeping my punk roots with my vocals. I scream, whisper, or chant. Melodic female vocals don't work for this project and they go against my personality.
DTC: Would you be able to exist within a band/group setting or does the way you tend to work make such collaborations difficult? Would you consider yourself as someone not given to compromise in a creative setting, thus remaining a fiercely independent creature of habit?
Rachel Haywire: I'd be happy to join a band if we were able to work well together. My main problem is that it's hard to find an analog drummer when I've already composed the beats electronically. I know I can be antisocial and hard to work with but who isn't these days? I used to be less open to group collaborations because I felt like they were a waste of time. I'd just end up alienating everybody so what was the point? My self esteem can get pretty low but I don't think I need to remain socially retarded forever. If people are talented enough nobody cares about their personality quirks and flaws. I'm working on becoming talented enough. If I don't turn EH into a full band I'm ignoring a lot of potential and if a larger band that I respected asked me to work with them I'd see no reason to say no.
DTC: So when will be be able to officially call you a "published author?" Where are you at with your book and what can you tell people about what they can expect once it's completed?
Rachel Haywire: I'm published in Generation Hex but since that was an anthology it's not the same. The funny thing about Acidexia is that I keep thinking it's finished. It's one final edit after another. It's a memoir about the lunatic fringes of cyber culture before social networking sites became popular. It's about finding "the others" during a time when we felt like we were the only ones. It's about traveling from city to city. Starting cults and empires. It's a creative autobiography about my life before I became a musician. It's being described as an "On The Road of the future" and that is pretty damn exciting. I want people to read Acidexia and remember "that's what it was like." The people that were there will always remember and the people that weren't will get to find out. I just finished another final edit. Maybe this will be the last one. Right now I'd estimate the release date of the book to be mid-2010. Books take a lot longer to finish than albums. I started writing this book almost a decade ago.
DTC: Throbbing Gristle put together a bunch of live dates for the month of April. Did you see that as wise? Can this act put forth the sort of performance art for which they were known thirty years ago? Have you experienced anything out there that comes close to what TG accomplished back then?
Rachel Haywire: For the April tour I saw Throbbing Gristle perform in San Francisco and it was beyond amazing. Getting to see them live was a dream that I never thought would come true. They followed "What a Day" with "Discipline" and I completely lost myself. Their stage presence was
fantastic and Genesis even brought hir daughter on stage. I never got to see them in the early days (let's not count youtube here) but I could tell that the band had gone through a major process of evolution. They weren't as angry as they used to be and I won't deny that I was hoping for harder material, but it was like they had come full circle and were now here to share themselves with us once again. I didn't expect it to be like it was when RE/SEARCH magazine was still in zine form. I see revivalist shows like that at warehouses all the time. I was just happy to see Throbbing Gristle as a full band in 2009. This is something I never thought would happen. I was also lucky enough to follow Einstürzende Neubauten in Europe for their shows in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Berlin. Toward the end of the show they played an improv game on stage that involved playing whatever instruments and concepts were picked out of a chef hat. Everyone in the band was given different instruments/concepts and they created several songs just like that. Pure improv. It really brought back the spirit of early industrial but the thing is that they weren't doing this as a revival. They were doing it because this was what they were still into. They are continuing to push the envelope even now. Their shows are timeless.
DTC: What challenges you? What do you find most challenging?
Rachel Haywire: Extreme politics and difficult philosophy. It's not that I agree with the extreme politics but that they fascinate me on an aesthetic and intellectual level. I don't think I've ever gotten over my fascination with anarchy meeting fascism. I don't advocate this sort of society
but the ideas are extremely stimulating to me. Does that make any sense? I'm probably just a masochist. It's also challenging to read Heidegger and Derrida. To immerse my mind in anything and everything that is socially taboo. None of this is nearly as challenging as walking into a bank and not freaking out. Or a supermarket. If I really want to challenge myself I'll get through a day of banks and supermarkets without causing a scene. People are afraid to bring me out in public. I'm supposed to be working on that.
DTC: Your label, machineKUNT, propels female artists into the limelight at a time when the number of females in Industrial seems - on the surface - to be dwindling. When I've spoken to others about this there's little consensus that females are at all discouraged from participating but that it's more
a matter of lack of interest on the part of women to get involved in these styles of music. And yet one needs to take into account your most recent
compilation, Extreme Women In The Dark Future, and how it brought out quite a few women struggling to be noticed. So why is it that female artists aren't making the sort of headway their male counterparts quite easily achieve?
Rachel Haywire: I'm seeing more female industrial artists pop up every day now. We're everywhere. It's truly incredible and this is exactly how I wanted things to be. To be honest Extreme Women In The Dark Future didn't sell very well because the cover wasn't "sexy enough" and this was ironic in all the wrong ways. It was a picture of Rosie the Riveter only this time she was Rosie the Rivethead. People loved the music and lots of new female artists began to emerge but the cover made this project a financial failure. I'm glad that the message encouraging
female independence in electronic music wasn't lost. I was met with so much mockery for what I was doing, a lot of it from a specific female
artist who wanted to be "the only one," but each day I saw more and more independent women starting their own projects. We're here to unite and not to compete. If I re-release the compilation with a "hotter cover" I'm sure it would sell better. Is this actually the "better" that I'm going for though? It's kind of complicated. I have a lot of respect for alternative models but how can the scene face the
3rd wave of feminism when they haven't even faced the 2nd? When will they start respecting alternative models for their art as opposed to
viewing them as "sluts" while simultaneously consuming products with their images on it? Magazines like Gothic Beauty feature female models
on the cover but what about female musicians? What about female musicians that are alternative models? What about alternative models that start picking up synthesizers and learning software? The
possibilities are endless. We're not out to sell music to people who don't understand what we're doing. I'm not a Suicide Girl but even if I was I wouldn't market myself to people who thought I was some "fine ass ho" or whatever. I don't see how musicians who know that they're only selling music because of sex appeal can live with themselves. Either you have talent or you don't. Seduction can be useful but it has nothing to do with musical talent. I'll take talent over seduction any day.
DTC: How did you go about compiling the songs for Extreme Women? Were each of the acts included people with whom you were already quite familiar or did you have to put feelers out and do some research looking specifically for women who might want to be involved in the project?
Rachel Haywire: I did a lot of research. At least half of the artists on there were unknown and it was a lot of fun to discover them. Two of the artists on there started projects specifically to get on the compilation. I
brought in a few popular female artists in the scene but to be honest this was only to get the newer artists discovered. Maybe that isn't professional to say but at this point I have nothing to lose. I've already been blacklisted so fuck it. The best songs of the compilation were from the newer artists. Unwoman, Odio 84, Protea, Aluminum Voyage, Genocidio 1968, Jul!e Destroy, and Noizekatt. The new discoveries are what kept this project moving.
DTC: So when can we expect the next album to drop, and what can you tell us about the direction you've taken this time out?
Rachel Haywire: Grrl Interrupted is the most personal album I've ever worked on and it's scheduled for release this November. This is a full length album
with all new songs. No remixes. The production is much cleaner than anything on Cooler Than Genocide or Annihilation Chic and the topics range from suffering from recurrent trauma to reclaiming the term "attention whores" (someone had to do it!). I want to help young
teenage girls recover from Borderline Personality Disorder. Since I recovered myself I want to be a role model. This isn't an album for the "Industrial scene" but for a new scene that I'm working to create. If people in the "Industrial scene" like it they do but they aren't the ones who I'm trying to reach. You won't find any songs about machines on this album (as much as I have a fetish for machinery) because Grrl Interrupted was a period of personal healing for me. I feel that I've grown as an artist quite a bit and I wouldn't want to waste my musical knowledge on a group of people who shit on me.
DTC: What's in store for the machineKUNT label? Do you have many more releases planned? Are you currently speaking with any artists about putting out their material?
Rachel Haywire: I just signed this new artist named Lady Parasyte. She's from Chicago and she's incredible. Her first full length album, Abandoned Places, is coming out on machineKUNT Records this year. I'm also releasing a new full length album by Cindergarden who was the first artist I
signed to the label. It's a pleasure to be working with such talented musicians. I'm always interested in signing new artists too.
DTC: Does that interest extend only to women who carry a strong message or are you more open to a variety of voices with different perspectives?
Rachel Haywire: A strong message is important but so is having a unique sound and being able to move people. I'm not opposed to signing transgender artists either. There are so many different directions that machineKUNT can go in which is one of the great things about it being a new label. I'm not closing out any possibilities. The Sanity is Slavery compilation is not gender exclusive and is about fighting against oppression in the mental health system. There is no "sanity" except for the consensual definition of the word.
DTC: You've done quite a bit of traveling. What areas of the country have impressed you the most? Which locales have inspired you in some way and where would you like to make return visits? How is it that you ultimately decided to base yourself in NYC?
Rachel Haywire: One of my favorite cities in the United States is Santa Cruz, California. There is something that is just plain beautiful about that place. I went to school in Savannah, Georgia for a bit. The architecture there blew my mind. I really like the club scene in Los Angeles. My favorite city is actually Dresden, Germany. Living out there changed my life. NYC is the easiest place for me to work on music because it's where I truly got started with Experiment Haywire. I don't consider myself based in NYC though. I lived there for a while and was another victim of the shitty economy. I couldn't last as a multi-media artist without a college degree. I had to leave. I would eventually like to move the UK because everything seems to happen over there first. I want to be able to fly to Germany more often too. I want to see all of Europe. Having a European tour is my ultimate dream. If I could live nicely as a vagabond that is what I would choose. Being stuck in one place can fuck with my creativity. I always seem to end up homeless anyway. The only places I don't get kicked out of are full of people living like shit. I can't live that life anymore.
DTC: Ever been to Minneapolis/Saint Paul? Ever consider playing a show here? Ever expect you could be persuaded to do so?
Rachel Haywire: I've done so much traveling it's honestly hard to remember. I'd love to come out there though! Just let me know the details.
See also: Review: Remix Riot
See also: Review: Extreme Women In The Dark Future