INTERVIEW: Chris Wirsig of no:carrier
L.A.-based no:carrier, the electronic noir band, released its fourth full-length album “Broken Rainbow” subtitled “Songs for an Apocalyptic World” in the Fall 2015. no:carrier was founded by brainchild/songwriter Chris Wirsig in the mid-1990s. The group originally started as a two-piece unit and has grown into a bigger project including five singers: Cynthia Wechselberger, Lauralee Brown, Liza Marie Sparks, Scilla Siekmann and Bobby Halvorson. no:carrier explores humanity’s dark side. Chris Wirsig recently spoke to SoCalMusicToday.com about the band’s broad range of musical influences in its brooding, moody and cinematic style and sound, changes in the group since its inception, the songwriting and lyrical content, the controversial win of a Donald Trump as President-Elect and its potentially dire consequences/effects on the media and reporting news, and science and knowledge possibly going by the wayside and much more.
Did this presidential race have any impact on the tone of your songwriting?
Chris: Not really, as the songs were written over the past two years, with “Little Death” being an older song from around 2000 that we’ve re-recorded in a more modern vibe. My tone in songwriting always has been more on the dark and melancholy side, but it might get darker and more leaning towards industrial with where the world seems to be going at the moment.
Do you think Donald Trump becoming president-elect will give the band more inspiration for writing songs?
Chris: Although I never wrote a lot of obvious political songs, I already thought of starting to do this more often. I mean, if you look at where this government might go, thinking of the people who are nominated to be close advisors, it all sounds like a really bad joke or material for a very sinister sitcom. As I also have some of my roots in Industrial or EBM music I can definitely see myself writing more aggressive and political music in the near future – maybe with a side-project.
How have you all responded collectively to his win?
Chris: I can only talk for myself, although I think that everyone involved in this album has more or less the same opinion. I personally was shocked – not that voters only think about their own welfare, but that so many people even don’t realize what they’ve really voted for. All politics aside, I don’t think that Donald Trump is a decent human being, let alone somebody who should be president of a country. When I look at this man, I see a bullying, racist, highly hypocritical three-year-old, stomping his feet when somebody criticizes or makes fun of him. That he’s more concerned about Alec Baldwin impersonating him on Saturday Night Live speaks for itself. I just don’t understand how some people can’t see what this man really is.
Would you say “Broken Rainbow” is a metaphor and symbol for the desperate times we increasing live in as a society and you find it’s a long time coming?
Chris: Yes, I would see it as a metaphor, especially with the album’s subtitle “Ballads for an Apocalyptic World”. My feeling for a long time already is that the whole world is going into a new dark age again, where knowledge and science are not regarded as something important anymore and people rather believe the weirdest theories written on some blog than decent journalism from some respected news outlet. And of course, most media outlets and companies follow their own agenda and you can’t always believe everything coming from them. So what we would need is more media competence again so people know how to read and watch different news sources.
Is no:carrier truly a collaborative band project arranging the music and writing the songs?
Chris: Well, I must admit that it’s not 😉 It’s more or less a dictatorship with me being the supreme commander for life 😉 It somehow always was more my personal outlet, as I wrote and produced all the songs (apart from one song, “Pictures And The Drums” on “Between The Chairs,” where Cynthia wrote the lyrics), with Cynthia being the sole singer. So at its core it’s still me, but I’m joined by more singers now. A friend compared it to Alan Parsons Project, which had a similar arrangement.
The band was originally formed in the mid 1990s. Besides going from being a duo to becoming a full ensemble what are the biggest changes you have seen over that time as far as your creative growth and evolution?
Chris: I guess the biggest change was around 2000/2001 when Cynthia joined me and the sound of the band turned from harsh Industrial/EBM to a more Darkwave /Electropop style. And then we evolved over the years from the more retro sound towards the new songs that – at least in my opinion – merged our European Darkwave and Gothic roots with a more contemporary and more cinematic sound. I think in the earlier days I was somehow afraid of being accused to produce songs that are too emotive or dramatic, but I’m not anymore, after all I like dramatic music – from orchestral to electronic.
How did you develop an interest in anthropomorphic cats and how did that inspire “The Man Who Drew Cats”?
Chris: I coincidentally came upon the life story of Louis Wain, an English artist in the early 20th century who is most famous for his drawings of anthropomorphic cats. It’s just another tragic life story that I thought should be told in a song. It’s about this man’s mental problems that he could overcome – at least to a certain degree – when drawing. A sad man, treating his ailment with art – something that a lot of artist do, I guess.
Did you come all come from musical families?
Chris: My mother and grandmother both played piano, so I was happy to take lessons at an early age, later also studying saxophone. I know Cynthia also comes from a very musical family, and I’m pretty sure our other vocalists do as well.
If so, how did your family influence you?
Chris: My parents always supported me, even when I said I wanted to study audio engineering. Mind you, I grew up in a rural part in southern Germany, so going for something like music production is not the first choice everyone would want thier children to make 😉
Which song do you remember most from your childhood?
Chris: The usual children’s songs, but I don’t have concrete memories with these. But I can say that when the German New Wave started with songs like “99 Luftballoons” (released in the US as “99 Red Balloons”) and “Da Da Da” I noticed there was more to music than what I have heard so far. From then on, I listened to most genres out there, from rock to pop to electronic instrumentals.
Did those songs have a significant impact on you as you emerged as a songwriter?
Chris: For me the darker, more melancholy songs always caught my ear. More than happy songs, although I don’t dislike happy music 😉 But the typical 1980’s Synthpop classics from bands like Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and others definitely had a significant impact on me. But then, there’s also the music from artists like Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre that always inspired me, and does so until today.
What was the strangest thing you all have been inspired by?
Chris: Oh, sometimes I even don’t know where an inspiration comes from, it just enters my mind as a song title or cool line for lyrics. I guess some of the stranger ones came from more or less obscure biographies of historical people like Lady Jane Grey, who ruled England for nine days (as told in our song “The Nine Days Queen” from “Wisdom & Failure”).
Do you dream in color or black and white?
Chris: I’d say in color, as I don’t remember that I ever had any black and white dreams.
And do your dreams influence your music at all?
Chris: They sometimes inspire a song topic or lyrics. But unfortunately, not too often as I usually don’t remember a lot about my dreams.
If you could have any musical instrument in the world, which one would it be and why?
Chris: Just one? 😉 I really would have to sleep over that… Maybe a big Moog system, because – for lack of a better description – that’s the godfather of synths.
If you were able to sit under the table and listen to any two people speak who would it be? And why?
Chris: It’s hard to select just two – there are a lot of people where I’d like to listen in or rather get into their minds and deeply understand them. At the moment maybe Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream and Trent Reznor. Froese being the father of electronic music and a spiritual seeker, and Reznor being one of the people who brought harsher Electropop to the mainstream with Nine Inch Nails.
What type of venues do you frequent?
Chris: If I’m getting out of the studio I quite often just go into nature, walking the dog or go hiking. And I like meeting with friends in nice restaurants, as I always like good food 😉 Also movies and concerts – I don’t mind the venue too much as long as the music or movie is good. A great concert can take place in a stadium or a small club.
What do you think are the coolest things to see and do in Los Angeles?
Chris: Apart from the obvious things like a walk down Hollywood Boulevard, I always show people Griffith Park, if they’re movie lovers the different studio tours are cool, and for music fans, a history tour of Sunset Boulevard is always great. I mean the history of Los Angeles was such a rollercoaster at times and you can still visit a lot of historically important places – I always like things like that.
Do you enjoy being in the studio and recording music or touring more and why?
Chris: I definitely enjoy the studio more, that’s my happy place. I like playing live and I hope I can do that more in the future again, but being in the studio and creating new songs and sounds is just so exciting.
“Your Heroin” video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQLtYrP5Fyg