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Industrial-electronic futurists talk new album Post Plague, transhumanism and alienating indie rockers
ODONIS ODONIS with PRINCE INNOCENCE, SCOTT HARDWARE, DJS BEZ, JOE EEL and ARTIFICIAL SOUNDS at the Velvet Underground (510 Queen West), Friday (June 24), 9 pm. $12. ticketfly.com.
Toronto industrialists Odonis Odonis have remade themselves.
The members – Dean Tzenos, Denholm Whale and Jarod Gibson – remain the same, but not their instruments. Vocalist Tzenos has largely given up guitar for sampling keyboard and programming, and Gibson no longer has to drag his drum kit to shows, but rather a load of electronics.
The aggressive guitar rock heard on their first two Buzz Records releases has given way on their formidable new one, Post Plague (Telephone Explosion), to frightening, techno-fuelled industrial-electronic rock. Which is to say, they are still very loud.
“Our practices are ridiculous,” says Tzenos. “One of the first times we used our new set-up, I almost fell over I was so dizzy.”
Reinvention makes sense for such a bunch of futurists. Accompanying us during this interview is an unnerving open-chested robot they had made to their own specifications, and a virtual reality camera. (Watch this interview in virtual reality above. It looks even better if you’ve got a pair of VR glasses – Odonis Odonis have even made ones of their own.)
All three members are obsessed with VR, and they’re one of the first bands making VR videos (click here for a download to their That’s How It Goes VR video), which are immersive 3-D experiences allowing viewers to control what they’re looking at and feel like they’re in the midst of the action. Post Plague, meanwhile, is a concept album about transhumanism, an idea first conceived by professor of futurology FM-2030, aka Fereidoun Esfandiary.
“His whole thing was that he felt nostalgic for the future,” explains Gibson. “He philosophized about what might happen to the human race once we get to the point where we can take all of our senses in this organic format and put them in another format.”
The idea gave Post Plague’s songs – which, like the band itself, were reworked continuously over a two-year period – an overarching theme.
“Songs are more interesting if you have stuff to talk about that’s not what you hear about all the time,” says Tzenos. “And it’s all stuff we’re going through in real time. This VR stuff is all new. We’re all figuring it out and discovering it right now.
“We’re all going to go through these changes – we’ve already seen how much smartphones have affected us in five years. Where are we going to be in five, 10 years? The record is about exploring different avenues of what a possible future could be.”
“And that future isn’t hundreds of years away,” adds Gibson. “More like five minutes.”
The future Odonis Odonis have in mind isn’t dystopian despite the darkness and harshness of the music. All three members talk with huge excitement about the technology they’re exploring and a future where virtual reality is commonplace. They’re also not interested in dismissing the human experience, but enhancing it. The song Game is all shoegazey, gothic melancholy, while forlorn closer Lust is quiet, soft and vulnerable.
“That duality has always been something we’ve had,” says Tzenos. “If it’s heavy all the time, it starts getting into hardcore and gets boring. That balance makes the heavy songs heavier and lighter ones lighter. Lust is supposed to be where you come back to the humanity part. You go through this whole journey in, like, a robotic state, and lust brings you back down to just wanting to feel human again.”
“But maybe it’s too late,” adds Gibson.
With electronics, industrial aggression and techno destruction leading their way, do they worry about alienating old fans who originally found them through indie rock channels?
“Maybe for half a second,” answers Gibson.
“I’m sure a lot of people will check out,” says Tzenos.
“I feel like we’ve always done that no matter what we do,” says Whale. “We’re always alienating somebody or not doing something right. Remember that show in New York? We were testing out the new stuff. One super-fan came out and had been drinking a lot and she was so angry at us for the material we were testing out. She cussed us out at the car. We tried to offer her merch and she threw it on the ground. It was amazing.”
“She wanted stuff off Hollandaze,” says Tzenos.
“It was like we’d been in a relationship for five years and just broke her heart,” says Whale.
“She was like, ‘You’re fucking assholes,’” says Gibson.
“But we can’t keep playing to other people’s expectations,” says Tzenos. “It’s not healthy, and you don’t change or keep evolving. And this is more interesting.”
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