InSoc Interview: '93 - source unknown.

Recently I had the chance to speak with Kurt Harland, frontman for the
techno/dance band Information Society. Despite having just moved cross-
country and preparing for their latest tour, he had time to share with
me where in technology he's coming from and what he perceives in our
electronic future.

Interviewer: In achieving Information Society's unique sound, why do you use sampling as opposed to having a group of instrument players?

Kurt: Well, we've always been an electronic band. From the start that was our whole thing. In '81 and '82 Paul (Robb) and I were into all those little electronic acts like DAF, OMD, Fad Gadget was a really big one, Gary Numan, and Kraftwerk. We wanted to do that so we didn't really, I mean at the that time it wasn't a matter of simply going out and buying a bunch of instruments and playing them because there was no midi, there were no computers in peoples home to speak of, and we all just stood up there and played electronic instruments with our fingers. And since nobody really understood how to use keyboards for performance, we had to make some of them ourselves. So we made some percussion pads. We made some weird keyboards and stuff and then a few years later we started hearing about samplers and wished we could have one, but the cheapest one was $5000 and really wasn't any good. Finally when we eventually managed to obtain access to samplers, I don't know, it wasn't an intentional thing, it was just the obvious next step in the progression of what we were using to do our music and when you acquire new instruments it changes your sound. I mean, look what happened to Gary Numan's records after he decided he liked fretless bass.

Interviewer: Do you plan to keep expanding what "instruments" you have as technology makes them available?

Kurt: That's not so much a decision of intent as a decision of money. Everybody that's doing music would buy $250,000 worth of junk if they had the money.

Interviewer: What are the primary tools for the creation of your music?

Kurt: PC's and samplers. We use Voyetra's SPG for sequencing.

Interviewer: What kind of equipment do you use on a regular basis?

Kurt: Well, at home a lot of my stuff comes out of Akai S1000's and I also depend pretty heavily on the Proteus for just composing and I have an old Roland keyboard, MKS 80, which is really good for doing synth sounds. It came in very handy when I recently did a cover of Gary Numan's "Are 'friends' Electric?", which I hope to use on my next album.

Interviewer: What equipment does it take to run the stage show?

Kurt: Oh, a lot. What we've got in front of us is mostly trigger pads. We bought various kinds of percussion pads. That's some from Roland, some Drastic Plastic things called Quadrapads, and we feed them into our modules and the drummer is going along with his drum machine and so on and so forth.

Interviewer: Is what you do on stage a reflection of what you do in the studio or the vice-versa?

Kurt: It's much more that we do on stage what we did in the studio than the other way around. I mean in the studio is where we design the music. It's not like a band that kind of gets together and jams and develops songs and then tries to do them in the studio. We make our songs in our home studios, re-record them in the big studio, and then try to base our stage show on that. It's nice because we can take the actual sounds that we used in the studio and bring them right out on to the stage.

Interviewer: On a recreational basis, what kind of activities do you like related to technology?

Kurt: I've got a SeGa, but I hardly ever use it 'cause if I'm home I can never justify spending time playing video games. If I'm going to goof-off, I'd rather watch a movie with my girlfriend. But if I'm not actually working on something, any recreation I do by myself is skating (not in-lines) or messing around on the computer.

Interviewer: What type of computer is it?

Kurt: I run a 386/40.

Interviewer: On Information Society's latest album, "Peace & Love, Inc.", there are 12 tracks. The final one is simply listed as 300BPS N, 8, 1. When downloaded, it's a short story by Kurt about the band being hijacked in Brazil.
Whose idea was the data file on the "Peace & Love, Inc." album?

Kurt: That was entirely my idea.

Interviewer: Did you have to convince Paul and James (Cassidy) to go along with it?

Kurt: Yeah, but that wasn't too hard.

Interviewer: What about your record label, Reprise, were they skeptical?

Kurt: They weren't even really interested.

Interviewer: What did it take to get this file on the album?

Kurt: A lot. Originally I wanted to actually have a computer file, like an actual identifiable file like one that you would copy from a disk to a disk using file transfer protocol off a modem, but then I remembered and understood that the two computers have to talk back and forth to each other first and since my idea was to be able to go off a stereo and onto a computer they couldn't have any cross-talk, so the only thing I was able to do was to just do text. So I had to just record the sound of a modem outputting a stream of text and that requires an old fashioned kind of modem called a manual modem and the only person that had one was my friend Robert's brother in Louisiana. So basically I sent him the text of the file and then he sent it back to me with his manual modem and I recorded the sound of it coming out of my speakerphone. That's how I made the recording. Then it had to be put on the record and nobody understood what it was supposed to be and how it was supposed to work and I had to argue with the engineer to let the levels go up into the red zone because that's what it's supposed to do.

Interviewer: Do you plan on doing other data files?

Kurt: Well, I did another one for a second single and Reprise botched it and it ended up not getting on.

Interviewer: Do you think you might do more CD+G or possibly...

Kurt: Oh yeah! Well, no. CD+G is a dead issue, but my next album which I want to have out next year although I can't promise anything, I want to do much more involved data stuff. One thing I'm thinking of is just setting down a series of numbers for locations on the planet where I'm going to plant things for people to find if they can get the gumption to go out there. The numbers themselves would probably have to be downloaded via modem.

Interviewer: What do you enjoy when you're on the computer?

Kurt: For recreation, I'm either on "The Net" or playing "Red Baron" or I especially like "Specter" over the modem. Also I'm going to try to get on the Sierra network so I can do "Red Baron" over the modem.

Interviewer: How about virtual reality?

Kurt: I've done it a fair amount. Horizon Company puts these things in video game arcades called Virtuality. They got a couple of different games, one called Dactyl Nightmare, one called Flying Aces I think. I've done three different ones. It's the whole deal with the helmet, the goggles, and the gun in your hand. If you want to turn around and face the other person, you actually have to move your body and it's quite a lot of fun. But the technology definitely isn't there yet. Not in the arcade level. They run their system on three Amiga 3000's and it's fairly cool. It does give you a sense of being in the environment, but it's still kind of primitive, it's jerky. When you change a point of view it jerks around a lot.

Interviewer: Your second album, "HACK" has a very cyber "feel" to it, is William Gibson one of your influences?

Kurt: Well, obviously, "Mirrorshades" was taken pretty heavily out of "Neuromancer," but that was Paul's doing. I wanted to do a change of lyrics and have it follow that concept a lot closer because I think that the way it went down was a little vague. I don't think there's much connection between the book and the music that I do, but I found them inspiring in general just thinking about what's going on in our culture.

Interviewer: About Neuromancer, Gibson wrote of neruoplants, would you go for that?

Kurt: Well yeah. If I could get them I would, but I think we're at least 200 years away from anything like that. Nobody even knows how the brain works yet. People think that brain technology is just over the horizon just like all these other things. I mean, they think it's just as close as virtual reality is and everyone forgets that not even the very first step in developing something like a neuro implant has been made. No one even knows where to look for how to build something like that because nobody knows how the brain works at all. No one can define a thought mechanically in the brain. No scientist, no theorist, no doctor can tell you yet EXACTLY what's happening in your brain when you have a thought or the nature and location of information in the brain and there's decades or centuries of theory that have to be experimented on before you can even start to implement hardware like that.

Interviewer: But if you could, what kind of implant would you get?

Kurt: Oh, foreign languages, telephone book kind of things, sense enhancers, things that would amplify vision and sound or distort it. I'd like to get an echo for all the sound I hear, but I can do that by wearing a pair of headphones, a little microphone, and carry a little delayer with me.

Interviewer: What stimulates the right side of your brain and excites you about the future?

Kurt: Telecommunications. I think we're on the verge of being connected more than anyone has even imagined yet. I'm excited about that. Although I wonder if I'm going to be able to afford it when it happens.

After being together since just after high school, fellow founding members,
Paul Robb and James Cassidy, have now parted with Information Society on
good terms in pursuit of life outside of music performance. The work of those 11
years can be heard on their albums, "Information Society", "HACK", and "Peace
and Love, Inc." So as Kurt returns to unpacking and prepping for the tour with his
new band members, including his brother Kristoffer, I'm left wondering if I'll be
able to afford the future.