Throughout their relatively short existence, Kollaps have continually been a band that faces forward. Born in Melbourne but now based in Europe, Kollaps have won hearts and minds alike, all while injecting a huge dose of energy and pain into the post-industrial landscape. Being one step closer to finding their place in the world, and off the back of Kollaps’ many recent changes, Discipline Mag spoke with the principled, insightful, and only original member, Wade Black. Read on for our discussion on Black’s Eurocentric future, the upcoming third album, new band members, the shortcomings of his former home, and grisly mechanical soundscapes.
Hi Wade, thanks a lot for taking the time to chat with Discipline Mag. Where are you living these days and how are things there?
You’re welcome, thank you for inviting me to talk with you. I’m living in a small city called Lugano which is in Switzerland near the Northern Italian border. Things are good for me personally. I live above a sculpture museum here that is located quite high up on a mountain. I’ve adopted a sort of a militaristic lifestyle recently where I’m waking up at 5am and am attempting to be as productive as possible with my day. While I was living in Melbourne, I was quite a lot more hedonistic and aimless, but generally speaking, living here has had a very positive effect on me psychologically, emotionally and creatively. At the moment Covid-19, of course, is an ongoing issue here and restrictions are frequently implemented and removed according to infection rates and hospitalisations.
To cut straight to the chase – it appears that Kollaps have had some big lineup changes lately. Are you able to fill in the gaps of who is in this most recent iteration of the band?
Yes, the band has a new lineup that is not really so new anymore. They are two Italian gentlemen that are based in the Lombardia province of Italy. The first being Andrea Collaro, a technical death metal guitar virtuoso who is performing bass and coil duties and Giorgio Salmoiraghi, a revered engineer/technician on percussion. On account of Giorgio’s unusually violent tattoo designs and him being kind of an insane genius, I’ve become accustomed to calling him Charlie Manson as a term of endearment. They are both great friends and very talented musicians and I consider myself fortunate for the opportunity to have them contribute to Kollaps. They’ve become like my Italian family members in a lot of ways and there is generally a significant level of trust and respect between the three of us.
As you relocated to Europe alone, having band members in different continents during a world-wide pandemic is obviously a geographical/logistical nightmare. Though I’m wondering, was it geography alone that prompted these changes, or were there other factors at play?
There were a lot of factors at play however geography was the very least of the concerns. Everyone involved had finally become completely and utterly at the mercy of insanity to such an extent that it poisoned the art and poisoned our lives. There was really no other way for the group to continue as it was.
It seems as though you are now taking a more assertive role in the production of sounds for Kollaps. Has this been a big learning curve for yourself? Additionally, are you able to shed any light on your instrumentation and process of music development?
Yes, this is definitely true and it is my intention to have the only outsourced portion of the next record to be in the mastering stage alone. In the last year I’ve built a home studio and have spent the majority of my time learning how to operate this as effectively and efficiently as possible. The learning curve has been enormous to say the least, at times the feeling of being overwhelmed has been a constant challenge for me to overcome. However, I persisted quite rigorously for almost 12 months and am still continuing to do so.
Quite some time ago I did a degree in Audio Engineering and Sound Design, and on the previous records I was writing and recording lo-fi demos that were later professionally recorded in studios that we hired out. So, with the degree and some of the basic recording experience, I found myself in a position where with persistence and self-discipline I was able to become a semi proficient engineer in relatively short period. In the last year, I have dedicated myself to studying synthesis, sound design, microphone techniques, reamping techniques, learning my preferred software (Ableton) as thoroughly as possible and training my ears to properly hear EQ and compression and all of this kind of nerd bullshit. A lot of this involved receiving harsh feedback from friends who are producers and professional studio engineers; it has been vital that I listen, remain humble and take advice no matter how severely critical. The idea in general, I suppose, is that I become a fully-fledged and self-reliant producer.
Regarding instrumentation, this one has been truly an unusual experience and the most “experimental” methods in Kollaps’ music making history have been applied during these sessions. We’ve been doing a lot of collaborative sound design sessions as a group, and I’ve also been doing this independently on my own as well. Recently my most favourite sound has been an idea Giorgio and I had of mounting a broken reverb tank that is amplified; it makes an awful, ear shredding sound akin to the cracking of a whip against metal and we’re likely to have this mounted and used live on future tours, much to the displeasure of unsuspecting audiences, I’m sure.
A kind of accidental thing that has occurred a lot during the recording and writing of this album is using broken equipment and repurposing it for sound design. A notable example being a blown bass amplifier, a broken sequencer and broken outputs of various pedals and synthesizers. A variety of scrap metals are present, of course, and we’ve also recorded some cement cinder blocks being dropped off a bridge. I’ve also made some field recordings of religious gatherings at local churches here, and there is some reel-to-reel re-recording of synthesizer parts being slowed down and sped back up. Most recently though I’ve started mixing some really impressive bass takes by Andrea who is probably the most knowledgeable musician that I’ve ever stood in a room with.
It would seem that Kollaps have album #3 in the works. How is the progress going and do you have a title yet?
I would say that the album is around the halfway mark in terms of the writing being finished, I do not care to place any unnecessary time constraints on the process at the moment and I just want complete, absolute dedication to the music and art to be the pivotal focus. The album is being created with the opposite approach to Mechanical Christ which was very rushed. I described to you some interests and techniques that Kollaps is using already, this current approach is very self-critical and methodical. Greater care and respect are being given to the songwriting which has become a lot more advanced. Lyrically, the album is more expansive; I am not relying on one liners in most instances and have managed to break out of my comfort zone and into prose and narrative.
Other than the music itself, I’ve taken some shots with an old film camera using expired film that will most likely go on the LP artwork and have been taking a lot of film footage and processing and degrading it in various ways. I’ve been really inspired visually lately and have gained an interest in film, photography and lighting.
In regard to the recording process, you have stated that:
“We’re recording much more unusually this time and paying closer attention to what spaces are being used with the hope of the locations and their attributes becoming symbiotic with the music itself.”
Can you explain this in a bit more detail? How can we expect this approach to manifest sonically on the record?
So, a lot of this is in reference to a new obsession that I have with recording room sounds in different locations, whether that is a stairwell, as popularised by Led Zeppelin, or in an old warehouse or a sewer somewhere. A lot of engineers may find some of these places sonically unsavory, however, if you know what your intent is then it is possible to really exploit the sounds of different locations to incredible effect. It also affects the performance of the artist. Are you recording in a comfortable place? A dark place? A terrifying place? A cold place? It is possible for you to take a recording in a subterranean drain system and capture a vocal take during which you’re fearing for your life… That kind of thing can outweigh any sound complications that you may have later. Indeed, it is also possible to use these sonic imperfections to your advantage and that is what I mean by the music and location attributes working together in a way that is harmonious and symbiotic.
Are you going to stick with Cold Spring for this release?
Yes. I love them and they are second to none. Their releases this year have been cutting edge, historic, and legendary.
Kollaps have a tradition of working in extremes. Your shockingly tight schedules during the 2018 and 2019 tours of Europe being good examples. By contrast, 2020 was relatively quiet for Kollaps. Why this lack of activity during a period of ample time availability?
We are still working in extremes, they are just not as public at the moment. I have mostly kept off social media since the outbreak and I find it a bizarre time to try to sell records and to be self-promoting while so many of our friends, family, fans and associates are in difficult situations either in terms of their physical or mental health or due to financial distress related to the coronavirus restrictions. I felt like it was an appropriate time for the band to be quiet socially, but to work hard creatively, to improve, and to prepare for the future that will inevitably be absent of the coronavirus pandemic.
The first time I saw Kollaps perform live was in support for Mortiis at the Bendigo Hotel in your home city of Melbourne in 2018. The brutal performance propelled Kollaps into my consciousness which was reaffirmed by what I perceived to be a total commitment to the discipline. I’m wondering what your personal thoughts were of this event and whether you found it to be as impactful as I did?
I appreciate you saying that and I’m glad that you were there, thank you. Every show that I have performed with Kollaps at, regardless of the occasion or the amount of people in attendance, I have performed with my soul and I’ve sought to give something of myself that creates a meaningful and relatable experience. These are the utmost serious events of my being and I consider them life and death moments in time.
Being committed to the discipline is an interesting choice of words and words that are appreciated. It is very important to me that Kollaps contributes to industrial music and does not simply take from our predecessors and those that we/I are influenced by. I think that this is an important principle that distinguishes us from other industrial bands.
We were never very well received in Melbourne so often I considered a lot of shows there as “throw away” shows. The shows in Melbourne were played with contempt towards the majority of people there who gatekept us, ripped us off, trashed us, notched us down on lineups and then smiled to my face in person – this is the true Melbourne experience for anyone attempting to do anything outside of what is locally trendy. We noticed it all and never let it slide and remembered it once we gained our footing as a band. This event with Mortiis in particular I remember wearing a pink velvet coat and taking an extreme amount of speed; someone yelled out to me and called me a ‘faggot’. Military Position also played that night and we’ve recently gotten back in touch which is really nice. She has been through a lot and I have a lot of respect for her as an artist.
Your performance at Poland’s Wroclaw Industrial Festival in 2018 was a pivotal moment for Kollaps; it brought your music to a wider and more relevant audience (and to Cold Spring, for that matter). After this experience, I believe you planned on moving to Poland. What was it about Poland that attracted you there?
I recognise that it was a pivotal moment for the band that has led to our ‘discovery’. Wroclaw Industrial Festival is incredible, I’d highly advise you to get yourself to one when things normalise and that is possible. It is really worth making the trip. The team are fantastic, kind, and wonderful people and every year the lineup is selected with impeccable taste and finally of course the venue itself is astonishing.
Moving to Poland is a delicate subject for me that relates to a really painful and tumultuous period of my life where I had completely lost control of myself. I suffered inexplicably and in turn caused a lot of suffering to people that I loved and cared for. So seeing as that this is of such a personal nature I’d rather not disclose the specifics.
However, I’ll say that Poland and Polish people generally really interest me. They have a very similar sense of humour to Australians and I’m always very impressed by how industrious they generally are. I mean, there was a time in this city called Szczecin that a guy fixed a broken diaphragm in a microphone very shortly before we were scheduled to play and I was so beyond impressed by that. We also had the coil repaired in Warsaw by a complete stranger.
As an artist I also think that it is exciting to live in a place that is undergoing social and political changes. Lastly on the topic of Poland I’d like to say that I truly do hope that the people there are victorious in their fight for justice against the institutions that are actively attempting to suppress the rights of women and the LGBT community.
You have previously been vocal about your disdain toward Melbourne as a cultural wasteland. This perspective is very much in defiance of Australia’s tendency to shamelessly champion itself, and general ideas about Melbourne’s status as a “cultural capital”. However, we tend to look back on our pasts fondly. You have been in Europe for a couple of years now and with this in mind, do you still hold contempt for your former home, or has time sweetened your memories?
Well, in terms of arts and culture I most certainly do still despise Australia. After having lived away for so long now I have to say that I feel vindicated in my opinion that almost everyone there is a criminally insane cunt – I am undoubtedly included in that category. Australia and particularly Melbourne as you so eloquently put it does indeed shamelessly champion itself as the epicenter of art and I suppose the geographical isolation facilitates this in a lot of ways. If you are championing yourself as the creative capital but there isn’t anyone nearby to dispute that claim then you’re free to wear that crown unchecked and unimpeded while the rest of the world remains blissfully unaware and uninterested.
There are some things I miss about Australia now outside of the arts culture – like the singing of magpies, kicking the syringes out of the stairwell of my old house and the blood curdling screams that would wake me in the middle of the night. I miss the constant news of midnight St. Kilda stabbings and the smell of the ocean, my family and one or two very close friends, but overall this is one of the few times in my life where I have felt at home and that I am exactly where I should be. I did not feel this way in Australia during my last few years there. My future, my life and my love are all in Switzerland and in Europe.
In a previous interview, you mentioned you would like Kollaps to perform with Psychic TV. I would have to assume that Throbbing Gristle and the work that followed were at least somewhat inspirational to you and your mission with Kollaps. I’m wondering how you felt about Genesis P-Orridge’s death in 2020? What do you think of the inevitable erasure of industrial music’s living history?
When Genesis P-Orridge died I felt nothing at all. I did not know P-Orridge personally. I’m going to go on a cynical tirade here, but honestly at the time I just found it distasteful that people were sharing a lot of posts online where they snagged a photo of themselves together with Gen after having met them for 1.5 seconds at a show and presented that in what I felt was an oddly self-serving manner – it was more about exhibiting some kind of a morbid trophy than a true and respectful sentiment that Gen deserved as an artist and as a person.
Generally speaking, I think that the worshipping of the old guard of industrial has become a tired thing and I am more excited about what is happening now and what will happen in the future. Gen was one of the rare exceptions where some of the more modern output was quite good. I love that Merzbow/Genesis P-Orridge collab release but a lot of these other people who have reached their later years are releasing very uninteresting music.
Kollaps has nestled itself into a nice little corner of post-industrial music that includes the likes of Pharmakon, Trepaneringsritualen, Brighter Death Now and others. Are there any other unions that are being formed between Kollaps and other artists? What does the future hold for this loose community of like-minded artists?
Well I’m proud to call these artists my friends and I thank you for the sentiment. I have considered a split release for a long while now but it’ll have to wait until after the new album is finished as that is taking all the priority right now. As a band we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but I expect with this new method of writing and recording that in the future we will be able to release faster. So, I do hope to get more content out there and I aim to be constantly working on various releases. As much as a lot of people would like it, Kollaps is not going anywhere anytime soon.
What are you listening to at the moment? Do you have any recommendations that fans of Kollaps may find relevant or interesting in the lead-up to album #3?
Recently Cold Spring sent me a package of vinyl that turned me onto focusing my attention to predominantly Japanese artists and I have a real interest in that right now. I’ve become quite interested in artists like Masonna, Mothra, Hijokaidan, Mayuko Hino, GRIM, Keiji Haino, Merzbow and Torturing Nurse from China.
Thanks a lot for your time.