Daniel Graves

Recently we were able to meet up with Daniel Graves of Aesthetic Perfection just before he hit the stage for the London Show back in February, as he took some time out of his busy schedule to have a chat…

RR: This is part of tour how, many nights in the UK?

DG: Let me consult my pass, this is our fifth, and last night of the tour.

RR: Anything special planned for tonight’s show?

DG: No, we are just going out to do the show as best we can.

RR: I saw you guys at Talking Heads with Uberbyte and Surgyn…

DG: Yeah, we have been trying to make a habit out of visiting the UK once a year

RR: That is good to hear! That was a good night, Uberbyte I think have taken a slightly different stance coming up to that show, at least listening to their last album compared to their earlier material. But the energy yourself and the guys with you put into the show was phenomenal, and the crowd loved it.

DG: Why thank you. We have the same guys backing me up this time, so it should be equally energetic I hope.

RR: With the new album, you have taken a slightly different route, as you have with each album by the looks of it. I gather that all of your material is emotionally driven, it is obviously driving what hits the speakers. I also understand you like pop and club music. But going back to “Close to Human” I felt; although similar, it was not as violent as “A Violent Emotion”.

DG: You think?

RR: It was darker but not as aggressive, and obviously at the time there was “Necessary Response”; which kind of played off it and had the softer side. And then “All Beauty Destroyed” came out, which still had the aggression but it seemed more pop and club influenced. Then again with “’Til Death”, perhaps more so-not necessarily commercial, but perhaps more palatable to some. Is that a direction you are taking?

DG: It is not a conscious direction. I do not sit there and think this is the time to write popular music. Maybe as I age I try to and it’s not evening trying! As I get older I feel more connected to the music I grew up to. And when I was really young, I grew up listening to the Top 40 because that was what was on the radio, and I loved it – it was so catchy, and so hooky. Even when I started getting into alternative music, it was the kind of alternative music I got drawn into. NIN was the first real industrial band I got into, and arguably I think they are quite melodic. There area lots of hooks.

RR: Certainly in the most recent album.

DG: Yeah. Certainly in the mid 90’s “A Downward Spiral” is a very heavy album, but there is a lot of hooks in there.

RR: I still go back to ‘Pretty Hate Machine’.

DG: PHM even more so, and that is really an Industrial New Wave album.

RR: First time I saw NIN was supporting G’n’R at Wembley stadium-it was 75 thousand people there for Metal…

DG: …and they got Nails

RR: …and there was a tape machine, there’s a keyboard and 50 thousand people booing. It was phenomenal – I went out and bought the album. And obviously they have gone and surpassed G’n’R, or at least Trent has surpassed most people from that era.

DG: That was even when I was getting into Alt/music the Poppier, hooky stuff was what I was drawn to you know. And I tried to do that with Close To Human, and I think that is why it resonated with some people and the same with ‘A Violent Emotion’. Maybe I just took it so far for the tastes of some perhaps?

Daniel Graves

RR: I discovered you at “A Violent Emotion”, and found it hard to get into “Close To Human”.

DG: Yes

RR: Which I revisited earlier recently, and I got more out of it than I previously had. Moving forward, I wouldn’t say “All Beauty Destroyed” or “’Til Death” are happy, but they seem a lot more upbeat. In fact judging by the videos, I would go even as far as to say sophisticated.

DG: Why thankyou!

RR: Perhaps shown by the ties, the suits, offset by what I assume is an alter-ego which is when the aggression and the emotion piles out?

DG: I think that also for me there was only so far I could go, just continually pummelling with this four-four kick drum. You know I think that is very effective at times but I made two albums which were arguably pretty much that, and I wanted to start experimenting with different drumbeats and syncopation. I think if there was anything I consciously tried to do was to try and make music that is not necessarily made for the dance floor, but you can dance to. The best example I can think of is Depeche Mode, now I don’t want to be Depeche Mode, but you wouldn’t consider Depeche Mode club music-it is music you can listen to anywhere and it translates wonderfully into a club and makes you want to dance, especially when you think of Violator.

RR: Going back to your more recent material are you yourself in a happier place? I know the music is still dark, and from what you have said a lot of it is emotion driven.

DG: Yeah, and I think that is what I always set out to do, you know I didn’t ever say I only make Heavy ‘evil’ music because that that is what my first two albums kind of were. That’s why people say “that’s what you are, and that’s what should you stay”. And I; for the record, think that “All Beauty Destroyed” is pretty dark-at least it was for me, and it was very emotionally dark.

RR: It sounds upbeat but I know behinds the scenes it isn’t, things can be wrapped up differently and there is still that emotional aggression.

DG: I have always loved playing with the idea of duality. So maybe that is where that was going. RR: …and I think that is reflected in your videos; ‘Inhuman’, the dark half, and ‘All Beauty Destroyed’. I loved the piano in “All Beauty Destroyed”, it shows that softer side. One of things I liked about “A Violent Emotion” was the last two tracks, especially “The Ones”, and I think it was reflected in “All Beauty Destroyed”.

DG: Yeah.

RR: Being a workaholic does that mean there is another album in the pipeline yet, are you going to take a break?

DG: Shit…”’Til Death” just came out…do I have think so far ahead?????

RR: No. Not in the slightest, but I am assuming that being a workaholic, and I know you have been involved in remix work, and a bit of DJ work, no doubt there are creative juices flowing

DG: It is true I never stop. I mean I have about 4 or 5 songs that are fairly complete that didn’t make the album. So, two were complete and I was at version 6 of the mixing stage, and the album made it to version 8! And I was talking to Tim and I said “I don’t think these two work, and then I sat down and in the span of a week and the song “The New Black” was just a baseline riff, and I expanded it into a full track. Then I wrote “Happily Ever After” for the intro and I laid all the tracks together and sent it to Tim and my manager. Is this it? and they both went “Yes, this is it”.

RR: “The New Black” for me the first few times, I didn’t get it. Not that it didn’t fit or feel out of place. You know, when you listen to an album certain tracks stand out, and you are drawn to them. This was not one of them, and it wasn’t until a few plays that I realised that it was catchy-I knew it, and that I was drawn to it.

DG: Actually, that is the best compliment I can get is that if the first initial response is shock; perhaps revulsion, confusion-like what the fuck is happening? Then a couple of more listens you are at the “maybe stage”, and when you are driving and you find yourself sitting there and humming to yourself, and you think “ah shit, I like it”. Because for me those are the songs and albums that stick with me for a longer period of time. Ones that took a bit of time to get used to, so if I can do that with my music then I have done something right. I hope!

RR: Well certainly the opening to “’Til Death” was like “umm, we will see where this goes”. It was not what I expected, but then it opened up and it was the perfect Wedding March for Aesthetic Perfection, and it just rolled from there. Where we are cutting in more of the club style, keeping the darker aggressive stance as well; and the album then flowed. We were lucky to get the press release of the album at the start of the year, and from that point the album was getting played every other day.

DG: Awesome

RR: And during this time I played the album in the car and a few people who are not into Aesthetic Perfection; I noticed I found them humming along after a few plays. At least to certain tracks.

DG: Hey, if a couple of them work for a non fan then shit, I will take it!

RR: When I first got into music and I listened to the top 40, and there was no prejudice in the charts – there would be a bit if metal, there would be a bit of pop, there would be a bit of whatever.

DG: ..and I would love for people to have a little more of that open mindedness again, it would be really nice. It is the way to be – keep it eclectic.

RR: Totally agree. We cannot make Alt-Fest this year – but I guess it is a big one on your calendar. Looking forward to that one?

DG: Oh yeah certainly

RR: Will Control is a favourite of RR

DG: Yeah, he is cool

RR: Everyone on the line up is cracking

DG: I think the real question is who isn’t playing Alt-Fest!

RR: Part of me is glad I cannot make it, because I cannot be at 5 stages at the same time.

DG: Yeah – I am going to check out Cradle of Filth, and I am going to check out Manson too, and Gary Numan for sure. I just saw Gary Numan in LA a couple of months ago and it was stellar. I haven’t seen Manson for a little while, not since ’97.

RR: I haven’t seen Manson for a little while, I think the last time was around 97, but I preferred the earlier raw stage shows.

DG: I saw him around “Mechanical Animals” and it was highly produced and I thought it was good. It was cool and fun.

RR: Anti-Christ was a good tour.

DG: I saw Anti-Christ and it was a good show, one of my first. I got pressed up so hard against the barrier!

RR: Pulling it back into AP… Do you think there is going to be more of a departure for the next album. You’ve got the club feel coming in, or are you settling?

DG: No. I am never going to settle. No. I can’t bring myself to do it, and I will just get bored if I am going to sit there and write part two of the same song I have already written. I mean…

RR: Total reinvention?

DG: Yeah. I try and use the people I grew up admiring as a model for the way I want my career to go. Bowie, Manson, Nails. These guys are completely re-inventing their sound with every album and even though it may be met with animosity, at least they are exploring their capabilities. Sometimes you may trip and fall, and maybe you make a shit album. At least you are not trying to cash in on something that clicked once and then do that for 20 years.

RR: You don’t learn if you don’t make mistakes, you’ve got to keep it fresh.

DG: Right. So that’s the way I want to do it.

RR: You say Pop music. When I think of pop music I think of two things, either the current chart offerings, or the music that influenced me when I was younger. Obviously coming from America what does Pop mean to you? I know you have said Nails, and Bowie.

DG: Yeah, and the thing is Bowie has been Pop, and Bowie has also been Experimental with stuff that would never get played on the radio. Pop is popular music – to me, I am a fan of New Wave, that’s what we will listen to backstage when we are getting ready. We’ll listen to Madonna and New Order, and Human League – or we are listening to Katy Perry, or Kesha and all that stuff. Just because it’s popular, doesn’t necessarily make it bad. And just because something is manufactured by a corporation, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something to offer. So the way that I look at a lot of this manufactured music of today; that a lot of people would say is soulless is, are all the lyrics written by focus groups or guys in suits and ties – yes! So am I listening to it for artists content? No. There are producers out there trying to write something creative, interesting and hooky. So at least from a production standpoint, and a song writing stand point I don’t see there being any distinction. It’s just that the artist singing it is more or less a hand puppet than a creative person, and there is still creativity going into it.

RR: I certainly don’t think that electronic music is cold or soulless.

DG: But corporate music a lot of people do argue is soulless.

RR: Yeah – but I think that is a different type and I also think that just because something is corporate music it doesn’t mean there isn’t any talent. Someone is still putting their heart and soul into it. Whether it has heart and soul is another matter.

DG: Just because music can have a corporate figurehead, there is still a song writer who wrote that. You know, living in LA I have met people who write music for Backstreet Boys. You know I dated a girl who’s Brother-in-law wrote “Living La Vida Loco”, and he was still really passionate about music. He was like I just sit at my piano and I play and sing what comes out of me. Just because Ricky Martin may be a figurehead, there is still a person who wrote that song. Now “Living La Vida Loco” is probably a little soulless but…

RR: I think it falls into the “Guilty Pleasures” category.

DG: Sure.

RR: You might not admit it, but it can be fun to listen to.

DG: Yeah. I think that what matters to me is finding what you like and being aware of its artists merit.

DG: Keeping it eclectic!

RR: I first heard a track off of “A Violent Emotion” from an American based podcast, and they then played some “Necessary Response”, and said this is the same vocalist and he does nothing to his voice. I just thought I have to get some of this stuff, and that was how I discovered you by listening to all sorts of music. And certainly by the crowd reaction in Southampton I think you have a good fan base here in the UK.

DG: And it’s just getting better and better.

RR: I have no idea what ticket sales are like, but I think you are doing something right! And that brings me on to how does the UK scene compare to the US scene? Do you notice a big difference?

DG: No. No, honestly, I think a lot of people act like or perceive that there is a big difference between mainland UK or across the pond with America or anywhere else in the world. The fact is people just like music, people turn up to gigs to see bands that they like and they have a good time. And that’s what I love about this. As different as everyone is, we are all kind of united by a love of music and I think that it helps break down cultural barriers. We are all here to enjoy music. And that is pretty cool.

RR: Who are your current influences? I know you said in the past Bowie, NIN, and Manson, whatever was in the charts at the time. But who at the moment would be your regular top repeat plays?

DG: Panic at the Disco I listen to, still my default listen to in the car is my 80’s New Wave play list, which I am trying to get over 24 hours long so I can just hit random! When we are getting ready we try to find common ground. We have a lot of similar tastes, but we also have music we like and others despise. So we try to find common ground. So we listen to mostly 80’s and Bring Me The Horizon – the new album from beginning to end is so solid. Yeah and I listen to a lot of hard Techno, and hard Electro – like club stuff from when I DJ. But those are just singles that are put from single artists – never really any albums. Like Datalife, a Swedish duo, a perfectly produced electro.

RR: The only Scandanavian I have been listening to is alternative Folk/Rock!

DG: Okay – well this is on the other end of spectrum.

Many thanks to Daniel for his time and being a great host. Our review of the evening has already been posted and can be found here.

We certainly hope to catch up again with Daniel and Aesthetic Perfection in the future.


By Jon.

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