This article was originally published in the Winter 2016/2017 issue of Ascension Magazine which is entirely in Italian. I wanted to share the English translation in case that is easier for some people to read. Enjoy!
🙂 ~ Candy
Music is Like Making Sculpture
IIOIOIOII is an American synthpop project from solo artist Christopher Gurney based in Charlotte NC. The music could be compared to bands such as Depeche Mode, Mesh, Beborn Beton, New Order, Front 242, etc. The vocal melodies could be compared to Gary Numan, Wolfsheim, Covenant, etc. The project began in 2012 with Gurney working in his home studio discovering the lush soundscapes and heavy melodic elements that have now become his trademark. He released a self-titled EP followed by his first LP “Reflect.” In 2013, he released his next full-length, “Sun,” with much acclaim from the scene both in Europe and the US. Later, he signed with Analog Trash records to gain wider distribution. His more recent EP “Post Brimstone” is available through Analog Trash in limited edition cassette form.
We had the chance to sit down with IIOIOIOII and have a chat about where he has been and where he plans to go in the future.
ASCENSION: Thank you for joining us on the pages of Ascension Magazine. Tell me a little bit about your beginnings. When did you get into playing music?
IIOIOIOII: I played around with music my whole life. I came from a musical household where everyone played an instrument. However learning an instrument wasn’t forced on me. I never took to a single instrument completely growing up. I tinkered around on the guitar and I usually ended up singing for bands that never left the garage. It wasn’t until around 2010 that I decided to teach myself music production. I loved a lot of Synthpop and Industrial and wanted to try and make it myself. That’s where I felt the most engaged. The concepts of composition, the technology of synthesizers, and all the way to the techniques of mixing and mastering were all very interesting to me. I wanted to learn it all and I still learn new things every time I sit down to write and record. In 2016 I finally took the project live and it’s been really great meeting and performing with so many like-minded and talented people.
ASCENSION: IIOIOIOII is an interesting choice for a name. How did you come up with that and how is it pronounced?
IIOIOIOII: HAHAHA The pronunciation is the easy part. It’s simply I.O. Originally the project was called iio. I recorded my first EP under that name and while designing the cover I had the letters IIO IOI OII stacked on top of each other in a column. A few weeks later I was informed that there was a producer who recorded under iio and still had the rights to it. So like many other bands in the past I had to change the project name. There isn’t any significance to the name I just liked the arrangement of the letters in an aesthetic kind of way.
ASCENSION: Do you have a process for writing music, or is it more spontaneous?
IIOIOIOII: It’s a little of both, I start off with vague emotions or tones and begin to write and record the music. When I start writing lyrics and recording vocals the emotions are then associated with concepts and memories that I have. It feels a lot like making sculpture with clay. You start off with a rough form and you begin trimming and shaping it until it’s ready for fine polishing before placing it in a kiln.
ASCENSION: You have some powerful songs and I’d like to talk about a couple of them. “We Are The One.” the melody is quite uplifting. What are the lyrics about?
IIOIOIOII: Thank you! We Are The One was meant to be exactly that. I know there’s a lot of negativity with the world but we’re all people and everyone needs help now and then. I’ve never known anyone to succeed completely on their own. The song is basically a message to everyone stating that despite any mistakes you make or the decisions you make it won’t segregate you from others. We all affect each other in some way and we’re all going on this journey through life together. Face Them All is about trying to live your life to the most and overcoming any obstacles that come your way. A lot of the songs on Post Brimstone are positive in theme.
ASCENSION: Another great one is “Rising Sky.” What was your inspiration behind that song?
IIOIOIOII: That one is a lot darker and from my personal life. That song was a good bye to a friend of mine that fell victim to addiction. I ended up having to allow them to go their own way and decided to let go by writing a song about the experience.
ASCENSION: You recently did a cover of Apoptygma Berzerk “Kathy’s Song” for the Apop We Love You Tribute album. Are you a big fan?
IIOIOIOII: I’ve always enjoyed their work and have a tremendous amount of respect for them as musicians. I was always on the dance floor with everyone else when their tracks came on. I wanted to give myself a challenge by taking on one of their most famous songs. After it was all finished I gained a whole new level of respect for their strength as musicians.
ASCENSION: Care to comment on the state of the American synthpop/industrial scene?
IIOIOIOII: Tribal would be the best way to describe it. We have pockets of locations where these styles are doing quite well and there’s an audience for it. We have a few outlier bands that are doing extremely well everywhere mainly for their ability to go beyond the scene with other musical influences. On the other hand it’s difficult to lump the United States together since it’s so large. Not every country in Europe has a large following for synthpop or industrial much like not every state in the US has one. The artists that make this music clearly do so out of love for the music and the diehard fans.
ASCENSION: Any plans to play shows in Europe? What current bands would you love to tour with
IIOIOIOII: No plans to tour Europe yet but I really want to. I’m hoping to be able to play a festival or two one of these days. As for bands I’d like to tour with, I would love to tour with Machinista, Aesthetic Perfection, Assemblage 23, Alter Der Ruine, IAMX, to name a few. I’d be happy just to meet them in person to be honest.
ASCENSION: Your newest release comes in a bright pink cassette and it’s called “Post Brimstone” What can you tell us about it?
IIOIOIOII: Post Brimstone was supposed to be a quick EP that actually took longer to record than my last full length album. I initially released it in 2015 digitally and then AnalogueTrash approached me about releasing it on cassette and I was excited about the idea. I grew up on cassettes and they hold a special place in my heart. There’s something special about holding a tape in your hands it’s very involved much like a vinyl record. There’s a ritual to it. So much about Post Brimstone has been influenced by my favorite bands of the 80s it seemed fitting to release it in that format. I want to thank Adrian and Mark from AnalogueTrash for helping me get it out there. Everyone has been very supportive and excited for the release. It’s been very inspiring and motivating for me.
ASCENSION: Thank you for talking with our readers in Italy!
IIOIOIOII: I’m more than happy to! Thank you for taking the time to read this and supporting Ascension Magazine and all the artists out there. I love your beautiful country and hope to visit again soon.