Interview: Circa Tapes’ Adam Killing Discusses New LP ‘Love and Venom’

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Interview: Circa Tapes’ Adam Killing Discusses New LP ‘Love and Venom’

Adam Killing (Kill Memory Crash) returned this past July with his solo synth-wave project Circa Tapes. The Chicago-based musician’s new LP Love and Venom is out now via Seattle’s Medical Records, and it’s a darkly shaded work that reflects on “the nature of duality in our universe.” Like the artist’s previous efforts, 2015’s Kolektique (DKA Records) and 2014’s Adam & Eve (Romance Moderne), Love and Venom is a self-produced and recorded album. In a recent email exchange regarding the record, Adam related that he approached the LP more conceptually than previous efforts, using ideas around duality to guide these arpeggiating and mysterious new tracks. Haunting atmospheres and industrial textures prevail–all driven by Killing’s propulsive rhythms and often eerily effected vocal delivery. You can read our whole conversation regarding Love and Venom below…

LETV: I know that you produced and recorded your last album Kolektique on your own. Is that also the case for Love and Venom? What was the recording set-up like for the new album? Do you have a home studio that you use or do you rent time?

AK: Yeah, Love and Venom was a completely solo project from the sound design and programming to the recording and mixing down. Everything is done in my home studio which consists of a large selection of analog and digital hardware that is then run into a computer and sequenced in Ableton Live with the addition of plug-ins and soft synths. Mastering is then done in a professional studio. I always like to have a second set of ears before releasing something professionally.

LETV: Do you have strong feelings about analog versus digital gear when choosing synthesizers, drum machine, effects? Besides the aforementioned instruments do you use an electric bass, guitar or drum set on any of these tracks? For instance, on “Locks and Guts?” As far as synthesizers and drum machine, what were some core pieces of gear you used to make the record?

AK: I think one should use whatever tool or tools one feels comfortable with and inspired by. I personally am drawn to old analog synths or analog modeling synths because I really enjoy the hands-on aspect as well as the simplicity of sound shaping on a piece of gear that has the essential controls available right there. I also prefer a wide array of gear. This keeps me inspired. I do use live bass and sometimes guitar or live drums in my recordings. “Locks and Guts” does have live bass on it and there is a lot more present on my last album Kolektique. Love and Venom, however, was heavily influenced by my love of arpeggiation and some of the different effects and rhythms that an array of gear allows for. I definitely used the Novation Bass Station II, Roland JP-8000, and the Arturia CS-80 soft-synth a lot on this record.

LETV: Are songs worked out thru the process of recording or is a song mostly composed before you record it? How does the writing of lyrics fit into the process?

AK: I make shit up as I go mostly. I may have a general idea of where I want the track to go or what sort of mood it will be about, but I like to start with some sort of sound design/sequence and then build very freely from there. I love the free play of not really knowing where something is heading. Vocals usually start to come to mind after a few tracks have been laid down and I can hear some echo of a vocal in the space where it will soon be. I treat most vocals as another instrument and they first get recorded on sound alone with me making up phrases and word play on the spot. I then will go back and re-record and write more coherency into it.

LETV: You use some pretty heavily effected vocals throughout Love and Venom and they often have a sinister and alien sound to them. With references to alchemy also present, I find myself also thinking about the alchemist John Dee and his channeling of various entities. Using the heavily effected vocals, does it ever feel like you’re inviting other voices to speak thru you like a channeler might?

AK: I do believe strongly in the underlying energies of this universe, those that are unseen in the traditional sense, but nonetheless present. I think this is a very fascinating question of whether these energies or ideas can not only be channeled and put into a recording but also transmitted to the listener and their experience. I can assure you I don’t consciously try to channel any hidden energy when recording or writing, but subconsciously this may be the case and it’s the subconscious that is very strong in such matters. I know during performing I can sometimes get whipped into a sort of trance that feels as if I’m pulling and communicating energy from someplace. I feel this topic is not explored enough in the realm of creating music either in a studio or in a live environment.

LETV: It seems to me there’s a sort of Gothic impulse that animates Love and Venom. It often has me thinking of the Christian Death album Only Theater of Pain, for some reason, while I listen to it. Maybe it goes without saying, but my personal feeling is that “Goth music” is a response to Christian culture or upbringing–a creative wrestling with that experience. Between the alien, almost demonic voices which haunt some of these tracks, references to an angry god in the “Alucarda” interlude, and the attempt to commune with the dead on “ABC Auto Industry,” there seems to be a wrestling with the transcendent and otherly throughout the record. Am I reading too far into things…

AK: Well Love and Venom was setup to be a concept album of some sort. The first two releases (Adam & Eve, and Kolektique) were more or less a collection of various songs–some older, some new. The album is an expression of duality. Many of my lyrics are based around the idea of duality and the nature of duality in our universe. The full length was designed to be two sides of one coin. Love and Venom really meaning and coming from the same thing. Love can be venomous and Venom can be quite loving, meaning that which is poisonous to one is also curing or transcendental.

LETV: This is your third solo LP after a number of years working in the duo Kill Memory Crash. Do you prefer working solo?

AK: I do prefer working solo and feel I work much quicker this way. I love to collaborate with friends as well and have a few side projects I’m currently working on with a few friends.

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