Words by The Jester
Images courtesy of Therion Major
A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Matthew Adams, aka Therion Major, the maestro behind Dayton’s power noise/industrial act Dark Machine Nation. He was opening for one of my favorite artists down in Newport, Kentucky and I was immediately fascinated by his harsh sound and driving beats. I tried to find him online, but his internet presence was quite small in 2016.
Times have changed since then and he recently released his third full length LP, Pierce The Earth. It’s a 15-track assault on your eardrums; both relentless and brutal. The album dares you to survive the journey, and when you do it rewards you with a new understanding of the insane world we all inhabit. It’s the kind of record you’ll want to listen to if you’re pissed off after living through another difficult day at work. It is not for the faint of heart, or of eardrum.
I finally had the chance to meet up again with the grand technomancer after seeing him recently perform in Columbus. Here is a transcript of our conversation; covering the band, the record, and the future of chaos.
Jesse Jester: Tell me about the name Dark Machine Nation and how you started the project?
Therion Major: The name itself is a very straightforward representation of what I initially intended the project to be about: darkness and machines. Pretty simplistic, I know, but it grew from that. And rather than being driven by depression and an obsession with modern satanism, I am motivated by the power I can derive from learning from life’s difficult events, and finding strength in the midst of them.
I am motivated when I see insane things going on in the world, like people being horribly mistreated. So much of my music is inspired by my own struggles and victories with my own mental health, and also my commentary on the social and political landscapes of today.
As for the “nation” part, I threw that on to avoid copyright issues as there are both albums and music projects that go by the name “dark machine.” At this point, it’s also very ironic, as this has been a solo project since the very beginning. And those who know me well know that I am obsessed with robotics and machines, both real and fictional. I have worked in manufacturing and construction, and now logistics. The industrial environment will always be home for me.
The Jester: I’ve always been a big fan of industrial. How long have you been doing DMN?
Therion Major: Since 2014, and the band still has all its original members!
The Jester: *laughs* Of course. I remember you telling me that opening for Assemblage 23 was one of your first big live shows. How did you end up on that bill?
Therion Major: I knew the right people. Success in music is all about knowing people, persistent progress, and evolving your sound and marketing.
The Jester: Very true. So now that you’ve been doing it for a solid five years, what would you say your favorite performance was?
Therion Major: Ah, yes! So a “good set” to me is one where I had fun, and the audience had fun. So crowd response and jumping about in general is the more mutual fun the better.
That said, I keep thinking of a Halloween-themed show I played at Therapy Café (in Dayton) this year. I started off the night with some frustrating mishaps, forgetting some (admittedly non-essential) gear, and dealing with speaker issues. To make a long story short, I channeled that frustration back into the set I played, and absolutely went OFF!
I could see the excitement of my friends in the audience, the enthusiasm of otherwise quiet and reserved people, and one friend who knew the words to a few of my songs. I could see other folks I didn’t know in the audience who were catching the feel of my music, and dancing along with a whole new sound. There were cheers at the end, but I was mostly focused on the cheers that came from my otherwise quiet friend, Nick, who has supported my project faithfully from the very beginning. That’s why I do what I do.
Honorable mention: I started a mosh pit in Cincinnati at The Mockbee in August of 2018. The video is on my page. Thanks to the local metal heads for that one!
The Jester: Tell me about your recording process.
Therion Major: My production rig consists of a home PC with an attached USB microphone, and an impressive sample library, much of which is based on my personal field recordings clean from the construction and manufacturing industries I’ve worked in over the years.
I use open source tracker software (Psycle Modular Music Production Studio), and basic recording software, which gives me an interesting experience with what can happen when limitations give rise to new creativity.
When I sit down to work on the new track, I’ve learned to start with the idea that what I (eventually) end up with will sound nothing like what I imagined. The creative process takes over, and sounds I thought would sound right in the track I’m making don’t work at all. New sounds come into play, and the track takes on a form of its own.
That’s the art of it. It’s my calm. The soothing part of this music; building a track like one forges a sword, starting with raw steel, and sharpening again and again until perfect.
The Jester: That’s a brilliant metaphor for a noise record! How did the recording of Pierce the Earth differ from previous works?
Therion Major: To make a long conversation short, for this album, I learned how to make bass sounds satisfyingly intense without drowning out all the other details of the track. I learned to make my tracks hit hard, but also cut and scream when desired. I learned that layering two rhythmic sounds together creates a new sound more intense than either of the sounds individually, and I used this often with my percussion. Bass drums and metal strikes make a good team.
The Jester: It’s always good to improve upon your prior works. How long would you say it takes to go from idea to finished product?
Therion Major: I’m laughing right now, because I honestly could not tell you. Not definitively, anyway. My production process is absolutely non-linear, and sometimes I work on more than one track at once. For my next album, I may not do that, because I find it is perhaps more sentimental and satisfying to work on one track at a time.
I will say… Between the bare bones of a tracks, the sound design, the minute edits, the mastering… The re-mastering, playing the track live as a tester, then re-re- mastering, each track could take up to a month [to go] from new file to export to WAV.
The Jester: Do you find it confusing to work on multiple tracks at a time? Or does that help you focus? I know with my ADHD I have to focus on multiple things sometimes.
Therion Major: Confusing? Not really. Each one is its own… thing. And it helps, because sometimes I have elements of one track that I decide would work better within a completely different track, and many of my tracks from my last album are clones of each other in some way.
Not to give away too many secrets, but the bass drums in the track Wreckage were originally supposed to be in the track Liar in Chief. That was a decision I made that changed the sound of both tracks by a wide margin.
The Jester: Let’s talk about Pierce The Earth. Among the 15 songs, you remixed two tracks and included three of yours that other artists had remixed. Tell me how all of that came to be, and what goes into doing that for you?
Therion Major: The remixes were from, and for, people I was already connected with via social media, through groups and forums for industrial music.
As far as my production methods when approaching a remix, I try to bring a bit of a hint of the original but other than that, I seek to make a whole new sound, using many of the elements that the producer sends me to work with from their original track.
The Jester: That’s brilliant! As far as the new record goes, I’d say Days of Hate V2 is definitely my favorite song. Tell me about that song.
Therion Major: Days of Hate was salvaged from vocal recordings left over from an old hard drive crash. The project file for the rest of the track was lost. The original file I started was meant to be a remix of Fury, but I decided to use the salvaged vocals for DoH instead. For this reason it’s called Days of Hate V2 or Version 2.
The Jester: I think my other favorite would have to have been Cannons! The opening of that song is stupid heavy!
Therion Major: Cannons! was based on me trying to make the darkest sound I can, finding lyrics I’d written about a year ago, and making a recording based on those.
I had originally intended to make the entire track instrumental, but there was a “bridge” in the middle that demanded to be filled in. So we have the cybernetic speech in the middle of this absolutely monstrous track that I initially thought very little of, but that’s the one I hear the most about from fans.
The Jester: You certainly succeeded, as far as the darkness goes. What are your future plans for DMN?
Therion Major: In short, expansion of reach and product. Merchandise, cross-platform content, hard copy CDs, and international travel. I don’t just want to go out of state, I want to go out of the freaking country. I would like to play on stage with the same people that I collaborated with for my remixes (like Stahlschlag, from Germany).
And that’s really the crux of my dream; to continue to use my music as a way to connect with people, share ideas and form relationships. I believe that’s the highest goal of this art.
Oh! How can I forget? I really want to do a music video.
The Jester: Is there anything else you think people should know about Dark Machine Nation?
Therion Major: My plan is to continue to grow and evolve, and if you thought Pierce the Earth was heavy… keep your ears open for what’s coming next!
Dark Machine Nation – Days of Hate V2