Rock N Roll Experience exclusive: "Chris Vrenna - interview"
Army of the Universe / KMFDM August 20, 2011
EDITORS NOTE: THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED/CENSORED FOR CONTENT BY HIGHER POWERS....SORRY, BUT IT HAPPENS SOMETIMES & SUCH IS LIFE.
Never let it be said that I don't risk life & limb to bring my readers the inside scoop....I won't deny the fact that I held it together just enough to do this interview & review this show despite having a nasty cold & not feeling good; this particular interview ended up being bumped back 2 hours from it's original slated time and for anyone who's ever worked in the rock n roll world you have to expect that NOTHING runs according to schedule and it was one of the things I joked with the Army of the Universe guys about prior to the interview.
To set things up proper, the interview was slated for 6 PM & there was some confusion as to whether it was in person or a phoner so the band ended up going to dinner & I hung around the venue till they returned from their dinner which consisted of everything "Crab" related & Albert told me afterwards that he was not too crazy about the spicy kick the crabs had.
I had originally expected to do a 2 man interview with Albert & Chris Vrenna but to my surprise I got the entire band & they are a quirky bunch o' dudes who share an interesting sense of humor & what you won't get to see in this interview is something the bands singer did mid interview....he showed me his "He-Man/Masters of the Universe impression" & if you ever run into Lord K please ask him about it, it's pretty damn funny!
The band consists of Albert Vorne aka Trebla who is very well known overseas as an international DJ, Lord K who is best known as lead singer for metal band Kult of the Skull God, guitarist Davil, & a drummer named Chris Vrenna who you might remember as drummer for Nine Inch Nails & who's also is a current member of Marilyn Manson!
Ok, so now that the set up is in place, I sat down with all 4 members of Army of the Universe to discuss numerous topics & just so you know, 3 of the 4 members are from Europe so their English is a bit off at times... here's what the band had to say:
Rock N Roll Experience: How did you get Chris Vrenna to be a part of this project?
Albert: I've been DJing my whole life & making electronic tunes & stuff like that & then I started this thing with Lord 3 years ago & I was missing real drums & kinda programming & mixing, it wasn't what I was used to so I needed a much more experienced guy & common friend ...like 2 years ago we started to work on the first EP & it worked great & I forced Chris to play drums with us live after that & actually he's doing these 5 shows in the US with us.
Chris Vrenna: I wish I could play more with them
Albert: Yeah, Chris is really busy & we are already working on the next EP & the next album too which makes our work schedule very hectic.
Rock N Roll Experience: Are you doing any cover songs on the next record?
Albert: We haven't decided yet....We are thinking about it, we have a few ideas.
Rock N Roll Experience: Will the next record be heavier musically?
Albert: Yeah...the thing is, I come from the electronic scene, Lord & Davil both come from the rock scene...rock & metal big time, so the first album is more like experimentation & trying to mesh our tastes which was just fun to do something like that, we didn't even know we were doing the industrial thing, I mean I've always kinda been an industrial guy but I didn't expect to get on Metropolis or this whole sorta thing, so the next album will be a bit heavier but still each track has it's own history & story. Lord K: Some are more song oriented while others are more experimental but we don't have much control on this one, not planning, setting, doing, we do this & now we had to do that, it's always a natural thing
Albert: To be honest the only thing we are planning is to have a bit more tracks, over 20 or 30.
Rock N Roll Experience: With Chris being a member of Marilyn Manson will he be able to still work with Army of the Universe?
Chris Vrenna: YES!
Lord K: It's an honor
Albert: We consider Chris a part of the project & part of the band so when he can play live drums with us it's the best & we just started to work on the new album so yeah, it's a long term project.
Chris Vrenna: Plus you know how cycles work, the last Manson record came out in 2009 so the next Manson record will come out in 2012 so it's like there's a 2 or 3 year gap.
Rock N Roll Experience: So when is the new Marilyn Manson record coming out?
Chris Vrenna: Sometime in 2012
Rock N Roll Experience: And you are the official drummer for the band now, correct?
Chris Vrenna: That's what they tell me (laughs)
Rock N Roll Experience: How was it replacing Pogo (Madonna Wayne Gacy) in Marilyn Manson?
Chris Vrenna: That was cool....I was gone for a year playing with Gnarles Barkley & we were in Perth, Australia, it was the last show of the tour & I get a call & he says, "Hey, what are you doing?" & I said I was in Perth & getting ready to go onstage & he says, "When are you getting back?" & I said about 24 hours after I walk offstage in Perth & I flew home & Tony (MM's Manager) said just call me when you get off the plane & I'm like no, let's flood & he was like, well, do you wanna move over & play keyboards now & I was like, what?, & he was like, long story, but do you wanna do keyboards now? & I was like, sure, call me when I get off the plane & he said cool, I'll tell Manson. I get off the plane & it was like noon or 1 PM our time LA time & I was like, well, I'm back, ok, cool, & I was jet lagged like crazy & they were like, ok, no rush, 3 or 4 o'clock, whatever works & I was like, you mean now? They were like, yeah, they've been rehearsing for 2 weeks....you kinda have to expect the unexpected.
Rock N Roll Experience: When Manson toured with Slayer it had to be rough.
Chris Vrenna: That was why we went on last on that tour, we knew with that crowd after Slayer played their crowd just left.
Rock N Roll Experience: How much of the Army of Universe live show is played live onstage?
Albert: It increases with us, the way we do it is we have a global track playing underneath & the global track includes electronic drums, some of the live drums, some of the keys & on top of it we have Chris's drums, the whole vocal thing, the whole guitar thing & we do have some back-up vocals & then I do play some of the keys like on the album & some extra keys on top of it, some samples & some effects plus some crazy things like I do a Bjork cover with a keytar...the keytar is just a midi controller.
Rock N Roll Experience: So there's no bass player in this band?
Albert: No, the bass, I do some of the bass on the keys & when we started to write & compose, where we start from is like a loop or a kinda groovy thing like electronic drums & but the bass is the first thing we write & since I have the electronic background we don't really need the live bass...I'm a super analogic freak so the bass is stage number one, but I'm not saying we won't include a bass player one day, that's possible.
Rock N Roll Experience: I have to ask Chris, why are you no longer a part of Nine Inch Nails?
Chris Vrenna: Trent's an asshole! He was a really bad drug addict & a bad person and I couldn't take it anymore
Rock N Roll Experience: In my opinion Trent's never had a live drummer better than the work you did with NIN.
Chris Vrenna: I agree (laughs)
Albert: I do too, I do too
Chris Vrenna: I mean there are just certain quintessential line ups to some bands even if it is all centered around one person, I mean like Smashing Pumpkins now is just Billy...without Iha & D'arcy...it's like with Nine Inch Nails I think of the Downward Spiral era of Lohner, Robyn & me, & fucking Manson the line up I think of as the best is John, Twiggy & Ginger....that was the best band.
Rock N Roll Experience: But you actually toured with Marilyn Manson when Daisy was in the band during the "Portrait" era & you also had Billy Howardel from Aperfectcircle as your guitar tech.
Chris Vrenna: That's right & I always knew that kid (Billy Howardel) was gonna go do something with his life (laughs)...Billy's hooked up with some shitty people man, he was Trent's tech, he was AXL's tech & he actually wrote the whole APerfectCircle record when he was working for GNR.
Rock N Roll Experience: Who came up with the name Army of the Universe?
Albert: I did one day, I remember...
Lord K: We were working together one day & we were joking about the first 2 songs, "Resin" & "Dust in the Universe" which were the first songs we made & then we were joking about it thinking about Masters of the Universe... Rock N Roll Experience: He-Man?
Albert: Well, no, the stories a bit more complicated (everyone laughs)...Actually Lord & I are both big fans of the retrospective of the future & like cinematography sorta things & the way the way that human beings expect the future to be like in the 50's, 60', 70's & 80's, like the visionary sorta things which were completely wrong because they were not thinking about huge masses going to the universe & discovering planets & crazy things...the result is the f**king ipod, so it's the exact opposite, but we've always been big fans of, like my favorite movies are "Blade Runner", "Strange Days", or those types of visionary type things & as an artist the same things...
Lord K: Yeah, "The Warriors", "Big Trouble in Little China", "Conan the Barbarian".
Albert: Army of the Universe was just a concept, like Army was something big & "The Universe" is something more than big & it's something coming from somewhere else...that was part of the concept.
Rock N Roll Experience: I actually like the concept of the band name coming from He-Man better! (everyone laughs)
*LORD K does his He-man impersonation & he goes to to describe how when He-Man holds his sword & shield it looks like he's shitting.
Rock N Roll Experience: Davil has been so quiet this entire interview...what are you thinking?"
Albert: He's a cyborg, we forgot to tell you, Davil is not a human being, he's a cyborg & we bought him on ebay.
Rock N Roll Experience: For anyone who's never seen Army of the Universe live can you please describe what you are like onstage?
Albert: There are 3 main ingredients, the first one is music of course & we are not going too far from the CD, we are not reinterpreting things too much, the 2nd thing thanks to the beauty of our lead singer, he's really sexy & he's a very sexy performer & I'm telling you, not only girls like it, you don't care, you don't wanna know, & the 3rd thing might be a little stupid but it's simple...it's energy. We are trying to give more power to our tracks onstage with our energy & every band should actually do that, but I think it energizes each song.
Rock N Roll Experience: 3 of the 4 members of Army of the Universe are not from the USA, so coming from overseas do you actually like the US Music scene?
Albert: We didn't know what to expect, we are very impressed with touring the US this way, like are amazed people were willing to listen to our music & like the industrial thing here is still kinda big but in Europe it's much smaller & the problem is, the audience have become purists & they only listen to death metal or they only listen to industrial or...the music has become very sectorized & this phenomenon is not a good thing because people are less & less open minded & this phenomenon is much worse in Europe than the US.
Chris Vrenna: See, I always thought that was the opposite.
Albert: In the 80's it was the opposite, in Europe if you look at the charts of the 80's in the UK, the most important ones, you'd have a metal track, a dance track & Michael Jackson & that was freedom & people were eating music, consuming music & today everything has changed & the music industry is not what it was 10 years ago, but I understood people here are a bit more open to the artist & I like that.
Chris Vrenna: See, I always thought that was the opposite, because I always play those festivals & check out this last 4 stage line up at a festival I did 2 years ago: It was some f**king punk/pop type band, then us (Marilyn Manson), then Bjork & Muse! On the 2nd stage was Beastie Boys & I was like, you couldn't put that onstage in the states.
Rock N Roll Experience: On the subject of Marilyn Manson, what can you tell me about what the band has coming up soon.
Chris Vrenna: New record early next year, probably the single on Halloween, but that's it. Rock N Roll Experience: No live shows scheduled?
Chris Vrenna: Not till the record comes out which will be in the first quarter.
Rock N Roll Experience: What is "Born Villain"?
Chris Vrenna: ******CENSORED******
Shortly after this interview Army of the Universe took the stage to a packed house, they played a set that was very dance oriented yet maintained a live "Rock" element....the best way I could describe the show was that it contained the best elements of a rock concert & a rave!
Albert anchored the samples, keys & extra elements onstage while Davil was the "rock star" onstage with his blonde locks headbanging while he shredded on guitar. Lord K is an interesting frontman, he kinda reminds me of Jason Mewes from the Jay & Silent Bob movies & Chris Vrenna on drums added balls to the bands live sound...Army of the Universe were the perfect band to open for industrial legends KMFDM.
KMFDM played a set that was mostly hard rock/metal mixed with dance beats & they didn't focus on the past, most of their set was from more their more recent material & my immediate observation was that their guitarist on stage right doesn't look like he belongs in KMFDM, he's a good player, but he was sporting a white baseball cap & looked more suited to be in a rock/rap band than KMFDM...at this point KMFDM are down to one original member & they played a really intense 90 minute set before thanking the crowd & saying goodnight.