These Machines Are Winning: "I was Really Obsessed with Superman's Death."
If you're excited about These Machines Are Winning, Dylan Silvers' latest project, you're in for plenty of background. We got the rundown on their musical beginnings, their first shows, and what to expect in the near future, and you can expect more in next week's print edition. As a preview of their first show on Saturday at the Double Wide, we sat down with Silvers and Ryan Hartsell, the man behind the band's visuals.
Dylan, I've known you for many years and I've always known you as someone who plays guitar and keyboards. What else can you play? Along those lines, what was the first instrument that you learned to play?
Dylan Silvers: Guitar, but first I started singing in high school. But when I got kicked out of my first band after their first show, I realized I needed to learn how to play guitar so I could write my own songs. I'm mostly guitar and keyboards. I've always been on the production side, but now I've been with this last record. I've had co-producers help me, but I'm really into the production side, seeing the whole big picture of the songs. I'm a jack of all noisey trades, I guess.
You're listed as playing drums on Defender 1.
DS: Yeah! Basically, I wrote all the drums on pads and then got a bunch of analog drum machines, like 808s. I took the best parts out of all those machines. I didn't program anything once I wrote the beats. I kinda put them together like a puzzle, like, layered them all together.
For both of you, can you remember the first band that obsessed about when you were young?
Ryan Hartsell: For me, it was Ween, and I'm still a fan.
Any record in particular, like Chocolate and Cheese?
RH: Pure Guava.
What about you, Dylan?
DS: The Who, Quadrophenia. My brother Pete was a huge Who fan. That's all I listened to. I spent a lot of summers with him before he moved out and Quadrophenia was one he played constantly. That's one of my favorites that I still listen to today.
Can you remember the first show that you paid your own money to see?
DS: Yes! Lollapalooza, '92. The second one. In Cleveland, Ohio. I started going to concerts when I was 13, 14.
RH: I remember getting tickets to Lollapalooza, but for some odd reason, I didn't end up making the show.
DS: What was your first concert?
RH: Well, there was another one I paid for but I didn't go see because my friend didn't have a ticket. It was NOFX. The first concert I saw is kind of embarrassing. My mom took me to see . . .
DS: Care Bears on Ice!
RH: . . . Three Dog Night.
DS: Mine is not bad. I think my parents took my brother to see Bob Dylan. My dad was obsessed with Bob Dylan, but I really don't remember going to any concerts before that Lollapalooza.
Since visuals are a big aspect of These Machines Are Winning, who would you say got you excited about comics as a kid?
DS: Definitely back when I was in the 12-14 range, I loved Jim Lee, [Todd] McFarlane, X-Men reboots, Spider-Man reboots. I've grown fonder of some of the characters that I missed. I look back and think, "Wow, these are well crafted; almost like books." Like, Akira.
RH: I was really into Venom and Predator. I like the villains a lot. As far as comics that I collected, I was really obsessed with Superman's death, even though I didn't really collect much outside of his death. Some of the Kitchen Sink Press, they're no longer in existence, but they had a lot of interesting stuff to me. John Mueller's Oink: Heaven's Butcher was one that really inspired me. As far as film goes, I'm a die hard Stanley Kubrick nut. Have been since high school. It's kind of a lifelong obsession I don't see going away.
DS: Movies, definitely! Newer movies though because they didn't make good comic book movies back then. Fantastic Four, Punisher, they're all horrible until they rebooted them years later. The Watchmen [live-action film by Zack Snyder] is one of the best movies in general and comic book movies because it's rated R, they're not overloading it with A-list actors, and they kept pretty true to the book. It's just a brilliant movie. The Dark Knight as well.
RH: The Crow.
DS: The Crow is a big one for both of us.
RH: The soundtrack was huge for us.
I was a freshman in high school when that came out. That was one of my first exposures to a hard-R comic book adaptation.
DS: Me too! I would say for me and Ryan, The Crow would be one of the first top-notch [movie adaptations]. I love Batman with Michael Keaton.
When The Crow came out, it was dirty.
RH: It still holds up.
DS: Yeah! I watch it once or twice a year.
I'm really glad you speak highly of the Watchmen movie. I recently had to be rather defensive with a couple of guys that see movies all the time and they thought Watchmen was horrible. I don't see regularly see movies in the theater, but I saw Watchmen twice in the theater. For me, this is going to sound really horrible, but I read the comic book years ago and didn't get what was so great about it. I'd read it and think on every page, "This is from the '80s." The art, the topics, I couldn't see the bigger story until Zack Snyder's adaptation of it. So that's why I'm looking forward to Man of Steel.
RH: Yeah! That trailer gets me so excited.
DS: Our artist, Jock, has done some conceptual work on Man of Steel. I'm so excited to see what he did and the movie. The second trailer looks fuckin' rad.
Dylan, with the upcoming first These Machines Are Winning show at the Double Wide on Saturday, this is not the first time you've cut a record and then play live. Any kind of jitters with this?
DS: Yeah! Especially with this one. With my previous band, we cut a record and then we started playing. This one, we cut a record, we're playing our first show and the record's coming out. So I'm a little nervous because I don't have a big band. I've been hiding behind. The last bands I've had have a ton of people. This kind of reverts back to what I had been doing with [DARYL] in the sense of [being] vulnerable. At the same time, I'm excited about this project because I have such a passion for what I'm doing with this music that I want to go on tour and play out. We've already delved into the second record. It's 99 percent written and halfway recorded. I love what I'm doing with the people I'm working with.
Ryan, what exactly is your role with the live performance?
RH: I'm working on the visuals as far as the live performance. I've also designing and laying out all the merch. And the presence of the band in terms of marketing materials.
DS: He'll make a reel. We've had reels in the past with previous bands, but we will not be using a reel from our video material, it will be random stuff. He'll put it together and make it visually stimulating to go with the music. But Ryan's big role when we started this project is that we created the characters. Ryan's the videographer. He shoots all the video stuff, edits. He took Jock's artwork, laid it out in T-shirt designs, so he's kind of a loose Brian Eno, but without playing instruments. You know, the whole visual thing going beyond the music with a comic book thing, writing the stories. I think it's different. I can't name any bands that delve into the comic book thing. It's going to be hard for people to accept that, but it's really a half-half marrying thing there. Until we get more stuff out there, more art, graphic novel, videos, we'll solidify.
RH: We've been working on a series of narrative shorts for the videos that actually connect together as a seamless story. We'll be pairing with graphic novels.
DS: The first one, me and Ryan shot ourselves. Ryan behind the camera. I helped produced and be one of the characters. It was a hard one because we didn't have a whole crew. The second one, we had about a six-guy crew. Great people, great friends. We're building slowly our arsenal of people, stuff and our stories.
The only other band that I can think of that has done this is Coheed & Cambria. What I like about them is that, if you don't want to check out the comic books, the music is still good.
RH: That applies here as well!