A lot of industrial musicians embrace serious themes such as war, mortality and religion. In contrast, Madison, Wisconsin's
rhythmic noise industrial act Caustic would rather perform songs focusing on drag queens and the standup comedy of Doug Stanhope.
Not to mention their singer's tendency to bellow, "Tell me about my uterus!" while chugging a 40 ouncer.
Having just released their first full-length album, "Unicorns, Kittens and Shit," Caustic are gaining a lot
of attention for their mixture of humor, bizarre showmanship and stompy beats that appeal to fans of both classic Wax Trax
industrial and today's Terror EBM fans. Caustic frontman Matt Fanale took time out of his busy schedule of writing sexually
deviant songs, performing with the likes of Chemlab and Stromkern and upcoming dates with KMFDM to give some smartass responses
to our (mostly) serious questions.
By: Geoffrey Smith II
Rock Star Journalism: What motivated you to start creating music?
Matt Fanale: Mostly, I just wanted to invest a lot of money into a music project with little financial gain. I've gotten
a lot of free booze, though, and made a lot of good pals, so those are real positives.
RSJ: In "This Track Will Get Skipped a Lot," you have sound bites of friends and colleagues in the scene jokingly
bashing your work. Did you encounter any genuine negativity during the album's creation?
MF: I've pissed off some people at live shows -- that's about it. Some dipshit at my first Seattle show was grumpy about
the Caustic live set because we were apparently "making fun of the scene," or something like that. I think my pal
Krass, in drag and playing cowbell, and Darren (formerly of Backandtotheleft/Noxious Emotion) on drums, shirtless and rubbing
his chest against the window of where we were playing, had something to do with it.
We have the whole thing on DVD, and Krass looks fuckin' hot in drag. The best part was that he was wearing a Ministry
shirt while we covered [their song] "Flashback." Asshat. Other than that, I'm pretty much ignored or people are
just making fun of me behind my back. No worries. I make fun of Caustic more than they ever could.
RSJ: Speaking of one of the finer bits of commentary in that track -- how was (Assemblage 23's) Tom Shear in the sack?
MF: First, I asked Tom what his opinion was and he said "bacony," but I consider him not only bacony but also
a tender, caring lover. He likes to be called "Master Blaster," though. That part's a little weird. Screaming "You
run barter town!" during sex with anyone can be a bit offputting, but he likes it and sells more CDs than me, so you
have to accommodate.
RSJ: Everything from the album and track titles, to the samples you've used, are humorous. Is this in reaction to the
arguably serious industrial music scene?
MF: I actually tried making serious music for a bit, but fortunately or unfortunately, nobody could take me seriously,
so I went from wanting to be the next "grr spit industrial" project to what I am now. I kind of like the juxtaposition
of trying to be as badass on stage as possible while screaming, "Tell me about my uterus!"
As I've said before though, a good number of bands in the hard electronics scene are trying way too damn hard to be controversial
and angry, spouting cliché after cliché, and it's become boring. I think having fun is a much better idea -- but being just
as loud. I'd rather scream about handjobs than Christianity or Satan or Satanic Christianity any day, because at least that's
something I like. Mmm...handjobs. However, I definitely don't want to be seen as a "joke band," but more like the
Mr. Bungle of industrial -- without the talent.
RSJ: So...tell me about my uterus.
MF: It still looks like a cock to me, so stop sending me pictures.
RSJ: The title track on your album is built around samples of Doug Stanhope's standup comedy routine. What inspired this,
and has Doug heard it?
MF: I've been a fan of Doug Stanhope for years, and I just liked that particular routine. Actually, Stanhope was maybe
the first person I sampled for an early Caustic track, and back then, I actually did email him to see if I could use the sample,
and he was very cool [about it]. I never actually released the track, as it blew, but it was the best I could do at the time.
I hope he wouldn't sue me for sampling him, as it's purely out of fanboy geekiness that I used it. Please don't sue me, Doug!
RSJ: There were issues with getting the replication facility to manufacture your album because of the artwork inside the
case. What happened?
MF: Basically, the original Canadian printing plant got freaked by the inside tray card image -- a shot of a bunch of
phone sex cards with a Caustic sticker that my good pal DJ Whiterabbit photographed while in Japan. It was meant to be funny,
but apparently someone there thought it would inspire an erection. So, they refused to print it, even with the mild "naughty
bits" pixilated out. We took the CD to a few other places, which also wouldn't print it for the same reason, but eventually
found the cool cats at Music Boot Camp who had no issues with our dumbness.
RSJ: When your album was finally released, it ended up as a number one seller on the Metropolis Records mail order site.
Do you think the delay and build up of interest worked in your favor?
MF: Definitely, although I would have preferred getting it out on time instead of four months late, as it gets to be a
not-so-funny joke receiving e-mails asking where the CD is. Still, for all the ridiculous hoops we had to jump through, with
Static Sky Records shutting down, and the censorship of the art, and the CDs getting shipped to the wrong side of the country,
it worked out well. My good pals Christian Bankes and Ben from Crunch Pod Media really worked their asses off to get this
record out the way we wanted it. So, if four months of presales equal a top spot, then so be it. It looked nice, but it's
not the same as VNV Nation taking the top spot or anything.
RSJ: Previous to Caustic you were a DJ and promoter, and now you're performing at festivals and clubs as a musician. How
do these experiences compare?
MF: Well, I'm still a DJ and promoter, and run my label Sonic Mainline, but I think performing is more fun than promoting,
and at least easier for me. And DJing is fun to do because we have a fun scene in Madison. I've been performing improv comedy
since '95, so getting on stage isn't a problem. I enjoy all of the things I do a lot, though Caustic is taking more of it
-- mostly because I still can't believe anyone even cares about it.
RSJ: What have been some really satisfying moments in your music career so far?
MF: Meeting and performing with bands I really admire -- Babyland, This Morn' Omina, Chemlab, Manufactura, Stromkern.
The list is huge. Like I just said, it's insane to me that anyone cares about what I do. There are so many projects out there
and so much good music that getting any sort of notoriety to get to do cool shows is simply mind-blowing to me. I don't take
it for granted. Mind you, I work my ass off to get the word out on Caustic, but the fact that it's working and that I even
get a modicum of respect from people I'm a big ol' fanboy of is so damn cool.
RSJ: As someone in the noise industrial genre, you don't use a lot of traditional instruments. What's your philosophy behind
a live show and keeping it visually interesting?
MF: This is where my improv experience comes in. I believe in giving a show. I believe in having some live shit actually
going on, and I believe in having a good time. People avoid shows in this scene, and I'm talking industrial in general, because
there isn't a show. Most people [who perform] are just standing there twisting knobs and looking like they're checking their
email. Boring. Bo-fucking-ring.
I like screaming at an audience, having them scream back and looking like a jackass. I'd rather show too much of my stupid
personality than not, and be remembered for looking like a moron than just standing there like some bored chump. Mind you,
there are exceptions to every rule, but when I pay to see a show I want to see an actual show, and that's what we try to do.
We're incorporating video now, too, so the dumb possibilities are becoming endless.
RSJ: Are you still an aspiring Suicide Girl?
MF: They keep turning me down. Too hairy. Also, the penis.
RSJ: Is a second album in the works, and if so, what direction are you taking your music?
MF: I've got the next CD about halfway done, or at least I have tracks I like enough to put onto a new CD. In terms of
direction, I'm trying to jump around a bit like on the first disc, as I like an odd variety. Although, everything I have thus
far is fairly aggressive stompiness. I've got a couple tracks in the works, which explore some new terrain for me. And no,
they aren't slow jams. Okay, maybe they are.
RSJ: What groups and demographics do you hope to insult and make cry with your music in the future?
MF: Well, I'm making a mild attempt at pissing off the emo kids by fucking with AFI. AFI have a song called "Kill
Caustic" that I decided to retaliate against, even though the song has nothing to do with me. So, I just released a demo
for "Kill AFI (they started it)" which has been doing quite well. Otherwise, I'm into basically insulting everyone,
though I don't try to do it in a mean way. Just poking fun. I don't take much too seriously, and if someone in the scene does
-- well, then I really enjoy picking on them.
RSJ: You offer an EP of remixes and unreleased tracks as an incentive to purchase your album, and you seem adamant about
encouraging fans to actually buy music. Is this attitude a result of releasing your own music, or has it always been your
MF: I honestly used to download a lot when the original Napster and AudioGalaxy were around -- mostly because I was poor,
but even moreso because I was extremely naïve as to how much my favorite artists actually sold. I rarely download anything
now unless it's for a sample or something. The main reason we did the free second [online remix] disc was because I really
wanted people to feel like they were getting a deal with the CD and help make it worth buying. There's a lot of things people
can spend their money on, and I wanted to make sure people got their money's worth in quantity, and hopefully, quality of
some sort. Downloading fucks a lot of labels, and in turn, artists, so I try to support bands I like and know by actually
purchasing CDs. It's important to me to support the labels as well, because there is a razor-thin profit margin that we all
work on, and it's very important that people respect that. Nobody gets rich off this shit, y'know?
RSJ: Do you have any intentions of re-releasing older material, such as the EP and comic book package?
MF: Nope. I may, someday, if anyone actually gives a shit, release or re-release a track or two, but mostly that was my
early stuff and the reason I put it out with goofy extras was to make it something collectible and fun to have. Most of my
old stuff, while I'm not ashamed of it or anything, was pretty fuckin' terrible. Of course, a lot of stuff on "Unicorns,
Kittens and Shit" I'm sick of too, but that's just because it's been done and out of my hands for nearly nine months
at this point, even though it only came out two months ago.
RSJ: What are your plans for the future?
MF: To just keep doing shows, promoting, DJing, running and promoting my acts on Sonic Mainline and annoying as many elitist
dickwads as possible.
RSJ: Anything you'd like to say to the kids?
MF: Stay out of my fucking yard.
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