AUTHOR & PUNISHER "Roar of the Iron Bear"

By Dr. Abner Mality

What is industrial music really? Is it evil disco with staccato metal riffs? Is it ice cold dance music? Is it German people banging on pipes making sound with a drill lathe?

Author & Punisher might provide the most concrete answer yet to this riddle: none of the above. The creation of one Mr. Tristan Shone, A & P unites the power of human muscle and mind with actual metal machinery. Shone's music is created by devices he has crafted in metal shops and which look like something you'd see more in a hydraulic factory. These machines grind, rub, whirl, clank and rumble when activated by Shone's own physical power...they are NOT robots that perform at the touch of a button. The result of this human/machine synthesis is incredibly HEAVY music that sounds like it's coming from a hundred men instead of one. Godflesh and Fear Factory are comparisons, but distant ones. Shone has his own original vision and style.

That style is showcased on the new Author & Punisher release "American Bear", which has gotten more exposure for the project than any prior A & P effort. It's going to expose Shone's work to a vast new audience ranging from avant-garde enthusiasts to dancefloor freaks to diehard metalheads. I couldn't resist a trip to the man's techno-dungeon of sound to find out the ideas behind this very brutal and unique musical project...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: I'm curious about the name of your latest album, "Ursus Americanus". That translates to "American Bear". What's the reasoning behind that name?

TRISTAN SHONE: Well, it's kind of a personal thing. I didn't want to base the name of the album on the machines this time, even though I do draw a lot of influence from hi-tech. I think of the music as being aggressive and dark, but a little more on the...not gentle per se, but I do think of the black bear as being evil looking but having a gentle demeanor. I kind of compare myself to that. The music is real heavy but I'm a pretty calm individual and I wanted the title to kind of reflect that.

WC: This gets to the heart of the whole Author & Punisher concept. What is your relationship with machinery? Do you feel like its master or its slave?

TS: I feel like I'm the master. I've worked with machinery and designed instruments for industrial automation and robotics for 12 years. I guess it's more of a partnership. I don't feel it's a master-slave relationship at all. I'm not turning things on that do other things and my machines aren't overpowering me in any way. I'm basically making objects and devices that feel like the music to me...I can feel the resistance and the interference between the materials and that represents the doom and heaviness to me.

WC: Do you get more physical satisfaction out of using muscle power that way to create music?

TS: Yeah, I would say there is something more satisfying than using the classical kinds of instruments that break easily. If you turn a knob too hard, it breaks. Your body wants to exert a certain amount of force and if it's held back in any way, the sound may also be held back. There's a lot of restraint in using classical instruments. You feel bottled up and you feel like if you make a mistake, it's like killing or strangling somebody.

WC: A lot of industrial music sounds like evil disco. What you create seems to fit the description of industrial music a lot more, do you agree?

TS: I do. I tell people that I think my music is more organic than the usual industrial or electronic music because I am controlling everything. Of course, on the albums, I do mess around in production and if I played something wrong, I slip in a MIDI fix. When I'm playing live, though, I don't sequence anything. There's no drumbeat loops. There's a natural fluctuation, there's mistakes...there's more of a spastic, spontaneous bodily feel. I agree with your statement. I think industrial music often tends to be just like house music through a distortion pedal.

WC: Who are some of the influences you had in creating this music?

TS: Back in 8th or 9th grade, I think it was like Sepultura, then Godflesh and the Melvins. I've still been with those bands,  In college I started going to raves. I started to feel that electronic music had better sound quality. A lot of metal music these days is like a high and mid range onslaught. It's supposed to have balls and it's totally missing it because there's no low end. That's what drum and bass, dub, dubstep and the real reggae has. There's newer acts like Deadbeat and Pole, Rhythm and Sound, Flying Lotus that I think are very heavy. They're just not doom bands.

WC: "Ursus Americanus" is actually a very diverse album. How important was it to you to have a wide range of sounds on this album?

TS: II was tough, because I could have took some of those softer songs and grouped them with others I've messed around with on a totally soft album. But I'm just under the impression that you only have time to do one band. I DJ and do a ton of electronic shows. So I just basically put a couple of those tracks that I play on the machines on the record. I don't think it was that important, it's just that's how my shows are. I thought about taking those songs off there at one point...

WC: In my opinion, those songs helped to make the album. If the whole album had been like the song "Set Flame", it would be almost unlistenable.

TS: Yeah, that's right.

WC: Does computerization play much of a part in Author & Punisher?

TS: What do you mean by computerization? I mean, all of my sounds other than my voice are coming off the laptop. There are samples that I pre-recorded or messed with.

WC: During a live performance, are you assisted by computers?

TS: No. Basically, if you could imagine taking what I do and making it into a bunch of, it's not that. There's nothing like lining up my drumbeats as I'm playing them,,nothing like quantizing them. If I start to move my arms faster, the music is going to go faster. There's no pitch adjustments. On my sliding rack and pinion keyboard controller, I have a piece of tape where I mark in symbols so I know where to hit. I actually like that I'm out of key sometimes! Or that the bass is so heavy that my whole pitch range has shifted. Or I'm too drunk and can't do it properly...(laughter) To me, I enjoy performance more when there are unknowns in there.

WC: Would you say you consider live performance to be more important than studio work?

TS: Yeah, the studio work is a real pain in the ass. I'm sitting there recording...I'd like to just record it and get it out there, but I can't, I've got to fix it. You know, it's a master so you want it to be the ideal version of your performance.  I really prefer performing and touring.

WC: Of all the machines you've created, is there any one that's your favorite, that's like your baby?

TS: Well, visually or symbolically, I'd have to say the linear actuator or the rack and pinion are the symbol of Author & Punisher.  The right handed fist bumps kind of represent what metal is to me. However, to play, the rotary encoder, which is this big 300 pound disc that basically is just a spinning drum wheel, was one of the first things I made and that really provides the drone of what I think Author & Punisher is.

WC: It certainly seems to visually dominate a lot of the other equipment you use.

TS: I built those back in 2007 and then I toured until about 2010 when the album "Drone Machines" came out. I wasn't making enough money on shows and I couldn't bring them overseas so I pretty much decided I wanted to build some different ones, with a faster dynamic that were lighter and under 70 pounds, so I could take them on an airplane. I kind of stopped playing them, but now with a little more help and guarantees from clubs, I can afford to bring them with me again. I need helpers to carry just can't load on to a stage in 20 minutes with those things.

WC: It has got to be a real chore touring with all this heavy machinery and putting it together on stage.

TS:  Well, the first machines I had, the drone machines, were basically like sculptures. They had custom tables that didn't fold, you needed two people to put it all together. It was very difficult for me to do a live show in the allotted time. Although I did it! You start losing friends because they don't want to help you! But with these new ones, I've got it all worked out. They don't have the best tables...they're not sculptural pedestals, which is what I'd like to have...but I can fit in just like any other band now.

WC: Is your plan to always keep Author & Punisher a one-man unit? Or could you see collaborating with others and getting live helpers during the set?

TS: There are some songs on "Drone Machines" that have guitar. I would say there are four songs on there that are pretty much a sequence with guitar. I can play the sequence with the linear actuator that I have. Those songs aren't quite the same. I can play them with the set up I have now but they are better with guitar accompaniment. When I tour songs on that album, I'll bring along a guitar player and maybe even a keyboard player, but I really prefer playing alone. The heart and soul of what Author & Punisher does is...I'm not going to say improvisation, but it's really being able to take advantage of emotional change I have on stage. All of my limbs can change direction. I can say, I'm going to do something completely irrational at this point and just change the song completely. Either the crowd is giving a certain response or I have a certain feeling that I want to act on. I can't do that with someone else and I don't like the anxiety of not having that option.

WC: Is it correct to say that if you see Author & Punisher live, no two shows are going to be even close to each other?

TS: No, that's not true. I do change up the set but on this most recent tour, I was pretty much playing the songs from "Ursus Americanus". Certainly, the shows will be different. If the sound system's not good, I'm not going to do as much phasing, I'll do more of the grindcore sounding songs. I'm not going to do any electronic dub type stuff.

WC: You music has a very apocalyptic sound. Does that reflect a certain viewpoint? That the end of civilization is drawing near?

TS: I'm a pretty light-hearted person. I am an optimist but when it comes to nature and where humanity is going and how I feel about humans in general, yeah, I think the end of the world is maybe not imminent but it is inevitable. In some ways, for me to make really devastating, emotional music, it's a way to deal with that. It almost makes it comical. It makes disaster into a big comedy. All you can really do is laugh or cry. When there are 1200 tigers left in the world, that's pretty sad.

WC:  Or 5000 miles of coastline covered in radioactive junk...

TS: Exactly.

WC: Do you have a concept of how your sound will evolve?

TS: That actually follows very closely with the desires of the instruments. It's things I want to explore. "Drone Machines" was very heavy and drony... using machines that I could put into motion through natural inertia, spinning, using drone wheels that you might see in some different Southeast Asian cultures. It was basically drone, weights, heaviness, doom. And then I did something with a lighter sensibility, so I could do a little more riffage. It was less about resistance, more about precision and dynamics. That was on "Ursus Americanus".  Now I'm doing more with masks. It's kind of an experiment with vocals and voice modulation. For the next big project, it's about textures and rhythm. It's going to feel a little more industrial, a little more quantized.  It will have clicking, clanging, two different kinds of metal rubbing against each other in quantized fashion.

WC: Do you have any live plans in the immediate future?

TS: Yeah, I have a festival in Salt Lake City in a couple of weeks and then a show in Las Vegas called Crucialfest on June 23. I've also got a one-off show with Agalloch in San Diego. At the end of  October, I'm going to head out and play the whole US, then I'll go over to Europe for a couple of weeks and then come back to the US.

WC: Is Author & Punisher now absorbing most of your time?

TS: Yeah, I guess it's ruining my work quality a bit at my actual job. I don't have a manager, though. I do everything on my, designing, promoting.

WC: That's taking on an awful lot, especially when you add the creation and maintenance of the machines.

TS: I do have some agents helping, but you really need to be closely involved with your business. I'm starting to make a little more money so I can come back from tour and know it's not going to be a loss. That's a nice thing.

WC: What was the last CD or release you got just because you wanted to hear it?

TS: Let's see...I'm given so much stuff, it's hard to think. It was by an act called Downliners Sekf. "Hello Lonely, Hold the Nation". It's kind of a dubstep band from the UK.

WC: What was the last live show you saw just because you wanted to check it out?

TS: That would be Black Cobra in San Diego about 3 weeks ago. They were mindblowing as usual. Between them and YOB, those are the best really heavy bands around.

WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

TS: Tough question! Might be Benjamin Franklin.....ummmm...

WC: No such thing as a right or a wrong answer...

TS: (laughs) Just trying to think of who I'd bother to eat with. I'd add Pele and Ingmar Bergman.

WC: Any final words to fans or potential fans out there?

TS: I think in general the US needs to step it up in terms of having underground shows and diversifying the music scene beyond their own type of music. There's a lot to be learned from crossover between different kinds of music. IN the US, I see too many shows that are all straight up metal bands. There's so much to be learned from mixing it up, experimenting and collaborating.

WC: The media here is very trendy. In Europe, not so much.

TS:  Heavy means so many different things. So many people are trying to accomplish the same thing and reference the same emotions. I think the black leather pants and upside down crosses is a bunch of crap and I think people should move on from that.