False Icons InterviewAugust 19, 2010 by: Shauna O'Donnell
John Bechdel (Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards)
Brian Boadt – Keyboards, Vocals, Guitar
John Hendershot – Drums
Dave Brown – Bass
When I reviewed the CD for this band I did as I always do and just listen and review based on what I hear before looking at anything to do with the band or the members. This album was amazing so I knew I wanted to speak to the musicians responsible for this great music. I was in for many great surprises and so will you be reading about this band and the driving force behind it which is John Bechdel. You may not have heard of False Icons but you will.
MUEN: You have toured in so many bands that many will recognize even if they don’t immediately recognize this “new” band name. What bands where you part of?
JB: The first band I toured with was Brian Brain in 1987, it was Martin Atkins from PIL. He and I also played with Killing Joke in the late ‘80’s & early nineties. I was in Murder Inc., which were members of Killing Joke and Ministry. Paul Raven and I joined Prong in ’93 on the Cleansing album. I played in an Industrial band, Abstinence from ’93-’97. I played keyboards for Fear Factory from ’98 to ’04. We formed False Icons in 2002. I’m also in Ascension of the Watchers with Burton C Bell. I joined Ministry from 2006-2008.
MUEN: Of all the bands you were and still are associated with which do you feel is the closest to the sounds that you like most?
JB: I’d have to say Killing Joke. I was a huge fan since their first records. They have an underground cult status and ultimately influenced all the other bands I was in, including False Icons.
MUEN: You seem to have “collected” the best of the best musicians along the way to collaborate and be in False Icons. How was each band member chosen?
JB: I met Brian Broadt in the mid-Nineties, we had some similar influences but also some different ones. We spent a few years collaborating and trying to find a sound we both liked. We made electronic music then built the band up around it, first adding bass then live drums. I ended up playing a lot of guitar so decided to actually play guitar live. Same thing with vocals, I just ended up doing most of the vocals so I kind of just ended up doing most of the singing. Brian played guitar on some tracks and ended up doing a lot of backing vocals. We met Dave and Jon locally who are both very talented players. We were focused on playing live and developing the band, so it wasn’t until recently we’ve started writing new material and collaborating with the entire band.
MUEN: Do you feel like this band finally allows you to put forth your signature on the music by fronting it where others have just asked for input as a member?
JB: That’s pretty much it. I fronted a band in high school and in college. I began writing my own material in the late eighties and formed a project with one of my bandmates from the college, Pierre Takal, which was very much the precursor to False Icons. So the roots are deep.
MUEN: One of the things I was most struck with about the music is that you can hear the passion for making great music and not just putting out something to sell. That is a departure for most bands. So, with that passion and attention to the art when can we expect to have another great CD from you and the guys?
JB: Well, as I just mentioned we’ve been working on some material but just now started to find the direction we’d like to go in. I think we’ll crank out a few more high-caliber tracks and, I have a few gems in the vault yet. Some music is timeless. We should have our next CD together very soon. I learned quite a bit in the years since God Complex was written. We had a lot of technical challenges on that CD because the concept was to layer many elements together. This time the songs will be more structured and a bit sparser in contrast.
MUEN: How did you come up with this great name for the band and does it have a particular meaning behind it other than the obvious one?
JB: It’s not easy to come up with a good band name. I struggled with it for years. One day I was going through my pile of bits of paper with ideas & things I’d written down and I saw one that said False Icons. It just seemed to be perfect for the new project, we wrote the song first but after trying unsuccessfully to find a better band name, decided to use False Icons, nobody had used it and nothing came up on an internet search.
MUEN: “God Complex” is a great CD that I was honored to review. What inspired you to write the powerful lyrics and music?
JB: Thank you, it’s so gratifying to know that someone appreciates what we do. We wanted to be unique, yet have a link to some of our most influential musical styles. As a lyricist and singer, I wanted to have something with integrity. After working with so many amazing musicians, it can be a bit intimidating. I had to find my strengths and draw on my inspirations. I learned to use simple language to create complex descriptive imagery.
I wish we could put the lyrics into the artwork but, CD artwork is so small and when you print the lyrics they’re so small. I wanted the CD art to be bold and minimal.
MUEN: You are now playing shows mainly in the Pennsylvania area. After touring the world how is the experience of playing closer to home now?
JB: It’s nice to drive home after a show; touring is hard when you have a family so I get the best of both worlds. We can get anywhere in the Northeast within hours so there’s a lot of territory within a close reach. And we’re building up some regional interest.
MUEN: Do you all live close by or come together from various parts of the country to do these live shows?
JB: We’re all close which makes it easier.
MUEN: Have any plans to take False Icons on the road to give more fans a live experience?
JB: We’d love to but haven’t found the right tour yet.
MUEN: Speaking of live, your shows include a very interactive visual aspect. Can you explain to the fans that may not have seen you how it is interactive?
JB: We’ll I guess it’s a glorified screen-saver, the visualization is controlled by the sound of the music and crowd. Additional images fade in and out in random order so it’s unique and interactive.
MUEN: Is the interactive visual is a perfect complement to enhance the great music live?
JB: Well the theory was that we’re not running around, no guitar solos, no high fives, no throwing shots out to the crowd. We’re a pretty no nonsense act. We don’t have a gimmick or costumes or masks so we needed something. I always liked when bands use visuals. I like some psychedelic elements. We combined the main projection with multiple flat-screens displaying rotating 3-D logos.
MUEN: You have some great video’s that showcase your live performance at one venue and a great video for “Decay.” Do you have plans for any additional videos like “Decay” for some of the other amazing tracks?
JB: Yes we’d love to. I want to do as many videos as we can. I like DIY and low budget work. No need to spend huge amounts of money on them.
MUEN: Do you feel there will always be an intertwined relationship with Al and Ministry especially with him being a co-producer and mixer on “God Complex”?
JB: I don’t know what the future holds but, working with Al on this cd was integral to it become a reality. We had the songs written and recorded. But there were a few unfinished parts that he helped with. Namely singing the backing vocal on “the Wheel” He shared his production skills with us and was able to take our excessive synth layers and make sense of them and find a place for them in the mix. It’s exactly what we were looking for in a producer. Not just someone with a name, Al and I leaned that we have a lot of similar tastes in music and listened to a lot of the same music from the early ‘80’s
MUEN: Do you also think there will be any collaboration or some work with Prong, Fear Factory and Killing Joke and you and/or False Icons?
JB: Sure, I’ve already collaborated with Burton on Ascension of the Watchers and, I’ve remixed Prong and Ministry tracks, Fear Factory and Prong just did a tour together. It’s only a matter of time until some form of collaboration happens again.
MUEN: Your sister wrote a book and I saw that you were considering writing one as well. How has that come along as I think that would be a great read. I would buy it!
JB: That’s funny, I joked about it even before Alison published her book but, I’ve certainly thought about it more seriously, but just don’t have the time.
MUEN: What are the plans for False Icons for the rest of 2010 and beyond?
JB: We hope to have our next CD ready, continue to play more shows and try to build up our fan base.
MUEN: Thanks John for all the great information and talking with MUEN.