26 January 2014

Aesthetic Perfection talk to John E Smoke about new album ‘Til Death and 2014 Tour

Aesthetic Perfection have been gaining popularity steadily since their beginnings back in 2005. Main man Daniel Graves seems ever busy with writing new material and relentlessly touring his releases. Luckily for you dear reader, John E Smoke shoved his size 11s (size 44 for you continental readers) in the Aesthetic Perfection door frame and threw some questions in Daniel’s direction….

JES – You’re back with a brand new album ‘Til Death and an extensive tour. Are you fighting fit and raring to go?

AP – Not at all! This is the longest break I’ve had from touring in recent memory. By the time we hit the road it will have been four months since our last tour. As it creeps up I always get this horrible feeling of dread that seeps into every fiber of my existence. I ask myself if I can still do it. Do I still want to do it? Is it worth all the barbaric living conditions, lack of sleep and the like? It reaches a fever pitch before I walk onstage for that first time but once I do, all that fear and stress melts away and I feel like I’ve come home.

JES – I’ve had a sneak preview of the new album. It strikes me as your most mature collection yet, dark electronic pop with numerous changes in dynamic and emotion. It seems the perfect balance between style and substance to me. How did you feel on completion of this album compared to the same point for your previous albums?

ap-tildeathAP – This is the first record I’ve completed on my own since Close to Human. At first I was hesitant to take the reigns because in the past I’ve always looked to outside help to assist me with… let’s say… sanding out the rough edges. I was a bit nervous at first but while working I found that I was much more focused than ever before. I knew there was no safety net and that motivated me. The result is that I feel more satisfied with this album than anything I’ve ever created in the past. There’s a certain sense of “rightness” that I feel about this record. Let’s see if the public feels the same way.

JES – If we can discuss the evolution of your sound over time, your aim appears to be to remain honest to yourself, which in turn has driven the move into different sonic territories. In the face of listeners craving a return to your earlier sounds your releases continue to stride on to new grounds. Presumably you cannot discount that at some point in time you may compose a collection of songs that are nearer in sound to your early works, as much as you cannot discount that your evolution may move you further away from these roots. What are your thoughts on this?

AP – There is no way to know where I’ll go until I’ve started the journey. Maybe I will “return to my roots”, maybe I’ll make polka. Who knows? People can be so closed minded. It’s as if they won’t allow themselves to enjoy anything that doesn’t fit the rigid standards imposed by their counter culture of choice. It’s like the underground is more conformist than the mainstream! Funny thing is I, personally, hear a lot of my roots in what I’m doing now. So even if other people don’t recognize it as Aesthetic Perfection, I most definitely do!

JES – ‘Big Bad Wolf’ made it on to the best of 2013 list for our very own Rivetheads Radio Show, simply because it is so darned catchy. Describe your emotions when you nail a hook like that. Do you skip around the room with a lopsided grin, or do you lean back in your chair with a wry knowing smile? I know I fall well and truly into the former category.

AP – I’m definitely a “get out of your chair and rage” kind of guy. But I also like to work standing up. My midi controller is positioned so I have to get out of my chair to play it, I’ve got my guitars and bass on my right, my synths and controllers on the left so I’m just constantly going back and forth jumping between instruments and just rocking out in my apartment. So when something clicks I’m moving! It sounds stupid but I feel the music a lot more than I did when I confined myself to a chair.

JES – You are touring Europe once again in February 2014, do you like the cold? You should come back in the summer and sit in some nice cosmopolitan city squares sipping coffee and eating waffles before your gigs…

AP – I hate the cold. I’m from California. I’m like a tropical plant, I won’t grow in the tundra. Even after living in Austria for 7 years I haven’t gotten used to it. Now that I’m back in CA I’m miserable whenever the temperature drops below 10 Celsius. So yes, I much prefer Paris in the springtime.

JES – Previous tours have seen AP as a two piece with you alongside a percussionist. Is this now an established live set up for you or do you have plans for anything different?

AP – Stateside Tim and I perform as a two piece, in Europe we’re a trio with our Swedish keyboardist Elliott. Since Elliott is Swedish it’s ridiculously expensive to bring him across the pond for every tour, and since we haven’t found anyone in the US that we particularly like, we figured we’d rather go it as two than take some asshole we hate along for the ride.

JES – Tell us about something we might not be expecting from you on your 2014 tour…

AP – Vodka and Ke$ha. Wait. That’s every tour.

JES – You definitely appear to be a hardworking live band and you’ve spent a serious amount of time on the road playing anything from small dives to large festival stages. From my own experience there are pros and cons to both and some of my best live experiences have been at the smaller dive gigs. How does the small/large venue experience differ for you and what would you say is your own personal most memorable show?

AP – No one likes playing Joe’s Tavern in Toledo, OH for 5 people on a Tuesday. But if the five people there are having a good time you’re going to have one, too. These shows are necessary. They teach you to be humble, they teach you to play well even if the PA is in mono and can’t get loud enough to compete with the drums. They teach you to appreciate what you have so when you walk out onto a festival stage in front of 5,000 people you can say “psh, piece of fucking cake”.

JES – Have you had chance to explore some of the cities you’ve played? It can be one of the perks of being on the road. Has any place particularly affected you or won a place in your heart?

AP – For the first few years I didn’t do any real exploring. But over the last year or so I’ve taken a real interest in it. Just getting up early and exploring a foreign city for a few hours is wonderful. I’d say the most striking memory I have is walking halfway across Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. When we got there we were in awe. Pictures can’t capture the sheer size of the thing. It was beautiful.

JES – We like to indulge our geeky sides here at Rivetheads HQ. Can you tell us a little about your music making set up? What are your key hardware and software elements?

AP – Same shit as everyone else. Nothing special. I like to keep my rig simple. I don’t have a lot of soft synths or FX plug ins. Most of what you hear is NI’s Massive or Logic’s ES2 synth. Sometimes I’ll turn on my Virus or Nord Lead 2 and fiddle with sounds but that’s not usually very productive. My songs usually begin with a drum beat, a bass line or just a few chords on the piano. If you can’t strip your song down to basic elements and have it remain good, your song sucks.

JES – We also can’t resist poking into the music collections of our interviewees, and we have a stock question that we put to everyone. Can you remember the first music release you bought with your own money? And what about your most recent purchase? Tell us a little about these. How much does what you are listening to at the time influence your writing style?

AP – First record I ever bought with my own money was a cassette of MC Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit. I bought it because it had the Addams Family song from the movie on it. Last thing I bought was “Ghost City” by Thomas Azier.

I don’t know how much what I listen to influences me. I try not to let it. At least in terms of sound or anything recognizable. Most of the plagiarizing I do comes in the form of song structure. I’ll sit down with a song I don’t know what to do with and say “ok, song X goes intro-verse-prechorus-breakdown-verse-etc.. And I like song X so I’ll copy that and see what happens.”

JES – You’ve been releasing your music since 2005. What changes have you noticed in the way your music is consumed by your audience since this time?

AP – No idea. I don’t consume music with my audience. Perhaps I could install peepholes into people’s homes as to achieve Non intrusive observation. Seriously tho, it’s just the death of the CD and the rise of digital music but that’s just about the most boring conversation ever.

JES – What is your preferred format for listening to music and releasing your own music? On the resurgence of formats from earlier days, are we likely to see any Aesthetic Perfection released on formats other than the standard digital/CD combo?

AP – We’ve done a couple of 7″ vinyls but that is mostly just collector stuff. Honestly I don’t know many people who actively listen to vinyl or cassettes or 8 tracks. Digitally is the most practical way to consume music.

JES – What is next for Aesthetic Perfection after the new album and tour?

AP – Shit. I have to think that far ahead already?

JES – Thank you for letting Rivetheads and Midlands Metalheads into the AP world for a little while. Is there anything else you’d like to say to our listeners/readers? Also, have you heard any good jokes lately? 

AP – I’m currently on vacation in Mexico on a small island called Holbox. The receptionist at the hotel told me that they offer free continental breakfast to which I replied. “How can I have continental breakfast on an island?”

She wasn’t amused…..


Daniel Graves DJ Gig @ The Church Dallas, TX 02 Feb
Kavka Antwerp, BE 14 Feb
Corporation Sheffield, UK 15 Feb
Classic Grand Glasgow, UK 16 Feb
Cluny Newcastle, UK 17 Feb
The Globe Cardiff, UK 19 Feb
The Underworld London, UK 20 Feb
Tivoli Oudegracht (Summer Darkness Winter Ed.) Utrecht, NL 21 Feb
E-Tropolis Festival Oberhausen, DE 22 Feb
Backstage Munich, DE 25 Feb
X-Tra Limmathaus Zurich, CH 26 Feb
Alte Spinnerei Glauchau, DE 28 Feb
Das Bett Frankfurt, DE 02 Mar
Engel 07 Hannover, DE 04 Mar
Magnet Club Berlin, DE 05 Mar
Babel Malmo, SE 07 Mar
Markthalle Hamburg, DE 08 Mar
Second Skin Club Athens, GR 14 Mar
Backstage Club St. Petersburg, RU 15 Mar
Rockhouse Moscow, RU 16 Mar
Avalon Hollywood, CA 27 Apr
Kinetik Festival Toronto, CA 25 May
Amphi Festival Cologne, DE 26 Jun