The Grand Scheme of Things: A Conversation With Schizoid Lloyd
First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for referencing my top 10 of 2014 list on a daily basis. I know that it gives you the sort of pep you need each morning. Surely you must have ritualistically chanted the name of my number three pick, Schizoid Lloyd, thousands of times by now. If you’re currently peering out of the grill of a locker (NERD) and need to catch up on this magical band that combines far-flung progressive elements into a mash of Frank Zappa, Rush, Queen, and King Crimson (*immediately takes back NERD insult, shoves self into locker*), then you’re in luck. The fine fellas of Schizoid Lloyd agreed to give me a glimpse into the grand mechanics of their strange world, and I learned many new things about their process, their humor, 7th dimensional goats, and the origin of the universe.
I should start off by saying that The Last Note in God’s Magnum Opus is no easy pill to swallow. Anyone with an appreciation for the eccentric can dig a couple tracks, but fully digesting the massive scope of the album as a whole takes a dedicated, discerning listener. But man, the payout is spectacular, and you get +20 snooty points. And those can be redeemed for, like, a hundred monocles. Mmm, yes, quite.
I assumed that the band that produced such a fascinating, eclectic album would have the interesting history to match, but another interview revealed that their genesis as a band was pretty run-of-the-mill; previous bands didn’t work out, some members recruited a couple new people, you know the drill. That simply would not do. So I asked them to lie to me and fabricate a massively overblown, highly dramatic tale that tells the legend of Schizoid Lloyd.
Ruben: Some believe that before the universe there was nothing. They’re wrong. There was darkness and it has survived.
*Epic wardrums of the Golgari Grave Trolls*
How can we fight this soullessness, this evil? How to kill something that can’t be killed, how to kill something that has never been alive? One cannot shut down nor fill an infinite abyss completely. So how to battle the Void? The answer is life itself. Infinite life. Infinite sacrifice. Infinite expansion, infinite recycling. This is the story of the Schizoid Lloyd.
*Battle horns of the Gatekeepers of Malakir*
Before time began to run its course, the Void sent out two demons on a mission to guard the perfect balance, to smother all that crossed its path. It was this very act that triggered the unbalance, and it was a disastrous one, fucked up beyond all recognition; the universe was born.
The two Demons began to clean up the mess. One of them was called ‘Leroy’, Leroy tried to use lies to let nothing become aware of existence. He failed miserably. “You are alive,” he lied. Then he failed further. “Life is meaningful,” he lied. And further. “Cogito ergo sum,” he lied.
‘Muriel’, the other demon, tried a different approach. She used the truth as a means to let awareness realize its lifelessness, but this instantly killed herself.
*Epic brass of the Failure Trumpet, woah woah woah woahwoahwoah*
The Void, disappointed in their failure, then incarnated itself into a third Demon, ‘Lloyd’.
Lloyd was this totally apathetic dude, letting things run their course, convinced of the fact that someday things would have to return to normal once they would be out of energy. He was all like “be cool man,” and “chill out bro,” and “doesn’t matter…whatever…things…” sucking all life out of stuff.
So Leroy lied and lied and lied and Lloyd was like “sucky sucky five dolla.” This led to a situation where truth was dead, lies were everywhere, and everybody was totally apathetic towards everything. A zombie apocalypse followed and the Void was about to accomplish its goal.
But then something seemingly unexpected happened. It was long forgotten, but when Muriel was still alive, she and Leroy were totally in love, fucking like rabbits, and Muriel laid six eggs. As the prophecy goes, those eggs would hatch just before the end of the world, in a galaxy far, far away, a long time ago. The chosen ones would form a brotherhood, a band, named after the Third Demon, as to expose him, show the world his name and true nature, to keep the Void at bay with as much lies and truths they inherited from their parents. Schizoid Lloyd was born….
…to be continued.
That’s much better, and much more believable. Even though Ruben later tells me that the name Schizoid Lloyd came from the song “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson, I choose to believe the lie I asked him to tell me. Now with their origins as a band confirmed, I wanted to know more about the members’ histories. When a band has an eclectic artfulness or sophistication to their sound, it’s very interesting to learn of the musical backgrounds within the band. Brothers Ruben (vocals and keys) and Remo (guitar), the main creative forces of the band, grew up in a musical household. With a mother that played Spanish guitar “like, all the freaking time” and a father with an eclectic array of self-taught musical skills such as “keyboards, harmonica, even a bit of transverse flute and rhythmically hitting bongos or whatever when on vacation in France. Bunch of goddamn hippies,” it seems natural that the brothers would soon be busy with their own ideas. Ruben continues:
Ruben: My three-year-old brother Remo played classical guitar since he was six years old, and switched to electric around the time I started to play the drums when I was 13. We both learned the keyboard ourselves through compositions Remo made and I was always ‘assisting.’ I made electronic music on the computer too with these Magix Dance Maker samplesoundpacks. Oh the nostalgia. I guess we learned to compose by always being busy making our own music.
At a young age, Remo was already transcending the normal temporal limits of age. They were clearly destined for greatness. In addition to the aforementioned prog influences, there is a definite presence of metal in the mix. Heavy riffage and occasional harsh yells dot the landscape, and the song “Avalanche Riders” (which, by the way, starts out with one of the grooviest riffs out there) contains a brief, surprising section with some excellent death growling. Since I’m supposed to talk about metal on a metal blog, I guess, I wanted to know the roots of these influences as well. Guitarist and growler Thom spoke up, explaining that he began with Metallica at a very young age, then eventually branched out to “Kayo Dot, Sikth, Meshuggah, Strapping Young Lad/Devin Townsend, Conan, Bloodbath, Ihsahn, Textures, Gojira, Deathspell Omega, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Baroness, Gorguts, and so on.” That’s a mighty fine looking list, if I’ve ever seen one. On top of prog and metal, they mentioned in another interview that their more eccentric influences include “crazy Arabic black avant-gardish speedcore tango crap,” but didn’t list specific bands or artists as an example. I desperately hoped they were serious and could point me in the right direction, and Thom came to the rescue again and suggested Secret Chiefs 3, Estradasphere, a.P.A.t.T., and Diablo Swing Orchestra (of which many of us are already fans).
But enough about all that. While background is interesting, a band needs to be more than the sum of their inspirations. Schizoid Lloyd manages to weave their own creative voice into their tapestry of influences, and I was very interested to learn about the band’s creative process. I thought for eight sleepless days about how to ask this question, but only came up with “U DO THING GOOD, HOW DO THING.” I kept listening to the first track, “Suicide Penguin,” and wondering how all those bizarre transitions, eclectic vocal styles, and seemingly disparate ideas flowed so well. Finally, I just decided to ask them to walk me through the creative process for that song in detail.
Ruben: It just comes down to trial and error, every step of the way. If you spend time enough doing this, you make less errors which opens up space to discover new ground where you will compensate the making of less errors by making just as many errors as you’ve always made.
I should tell you how I ‘choose’ the vocal style. I go to a place where nobody can hear me, improvise on a verse for hours, like “waoaoaoahehheh ue ehhueeaaaaaaahhheueuuuuuooooooo o o hooaaaahah random woooohoooords lalalalala false noooohooootees ihihif somebody wooouhhhld see oohoor heaar mehehehuahua nooow I’llllll probablyy behehehe abiiiit embarrrraaassed” until something hits my ears that I like, which can be just one or two notes or a rhythm. Same thing when I hit some keys on my keyboard. I don’t know any music theory so I mostly just do stuff until I come across something I like to hear and remember that. Sometimes I just silently play a part in my head and follow my brain activity hoping it doesn’t stop at the time the part stops. Often, an error can be a discovery of something awesome. Like the slinky (Stockhausen note to self: start rumor that Schizoid Lloyd invented the Slinky, find way to profit).
“Suicide Penguin” started, as most songs do, with an idea on keyboards, quite basic, mainly some simple rhythmic thingie following a cool chord progression. To give you the exact details of how we came to the ‘final’ version would be… difficult to answer. We start with an idea and it turns into this snowball effect encapsulating a shitload of ideas, sometimes becoming ‘too big to exist,’ then we have this 15-minute Moloch that we strip and use parts for new songs. What happens a lot is that we’ll have this chord structure consisting of two parts, say a verse and a chorus. The chorus has a kind of awe to it we describe with filmish imagery like “this is the ‘Holy-Fuck-It’s-A-Dinosaur’ part of the song”, while the verse has more of crack-cocaine-7th-dimensional-goat-on-a-jet-ski vibe to it. So Suicide Penguin started with this tatatata keyboard thingie with this detective thriller vocal idea from Remo. Then Remo changed the keyboard part into this crazy organ part, and I changed the vocal part into something more fitting with the organ. Then the chorus radicalized to its inner potential and became this pling ploing part followed by organ chords that had this naive sweetness to it, so we added choir, which sounded cool. Then I had this Opeth rhythm with heavy guitars cooked up but it was too much like Opeth, so we shortened the rhythm and Thom dirtied the guitar part and Boy changed the drums into something cool. Anyway, I already spend way too many words on this and I don’t really think there is a way to answer the question right and I’m like ‘blahblahblah who cares’ over here so… next question!
Remo: I’d like to add something to this because, like most of our songs, it was really difficult to make it cohesive. Well, at least we tried. So first of all we have this short dirty part with screams and ugly guitars immediately after the sweet chorus and just before the groove comes in. In this part we introduce the guitar theme played with two guitars. After hearing this two times a short break follows and the groove comes in with those dirty guitar chords. Well in the beginning of the writing process this was a problem. We had nothing more then just the drum and bass groove and the rhythm guitars, which were completely different from the part prior to this. Moreover, we were already far away from where we started the song, while the song hadn’t even really begun! Then after ripping all our hairs out of our head (which are a lot) we tried to bring the guitar theme back in while playing the groove and it worked! It sounded nice and it glues the different parts together. So now we had an introduction with a verse and a chorus, a guitar theme to introduce the rest of the song and the groove with the theme following nicely. From here the song really starts to rock. Then, after a while you hear the theme again which makes an end to the groove and leads the listener through some organ stuff into a new rhythmic part that builds up to the ending climax with the big choir. This choir melody we already introduced very soft and sneaky with one voice somewhere in the beginning of the song but…where? Well that’s a nice question for the listeners at home.
With the herculean efforts involved in simply writing the music, my thoughts then turned to recording this monster. From the huge, layered madness of “Chicken Wing Swans” to the stripped down acoustic approach on “Prodigal Son,” the recording process was surely no easy feat. Additionally, I would imagine plenty of difficulty in finally approving the last mix, finally settling on a master, and finally nailing down the artwork and layout for an album that was four years in the making. I did not imagine intimate relations with insects, but Ruben had this to say:
Ruben: We have an expression in Dutch, ‘Antfucking’. We fucked piles upon piles of ants, and we delayed our deadline twenty times before we had to let go and the result has been ‘reasonably satisfying’ to us.
Thom: I like it.
Ruben: That’s the way uhuh uhuh
‘Reasonably satisfying’ to the band or not, this album delivers. The hallmark twists and turns of progressively minded bands are there in full force, bringing the listener to places that are completely unexpected. I should preface this next part with a fact about myself: I hate dancing. Like, I really hate dancing. People like to say that you just need to let go, give it a try, and come on just dance. No. Shut up. Dancing sucks and you suck. However, when “Misanthrope Puppet” launches out of nowhere into a Primus-esque, white-boy rap around 2:00 in, man I just want to dance. I want to flail around like an idiot, mashing up horrible attempts at the robot and whatever else the youths are doing. That’s really saying something. And that part couldn’t be more different than the final two minutes of the song, where I want to march triumphantly over a hill above a battlefield, hoisting a banner above my head while a bunch of baby seals are reunited with their families. Schizoid Lloyd makes all of this work, and work with style. Another example is found in “Amphibian Seer,” which opens with the line “Your ass is a volcano,” in an almost rock anthem setting, and before you know it, they’re quoting “Imagine” by John Lennon a few seconds later. Ruben offered a Slavoj Zizek quote for his explanation:
“Think about the strangeness of today’s situation. Thirty, forty years ago, we were still debating about what the future will be: communist, fascist, capitalist, whatever. Today, nobody even debates these issues. We all silently accept global capitalism is here to stay. On the other hand, we are obsessed with cosmic catastrophes: the whole life on earth disintegrating, because of some virus, because of an asteroid hitting the earth, and so on. So the paradox is, that it’s much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism.”
Ruben: So because we are merely consumers now and we turn everything into shit, you could say the system we live in is a gigantic apocalyptic ass, like a volcano shitting on Pompeii. Imagine there has been an apocalypse, then listen to ‘Imagine’ again. Sinister, isn’t it? That’s our dream right there! It’s basically a kind of Atheistic Christian/Doomsday Communist, cynically anti-global capitalism song, inspired by Zizek. Love that guy.
Unfortunately, the band doesn’t have plans for bigger tours at the moment. That’s not to say that their activity is slowing down, however. They explain:
Ruben: There are not many bands like us, and we are still too small to be interesting for bands to support them on tour to attract more people to shows.
Thom: We did single support shows, though, and I think it’s time for the next step.
Ruben: I work just enough to keep me alive and pay the rent, the rest of the time I’m free to work on music and spend time in the Void. We need to do more on promotion but I don’t really like that part. Anyway, the band activity for me is not really increasing, since I spend most of my time on it anyway.
Thom: Just give up your study and stuff like that kids!
And there is, of course, continuous support from their label, Blood Music. With a highly varied list of releases from Leprous to Perturbator to Serdce, there is certainly an eclectic family for them to fit into.
Ruben: The guy from the label is a great labelguy. He’s this insane hard working feller who adores cool music from all over the spectrum.
I figured this was as good a time as any to ask the inevitable gear question. Being a musician in a band who is always on the lookout to add to my personal setup, you would think I would be more into reading this stuff. It all turns into a blur of acronyms and numbers to me, but some of you nerds are all about it. Have at it, nerds who are all about it.
Ruben: I use a Sennheiser MD 431II that goes into my Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 interface, which is linked to my MacBook Pro, which uses Mainstage for all kinds of sounds and effects for synths and vocals. I also use a novation 61SL MkII MIDI keyboard, a Roland SPD S sample pad, and a Korg Kaoss Pad 3 for more shenanigans.
Remo: I use a Les Paul and sometimes a Fender Strat going into an old Marshall JCM800 combo. On my pedal board I have the Rivera Blues Shaman overdrive, Strymon Flint, a very warm sounding Ibanez compressor CP-835, MXR-micro amp and the Morley wah/volume. For vocals I use the TC-Helicon voicetone reverb.
Thom: I use a Godin TC Artisan Telecaster or Remo’s Les Paul going into a Koch Studiotone with a 2×12 cab. On my current pedalboard you’ll find an old Boss Harmonist, A Strymon Flint Reverb/Tremolo, a Line 6 Verbzilla, a T-Rex Replica Delay, an Electro Harmonix Stereo Delay with Hazarai, and a Korg Tuner. I heard Boy uses a very nice drum kit, Guus just likes things low and Silas… I still don’t know about that guy.
I don’t know about Silas either. If you say his name backward, it sounds like a redneck saying his name forward, and I just can’t trust that. Speaking of trust, one of the ways you can usually trust a band is by the presence of a few huge beards. If you look at pictures of these guys, none of them have a face that says “This beard is huge, you can trust me.” At this point I began to panic, realizing that a large portion of the interview was already over, and I had no real way of knowing if it had all been a lie. I asked Ruben how a band like Schizoid Lloyd exists without giant beards, and he responded with “We smoke custom made cigars.” And their favorite things to do in their free time? “Farts. Pretentious farts are my favorite. Also, we have this ‘Schizoid Lloyd Shovelboard League’ organized, with rankings, prizes, everything. It’s running for three years now. Matches are held once a week, but nobody ever shows up.” There’s no way you can’t trust these guys now, beards and Silas or not. With that, we had covered pretty much every topic there is, so we looked to the future of Schizoid Lloyd, and a top ten list of Ruben’s choice. “More music, more gigs. I don’t really care about anything else. Except for this interview of course, that goes without saying.”
- Steven Seagal
- Bob Ross
- Snake Plissken
- Chiel Montagne
- Billy Blanks
- Everything I say should be considered a truth or a lie, and I don’t know or care what the outcome will be.
- If you put something into a ‘joke-frame,’ it will become funny. Like a normal everyday shoe. Haha. Lol.
- To be offended is one’s own responsibility.
- People should stay away from their opinions.
- God created religion to trick people into not believing in him.
- Alienate yourself from the world, then alienate yourself from yourself, then alienate your alienation.
So now you know about everything you need to from the origin of the universe to pretentious farts. Not bad for a bunch of rotten, no-good rock and roll hooligans. Blood Music is an excellent label with a Name Your Price download on their Bandcamp page, and a list of suggested amounts based on your personal finances. Set aside a few bucks, download their magnificent album The Last Note In God’s Magnus Opus, like Schizoid Lloyd on Facebook, and let your day get weird.