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The MK ULTRA INTERVIEW: David Dutton of genCAB

interview by John Wisniewski for MK ULTRA Magazine

Philadelphia’s genCAB has delivered a sharp and biting new album entitled “Signature Flaws” via Metropolis Records. This album features vast quantities of well-crafted chaos that is both catchy and infectious at the same time. Mastermind David Dutton, started genCAB (generation cable) in 2006, over the years the project has periodically delivered bursts of creativity followed by dormancy, collectively forcing us to flog the dead cliche that all good things come to those who wait. We sat down for a conversation with David about “Signature Flaws” an album where melody meets dark electro beats in an industrial landscape.

John Wisniewski: Tell us about recording the new album “Signature Flaws.” Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted or did certain wonderful accidents occur?

David Dutton:The whole process was totally unplanned for actually. Last year I did a tour with Aesthetic Perfection and Josie Pace but I missed half of the dates do to catching Covid on the road, and then returning and being temporarily deafened by ear infections. The whole experience actually made me pretty miserable and thinking about how much easier it is to fall apart physically now than when I was in my 20s and 30s. I felt like a failure and just started writing again to almost make up for it to myself. It started out with trying to make a more accessible EP for the EBM crowd but then I ended up with just as much material about my own mortality. Fortunately it was possible to interweave all the tracks and before I knew it, I had another album completed by the end of Spring.

JW: Recently you seem to have had bursts of prolific activity with multiple releases, yet prior to that it seems that you’ve had a few lengthy breaks between releases. Is this just a case of you simply feeling extremely creative or did Covid have some impact on your writing?

DD: I had originally written another album in 2010 but lost it because I didn’t back up my hard drives, and I think the weird mental trauma over that just gave me writers block for years. Right before Covid I had started a shoegaze type band with my sister-in-law and started dipping my toe back into writing. After that kind of ran its course though we ended up in lockdowns and I figured it would be a good time to jump back into doing more synthesizer related stuff. I’m honestly as perplexed as anyone else at how much I’ve written in that 3 year period, but in a selfish way I’m pretty glad that that happened to me like that. Plus the isolation really helped with recording vocals. I used to be really self conscious about singing in front of people, but living in the woods with no neighbors let me really give it my all. And once I had that figured out, it was a lot easier to write around that as well.

JW: Can you tell us more about the original formation of genCAB and how you gravitated towards electronic music?

DD: I started genCAB around the early 2000s, but I really had no idea what I was doing. At first I wanted it to be a synthpop band with elements of Skinny Puppy. But then I found stuff like NCC and Gridlock and Imperative Reaction, and that all really colored what it became. What I really liked about doing electronic music though at the time was how it became a lot easier to record an idea with only myself. I wasn’t a very good guitar player, and I didn’t know how to play drums, but programming synth lines and utilizing DAWS really helped me bridge the ideas that I had into a real thing. And totally bypassed my lack of performative talent at the time. Nowadays I’m a little bit more adept, but it’s still helpful to have like a sampler and 1 or 2 keyboards and fill out a whole musical space with it.

JW: What do you consider to be the greatest creative influences behind your music?

DD: Originally it was totally Nine Inch Nails, because that was the easiest gateway into industrial music in the 90s before we all had the internet. Lately I tend to gravitate more to bands that build an atmosphere or express a lot of emotion. Lyrically I look to people like Conor Oberst and Jeff Buckley and Chris Corner. Production wise I’ve gone back to Gridlock, Bjork’s Homogenic era stuff, and Arca. I’m also really big into post rock and shoegaze, and I think a lot of the weirder song progressions that I write come from stuff like Caspian and Holy Fawn. I think the one thing I always strive for though is to keep it original. I know the nature of describing music to other people is through comparisons, but I’m just happy to not sound like anyone else too much.

JW: Are there any emerging bands or projects that you like and can recommend?

DD: I’d say that within the genre there’s a bunch of stuff around now being really creative, and some of it has been around for awhile but still active under the radar. Encephalon and I got started around the same time and I always rep what they’re doing. Comaduster has the craziest production I’ve heard in anything lately. I’m really into REIN and So Below. Bara Hari is super talented. Outside of the electronic genre I’m a huge Holy Fawn fan, as well as Ethel Cain. Basically, if it can make me depressed more than I already am then it’s probably my brand.

JW: Do you consider genCAB to be primarily a solo project with the occasional guest appearance or an actual band?

DD: I’ve always fantasized about getting more people involved creatively. I also seem to think that I’m difficult to work with beyond passing things back and forth. If I find the right people to do that though it would remove a huge mental burden for sure. I have my original drummer Tim Van Horn back playing live shows with me and I’m hoping that we can bounce ideas back and forth because I think he’s really talented. I’d also love to add a live guitar player in the future too, since that’s become a bigger element in what I do lately. Plus, I can’t play guitar and sing at the same time very well for the life of me.

JW: I like the “sharp synthpop for delicate human compost” description of genCAB that you have on your Bandcamp page. Care to elaborate?

DD: As a synthpop fan I still always seem to think of something that can appeal to anyone (hence the pop aspect). And while I know I try to push the aggressiveness a smidge more, I’m totally aware that we also aren’t considered “heavy”. I consider our little brand perfect for emotionally driven misfits that don’t want to hurt anyone. The human compost just kind of relates to the theme of this last album and what I want to happen to my body after I die. I just want to be recycled.

JW: Many musicians who favor electronics are gear enthusiasts, do you have any keyboards or gear that your are particularly enamored with that you would like to mention?

DD: I love that stuff but lately find myself using it a lot less on recordings, because a lot of the in the box stuff is so great. But I’ve been a huge boutique guitar pedal junkie for years now and still mostly use those. The Hologram Microcosm is this really complex granular delay that I can noodle on for hours. I’m also big on the Meris and Strymon stuff. But the gear I’ve used the most on the album by far is the Neural DSP Quad Cortex. I just makes recording guitars in an apartment so much easier than blasting an amp and hoping your mic placement is good. I was also playing around with that new SP404 mkII while writing, but mostly recreating what I did in my DAW.

JW: Any upcoming genCAB plans for touring or for future releases?

DD: I’m hoping that by the middle of next year we can at the very least do a couple of short runs in the US in the territories we missed last year. We’re also hoping that something in Europe will come up, since there seems to be a little bit of interest there. As far as future releases, I have about 5 remixes that I’ve completed that are due to be released when those artists are ready, a couple of collabs with Nyxx that are going to be coming out early next year, and I’ve been working on some stuff with a couple other artists that I had to delay due to some health issues. Other than that though, I’m taking a short creative break to recharge myself!

Listen to Signature Flaws at the link below

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