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The MK ULTRA Interview Ian Ross of Flesh Field

Interview by John Wisniewski

After an eighteen-year hiatus, the beloved electro meets industrial band Flesh Field miraculously returned with a dynamic new album entitled ‘Voice of the Echo Chamber.’ Flesh Field, which is now effectively the solo project of Ian Ross, lyrically explores the tragic stages of radicalization of various individuals that ultimately turn towards political violence that collide with vast electronic soundscapes. With songs in TV shows like True Blood and video games like Project Gotham Racing, Flesh Field is back and primed for more. With the support of their label Metropolis Records, Flesh Field isn’t planning any further long breaks. Instead, they are expecting to continue to release more material, much to the delight of their loyal fanbase. Ian recently sat down with us to discuss the world of Flesh Field.


John Wisniewski : Could you tell us about recording ‘Voice of the Echo Chamber.’ What kinds of music were you listening to while writing the music?

Ian Ross : I started working on VotEC in February of 2023 after purchasing new equipment and diving back into writing music for the first time in over a decade. Every track I wrote required me to learn more about the new gear, so the album reflects this learning process. What I realized immediately was that all of the previous limitations I faced 20 years ago with my old equipment were gone. No more channel limitations, no more sample memory limitations, no more limits on effects. It was awesome but overwhelming at the same time. No limitations, great, but what if I have no limitations and I still can’t write anything good? That stressed me out a bit. In terms of what I was listening to, for the past 10 or 15 years or so I have mostly listened to two groups – Two Steps from Hell, and Blue Stahli.

John: How did you originally form Flesh Field and when?

Ian: I started writing under the name “Flesh Field” when I was a junior in high school in 1996. I was working with a 4 track recorder, a drum machine, an effects machine, an old guitar with only 3 strings, and a couple of synths that didn’t even have MIDI capability, so I had to play all the parts live when I was recording. In 1997 I got my first sampling keyboard, an Ensoniq ASR-10 which had built in sequencing and effects. Up until 1998, Flesh Field was just me until I was introduced to Rian Miller (by Elias Black!) and asked her if she wanted to join the project to do female vocals. Once she joined, we recorded a couple demos and sent them to various record labels, and we were rejected by each one. We finally got two offers in early 1999 – one from Gashed Records and one from a brand new label called Inception Records. We went with Inception because as the only project they had on the label (at that time), we would get all of the attention. We released our first album called “Viral Extinction” on Inception in 1999, which was all written on that single ASR-10.

John: Why did you decide to add female vocals to the tracks?

Ian: I simply liked the dichotomy between harsh male vocals and ethereal, pretty female vocals at first. I really liked tracks by other bands that had both male and female vocals, and wanted to give it a shot in my own music. That became a major part of what Flesh Field was, and what we were known for. When I decided to start writing music again in 2023, a major question for me was “well, if the tracks don’t have female vocals any more, are they really Flesh Field tracks? Should I start writing under a new name?” Obviously I decided to continue Flesh Field without the female vocals. I figured that if the tracks were still going to sound exactly like Flesh Field but without female vocals, then I should just continue under the same established name. The music was going to sound like Flesh Field. The lyrics were going to be like Flesh Field. My vocals were going to be the same Flesh Field vocals. So I figured 75% “the same” is “the same” enough to keep Flesh Field going.

John: There is a strong political presence on the new album. Is this new territory for you. Is this a subject you like to frequent and what others are of interest to you lyrically speaking? What is the actual inspiration for you to write?

Ian: There was a political aspect to our 2004 album “Strain.” Each track on that album had a dual-meaning lyrically; one political, and one personal. I do find it interesting that people consider VotEC a political album. It deals with political extremism, yes, but not really on a partisan level. It’s critical of certain facts of our society (particularly in the US) including misinformation and disinformation in news and social media, and the potential for violence based on that flaw, particularly in such a well-armed society. Those conditions exist on both sides of the US political spectrum and both sides are vulnerable to it, although I see it occur far more on the right than on the left these days. Considering that kind of violence has happened (and continues to happen), I’m not sure what’s political about the album, unless we want to argue that misinformation and disinformation and mass shootings aren’t actually a problem, and only exploited by pundits as a political bludgeon to help one side win power, which is a ridiculous argument. Politics is about who is in power and how they attain that power. That’s not what this album is about. The inspiration for the topic of this album in particular was due to my interest in writing musical themes. I thought, “What if I scored the radicalization process, creating a certain sound and musical structure for each step in that process?” As for why the album focused on radicalization and violence, I tend to write about things that anger me, since music is the healthiest way for me to express myself. And what I see right now enrages me.

John: If you could please tell our audience about your long absence from making music and how that made ‘Voice of an Echo Chamber’ different than previous releases by Flesh Field?

Ian: I originally retired the band in 2011, albeit reluctantly. I had just finished up my master’s degree and I had started my career. I simply did not have the time to devote to the project that I thought it deserved. I started a family in 2014, and it wasn’t until 2023 that I felt I had enough spare time and disposable income to start writing music again. Going without writing for so long had taken its toll. I kept having dreams about writing again, which made things worse. I came back because I simply couldn’t stay away anymore. This is a part of who I am, and it’s a part of me that I have missed desperately. This did make the process for writing VotEC different. I had so many pent up ideas and so few limitations that I wrote the whole thing straight through (with the added frustration of having to re-learn how to write as I went along). With previous albums, I would write quite a few tracks and then select only the ones I thought were worthy to be on an album. With VotEC, there weren’t any scrapped tracks, and no B-sides. These were the first 10 tracks I wrote in more than a decade, while still not fully understanding how to use my new equipment to the fullest.

John: Are you planning on returning to the live stage at some point?

Ian: I don’t have a live band at the moment, and a really hectic schedule. I am also terrified of getting onstage. I always have been, since our first show with C-Tec in 1998 in Ohio to our last performance at the Mera Luna Festival in Germany in 2005. That said, I won’t rule out live performances in the future if I can find a live band and the free time to do it.

John: What lies in the future for the band?

Ian. I just completed a follow-up to VotEC called “Voice of Reason.” It is a digital-only EP that includes 7 new original tracks and 5 remixes from genCAB, System Syn, Leæther Strip, Terminal, and Panic Lift. It also features guest vocals from Jennifer Parkin from Ayria. I am waiting on a release date from Metropolis, but it will be soon. I took to heart complaints about how low the vocals were mixed on VotEC on the EP (which was something I had expected since I intentionally mixed the vocals low, as I don’t really like my voice), and I really put a lot more effort into making the vocals sound right. I had a lot of fun writing this EP, and I am actually really happy with how it turned out with respect to the new tracks, the remixes, and Jennifer’s guest vocals. I’m usually not happy with how Flesh Field stuff turns out, but I’m more than satisfied with this one. After the EP is released, I’ll start working on the next LP. This time I plan to go back to the old way of compiling an album – writing a ton of tracks and then picking the best.

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