Bursting out onto the EBM electro Industrial Music Scene in 2002 it didn’t take Charles Fenech from ANGELTHEORY long to crack the worldwide alternative club charts beyond his native Melbourne. Powered by a unique blend of potent thumping dance tracks fusing bittersweet intelligent lyrics with irresistible harsh beats and complex layered sound, ANGELTHEORY possesses that rare blend of Rapturous otherworldly dark electro soundscapes interspersed with themes of isolation, self reflection and observations about life in the digital age.
On the release of his latest music project, we talk to Charles about the inspiration behind his decision to release ‘ANGELTHEORY’ a retrospective “Beneath The Ruins” 14 tracks chosen and remixed by Charles “from the ground up” across his back catalogue of five previous studio album releases dating from 2003-2015.
After a brief interlude last year following the successful release of your fifth studio album ‘Psychonaut’ you’ve been back in the studio hard at work preparing for the release of ANGELTHEORY’ a retrospective “Beneath The Ruins”. Can you tell us something about how you arrived at the decision to revisit your earlier work, and how that process of deconstructing and remixing your earlier work has changed in the intervening years since initial recording?
I started ANGELTHEORY in 2002, so it feels like a really long time since this journey began. Musically a lot has changed since the release of “Fatal Condition”, so I wanted to bring potential new fans up to speed with my work. I have always been a fan of the “compilation” release, it has always been a good way to introduce myself to a band I know little of.
Also i’ve always wanted an excuse to go back to the earlier tracks and re-visit them. So when I started initially looking at doing this release, I had already made up my mind that the earlier tracks would have to be re-worked, that is ; mixing and sound engineering. My techniques over the years had changed. I have learned new ways of doing things, better mixing ideas, and all round better skills. Recording and especially mixing can be quite an art form, the more you know, the more interesting you can make your songs for the listener.
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The success of ANGELTHEORY in the early years particularly with the darker aspects of your music have often been characterised by themes of introspection, estrangementand the ‘human condition’. Has it been a difficult process revisiting tracks you wrote several years ago at another time in your life, or has this process been a cathartic experience?
It is amazing how when you revisit songs that were written a long time ago, they can send you right back into that headspace. For the most part I can recall what I was feeling and what my intentions were when I wrote each song. Music really has that ability to put a “date stamp” on your brain. But you’re right, the experience can be cathartic, especially when you are looking at it from a distance of time. Things that seemed overwhelming and consuming, no longer are. So yes, it has been good to look back, and to see how far I have come.
Will fans still recognise the vibe of the original tracks in the new remixes?
Yes they will. The tracks have just been mixed from the ground up again, using the same sounds, arrangements etc. I have tried to maintain the same vibe and atmosphere. Sonically they will just sound better than the original releases.
How did you go about selecting the tracks for “Beneath The Ruins”?
Previously the idea was to give an introduction to someone who hadn’t heard of AT before. So like with most compilations you want to present the most accessible side of your work. So I chose tracks I knew were popular with fans, I also asked fans on Facebook what they would play to someone listening for the first time, and lastly I added a couple of my own personal favourites.
You have included a cover of ‘Soft Cells’ “Memorabilia” on the retrospective album. What made you choose this particular track, and are you a huge ‘Soft Cell’ fan?
I think I have played their debut album more times than I have had hot dinners. I love Marc Almond’s vocals a lot. Memorabilia was one of those tracks that I always wanted to cover. So when it came to putting the album together I wanted to give fans particularly something new. I have done a few covers over the course of the last 12 years. So it seemed right to do another. I’m happy with the end result.
Do you have an ultimate favourite ANGELTHEORY track from your discography that you would never revisit, remix or re-release?
“Concrete And Gravity” from “Psychonaut” is one of my all time favourites actually. It was the first track I wrote for that album, and it happened very quickly. It contains lots of the best part of AT, atmospheres, club beats, personal lyrics. It is however going on “Beneath The Ruins”.
Your music has often been noted for its melodic cinematic quality. If you were to write a soundtrack to your life, which ANGELTHEORY track(s) would most reflect your experience as a musician and artist?
Interesting question, I love it! There are a small handful of tracks which for me mark certain points in time. They really summed up what was happening for me at that moment. ‘Cold Fire’ ’ Breathe’, ‘Noise In My Head’ ‘Destroyed’ ‘When I’m Gone’ – I have some great memories of putting these tracks together.
As an Artist, who has been your biggest influence musically and lyrically?
Musically it’s hard to go past ‘Depeche Mode’ and ‘The Human League’, they influenced my early years a lot. Other bands I would include are “Haujobb” and “Brain Eno”. Building an atmosphere to me is what is most important when writing music. Brain Eno does this brilliantly as do ‘Haujobb’. I try and achieve this myself when writing so that my songs have a visual aspect to them.
Lyrics are dictated by the atmosphere I build for a track. I don’t know if I’m actually influenced by anyone really. For me they are quite personal tellings, as I always write from experience and my own thoughts. If anything I try to be as honest as I can with them without giving too much of the story away.
You’re about to do some shows in Victoria, any possibility of a tour in the not too distant future beyond Australian shores?
Yes, we have our first show coming up in 5 years in September. I’m really excited by this. I would really love to go back to Europe and the USA to play again, however the logistics from a money point of view are over whelming. It’s a problem when these places are a 24hour flight away.
And finally Charles, what does the future hold for ANGELTHEORY for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
After the release of “Beneath The Ruins” I will continue writing for the next album. I have 4 tracks done. But I’m going to take my time with this one. There is no rush at this point as “Psychonaut” is still less than a year old. I can’t ever see myself not writing music in some shape or form, so brace yourselves for releases when i’m 80.
ANGELTHEORY “Beneath The Ruins” Out Sep 1st 2016 on Nohorizonrecordings.
All tracks written by Charles Fenech
Except Memorabilia SoftCell (Bell/Almond)
“Beneath The Ruins” Artwork: Design Grant Cook/ Photography: Shane Thoms
Photo/Video Credits: AngelTheory