A few years ago, when I was just starting to explore the industrial scene, I discovered an amazing song called Vyperpunk by a band I had never heard of called Dope Stars Inc. I have been hooked ever since. The music captured many things that interest me such as cyberpunk, social decay, hackers, and the evils of monolithic corporations. Some of the titles demonstrate this well: Neuromance, Digital Warriors, 21st Century Slaves, Megacorps, and Vyperpunk. The song Omega Drones, even opens with audio from Blade Runner: “I’ve seen things, you people wouldn’t believe.”
Victor Love is the front man of that cyberpunk rock/industrial band, Dope Stars Inc. Recent projects, other than Dope Stars Inc., that Victor has worked on is Hacking the Wave and his new solo project The Network. The content of these projects is just as relevant to my interests, all very cyberpunk. Victor graciously agreed to do a interview with Neon Dystopia.
ND: Sean Nolan asked: “Let him know how appreciated Lies Irae was and if they aimed to capture the hype of the retaliatory DDoS attacks against Wikileaks’ former supporters. I know I felt the feeling of those raids were captured in that track.”So the question is: Was the track Lies Irae aimed at supporting Wikileaks in the aftermath of retaliatory DDoS attacks, and if not what inspired it?
Victor: The song was definitely connected to Wikileaks. It was written in early 2011 following what happened between September & December 2010. A part of our fans have always been very sensible to these topics. Especially with the album before, 21st Century Slave, released in 2009 all lyrics were inspired by the vision of a world governed by corporations, surveillance police state, cyber wars, one global government & propaganda through brainwashing media.
While that album was a vision of a dystopian future, Ultrawired was instead connected to real facts happening at the times. The epic part of “Lies Irae” is the fact I’d been writing the lyrics on a pirate pad together with our fans. A pad that is still live on http://piratenpad.de/liesirae. I was providing the song with random lyrics & writing the first verse, bridge & chorus to give the direction for metrics & rhyming and then all fans contributed on the pad. In the end, we voted with +1 for each line and after different stages of reviews we came up together with the final text. On the pad was written: Topic: Wikileaks. Internet Revolutions, Cyberwarfare.
ND: Cherry Twist (twistcherry) on Twitter asked: Why do you keep going? What about this musical genre keeps you going. I know that you already answered this question on Twitter, so follow up question: What genre would you classify Dope Stars Inc as? And for that matter Hacking the Wave, and your new solo music? Do you even think about it within genre constraints?
Victor: I do not really like to stick labels on the stuff I do, but for some people it may be a way to get a quick idea of what’s it about. Sometimes this can be good, some other times can also be counter-productive actually. When I do a new musical project there’s always a concept behind it that is not only about lyrics and themes but also about the sound, the style, and the production part of it.
For Dope Stars Inc. is pretty easy to call it Cyberpunk Rock, since lyrics are inspired by cyberpunk visions and also it does express that mix of electronic and rock music that we are actually doing. Hacking The Wave’s concept is about “hacking” the sound of real instruments. In fact, all the music is synthesized. Don’t really know how you want to call it actually, I never even tried I think. With the new solo project, instead it is all based on a minimal sound, in particular the obscure lead synth that is the same for all the songs, and anti-mainstream lyrics. You would want eventually to call it Minimal Anti-pop.
Thing is while I am doing these things I do not really constrain myself in doing something specific. Most of the times is just that my mood is in that state and the music comes out as a result. It also depends much on your personal life, what you’ve been into recently, the music you have been listening to or even a movie you have been watching or a book you have been reading. Actually, whatever you do in your life changes your mood hence, changes the way you are writing music.
For me what keeps me going is just the passion for doing it. You know, as simple as that. There’s still people doing music because they like to do it. Which is basically the only reason why you should do it in my opinion. Indeed, many of those musicians doing music because a “pile of money is coming” end up producing crap, being crap actually what people buy the most in general, not only in music. Unfortunately, I should rather say that crap is actually what’s easier and more profitable to promote to sheeple.
ND: While we are the topic of genre labels, I noticed on your new solo project you labeled it as Anti-Pop on your Bandcamp website. What does Anti-Pop mean to you, and does it align with ideas like anti-fashion, and anti-consumerism common in punk culture?
Victor: Lyrics of my solo project are a protest against the different systems we have nowadays that are not working anymore: music industry, star system & TV shows crap fests, mainstream media, djs and clubs spinning the same old shit since 30 years, the unsustainable model for musicians to make a living, social networks fraud, self-violation of privacy, constant bulk data storing, profiling of people on the networks, competition instead of collaboration and networking between artists, rip-offs of various nature and origin. You know, all that kind of shit everybody knows but apparently nobody really want to give a fuck or talk about because you better just talk cool & nice of positive things otherwise you just become another annoying ranter ‘round. All this happening meanwhile, they can’t even see themselves falling into self-destruction.
ND: When I first discovered Dope Stars Inc. some years ago it was through the track Vyperpunk and I have been hooked ever since. The name seems to be a direct allusion to the cyberpunk genre, as do many of the other titles in the Dope Stars Inc music, such as Neuromance. What cyberpunk media has inspired your music? Since Neuromancer specifically has been referenced, what is your relationship to Gibson’s classic novel?
Victor: Since I was a child, my father was a techie and we also had a computer shop for almost 20 years. I have been growing with the passion for anything related to technology starting from novels to manga, movies on VHS, videogames, software etc. I’ve been a total nerd at levels you would not even imagine I guess, and I still proudly am. My father was just fueling this passion since these days of my life, I can actually remember things.
We’re talking also of a period of time that goes from early 80’s until late 90’s so that’s basically when most of what we have now was created. Including so many things that were just cyberpunk sci-fi visions of a future that become later on a reality, not only in technology but also in society. Everything was growing exponentially when The Internet came out. The net has been a source of massive information and inspiration for me. I was spending countless days to research stuff of any kind, get informed, read & learn.
Actually there’s really a lot of what I do in music or in my day job that I have learned by myself and from my father. So basically all these things have strongly influenced the concepts I put into lyrics and visuals connected to them. There’s no one single thing but, it’s the sum of all of it.
ND: While listening to your new album, The Network, I noticed a recurring theme of alienation from people, the world, and through technology. Was this my imagination, or is this actually present there. Alienation is a common theme in cyberpunk media, and in our daily lives. Have you felt alienation recently that inspired this underlying theme?
Victor: During my childhood and teenage times I was experiencing a very different world compared to the one we have today and I can notice enormous differences. Most of the people can’t even notice that since it’s the normality. There’s a lot of people that just use the internet passively, flooded everyday by unrequested stuff or information prepackaged basing on the profiling they are self-providing to different companies every day. People just get what they want and do not search for what they like anymore.
Deleting this step in the process of discovery is very dangerous because, then you see just what you like and what you want to see basing on your past actions. We all know that there’s a thousand reasons why “to see what you want to see” is not always a good thing and instead sometimes you should look over things you DON’T want to see because they maybe more important or just more interesting. How can you tell if you like black while living in a white room for all your life?
There’s of course a part of people that is not falling into this mind trick but, what I see is that the majority of people is definitely falling into it. What we have right now on social media is a totally fake reality which is also customized on each person. So we basically don’t see the same stuff, we just see a version of reality that has been modelled on us.
There’s really nothing good in this and we see already the negative effects. For instance, if we want to talk about music, what I see is that the promise of the networks to be a place for new cool ideas to come out turned into a fraud. This is not happening at all. I see hundreds of great new bands that are totally unknown also by music lovers in specific niches. Sometimes, I suggest bands to people I would have definitely expected at the times they’d absolutely be aware of but, I find out almost all the time they have absolutely no clue about them. That is basically because the net is over-saturated from one side by mainstream media and companies promoting the same old shit they have signed deals with for the next centuries, on the other hand there’s a huge amount of individuals with money and hope for fame that are being ripped off trying to compete in this market and saturating also that part of low-quality users provided by social networks as 2nd hand scrap.
Do you really believe they make you pay to reach real active users? To not even mention the algorithm is totally a scam and I can tell hundreds of examples also coming from people working on it professionally. In a nutshell it’s a big whole fraud and nothing really changed, instead it has become even worse than before in the moment when the word of mouth has been totally replaced by paid systems, scam algorithms & profiled experiences.
ND: In following your development as an artist and your side projects I have noticed you playing with alternative methods of music distribution. With Ultrawired, you released it as a torrent on The Pirate Bay…
Victor: I am really happy you asking me this so I can clarify it to all those out there that didn’t understand a single thing of what I have been doing during the last 15 years. I’ve always been into testing and experimenting with stuff on all levels and this include also the way I distribute my music and interact with my audience. I’ve been working with a lot of people inside and outside the business and testing possibly every kind of system to understand how to evolve through the years in a world rapidly changing.
We started with early html websites, forums, mIRC, ICQ, street teams, there was not even youtube, and mp3s were just created and we were giving our music and videos away for free with direct links and word of mouth played a big role. Once we got signed, all this work we did was of very big help and together with the labels that were supporting us we could grow a lot. And it worked for some years.
At a certain point something happened that scared the indie business and the decline of the industry started. Some says that’s all about the international crisis but, I believe it’s not all about that. This also coincided with the beginning of massive wars against piracy and the opening of digital, legal, stores. A war that was incredibly nonsense since, piracy was always been going on since the times of vinyl or cassette and nobody ever made such a big rant about and sales were good.
I’d like to ask how many people of my generation actually discovered the music they listen thru a pirated cassette compilation that a friend was passing with all the fancy writings in the back. Everything seemed to go nuts when companies understood there could be a way to mass profit out of platforms ripping-off the concept of Napster in a legal way and providing absolutely no transparency to the bands and in some cases even to the labels. In other cases, this lack of transparency acted in favor of labels planning to rip-off bands too since there’s no way to verify server logs, apparently.
What we have now is basically a bunch of companies doing the maximum possible to profit out of those few people who still want to support while almost offering a system close to piracy to those who can’t pay but, still profiling, acquiring data can be sold later and making happy the big acts in order to keep going. The immense difference is that piracy was action and not everyone was able to do it. Most of people pirating music are techies or either music enthusiasts that are doing an action or effort in order to get your stuff and eventually they are going to spread the word, promote you, buy merchandise or the physical copy or attend to a show.
What we have now instead is a system where there’s no effort required, everything is basically free, underground bands get the dimes while big bands have their nice “pension system” and even those who would have paid for it are not going to do it. In the past instead, pirating was a thing that was sometime even necessary for those who had no money to buy records and is a totally fair and understandable thing. There’s no stealing or crime in pirating.
In a nutshell this system is doomed to destroy the future of new talents. I could certify this by comparing all my other releases, including TeraPunk that was simply provided for free, with Ultrawired that was instead a record we released on The Pirate Bay telling loud and clear to everyone we were totally fine about being pirated. Result is Ultrawired is actually the record that received the biggest promotion and sales result on digital. Consider also, that I did absolutely no promotion over media, while with all other albums including the last one there was a lot of investment in promo.
So how is this even possible? Unless we want to start thinking your sales have been hidden by who knows who, the only reasonable explanation is that old school piracy was actually what made the whole system work in the past and everything started to die when companies turned it into a legal rip-off system. Piracy was also acting as a selector of quality together with the work made by independent record labels which, are in fact the ones who have been really suffering more in this whole process while big companies are safe and sound.
ND: With The Network it seems like you are using more of a direct artist/fan interaction method. What have your experiences been using these methods? What have you learned that works, what doesn’t work?
Victor: With my new solo project and the debut EP The Network, I am testing more the aspects of communication with the fans to verify my belief that social networks are actually not so good anymore for communicating actively with your audience but, rather can be an additional channel to make your fans converge and subscribe directly to your site. Also it is a test for another thing I am planning in the future that I will disclose later on in detail.
There’s one aspect that many bands don’t get these days and that is the fact that nothing last forever, not even Myspace lasted. And once these platforms eventually die and the hype will fade all you will have left in your hands is nothing else than a bag of not given fucks. Using social networks only is like working for these companies to help them profiling your fans and eventually sell you back this data forcing you to pay sponsored ads to reach your own audience, which is basically some kind of fraud in my opinion.
Paradox is we also gave all our contacts to all these platforms while sending invitations at the times. On top of this, they were fooling all of us since in the early years that the algorithms were totally different and worked better. Nowadays instead, these social networks are a plain joke and also are contributing to uniform the interests of everyone merging and basically destroying sub-cultures in a melting pot where you get flooded by humor, cats, dumb shit, tragedies in the news, debates on stuff nobody really cares about, distractions in the shape of big dead lions while hundred kids die under bombs every day, rainbows profile picture experiments, glories of the past coming back from the dead, tests and online games, invitations to candy crush, “what’s your fave rock band?” profiling bullshit, opinions of rock stars with a foot in the grave, photos of dead rock stars or actual celebs deaths for the sake of a click bait.
We even do have fake satire magazines now and there’s a good amount of people that do not even realize it and believe in fake news! It’s all gone crazy. And in the end you have that 0,0001% of stuff you would really care to see but you will never see if it’s not YOU going to search for it yourself. An action that the majority of people stopped to do a long time ago and lasted just few years since Internet was created in 1994.
In true cyberpunk fashion, Victor Love recently produced and released an AMV (Anime Music Video) featuring the cyberpunk classic AKIRA and music from his EP The Network. It captures not only the anime’s feeling, but also the manga’s.