We had a chat with MIKE of Digital Factor, a name that can not be overlooked. They were one of the first electro acts from East Germany to get a record deal after the wall came down. The band was formed out of an insane enthusiasm for synthesizers and electronic music, which is present to this day.
In 1994 Digital Factor released their first EP on a Danish label, soon after thgat they got signed by Hyperium / Hypnobeat. Since then Digital Factor worked passionately to evolve their sound, craft it and present it live on various tours. They covered “Lessons From The Past” from our album “Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars”.
“Granted you have a varied sound, I was surprised you picked our very poppy track ‘Lessons From The Past’. Could you explain why?”
Mike: The original song caught my eye right away because of its melody. I was immediately excited. Also, it seemed easier to tackle a complete reinterpretation here. The other songs were very close to a version I would have done myself. “Lessons From The Past” on the other hand had a unique sound that I wanted to dissect. It was also good that it was sung by a female voice (Mari Kattman), so I had to reinterpret the singing to my voice. While I was aware the content of the song was and always would be timely over the years, current events make it more timely than ever.
While I was aware the content of the song was and always would be timely over the years, current events make it more timely than ever. Time has shown that mankind keeps making the same mistakes. And as we’re seeing in Ukraine right now, it only takes one person and a few yes-men to make people miserable.~ Mike of Digital Factor
“The song was for me very relevant when I saw wars breaking out in Iraq, Africa continent, Yemen, and so on… But now, in 2022, it’s even more so. I wrote it because I feel war is dreadful and history & science education and applied critical thinking is so much needed and should be taught in schools. What’s your take, or how did you feel the lyrics? Do you think the line ‘nothing ever changes’ – about our ‘human nature’ is true, or do you see more hope?”
Mike: Unfortunately, on the one hand, there isn’t little hope, because time has shown that mankind keeps making the same mistakes. And as we’re seeing in Ukraine right now, it only takes one person and a few yes-men to make people miserable. A large German magazine, however, has a series entitled “Everything was better in the past”. There, certain conditions such as environmental protection, hunger in the world, basic income, human rights, etc. are considered in the past and today. And even if you wouldn’t expect it sometimes, we are actually moving forward. Many things get better, even if many a confused one has to prove the opposite. In fact, my own bio shows that things are actually getting better. I grew up in the GDR, a country from which you could only travel to a limited extent, under Russian control and without freedom of expression. I would never have dreamed of what I have been able to experience since 1989. So to answer your question, there is always hope.
“What drew you to participate in this project? What did you think of it’s aim to let bands ‘be themselves’ in stead of letting them do a remix? Were there times you had doubts about doing such a thing – as cover versions are sometimes looked down upon by some people?”
Mike: I love to remix, but reinterpreting is a very special story. In this case, you discover the song in a whole new way. About half a year ago, I published my own version of Pattie Smith’s “Dancing Barefood” on the Digital Factor YouTube channel. When working on a piece like this, you discover a song in a completely new way. Actually, a lot of my remixes are more like reinterpretations of the theme of the song, when I think about it.
Reinterpreting (making a cover) is a very special story – you discover the song in a whole new way. a lot of my remixes are more like reinterpretations of the theme of the song, when I think about it.~ Mike of Digital Factor
“I like your productions, both old and new. A beautiful blend of EBM evolving, while still staying true to your sound and roots. In what way did you go about making the song sound like ‘Digital Factor’? What parts of the original did you feel you need to throw away, and what did you add yourself for example?”
Mike: I believe the basic ingredient to a Digital Factor sound is not thinking about the outcome. Sometimes you find yourself thinking about a final song and then sitting down and working towards the end result. We were completely free of that when we started Digital Factor. We experimented with the synthesizers and samplers and at some point a phrase emerged that we liked and we gradually developed it further. When you have arrived in everyday musical life, you think too much about what could work on stage or in a club. I’ve only been able to really free myself from that in the past few years. I built myself a studio in which I can jam with electronic sound generators again and again. This is where the ideas come from and this was actually the essence of Digital Factor. Ultimately, the sound of analog synthesizers has always been a trademark of Digital Factor.
“Say, in another universe, would you have written a song like this yourself – both in lyrics and music? For example: have you considered playing it live, or does this stray too far away from your original concept as a band?”
Isabelle: That’s a really difficult question, because it’s genius that everyone approaches things differently and so it would be a crazy coincidence (which is almost impossible) that it sounds even remotely similar when two artists approach the same topic. It’s also exciting to work on something that is further away from your own concept. In addition, I now see the concept of digital factor as very broad. So there’s (almost) nothing that doesn’t add up, except maybe heavy metal, folk music, hip-hop… Okay, there’s a lot that doesn’t go with Digital Factor ;-).
Yves Schelpe (Psy’Aviah): Well, I’m a fan at least, and I think you would be able to pull it off, you never know what could happen – I had a lot of fun with hip-hop, like tracks “In The Sound” and “Nouveau Quiche” or even spoken word poetry with breakbeats like “Get Your Tickets” (with Suzi Q. Smith), or more ambient driven “Becoming Human” (with prof. dr. Dirk De Wachter) and more…! So, I’d say, never say never Mike ;-)?
“What does the future hold in store for ‘Digital Factor’?”
Isabelle: At the beginning of April, a new EP entitled “What” will be released on Alfa Matrix records, for which two video clips will be released one after the other. Spoiler alert: There is also a remix by Psy’Aviah on it. I’m also working on an experimental work with the working title “Elements”. This is only created with one analogue synthesizer and an analogue drum machine. The whole thing is intended as an audiovisual project. But mainly I’m working on a new album with the current working title “GBA.”. I’ll be collaborating with different artists from my hometown on every song. This will be the most complex production ever made with Digital Factor.
Yves Schelpe (Psy’Aviah): I know what to expect, and I can vouch for it – the EP will be stunning. And I had so much fun playing with the vocals and melodies on the remix I made for you, so, be sure to go and watch the video for “What?” (by Digital Factor)” as well as their new EP “What?” on Alfa Matrix records – releasing April 1st.
Follow Digital Factor via these channels:
– Facebook https://www.facebook.com/digitalfactor/
– YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-rzRrpz-mgxPfME7EAPnOA
This song is part of the “Psy’Aviah Rediscovered” project, celebrating 20 years of Psy’Aviah with a brand-new album & cover versions of old songs by other bands – including the one featured in this interview by Digital Factor. You can get a hold of the album via:
– 💿 CD: https://store.alfa-matrix-store.com/product/psyaviah-bittersweet-2cd/
– 💾 Bandcamp: https://alfamatrix.bandcamp.com/album/bittersweet-bonus-version