Thursday, August 7, 2014

Synthpop group Information Society continues to make cutting edge music

Wil Foster /


After bringing synthpop to the masses in the '80s and '90s, Information Society continues to make cutting edge music, as the group demonstrates on its latest album, "_hello world," set for release on Sept. 23.

The album marks the reunion of the original founding members of the band, Paul Robb (synths), Kurt Larson (vocals) and James Cassidy (bass, keyboards).

I had the chance to talk to Robb about the new album.

Q - Great to talk to you. Of course, "_hello world" will be released in September. In sitting down to record the album, what were your goals and do you think you achieved them?
Our goal was to make a new record that was discernibly 2014, but that was a comfortable fit with the rest of out catalog. Something that you might want to expect from us, but not necessarily something completely expected. 

Based on the reviews so far, I do think we achieved that.

Q - Was it just the right time to get back to work with Kurt Larson and James Cassidy? Did the ideas flow easily after you guys reunited?
It was the right time in the sense that we actually HAD the time, which has been a problem for us in the past. We all live in different cites, and have very different lifestyles, so getting together to record has never been easy.

In terms of "flow", I would say this is our most successful collaboration to date.

Q - When Information Society first formed, what did you set out to do? Why do you think songs "Running" and “What’s On Your Mind" resonated so well with the public?
Like most kids who start bands, we were just emulating our own idols, and trying to be like them. Also, in guitar-centric Minneapolis, we just weren't hearing the kind of music we wanted to hear, so we decided to make it ourselves.

In terms of "Running" and "WOYM," those came after several years of learning our craft, and applying our particular aesthetic to a pop format. It was a surprise, especially in the case of "Running," that they did so well.

In places like New York and Miami, we are still better known for "Running" than for anything else.

Q - You cover Devo's song "Beautiful World" on the album. How would you say Devo influenced the band's music? What was it like working with Gerald V Casale of Devo on "Beautiful World?"
Devo was one of our biggest influences. If you go back and listen to some of our earliest live performances, like on the "Apocryphon" album, you can clearly hear the Devo influence.

If you draw a triangle with Devo, Kraftwerk, and Gary Numan at the corners, the middle of that triangle is where we wanted to be. Working with Gerry was a blast.

He's an effortless pro in the studio, and we recently had him onstage with us to do a guest vocal on "Beautiful World," and that was definitely a peak experience for all of us in the band.

Q - What are the band's plans for the rest of the year? Are you going to be touring in support of the album?
We will be doing as many dates as we can; I don't know if I would go so far as to call it "touring." We also have a few more recording projects up our sleeves.

Q - The music business has changed so much since Information Society first formed. Would you say it is easier or harder to be a musician these days?
It is both. It is easier to actually record music and get it "released."

But it is harder to have a career. It's like a lot of things these days: the industry still exists, but fewer and fewer people are actually making a living doing it.

Q - Your record label, HAKATAK International, has several artists signed to it. What are your goals for the label?

HAKATAK was originally just a joke.  It was a way for the band to release music under a different name (Think Tank). One Think Tank track ("A Knife and a Fork") actually went Top Ten in the UK in the early '90s.

Later, it became a way for me to release less-commercial projects without any interference from business people, which is what it remains today.

Q - Besides the artists on your label, are there other artists out there that you admire what they are doing? Are there any artists that you would like to collaborate with someday?
Oh, lots. I like the Royksopp and Robyn stuff, Goldfrapp, Big Data, Mesh, Igor von Trapp....

Q - Where do you see Information Society going from here?