Synthwave Sunday Interview with Big Lich

We recently covered the new Dark Matter EP from Big Lich, and it just wasn’t enough Big Lich for me. I had to come back a week later with a full interview with one of my favorite bands on the scene. If you missed my review of Dark Matter you can find it HERE, otherwise, let’s jump right in because this is an amazing interview!

Thanks for talking with us! For those that don’t know, who is Big Lich?

Thanks for having us, James, we are totally honored. Hopefully you won’t regret this interview by the time it’s over. Big Lich is Mike Beaton and Pat Stein – two dudes in a basement in Portland, OR on Sunday nights. We are originally from South Bend, Indiana, where we were part of a pretty awesome punk/metal scene in the late 90’s/early 00’s. We’re also both gamers/game music composers and we thought we’d bridge the gap between our past and present styles and blend some heavy, punky stuff with some synths. That’s the decoy answer. The actual answer is that Big Lich is a 5000 year old necromancer that sustains his lifeforce indefinitely by encapsulating his soul into a phylactery (in this case, a CDR with a burn of “Face Value” by Phil Collins), who preys on any hapless adventurers that stumble upon the ancient tombs where he resides – spending his immortal days and nights researching various dark rituals and staying drunk on mana.

You blend synths and metal riffs like they’re peanut butter and jelly. How did you develop your sound?

The sound came to us while we were doing some boss fight tunes for a local game jam and we knew right away that we had a nice formula going, so we decided to work on it regularly, resulting in the first EP “Rock It From the Crypt.” Our audio interface was damaged during the tracking of RIFTC, and we had to rely on mostly synths. We had it repaired in time for the Dark Matter sessions, so it came out feeling heavier. So part of our development was just dealing with and getting past the gear limitations. Compositionally, it has always been about blending what we love about metal with video game style themes. It’s not always easy because guitars and synths tend to occupy the same frequency space, so it’s really about the orchestration and letting both instruments battle it out without stepping on each others’ toes. We don’t use any loops, so we are able to shape all sources of the music exactly as we want them; our synth rhythms and arpeggios are mostly hand-crafted (we like to call them “artisanal”), allowing us to easily contort them to fit any situation.

You’ve got new music! Can you tell us more about Dark Matter?

Dark Matter is our definitive sound going forward. We were a bit less reckless on this one, mostly due to having to deal with the guitars and getting a decent mix. We originally planned on just releasing singles for awhile, but after 2 or 3, there was so much continuity going on that we figured they belonged together. Our friend (and resident pixel artist) Conner Workman kept coming up with cool concept art that kept us
inspired and we just kind of let the visuals guide us through the rest of the tracks. It was very natural and easy… we probably could have done a full length, but we cut ourselves off to keep the creative momentum at max levels. We wanted every song to feel like “the single” without having 6 versions of essentially the same song, so fans of different genres can get into it, and everyone will have a different favorite track.

Can you walk us through how you record new music?

We only get to work one night per week – usually Sundays. We don’t let ourselves work on, or even listen to, any of it unless it’s Big Lich night. When we get together, sometimes we don’t even remember exactly what we had been working on and so we get to hear everything with “fresh ears” especially in the early stages of writing. It’s a luxury most full-timers don’t get but I highly recommend it to any curious producers. We are both fulltiming other projects, so Big Lich is our chance to just have fun, rock out, and pretty much do whatever we want. Pat takes care of the drums and most of the mixing and Mike does the guitars/synths, although we trade roles when we have big ideas and we both have equal veto powers. A lot of bands bicker and get emotional about the creative struggle, but we have been around long enough and we trust each other fully so it’s easy to keep it drama-free. It’s never been anything but fun.

It’s that time of year…favorite horror film?

Pat is way more into legit horror. Mike is squeamish, easily shaken, and has undiagnosed anxiety issues.

Pat – Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Mike – Evil Dead 2

What have been some records that jumped out at you in 2017?

For rock – The new Propagandhi, Deerhoof, and Dead Cross albums are outstanding. For synths – The Dark Beyond (Gregorio Franco), Chasing Replicants (Facexhugger), the Heavy album (Dreddd), Epoch Code (Die Scum Inc), The Infernal Schism (Hexenkraft), and Neon Marble (Bonggita), looking forward to the Descent (Ethereal Delusions). On the chill side – The Encounter (Ukoh), Skies (BVSMV), digging this new Wyndsrfr stuff, and I gotta plug Skyline Splitter (Lightfrequency).

You recently released a new track callout out the alt-right. Can you tell us more about that?

Fuck Nazi’s… unbelievable that it even needs to be said in 2017, but we heard rumors of racist or nazi synthwavers and the inevitable guilt-byassociation that might extend to our synth-fam. So we wanted to let our position be known the best way we know how – a text-to-speech, electrodeath cover of the great Dead Kennedys song “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. We usually avoid politics in public forums, focusing instead on healing the separation with our kickass electrodeath music. But in this case, we were willing to make the exception. Our grandfathers already laid the smack down on those asshats decades ago, they must have amnesia from the whoopin… so we remind and encourage awareness. As for the altright, it seems bizarre and is certainly disappointing that a random mishmash of trolls and bigots would get any support or attention at all. I think there are some confused people in there that could come around with a good conversation and possibly a hug. A punch to the rest of them with my gnarled, boney, skeleton-fist!

Any parting words before we go?

We just wanted to thank everyone that supported us this year. We feel so welcomed by artists and listeners that normally aren’t looking for necromantic pixel anthems, but everyone has been awesome. We’re looking forward to 2018, hoping to work on getting a live show together, already working on the next album, some Youtube vids and possible collaborations. And thanks again, James. Keep up the good work, the music makers need you!

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