Burn, Baby, Burn

Boom Christopher Paige, guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist for the Denver-based Society Burning, comes from a musical family; his father has a background as a percussionist. So how does Dad feel about Boom's band, an industrial trio that eschews a living, breathing timekeeper in favor of a drum machine? "He hates us," Paige says with a laugh.

By the same token, the members of Society Burning--Paige, keyboardist/vocalist Dave Creadeau and Paige's keyboardist wife, known simply as Tracey--take pride in the fact that they can actually play their instruments. In a genre where programming can compensate for proficiency, the three use their musical skills to create songs that are alternately ethereal and assertive. And Tactiq, a full-length recently released by Re-Constriction, an indie distributed by San Diego's Cargo Records, suggests that the players have a lot more interesting music ahead of them.

Paige and Creadeau met in the early Nineties, while both were living in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The friendship led to a musical collaboration on Is God in Show Business Too?, a 1991 cassette by Creadeau's group at the time, the Watchmen. When Creadeau's partner hit the road, Paige became a Watchman as well; he can be heard on the pair's 1992 recording, Plague, and another epic that was never released due to financial constraints. These efforts, which can be likened to the hard-edged electro-pop of Nine Inch Nails, attracted a sizable audience in Las Cruces, as well as a gaggle of fans who stumbled across the outfit while surfing the Internet. Creadeau remembers one such aficionado: "We sold a tape to a guy in Norway, and he got it on the air there. We hit, like, number five on the Norwegian college-radio charts."

This do-it-yourself success, achieved in conjunction with the act's Prescient Thought production company, was encouraging, but it wasn't enough to keep the Watchmen in the black. As a result, they actively sought a record-company contract--and their endeavors paid off thanks to Chase, the single-monikered fellow behind Re-Constriction. According to Creadeau, Chase was traveling through New Mexico when "he called up a college-radio station and one of the DJs referred him to us. So we set up a meeting in Albuquerque and dropped him off a copy of our first cassette." Chase was impressed enough to include a track, "Merciful Release," on a compilation called Cyberflesh Conspiracy.

A move from Las Cruces to Denver followed, but fame and fortune did not; Paige and Creadeau were forced to take McJobs in order to make ends meet. The experience helped darken their music. As Paige puts it, "We became really depressed and started to write really mean music."

To reflect their crunchier, more abrasive sound, Paige and Creadeau dubbed themselves Society Burning. It was a change that paid immediate dividends. A rousing cover of the Adam and the Ants hit "Stand and Deliver" found its way onto Shut Up Kitty, a collection that also featured compositions by KMFDM, ChemLab and Skrew. Then, in 1994, the twosome hooked up with Seibold, whose band, Hate Department, is well-known among industrial devotees. Seibold subsequently remixed the Society Burning opus "Human Waste," one of Tactiq's highlights.

During this period, Tracey was welcomed into Society. Her appearance affected the band on both a personal and a musical level. "Creatively, we're on three completely different pages," Creadeau admits. "But we push each other into new and different directions because we each come up with something that blows the other two away."

The performers' compatibility was tested in 1995, when Society Burning set out to produce its debut album. "We were rushing things in the studio, and things weren't working quite as well as we hoped, being that we're not really used to working with engineers," Creadeau says. "I taught music and recording at New Mexico State, so I knew what I wanted. But trying to describe it to somebody else is frustrating."

When it became obvious that the three-piece would not meet an early 1996 deadline for completing its disc, Chase decided to issue remixes of material slated for Tactiq on a mini-CD called Entropy Lingua. It was an unconventional notion, and the resulting tracks, put together by Drown's Joseph Bashara and other rising players in the industrial universe, took Society Burning by surprise. "I was scared, because we thought this was going to end up on our album instead of our songs," Tracey says. "And I was like, 'Oh, my God--I like ours better.'"

As the initial shock wore off, though, the musicians came to appreciate the alternate versions of their works. "I thought it was interesting getting to hear other people's take on your music," Creadeau notes. "I don't think Tactiq would have ended up with such a high production value if I hadn't felt I had to go one step further than the remixes." For instance, he feels that the so-called stomp mix of the song "Waster," rebuilt by Idiot Stare's Chad Bishop, "helped me visualize a lot more noise than what we were doing."

To Paige, who sometimes refers to himself and Creadeau as "noise-icians," the band's defining characteristic is the fight "between too much noise or too much music." This battle is played out on Tactiq, which initially serves up synth-pop a la Depeche Mode before delving into aggro-charged metallurgia and Reznor-like angst typified by the aforementioned "Waster," a rant aimed at the employers of the world ("I let you waste away my life/I let you steal my time"). "Human Waste," for its part, is a gritty dirge that tackles prejudice with couplets such as "Save face, race-pride racist/Motherfucker, find a better way" and "Ignorance/Are you afraid of a colorless world?" Topics like these typify Creadeau's pessimistic outlook. "Most of the subjects I tend to deal with are at the conflict point of either internal or social ills," he says. Adds Paige, "I think we've already reached an answer. I mean, there's no beating around the bush. Our name is kind of the answer."

Predictions of revolution aside, Society Burning isn't all doom and gloom. The group just recorded the theme song to Magnum P.I. for an upcoming collection of TV tunes; Paige rationalizes the decision with the joking explanation, "Hey, come on--it's Tom Selleck." And the musicians are currently in the midst of putting together a musical parody of the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction, which featured a score heavily laden with rock backbeats. However, there are no plans at present to add real drums to any of the songs.

Paige's father will not be pleased.

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