If we stick to the information we found about ManMindMachine, we can see that it is a Danish band, with a sound oriented to EBM and that is active since the middle of the last decade, however, behind this group there is a lot of history, as its members are musicians with different musical initiatives.
The intention of this interview, besides knowing the new work of ManMindMachine, is to deepen in this project and in the scene of which they are part, therefore, we must start talking about how and why you decided to form ManMindMachine.
Jens: It was not so much a decision as something that somehow grew as a logic progression. Jonas, Michael and I had known each others for years through the music scene, and then one year we started going together to WGT in Leipzig, where we hung out, had a little to drink, heard A LOT of concerts – and got a lot of ideas. One year we just agreed to let’s try to make music together. It went well – and then we one day discovered we needed to find a band name and start using all the ideas we had talked about.
ManMindMachine was not the first musical project of any of the members, can we say that the sound and style of ManMindMachine is the sum of your previous experiences in other bands?
Jonas: To some extent that will always be the case and those familiar with MachineSoldier will especially be able to hear that. However a lot of different music and genres inspires us, so you it’s more than just the sum of our previous bands as we’re adding a lot of ingredients from other places as well.
About your sound, and as you say, some call it EBM, others Synthpop and others Electro, but you coin your style as “RetroGrade”, why do you define yourselves with this name?
Jonas: We thought RetroGrade embodied a lot of the characteristics about ManMindMachine. We are inspired by the retro futuristic as a way of linking past, present and future. At the same time we definitely do not mind moving in the opposite direction of everyone else – that goes for themes, lyrics, production and opinions in the general J
Jens: One of the great things with being in ManMindMachine is that we are explicitly versatile in what we do. It can be synthpop, classic electro, heavy EBM, or anything else – or a mix of it all. Just for the fun of it. You never know where we are going. Out last single “RetroFuturist” was a melodic synthpop anthem, and the new single “Propaganda” is definitely not.
Recently you released Propaganda, an EP with a vindictive background. I guess, the current situation of the planet will make it very easy for you to create your music from an energetic and heartbreaking perspective, is that so?
Jonas: I wouldn’t call Propaganda vindictive. It is more a view on the current situation with so much disinformation (propaganda), everything being politicized that fact and truth is blurred. This in turn leads to division, polarization and even hatred and war. So yes, topics like that definitely make for more energetic and aggressive songs.
Jens: But it is by far the most angry song we have done so far – the song the world deserves right now. At the same time it has a universal theme, to some extent and in some parts of the world this has been the reality for years.
This EP is composed by two tracks: the homonymous track and another one based on a story about a robot, what is the link between ManMindMachine and robots?
Jonas: I think Jens will speak to that J I just want to say that with ManMindMachine there is always a duality – things might not be what they seem, figuratively speaking of courseJ
Jens: It is in the name, you know – a ManMindMachine must be a robot J We do love the retrofuturistic designs and iconography of the 1920’s and 1930’s – and not the least the big, clunky robot designs. And it just made a fun frame for a lot songs and story to develop over time. There’s nothing new in the robot uprising or an AI taking over the world – but it is fun to write about, and somehow got more current with the new wave of AIs. The song “NotManMade” is about a kind of reverse Voight Kampff test where a robot is trying to convince another robot that it is actually a robot and not a man.
You release Propaganda on Tinnitorturous, a label also owned by Jens B. Petersen and Tommy B-Kuhlmann, both linked to ManMindMachine as member and former member. Curiously, you are directly involved in most of the projects that have been released on this label, was Tinnitorturous created to work with artists and projects close to you?
Jens: Tinnitorturous started out as an outlet for our own projects, but has slowly developed into also including some good friends and collaborators. It is important for Tommy and I that we know each other and trust each other. So when you are released on Tinnitorturous it is more like a collaboration than a label usually are. And we are very local. So far it has been only Danish projects. Tommy is a good friend and bandmate. He was earlier also a member of ManMindMachine, and is still the one doing our visuals.
Something similar happens, although in a very different way, with Læbel, the label where you released your first EPs. This time this Danish label seems to work exclusively with Danish artists and bands, and that’s something to admire, as you should always bet on the local scene. Do these labels favor the development of the local music scene?
Jens: Tommy and I got to know John Mirland from Læbel when we wanted to do a compilation series called “Danish electro” celebrating the talented Danish acts. 4 compilations are out – you can check them out on Bandcamp. That collaboration then turned into several bands as well with Tommy, John and myself. The Læbel was primarily founded to release John Mirland and Claus Larsens (Leaether Strip et al) own project. At some point they took in other artists, but have now reverted back to the original idea.
How would you define the current Danish EBM and industrial scene compared to other countries?
Jonas: Somewhat stale to be honest. We have some very good bands, great loyal fans but the scene has always been small and it is not really growing. We have always envied neighbouring Sweden and Germany as the scene is much, much bigger there.
Although this interview is expressly directed to know the work of ManMindMachine, it is inevitable that we talk about the many side projects or to which the members of the band have belonged, so I think it is best to go in parts and let each member talk about it.
Jens B. Petersen:
We should start by talking about Neotek because it is a long-lived band, formed in the mid 80’s. What is the history of Neotek and what was your role in this band?
Jens: Oh it is such a long story, but the highlights is that we in the mid 90’ies released an album called “Brain Over Muscle” and disbanded shortly after that. I stopped doing music for a while and the others went on to form Good Courage. Around 2000 we reformed and in 2009 we released “Sex, murder and rock’n’Roll”. For a couple of years we played live and had fun with that – but we did not compose anything new, so when I joined other more active bands, I quit Neotek around 2018. My main focus in the all the bands I am in is ideas, lyrics, sparring, live percussions/vocals/keys and often marketing.
Negant is created around the same period as ManMindMachine, and in terms of style they are quite similar, what differentiates the two projects?
Jens: It was the first band Tommy, John and I formed. The idea was straightforward EBM consisting of very few elements and some very angry lyrics and vocals. We wanted to be like the angry old men in the muppet show! And I think we succeeded! John left some years ago, and in 2023 Erik Sejer Pedersen from the band “ee:man” joined and we are now releasing again. I think the difference between ManMindMachine and Negant is the soundscape; ManMindMachine is very complex and with a lot of details, whereas Negant is more minimalistic. So 2 different approaches – but absolutely with similarities.
Eisenwolf’s musical vision is different from the other bands, let’s say their sound is more ceremonial and less energetic, and besides, you form the band together with Tommy B-Kuhlmann, with whom you share most of the projects. I guess, although Eisenwolf is different from the rest, it is based in great part in your musical influences, from what exactly did you get influenced to create Eisenwolf?
Jens: The second band Tommy, John and I formed. We wanted to explore a combination of Martial and dark ambient – with harsh vocals with all the titles in Danish. Something we could not combine with the concept in Negant. If you listen to the Negant ep “NO!” there is a dark ambient track as the last one – and we quickly agreed on that did not work.
Bitter Distrust is a band with which you have only released one single. Bloodlust sounds like punk, is Bitter Distrust a more transgressive version of Negant and ManMindMachine?
Jens: The third band Tommy, John and I formed. This time joined by Michael Hillerup from Neotek and Birmingham 6. The idea was exactly to do punk, electropunk – taking Negant to an even angrier place. So i guess you can call it transgressive J And I think John liked this, he now does something similar with Claus Larsen in Gusten.
Was MachineSoldier your first musical project or had you already been part of a band?
Jonas: MachineSoldier was the first musical project to actually be properly released, however prior to MS I was involved in a synthpop band called New Visions, which never really released anything.
With Fake The Envy you enter a very different sound universe than ManMindMachine, what can you tell us about this band and how do you define their style?
Jonas: FTE is melancholic electronic pop, so indeed different from ManMindMachine even if we draw inspiration from synthpop and other electronic music in general. Fake the Envy was started by two of my friends, Kristian Krøll and Kent Petersen, and given we grew up in the same town and listened to a lot of the same music (Depeche Mode, The Cure etc.), they asked me at some point if I wanted to join. That made for some great music and fun concerts J
What exactly was Syntax Syndicate?
Jonas: Cool that you know about Syntax Syndicate! It was actually the pre-cursor for me joining Fake the Envy and something Kristian and I did as a side-project to kind of see how our musical visions aligned and how we would work together in the studio (we are both strong mindedJ). We only released one song, but to this day, I still think it is really good.