L.A. Black Metal Experimentalists Chiildren Explain Porn’s Effect on Their Synth-Driven Sound
Chiildren are the experimental black metal -- for lack of a better term -- brainchild of loveable hedonist Chad Fjerstad. Some may know Fjerstad from his stint in Nehemiah, a celebrated Minneapolis suburbanite metalcore band named after a chapter in the good book. (They chose this biblical moniker not as a show of religious affiliation, but because it sounded f---ing metal.) The local heroes threw many a sold-out show, but Fjerstad's curious career eventually led him into adult film.
Now residing in Los Angeles, he's let his restless creativity lead him back to music. Making his first foray into the synthesizer arts, he teamed with fellow adult-film star Chris Zeischegg to form Chiildren, a duo that sounds nothing like his past groups. We caught up with Fjerstad to chat about porn, electronic-based metal and the connections between the two.
When the Chiildren project first launched, it was spelled the regular way, with one "i." Or did I imagine that?
No, no, it's not just your imagination. It wasn't until we were prepping to release the debut EP that we decided to add another "i" to the name. This was primarily to separate us from the power-thrash band from New York, Children, who has a couple of releases on a label called Kemado Records. I didn't discover them until after we released our 'Girl in the Dirt' music video. I stumbled upon their 'Power Spirit' music video and did a little research. Pretty good stuff, if you ask me. A couple of reasons why the ii's work for me in relation to our band: One, It represents two entities. I often picture two small children holding hands in place of the i's. Two, our band is half man, half computer. It recalls old computer technology, ASCII, which to me loosely correlates with all of the MIDI we use. And all of the old analogue synth sounds that I find to be nearly impossible to stray from. They're a part of me.
You started Chiildren with a colleague you met through the porn industry, Chris Zeischegg. How did you meet Chris? What inspired you to start Chiildren?
I had known who Chris was before I had even moved to L.A. to start doing porn. I always got the feeling we would probably get along pretty well, and I was right. The night I finally met him, I was going to pick up my girlfriend from work. Of course, work for her that night was to have sex with Chris on camera. Nonetheless, we were introduced to each other just after that shoot and immediately clicked. A few months later, Chris sent me some demos he had put together; he wanted to start more of a traditional black metal band. I was into his songs. We started writing together and jamming for months but couldn't find a drummer. Eventually, after putting the concept to rest for a while, we both started learning how to program drums and create electronic-based music and said, "F--- it! Let's do this without a drummer!" I threw my synth into the mix, and Chiildren was born.
I think I speak for a lot of guys when I say it might be tough to start a band with a guy who just had sex with my girlfriend. What impact do you feel sex or pornography has on your music, if any?
Sex and our lifestyle play a huge role in the lyrics, and I'm sure subconsciously in the mood of the music as well. The whole concept of [our debut album] 'The Other People' is about the separation we feel from everyone who is a non-sex-industry worker. When we go out, we observe the actions and behaviors of the majority of people, and it makes us feel very alien. 'Milos' is inspired by the extremely controversial 'A Serbian Film,' which is about an ex-pornstar thrown into a nightmarish snuff-world. We both found quite a bit of influence in that film. All of our stuff is littered with sex and violence -- we can't really escape it. At least not at this point in our lives.
Let's revisit your past, when sex probably had a bit less of, or possibly just a subtler, influence on your creative output. Some Diffuser.fm readers may be familiar with your work in the band Dead to Fall, and possibly even Nehemiah. How did your experience in those bands help lead you to Chiildren?
Dead to Fall and Nehemiah helped me see the world more as a canvas rather than a TV set. Before those bands, I saw the world as more of a consumer. But after the experiences I had with those bands ... I felt like I had the ability to create, with reason, rather than just sit and watch. They also taught me how to play a f---ing instrument. They also showed me that playing a good show, to a crowd full of energized people, feels a hell of a lot better than sex. Nothing else lives up to that feeling.
Amen. I saw quite a few of those shows with Nehemiah at the Triple Rock, Milwaukee, etc. Those were some really high-energy experiences. What are you doing with this project that you didn't accomplish with previous bands?
I was just playing bass parts that effectively accompanied the guitar riffs, and there wasn't much more to it. Although I did help out with lyrics and structural ideas on occasion, they weren't really my songs. The experience was more about understanding and helping to display the energy coming out of the songwriter's music. Logan Kelly: genius. In Chiildren, these songs feel more like my babies. Though we generally start with Chris's programming and guitar licks, I then get to paint them with synths, more programming, live bass, vocal melodies and lyrics. It's my first time using synthesizers in a project, which I've been anxious to do since about 2005. And also my first time doing vocals, which was actually more of a "hey, this part needs some vocals" type of thing. I never aimed to be a vocalist, but the songs called for it.
And what about Chris? Has he been in any projects before?
He previously played in two Northern California-based tech-metal bands called Heuristic and Datura.
On 'The Other People,' you worked with producers Chris Rakestraw (Children of Bodom) and Michael Keene (The Faceless, Veil of Maya). Was it a learning process to work with such experienced producers, or just another day at the office?
There is something to learn from every single engineer [or] producer that you work with, at least from the good ones. Keene was our introduction to using electronics at a professional level. Half the battle was spending time finding the right sounds. He brought 'Girl in the Dirt' from a dirty, grim place to a completely crushing one. We did the rest of the EP with Rakestraw, who is nothing short of a mustached string-bean of Southern sunshine. We spent about a week with him, and it threw me right back to my studio experiences with Dead to Fall and Nehemiah. It's a whole different world when you're in there -- it's a hell of a lot of fun.
Are there plans for your next release?
Another video project. It will be an extended music video, with segments that play out more like a short film. We intend to include snakes, babies, demons, and magic It will be for a new song called 'The Circle Narrows'.