Click here to visit official website of Ruined Machines.
Click here to visit official website of Michal Brodka.
August 2012 (e-mail)
Guitarist Joseph Kenyon is Ruined Machines, an instrumental guitar outing who self-released a handful of online albums before connecting up with Polish born visual artist Michal Brodka in 2012. Celestial Bodies: A 12 Month Galactic Collaboration is a planetary-astrology themed musical & artist project spread over 12 months, 12 EPs & 12 pictures. On the first of every month the pair release another chapter in their musical fortune telling with an album & paired two-toned etching. The project started in May with The Sun, followed by Mercury, Venus & The Moon so far.
Joseph Kenyon forwarded me a link for a review to his his 2011 release Pressure & Obsession a year ago, but it remained tucked away in my e-mail. While going through old submissions for potential review I decided to pull his out & check it out. While on one hand the extended delay isn't thrilling, on the other hand it meant I got to find him in the midst of an exciting new grand project that, honestly, is far more interesting than what he first offered me. I did a review of Mercury, to me the most musically representative of the releases so far, which he called one of the best reviews he's ever got, leading to me asking him & Michal some questions about their new efforts.
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AJ: How did the Celestial Bodies collaboration come about between you two?
MICHAL: We’ve always gotten together & shared ideas & talked about our respective projects. So, one night we got together & said “lets do something, something big”.
RUINED MACHINES: It really came about out of desperation & both of us not sure what the next step was with our respective arts. I didn't want to record another full-length & watch it die online with no band to play the songs live, & I felt like I was at the end of the line & had to choose the art vs. money route. We were both actually kind of at the end of our ropes when we were hanging out in a parking lot by my house in March 2012, brainstorming. We both had nothing, then I finally blurted it out, "What if we do the planets?" I had the idea for quite some time but never thought highly enough of the concept until that night when we realized we could both be bosses of half of a music/visual collaboration. Mike immediately said "Done, let's do it." & that was that. We had even both quit our jobs to work on Celestial Bodies, that's how amped we were on it. We still are, but we both forgot how much having no money sucked so much worse than having little money. Ha ha. Still no money coming in for me!
AJ: Did you intend a 12 month musical/art project or was there a more modest initial idea thrown around first?
MICHAL: It was intentional, we wanted to get busy.
RUINED MACHINES: It was all decided that night in the parking lot, we ironed out all the basic details very quickly after the initial idea came about. At first it was just the planets, a couple minutes later it was the planets plus a couple other things, & then we settled on one subject a month. We also set deadlines to have each EP's work done by the 23rd of each month & then use that last week for promotion, but we were never able to stick to that from the get-go ... just a little too unrealistic for us.
AJ: Though this is not pre-planned 12 month project there obviously is a pre-planned cosmic planetary/astrological theme running through as the foundation ... versus a traditional concept album approach via a story line of people or events (i.e. Kiss's Music Of The Elder, David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust) ... how did this theme come about?
MICHAL: After some brainstorming on how the collaboration would work, our common interest in space & astronomy led straight to the concept of Celestial Bodies. Personally, I didn’t want to just draw planets, so astrology was an obvious thing to tie into each piece. There are more themes that go through my mind when I sketch out ideas. With Mercury for example, the planet shared between Virgo & Gemini, I chose to represent each by a hooded astro-maiden & hair-tied twins that seem to dance around her. The color symbolizes the element Mercury, which was/is highly regarded by alchemists as prima materia & the beginning of all process. It makes sense, since Mercury is the first planet from the sun & almost seems to represent our own planet as it was in its infancy, a hot dead rock. & that’s exactly how the EP sounds.
RUINED MACHINES: Smartass ... Well, the underlying idea was to put out a series of work within a certain time frame, to see what we both would come up with under strict deadlines in rapid succession. Celestial Bodies is the vehicle for that. Each EP is supposed to represent a certain celestial body, with Mike's interpretation displayed through the artwork & mine projected in sound. Our contributions both explain what comes to our minds when we think of that body. You may be able to find tiny little narratives in pieces of the songs here & there, but overall, there is no conscious story being told. Only biographies of celestial bodies told in a more romantic way than a scientific way.
AJ: How much do you two collaborate on your respective contributions throughout the month? Do you figure out, well Mercury is this mood & this artistic/musical approach, working with each other, or do you just share at the end of the month & surprise each other?
MICHAL: We share our ideas as they progress month to month. I think Joseph knows a little more ahead of time about how the covers are going look, based on the sketches I present to him. I try to give him a sneak peak here & there of the work in progress & send over the finished product. In turn, he sends over ideas & demos of unfinished tracks so I can get a feel of the music.
RUINED MACHINES: Usually, we'll both have a couple ideas for the next month's celestial body & we'll throw ideas back & forth while we're still working on the previous month. We'll exchange everything from stuff we find online about that body, to certain moods, textures, & sounds we'd like to explore that we think would fit. Mike will usually have an idea for the art & tell me so I can build off of with the music, & we'll trade color ideas back & forth (The Moon was originally supposed to be silver, but after a ton of insistence, I talked him into making it cream-colored.) Then from there, he takes control of the visual art, & I get to work writing, & throughout the month we'll show each other the works in progress. We've both been lucky, we haven't thought each others' works absolutely sucked yet. Ha ha.
AJ: How do you decide what planetary body is going to come next on the timeline?
MICHAL: We’re going in the orbital order, nothing fancy. Except...
RUINED MACHINES: We had the initial line-up set from the night we came up with the project & we've deviated only once so far. The Moon was originally going to come after Earth. We have a pretty definite order for all the remaining Celestial Bodies, but we're both open to changing a couple if we want to, maybe in order to convey a mood or "story" arc ... or maybe if we have to, due to a mental block or way too many ideas for another body instead.
AJ: How's the four EPs/art pieces you've so far completed compared to your past musical/art efforts?
MICHAL: The Celestial Bodies project allows me to step back from the intricacies & monotony of making etchings. It’s a nice break & a great way to still work within themes that I enjoy.
RUINED MACHINES: Mike's artwork for this is levels above what I've used for artwork in the past. All of the artwork for my previous releases was done by myself & I'm no visual artist. Each body's image conveys a 'wonderful sternness' ... They are as serious as they are playful & they fit each body perfectly.
AJ: On your website: "Largely an experiment, the idea behind Celestial Bodies is to see what we can come up with as a unit in a small amount of time. There is no pristine mixing, perfect technique, or completely pre-planned production. A stream of consciousness. We are creating maniacally; we enjoy the final product as if we're hearing it for the first time. We're on the journey just as much as everyone else is & we can't wait to see where it all leads." How is the restrictions of this project affecting you as artists in your respective mediums?
MICHAL: The time restrictions are there to keep the project going. For me, it’s a great way to create a body of work that not only stands well on its own, but is better with its musical counterparts.
RUINED MACHINES: I think about this a whole lot actually. There are 2 main schools of thought on this; setting deadlines on your art can be good or bad. It could be bad in the sense that it could have become extremely better had you given it more time, or it could be good in the sense that if the project wasn't rushed, it may never have been the same idea that came about, or it may never have even happened at all. Up until this year, I thought of deadlines on art as a terrible idea, & took 2 years to finish the previous RUINED MACHINES album Pressure & Obsession. But now, since Celestial Bodies is being used as an experiment to see what's conjured up between deadlines, I've been writing more than ever, & coming up with tons of ideas that are extremely out of character for RUINED MACHINES. There is more of a lax 'record everything & see what you can use' attitude this time around, rather than a 'only save that idea if it's top tier one' attitude. Some folks work better under pressure, some work better with none. I guess after Celestial Bodies is through, I'll have a better idea of which group I belong to.