by Michael McCarthy
It’s hard to believe, and makes me feel old, but I’ve been following Tim Skold’s career for roughly 30 years now. I first became aware of his music when he went by the name Tim Tim and was the bass player for Shotgun Messiah, who were considered a hair band by most but in hindsight were way more in the punk genre. After one great album, Shotgun Messiah parted ways with their singer and Tim made the switch from bass to vocals. These days, he plays more instruments than I can probably count and wields a guitar during his live performances, but at the time he opted to simply focus on vocals. The album that followed, Second Coming, was amazing. Does it sound dated now? Slightly. Not nearly as much as most albums from that era though. Shotgun Messiah’s third album was called Violent New Breed and was quite different. They might as well have called it Third Coming. This time around, their sound was very much in the industrial vein, industrial being something that neither of their previous albums sounded like whatsoever. As a huge fan of Second Coming, it hit me like a slap in the face. I hated it the first time I listened to it. But it was different and I kept listening to it from time to time. It was like looking at the scene of a car accident. You might not like it, but somehow you’re attracted to it. Eventually, though, I became a big fan of the album. After Shotgun Messiah was over, Tim released a killer solo album and joined KMFDM, which was not a stretch from Violent New Breed at all, and they made some great music together. I had never been a fan of theirs, but Tim injected them with more energy and dare I say passion. From there, Tim went on to join Marilyn Manson for The Golden Age of Grotesque and Eat Me, Drink Me albums. The first one is my favorite Marilyn Manson album and in my opinion it’s his catchiest. When Eat Me, Drink Me came out, I was prepared to love it, as Tim had an even larger role in it, but there weren’t nearly as many hooks and I was disappointed. In hindsight, though, it’s a solid if unique Manson effort. After splitting with Manson, Skold resumed activities with KMFDM and was part of the revamped version of the group that put out an experimental album as MDFMK. He also started releasing solo albums again. 2011 saw the release of Anomie, one of the best albums of his career. Which brings us to this year and the release of The Undoing, which finds him at his most brilliant, blurring the lines between electro/industrial/metal and punk in a way that only he can do. If you like truly original music that gets in your face, then I should think it would more than please you. Proceed with caution and get to know the man and his tunes. Also, be prepared for some of the most interesting answers we’ve ever gotten to our random questions.
MM: I was just reading in Wikipedia that The Undoing was originally going to come out in 2014. So, I was wondering what spawned the delay and if there were any songs that were scrapped in favor of new songs?
TS: The scrapping of it, cancellation, the late arrival came… See, I want to be congenial in the way I express this. I had interplanetarial people telling me things in my ears, suggesting that I should do things a certain way and I listened to them. I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing because sometimes you have to take chances, but sometimes you have to go across the bridge to get water and that’s what I did with this. There’s always two sides to the story my side is that I was abandoned and essentially, you know, came back to Metropolis [Records] asking if they would let me back and they said that they would. So, I was very, very happy about coming back to Metropolis. The album in itself was kept in tact throughout that whole time. As an artist, it’s really easy to get sucked in and before you know it you’re deep in that rabbit hole. You’re making a Chinese democracy. So, I forbid myself to [make changes]. If there’s something that I think that I’ve learned over time, and with music, is that there comes a time in a song or in a project’s life where you kind of have to accept that it’s the way it is. You can always change it, especially these days with computers. You can always change things forever. You have all of these options. But sometimes that’s just not healthy for you. And it’s definitely not rock ‘n’ roll. It is what it is. I’m very happy I kept it that way, too. Some of the changes I would have done I know technically would have been the correct thing to do, but I’m still very happy with it and I think it’s a good piece. It should be in tact the way it was.
MM: What were you doing in between the time you finished touring for the last album and started recording The Undoing? Were you producing any other artists or anything?
TS: Yes. Now, I actually didn’t even go touring for the last record. There was talk and I even had a couple guys in rehearsal and we were hashing out songs. Your head’s in different places at different times in your life and it was very loosely. I’m not much of a hippie. So, it wasn’t meant to happen that way. The last touring I’d actually done was back in 2007 with Marilyn Manson. So, since then I’ve only done a few shows. I had a project in Norway with a couple of guys. And we did ten or a dozen shows touring in Scandinavia and that was it. I haven’t toured or done shows aside from the occasional guest thing since then. But, yes, to get back to the meat of the question, I did work with another band and that band was Motionless in White. Essentially struck up a good relationship with Chris Motionless. I did half – I think technically half – of the Infamous album and contributed I think it was three or four songs on Reincarnate. I would have to look up that. Someone at the record company didn’t like me and the songs using hard profanity there [and] did not let me get my due credit. So, my name fell off of the back. You have to dig deep to find my name. But I am on there. I’m actually guest singing on it, too, so there’s a track on there. There’s a track I did with Motionless called “Final Dictvm” that at one point [I] considered for The Undoing but it was never officially on The Undoing. But it was in that batch. In that realm.
MM: When you started making electronic and industrial music there weren’t as many ways to do it back then. What were you using for instruments and equipment back in the early days?
TS: In the very, very beginning I was in a cock rock band – in a glam rock band – people can call it whatever they want. Came out to the U.S. in 88 with a band called Shotgun Messiah.
MM: Yup. I loved them.
TS: OK. Me and Harry always listened to all sorts of different music. Lots of stuff coming out of the U.K. Some of the stuff that the Generation X guys were doing. And also American. People didn’t use the term hip-hop or even R&B the way they do now. You would hear a Janet Jackson album, for example and you would hear these awesome sounds. Like, how did they get their stuff to sound that way? The electronics. The trigger. And there’s different ways you can try to achieve that. So, we did a little bit with Shotgun. We already incorporated drum triggers and some of the unorthodox. There was so little available and the stuff that was available was ridiculously expensive. So, we didn’t do a ton of it, but we did some of it. And for the last Shotgun Messiah record I had a sampler. I had a synthesizer. A sequencer. And you lived on floppy discs. 1.4 megabytes and a megabyte – I’m not gonna do the math for people today but even if you do they don’t understand. A miniscule amount of what you have in your current phone of data. My set up at the time if you want to hear gear was a Roland W30 used as a sampler and a Kurzweil 2000, the sampler option. It was both a synthesizer and a sampler. Definitely more of a synthesizer than the Akai machines. The contemporary boxes. And that was my main workstation. And, yeah, I lived on floppy discs. I would back up my stuff on floppies and each song was less than a box of floppies. Please insert disc seven, you know? I think it was a good lesson learned because I learned how wrangle and manage data in a different way. I’m clearly more frugal than most of my peers and younger people who I work with today who never knew that feeling. It doesn’t exist today. Just get a bigger drive.
MM: What equipment do you use today now that there are so many options?
TS: I have still a love of gear and the love of gear has somewhat morphed into a love of software and I’ve gone through many changes back and forth, up and down. I’ve played the field, you know, if I try to summarize it I mostly live in a Macintosh and I get a lot of stuff done in Pro-Tools. And it’s partially because I jumped on it early on and they kind of got me. [Laughs] So, once you have a vested interest in a platform it makes sense to keep doing that. Back with KMFDM, MDFMK, I suggested we switch to Logic because Logic was actually my first sequencer – I call it a sequencer – it’s called a DAW now. Logic was about to be purchased by Apple and became some other version of Logic. I usually keep a fairly current version of that around, too. So, I kind of dabble. There’s been times when I’ve pretty much run a demo of pretty much any of the competitors and I play the field just to check out what I can do. Sometimes you generate some cool stuff.
MM: Do you work with a lot of samples and loops with those programs?
TS: Yeah. It’s funny, I was just gonna say I still have a soft spot – there’s this company in Sweden – I’m born and raised in Sweden, I’m Swedish – called Propellerheads and they were the first ones to put out a really convincing 303, Roland TB303 clone, software version. And it came in a package with two 303s and one 808. Or a 909. So, it was essentially techno in your computer. It was just insane that you could do this. It was so cool. And they kind of got it right. So, I will always love them for that and I still dabble with their current DAW’s called Reason. And Reason has just about anything. They also have a great set of Moog players. And ways of dealing with loops. I like to synthesize but I also use a lot of samples. And I try to keep my neck clear so I’m not open for litigation. That’s part of making music. The excitement of being able to recycle. Adapt.
MM: Listening to a song like “Today Your Love” it’s obvious that your songs have a lot of tracks. How many tracks would you say your average song has?
TS: Oh, OK. Yes. It becomes very apparent once you put a band in a room and try to figure out how we would [play them]. Let’s say I would do every component. Every component of this would be performed live. I would need an orchestra. I clearly over-produce. I’m a child of Phil Spector. Wall of sound will always be king. I think I counted at one point. To do this one specific song – I don’t think it was “Today Your Love” though – but I counted [and] I needed about seventeen members. I needed seventeen people on stage. You know, that’s clearly not gonna work. I can barely afford to pay the ones I have. So, yeah, it is ridiculous. And I acknowledge that. And I kind of gloat in that. Phil Spector, you know?
MM: I think it really works for you.
TS: Well, thank you very much. Thank you.
MM: So, do you do demos for any of your songs or do you just sit down and create them and when it’s done, it’s done?
TS: It’s funny because in the early days of electronic home set ups you could put up in a garage it was always thought of as you were making demos. That you were later on going to go into a proper studio and finish. And I can’t remember when it changed. But at some point it changed. I want to say it must have been ’93, ’94. The final Shotgun Messiah record. Because so much of what I had generated as demos actually survived. Was part of the finished, the completed tracks. I guess that’s when it kind of shifted. And I use a little more caution when I start an idea. There’s a definite break from just jotting down an idea to actually starting a song. So, at some point you have all the ideas but those sessions themselves aren’t supposed to become songs. There’s a different realm for that. It’s very early on. I mean, the demo stage has kind of disappeared. There’s a new scribble, jotting down ideas stage that happens earlier on. But it quickly becomes what’s supposed to be the finalized, completed version.
MM: When you write songs do you start with a title or a lyric or the beats – how does the magic happen?
TS: It’s almost always a beat. A beat or synth or guitar riff. And it’s funny. Music. I still love making music. I’d sit around and make tracks all day if I could, you know? I would not tour. To be honest, I love playing these songs live, too, I think it translates super well and I dig my band, but, no, if I could be honest I would go in a bunker and just make tracks.
MM: What is your live show like? How many musicians do you have? Do you use sequencers or a laptop to run some of the more complex electronic sounds?
TS: Correct. Indeed. Yes. And it’s a crazy set up in some ways. I try to keep it as minimal as possible because it needs to travel and it needs to travel on a certain level, you know? So, my old version has to be kept at a minimum. So, we’re definitely using the machine for all its worth. Some stuff is actually pre-recorded material. There’s additions and enhancements and added stuff topped to that. The guitars and the vocals are examples because they actually go through the machine and there is some automated processing happening. I just can’t afford a sound guy to sit around and do that stuff. So, it’s easier to kind of trick that out in the DAW. And since we’re running on a time line, I want it to happen pretty much the same every night. What I sing might be different but at least I know the processing is gonna be happening a certain way. So, I’m kind of performing with the machine. And sometimes actually against the machine. That’s just because of the mindset. Same thing with the guitar. I have pre-programmed stomp pedal effect type things happening. The first one was because I was singing and playing at the same time and I couldn’t reach my foot over to the pedal. It really just became too much for me to pull off. So, I started using the machine as a help. Almost as a crutch. And realized that I could use it to go even further and to start swinging that crutch around like a lunatic. [Laughs]
MM: So, do you have a live drummer with you?
TS: Yes. It’s me doing the vocals and guitars and my keyboard player’s Tiffany Lowe and she runs the machines, the synthesizers and the electronic components and I have a drummer. My drummer’s Eli James. And his kit is very rigged electronically. And it’s a sight to behold as well.
MM: I know that you’re currently out on the road touring for The Undoing in the States. Is this the first country you’re touring for the album?
TS: Yes, it is. It’s an American band and an American tour.
MM: Will you be touring overseas at all or are you just planning to tour here?
TS: There are some talks about Europe. There’s been some talks about Russia. There’s even talks about South America. But nothing is firm at this point. We are definitely welcoming suggestions. We’re open for any opportunities.
MM: Do you find that your type of music is more popular in Europe than it is in the States? I know that early on they were bigger into industrial.
TS: Yeah, it’s hard to tell. Industrial as a term has changed and morphed throughout time. So, it’s hard to get a bearing on what constitutes a scene or what constitutes a scene today as opposed to ten years ago. It’s always changing. That’s part of the excitement. My music isn’t that obviously industrial to some people but to other people it is. And I’m kind of like straddling every day, just thinking, well, that’s really electro now I’m gonna change that, that’s gonna be guitars instead. I want to change everything so now it sounds like a punk rock song. And that’s part of the excitement of creating. From a marketing prospective I think that could be tricky for a record company and even people writing reviews. It’s hard to explain. But that’s what makes it exciting to me.
MM: What’s your set list like? Do you do any Marilyn Manson songs or Shotgun Messiah songs or do you exclusively do material from your solo albums?
TS: There is some oddball stuff in there. There is no Shotgun Messiah at all. There’s always a couple of guys every night, “Oh, I wanted you to play so and so.” Yeah, me, too. I messed around with some of it but whenever I get to the guitar lead I go, well, Harry Cody needs to play this. And also for me to remain excited about what I do I have to look forward. I can’t be looking back. I’m not embarrassed. Looking back, I have no qualms or issues with anything I’ve done. To me, the progression makes perfect sense because I lived it. To other people it could probably be jarring to see some old pictures and so forth but so be it. I’ve just gotta, at some point, figure out what makes sense for this version of the band and what we can do. The hard fact is that my keyboard player and my drummer are younger and they don’t really get the Shotgun Messiah stuff. So, that is a different band. To me, it was a very special time in my life so I don’t necessarily want to rip it apart and mess with it and reinvent it. There’s really no need to do that. It stands for itself.
MM: What about the Marilyn Manson songs? Do you do any of those?
TS: Well, it’s funny because I produced two cover songs. Produced and performed with Marilyn Manson, two cover songs. I produced “Personal Jesus” and I produced “Tainted Love.” “Tainted Love” was my first song with Manson. That’s why I got hired to stay on with the band as a producer and as a band member for The Golden Age. So, I do those. The question is, are they technically Marilyn Manson songs or not? Because they were covers. They were written by other people. But to me I’m connected with them because I produced what people considered fairly decent versions of them. So, it’s a funny thing to play. To me, they’re open for reinterpretation eternally. Over and over. And you get other people specifically the man in black [Johnny Cash] doing “Personal Jesus” in a fantastic way. So, it’s a curious song by now. It’s been covered so many times. It’s fun to play just from its own perspective. I’ll always have the Marilyn Manson tie in to the track. And there’s one KMFDM song that I just have to do because people would just lynch me and tar and feather me and that’s the “Anarchy” song from the Symbols record. And I love the track. It’s very, very special to me. The time and the place and how it came about. It’s very special. So, that’s in the set. Then we do a crazy version of a remix version of a song from the SKOLD VS. KMFDM album. And that’s one of the songs where you can really tell the insider from the casual listener. I like to challenge the crowd. Just a little bit. I’m not here to entertain you, I’m here to teach you a lesson. [Both laugh]
MM: Who designed the album cover for The Undoing?
TS: That’s me.
MM: The lettering that your name is in – is that just a font you came up with or is it a particular type of runes?
TS: It’s derivative of the old Germanic runes. So, being Swedish, I have a connection to the old runes. The Viking runes. There’s still plenty of that stuff out in the woods, carved into rocks. And I’ve always had a connection to that. And to please me aesthetically I clearly took some creative liberties. I’m sure the Vikings, if they had computers, would’ve done similar stylings. So, I feel good about it. [Laughs]
MM: At the end of our interviews we always ask some RANDOM QUESTIONS. Is that cool?
TS: Well, OK, I can try. You might get a random answer though.
MM: That’s fine. First of all, what do you think of the vinyl comeback? Are you a fan of vinyl?
TS: Yes, it makes a fantastic hat. A few beers into the record, it’s a wonderful Pope hat. So, there you go, you get a random answer for a random question. But on the sideline, I don’t have a vinyl set up, but, yeah, I grew up on vinyl. I love vinyl. I love the physical, tangible format of being able to open up the sleeve and open up the inner sleeve and have all this information and read the lyrics and all the pictures. Kiss 2 Alive was one of my first albums. To look at that album today, it’s unbelievable. Great stuff. So, yeah, I’m a fan of the format. But I also understand that it’s a moment in time. People are re-experiencing something. But [for] a lot of them it’s a different thing because they are look at it as a retro format. Something from the past. But to me it was very much something current. Upcoming, so to speak. I remember being in a bus, just driving, as a child, going to the big city, forty five minutes there, forty five minutes back, just to get the Iron Maiden Number of the Beast. So, the first hour I spent with that album was not even listening to it. And I already loved it.
MM: Tell us three things from your bucket list that you have yet to do.
TS: Oh, well, the bucket list, wow. You know this can turn dark really quick, right?
MM: That’s all right.
TS: No, you’ve gotta be careful with your questions and who you ask what. [Laughs] I’m not necessarily captain sunshine here, you know? I just got a dog back from the emergency room. He’s been on oxygen for a week here. So, you know, my bucket list, I’d trade my entire bucket list for another day with my dog.
MM: I hear you. I have a cat that recently developed diabetes and he has an immune system disorder that he’s had for years on top of that.
TS: Uh huh. Are you doing the injections?
TS: That same dog, I do that twice a day, 13 units, you know. It’s a lot of work, but, to me, it needs to be done. It becomes part of the parcel. Let’s see if I can lighten this up a little bit. Bucket list. Well, I can lighten it up but then it kind of becomes silly after something like that. I shouldn’t have went there. [Laughs]
MM: We can go to the next question.
TS: Yeah, you know, my entire life has been a bucket list and re-writing the bucket list every so often. It’s part of the program. So, I kind of forgot that it’s a list by now. Just try to be a decent person and then the pursuit of happiness. That’s what it is.
MM: If you could resurrect any one musician from the dead, who would you bring back?
TS: Oh my goodness. I’m sure this is intended to be nice then they actually come back alive not as zombies and I have to impale them or stab them in the head or something.
MM: No, they’d be coming back perfectly normal.
TS: OK, in a good way, in a nice way. Maybe we should pick someone fresh so they’re not too stinky? [Both laugh] Wow. That’s deep, too. You know what would thrill me like nothing else is probably is bringing up one of the old classical composers like Ludwig van. Get Beethoven in front of a decent DAW. Use a computer system and see what he would make out of that. He’s clearly gonna need some time to adapt.
MM: Oh yeah, definitely.
TS: We need to find a king who will pay him, who’ll commission him to write a piece, too. So, it gets complicated. But that thrills me. Even taking the computer part out of it for one of those guys from back then who wrote a piece to be performed at certain intervals as a presentation for them to come and travel in time and see these really nice numbers of really high quality recordings done by countless orchestras, interpretations of their work, their minds would be blown. Like really. I think I would pick one of those guys. Not the modern. There’s a song by The Ramones, “Pet Semetary.”
MM: That’s a good one.
TS: That was for the film. It’s very near and dear to me. The question again is the right question for the right person, it gets dark really quick over here.
MM: What’s the first album you ever bought with your own money?
TS: That was Kiss Alive 2. Yup, that was Kiss Alive 2.
MM: Here’s one that could get dark. What’s the most awkward exchange you’ve ever had with a fellow musician?
TS: Awkward? Awkward insinuates it’s bad. Because sometimes awkward can be hilarious.
MM: It could be hilarious or bad. Either way.
TS: I mean, there’s been many occasions where I have an earful of Marilyn Manson’s make up coming off stage and I’m like what is all this pink shit in my ear? Oh, yeah, Manson. You know, working with Chris Motionless recently because he’s so many years younger than me or I am many years his senior, you can put it that way instead. It sounds more authority. It was really, really fun and rewarding in ways I didn’t necessarily expect it to be. I thought I was hired to essentially do one thing and once we got into actually doing it me and Chris started butting heads a little bit. The ethical side of what you can do and how you can do it. We came out really good friends after it. So, it was a really cool experience that way. It’s funny because awkward because I’ve been – I don’t want to use the term blessed, but I’ve done some really cool shit with some really amazing people and I’ve had a blast doing it. I don’t even think I’m entitled to a bucket list.
MM: Yeah. You’ve already done so much awesome stuff.
TS: If I heard someone like me talk about a bucket list I would tell them to shut the hell up. [Laughs]
MM: That’s a good point. I’ll ask you one last one. If someone was giving you a million dollars to go to charity and it had to go to one charity or cause, which would you give it to?
TS: I don’t necessarily want to name a specific charity, but it would definitely be to help rescue pets. Because I think humans, for the large part, are bags of shit in the way we treat animals. It’s despicable. I would try to put a dent in that a little bit.
Much thanks to Tim for taking the time to do this interview and to Rey Roldan of Reybee Inc. for setting it up!
Tue, Nov 8 – Omaha NE @ Lookout Lounge
Wed, Nov 9 – Chicago IL @ Cobra Lounge
Thu, Nov 10 – Detroit MI @ Smalls
Fri, Nov 11 – Cleveland OH @ Phantasy Concert Club
Sat, Nov 12 – Toronto ON @ The Cave at Lee’s Palace
Sun, Nov 13 – Providence RI @ Alchemy
Wed, Nov 16 – Wilkes Barre PA @ The Other Side
Thu, Nov 17 – Wilmington DE @ Asylum 13
Fri, Nov 18 – Clifton NJ @ Dingbatz
Sat, Nov 19 – New York NY @ The Delancey
Sun, Nov 20 – Virginia Beach VA @ Shaka’s
Tue, Nov 22 – Atlanta GA @ 10 High
Sat, Nov 26 – Miami FL @ Churchills
Mon, Nov 28 – New Orleans LA @ Siberia
Wed, Nov 30 – Houston TX @ Satellite Bar
Fri, Dec 2 – San Antonio TX @ Korova
Sun, Dec 4 – Scottsdale AZ @ Rogue Bar