Monster In The Machine
Monster in the Machine is more than just music; it’s an active aural experience. Vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Shannon Crawford crafted a record that entrances the listener with swirling acoustic melodies and haunting, hypnotic electronics. From the infectiously incendiary chorus of “Under Your Shadow” to the sonic dreamscape of “Helicopter,” the music remains memorable. Pristine melodies soar over brooding beats, and tracks like “Savior” convey a message of disenchantment and call for change. Underneath the beauty of the music lies an honest mirror reflecting social ills.
Yet, hope for a solution exists. Issues faced include the death of our environment, religion’s contradictions and the perilous existence of an artist under the thumb of a corporation. Signed to Ko?n guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer’s independent label Emotional Syphon Recordings, these are some of the darker themes that Crawford delves into with Monster in the Machine’s debut BUTTERFLY PINNED.
This album is not Crawford’s first foray into the recording world. In 1997, his band Cellophane was signed to Virgin. “Cellophane had a good record that fell through the cracks,” Crawford says. “For a long time it was really heartbreaking to have had that and lose it. I was 23-years-old, and I couldn’t deal with personalities of the music business. I quit, because no one at the label was doing anything anyway. They just put us out on the road, and that was it.”
Disillusioned with the music industry, Crawford pursued another passion, painting. His work has been acquired by celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to author Jerry Stahl. He also created the cover for Norma Jean’s highly successful REDEEMER album. In the midst of painting, he never lost sight of his musical ambitions. Then inspiration struck in 2006. “A lot of it has to do with maturity. Being a full-time single father to my daughter helped me.” He continues, “Last year, I just began writing all of these really good songs because I wasn’t trying to push it or force it. I just let it go and all of these great things came to me and through me.”
Once finished, Crawford played the demos for longtime friend Shaffer. “James has been my biggest cheerleader for years. He’d been on the fence about starting a label, and when I played him my first songs, he said, ‘That’s it. I’m starting it.’” Shaffer loved the music so much he even lent his guitar talents to the tense album closer “Don’t.” Josh Freese stepped in to handle drum duties for the entire record. Imani Coppola plays violin on “Shut the Door.” The recording lineup was then rounded out by ex-Cellophane, Puddle of Mudd bassist Doug Arditio. Crawford produced the album himself, and they mixed and recorded at Henson Studios (A&M).
Ultimately, the record traverses an entire emotional spectrum. “The major label mindset is that you don’t want to be too diverse, and you don’t want to confuse people. I think the public is smart enough to handle a diverse record. BUTTERFLY PINNED is eclectic and honest, but at the same time, it’s ethereal. It takes you to another dimension. Art is an escape, and people want to escape.” The title of the record sums up the concept perfectly. “It’s about the death for vanity, and the butterfly pinned is a perfect example of that because it’s usually overlooked. For example, we are killing everyday for our vanity by the cars we drive,” exclaims Crawford. “I’ve got to practice what I preach by driving a Prius and a vegetable oil car, and I’m trying. People just need to try.” Shannon is more than doing his part for music and beyond with Monster in the Machine.
Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? Shannon Crawford - "Anything that moved me. At an early age I was very sensitive to musical vibrations. I could fill the whole page with influences, I like people to guess by listening to the album. By the way, I'm still growing up."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying your new CD, how would you yourself describe your sound? "Early Bowie, Late Beatles, with 80's overtones."
Your album title 'Butterfly Pinned' is an interesting choice, but perhaps it means something more personal to you guys? "The Pinned Butterfly represents death for vanity, which we are all guilty of. It has a duel meaning as well. It's what major record labels do, they collect butterflies, (artists) and pin them up to display, for their collection."
And just where does the bands name originate? "The Monster In The Machine is the human race. We're the ones who keep the corporate beast alive. We are feeding it with our greed, fear, wants, and what we think we need. And to quit cold turkey, would be like a junkie kicking cold turkey. And our Methadone is Ethanol, which is just replacing one drug for another."
Whatever happened to Cellophane and why didn't it get the radio air play that it deserved? "It got pretty good airplay actually. Every city we went to, the kids knew the songs. The label didn't connect the dots. They didn't have any records in the stores, and it was pre-iTunes. So if someone wanted it, too bad, they couldn't get it. And we wonder why the music business is collapsing. Actually the "business" isn't because labels will just offer "deals” where they now take publishing, merch and your first born, so the suits can maintain their homes in Aspen, and their yachts in Miami. And the artist gets f**ked more than ever."
How easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it within the industry?"I write music that pleases me. That, along with having a good ear, and what I hope is good taste in music, helps me to accomplish the completion of an album that I love. Good music has no shelf life. Even though there are many singles on this record, the band wasn't signed, because of the "single" therefore everyone gets to hear an amazing record, rather than a hot single followed by a bunch of sh*t."
Please tell us more about your own personal favorite two (2) songs from this new album and what they mean to you to play each time? "That's so hard to say, because I love the whole album collectively and to separate one or two songs would be like throwing one of your kids in a foster home."
Are you still an artist/painter ... and if so, who was the last famous person to buy something from you .. and how much did they spend?! "Greg Strause, director of “Alien Vs Predator,” just bought 3, and I can't say how much, sorry."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today ... and why?! "Pet Shop Boys, "West End Girls" I've just always wanted to cover it. I love the song. I would never want to cover a Beatles or Bowie song, because it would be blasphemous. Almost as blasphemous as re-making a John Waters movie."
Lastly, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "Yes I do, everyone should. And if we stay on our path of irresponsible breeding habits, consumption, and destruction of natural resources, if we keep polluting land sea and air, and dangerously heating Earth with our fancy big cars, the Penguins will be the first to go when the polar ice caps melt."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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