Words by Peter Tanski
When considering an album titled after an excerpt from a spiritual program entitled A Course in Miracles, one could interpret that the music the recording withholds is something New Age at worst, ambient at best. The truth of the content lies in context.
Angel, the sole member of Fire-Toolz, has taken the idea of genre and torn it asunder. Adding Breathy synth and smooth jazz passages, prog rock riffs and “yacht rock” cool, all punctuated by coarse vocal takes that wouldn’t be out of place on a Brutal Truth album. This summation is by no means an attempt to box the project into a comfortable slot. More for the sake of context, again.
Off Shelf: I’m sure you have had this question posed many times, but what was the spark of inspiration that brought about a synthesis of Grindcore vocals and synthwave yacht rock?
Angel Marcloid: If you close your eyes and get as internally silent as you can, you will hear a quiet voice. It is the sound of a river, or stream, bubbling behind the gates of your heart. It’s not pushing that hard, as there isn’t much pressure built up. It’s natural inclination is to move, but it doesn’t force itself. See if you can unlock that gate and let the water of intuition flow out as it will. There might be fear, but don’t fret. Don’t think about it, don’t plan anything, don’t try to control it. Just let it move.
In other words, I never really set out to do anything but make music. I just ignored any preconceived notions about what would work, and just made music that sounded like what my body wants to experience when it hears music. I didn’t make any conscious decision to compose anything in particular before I started composing it.
I do very much like committing to certain limitations if that is what is intended. I was in this screamo band called Sea Breezes in my late 20s that sounded kind of like Suis La Lune and mid-era Loma Prieta. Strictly so. One of the guys wanted to start using keyboards and incorporating a little more psych rock and experimentation into our music. I more or less left the band. You’d think I’d be all over that idea, all things considered. But I wanted this certain vibe that came with locking ourselves in a small box. I wanted to be a bit of a purist about the genre because I wanted that specific sound, and nothing but that sound.
So I am just trying to illustrate that I like self-imposed rules when making music. And Fire-Toolz’s self-imposed rule just happens to be no rules. Usually when there are no rules, chaos ensues. But you still notice patterns in the chaos because that chaos is conditioned and influenced by a variety of outside factors. And so that chaos starts leaning in a certain direction, and starts doing more of one thing than another in somewhat of a particular way. Personality and temperament begins to reveal itself in what you thought was just white noise. And I guess that personality and temperament for me right now just happens to be what you’re calling “grindcore vocals and synthwave yacht rock.”
I do love that description. It’s reductive only because pretty much all of those kinds of statements are, but it is illustrating precisely the thing that makes people go, “lol wut. seems like a weird idea and kinda contrived but maybe i’d like it ironically??”
OS: Upon listening to your new single, I immediately had to ask ”What was the 14 year old version of you listening to way back when?”
AM: Okay, let’s see. 14. That was 1998. Lots of first and second wave emo. Dream Theater’s Falling Into Infinity had just come out, which was a little disappointing, but it only further encouraged me to continue listening to the preceding albums a thousand more times. Lots of Radiohead because OK Computer had just come out. Fear Factory – Obsolete, Type O Negative – October Rust, Sunny Day Real Estate – How It Feels To Be Something On and LP2, Deftones – Around The Fur, BT – ESCM, Mineral – Endserenading… maybe more like early 1999, No Knife – Hit Man Dreams, The Orb – Orblivion, The Cure – Wild Mood Swings, The Appleseed Cast – End Of The Ring Wars, Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral and the two before it, Morbid Angel – Domination, Planes Mistaken For Stars – s/t, and all the Emo Diaries compilations up to that point. Oh…and uh… The Verve Pipe – Villains.
OS: If you were to be pressed to sum up your sound to someone uninitiated, how would you describe it?
AM: Lately I’ve been saying “psycho-spiritual hard new age music for headphones.”
OS: If you were asked to soundtrack a film, what genre would your sound best suit?
AM: I could probably adapt a little. If I were to make pretty much anything I wanted, maybe it would fit with fantasy or science fiction films? Or like… strange avant-garde stuff? I’m not even sure. I really loved how Explosions In The Sky did a soundtrack for a show about football, so I guess the possibilities are endless.
OS: As novel as the dichotomous nature of your work may be, I do glean a hint of something almost sinister simmering beneath the surface. Can you expound upon that for us?
AM: There actually isn’t. I don’t hide anything from my listeners.
OS: There seems to be a new renaissance of artists that proudly utilize aspects of 70’s AM Radio and “Yacht Rock”, from artists such as Lil Yachty, but none are using its isms quite the way you do. Is there something in youth consciousness that is newly drawn to Steely Dan?
AM: Oh yea. Steely Dan has grown in popularity quite immensely in the younger generations. We have the memes to thank for it. But I also think people are starting to re-discover the genuine value in yacht rock, soft rock, AOR, jazz fusion, smooth jazz, jazz rock, and adult contemporary. It’s not good ironically anymore, it’s just good. It always has been. But sometimes when people become cool, it is seen as uncool to like things that aren’t seen as authentically cool. But then, when those apparently cool people reach actual, real, ultimate cool, which is catalyzed by humility, honesty and self-actualization… then you discover an authentic, heartfelt connection with Christopher Cross, Kenny Loggins, Winger, Richard Marx, Starship, and Kenny G.
As far as those artists and genres, I am mostly aligned with what is found in the 80s and very early 90s. I do love 70s music, specifically prog from the late 70s, but the 80s is really where it’s at for me. It was the golden era of music for me. My brain was developing when saccharine arena rock ballads were being pummeled into my ear drums.
OS: When this album is released and the world has been exposed to its lupine fury, what can we expect as far as touring? And what act’s would you like to play with?
AM: I used to tour often, but I have rarely toured in the past 5 years. I am very committed to my full time work as a mixing and mastering engineer. Plus my wife and I have five pets, most of which you might consider “special needs.” She works full time and goes to school, so I have a lot of responsibility around here. Getting out of town for any chunk of time is at the moment very difficult. But who knows? It could happen. Promoters around the world are dangling carrots in front of me right now trying to get me to play in Portugal, NYC, Germany, LA… It’s hard to keep turning it all down.
To be real though… live performance when it comes to Fire-Toolz is not something I am passionate about. I love playing live, but Fire-Toolz is so calculated and dense that it’s hard to pull it off live without almost all of it being backing tracks, and there is no room for improvisation of any kind due to everything being lined up with the videos, and the textures in the songs being so specific and full of “studio magic.” I’d rather be playing improv noise live, or playing guitar in an emo band again. Or playing drums for a jazz fusion rock band.
OS: I’ve yet to ask this of any artists, but I believe that you will take it in the intended spirit… What do you think, are we on the cusp of a full scale extra planetary invasion, or are all of the world’s superpowers reverting to 1800s technology and using balloons to peek at one another?
AM: The Earth is amidst a huge transformation of consciousness. We are just too zoomed in to see how obvious it is, and we won’t be around in these bodies long enough to reap many of the benefits. But as far as I know, most of us reincarnate on the same planet, so “we” – in a more fundamental sense – will see it all eventually.
Or maybe we already have… it is said that time is “different” in higher densities, so maybe our souls have been jumping around different millennia in the course of their evolutionary journeys.
As far as invasions… we’re not going to get invaded. We are going to be visited. We already have been. We will be helped. And we already have been.