Flesh and Circuitry: an interview with Shikhee a.k.a. Android Lust

Android Lust

Android Lust is the solo project of New Jersey-based electro-industrial diva Shikhee. Characterized by developed and melodic musical structures as well as Shikhee’s talented vocals (even when distorted), Android Lust’s sound can be described as desperate and obsessive, sometimes brushing on the claustrophobic, while retaining a fighting spirit against all odds.
Despite a relatively small discography, Android Lust is a reference name in the North American electro-industrial scenes, thanks to the overall quality and originality of her music. Still, she remains somewhat unknown in the European scenes.
Her debut full-length album, “Resolution”, was released in late 1997 on the label Tinman Records. It was followed by the remix album “Evolution” in early 1999. After a relatively long hiatus, the criticaly-acclaimed single “The Want” was released by the label Dark Vision Media in October 2001, a glimpse of things to come in the upcoming album “The Dividing”…

C.B. – Can you tell us a bit more about the musical projects and bands you were involved with prior to Android Lust?

The band I was in before Android Lust was called The Inbred. It was myself and another person named Marshall. It was sort of an electronic goth rock project. We both played guitar and did all the programming. That band dissolved after a year of us playing out together.

Before that I was in a project called Strange Fruit. That project was started by myself and a guitar player called Mark. He was really a great guitar player, kind of like Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth. But unfortunately his best work was always in the rehearsal studio. We had more of a rock set up with guitar/bass/drums. We probably went through 6/7 drummers in the span of a year and a half. Mark’s old band-mates started calling him after Strange Fruit started playing out, and Mark could not decide which band he would rather be in. That initiated some bad blood and eventually caused us to break up.

C.B. – What caused you to follow onwards as a solo artist in the field of industrial-electronics?

After The Inbred broke up, I really did not want to go through the whole band democracy process anymore. Also, I had a hell of a time finding compatible people to play with. I was already used to doing a lot of programming on my workstation at that time, and I had built up a pretty decent fan base. So I felt I could just remain a solo artist and just ask people to play with me live. It relieved a lot of headache for me and gave me complete control over my music.

C.B. – And, why the name Android Lust?

A friend of mine came up with that name. It represented the perfect dichotomy that I was going for – cold electronics with human emotions.

C.B. – Hearing your songs, one thing that grabs the listener’s attention is your vocal talent, even when under layers of distortion. Another thing is the musical structure to your which does seem to be carefuly crafted.
Did you have any formal musical education or singing training?

I’ve had formal vocal training when I was young. I took some guitar lessons as well. But I got bored with it after several weeks. I am self taught in all other aspects of music.

Android LustC.B. – “Born in Bangladesh, schooled in England and the United States” (quoting your site). How do you feel that this exposition to diverse cultures and mindsets influenced your musical creativity?

I think it made me more receptive to different style and ideas. More willing to try out new things.

C.B. – What musical influences would you say were crucial as inspiration for the shaping of the Android Lust sound? And current influences?

David Bowie, Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails and Bjork.

C.B. – How does your music creation process work? How do you create a song/musical piece?

It’s never quite the same. Sometimes it starts with a particular sound, sometimes it starts with a melody line or a rhythm. It really depends on what strikes my mood.

C.B. – If there is one thing that characterizes Android Lust is an ineherent extreme sexuality. And this in a music genre that usualy is anything but sexual.
How do you view yourself in a music genre that is predominantly created by men? Can you be considered, in adition to a talented musician, to be also some sort of sex-symbol?

I view myself as someone who is trying to do what fulfills me emotionally. It is something I need to do. I don’t consider myself a sex symbol at all. I don’t go out of my way to play up or hide my sexuality.

C.B. – Could this ‘girl in the boys’ playground also have contributed somehow positively to your notoriety in the electro-industrial genre?

It may have. It’s easy to focus on the odd one out.

C.B. – Unfortunately, I never had the oportunity to attend one of your live performances, however, some images and videos are available at your site. One of the things that struck me from those images is the the body art which is simply amazing. Who is/was responsible for the origin/concept of the designs?

Paul Komoda is the artist. I originally had the idea that I wanted to have some sort of body art, so I asked Paul. He came up with all the different designs that you have seen in the photos.

C.B. – Considering the rather obvious references to Fetish/BDSM in Android Lust (lyrics, aesthetics) one wonders if you could elaborate somewhat on your views and attitude towards this particular scene?

I like some of the fashion that comes out if it, but I am not a part of that scene.

C.B. – What do you think of its intermingling with the dark/goth/electro-industrial scenes?

I never really gave it any thought.

C.B. – Are you in some way involved in the Fetish/BDSM scene, as event organizer/promoter?

No.

Android LustC.B. – Considering your discography as Android Lust, one gathers that it is not your main activity. What other occupation(s) do you have apart from AL and how to you conjugate both?

I have a day job. I work as a web designer. It’s not easy to work 8-10 hours a day on a job I care little about, and then come home and try to turn on the inspiration to work on music. But unfortunately that’s what I have to do. As a result I have practically no social life. It seems you can be anything you want to be in this country, except if you happen to be an artist. Then you have to have a day job just to be able to pay your bills, which in turn sucks your life away from what you really want to, or need to do.

C.B. – Despite this relatively small discography you have carved yourself a name in the North American electro-industrial scene and your next release is eagerly awaited, especialy after the single “The Want” which garnered high praise.
What can we expect from “The Dividing” in terms of musical evolution compared to previous albums?

“The Dividing” has a different sound than my previous work. While this album remains very electronic, I used a fair amount of live instrumentation. The style has also shifted somewhat. Some songs have a rock-ish feel to them. There is a lot more singing than my previous albums and there are virtually no dialogue samples.

C.B. – How do you perceive your musical evolution since “Resolution”?

When I did “Resolution”, I wanted to make an electro album. I don’t have that head anymore. Now I just want to make music regardless of style. I want to experiment more with different instruments, different vocal styles and different feels.

C.B. – In a medium where the average time between releases is around two years, one can almost say that “The Dividing” has been due for a long time. What caused this long interval between your first full-length release, “Resolution”, and the upcoming “The Dividing”?

I had writer’s block. Mostly due to depression. There were lots of changes going on in my life when I was supposed to be working on the album. And they had a very negative effect on me. I just couldn’t get anything to work out. I went to therapy for about a year and a half. And eventually I was able to work again. I don’t know if it was due to the therapy, or just enough time had passed for me to get over some personal blocks.

In this genre, most bands out there are putting out crap. It’s no surprise that it takes most bands little time to put their albums together. I happen to care very much about Android Lust’s material, and I will not release anything that I consider mediocre.

Android LustC.B. – “The Want” was released by Dark Vision Media the label of the project I, Parasite. However they claim that they won’t be releasing your next full-length. Are there any options, or dates, for a release of “The Dividing” on the horizon at the moment?

There is no release date as of yet. Dark Vision Media still remains an option. But we’re looking into other possibilities as well.

C.B. – In the meantime, Tinman Records, closed shop as did other North-American labels over the past couple of years (Ras Dva, Gashed!, etc…) while other labels have poped up (Inception, Dystopian). However, it seems that more labels are vanishing than showing up and Metropolis might become ‘the’ central label for the electro-industrial genre in the U.S.. How do you feel that this state of affairs can affect musicians?

The labels that remain in business tend to be the ones committed to hard work. Small labels come and go. Especially if they just do it to release their friends’ projects. They eventually close because they never intended to do the work necessary for this business. Of course it affects artists a lot. Small labels that are just in it because its their hobby end up screwing the artists. It may mean very little to them, but it’s our career.

C.B. – What about prospects as far as European labels go? There seems to be quite a surge of new labels in Europe over the past couple of years…

I am afraid I haven’t really kept up with news of European labels.

C.B. – You are one of the artists that makes use of the service MP3.com to make it easier to reach an audience (or create one). Do you feel that this internet service does work as it should?

There is so much music on mp3.com, and a lot of it is just some kids with acid in his bedroom. He creates a loop or two and suddenly he thinks he’s a musician, puts up a “song” he created in an hour. I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate artists there, but there are just so few of them. Still, I think it’s an interesting avenue for finding new music if you have the time to sift through the shit that’s there. I’m up there because I don’t have the luxury to exclude potential fans.

C.B. – And what about ‘file-sharing’ applications like Napster, Audiogalaxy and the like? How do you feel they influence the alternative music industry?

There is so much music out there, that I think as a fan you have the right to preview songs before you buy them. But then, remember that the artist needs to survive too, so go and buy the music that you like, or go to see their live shows. Support them somehow!

Android LustC.B. – What are your plans for live performances? Any possibility of coming to Europe at some point?

We plan to do a tour after the release of “The Dividing”. Europe will be hard without backing from a label. Mostly from a financial point of view. But we would love to go and play there.

C.B. – What are your views on the current state of the electro-industrial scene in North America, in terms of creativity and audiences? And the scene in other countries, compared to the U.S.?

From what I can tell, the electro scene here tends to be very exclusive, and non accepting of anything outside their little niche. I’ve grown very tired of this attitude from people, and I’ve actually fallen out from the current scene related activities.

I haven’t played outside the US, so I can’t say how the audiences are there compared to here.

C.B. – Changing a bit to world issues… the media constantly bombard us as to how the world changed since last autumn, with ‘war on terrorism’, etc…
Do you feel there were any real positive changes that came out of the September 11th disaster or that, instead, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”?

Well, I think the Palestinian plight is getting more attention now than ever before. Which is positive no matter which side of the political arena you may be on that issue.

C.B. – ‘Globalization’ was one of the most mediatic issues before the attacks but it seems to have been somewhat obscured since then. What’s your opinion on this subject?

People are feeling very unsafe now. So obviously the topic of security is what the media would stress on, instead of globalization.

C.B. – One of the ‘tools’ responsible for ‘globalization’ is the Internet. Do you feel that indeed it does bring people together or that it is more of a way of numbing people to the reality of their everyday lives?

I think it’s a great communication tool. I am all for it. If it numbs some people out, they probably would have found some other means if they didn’t have the internet.

C.B. – In closing we’d like to thank you for your time (not to mention apologize for the lateness of the interview…). Do you have any final words or requests? ;-)

Thank you for the interview.

Relevant links

Android Lust

— interview by Miguel de Sousa; original photos by Paul Komoda, Kovijela, Michael Brandenburg and S. Hijazi taken from A.L.’s site. (May 2002)