1988 - Citizen

With no real musical experience, but a lot of enthusiasm to be on the "creative" side of the "music" "industry", I had started to assemble a collection of entry-level MIDI equipment starting in 1987.

The whole idea of MIDI sequencing was pretty alien to me, and prior to the internet, skulking around music stores and awkwardly pestering sales people was my primary means of learning about the gear. Eventually, after getting patchy information, which I promptly misunderstood, I bought the cheapest MIDI synth and sequencing gear I could find to learn the rudiments of the process.

By the summer of 1988, I discovered how little I knew, and could barely put an idea together. I had also realized that certain key elements were missing from the equation, like drums and vocals. Still, within a few days of getting a four track cassette recorder and a new synth module, I recorded a short idea that later became the bass line for a very early version of “Citizen” while figuring out how to use the new equipment.

By the fall of 1988, I purchased 2 more Yamaha products – an RX 17 drum machine (with bonus “latin” percussion), and a “sampling” digital delay pedal. Shortly after that, a reworked version of the original Citizen idea was put together, specifically in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas day. Lyrics were written shortly after, in 1989, but were never recorded with this version.

I met Martin Deyotte around this time, and we started hanging out in a basement studio where I had my gear set up, more “basement” than “studio”. During this period I continued to figure how to use the gear, and attempted to make some sort of music that actually pleased me. Success was extremely limited...

Martin proposed a band name based on hearing a random sound byte from televangelist Jimmy Swaggart shouting about “the Fourth Man”, and it stuck.

There was much meandering for the next few months, still trying to squeeze decent sounds out of the gear. There was also a great source of confusion as to exactly what it was I was trying to do. I had a bit of a New Wave/alternative 80s music hangover, and was still listening to bands like Bauhaus and Ultravox. On the other hand, I was also a fan of the crankier, noisier music one became acquainted with hanging out on the periphery of the punk rock/alternative scene - bands like Big Black, as well as old classics like the Stooges. To confuse matters more, Martin and I were big fans of most of the 1970s David Bowie catalogue, and a steady diet of whatever was being played at the “alternative” nightclubs in the downtown area. 

As an aside – around 1988 I went to see a show at the Vancouver night club Luv-a-fair: a new band called Numb were the headliners, with a band called the Resilient Stomachs as support. I was really impressed with how little gear the Resilient Stomachs had. Also, they had some of the same equipment as I did. Numb had tons of really impressive gear that I couldn’t even fathom. I found out years later that the two members of the Resilient Stomachs were Chris Peterson and Rhys Fulber, later in Front Line Assembly. I ended up joining Numb about 6 years later, and we toured with FLA.

Back in 1988, I was becoming strongly drawn to the industrial music that was coming out at the time, and Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, and Laibach were all becoming increasingly appealing as I moved away from the Goth and New Romantic styles.

Another strong stylistic touchstone was the umbrella term “cyberpunk”. Movies like “Videodrome”, “Bladerunner”, “Alien”, and “The Terminator”, with a gritty dystopian perspective on science fiction were still relatively new and exciting avenues to explore. I had also always been pretty hung up on the odd-ball band Sigue Sigue Sputnik, who had not only pulled together a good cartoonish cyberpunk look, but also had used repetitive sequenced bass lines with plenty of stolen samples and tape loops from movies in the genre.

The term “cyberspace” was still being bandied about as a new concept, and to the public at large, the reality of a ubiquitous internet was still in the realm of science fiction. Both suckers for science fiction and being fatalistic, Martin and I were lapping it up like kittens at a dish of milk.