An Interview With the EDM Duo WHITEQUBE On Their Brand New EP ‘Design Flaws’ and More!
Posted On 09 Oct 2018
Get to know the vibey, talented EDM/EBM duo called Whiteqube. They combine EBM with ‘90s electronica, then add their own modern techno and synth-pop slant to the mix. They released their first single/video “Design Flaws” on August 24th. The song is a cut from their also recent EP (Sept. 21), called Design Flaws.
“Design Flaws” has rolling, heavy beats that transport your mind straight to a hot, sweaty nightclub. The song makes you feel like you’re on a runaway train, and the video is a wild ride. The female subject in the video is being slowly driven mad by the song (“We are losing our minds”) and the band’s signature “white cube”…you’ll see when you view it for yourself.
The video was directed by horror genre film director Steven Shea and stars horror film actress Cimcie Nichols. It was shot entirely on site at the Salton Sea, which has naturally trippy atmospheric scenery.
Learn more about Whiteqube in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day for you both?
Jason Schary: Thank you for this interview. We announced an EP release party at The Lash in Downtown Los Angeles on October 14th, so we will be practicing for that and our upcoming Meat Beat Manifesto show November 15th. Somewhere before that I’ll go to the gym.
Ryan Arnold: I just got back from the Life Is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas and after five days of partying in the sun, I might actually be taking a nap. Then back to work.
How has 2018 been treating you guys? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year and how close are you to reaching it?
JS: 2018 has been a great year for Whiteqube. With all the shows we have played, have booked until the end of the year, the release of the “Design Flaws” EP, and the video for “Design Flaws,” it has been quite busy. Our main goal was to take a step forward so we could show the world what Whiteqube is—an electronic duo that can make you dance and make you think. A band that can bridge the retro sounds of EBM with new techno techniques and is not afraid to comment on the current state of our world. We wanted to make a push for more exposure, to expand our audience and to push ourselves creatively. We wanted to put out a diverse, solid new release, and to play and practice as much as possible to maintain our status as one of the most entertaining live electronic acts. Looking back, we have certainly achieved those goals. But as artists we continue to strive for more. We want to take over the world and there is still more progress to be made for that.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this duo together? Has anything surprised you about this ride so far?
JS: Ryan and I have been best friends for years. We were at a get-together and started discussing how artists don’t really make the types of music like we like anymore. One of our friends said ‘well, why don’t you guys make music then?’ A light bulb went off, and we decided to give it a shot. We both have similar tastes and frames of mind and, in Whiteqube, we get along just as well. Our first show was in front of like 600 people, and we were so nervous. Everyone started dancing, cheering and going nuts and for me, that was the point where I said ‘wow! I think we really have something here’.
TRA: At first, we wanted to make some real throwback 90s Rave music, and maybe book a show. As we worked together, we really had a blast and the first few songs ended up being better than either of us had expected. For me, it was listening to the first set of masters for the Whiteqube EP and thinking, ‘wow, these songs are actually pretty good’. The most surprising thing has been which songs resonate with the audience. It’s also strange to create something, release it and then lose control over it. Once it is out there it belongs to someone else and it is whatever they say it is.
How difficult was it to come up with your band name? What other names were you considering? What name was the runner up?
JS: When we were trying to come up with band names, both of us had a list, and as we were going through that list, we were listening to some playlist of 90s dance music. One of the songs was by the band Black Box and I jokingly said, “we are the opposite of Black Box, we are a White Cube!” I think we both liked that name, White Cube. I felt we needed to add a little pizzazz to that, so we made it all one word and changed the “c” to a “q”, because everything looks better with a “q”. haha
TRA: The only other runner up names I can think of were alternative weird spellings, like WHTQWB or WHITEKUEB.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this band?
JS: In my opinion, Los Angeles has to be one of the most diverse cities on this planet. We are exposed to so many different kinds of music, cultures and subcultures. Since LA is the mecca of the entertainment industry, and lots of bands live here, the vast number of concerts and dance clubs is really something else. There is a scene for everyone here and something to do every night of the week. We really have thrived in LA because we have an audience that loves EBM, Techno and Alternative scenes. I don’t take it for granted how good we have it here.
TRA: Jason’s answer is slightly different given that his hometown is LA. For me, growing up in a very small-town in Nevada, I had extremely weird influences. The two most pressing I would say would be Abba and Paul Simon thanks to my parents record collection. There is no music scene in Elko, Nevada outside of country music or has-been musicians coming to casinos. So, maybe I bring with me a sense of melancholy of the high desert. I’ve lived in LA for nearly 15 years now, and I am sure that the LA music scene has influenced me more than my “home town.” LA has a legendary music scene and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
Let’s talk about your newest track and video for it, “Design Flaws.” What was the inspiration for this song? How would you say it compares to the rest of your recent EP?
JS: “Design Flaws” was written over a year ago around the time Trump got elected, and the craziness that has ensued truly inspired us. We would meet every week to write songs and every week we kept saying that the world as we know it is turning upside down. It is quite amazing to me that now over a year later, things are even crazier than when we wrote it. We started to make a single for “Design Flaws”, but during this time, we had a massive output of song writing and decided to release an EP. We could have probably released an entire album, but instead we chose our 5 favorites. I feel each song is quite different than the rest. The remix of “Design Flaws” on the EP is an acid house, club remix inspired by 12” singles from the 80s and 90s. “Change Their Minds” is similar to “Design Flaws” and was inspired by the endless shootings in this country. It felt like every week there were more and more shootings and the horrible shooting at the Orlando night club really shook us. I spend so much time in night clubs as a DJ, it felt like I could have been there. Same goes with the Las Vegas music festival shooting. The amount of times we have been to music festivals, like Coachella, that could have been us too. Those songs are political and deal with some serious issues going on in our society. “Future Shapes” is the slowest song we’ve ever released with an almost industrial grind to it. After we recorded it, I found myself whistling it in the shower unconsciously, and I knew we had something. I would say the rest of the EP is geared more toward the Techno scene with some samples and pounding drums. We couldn’t be prouder of these songs.
How creatively involved were you both with the making of the music video for it? What was it like having horror film director Steven Shea direct it?
JS: My girlfriend, Cimcie Nichols, is an actress and producer (who also happens to be the daughter of famous Steely Dan audio engineer Roger Nichols), and really was the force behind this video. She pitched us the concept and we told her that if she could get it done, with an almost nothing budget, we would love to do it. Cimcie got Director and Cinematographer Steven Shea involved and next thing you know, we were filming at the Salton Sea. We were not involved much on the creative standpoint, but I felt that us letting the production team do their thing was key. We filmed multiple locations, and it felt like a Star Trek set on Mars or something much of time. I really can’t say enough praise for everyone involved. Cimcie’s performance was quite amazing, and Steven took Cimcie’s ideas and brought them to life in a world crazier than we could have imagined. Everything worked out great, and we couldn’t be happier.
What did it feel like releasing your EP just last week? How did you celebrate the release of it? Were you surprised at all by the overall process of putting it together?
TRA: I feel extremely happy and proud of this release. It feels like we have been prepping for the release of this EP for a very long time and I am glad that it is finally out where everyone can hear it.
JS: It felt so good to finally release it. As independent artists, it takes a lot of time and work to properly release an EP or album, so once the album comes out it feels like an eternity since when you made the music. First there’s the production of the album itself—writing, recording, getting the mix, and having it mastered. Then, you have to prep for release by creating the artwork, merch, promo videos and organizing distribution and promotions. Even though we are in the digital age, there’s a resurgence for retro merch, so we made limited edition blue cassette tapes! Nothing is better than releasing something you’ve been working on for a long time and hearing back from fans how much they are enjoying it. There were some celebratory text messages sent, but other than that, we were more worried that all of our systems were in place to launch. So, we are having a release party in a few weeks to properly celebrate all the hard work.
How do you think this duo and your sound have grown since you first formed?
TRA: Well, for one thing we have really streamlined our studio workflow. The process of taking a song from an idea and working it into a legitimate song is much more fluid. When we started, we were just flailing around figuring out the basics. Now I think that we are much more able to conceive a song or sound and execute. Adding lyrics is the biggest change introduced in our recent work and are very important to me as I feel like they enhance our ability to engage our audience. It has added an extra dimension to our songs that I have been really excited about.
Where do you think you are both happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
TRA: It is all about being on stage and connecting with an audience. I feel like our songs take on magnitude performed live. As a theater major, that is where I like to be and when I am happiest, entertaining a crowd.
Do you have any upcoming tour dates this summer that you would like to tell our readers about?
JS: On October 14th we are taking over The Lash here in LA for an EP release party. We will perform songs from the new EP and DJ as well. Then, on November 15th, we are honored to open for the legendary Meat Beat Manifesto at 1720. We feel a huge connection to Meat Beat Manifesto, because, like us, they are a band who fits into multiple scenes. They are as much a part of the Electronica scene of the 90s as they are the Industrial Wax Trax scene, and that is exactly how we see ourselves, a little bit of everything. We think the resurgence of EBM is great, are happy to be involved with the movement, and couldn’t be happier to play with them.
How do you think being musicians and in this band gives you all the most joy in life today?
JS: When we were on tour a couple years ago we played a great show in Chicago. The tour manager tells me there is someone who wanted to meet us after the show. We went to the merchandise table and met this wonderful young guy, no older than 13, and there with his mom. He said that he loved the show so much it inspired him to start making music himself. I was just blown away. It is moments like that which make this all worth it.
TRA: I love playing shows and connecting with our audiences. I have had a few experiences where audience members have come up to me after a show and said that some song brought them to tears or that they really identify with the lyrics and that makes me so happy. I love to think that I have connected with someone in that way.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period? If you don’t think it is, why is that? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
JS: Much of our music is hugely political in nature. This country is going through a crisis and I feel we have no choice but to speak out through our music. To be honest, I don’t think enough people are speaking out. During the 60s we had Dylan and a flurry of political music against the Vietnam War and some of the most powerful music ever made. In the 70s, the turbulent politics of the UK resulted in the Sex Pistols and anti-establishment punk rock. In the 80s you had Public Enemy and NWA bringing all kinds of political and police injustice to the forefront. Rage Against the Machine continued on that tradition in the 90s and then Nine Inch Nails criticized politics in the mid 2000s, warning of a dystopian future with Year Zero. When Trump got elected I said, “The only good to come out of this insanity, will be that music will be great again”. I feel the last decade of pop and mainstream music has been boring and lacking a voice. Childish Gambino’s music video for “This is America” is powerful, but I don’t think enough is being done, there needs to be a movement. Music is such a powerful tool to get your message out to the world, and to educate on the injustices we feel as a society.
TRA: Our music is extremely politically conscious. We have a song on the return that is specifically about the plight of Trumpism and the new EP has a song that deals with gun violence in the US. Lyrically we constantly make references to the current political climate. To me, as an artist, I think it is important to make a statement about what you believe in and what you stand for, and then hopefully your art can make a difference. When we started, we were mostly interested in getting the party started and having a good time with our audience, but in today’s political climate it just seems vapid to have a bunch of songs about partying all night. The shift happened on our 2014 release “Panic, Rage, Riot, Revolt”. On that EP we had a song called “Time to Rage” which was a straight up club song, but we also had a song called “Revolution Riot” which had a much more punk rock ethos.
Who would you love to work with in the future? Who are some of your favorite artists right now? What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this duo?
JS: My ultimate dream would be to work with Trent Reznor. Nine Inch Nails is my biggest influence and I love the evolution he makes with each release. Boys Noize is also a real game changer and would be great to work with. His recent music has a huge EBM and 90s Techno influence, and I can’t get enough of it. Also, The Presets are a band we would love to work with. Their new album is so fantastic, and I think they are one of the most underrated electronic acts of today. Lately, I have been listening to a lot of Chicago blues and Disco. And I can never get enough of David Bowie and Iggy Pop.
TRA: We have already done a remix for Information Society which has been one of my favorite artists. Bucket list collaboration bands for me would be Boys Noize, Bloody Beetroots, The Presets, Vitalic, and Gost. I would also love to work with some of my longtime favorites like Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, Underworld, The Prodigy, or The Shamen. We have had the opportunity to play some shows with great local LA bands like Glitbiter, Pelts, and Syntax and I would love to do some collaborations or remixes with them. There are so many great local bands, and I like the idea of collaborating with our contemporaries and trying to build a bigger scene here. Right now, I am listening to a lot of Justice, Boys Noize, Kaytranada, and Gatekeeper.
If you guys were all going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you want to take with you and why?
TRA: I recently got a Native Instruments Maschine and I really want to start doing a lot more live in terms of building up and breaking down songs. I saw Robert Delong at Life is Beautiful build entire songs by running around on stage and recording loops into his APC. It was so much more engaging than seeing someone on stage with a laptop. These controllers take a lot of practice to get good enough to pull off a live show flawlessly. So, if I was going to be trapped on a desert island, (with a solar powered charger), I’d have nothing but time to practice. When I got rescued I’d be pretty good with that thing.
JS: For me, instead of an instrument or piece of recording equipment, I would have to choose my iPhone (with Ryan’s solar powered charger) and load up all the music I love in this world. Music has so much power, and on a desert island it could cheer you up when you’re sad and make you dance when you’re happy. It could take you back to a time and place and forces you to think about the world and different viewpoints. Music is various emotions from love to hate, or from joy to rage. Music is your friend when you have nothing else. Nothing beats that. I would take that over making my own music any day.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
TRA: When we play, “Headstrong Death March” live, I always have a little spiel that goes, “We wrote this song back in 2015 when it was just candidate Trump, and sadly this song is just as relevant now as it was back then. This song is a message of unity. It is a call to action to take a stand against Bigotry, Racism, and hatred”. That message has been a thesis statement for Whiteqube over the last year and sums up how Whiteqube has responded to the politically charged times we live in. I think we have a lot of songs that are sort of aimed at people who feel like they don’t quite fit in. We released a song last year called “We Are One”. I think it encompassed our ethos quite well. The end of the song goes, “to the driven, frail, fearless, awkward, unstoppable, rejected… WE ARE ONE. Weirdos, nerds, outcasts, originals, punks, freaks, artists, dreamers, rebels, geeks, the people who will one day change the world… WE ARE ONE”. That is Whiteqube. Our goal is to make songs that help give “them” a voice and provide a soundtrack for people to overcome adversity and achieve success.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about your music?
TRA: Whiteqube has come a long way from our early songs, and I am very excited to share this new EP with everyone. If I had to sum up our sound it would be Techno with Lyrics, Body Music for the Modern age.