From punk rock to electro with Tommie Riot of Rifle

What I'm trying to express is human emotion. All the lyrics are about human emotion and it's often about bad things or hurtful things. Everything I write about has happened in some way but, I'm one of those guys that cant write when I'm depressed. I can't write anything. And I don't write when I'm in a really good mood either.

Recently FractureZine caught up with punk rock drummer now front man of Stockholm based electronic outfit Rifle, Tommie Riot. We talk about his transition from drummer to front man, what influences and motivates him, the importance of being a believable front man and get to know a bit more about the band Rifle.

From punk rock drummer to EBM singer, can you explain how this came about?

First off, I would not consider us to be EBM at all, although there might be elements of EBM in our music. I think you don't really have a lot of melody in EBM. It's rhythm based and pretty repetitive. I'm not especially fond of EBM although I like Nitzer Ebb, That Total Age is a great album but to me it's more of a punk album because it's so in your face. I like stuff like Yazoo and Erasure because I'm always about the melody. I love melodies. That's what we're trying to do with Rifle.

How did Rifle come together?

I was a drummer in a band, I quit and needed to do something else, get away for awhile. I had these songs, I didn't really know what to do with them because I didn't want to start up a new band and go down and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. It was kind of a fluke. I just asked Calle if he thought he could do anything with them. He was quite skeptical at first. He was like, I don't know and blah blah blah because he never used to work in this fashion, having the songs structured first. I gave him one song and it worked out so good that we just kept going.

Can you tell us about the purpose of Rifle?

What I'm trying to express is human emotion. All the lyrics are about human emotion and it's often about bad things or hurtful things. Everything I write about has happened in some way but, I'm one of those guys that cant write when I'm depressed. I can't write anything. And I don't write when I'm in a really good mood either. If I've been pretty down for a while and then can look at it from the outside, then I can write about how I felt. I find it harder to write about how I feel at the time. It's easier when I can look back at it. I don't use writing as therapy as a lot of people do. Like, oh I feel bad and start scribbling... maybe it is some kind of therapy. I don't know but, I write when I'm ready and gone past it. When we perform I want people to feel how I felt, not that I want them to feel like shit [laughs] I want them to understand the place where it all comes from and maybe they've been there themselves.

When Rifle performed a while back at KGB there was a huge amount of energy. You were climbing up and down from the balcony while singing. This is quite a contrast with a lot of electronic acts. Do you have a lot of excess energy because you're not using it on a drum kit?

No that's just me. I don't think I would be able to perform music that I don't feel passionately about. That's just how I do it, I do it in the studio as well. It's the same as when I play the drums. I don't just sit there and play the beat.

Did you start off as a drummer, guitarist or vocalist?

As a drummer. I've never done vocals in any band before this although I've always written lyrics.

How did you find the transition to vocals, was it difficult?

I've always been singing and playing the guitar at home but, not in a band. I would call it stressful [laughs].

What's stressful about being a singer?

I still think it's out of my comfort zone. It's positive stress. You need to be on edge all the time and really focus. I wouldn't say I have stage fright but, I hate the 10, 15 minutes before I go on stage. I get intense and start pacing.

How does that change when you start performing?

It's almost like it becomes theatre. It's a role that you play but, it's still you. It's not like putting on an act, it's like you playing you if you know what I mean.

Can you tell us a bit about how the music is put together?

I record guitars and vocals to a click track then send them over to Calle. He then sends me a programmed version based off the feel that he gets from what I've sent him. He usually gets what I'm aiming for. We discuss it, like can we tweak this or can we do that.

So Calle handles the programming?

Yeah, he actually knows what he's doing [laughs]. If we were a rock band I would give him a bit more direction because I know rock'n'roll. He knows his synthesizers so there's no reason to give to much direction. He enjoys programming and I don't. If I were to sit down and do drum programming ,that would bore the hell out of me because I know that I can play it in 5 minutes and have it done. I don't have the patience to program it.

Is Rifle a two person project?

We also have a guitar player. He's the guy that comes up with certain guitar parts and stuff but he comes in at a later stage after we've finish the song with everything that is supposed to be in it. It makes quite a difference for the songs. If you listen to them without the guitar there's something missing.

Do you miss the spontaneity of playing rock with Rifle?

No not really, I think Rifle is spontaneous in it's own way. We have different arrangements for the live performances than we do for our recordings and we try to play as many things live as possible. We also have a song that we play totally live with no sequencing at all. The arrangement of the songs doesn't always have to be the spontaneity of it though. There are so many things that can be spontaneous during a live gig. You never know what's going to happen.

We did this festival gig. Us and a bunch of metal bands. As we were going up on stage we hear "Ah, they don't even having a fucking drummer" [laughs] and then you have to work, you really have to work. When you are in that kind of environment and they're not into electronic music, synth music, and all these metal bands are playing. You have to work, work work because if you let them go they'll just be like "This is boring". It took us a few songs before we got everyone going, I was all over the place, climbing up to the lighting rig. Then I busted my head. I didn't realise that the guitarist, Daniel, had moved and I just threw myself backwards, he was behind me, I whacked my head on his guitar and my head just started bleeding. It was a really fun gig.

So are you more into the idea of playing with rock or electro bands?

It doesn't matter to me. I think with the amount of energy that we produce on stage we can fit in with most bands. I want stuff to happen live right. It's not a matter of the style of music, it's do you believe what you see? You can play the hardest music and people still don't believe what you're trying to say, it's like it's nothing. That's why I think in some cases a guy like Johnny Cash is heavier than some guy slapping on corpse paint that is not believable, you know what I mean.

Would you say that the connection with the audience is paramount for you?

Yeah. I also like the challenge of when people hear the term electro. They get an image in their head of what to expect and I want them to be like whoa! This is not what I expected [laughs] in a positive way that is.

Do you think in the future we'll see things changed up with Rifle to keep this element of the unexpected continuing?

I don't how long you can be unexpected. If they've seen you once then they have expectation. Then the question is how far can you take it and what can you do to push boundaries. It's not like I'm going to be the next GG Alin but, I'm always going to give my all. That's what I do, I don't know how to tone it down.

So if we continue with GG Allin comment, who are your heroes?

Lemmy, definitely. When I was 5 years old my neighbor gave me a cassette with AC/DC's Highway To Hell on one side and Motörhead's Bomber on the other.

How has that influenced your music over the years?

That's a tough question. I like a lot of music. I don't consider myself to be a punk or a metal head or a synth electro guy or whatever. When I listen to music I listen to a lot of different stuff but what I always come back to is the melody. I always look for that edge, the ones that make me feel like they really mean something. When I listen to AC/DC a lot of their lyrics are about sex and picking up girls. When I listen to Bon Scott and the way he sings it, it's like it's the most important thing in the world. It's like fuck everything else, this is what matters. I think it's quite impressive to make something so trivial sound that important.

Would you go so far as to say that it's import that music is genuine and honest?

I don't really want to over analyze it, I just know how I feel now. I love Springsteen, Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash. With Johnny Cash even the songs he didn't write himself, they still sound believable. When he did that Nine Inch Nails song Hurt, it became his song. When Johnny Cash sings it, the lyrics get a whole new meaning compared to when Trent Reznor sings it. I think it's impressive to be able to do that.

So I've heard some tracks from you guys, when do we expect a release?

Not sure but, we have two tracks online. The album is fairly finished, I guess we'll see.

Where can people check out what's happening with Rifle?

Our Facebook page is a good place to start.

So what's in the future for Rifle?

We'll see [laughs].

Written by William Riever, 2015-01-11