[Cover photo courtesy of Josie Pace]
Detroit Electronic Rock/Industrial artist Josie Pace released her first full-length album in 2022 via the label Negative Gain, IV0X10V5 (pronounced “Noxious”). In October, she will be heading out on tour as the direct support Aesthetic Perfection on their “American Psycho” North America tour, accompanied by will be label mates GenCAB. Those are both momentous things, but they build on several years of careful work and many releases delivered to fans in the form of new singles in combination with new music videos. When it came time to put an album together, many of these already much-loved songs made it into the collection, but Pace and her collaborator, musician and Producer Ken Roberts, also added a number of new songs to round it out.
You may have come across Josie Pace’s previous releases online, or you may have caught her competing on the webseries No Cover, hosted by Alice Cooper, Lzzy Hale, Gavin Rossdale, and others. But either way, it’s definitely time to pay attention to the intricately crafted and meaningful songs you’ll find on IV0X10V5. I caught up with Josie Pace and Ken Roberts ahead of their tour to learn more about the evolution of the album, their stellar videos, and what’s coming up for them.
Hannah Means-Shannon: Will you be playing songs from IV0X10V5 on the tour coming up?
Josie Pace: Yes, we will be playing every song on the album and we’re trying to get maybe one or two new songs up and running before the tour. I’m not sure if they’ll be finished before that!
HMS: It’s a substantial album and you’ve also released quite a lot of singles before that, so I’m sure there’s plenty to play.
JP: Yes, it’s more than our set would be.
HMS: I was wondering about how you’ve been consistently releasing singles leading up to the full release of the album. Were you working on a song-by-song basis that was then gathered as an album, or was all this material recorded at the same time?
JP: When we first started working together, we decided that we would wait on releasing a full-length album, so we just started working song by song and releasing a song every few months. That helped create momentum and get my name out there. So I’d literally come to Ken and says, “Here’s this song.” And we’d say, “Let’s get this done.” Then, a few months later, we’d release it along with a music video that went with it. But some of those songs, maybe half, made it onto IV0X10V5. So about half of the songs on the album were pre-released, and the other half were brand new.
HMS: That makes a lot of sense. Your practical approach is actually something that a lot of labels are actually following right now.
Ken Roberts: In modern music, the way things work right now, peoples’ attention spans are shorter than they used to be. So releasing a full-length record is great when you get to the right point, like we did, releasing with Negative Gain, but even when you release a record, six months later it already feels old in the industry. It never used to be like that back in the day. Bon Jovi used to push an album for two to three years and tour for two full years off of one record.
HMS: I’ve been to a number of local live events lately, and I’ve noticed an interesting side-effect to there being less touring, and touring coming back, which is that there are often very packed bills with lots of bands. Fans are loving that big event feeling.
JP: I think that venues want to make sure fans are getting plenty of bang for their buck, but they also want to make sure people get out of the house. That’s a little harder these days.
KR: It’s just such a different world now. Over the past two years, the way that entertainment is delivered has totally changed, and I don’t think it’s ever going to go back to normal. I just watched the movie Black Phone, which is in the theaters at the moment, but I watched it for free on Peacock.
JP: Why would I pay for gas, get ready, and go out?
KR: If this was a few years ago, I would have gathered up a bunch of friends and said, “Let’s go see this movie.” But now, I say, “Come on over and watch a movie. We’re going to chill out.” It’s a little different. But having a lot of bands on one ticket can get out of hand. [Laughs] Some of these festivals that I see promoted make me think, “I love music, but there’s no way I want to go to 200 bands!” [Laughs]
JP: It would make more sense if some of them were spread over more days.
HMS: There are definitely human limitations to these things!
KR: I remember to going to the first Lollapalooza to see Jane’s Addiction, and there were only six bands on the bill.
JP: And everyone was exhausted afterwards!
KR: That was a lot. That was enough.
HMS: Also, just like musicians, fans are so much in shape for this right now. We’re not use to the boot camp of taking in ten bands right now. [Laughs]
KR: When I was younger, I would go see Smashing Pumpkins and there was no other band on the bill.
JP: It’s a struggle because I want to see all the opening bands, too. I don’t want to be that person who doesn’t watch the opening bands.
HMS: Me too! Something that I think you had in mind before the pandemic, even, is that you have been very consistent about making videos and releasing them with singles. Also, you seem to have always put a lot of thought and attention into high-quality visuals, and I’m sure that’s been great for reaching people leading up to touring.
JP: Yes, the music videos are almost as important as the music itself to us. You also have to have the knowledge to do all those things, which I don’t! But thankfully Ken does.
KR: I have directed 14 music videos. It’s not that I invented that, but I stole that idea from Duran Duran. Their first record came out in 1981 and they did almost music video for every song on that record. MTV was new and would pretty much play anything they could get. As a kid, I remember buying a VHS tape of all their videos from that first album.
The videos made a huge impact, and when Josie and I started working together, I wanted to do the same things for these songs. We changed up the visuals each time and we’re big David Bowie fans, so we like the chameleon-like aspect of his music and videos. Most of our videos have a different look or style to them.
JP: Plus, they are fun as hell! I love filming music videos.
HMS: I did see a different in art and direction with each video. It’s like each one is a very different tarot card. That can be important because it helps audiences remember songs and separate them in their own mind more. I’m sure there are different messages and ideas you want to bring out, too, whether it’s in the colors, shapes, or costumes.
KR: Absolutely. Josie is really influenced by fashion, just as much as she is by music, so for a lot of the videos we pull from different things like films, art, and fashion, whether it’s Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Basquiat, Andy Warhol, or odd films like Dogs in Space. We did a Bladerunner thing for one song.
JP: We’ll be inspired by Pop Culture and art themes.
KR: We try to integrate that into the concept of the video. We love old Jean Cocteau movies from the 1930s, like Blood of a Poet.
HMS: Wow! I was going to ask you about that, but I thought it was a long shot. I’m a Cocteau fan and I thought I could see some influences there.
KR: I was hugely influenced by him growing up. I was one of those weird kids who had that stuff on VHS tapes, like his Beauty and the Beast.
JP: The Beauty and the Beast which I saw as a kid was way different! It was a little tamer.
KR: We also love Dada and different art movements. I think it’s important to include that stuff in our videos because the artists who I grew up listening to are people who were inspired by those things, too. They liked William Blake and older poetry. I would not have discovered any of those things except through other [musical] artists. Even when you listen to The Doors, The Doors got their name from a William Blake poem. Passing that on is important to us. Maybe it’ll inspire kids to google or go to the library and find out more.
HMS: It’s almost like an artistic chain of transmission being handed on.
KR: Bowie was into Japanese Kabuki theater and Josie studied some of that for “Storm and Stress” as well as original Vogue dancing.
JP: I am not a good dancer! I had to study. Ken had the idea of having a friend of mine, who’s a choreographer, choreograph for me, and she tried it for a week, and I was so bad. It was terrible. [Laughs]
HMS: Dance research is intense! That’s commitment. You clearly have an idea of your own stage presence, though, so you have your own thing. It then becomes more difficult, maybe, to take on another approach.
JP: I thought about that recently because of going on tour. I know what I look like when I move, and sometimes I’m a little embarrassed by it, but that’s what makes me stand out, I guess. There’s a certain awkwardness. That’s totally fine, you just own what you’ve got.
KR: I don’t think other people think you’re awkward. I think they think you look like a Rock ‘n Roll singer.
HMS: It’s true that you have to just own whatever is yours. I’ve been watching videos of old Rolling Stones concerts lately, and it’s pretty shocking how bizarre and crazy Mick Jagger is on stage back then.
JP: Iggy Pop is another one! He just makes me think, “Man! What are you even doing?”
KR: Watch all the old Talking Heads videos, too. David Byrne is just crazy awkward. But that’s what made those artists stand out and stand the test of time. A lot the artists we’re talking about are people who everyone still knows who they are, and yet many of them never had a number one hit or even a top ten hit. They’ve just stood the test of time.
HMS: One thing that’s true also is that an artist who allows themselves to be diverse is better set to withstand changes over time. You all are working with different sound traditions and creating something that speaks to multiple traditions, which I think is smart.
KR: We’re actually working on an acoustic EP at the moment. We have an Electronic EP that we’re also going to release that’s similar to the style we’re doing now. Those are for next year.
HMS: That’s awesome! I wanted to ask you if you’d ever do an acoustic EP because I saw the acoustic performance video for “Underestimated” which you released. Everyone has to make the decision about when it’s the right time to release acoustic stuff, but I’m glad you’ll be doing it.
JP: We’ve talked about it in the past, but we always said, “When we do that, we’re just creating these songs that we can’t perform live.” I think, at this point, it’s good for us to show people what we have gained through this first album. It also shows what we’re capable of doing and the other genres that we enjoy creating in.
KR: That’s actually how Josie writes all those songs. That acoustic version of “Underestimated” is actually how I heard the song the first time that Josie played it for me. We sat in the studio together and I turned it into an Electronic song. When she brings in an acoustic song, then I ask, “What are the chord progressions here?”, and we figure it out. We go for a style and a tempo, and we work around that to create an Electronic feel. But Josie can play every song on this record acoustically.
HMS: I was really struck by the ways in which the acoustic version is the same song, and the ways in which it expresses something a bit different when you hear the two different forms. Are there any songs on this album where you were surprised by the outcome?
KR: I feel like “Braindead”, which is a bonus track on the CD, was surprising. It was a kind of Frankenstein of a few different songs than I had written. Some songs just don’t work in a verse-chorus-verse way, so we take ma chorus from one song I have written, and a bridge from another song, and put them together. The verses in “Braindead” were originally a chorus. Then we changed them, and I wrote a new chorus, and a new ending, and even after we had transposed it into an Electronic song, the live version is different from the recorded version.
HMS: Do you allow yourselves to perform songs differently live than on the recordings?
JP: There are some songs where I allow myself to do that and put a little leeway into it depending on how I feel in the moment.
KR: The synthesizer stuff that we play live can be embellished. One song that ended up totally different than what Josie brought to me was “Even If It Kills Me”. There are some songs that she brings in to me when we have been working on other, prior songs. She brings them in out of the blue, and immediately, after hearing her play it acoustically, can tell that this is a song that we need to work on immediately.
Songs like “Vicious”, “Storm and Stress”, and “I’m Begging You” are all songs that made it onto the record that way. She brought them in as songs that she’d been working on in the middle of the night and we just knew to work on those. Josie’s such an accomplished guitar player that it makes it easy to turn it into an Electronic song. The hallmark of a great song is that it can be stripped back to the barebones. That’s different than the way that a lot of artists in Electronic genres work.