Mark Joseph Panek
I am a professional percussionist from Altoona Pennsylvania, I’ve been playing drums since the age of four, I studied with many private teachers, like: Chuck Kerrigan who has many drum books on the market,and was also a student at Berklee Loy Applemen, who’s Boy is head of the Bass Department at Berklee, these two teachers have helped me to hone my skills as a drummer and helped me to reach for new heights, to always try to be the best at drumming, it’s there great words of encouragement that made me want a career in the professional world of music, so I owe a lot my experience to these two Teachers,
My parents play a very large role in my career,as a young musician coming up I had the chance to play drums in my families band which consisted of other members of my family we would travel and play fairs all across the country in the summer months, I cut my first REAL recording at the age of five my Mother worked a deal with Capitol Records and our record was released under there label, in School I got to play snare drum in the stage band and then in high school I got to play in the Marching band and the stage band, then after graduation I played with many bands in my home town in the late 80’s I had the opportunity to record and work with Fred Johnson of the 60’s colpix The Marcels, they had the hit(Blue Moon), I also did shows with Jeff Healy and I toured with my Blues band Fat Vinny and The Wiseguys Then I worked with Chris Woodward after Chris I did a very short time with a Country Player from Cambria Country,
HERE IS REVIEWS ON MY FALSE ICONS CD (GOD COMPLEX) From various magazines
False Icons is the new project from John Bechdel, best known for playing keyboards in such groups as Ministry, Fear Factory, Prong, and most recently Ascension of the Watchers with fellow Fear Factory alumnus Burton C. Bell. His own project fits a similar mold, combining the heaviness of his industrial metal work, the sharp programming of middle-period Ministry, and the emotive but gloomy atmosphere of Ascension of the Watchers, but it’s not so much a distillation of influences as it is its own organic entity. In other words, it’s not that Bechdel’s own work sounds the way it does because of all the bands he’s played for, but rather that he was such a good fit for all of those bands because he already had this music in him, just waiting for the right opportunity to get out. “Decay” and “Tranquilizer” start the album off on a strong note, the first impression being that of hard but catchy big beat electronics, and then the guitars kick in, heavy as lead but tight and energetic. “The Wheel” and “Transform” are funkier but nastier; the infectious bass grooves and club-ready electronic sequences bely Bechdel’s coldwave-inspired vocals and dark-edged guitar overdrive. “Mystified” is the album’s most atmospheric offering, with a sense of epic bleakness seeping over from Bechdel’s work in Ascension of the Watchers. With noisy but relaxed guitars and dreamy, dreary vocal delivery, it’s a bit reminiscent of the slower moments from such industrial rock crossover acts as Filter or even Machines of Loving Grace. Similarly atmospheric, though perhaps less emotionally intense, is the exotic-sounding “Recover,” a melange of breakbeat grooves and sampled Middle Eastern horns, while “Deterioration” takes the opposite approach with an unapologetic industrial rock stomp in the vein of early Revolting Cocks and Die Warzau. An album with a little something for everyone, this release is modern enough to bring new fans into the industrial rock fold while drawing enough parallels to Bechdel’s previous projects to keep the old-school crowd happy. After so many years playing keyboards for other projects, Bechdel has debuted his own songwriting with an album he should be very proud of.
Visit Bechdel and friends at www.falseicons.com for more information.
13th Planet Records / Megaforce Records Posted: Tuesday, December 02, 2008
By: Ilker Yücel
Editor Renowned session player John Bechdel steps into the limelight with an industrial rock band that may not break new ground, but still does well to give listeners some of what they’ve missed since the mid ‘90s.You may not have heard of John Bechdel, but it’s almost certain that you’ve heard his music. Over the years, he’s lent his skills as a keyboardist and producer to many of the industrial rock scene’s heavy-hitters, not the least of which are Ministry, Fear Factory, Prong, Static-X, and Killing Joke. Now residing on the Thirteenth Planet, the label founded by Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, he’s not only joined the seminal industrial/metal outfit on their farewell tour, as well as formed Ascension of the Watchers with Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell, but he’s now stepping into the limelight with his own band, False Icons. Rounded out by keyboardist/guitarist Brian Broadt, drummer Mark Panek, and bassist Dave Brown, Bechdel & co. blast out a vicious helping of industrial rock, not dissimilar to several of the acts he’s been associated with. As such, one might be inclined to think that the band hardly stretches out from what he’s already accomplished, although from the first scathing synthesizers of “Decay,” False Icons demonstrate a propensity for giving equal attention to the electronic aspects of their music. Even as chugging riffs resound throughout, layers of synth tweaks, arpeggios, and pads make their presence known, creating a depth of sound that will surely put many in the mind of the early albums of Sister Machine Gun and ‘90s era KMFDM. Tracks like “Into the Emptiness,” “Recover,” and " Mystified" perhaps best exemplify the band’s formula, as the synthetic and organic elements are in a near perfect balance where each sound – be it a slithering electronic sequence, a twittering guitar line, or the drum breaks – is heard crisply in the mix without one overtaking the other. That’s not to say that the band lightens up on the rockier side of things, as “The Wheel” could easily be a Ministry outtake with its thrashing chorus of heavy guitars and percussion and Bechdel and Broadt taking their vocals to levels of aggression that are rather uncommon for the bulk of the album. As a lead vocalist, Bechdel explores a varied range of styles; while his natural tone is not particularly dynamic, it is more than passable in its sense of melody without going into gratuitous histrionics. He adds a bit of electrified distortion on the band’s namesake song, “False Icons,” and he roughens things up a bit on “Deterioration” in a manner that is sure to remind many listeners of Cubanate’s Marc Heal. God Complex is interestingly titled, almost relating to Bechdel’s ironic stature in the underground industrial music scene, for while he is well known and respected by the musicians at large, he’s been relatively invisible to audiences up until now. The only downside to this album is that it hardly breaks any new ground, so while God Complex might satisfy fans of industrial rock as well as demonstrate Bechdel’s talents more overtly than his numerous collaborations would indicate, False Icons ultimately comes across as a band not without talent, but with very little to distinguish themselves. But then again, it could simply be the intent to just give audiences some good old-fashioned industrial rock, in which case God Complex succeeds quite well.
False Icon: God Complex
Who knows what the future holds. Nobody does for sure but this group led by the rock veteran John Bechdel gives us a look into what may be in store. God Complex creates an atmosphere of a bleak mechanical society where humanity is lost. Using a techno electronic base to set the mood, False Icon expands from that idea with a multifaceted approach that brings together so many genres of music that to try and pigeonhole it into a category is impossible. Suffice it to say that there is something for everyone on this disc.
Opening up with the song Decay, the layered keyboards set the tone only to be thrashed by a serious churning guitar and a thumping bass line that brings images of Frankie Goes To Hollywood meets Marilyn Manson! This powerhouse beginning just lays the foundation for an album that is thoroughly entertaining with its intricate instrumentation by the whole band and the unique vocals of Bechdel. This is a group of four guys that have a real sense of what it takes to create a sound that is totally unlike anything you have heard before.
Brian Broadt on keyboards along with John makes a synthesizer backdrop from which this music morphs into the cornucopia that is God Complex. The constant driving rhythms that fuel the chaos are the responsibility of Mark Panek on drums and Dave Brown on bass. The stark cold world depicted on this album is brought to light by this pair. Brian and John also add the guitars that make this album so mad and the vision of a difficult to categorize. Together, this band brings the realities of a world gone future, which we would hope to avoid to the listeners.
According to Brian, the band has made an album about how the future may look, bleak, but there is still time to correct it. Using their metal skills, the guys emphasize this fact with the heavy guitar rockers like Lead The Way which is described as their metal anthem. He also told me that while recording at Al Jourgensen’s place, he sat in a chair that was used in the movie A Clockwork Orange. I guess there is nothing better than a trip to the Korova Milk Bar to help get the creative juices flowing. This work could have easily been used as a soundtrack for the world created by Anthony Burgess.
But aside from the futuristic aspects of the album, there is still the music that is such a great blend of so many styles. John’s diverse background which includes playing keyboards for a wide array of bands such as; Ministry, Fear Factory, Prong and Ascension of The Watchers, definitely helps with the music that his own band has set out to record. He draws on all of his experience in the creation of this disc. Never leaving well enough alone, he strives for the new and adventurous with every stroke of the keyboard and every riff of the guitar.
I asked Brian who the influences were when it came to making this album and as diverse as the music is, it was no wonder that he gave me such a broad spectrum of players as Frank Tovey, David Byrne, Killing Joke and The Beatles. These bands might have left their mark on the music of False Icons, but this band from Pennsylvania is without a doubt in a league of their own. Listening to the band’s self titled anthem False Icons, I hear a song about things to watch out for in our daily lives and in the future. They could not have come up with a better description for the band as the ARE a group to watch out for in the world of progressive music. 13th Planet Records has a hit on their hands and this is a group to watch for.
3. The Wheel
6. Lead the Way
7. False Icons
11. Into the Emptiness
Added: October 26th 2008
Reviewer: Scott Ward
Related Link: The Band’s MySpace Site
An Interview with John Bechdel
It’s hard for fans of Prong, Fear Factory, Killing Joke and Murder Inc. to match a face with the name John Bechdel (False Icons, Ascension of the Watchers). What these fans will quickly come to realize is, John Bechdel happens to be the linchpin that helped these phenomenal bands sound their best, especially during live performances. He’s spent over 15 years touring and recording as a keyboard player and programmer for these legendary groups.
Born in August of 1964 and raised in a very small, serene, country town in central PA, John was raised by five generations of morticians; both parents were teachers, and his father had three occupations. He was always surrounded by music, including an extensive record collection belonging to his father. His siblings and mother all played piano, and by the age of five, in the midst of piano lessons and records spinning, John knew he wanted to play music. Even before that, John was drawn in by some of music’s greatest: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, as well as classical music.
In the ’60s and ’70s, isolation was no stranger in towns like this one. Attending an experimental elementary school where there were no tests or grades, John was exposed to what most average middle class folks would consider a very unique, yet impressive upbringing. His family indulged in an enriched lifestyle including antique collecting, and even resided in an old antique Victorian home, which his father restored. They were constantly surrounded by books, literature, art, and theatre, and would go to New York and D.C. to visit museums. At the age of 11, John had a rare encounter with the late John Lennon where he got within inches of the legend and managed to talk him into giving him an autograph (something Lennon was not particularly known to do) on a napkin, which he still has today.
But John felt the urge to steer away from the comfort of his native PA. After the tragic death of his father, he finished high school and, at the age of 18, moved away to attend Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. There he studied electronic music, and had the freedom to discover an amazing yet rare way to earn a college degree. Being self-motivated was the only way to succeed in the independent school.
Nearly two decades later, John Bechdel has kept his independent spirit intact, and has a history of trials, tribulations, and unforgettable journeys with some of industrial’s best bands. Not to mention a brave foot in fatherhood, which stops many men from pursuing their lifelong dreams. But not John Bechdel. Though he likes to think he humbly lives like the average man, he will be remembered as a legend.
Tell us about your first experience in a band.
I was friends with Martin Atkins (PiL, Killing Joke, Invisible Records) who was actually the first “famous” person I’d ever worked with. After Atkins left PiL, he asked me to play in his band Brian Brain, which was first formed in the ‘70s. I tried out, and within days of my joining, we were doing shows at the Limelight and The Cat Club. It was funky, groovy music. We had Margot Olivaria, the original bass player of The Go-Go’s with us. We did little tours, and that was my first experience traveling with a band.
How did you become a part of Ascension of the Watchers?
Well, after Fear Factory visited my home, Burton took an interest in my studio and said “Wow, I see why you live here.” He ended up moving to PA after the Digimortal tour, and we recorded The Watchers, which I produce and co-write for. Burton came in with a guitar and a delay and started playing these guitar ideas, which I built songs off of. They became whole songs, and now we’re going to add live instrumentation to it. It’s definitely the highest profile project done in my studio thus far.
What were your expectations?
I thought it was going to sound like Fear Factory, but within the first five minutes, I knew it wasn’t going to sound like that at all (laughs). I didn’t expect what he was doing, which was something more melodic. It’s not metal at all.
Why the name False Icons, and how did the band come about?
When I get ideas, I scribble them on little bits of paper or Post-Its, and I collect them. It was somewhere around 1996, the words “False Icons” came into my mind, and I thought it would be a good name for a song. So it sat around, and nothing really happened with it, just like many other bits of paper in a pile somewhere.
My wife and I had just moved from the city and bought the piece of land we now live on. One night, we stopped to get coffee at a convenient store and decided to ask the cashier how he liked living here. He said it kind of sucked (laughs) and he was moving to Columbus, Ohio. I mentioned that I just went through there with Prong, and he froze and his eyes bulged out. He then reached under the counter and pulled out a box of CDs that were all Prong. All the independent releases and practically everything Prong did was in this box. I didn’t expect him to know who Prong was, nevermind have everything ever released by them. He knew Brian Broadt and told him what happened, and next thing you know, he’s down at a Danzig show Prong was opening up and recognized me and pointed me out. Brian didn’t do anything until he bought a CD called Abstinence, a project I’m a part of with my name on the front sticker. He then called my home and spoke to my wife while I was on tour. He had a band and wanted to bring over his tape, so when I came home, I invited him over and we immediately hit it off and started playing music together. This was in 1995, and I was fresh out of Prong and just beginning to write my own music. He’d come over and write stuff, and one night while I was out walking my dog, I heard him putting together some ideas. I came in and added some beats, started programming rhythms, and over the next couple of days, I absorbed the music that he’d started articulating, adding to it, and integrating with it. That first track marked the beginning and became the track “False Icons.”
What is the status of False Icons right now?
The track “Decay” was at #6 on the Internet industrial charts before it moved to #17, so it’s been bumping around the top 20 for some time now. We put “Into the Emptiness” up first and hit the top 20. It feels like we are finally reaching out to the world. We’ve gotten fans from all age groups from all over the world!
What are your roles in False Icons?
I play guitar, keyboards, and programming, drum programming, and even bass. I’m the main lyricist and vocalist. Rob Blankenship plays bass, and is the other vocalist with the heavy, hard-rock kind of tones. I do a lot of vocal harmonizing with melodic/high/low tones. The problem with harmonizing live is a different trick, though, so I have a harmonizer now that will do the harmonies for me. It’s amazing.
You can do anything you put your mind to with the right tools.
I think that’s what gave me the confidence with the harmonies. I wasn’t able to pitch perfectly every time, so I use my natural voice with the harmonizer to totally lock in. I didn’t say “hey, I want to be the frontman of a band!,” it was more like I want and need to make this music, so I need to figure out how to make it. If I’m the guy singing and playing guitar and stuff, I need to figure out a way to do all that comfortably. I’ve thought about playing keyboards, but I think it might be difficult singing and playing keys.
What is your favorite False Icons song?
I’d have to say “Decay.” It seems to be the definitive False Icons song. It has a little bit of everything in there.
What does all this mean to you, being where you are now in life?
We all really feel strongly about this project. It’s not that we want to have this band to get away from it all, this is at our core being, and our desire to make this music is something we have to do. It’s what keeps us going. When Mark Panek, our drummer, came in, he wasn’t just in it for the gig, he was totally absorbed in the music. At first, I thought we could just have the drum tracks programmed and have some guy hitting drum pads (laughs). It wasn’t going to work like that at all. That’s how we feel about the whole thing: It can’t be half-ass. Mark nailed it on the first tryout. That was a sure sign we were going to do well with a live drummer. We have at least 16 songs now, and we’re like a family. You’re either in it or you aren’t, and we want to remain a little mysterious. There are so many bands out there with too many pictures of themselves, talking about themselves to a such degree that who really cares what you think anymore? Just because you’re a musician, you think people really care what your views are? It’s cool to talk about your influences and what you think and all, but talking about the music is the most important.
At least you can say, “I was there. I did this.”
Yeah, it’s been a strange, yet interesting path, coming from a small town to discover music, play music, and do all of this the way I have. There were a lot of sacrifices to get to each point, it wasn’t all a breeze. There’ll always be something new to learn in music. And I’ll always be in it to explore.
False Icons – GodComplex Review
by Dawn Marie Fichera
False Icons is fronted by John Bechdel, lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass, and programming, Brian Broadt, vocals, keyboards, programming, additional guitar, Mark Panek, drums and Dave Brown, bass.
Any band that has programming listed by multiple people in their outfit creates a red flag for me. While this album was released Tuesday, my apologies to those who lined up Monday night to buy this without reading my review; I think that there will be ample copies left to purchase after today. For those of you who made a mad dash through never-never land to get your fingers on this album, congratulations and I am sorry.*
Now, this is not to say that the GodComplex is without merit. There are plenty of folks who believe that virtual reality and reality should coalesce into one being and the lines of distinction should blur imperceptibly until one is neither unconvinced nor persuaded that they are living the life of a video game character and that the music belting from their headphones merely entertains the fact even more.
However, listening to False Icons may very well leave you well, wanting to listen to true icons. The album God Complex left me wondering who pissed off the creator of the Matrix enough to let these boys unhinge themselves from the grid and escape their perfect little digital world and create a scene. Even Keanu Reeves would have to tell them to hook back into the mainframe until they could figure out the difference between the red chip and the blue.
God Complex starts off ambitiously enough; a nod to Rob Zombie meets early Metallica with a twist of Old Ozzy for good measure. It held all the promises of a computerized tech-kids wet dream but crashed mercilessly against the motherboard. A few paces in to Decay and the vocals clamored through a cacophonous symphony of distortion. Meaning, I could not understand a damn thing they were saying. “Tranquilizer” and “The Wheel” followed suit. Unfalteringly, my curiosity quickly turned to ennui. Without the aid of printed vocals accompanying the CD, I scrambled and strained to extract some meaningful life-altering analogies between their world and mine. No such luck. “Mystified” left me anything but, though I was curious to detect a Genesis thread, perhaps it was the similar theme. The song, “False Icons,” did hold a kind of chaotic sexually charged element reminiscent of Type o Negative for a hot second and then teetered out without so much of a goodnight kiss.
Now, I get creative license and experimentalism and I can appreciate pushing the proverbial envelop a little harder than most to try and blend a bunch of genres into one and instill a little freshness to the scene. Industrial/metal legend Al Jourgensen, the mastermind behind Ministry and Revolting Cocks, and a vital member of Jello Biafra’s Lard, and his lovely wife, Angie Jay stamped their sound all over this album, tried to create a parallel universe where the intersection of reality lay at the footstep of the mind but I am not buying it.
The truth of the matter is that the album fell flat, wasn’t particularly daring, and reeked of over production. I envisioned myself one of those computer kids holed off in a compartmentalized space, empty coffee cups littering the floor and half-eaten bags of popcorn strewn about with a lone light bulb overhead casting an eerie glare below as I clutched at a joystick and killed make believe cyborgs to get in the mood. I would have even relented if I could imagine some cool cyber sex porn scene capitalizing on the noise emanating from this album. In the end, I felt like Kafka’s Joseph K. a far cry from the intent of the album.
[* editor’s note: The band’s label, 13th Planet, lists 11/11/08 as the release date, however some online retailers show different dates later this month and none of them match! Gotta love indie releases.]
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The Oberheim OBX: Old School Synths And False Icons
December 05, 2008
John Bechdel, of False Icons, has spoken to Gearwire recently of his Akai sampler, his Memorymoog and his band False Icons’ first CD God Complex. When making that record he relied heavily on another piece of old school gear, the Oberheim OBX.
“I was familiar with the later OBX models but found them thinner than the Moogs,” says Bechdel. “When I played with Killing Joke, they used OBX’s and I was amazed at how fat they were. Also they created all those dirge and noise sounds which I just loved.”
While he mainly uses the OBX in the studio there have been times when it has been out on the road. But his OBX is not necessarily ideal for roadwork.
“I took it on the road when I was in Prong, I used it live on some of the Cleansing tours. It was awesome. Wouldn’t try it now,” he says. “We still used them in Killing Joke well into the 90’s. With False Icons, I played riffs manually because I don’t have a MIDI version, then I tweaked out the sounds at the same time, getting some nice performances which we captured into Logic.”
There is one quirk with the OBX, which Bechdel says is reliable instrument.
“One tricky thing, in order to reactivate a knob you have to crank it almost all the way first. Overall, they were pretty rock solid compared to the Moogs but still had their moments. Stays in tune and tunes much faster too,” says Bechdel. “The OBX is very different from the later OB’s it’s a much fatter sound but more rudimentary than its predecessors. Some of the things about it make it unique and I think they got it right on the first try.”
Bechdel says that the OBX is capable of making sounds the other Oberheims cannot. The OBX can, however, make all the sounds of the other Oberheim synths. So it is the sensible one of the lot to have.
“There’s no denying the appeal of the massive OBX’s and let’s not forget the mammoth Matrix 12. They shared that special time when synths came of age. The Jupiter-8 ,the PPG,the Fairlight and Synclavier. They infiltrated all areas of music during that time.” he says. “Obviously, there are literally thousands of completely and utterly useless sounds in a lot of these synths. Although there are always a few really good ones, the best sounds can be made by programming your own. That’s what it’s really all about with all the knobs and sliders. it’s easy and fun. I still get frustrated sometimes trying to program soft-synths. There’s a few sounds which are dated and yet still work, like a good filter sweep, but I can still get more modern and useful sounds out of them when I try.”
False Icons are playing shows in the good old US of A, plan to tour Europe and are working up a slew of butt whomping remixes.
For more on False Icons.
Mog Memorymoog — It May Not Stay In Tune But it Still Works For False Icons
December 04, 2008
John Bechdel of False Icons is a fan of old synths. One of his favorites — excepting a little problem with tuning — is the latter day Moog — the Memorymoog. Even with the tuning issues, Bechdel says he managed some great atonal sounds on the band’s just released CD, God Complex.
On to the Memorymoog!
“I had all my old synths serviced before we started recording but the Memorymoogs had problems with the auto-tune function. If the oscillators drift too far out of range, the auto-tune doesn’t work. There were possibly newer versions of the oscillators without the problem but it would still have to be re-calibrated, which is a nightmare on the Memorymoogs,” he says. “When I first bought it in the ‘80’s, it tuned fine, after it was serviced it did only for a month or so. Anyway, when it’s all out of tune, it’s easy to get very atonal sounds which are reminiscent of Fad Gaget and Depeche Mode. I really wanted to use it, so it worked out in the end.”
Bechdel’s Memorymoog is actually the Memorymoog+ model.
“(It) has the MIDI retro-fit, providing primitive and slow MIDI implementation. When they work they are wondrous, there’s nothing like the warm angelic sounds the analog voice cards produce. I’ve gotten choirs and voices that sound like a sampler,” he says. “Also, FM type sounds characteristic of the DX-7 as well as, the full spectrum of analog splendor. In mono mode, it stacks all the voices and you can turn on all the waveforms to get 56 oscillators on one key. At one point I had three memories, not bad for synth bass.”
And this synth really can add something to a recording session.
“It has a unique rich sound, hard to re-create with anything else. The Micro Moog and Memorymoog were my first synths so I’m very bonded to them,” says Bechdel. “It’s worth all the effort. At one point there was a modern mod for about $2,000 that turbo charged the MIDI. I’d love to get that.”
A Memorymoog is similar to the venerable Minimoogs but it has, as the name would suggest, a great deal more memory. But there are other differences.
“I played Minimoogs but never owned one, seemed to have things covered with the Memorymoogs. One thing I never liked about the Mini was it only had ADRs instead of ADSRs.” says Bechdel.
And there is more Bechdel likes about the Memorymoog.
“The filters sound great and there’s three osc’s per voice. A cool feature is it allows osc 3 to modulate osc 1 and 2,” he says. “Plus it can be modulated itself from the LFO, then you can put osc 3 out of low range and back to audible range which makes awesome FM sounds.”
False Icons are playing US shows now and plan to tour Europe in 2009.
For more on False Icons.
Patrick Ogle writes for Gearwire.
The Akai S5000 Is The Sampler Of Choice For False Icon’s John Bechdel
December 04, 2008
John Bechdel has played with a variety of bands over the years, but these days, he is working with his own project, False Icons. The debut CD, God Complex is out now.
“After working with so many incredible bands, I wanted to make an album that reflected all of that experience but still had a sound of its own. False Icons allows me to portray a more accurate picture of who I am and what I’m all about,” he says. “This is the kind of music that I’ve always wanted to make. We spent a long time making this CD, building the band and live show.”
Bechdel has been a devotee of Akai’s samplers for years.
“After working with the Mirage, Prophet 2000 and Emax I purchased an Akai S900 in ’87 then added an Emax SE-HD about a year later. The thing I loved about the Akai was how easy it was to use, and the sampling quality was excellent,” says Bechdel. “I traded up to the S1000 as soon as it came out and the 16-bit stereo sampling was the best in the industry. The ability to transpose many octaves and still have superb playback resolution made it ideal for slowed down loops and incredible machine-like sounds.”
Bechdel says that over the years he has built a massive library of sounds (many while working at a music shop).
“The Akais proved to be workhorses for a generation of musicians. They were reliable on the road, and so many people used them they were considered a standard for swapping sounds,” he says. The Emax was the perfect compliment because it was warmer and richer in tone and had a wonderful analog filter. The Akai was a better quality sampler but was thin and sterile when compared to Emu. The Akai was better for drums and samples, the Emax was better at pads and basses."
These days he uses the S5000.
“When I was in Fear Factory, the new line of Akais the S5000 and 6000 came out and where a major step forward,” says Bechdel. “Not so much the sampling quality but the features. They really got it right. The 2000’s and 3000’s were just glorified 1000’s. The 5000 was a whole new machine.”
If he had to change anything about the sampler he would make it less labor intensive. Looping, for instance, takes a long time. And while time stretching works well Bechdel says you’d need a chart and a calculator to use it. The learning curve for the S5000 should not be too bad for most folks according to Bechdel — with one caveat.
“I suppose it wouldn’t be too hard but, some modern plug-in oriented folks may want to smash their head against the display when it says “processing please wait” for several minutes at a time.” he says.
But this is not a real KNOCK on the S5000 or Akai units in general. Bechdel swears by them.
“It’s been a staple in my live rig for years. I used it and a Kurzweil 2500 on stage with Fear Factory. With Ministry, everything was in Akai format and they also used Akais extensively, so it was meant to be. With False Icons, I have so many sounds, thousands of drum samples etc,” he says. “I just turn it on, and I know what sounds to go for, it’s second nature. I’m only now relying on it less and using a computer for sampling more but, I still prefer a hardware sampler for playing and manipulating samples. The Akais do neat loop fx tricks too.”
The band has upcoming shows in the USA and plan on heading to Europe in 2009. Remixes are also in the plans.
For more on False Icons.
Patrick Ogle writes for Gearwire
Music: False Icons: God Complex
Now that Ministry’s career has officially ended, it seems that many of the members of its final touring lineups have been involved in solo projects. Earlier this year we saw vocalist/Fear Factory front man Burton Bell unleash his Ascension of the Watchers project, and now keyboardist John Bechdel has released the debut album from his band False Icons. Offering bleak, futuristic industrial music that at time sounds strikingly similar to Ministry, the group’s debut God Complex is solid but does leave room for improvement.
Considering that Ministry’s Al Jourgensen was involved in mixing and producing God Complex, it is not surprising that False Icons occasionally sounds fairly close to Ministry. However, whereas Jourgensen’s band offered very heavy industrial arrangements, Bechdel’s group often goes for slightly more melodic industrial/electronica arrangements while still maintaining a bleak and desolate atmosphere. The results at times sound like a cross between Ministry and Ascension of the Watchers, which is likely due to the fact that Bechdel has been involved in both groups. There are some noteworthy songs on this release and fans of the aforementioned will definitely love God Complex, but False Icons does have a little ways to go before their blend of industrial rock can truly be considered original.
John Bechdel has a very melodic voice that fits the instrumentals extremely well. Although there are some filters and background effects in place to make Bechdel’s voice sound larger than life at times, his singing still sounds as though it would stand on its own without the use of these effects. At times he sounds like a cross between Trent Reznor and Burton Bell, and it is quite likely that fans of either of those two will enjoy what is offered throughout God Complex. The lyrical content is appropriately dark, and in this regard False Icons are definitely ahead of some of the other groups in their genre.
False Icons is a welcome addition to the Thirteenth Planet family, and fans of industrial music as well as Ministry/Ascension of the Watchers will find a good deal to like about God Complex. However, Bechdel’s time spent in these other group shows as some of his ideas don’t come off as entirely original and do lessen the impact that this debut will have. But with a little more time and even further experimentation, we could be looking at a stand out industrial act.
The industrial monster also known as False Icon has made a formidable industrial record for 2008. Industrialized drums, evil syntheziers, heavy guitars and stirring vocals that soar all over the record make ‘God Complex’ an undeniable industrial record that industrial fans need to have in their artillery. In the song ‘Transform’ we get the upbeat groove, channeling early NIN but with a bit more conviction and substance. John and Brian’s voice are most significant on the record and really give the record the edge that it needs. With Al(ien) Jourgensen on the mixing and producing helm, False Icon shines and sounds exactly what a ‘real’ industrial metal band should sound like: Heavy, Dark, and Synthetic. The album has a heavy and powerful ambience that resonates throughout the album without any dull moments. Staying true to the tried and true sound of dark industrial metal, the boys on Fasle Icon are on the right track. There’s a visceral yet satisfying feeling that comes over after the records done which by the way, I don’t get to much, the end of the record, so that’s saying a lot. This record is a definite adventure in sound created by musicians with great talent. This one’s a score!
So 13th Planet Records, Al Jourgensen’s pet project now that Ministry is no more, is finally releasing some more music that doesn’t revolve around an Al Jourgensen-fronted band. False Icons is an Industrial Rock act out of Pennsylvania helmed by John Bechdel, who has recorded and toured for over twenty years with an impressive array of seminal artists including Ministry, Fear Factory, Prong, Killing Joke, Murder Inc. and Ascension Of The Watchers.
And, wouldn’t you know it, the band sounds a lot like Ministry, Fear Factory, Prong, Killing Joke, Murder Inc., etc. Imagine that. The debut album, God Complex, is set to be released on November 11th and features Bechdel on vocals, guitar and keyboards, Brian Broadt on keyboards, vocals and guitars, Mark Panek on drums and Dave Brown on bass. The album was Mixed and Produced by Uncle Al.
It should be interesting to see if this act can carve out a unique niche for itself amongst its label mates. Check out the band’s MySpace page for a sampling of their sound and other info.
FALSE ICONS Debut Produced By MINISTRY’s AL JOURGENSEN – Sep. 19, 2008
FALSE ICONS will release its debut CD, “God Complex”, on November 11 via 13th Planet Records. The band features industrial rock veteran John Bechdel on vocals, guitar and keyboards; Brian Broadt on keyboards, vocals and guitars; Mark Panek on drums; and Dave Brown on bass. Mixed and produced by MINISTRY’s Al Jourgensen, “God Complex” combines elegantly layered keyboards, heavy guitars, deep bass, sophisticated atmospheric touches and John’s unique vocal style.
Dark and powerful, “God Complex” is an inspirational journey of imagery and emotion that is sure to capture the attention of fans of powerful, extreme music the world over. Each track on “God Complex” creates its own separate world – a synthetic landscape of sounds, rhythms and dark, airy melodies. Bechdel’s descriptive lyrics and unique vocal style deliver an intriguing series of futuristic visions, life’s journeys and mysteries. His eloquent guitar lines swirl through Broadt’s hard-charging electronic beats and occasional heroic vocal rants, carving their way through plethoras of synthesizers. “God Complex” is a dense, layered and kaleidoscopic collection of songs created by a quartet of adept musicians and more importantly, music fans with an unbridled zeal and enthusiasm for creating adventurous music.
John Bechdel is one of the great behind-the-scenes figures on the international industrial rock scene. Though his name might not be immediately recognizeable to your average rock fan, a short perusal of his resume shows he is one of the great unsung heroes of the genre. From playing organ in the family funeral home as a young man to unleashing sonic keyboard assaults for 50,000 sweaty European festival goers, Bechdel is no stranger to musical performance. Bechdel has recorded and toured the world for over twenty years with an impressive array of seminal artists including MINISTRY, FEAR FACTORY, PRONG, KILLING JOKE, MURDER INC. and ASCENSION OF THE WATCHERS. Through it all however, he always had a vision of leading his own band and this dream was fulfilled when he and Brian Broadt formed FALSE ICONS in 2002.
In addition to putting the finishing touches to “God Complex” this past year, Bechdel brought his musical expertise to “Numinosum”, the full-length debut of Burton C. Bell’s ASCENSION OF THE WATCHERS, and was touring keyboardist for MINISTRY’s phenomenal 2008 “C U LaTour”.
For more information, visit www.myspace.com/falseicons.
Experience & Education
Masters in song writting and Music Business at Berklee College Of Music2007 to 2011 (4 years)