This interview dates from May 2004 and first appeared in my old web project, Consumed Magazine. Unfortunately, in true DC post-hardcore form, Decahedron have since disbanded. Shelby’s current projects include Frantic Mantis and The Cassettes.
superproduct: For the uninitiated, what was – or is – the Frodus
Shelby: The Frodus Conglomerate was our subversive organization that existed within the framework of modern American corporate society, unleashing musical subversion onto the listening masses for the purpose of questioning the framework.
superproduct: In the Frodus manifesto you stated that “The Frodus Conglomerate
is hesitant to punish, but where it must, it applies the questionable
ethics of big business on big business.” You also said in an old
interview that Frodus were “just fuelling the machine and subverting
order as we are amongst the cogs” when you signed to a new
label. Would you have gone to an even bigger label if you could retain
complete artistic control (whatever that means) at that stage?
Shelby: Yes. We would sign to Sony if they would supply me with a legion of their robot humanoids and dogs as well as a small satellite network with complete access and broadcast channels. Our way or the highway – when the labels become desperate due to the net chaos in the future they will take me up on this offer.
superproduct: So were you intending to use the methods of big music business against itself?
Shelby: At the moment we are using more underground methods… we are the virus.
superproduct: Has anything changed since then?
Shelby: Our methodology has changed. Our lyrical content isn’t as vague and satirical and we are more direct with our message.
superproduct: You seem to be very involved in shaping the ‘identity’ of bands through your design work – and with both Frodus and Decahedron there is a strong sense of unity between the presentation of the bands and the ideas in your songs. Is it important to you that artists are a part of the non-musical processes, or is it simply a personal interest?
Shelby: I think it’s very important, and it’s something that I have held dear to my heart. Music is a great companion that can help people through tough times, and is a very powerful and inspiring artform. Some artists are unsure of how to present themselves and me being a musician and designer for a long time helps me understand their minds and makes the process very natural and easy.
superproduct: Are you heavily involved with the presentation side of things because you are using marketing tools of big business against themselves to spread a
subservient message? Is this why you talk about propaganda and mind
control so much, or is that more to do with your interest in ‘futurism’
and science fiction?
Shelby: All of the above.
superproduct: I have noticed a lot of similarities between the concept of the ‘Frodus Conglomerate International’, and of the collective of ‘corporate’
artists called eToy – for example, in your artwork that features the
band dressed in black, posing outside monolithic corporate buildings – as well as referring to each other as ‘agents’, and your enthusiasm for
online communication. Were you influenced by eToy or do you just share a
similar frame of reference?
Shelby: I don’t know anything about eToy until this interview. I think it is a similar frame of reference.
superproduct: Have time or events altered your mindset much since you started Frodus?
Shelby: Definitely. Experiencing death, terminal illness, seeing a rise in nationalism, and a disconnection to the society I am a part of.
Question everything you consume
superproduct: As was touched on earlier, you produce a lot of things associated with the mass media – even, with Decahedron, a music video. Where do you draw the line between ‘independent’ and mainstream products? Do you think
it’s necessary to?
Shelby: Independent = not funded by large corporations that control the output’s message. It is run by a few individuals in power, it could have affiliations through large distribution channels. I think it’s best to avoid those large distribution channels but at a certain level it can be seen as a necessary evil to spread a message. Certain large labels keep it true on a larger scale, like V2 (White Stripes, Icarus Line), as well as a few others. However, labels on that scale that maintain integrity are few and far between. Our video kind of just happened as an old Frodus fan came out of the woodwork and donated his time, money, and energy to do it. He is actually someone I met when I was an extra in the movie Contact (filmed in 1997) who was the head Production Assistant and consequently became a Frodus affiliate.
I think it’s definitely important to question everything you consume. You may be inadvertently supporting something that is destructive to a free and peaceful society.
File sharing is the new radio and record store
superproduct: In your ‘Call to Arms’ one of the things you seem to be saying is
that with file sharing the music industry is, in effect, being eaten by
its children: having devalued music to a commodity like any other,
whilst creating great demand for it, before immediately replacing it
with something else. Consumers are aware that a lot of populist media –
especially music – has been produced by a massively wealthy
organisation, and do not believe (or do not care) that they are harming
them. But you also suggest that this is good for independent music?
Shelby: File sharing is the new radio and the new record store, a meeting ground for fans of music to find things they like and communicate. I think it has been empowered by the independent world as a positive tool. Radio is a dead commodified medium that is about advertising and rarely spreading anything that is challenging. I think the Internet is the great socialiser, putting things at an easy reach for all. I think it’s time for the large organizations to crumble and time for the wealth to be shared. It’s already happening, it’s too late for the music industry to maintain their operating level as they have.
superproduct: Why did publish your Call to Arms under the moniker ‘Demosthenes’? Is it a reference to the alias assumed by a character in the books of Orson Scott Card, or to the original Greek?
Shelby: Orson Scott Card. I like what the character did with the initial fires he kindled with his writings.
superproduct: Do you think a ‘mainstream’ could exist without all the commercial bullshit used to propagate the existing market?
Shelby: In more socialist countries such as Sweden there is a thin line with independent and mainstream – small indie bands will get covered by large national press and TV and all of a sudden a small indie band will be a household name. It creates a much more Japanese-style fast moving art culture with quick trends, but at the same time I think it cultivates something positive, it spreads the wealth and is empowering to artists. It’s a sad thing when my other band, The Cassettes, get played on Swedish national radio at a decent hour and anything I do here in the states will only see college radio play and the Washington, DC FM “alternative” station wouldn’t shake a stick at it. Radio originally was something to reflect regional flavour in the US and now it’s become just about advertising and big money.
America is an example of capitalism gone wild – without ethics and obsessed with money. It’s like we live in the middle ages of our country! I think things will get better in the future of America and hopefully it will adopt more of an ‘ethical capitalism’. The Internet is already a key part of the socialization process of ideas and art and it’s exciting to see how things will transgress.
Commercial bullshit will always exist. It has throughout history.
superproduct: A slogan that Decahedron has inherited from Frodus is “Delete False Culture”. What do you mean by that?
Shelby: It can mean a multitude of things: Choose what you want to intake in your life; delete the things that are false to you; disregard the rhetoric of the government; surround yourself with things that empower you – the list can go on and on with some things that may border legal issues and computer crime. Use your mind and come up with your own meanings!
superproduct: In the last Frodus album, ‘And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea’ there is quite a lot of what I interpret to be religious imagery, presumably
because much of the album seems to be occupied with life, war and the
destruction of humanity. Again with Decahedron you tell us to “delete
false idols”. Obviously this can be applied in a non-religious context, but…
Shelby: Definitely. I think the lyrics are pretty straightforward on Delete False Culture:
mind is on
sleep never comes
remember to tell no lies
convicted by ideas
that false heroes
lead the earth
into an era
tell them all
“don’t think too much”
– it could be seen as inspired from the same places religious observation is inspired by, which is life, experience, and thought…
Download Delete False Culture: MP3
superproduct: But, as someone so occupied with the future, science and corporatism, what part to do you see religion taking in the lives of the majority in the future?
Shelby: I think religion is always an important thing in keeping mankind trudging forward and connecting one to the energy of creation. However, I personally think the following: that the egotism that there is one right religion and other religions are wrong is where man has failed to interpret the spiritual writings correctly, by focusing on differences and trusting that the oral and written traditions were recorded without bias. Religion in the future won’t be anything much different than today with its multitude of extremists and those more humble and open minded in their faiths.
superproduct: So where does this leave America, overshadowed by George W Bush’s own brand of ‘black and white’ religious fundamentalism?
Shelby: It throws America back into a simplistic mentality reminiscent of the Middle Ages and that is regressive to world societal progress. George Bush’s ‘black and white’ views are just as extreme as any other religious extremist that feels that their way is the “good” way and they are fighting “evil”. All this will do is fuel more extremism with extremism. It is “fighting fire with fire”.
superproduct: For you, rock and roll may be war, but like you say in Delete False Culture, “under the guise revolutionary lies/empty anger”. Anger,
especially in music with the whole nu-metal debacle, has been
commodified, like other expressions of rebellion before it. How do you
intend to make yourselves heard in this environment?
Shelby: I don’t know if we will be heard in this particular environment you refer to, but I feel like we are saying something within our music that many people feel, and if this can solidify and inspire those that are like minded as well as turn on some new people to our music and other independent music it is a positive thing. At times I feel like the music I am a part of won’t be really understood in my lifetime to its’ fullest degree but perhaps be a beacon of hope for some revolutionaries when the world is covered by more darkness and controlling regimes.
Question, Delete, Reconstruct
superproduct: Do you have anything else to say about music, consumerism, corporatism,
and life in general?
Shelby: I have much to say. It will appear in a sci-fi book I will write at some point in my life. For now I would just like to say “Question, Delete, Reconstruct.”
superproduct: and do you have any recommendations for stuff that’s worth reading?
Shelby: Anything and everything by Frank Herbert and William Gibson; Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ and ‘Demon Haunted World’; Alistair Crowley’s Biography ‘The Eye In The Triangle’ by Israel Regardie; ‘The Poetic Edda’; ‘Man And Time’ edited by Joseph Campbell and ‘Tono Bungay’ by HG Wells.
superproduct: Shelby Cinca, thanks.
Photography by Erik Keldsen.