April 22, 2022
2. Left for Dead
3. Beat Down by Heaven
4. Santa Monica
5. Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)
6. Dirty Soul
7. Ruined Me
8. I See You
9. The Metal of My Hell
10. Push The Grease
11. Rats Rise
12. Until I Kill The Beast
ABOUT THE RELEASE
Tara Busch has fought hard to get here. By ‘here’, we mean WAR — the new album from the experimental music veteran’s audio-visual project I Speak Machine, which she co-helms with filmmaker Maf Lewis. This is a collection of her most visceral, confrontational, and honest music yet. And it’s been a lifetime in the making.
Busch, 48, grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut and Charlotte, North Carolina. A quiet, anxious kid, she fell in love with rock ’n’ roll aged 13, as she began to tear herself from the conservative Catholic dogma in which she’d been raised.
Through the early ‘90s, Busch fronted the grunge/Paisley Underground band Dahli Llama, which gave her a taste of the spit-and-sweat-and-blood energy of a raw rock performance. After that band disintegrated in 1995, she spent years creatively lost and personally floundering; she was singing on karaoke backing tracks and waiting tables for cash, while dealing with a burgeoning alcohol addiction. “I was in total free-fall; it took me years to find my footing,” she says.
A spark came in 2001. At the Winter Music Conference in Miami, where Busch was set to unenthusiastically contribute to a dance track, she met Maf Lewis, co-founder of the Welsh breakbeat label Plastic Raygun. Five days later, she moved with Lewis to Cardiff; a year later, they were married.
Soon Busch and Lewis, plus collaborator Rohan Tarry, formed the electronica band Dynamo Dresden, who released their only LP Remember in 2004.
Here, the previously-technophobic Busch picked up an interest in music technology, exploring the world of vintage synthesizers and assisting in production. But in the group environment, she felt constrained. “It was really difficult, especially as a woman, because nobody listens to you no matter how hard you shout and how much you strive,” says Busch. “So I decided to do it on my own.” Busch and Lewis moved back to the US, where in 2009 she released her first solo album, the self-produced Pilfershire Lane, on Tummy Touch Records. “Unfortunately, I felt a lot of pressure to show that I could do everything myself, and that I don’t need a man to produce me,” she recounts. The couple also launched the blog analogsuicide.com, which became a popular hub for gear enthusiasts in the decade that it ran.
The genesis of I Speak Machine was in 2013, when Lewis made his debut short horror film The Silence, with a live score by Busch. Busch and Lewis worked in tandem — Busch even wrote music on set, as filming was underway — to create a symbiotic and interactive piece of art, wherein the film was only complete when screened alongside a live performance from Busch. They took the same approach with 2015’s Zombies 1985, which they took on tour with Gary Numan in 2016. Both soundtracks were released on Lex Records.
In 2017, Busch began work on WAR, her first non-score album since Pilfershire Lane. Now based in LA, Busch remotely co-produced with Sheffield-based Dean Honer (Roísín Murphy, Add N To (X)). It was a process that would take four years to complete, as Busch pushed herself into new, unfamiliar territories in her synth-based songwriting, while also returning to the immediate, aggressive spirit of her past life in rock. The Trump presidency was a looming presence, which prompted Busch to explore not only the country’s sinister political atmosphere, but the turmoil that was raging in her own life. She was emerging from an alcoholaddiction, while battling with trauma and panic attacks that sometimes left her bedridden.
“[There were] many levels of war going on during the record,” says Busch. “This album dove into some really, really dark shit in my life, that I felt could beminimized and put in perspective a bit if I sang about it. It’s kind of like shining a light on the monster, and realising that it’s just a teddy bear.”
She continues, “I wanted to do something that was just through my eyes and not anyone else’s. The big thing was just trying to not give a fuck, and get rid ofinhibitions. And I wanted to shout my head off a little bit too.”
The album opens on title track “War”, where with darkly danceable synths Busch creates a rousing battle song. “This song was probably written the fastest out ofthem all, in a state of shock after Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” comment regarding the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville,” Busch remembers. Vocally, she’s a formidable presence, sounding every inch like she could command an army as she proclaims: ‘Now we fight / Because it’s war’. Meanwhile, her synth lines contort and squeal as if in response. “I Speak Machine seems to me to be Tara expressing her emotions through synthesizers. It’s almost like she’s singing through those synths,” says Lewis.
On lead single “The Metal Of My Hell”, a driven and urgent industrial-tinged track, Busch vocalizes her battle with addiction. “It’s a moment of rage, trying to get the fuck out of the dungeon of addiction but still, after many years, not quite having the right key,” she explains. “In time, I realized it!s also about owning and accepting that bitch — addiction — head-on, and sitting with it without fear. It got to where I figuratively wanted to switch the ugly fluorescent lights on, spit gasoline into the face of addiction, light it on fire and feel it burn, instead of see it as this insurmountable beast.”
Elsewhere, the defiant “Beat Down By Heaven” and the haunting “Dirty Soul” utilize some of the album’s grimiest synth sounds to face the spectre of Busch’s childhood in the Catholic church head-on. “No record about mental turmoil would be complete without a prod to the ribs of Catholicism,” she says. “Looking back, I find it utterly fascinating and horrible what [religion] did to my development as a child and into my teen years, and how my head was figuratively held under water for many years. I was forever feeling the dissonance of “if I don’t go to church & confession I’ll go to hell, I’m terrified” versus “this is bullshit — I’m out” — a dissonance I applied to myself later in life with addiction.” Of the latter song, she expands: “I wanted to sing about the painful yet delightful yet embarrassing yet weirdly satisfying breakdown of when the facade of religion cracks, piece by piece. If I have what is considered a “filthy heart” by the Catholic church, I must be doing something right.”
Both “Dirty Soul” and “The Metal Of My Hell” are accompanied by Lewis’s carefully plotted and creatively unnerving visuals, which are inspired by the likes of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. Much like the couple’s film scores, WAR’s videos and music developed alongside each other, and were deeply collaborative. “As soon as I hear music, as soon as Tara’s just playing around with early stages, there’ll be visual images forming in my head,” says Lewis. “We might have worked on those ideas for a year before we start shooting a video, so there’ll be no afterthoughts.” For these videos, Lewis worked with a combination of digital and Super 8 film, capturing dynamic and uninhibited performances by Busch amid distinctly Californian backdrops — LA River, Griffith Park and Yosemite National Park.
After 11 tracks that are at once exhilarating and exhausting, the album closes on “Until I Kill The Beast”, a sparse and disarmingly pretty ballad. Here, Busch reflects on a lifetime of trauma, examining the temptation of hopelessness. Yet the song ends with the beginning of a more hopeful cycle: “My love begets another love.” “This tune was me trying to forgive myself for all the drama and pain over the years, to provide comfort in the moment,” says Busch. “A closing lullaby.”
It’s a quietly triumphant conclusion to an album that, though full of darkness, burns with a tenacious flame. Ultimately, I Speak Machine come home victors. “This album feels like a culmination of all the different voices and mistakes and fun things I’ve done over my career,” Busch sums up. “I wasn’t famous in the 90s, I didn’t have a so-called big break, but it still feels like the timing was right for this. It’s taken me a long time to get to it. But it never occurred to me to give up on it, that’s for sure.”
European Tour Dates with Gary Numan
May 24 | Dublin — IE | Olympia Theatre
May 26 | Amsterdam — NL | Melkweg
May 27 | Aarhus — DK | Train
May 29 | Copenhagen — DK | Amager Bio
May 30 | Oslo — NO | John Dee (Ved Rockefeller)
May 31 | Malmo — SE | Kulturbolaget
June 2 | Berlin — DE | Columbia Theater
June 3 | Warsaw — PL | Progresja
June 7 | Paris — FR | Le Cabaret Sauvage
June 10 | Madrid — SP | Sala But
June 11 | Barcelona — SP | Sala Razzmatazz
June 13 | Brussels — BE | Ancienne Belgique
June 14 | Munich — DE | Backstage Werk
June 15 | Leipzig — DE | Taubchenthal
June 16 | Hamburg — DE | Markhalle
June 17 | Frankfurt — DE | Batschkapp