The Making of "Not For Music"
By Patrick Lamberts

The Brussels-based metal band Emptiness received help for their newest release Not For Music from unexpected sources. Marilyn Manson bassist Jeordie White/Twiggy Ramirez was looking for contact for the band after they sent him the wrong size t-shirt. White and Emptiness-singer/bass player Jeremie Bezier tell Musicmaker how this mistake grew into a special collaboration in Los Angeles.

Our music should give our listeners a little uncomfortable feeling. We want to break human arrogance and make human beings feel small. Jeremie Bezier, singer, bassist and producer, makes the purpose of the dark metal band Emptiness clear. The music on “Not For Music” includes low whispery growling vocals, various gritty guitar sounds, new wave, Pink Floyd-like synthesizers and science fiction elements. But psychedelic pop / rock groups and artists such as Connan Mockasin have been of great influence. The common denominator: the pessimistic mood of the music as a soundtrack suspense horror film. All songs are strung together and keep you glued to your headphones for forty minutes without interruption.

Wrong Size. It is exactly these things that speak to Jeordie White regarding Emptiness. The American bassist / singer, who has built an impressive career with bands that include Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle, also fell for the artwork of Emptiness' previous album Nothing But The Whole. He found the picture so beautiful that he ordered a T-shirt. Thus begins the remarkable story of Emptiness' “Not For Music”.

White: "In the past, I listened to many thrash metal bands and later death metal. The black metal I lost interest in. I liked the music of Venom and Celtic Frost but the black metal bands of the 1990’s didn’t interest me. When I saw the artwork of “Nothing But The Whole”, however, I became intrigued by Emptiness. Thanks to them I have gone back to listen to original Norwegian black metal bands, such as Dark Throne and Burzum. All of a sudden something clicked and I became obsessed. The atmosphere. The emotion. Existentialism. It made me think of a very heavy, ambient Brian Eno or Tangerine Dream. I ordered an Emptiness t-shirt via their website. However, they sent me the wrong size. So I emailed them back and for some reason I gave my identity and I let know that I would be in Europe with Marilyn Manson. To my surprise they personally presented me with the shirt.”

Jeremie: "I have to admit that we deal more carefully with our music than with our merchandise. We did not know him as Jeordie White, we knew him primarily as Twiggy Ramirez. Guitarist/keyboardist Olve Lomer-Walker and I also play in the black metal band, Enthroned, whom with we played with Marilyn Manson at Hellfest summer 2015. It was there that we met each other. It was quite surreal, but of course also very motivating that such a great musician showed interest in us. We told him what our ambitions were and asked if wanted to contribute to the album. We bluffed and said we had already had some music laying around, purely to motivate him. But we still had not written anything. As a result, we were forced to get started right away. On one hand very stressful, on the other hand, very exciting.

American Touch. Emptiness began in Brussels with “Not For Music” Blackout Studios, where Jeremie on worked on weekdays with other bands, is their base.

"The beginning was release," says Jeremie on the recording process. "We try with each new album to achieve another sound.

Creating a clear vision in advance helps. How should we structure the album? What pace fits best? How do we go about making the songs both recognizable and distinctive? As soon as we had a clear picture of this, we started to write. This is a good way to compose. As soon as we develop riffs, we give ourselves more space for inspirations and spontaneity. Putting too much thought into the sound is also not good.

Jeordie: "The biggest and only challenge during the recording process was that mixer Sean Beavan and I could not be in the same place where the music was recorded. Fortunately the band is very confident and they knew exactly what they wanted.

Jeremie: “The idea was to go to LA to get together with Jeordie with an open mind to analyze the music again."

Kling-Klang(?) Sound. After Emptiness used the pre-production phase to make a sample card of the album, the band started all over again for the final recording.

Jeremie: "The final sessions began to outline a pace, then we recorded drums, then bass, electric guitar and vocals. Especially the research and recording of the various guitar sounds was time-consuming.

Fortunately for Emptiness, the band is in a familiar studio which saves time with the microphone placement.

Jeremie: "Every studio is different, but we know Blackout Studio well enough to know exactly which positions are best for the sound we want. I mainly use three microphones: two close mics and a room-mic. Nothing special. The microphone head is a Neumann U87, a perfectly normal thing. I use it for my bass amp and the room microphone for guitar and drums. I played bass on an old Marshall Super Bass amp, full pipes, while recording the bass in a different room than was where I was playing. To get an additional kling-klang(?) sound again, from my four-string Music Man Stingray, I placed a microphone close to the strings to properly capture my strumming.

Studio Star Wars. After recording, Emptiness went to Los Angeles, mainly because that was the easiest for White. Moreover, White was able to bring on board Sean Beavan, the engineer / producer who has worked with Slayer, Guns N 'Roses, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson.

Jeremie: "When we got to LA, we were very stressed, but relieved that it finally happened. Jeordie came over immediately when we arrived at our Air BnB. He had everything mapped out for us and put us at ease. The first week we worked at Jeordie's home studio where they reworked the sound and composition of the music.

Jeordie: “In addition we did a few overdubs with synths and added to the songs with my writing buddy Zach Webb. My studio is not much. Its mainly Star Wars stuff. I also have a Mac and I use Logic and Pro Tools. Besides some outboard gear, a couple of hundred guitars and a few thousand pedals are in there. If I make demos, I do everything "in the box", because that's just the easiest. "

"It was an advantage that Emptiness had recorded properly," White continues. "We only had to add some software synths on the songs. For that we mainly used Arturia plug-ins. We also had a Dave Smith Prophet hardware synth, Moog synthesizers and some others at our disposal. And an Echoplex -- you can create very nice sounds! I mainly wanted the Pink Floyd/Tangerine Dream-like aspect to compliment Emptiness’ sound. With a few new full Intros we achieved a smoother blend on the songs.”

Critical Mentor. For the final mix of “Not For Music”, White moved from his home studio to Beavan’s much more luxurious and extensive Redrum Studio.

Jeremie: "There we all discussed the best mix for the music and Sean understood our vision. We let him do his thing and then came back the next day to listen to the mix of the first song. It sounded better than we had ever dared to dream.”

Jeordie: "Sean is very driven. That's why I wanted to hire him. In addition, he has the best stuff and he knows that stuff like no other.”

Did Jeordie White as co-producer have a particular philosophy? "There are many different types of producers: Some are engineers, some are critics/mentors”, explains the Marilyn Manson bassist. “I fell into the last category. I saw myself as a fan who could say what he likes and what he doesn’t. In addition, I helped by finding the right resources to tap into to make sure they are on the right path. But another reason was that by helping the band I found I could learn how they arrange songs and design sounds. Therefore, I was very inspired by it!”