Alexandria “Alyxx” Digre (she/her), aka Technomancer, released her debut album SYSTEM FAILURE in 2013 and now, almost 10 years later, the second album HYPERFUEL is finally being released this friday! Next to that Alyxx also launched new work from Zone Tripper (check our review) and thus the time was perfect to get an interview and I wanted this already for a while so I can say I'm happy now!
This is your second album in 10 years, how do you see the path from working on the first tracks to releasing a new album in 2022?
I started working on the album very soon after System Failure released in 2013. I think the first song I started writing was The Night, which came to me as I was outside walking one evening. The rest of the songs kind of came to me as time went on. I remember listening to Leaving Home (Empire single b-side) as I was actually leaving my home town as it was the final song I made before moving to Sarpsborg. Empire was also the first single I released, so it holds a lot of significance.
When I arrived in Sarpsborg, I realized that I needed to improve on two aspects of my music: My production skills and my vocals. While I had the album mostly finished by 2015, I still wanted to re-record all the vocals with better equipment and more vocal training. Jonas Groth proved to be invaluable in that regard and I chose to record my vocals in his studio for the "single" tracks, like Empire, I Want You and Ecstasy (which he also performs vocals on).
Stephan from Apoptygma of course also was a great help in getting my production skills improved. I learned a lot from working on Puppets with him. We've been working together on some remixes and stuff over the years and I've also had the privilege of visiting his studio. He's been a mentor and good friend to me and I am extremely grateful for that. He and Jonas also helped out with the technical side of recording the album by lending me some equipment for the studio. Without them I doubt the album would sound as good as it does. Can’t forget to mention the help I got from Per Aksel Lundgreen on this one too.
I also started my Zone Tripper side project almost exactly at the same time as I started working on the new album and both Zone Tripper and the new Technomancer sound got developed side by side. When I started using guitars in my Technomancer songs, they appeared in Zone Tripper as well. So having that side project really helped me not only have something to release while working on Technomancer but also help shape my Technomancer sound.
The oldest track on the album is actually Without You, which is a song I originally recorded in 2008 and released in 2009 on my De:Harmonized demo album. I felt it was a good idea to re-record it and judging by the response I've gotten, that seems to have been the right call. Some songs are just too good to leave behind, and I felt that was the one. Machinista has also done an amazing remix of it that will be on the CD release of the album.
Honestly, it's been a lot happening these 10 years and a lot of factors played into the lengthy development, but I think the final result is worth it.
During all those years you worked together with our friend from Angst Pop (aka Per Aksel Lundgreen) and lately more and more with the Groth brothers. How do you look back at it? I know you are a huge Apoptygma Berzerk fan, so cheers to that!
Me and Per Aksel go way back as we met online around 2010-2011 and I showed him some of my demos and he really liked them. In 2012 I helped produce a new version of his Ødipus Rex song, and that was very much the start of our professional working relationship. He helped produce System Failure with me and has played with me live on several occasions. We've also produced a lot of remixes together and he's been a bridge to pretty much the entire underground industrial scene and has helped introduce me to so many great people. I consider him a close friend of mine now and I couldn't be more grateful to have met him.
As for Stephan, I've been a fan of Apop since I was in junior high school. And I think I sent him some messages around 2008-2010. We met for the first time in 2012 when I visited Sarpsborg to play some gigs, and was amazed at how approachable and down to earth he is. He's a really good friend and we've been to several gigs together and even just hung out together on multiple occasions. He's usually been the one who wanted to work with me and not the other way around which I found really flattering, so it's not like I've bugged him to work with me or anything. I feel truly privileged to know him and have him as my friend. I have so much respect for him and wish him all the best in life. Without him, I wouldn't be here doing what I do and that's all I can say really.
If you could add one more name to this already great list of collabs and you just have to make the call, who would it be?
I would love to work with Koburg someday. She's a female goth rock artist from the UK who used to go by the name Jet Noir. I've done some remixes for her as well as numerous cover designs. We've never met but I adore her voice and style and I think she would be a good fit for my music. Hopefully we'll get together on something someday.
Norway is very well known for the various metal bands and yet you make electronic music. Was it Apoptygma Berzerk and Shatoo who inspired you or can you drop other names and why them?
I've always been into both genres really. Growing up I listened to Rammstein and Metallica almost as much as I listened to electronic music. My taste was kind of all over the place growing up as I was exposed to a lot of music through both my parents and the local library. So I got into everything from eurodance to jazz. Apoptygma Berzerk was probably the band that introduced me to futurepop and EBM though, so they were very much the ones opening that door for me. But of course, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream have both been immense influences on me. As for Shatoo, I discovered them when I started working with them as by the time I grew up they weren't really popular anymore.
I tried to leave a lot of those more typical electronic inspirations behind on this album though. I remember picking up Floodland by Sisters of Mercy at a thrift store I was working at in 2012 and I think that album more than anything inspired the new direction for me. I also started listening to a lot of 80s bands such as Rick Springfield, Billy Idol, Mr Mister, and even drawing upon some of my very earliest influences like Michael Jackson. My roots very much lie in the 80s and I wanted to make an album that would bring me back to those early roots in a sense.
Of course I was also really into synthwave when I started working on Hyperfuel, so that stuff has been a huge influence as well. I just love the fact that when I started doing the whole 80s retro thing, it became popular, so I naturally became a part of it. Though I think Zone Tripper more than anything became part of that whole synthwave thing, though Technomancer isn't too far off.
You also launched other projects over the years, can you say something about it (drop their name and describe them a bit)?
Already mentioned Zone Tripper above, but Laboratory 5 is one to check out as well. I've been doing it with my friend Max|Static from the UK, and the style is heavily influenced by dubstep and oldschool drum'n'bass. We're both huge fans of The Prodigy and industrial music, so we draw on quite a lot of influences. Recently we've also been getting together with HEXebyte to form a synthwave band called Neo Hyperdrive. We're currently working on some songs and I'm super hyped to release them eventually. HEXebyte also wrote Singing Our Song Tonight on my album and she's a really good friend of mine as well. Check her stuff out on Spotify as well.
The new album is called hyperfuel, does it refer to something specific and was you who worked out the album cover?
I always design my own album covers since I'm also a graphical artist and love working on designs. I've done several cover designs over the years actually, and you can find them on my website (www.technomancer.no).
As for the title of the album, it was taken from the Han Solo movie that came out some years back. I think it was called "Solo: A Star Wars Story" or something. Anyway, I was watching it in the cinema with Per Aksel and we heard someone refer to "hyperfuel" which I think was used to go into hyperspace. The album had the working title "Fuel for the Wasteland" but Hyperfuel just really stood out to me as a good title. I think it was Per Aksel who suggested it actually so props to him for that.
Fuel is just kind of thematically what I feel the album is about. A lot of the album is about my journey, not only from my home to a new place, but also to becoming a new person, a new identity, and the journey of life in general. And music itself can be fuel for a lot of journeys. I just kinda hope someone buys the CD and plays it in an old muscle car or something, that would be amazing to me.
I don't want to overexplain it as I want everyone to interpret the album their own way and make up their mind about what it means to them. I do have an intended theme with the album but I feel that's not as important as people making their own connection to the music.
What are the instruments used to make this album? Are there some coming straight out of the 80’s or all brand new instruments?
I used reFX's Nexus VST Plugin for the guitar sounds, and I think I used Native Instruments Massive for a lot of the bass sounds. I also used Dexed which is a DX-7 clone synth for a lot of the FM type sounds. Most of the drum sounds were sampled from real drum machines. It's a very sample-heavy album.
How is the feedback about Puppets so far? Has it been aired during radio shows, played by DJ’s, got positive reviews, …?
It's been in the top 5 spot on my Spotify profile ever since it launched and has close to 75k streams. So all in all it might be one of my most streamed tracks that isn't a remix. I'd call that a pretty good response. But the feedback from people has been great in general and I've heard a lot of people call it their favourite song on the album. I gotta give a lot of the credit to Stephan for lending his hand in the studio and on vocals. He helped shaped the song into what it is.
If Only You Could Hear Me (Singing Our Song Tonight extend version): raises two questions: To Whom is it addressed and why the extended version on the album?
There is a very long story behind the song actually. As stated it was written by my friend HEXebyte in 2006 and released under a different name. However, sometime after, she had deleted all her songs online and pretty much disappeared from the internet entirely. So originally I chose to cover the song as it made me think of her.
I released the original version of the song on a compilation titled "Esotheknus Electronic Device Vol. 1", but for the album I wanted to add a longer intro which was not in the original song, so that's why it's called the Extended Version. That's also why I am also credited as a writer on the song since I composed the new intro for it.
HEXebyte did eventually re-establish contact with me after hearing my take on the song and was touched by my choice to cover it, so she has very much given me the blessing to release it.
As for who the song is addressed to, I wouldn't say it's anyone in particular. It's more about expressing a certain feeling to me, of having been with someone who made a big impact on you but are no longer able to spend time with you. Whether they died, moved away or you're in a long distance relationship, I just wanted the album to capture that sort of feeling.
The Night is a great song, what is it really about?
I came out as a trans woman in 2018 but as I stated, I wrote The Night around 2013. I just wanted to make a song that captures what it feels like to be a trans person, where people see someone else than the person you are inside. I recently got some promotional photos taken of me (the ones you've been sent obviously) and while they are excellent photos that capture how I look and how I present myself, I can't help but feel disconnected from the person I see in those photos. That's not the real me and it never will be until I make some effort to change that.
The song is very personal to me in the sense it expressed my deepest desire, for someone to see the person I am on the inside, and not the person they see physically. Even my closest friends struggle with that and I don't blame them at all. But for me it is a very deep and personal issue that I needed to express.
Who’s the women doing the backings in the Lovecrime song? Can you tell us a bit why you selected her for this last song? It’s not Jet Noir aka Coburg, right?
The woman doing the backings in Lovecrime is me. Or rather, it's me, but with my voice pitch shifted. I wanted that to be the woman in me singing those parts, so it quite literally is. Kind of a duet with my inner self. That's why there's no featuring credit on the song. ^_^
In the past you both worked for Sub culture Records, right? Is it right to say you lost a bit contact with her, as she also worked for Sub Culture records? What’s happening with this label right now? What was your role in the building up of this label?
I got involved with Sub Culture Records from the beginning and over the years I've been doing remixes, cover designs and other tasks for the label. Very much been an in-house producer role in many ways. We wanted the label to be more of a family, where everyone contributed. Sadly that never quite came to fruition but I've definitely done my part in shaping the label's look and style. I designed the logo as well.
As for Koburg, we've never really worked together closely. I've done cover designs for her and some remixes, but we've never really worked together although I certainly would love to at some point. I am a big fan of her music and I wish her all the best.
Can I say the red line of this album is love/romance and a message towards people who departed way too early?
Absolutely. I want everyone to interpret the album how they want to. The best music is the kind we make our own connections with. I wouldn't say that was my own intended message but I think it's a beautiful message to take away from it nonetheless.
I typically tend to make music about love since love is a very powerful feeling to me and very much important to me. I'm a huge fan of love anthems from the 80s and I think that if anything was the biggest inspiration on me. Love is God's gift to us, it's God's influence on the world, what makes God real to us. It's immensely important and what keeps us going in times of despair. And given the state of the world right now and the direction it's heading in, love is going to be increasingly important going forward.
Next to the music you are also slowly transforming/changing as a human being (born as a man, but slowly becoming a women). How is it going so far? Has it been hard, how did people respond to it? How did the coming out go? I must say I have a lot of respect for you! In Belgium we have a nice example with Sara Bettens becoming Sam Bettens and yes she’s also an artist (known from the song: Not an addict with K’s Choice). Do you have people like this you are looking up to and admire them for doing the same thing?
My transition was a big influence on the album as well and some songs like The Night are very explicitly about the trans experience. I've been more or less discovering this about myself through my entire life and started experimenting with a female persona as early as 2010 or so. I decided to finally come out as a trans female in 2018 but even at that point I had been living online as a female since 2010.
In Norway there are a lot of laws and regulations that prohibits people from getting HRT and treatment, and psychological support is very lacking too. Due to me being overweight, I've yet to be accepted into HRT and was told I also need to "live as a woman" until I can get accepted, which I found a bit confusing since the whole point of HRT was to make me more feminine.
Not to mention getting support from friends and family has been difficult, with most of the response being "that's not how I see you" or "it will take time to get used to it". That's not to say I don't understand it is difficult for others to get used to the idea of me being someone else than the identity I used for 25 years of my life. But for me it's very difficult to deal with the idea that no one else sees me as who I really am.
For the most part I try to just focus on staying in shape, keeping my physical and mental health in the best shape I can, and hopefully my journey will end in a place where I am the person I always wanted to be. I feel the journey in many ways has just started though, but at least it has started.
Is there another question about the new album or your music in general I should have asked? Any feedback on my own review?
I love hearing your interpretations of the songs and your take on them, but don't be afraid to give some criticism if you feel something needs it. After all, the criticism I got on my previous album is what made this album better.
I am very grateful for your interest in me and my music and I loved answering your questions. :)
What are the plans for the upcoming months?
There will be a Deluxe Edition of the Hyperfuel album as a 2CD release from Sector Industrial (www.sector-industrial.com) and my Zone Tripper album The Call is also getting released on CD with bonus tracks. More information on both to come!
Album review Zone Tripper:
Picture by Tarjei Krogh