Eureka Machines – interview by Martin Haslam
Following Eureka Machines’ successful Pledge Music campaign, Louder Than War sent Martin Haslam to have a word with the band’s Chris Catalyst. Chris was prompt, kind and an all-round good egg. Here’s what happened.
Louder Than War: Having been so close to disbanding prior to your Pledge campaign, what has been the biggest difference that Pledge Music has made to the band?
Chris Catalyst: It wasn’t so much that we were going to disband, more that we didn’t really see a point in… banding. We didn’t realise we had so many people who cared about us. Possibly our innate downtrodden Yorkshire dourness. The Pledge campaign made us realise that not only are there plenty of people who want us to do stuff, but they are prepared to put their hands in their pockets for us, which is incredibly gratifying.
Knowing that you have an audience while you are recording means you work extra hard to repay their faith in you and your music. I would be sitting in my studio recording stuff and another couple of pledges would come in, and there would be a palpable feeling of ‘I am doing this for you’.
People sometimes assume that if a Pledge campaign goes well, there will be spare cash flying about, but you have to be creative within a budget, which Eureka Machines seem very aware of. Has the Pledge campaign changed how you record?
Yes, we made more money than we anticipated, which meant that for the first time ever, we were able to take some money for ourselves, which is fantastic. But the main thing it allowed us to do was spend more cash on recording, artwork, mastering, packaging, stuff… Eureka Machines is not any of our careers, which means that we aren’t constantly budgeting and penny-pinching.
We spent over a grand on the slip cases for the album, but none of us had to think ‘that’s three months’ rent’. We’d rather put in the effort so that people are really proud of what they’ve become a part of. We wanted to be nice to the people who’d been nice to us. We could have recorded and mastered the album for half of what we paid for it, but we wanted to make it extra shiny, because… well who doesn’t like extra shiny?
You’ve shown what can be achieved by committing to giving quality to your followers; including acoustic albums and a raffle system within the Pledge. What are you most proud of?
The whole thing with crowd-funding campaigns is rewarding the people who’ve put the money up in advance with stuff they wouldn’t have otherwise got. Plenty aren’t bothered about acoustic albums, or extra tracks, or video updates, or online gigs, which is cool – but they can buy the album when it comes out ‘commercially’ or at gigs. It’s making sure that your superfans are rewarded, as otherwise they might as well just buy the CD at a gig, you know what I mean?
I am proud of the acoustic albums, I think they sound good. The raffle was a good idea too. I like keeping the interest up. I’m also looking forward to an online gig we’re planning for May/June.
Can you foresee any drawbacks to using Pledge Music?
Some people think it looks a bit desperate, and that you have to sell yourself short, but what you do with your campaign is completely up to you. You just have to work out what you feel comfortable doing and what you feel is right or wrong. That varies hugely from band to band, of course.
What some people forget is that Pledge/crowd-funding is really just an extension of ‘pre-ordering’. It’s up to the artist how creative you wish to be with the incentives to buy. And of course it’s up to your fans if they want to buy it! I can see how it looks like begging or desperation, but it only is if you make it so.
Another problem is rubbish and useless bands. A lot of punters (understandably) see one band cocking it up, then think that the whole crowd-funding thing is a rip-off/con. I can see how this happens.
- You see a band spending 23 hours a day on Facebook shouting ‘PLEASE GIVE US YOUR MONEY!!! WE NEED YOUR MONEY!!’, so people think ‘Pledge is for desperate bands’. Understandable.
- You see a band not doing what they said they were going to, their album taking two years when they said two months, so people think ‘Pledge is a rip-off and you don’t get what you paid for’. Understandable.
- You see a band not taking advantage of the closeness you can gain from rewarding punters with videos, free tracks, replying to people’s questions, because they’re trying to keep up some kind of mystique. People think ‘well I might as well just buy the album when it comes out’. Understandable. (Plus the 90s are over, mate, you can take your sunglasses off.)
I can understand all this, it’s easy to misunderstand that Pledge/Kickstarter/whatever is just a conduit, it’s a way of doing it, and the bands are responsible for everything. Bands, by their nature, are generally a bit useless, so punters forgive you if it’s a few weeks late or if you don’t have some kind of daily plan in place; you’re busy recording your album and forgetting how to tie your own shoelaces. But this is a different world, we all have to take a bit of ownership of what we are doing. Bands should realise, if they cock this up, they are cocking it up for everyone, not just themselves.
Finally, Pledge take 15%, which I do think is too much, and I’ve told them as such. They are helpful, but they’re not 15% helpful. Plus, they are sitting on the interest of your Pledge money for however long your campaign lasts. 10% would be fairer all round.
‘Remain In Hope’ is your strongest album yet; were the songs ready to record prior to you considering using Pledge Music, or were some written directly as an influence of this artistic freedom?
Most of the songs were already written (one of them when I was about 15), but the extra cash meant we could bolster it, with added musicians and producers and equipment. Plus it allowed us to take the artwork a little more seriously. This bolstering was directly from the Pledge campaign.
Everyone who works with Ginger Wildheart seems to be almost as enthusiastic and busy as he is; you have Eureka Machines, Ginger’s band and Sisters Of Mercy to juggle! Is this infectious, and how do you find time for so many projects?
I like being busy, and I’m lucky that I have a lifestyle that allows me to piss about doing bands more than I would if, say, I lived in London, had a kid, or did loads of drugs. Or all three. Of course, knocking about with someone as hard-working and prolific as Ginger can’t help but be infectious! All the bands you mentioned are bands which like to plan stuff in advance, so generally I can let people know I’m free or not and arrange stuff around other stuff. There’s a fair amount of shuffling goes on – not that kind of shuffling.
You have the pleasure of working with the legendary random Jon Poole (Cardiacs/Wildhearts/God Damn Whores) while playing with Ginger. Having just returned from supporting The Darkness around Europe, it seemed the ideal time to ask you to describe him in three words…
Jon is one of the best blokes I know. To describe him in three words? Utterly impossible. Jon is an enigma unto everyone, including himself.
All words by Martin Haslam.