For the past six years Luis Vasquez has been making dark, intense music as The Soft Moon, collecting his inner fears and channeling them into murky, visceral compositions that are equal parts unsettling and exhilarating. What began as a malignant post-punk project evolved into a seething, goth-tinged combination of industrial, punk, and EBM (that’s electronic body music, by the way). His new album, Deeper, does just as the title suggests: it delves into the bottomless well of Vasquez’s emotional chaos, where “old wounds were forcibly opened, deep anger and paranoia were manipulated into song.”
Vasquez has used his surroundings to help him reach this point. Growing up in isolated terrain of the Mojave Desert, near Death Valley, it was only years later that he tapped into his outsider’s perspective, channelling these feelings into recordings laid down in his Oakland, CA apartment. For Deeper, he relocated to Europe, specifically Venice and Berlin to act on a “primal urge to recoil from the world and experience total solitude.” He found this solace in a studio run by producer Maurizio Baggio—who’s worked with the likes of Crocodiles and EMA—a studio which just so happened to be called Hate. Set high in the Venetian mountains, the music that emerged from his Hate sessions is the sound of Vasquez’s vision fully realized.
We Skyped with Vasquez to talk about the new album and the influence of Berlin’s historic music scene, his fascination with the apocalypse, whether the Soft Moon has a sense of humor, and why he took his sweet time remixing for Trent Reznor.
Noisey: Are you now based out of Berlin?
The Soft Moon: Yeah, I guess we can call it a permanent stay. At least, maybe I’m gauging the minimum two years.
How does it compare to California?
It’s actually quite a similar lifestyle, with the nightlife, bars, and energy. But for me it’s a lot more intriguing and inspiring. Somehow the city inspires me.
Is it the Berlin music scene’s history that brought you to the city?
I think it’s history overall, because I didn’t really start getting into the music culture until I got here. But before then I was into electronic music, but not as much as I am now. I’m really into it now. It’s fun, it’s everywhere and it’s hard to escape.
I hear a lot more of that influence on Deeper too.
It’s interesting because when I wrote the record I was in Venice, Italy, but it is kind of funny just how this record is more electronic and dance-y. Maybe it was already in the back of my mind before I came here—knowing that I was coming here.
Deeper is a much darker record than its predecessors. What inspired that?
[Berlin] definitely has a dark side to it. It’s pretty thick. The first time I attempted to live here about two years ago, I was here for three months and the city felt a little too dark for that time of my life. But now that time has passed I’ve kind of evolved as a person, where I’ve gotten out of that darkness a bit and can be in this environment and it won’t affect me as much as it would before. I can control it and use it in a way. Everything around influences me—I can’t help but absorb it all. In fact, when I was in Italy I purposely wanted to be away from everything as much as possible. All the inspiration had come from within, from everything I had absorbed up until this point of my life, but I was still affected by surroundings. It’s inevitable.
You wrote the album in Venice and recorded it with Maurizio Baggio in the Venetian mountains. What did that solitude bring to the album?
What it did was give me complete freedom. I wasn’t around anyone so I completely depended on myself in terms of what I was doing. Rather than in the past when I was in Oakland, I was always constantly around friends. If they came over I’d show them little snippets songs, and so there would be input from them. That kind of affected me. So in Italy it was 100 percent me relying on myself, and just going inward.
I like that the studio was named Hate. Did that play any part in deciding to work there?
I actually didn’t know the name of the studio until after maybe the third session. But it was pretty cool, it kind of fits. I never asked him where he got the name, but when he first started recording he worked with hardcore bands, so I think that’s where it stems from.
To me the last two albums have sounded a lot more influenced by 80s industrial music. How much of an impact did that music have on you?
It’s just coincidental. When I get compared to certain genres or bands a lot of the time I don’t know what or who any of them are. I didn’t listen to this genre growing up. It’s more of a kindred spirit kind of thing. I feel like those types of musicians and myself are just connected in a way that is spiritual or something.
There are moments on the album, like “Wrong” and “Feel” that made me think of a band like Nitzer Ebb.
I definitely had an EBM-style in mind when I began working on the record. I love Nitzer Ebb and those EBM beats. I didn’t discover them till about 10 years ago. I didn’t grow up listening to them. They were a late discovery of mine, but I am inspired by their music because I like making music people can dance to. And EBM is perfect for that.
I can’t say I’ve danced to your music, but I do run to it.
People have mentioned that to me a few times, running to my music or working out to it. It’s not a surprise. I make music that I like to move to. I like pushing that. I haven’t worked out to it though. That feels a little narcissistic to me! [Laughs.]
I’m not sure I could run or dance to either, but you remixed a song for “How To Destroy Angels.” Was it a big deal for you to work with Trent Reznor on that?
Yeah, it was definitely an accomplishment. I was super happy. It was a really cool step forward for me. I was pretty nervous about it because Trent Reznor had sent me the stems to remix the track, and I had about a whole month to do it. I was literally so scared to open the files and begin working on it that I waited until the day of the deadline. And I had to fly to New York that same day, so I woke up early and worked on it. It took my a few hours then got on the flight. I was almost trying to sabotage myself in a way, but it worked out.
On your Facebook page you list “post-apocalyptic” as the Soft Moon’s genre. What is it about the end of the world that is so attractive?
It’s this weird thing that I’ve been experiencing since I was a child, these recurring nightmares about the end of the world. The world has ended like 500 different ways in my dreams throughout my life. I don’t even understand my fascination with it, but it’s something that I run with. Actually working on this record I stopped having those nightmares, and haven’t really been as obsessed with the end of the world as I was before. I think that obsession in the past was my anxiety or fear of death, and because I’m evolving in some way, I’m becoming more peaceful.
I guess it’s too early to say, but do you think your newfound peacefulness will help shape the next record?
It’s funny because I don’t predetermine anything until I sit down and write, but while I was creating Deeper, I was already thinking about the next record. And I think I want to get more aggressive. I want to make a really hard record. But who knows because my approach for Deeper was different from the outcome. Anything can happen, but right now if I were to start writing it would likely be quite aggressive.
You mentioned your anxiety. Is music something that helps you and allows you to control it?
Yeah, it’s definitely therapeutic. Every time I write a song it gives me information about my life, and it calms me. If I write something that stems from my anxiety I get some sort of step further into inner peace. Because I don’t really know why I feel the way I do, and the only way to get that information and to feel peaceful is to express it sonically, and listening back and gaining the information from that and learning about myself.
Do you find your music is ever different when you aren’t feeling that way and you’re writing?
I’m kind of always feeling this way whenever I make music. It’s so weird. All of the bad sides that I feel, all of the darkest emotions, that anxiety is there, every time I write for some reason. It’s like I can’t escape it. And I want to know why.
The press release says “the album is an inward-looking representation of a new man as he processes the relentless undercurrent of his internal battles with suicide, vulnerability, and healing.” Is there a narrative that goes with Deeper?
There isn’t really a narrative with this album, as opposed to my previous album Zeroes, which was more of a conceptual thing. Each piece of this album is just a different way of expressing my emotions. The ultimate goal is inner peace, and each song is just a different approach of the same battle.
Pitchfork wrote that “there is absolutely no humor in the Soft Moon’s music.” Do you agree with that?[Laughs.] I think there is at times. It’s pretty serious and I take my music and expression very seriously, but there is some experimentation that I do that can be sarcastic in a way. I’m fine with anyone’s interpretation of my music though—it doesn’t really affect me. For me no one is right and no one is wrong.
The Soft Moon Tour Dates:
4.09 - Philadelphia, PA - Boot & Saddle ^
4.10 - Allston, MA - Great Scott ^
4.11 - Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall Of Williamsburg ^
4.12 - Montreal, QC - Bar Le Ritz ^
4.13 - Toronto, ON - The Drake Hotel ^
4.14 - Detroit, MI - UFO Factory ^
4.15 - Cleveland, OH - Beachland Tavern ^
4.16 - Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle ^
4.17 - Madison, WI - the Frequency ^
4.18 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry
4.19 - Omaha, NE - Reverb Lounge ^
4.21 - Denver, CO - Marquis Theater ^
4.22 - Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge ^
4.23 - Boise, ID – Neurolux ^
4.24 - Seattle, WA – Barboza $
4.25 - Vancouver, BC - Electric Owl $
4.26 - Portland, OR – Holocene $
4.28 - San Francisco, CA - The Chapel $ *
4.29 - Santa Ana, CA - Observatory $ *
4.30 - Los Angeles, CA - Roxy Theatre $ *
5.01 - San Diego, CA - The Casbah *
5.02 - Scottsdale, AZ – Pub Rock *
5.03 - Albuquerque, NM - Sister Bar *
5.05 - Norman, OK - The Opolis *
5.06 - Dallas, TX - Club Dada *
5.07 - Houston, TX - Fitzgerald’s *
5.08 - Austin, TX - Austin Psych Fest
5.09 - New Orleans, LA - One Eyed Jacks *
5.10 - Atlanta, GA - Mammal Gallery *
5.16 - Lyon, France - Les Nuits Sonores
5.17 - Brussels, Belgium - Les Nuits Botanique
5.19 - Berlin, Germany - Schwuz §
5.20 - Copenaghen, Denmark - Loppen
5.21 - Hamburg, Germany - Uebel & Gefährlich §
5.22 - Köln, Germany - Gebäude §
5.23 - Mannheim, Germany - Mayfied Festival
5.24 - Dortmund, Germany – Way Back When Festival
5.25 - London, UK - The Garage @ §
5.26 - Leeds, UK - The Brudenell Social Club §
5.28 - Nantes, France - Indigènes Festival
5.29 - Barcelona, Spain – Primavera
5.31 - Nîmes, France - This Is Not A Love Song Festival
6.01 - Bordeaux, France - IBoat #
6.02 - Toulouse, France - Le Connexion #
6.03 - Paris, France - La Maroquinerie #
6.04 - Metz, France - Les Trinitaires #
6.05 -Amsterdam, Holland - Melkweg #
6.06 - Eindhoven, Holland - Psych Lab Festival
6.08 -Turin, Italy - Astoria %
6.09 - Marina Di Ravenna, Italy - Hana Bi %
6.10 - Milan, Italy - Carroponte %
^ w/ Noveller
$ w/ Girl Tears
* w/ Skull Katalog
§ w/ Blush_Response
@ w/ Novella
# w/ Phase Fatale
% w/ Havah
Deeper is out via Captured Tracks today.
Cam Lindsay is on Twitter.