A NEW DRUG
A CONVERSATION WITH DANIEL GRAVES OF AESTHETIC PERFECTION
Musicians have had plenty of time in the past year and a half to retreat to the drawing board and get the creative juices flowing. This is how Daniel Graves of Aesthetic Perfection has been spending his time, working diligently away at a Patreon-supported project of a new album, released one song per month over a period of a year.
Keeping to his signature industrial pop style that Graves describes as “embracing sort of the philosophy of industrial music; pushing boundaries and raw emotions but combining it with song writing and production qualities of contemporary pop,” which has still allowed him plenty of room to explore within the style as is clear with each unique single he has released thus far over the year.
“I’ve long held the belief that singles are the way of the future. Given the nature of how people consume music today. It felt like we’ve been sort of going down that road for a very long time and I actually started with the singles thing all the way back in 2016. I decided that I would rather focus my energy on releasing singles more regularly than trying to release a full-length album,” Graves explains.
“Pop and EDM artists are constantly putting out a stream of new music and they’re in your timeline every time you refresh it. But my audience was quite adamant about me releasing another full-length album. So, I kind of took it upon myself to view it like a commission, right? Like, I’m a sculptor and somebody says, ‘Hey, you know, carve this thing out of a block of stone.’ It’s not something that you would have done on your own, but because people are asking you to do it you take on the job. And so, it was either 2018 or 2019 that I put out Into the Black.”
“I watched my colleagues put out albums mid-pandemic and I was just watching them literally just sink to the bottom of people’s timelines. We’re talking months and years of work that just gets forgotten. I was thinking, ‘okay, how can I stay relevant during this kind of unprecedented moment in time?’ And I was like, ‘well, look. The timeline refreshes every three to four weeks and I can’t be out on tour reminding people of the new music that I’ve created. Maybe I should put out one new song every single month and so far, it’s been pretty good. I’ve seen a lot of response to the singles I’ve been released and so far, people really like them and I’m excited about that.”
For Aesthetic Perfection, this new series of singles was made possible by fans’ response. “This project was funded by my Patreon supporters. And the way that I laid it out to everybody was I will release a new song for every 10 supporters that I get. I thought that I would spend like this whole year pleading my fans ‘come on guys, just five more supporters to go until the single is funded’. And then three weeks after I had announced this thing, back in December, I had like all the supporters and all the singles were like essentially ‘unlocked’. And the second goal was if we get to X amount of supporters. Then I will collect all the singles at the end of the year and release it as a physical album. So I hit that goal like in February. This just exceeded all of my expectations.”
And so far, the response from fans and local DJs armed with new music to play during their local shows each month, have pushed the new singles up the music charts. “I think my single “Gravity” may have cracked 100,000 Spotify plays. When I was younger, I really valued the validation from press and you want people to constantly talk about your work on social media and while those types of things are great, they don’t actually mean anything in the real world when it comes to going on tour and having people show up to your gigs, or stream your music regularly, or buy your music. It’s really the most valuable thing in the music scene; an audience that is engaged and genuinely interested in what it is that you do,” Graves said.
The new singles released thus far have been a solid run of new music. Personal stand outs include “SEX”, “Automation”, and “Dead Zone” while other singles like “Happy Face” may seem a bit left field, they are still speaking to fans. Listening to “Dead Zone”, many fans have instantly picked up the similarities between it and Bjork’s “Army of Me” while also hearing elements of Garbage’s “#1 Crush”. “You find a spark in some element of your past, right? So, you’re 100% correct in that “Dead Zone” was kind of inspired by “Army of Me’’ and ‘#1Crush’. Right. So, I wanted to go back to the ‘90s, which was sort of when I was discovering music. I didn’t set out to copy “Army of Me”, but I loved how that song is based around a drum loop from “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin and on one of my favourite bands. And so, I thought maybe I can make a song around a gritty drum loop,” Graves explained.
The new single for the month of July is “A New Drug”, Graves described the new single as “a lot more like older Aesthetic Perfection, a little bit more like classic club industrial stuff, which I think a lot of people have asked me for, why haven’t I done that kind of music in a while? Frankly, I wasn’t particularly inspired by a lot of what was coming out of the club scene. And that’s kind of changed because I really, really like what the next generation of industrial bands are doing like Moris Blak which got me inspired by club music again and not just by bands that are trying to rehash 2005 all over again.”
On Facebook, Graves has been very candid about the inspiration behind the lyrics in his new singles, discussing his battle with mental health and substance abuse. “I used to take the position that revealing the inspiration behind my work was somehow diminishing the subjective interpretation that my audience could do for themselves,” Graves said. “For the longest time, I would not talk about the sort of inspiration behind my songs, but, given kind of the world that we live in, It’s not just about the music, right? Like it’s about the person behind the music. And I saw a utility in beginning to over share, talk about my personal experiences and how they go into the songs that I create. And I didn’t really expect such a positive response from people. I also didn’t expect to enjoy that kind of conversation that I was having with my audience. At first I was like, okay, I’m just going to do this because it’s probably good for me. But as this project has gone on, I enjoy it now. And I realized that I’m not actually taking away from the subjective interpretation that people will make.”
The beauty of Aesthetic Perfection releasing monthly singles is fans get to see the creative process at work throughout the year. These are not songs that have been pre-written and recorded and then released from the music vault. “I’m writing this as I go along. Like, I started out with like two songs in the bank, so to speak, with “SEX” and I had “Party Monster” and I was like, okay, if I can always stay sort of two months ahead, then it’s not going to be too stressful. It was really important that the songs be created throughout the year, because then it really is sort of like a conversation with your audience. For me, it was really important to hear whether or not people like it.”