Here’s a track that when we were finished with it, we thought it was the best thing we’d ever done. Sonically, we recorded it at Smart studios in Madison, Wisconsin, so we knew we had a great sound. We had our friend, Eric Oehler, from Madison industrial act, Null Device, help us with some keyboards to give it that 90’s industrial metal sound that we were going for. He gave it exactly the kind of atmosphere that it needed to make it, in Ben’s words, “the most sonically orgasmic thing we’ve ever recorded.”
Okay, it sounds cool and it’s dark and heavy, but what the Hell does it mean? If you watch a lot of science fiction shows or you know any Latin (or you’re interested in ancient Greek theatre) then you know about the God From The Machine – Deus Ex Machina. At the end of Greek dramas, it was a convention to bring in a god who would handle the resolution of the plot and often be lowered from a crane (the literal machine) to appear as if to come from heaven. In recent TV, you can see plenty of this plot device used to resolve difficult events that the writer can’t think of a clever way out of. Namely, Doctor Who’s embarrassing “Last of the Time Lords” or the ending of V: The Final Battle (“star child”, my ass), or the or any number of shows that use some last minute act to save the characters when they should be dead or have found a better way out. It’s a cop out. I remember watching The Princess Bride on New Year’s Eve in 1987 and when Wesley was brought back to life. I was 11 years old and I knew the writers were cheating! He’s gotta earn it story-wise, goddammit.
Our song is a lot more literal than that. We actually mean that our God comes from the computer, from the Internet, from the cloud. It’s the Singularity that we’re talking about here (and not our album of the same name, although admittedly, I fucking love talking about that record). We mean Raymond Kurzweil’s Singularity, the one that means that human experience will be forever changed. That our consciousness could be saved as something digital. Our bodies might die, but our memories, thoughts, and feelings will live on (and Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin was a huge influence on this song as well, check that book out – the rest in the series are good, but the original is something special.) And that cybernetic immortality is the good part, the bad part is about being addicted to the Internet and the feeling of loneliness when you’re disconnected. Or the incredible variety and ready availability of porn that makes people more alienated from each other when sex should make them feel more intimate. That’s one of the reasons we mention D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner”, which uses the boy on a rocking horse to represent (ahem) self-pleasuring. It’s the weird catatonic state that comes from spending time “rocking your horse” online and that’s the downside of the Information Superhighway.
We originally wrote this to be part of the Major Arcana rock opera. This was going to be the character giving up his humanity for a life that consisted of friends that he knew only over the Internet, but we thought it was a little too dark for this particular part of the show (we eventually settled on “Neanderthal” to be the moment where the character becomes sub-human (how appropriate) and engages more in life online than in life with living breathing talking human beings.)
I, personally, was listening to a lot of Muse while working on this song and this song definitely has some of the influences from The Resistance (especially the arpeggiation on the bridge). But sonically it probably has a lot more in common with KMFDM (big stomping beats and that meanass guitar riff) or even later 90’s industrial like Stabbing Westward than it does with more modern music. It was meant to be our 90’s retrofuturistic vision of what we hoped the afterlife would be like. We couldn’t find a God to believe in, so we made one for ourselves. We’re building the heaven for our consciousness that we don’t believe the universe provided. And that’s good and bad. It’s good that we achieve the immortality that we always wanted but it’s bad because we’re evolved to communicate with each other in meatspace, in real life. The Internet is one of the greatest achievements of humanity, but it’s also one of the least human. There’s still something to talking to someone face to face, to holding someone you care about in your real arms, to shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye, to making love in person… Those are things that we feel inside but we still can’t digitally imitate. If being pure consciousness (or at least the sum of your memories and thoughts) inside an immortal machine is the best heaven we can get, it’s not quite what we were going for, but it’s something, it’s the best that we can do.
If you’d like to download “Deus Ex Machina” for free, just click below to grab it!
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