“We love to create worlds.” Pete told me.
“The rejection of the world with which we’re presented; a world in which we’re encouraged to go to work, not do anything creative, be a consumer…We say fuck all that. “
“A great point.” I think to myself.
He’s on a roll and enthusiastically continues.
“We (Shiv-r) spend all of our spare time and energy building a new fucking world as we see fit. Build something, especially if it’s daunting and scares you at first. Fucking create something and become whatever you want.”
This is the energy that drives Shiv-r.
Moving to London, England in 2007, was an eye opening experience for Pete in terms of what the industrial/goth scene was like in Europe. He played live keyboards for Angelspit in a couple of festivals and was amazed to see the size of the crowds that the festivals gathered. Coming from venues in Australia that packed 50-200 people he was now in front of audiences of numbers that rivaled mainstream bands.
Pete and Wendy traveled Europe and were privy to many concerts and festivals which would not have been possible living in Sydney (their home town and current place of residence). Out of the new home base in London Pete did some mini-tours as The Crystalline Effect to the Netherlands, Hungary, Latvia and Estonia over the course of the next few years.
But London wasn’t all roses and walks in the park. It was incredibly oppressive, anonymous and in the area they were living, just plain dangerous and violent. However the de-humanising and soul-crushing elements of London wasn’t all lost on them.
The general depressing grittiness of London and the violent undertones of that environment were captured on Pete’s next project. Those elements are all in Shiv-r.
The idea behind the music is that it provokes “shivers” as an emotional response; shivers that one experiences when living in the emotionally dead expanse that is London.
“So Pete,” I ask him ”Outside of music, what other passions do you engage in?”
A perplexed look draped over his face.“Hmmm, this question doesn’t really compute.“ he said.
“I can barely hold a conversation that’s not about music, let alone approach any other projects. I can’t go see a movie or read a book without justifying the time as oh well I might get some lyrical ideas from this, and whenever I go shopping I’m deconstructing the background music and taking mental production notes.”
Shiv-r is the musical collaboration of Pete Crane and Lee Bulig. Pete and Lee have been best friends since high school where they knew each other as musicians. At the time Lee was considered the best musician at the school, playing sax at school assemblies and jazz concerts. Pete was trained in guitar by his guitarist father from an early age of 6. In those early years of teenage hood, Lee and Pete started a black metal band, recording their material on Pete’s computer.
In 2005, Headscan’s Pattern Recognition album was an inspiration to Pete and took him in a futuristic techno direction. A year later under the project Plague Sequence he explored the psytrance direction, releasing 2 albums under that project.
“So you and Wendy. How did that come about?” I bluntly ask.
A silent moment passes.
“Wendy first saw me at a concert with my other band The Crystalline Effect.” Pete said.
The Crystalline Effect is yet another of Pete’s musical projects. For now it’s on hold as he’s focusing on one project at a time.
“After that we kept seeing each other at clubs,” Again he pauses “We would dance near each other and be too shy to talk to each other.”
“I remember being the same when I was young and at clubs” I said to him.
“Before I knew Wendy I used to talk about her to Lee and I’d call her that tasty piece of bitch.” laughter ensues.
“Wendy was the first to actually make a move and one night; she said to me I like you. I was just like holy shit I really like you too.”
Weeks later, they moved in together which was quickly followed by marriage.
“Tell me some more about Wendy. How has she influenced you and your music?” I ask.
“Wendy and I have pretty much opposite personalities. She always challenges me and always speaks her mind. She’s the only person who will give me a devastatingly honest opinion of my music, which I often find incredibly infuriating.” Pete says.
“Her opinion is constantly make it harsher, make it faster, it’s too ‘nice’, fuck it up more.”
I laugh. He grins.
“But she also pushed me a lot towards being a front man and being comfortable with my voice. When she says she likes something or offers encouragement, I know I can trust her opinion”
Apart from wanting to make harsher and more aggressive music, Shiv-r was also an opportunity to work with Lee on a music project. They both always worked solo when it came to their previous music projects, even though they collaborated sporadically. They wanted to join forces on a more symbiotic project.
Pete’s black metal roots weave themselves more on a subconscious level though the fabric of Shiv-r.
“A lot of our structures are very metal, and we do go a bit nuts with that whole pseudo-classical harmonic minor thing that black metal bands overuse” Pete told me.
The influence in the visual direction Shiv-r has taken since it’s inception had been heavily driven by Wendy. She does the sketches for the outfits as well as storyboarding for the photo and filmshoots.
“It’s amazingly uncanny actually,” Pete said “She has a sketchbook with all the ideas and months after the shoots are done we’ll look at the old drawings in the sketchbook and think wow, that’s exactly it, as if the sketch was done after the photoshoot.”
Wendy really pushes the imagery to the next level and every time a shoot comes along the ideas she brings to the table make Pete uncomfortable at first. For example, with their first photoshoot for the Hold My Hand album cover-image, he recalIs being uncomfortable with the idea of having lace on his face and blood on his mouth.
“That seems positively tame compared with the This World Erase album shoot where I have the custom Mother of London top and prosthetic antlers…” Pete explains.
There’s a new EP coming out called “Shadow Between Worlds” which pushed things visually even further; bigger and more extreme imagery.
Pete’s passion for music is undeniable. But that isn’t always enough. There are no guarantees of where that can take you. The biggest fear is about what the future has to bring regarding Pete’s desire to turn music into a full time job. On one hand, trying to re-join the workforce after an absence due to focus on the music makes it difficult to get a foot in the door with a big blank on the resume. On the other hand, the artist that do go on tours a lot and have the time to work on their art will progress leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. It’s a fine line.
Being as shy and reserved as he is, I asked Pete how does he manage the performances on large stages in front of hundred (maybe thousands) of people akin to the Kinetik Festival or other larger European festivals.The things he really stresses about are the technical details; whether they get a long enough sound check, whether the venue has enough channels for them, whether he brought the correct cables. The bigger the performance, like Kinetik, there is less stress since he knows there will be a professional crew running the show. It’s the small gigs that kill him; where there are minimal lights, there will likely be some rock engineer who doesn’t understand electro music and when there is not enough time to do a proper sound check.
“You’d think I stress over the performance, but I really don’t.” He told me.
“I find that getting ready for the show helps me transform into onstage-Pete. The process of putting on make-up and the stage outfit really takes me out of myself.”
Jokingly he continued “I think, if I had to get up onstage in jeans and a t-shirt, I’d be much more nervous… “
“I never would have believed in a million years that I could do what I do and front a band on stage; I always thought I’d be the guy stuck behind the guitar or just in the studio.”
I think to myself “That’s pretty cool.”
He continues. “By constantly doing things I find scary and raising the bar I never want to go back.“
Interview by: Adrian Onsen.