By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Pasadena Weekly Executive Editor
Nitzer Ebb programmer/drummer Bon Harris didn’t get into music for the fame or money.
In 1982, Harris and school friends Douglas McCarthy and drummer David Gooday founded the industrial band in England to channel their emotions and energy. Those traits keep Nitzer Ebb relevant nearly 40 years later.
“People have always connected with that,” Harris said. “I think a lot of the tracks were written with youthful energy on our part, with the requisite late-teens, early 20s angst. That’s the universal thing. (At concerts), you’re always going to get teenagers with a lot of angst.”
Nitzer Ebb will bond with fans when it headlines the second day of Substance on Saturday, Nov. 27, at The Belasco. The band’s set will feature revamped versions of its singles, which include “Join in the Chant,” “Family Man,” “Getting Closer” and Get Clean.”
“We reworked a lot of the songs so there’s a bit more of a modern take on them,” Harris said. “We emphasize the danceable aspects of the show. Everybody’s ready for that after being shut away in their houses.”
The pandemic doesn’t necessarily want to align with those beliefs, though. Nitzer Ebb postponed a Vancouver show after the city, McCarthy said, required general admission shows to be seated.
“No one was allowed to dance,” the DTLA resident said. “That doesn’t really work with our shows. The promoter agreed with us that we postpone the show.
“However, we’re very openly pro being vaccinated, and if the restriction is you need to show your vaccination card to get in, so be it.”
For the musical facelifts, McCarthy and Harris kept at a distance, allowing band members vocalist/drummer Gooday and writer/arranger Simon Granger do the heavy lifting.
“Some of the impetus to get them involved was to hand them the song and say, ‘Do what you do foundationally with your Stark stuff and we’ll take it from there,’” Harris said about Gooday and Granger’s band.
“They laid the foundation, and Doug and I came in and tweaked it. We met in the middle and took a bit more of a dance, underground approach to it. In the end, it was quite easy. We divided the labor, and it kept it fresh.”
Harris and McCarthy said they thoroughly enjoyed the process, especially because they did it in their hometown of Chelmsford, Essex, England.
“It was nice coming full circle,” Harris said. “We were back in rehearsal rooms in the town where we founded Nitzer Ebb years and years ago. It was really fun, actually.”
McCarthy added it was interesting “and a relief” to have other musicians handle the project initially. The music is still evolving, and, in terms of technology, Nitzer Ebb uses modular gear on stage and pedals.
“All of that is having a smaller and smaller footprint on stage,” McCarthy said. “It’s interesting to have that approach. All of us are pretty much keeping abreast of what is available to use not only live but in the studio. It’s a forever-expanding process.”
During the quarantine, McCarthy and Harris started the side project D-R-A-G in a “very relaxed manner,” McCarthy said.
“We worked by sharing files, Bon and I, with each of us writing,” McCarthy said.
Once the two were vaccinated and felt comfortable working together, McCarthy headed to Harris’ Eagle Rock home. There, they wrote a D-R-A-G album.
Besides writing music, Harris showcased music — and his yard — during his “Songs: From the Lemon Tree” livestreams.
“I did them to keep myself busy and to throw some entertainment out there,” Harris said. “A lot of people were shut away in less-than-ideal circumstances.
“This was about as close to a live concert as they (fans) could get during the pandemic. It’s an odd thing for a musician — or any type of artist — to be on lockdown. But the lockdown wasn’t that much different than our everyday life. A lot of the time, we’re just in the studio getting ideas going.”
McCarthy found returning to the road a bit daunting.
“The reason that we’ve had — over the course of our career, which is 40 years now — gaps, sometimes quite lengthy gaps of eight to 10 years where we were not even necessarily talking to each other, let alone making art, is because the passion for doing what we do is exhausting.
“We know, though, that it is the only way we can make the music that we do make. Coming back to the road after these 19 months of not being able to do anything has been slightly stressful. It took a toll on me emotionally. It was difficult going back to something that seemed so straightforward and easy before. But the passion we have still shines through.”
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 26, to Sunday, Nov. 28
WHERE: The Belasco, 1050 S. Hill Street, Los Angeles
COST: Tickets start at $65
INFO: substancela.com, livenation.com
Nov. 26: Chelsea Wolfe, Earth, Emma Ruth Rundle, Ceremony, King Woman, Plague Vendor, Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds, Pixel Grip, Bustié, Avalon Lurks, Aurat, Continues, NIIS, Closed Tear, Dearly Departure, Crook, The Bank of America
Nov. 27: Nitzer Ebb, Eyedress, Squid, Twin Tribes, Provoker, VR SEX, Nuovo Testamento, Second Skin, Fearing, Some Ember, Houses of Heaven, N8NOFACE, Gel Set, Shanghai Beach, Fawns of Love, Future Blondes, Ravens Moreland
Nov. 28: Health, John Maus, Choir Boy, Geneva Jacuzzi, Pictureplane, Riki, Lydia Lunch Retrovirus, Plack Blague, Patriarchy, Debby Friday, Milliken Chamber, D.I.N., Spike Hellis, Lower Tar, 0/X, Omen Awry, Future of Horror