Kurt Harland is a singer, composer, and video game developer/audio engineer. He is best known as the lead singer of Information Society and composer of the soundtracks for the Legacy of Kain video game series.
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I have been composing and performing with Information Society since 1982. I have been working on audio in the video games industry since 1994. I have been a parent since 2006.
Ok, I need to go pick up my son from school. Thanks for coming to talk!
What vintage instruments or gear do you guys still play in modern live performances that you used back in the 80's and 90's?
None! All our stuff is fairly new these days. I think there are still some Alesis quadrapads parts bolted on to Jim's bass, but I am not sure... I am, however, teaching classes occasionally (including this Sunday) in which I demonstrate basic principles of analogue synthesis using an MS-20. Some of the units we have are the new remakes, but at least one was an original...
Longtime fan, IILF member, one-time Command and Conquer victim of yours via modem. Loved seeing you guys in-person at DNA Lounge a few years back.
What are the proper, in your opinion, condiments for a Hotdog?
Hot dog: Ketchup for sure, relish maybe.
Who are you? There were only four members of the IILF... Last I heard the last surviving member was shot down in an ultralight somewhere over Marrakech
Long time fan and Bay Area resident.
1> Do you still have the car, and if not, what became of it? I remember seeing it around SF years ago.
2> Are you guys going to do any gigs in the states when you're done with the south american tour? (San Francisco mayber?)
1 - No! I gave it to David King, and he gave it to Ogre. Ogre has it in New Mexico: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/ochressandro-rettinger/6/63a/b87
2 - I think so! We are lining up a few shows for the spring right now. San Francisco is one of them, but nothing is confirmed yet.
Who do you think shot Doc down over Marrakech?
I'm even still fighting the good fight: http://virtual-adept.com/iilf/
Oh, hey Xavoc! :D
Whenever I sing Are Friends Electric for karaoke, I always use the DBA melody instead of the Numan speaking part. It is the best.
"Whenever I sing Are Friends Electric for karaoke" . . .
As one does...
Hello! I am a comparatively new fan of you guys - I'm a video game music junkie and your contribution to the Soul Reaver soundtrack is actually what introduced me to InSoc (Ozar Midrashim) - I have all of your major albums and I purchased the Limited Edition release of Hello World and it's been playing on non-stop loop in my car since release.
My question -- What happened to insoc.org? It's showing as not having been updated since 2008 and I know your current website is at informationsociety.us but the old domain name is really killer.
Hi Starien, I am gratified that you and so many others heard and enjoyed my work on Soul Reaver. :) In many ways it was a highlight of my career.
The problem with InSoc.org is this: I had a friend who was maintaining the domain for me, and she was unable to get it renewed this year. Within hours, some squat-bot grabbed it and is now using my content to flog ads. It is irksome, but rather beneath my threshold of issues which demand my time, unfortunately. :(
Who have been your biggest influences in the music world? Also, will you be composing any more soundtracks for video games in the future?
Edit: What is your favorite area of science to study and work in?
Musical influences include:
Science disciplines I particularly enjoy include astronomy, evolutionary theory, materials science, molecular biology... but I have never been qualified to work as a scientist. I am more of a science fan/groupie. I went to see Oliver Sachs talk because he was talking about Tungsten, and I own a bar of pure Tantalum... somehow that made sense to me.
My 2 and 4 year olds can't get enough of the Hello World (they laugh hysterically every time the hear the word Daddy in 'Where Were You?'). Have you introduced your kid to any musical instruments yet so that there could be an
I have, but so far no instruments have really grabbed them. Paul's son, however, is an accomplished French Horn player! He is currently studying this instrument and music in general at a music college. :)
Do you like Dr. Pepper, and do you need one now?
Yes, I really, really do: My 2-year-old is yelling and screaming at his mother because she is trying to get some work done instead of wandering off with him to look at legos, as he wishes.
What are your thoughts on the album "Peace and Love, Inc."? I'm quite fond of it and just started listening to it again.
On the topic of science, what's a project with a big potential impact you want more people to know about?
P&LI: I think we were really starting to hit our stride in terms of crafting albums, but sadly we had out-lived our usefulness to the major labels by that time.
Science: Rather than name a specific project I will simply point to the fact that anything which can help us stop pumping carbon into the atmosphere deserves our complete support. Honestly, it staggers me that people can still thing anything is important when we are currently in the process of HEATING UP THE BIOSPHERE WTF? Syria? Ebola? Mid-term elections? Anyone thinks any of that matters? Really?
Perhaps the greatest question ever asked. I think Kurt always needs a Dr Pepper.
Especially when you're around...
(See what I did there?)
You're a non-concept
You're a kettle!
Do you know the old URL to it? I read it just a few months ago and I'm sure it's on archive.org. Was it on the insoc site?
EDIT: BOOM MOTHERFUCKER! https://web.archive.org/web/20110721025131/http://
I found it. Never lose it again. That blue on black should never be lost to time.
Woah, cool! Thanks. :)
The font is "BOOST LIGHT" :D
I just wanna say I'm a huge fan, and you guys influence me as a musician and producer immensely.
Have you guys ever used "trackers" to produce your music? (A technique of strictly programming music, and not actually playing it, a real world example today would be OpenMPT.) I've been using Trackers since the 90's, and still do, as opposed to "Reason" and other "EDM standard" stuff. Your thoughts on music software? Favorites?
No we haven't... I suspect that our value to people is more in our personality and live shows, and so I don't know that that would be very appealing to anyone...
Why InSoc and not Neo-Bolshevism or Death Worship?
Well PraiseCaine, that is a very good question. My problem with Neo-Bolshevism is that is is largely made-up and I would have to imagine, unrelated to modern reality! As far as Death Worship goes, Death is not a thing. As a negatively-defined concept, it is merely the cessation of life. I worship nothing, certainly not a non-entity.
Do you think one day warp drive and transporting of objects (including people) will be possible?
Warp drive: No. Utter rubbish. Get over it. No.
The transporting of objects: YES! In fact, I can assure you that many objects are being transported all around us as we speak, right here right now! :D
What were your inspirations for Don't Be Afraid? That album got me into InSoc (Thanks, Soul Reaver) and it's been the soundtrack of my university life so far.
(Also: How did you get your hair like that during the 80's/90's?)
Almost every line of that album has some very specific referential meaning, most from my personal internal experiences. In aggregate, I would say that the main inspirations were to express some of my personal experience being me and to try to comment on my understanding of the personal experiences of people to whom I have been close.
The hair was mostly a matter of dye, extensions and mucopolysaccharides. http://www.wisegeek.org/what-are-mucopolysaccharides.htm
Seriously, what exactly happened between you and Paul and James after P&L, Inc? I assume it wasn't the issue with Amanda because her struggles were a few years before?
No, nothing to do with Amanda. Paul decided to go work on other things because he had just gotten married, his wife was pregnant, and our label dropped us. It seemed to him like a good time to make a change. I kept doing it mainly because I really wanted to make at least one album of my music on my own.
I met Kurt back in 1992/1993, been listening to them for a long time. What I want to know is, what happened that caused the riff in the InSoc time continuum, and how was it rectified to produce the masterpiece of _hello world. It's been a long wait!
If you mean "rift", it was really just that Paul decided he didn't want to do the band anymore in 1993, and I decided I didn't want to do it anymore in 1998. Then in 2004 or so, Paul wanted to try it again. Not entirely sure why, you'll have to ask him. :)
Magic, got it.
No no no noooo... no.... Chemistry.
Hello Kurt! Don't Be Afraid... is one of my all time favourite albums. It makes me sad to see that it is so underrated and even frowned upon by some fans of earlier InSoc material. That album has been a great influence for my own work (I am working as a sound designer,
In the liner notes of the remastered reissue of Don't Be Afraid... you wrote that the album has been remastered by "someone who knows what they're doing" instead of you, but the name of the mastering engineer is not credited in the booklet. Who was it? This has been bugging me for years...
I am gratified that it had value for you, thank you for taking the time to tell me. Re: Frowning: Frowning at DBA is fair. If you really like the pop-bop of our first WB album, then seriously, how are you going to like endless minutes of dirgy industrial noise? It is difficult listening.
Yay, LSP! sLaap834 refers to this cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" we did a few years ago: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/larsonseiboldproject
I don't know who mastered DBA 1.3, sorry.
Greetings. I've been an InSoc fan since the early 80's, and had the good fortune to see you guys play at Grad Night at Disneyland in 1989.
I've recently started playing live shows (after 20! years) with a small group of friends and I'm trying to incorporate more of my electronic influences with the live sets. I was wondering if you could comment on the types of systems you use on tour to help keep the band in sync with the various sequenced elements, tempo-based effects, and re-configuring the gear as the set progresses?
Bonus edit question: Are you guys going to do a wider tour in the US?
No, that's boring.
I do use a Roland SPD-SX though, if that helps. The USB port on the back broke for no real reason. :(
She what? Oh I'm so going to give her crap about that.
No no, it's not her fault. Don't do that. :)
Why do/did you dislike singing Running?
I think the lyrics are bad.
I'd definitely like to attend such a session. How would one find out when/where they are to be held?
Just keep watching this website! - http://robotspeak.com/pages/classes - My classes are "Acoustic Theory for Electronic Musicians" and "Analogue Synthesis". I think it is $90 to attend one class.
Hi Kurt! When you said your record label dropped us. Do you think it is possible to have a good life (happiness) without having to belong to the system? like a big companies, banks, etc.? bet on a personal project?
Respect from Buenos Aires.
Well it is quite different now from then. Now most music is essentially self-published, like '_hello world'. Back then, not having a label basically meant that you didn't exist.
How did VH1 misrepresent your absence from Bands Reunited, and/or why didn't you go?
Ok, I thought I had the HTML version of my 6700-word rebuttal, but I can't find it, so here is a text-only version. I can't promise it is the final one I used to have up on InSoc.org, but here 'tis:
Who says that InSoc doesn't rock?
Hey, thanks! P&LI is a great album with some fantastic-feeling songs on it.
I agree with you completely regarding carbon, and that was floating around in my head when I asked the question. The project that I keep pulling for is http://terrapower.com/ of Bill Gates fame. I think that simple, passively safe fission reactors are a key part of any carbon-mitigation solution. The technology is here today, right now, to make gigawatts of carbon-free power. It's a confluence of science for me - global warming is very real and very dangerous, and modern fission reactors are well beyond the 60s era technology found in the vast majority of extant reactors. The science spells both out in very straightforward terms, so it's the path I advocate!
Very cool, yes, I am all for newer, safer nuclear. I think it has to be part of the solution. Wind is awesome, but people object to windmills on their land even more than nuclear waste.
I wouldn't really call it Easy Listening for The Hard of Hearing, either. IMNSHO
Still, I too am sad to hear it isn't held in such high esteem.. I spent a semester stuck on a farm waking up at the ass-crack of dawn waking up to On The Outside... "Still dark outside the window, fucking alarm clock start the day in fear" holds a special place in my memory
Let me know you point of view about the Insoc return with the new album? Is happening like you hoping?
We do plan to release another new album in 2015! Warning: It won't be like our other albums. :)
A geeky question I've always been curious about: is that a real acoustic guitar being played in White Roses, or a sample?
So what ever became of that Hot Topic banner?
I've not yet been to Burning Man, I do different, weird shit in the desert but have been itching to go. I fear the closest I'll get was last year when Death Guild held that Thunderdome fund-raiser in a warehouse somewhere in Alemeda...
On the plus side I did get in the dome, on the minus, I was terrible at it BUT I broke a friend's mohawk.
I don't know... it was gone one morning.
Hi, Kurt. Long time fan (since the days of dialup). Just wanted to thank you and the band for all your hard work over the years. InSoc's music has gotten me through some pretty bad times in life... some awesome times in life, too.
ObQuestion: What's your professional opinion of audio effects in games these days, from a developmental perspective? I seem to recall a certain amount of friction due to weird sampling rates, bizarre CODECs, endian-ness shenanagains... has it gotten any better? Is it even crazier?
The issue in game audio effects has always been, and will always be processing power priorities. Typically, if I ask for even one percent of the CPU power to add, say, reverb, that request is denied because it could be used for graphics instead.
If you could be reborn as one of any species of fictional spacefaring alien, which would you choose?
Possibly Bajoran, simply because their women are so hot... But actually, I'd have to go with being one of the race of beings of which Gomtuu was: http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Gomtuu
He would have awesome times, no doubt.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my teasing 1984 reference. I appreciate you playing along :)
I always play along, except when I don't feel like it.
What are you doing playing pinball?
THIS IS A PAINKILLERS CONCERT!!1!
Thanks for doing an AMA, a long time fan. First what lead to the darker thematic tone of Don't Be Afraid and your work on Soul Reever? Secondly, is Chat-bot as much of a diva off stage as rumored?
The tone of DBA is really the tone of music I would have done all along had I been working alone. IOW, that's kinda just how I am, sadly.
Re: Chat-Bot: That little bitch needs a slap-down. So like, last week? In Cuiaba, Brasil? We're all waiting down in the lobby, and it's like, 20 minutes past time to leave for the airport, and no sign of little C.B. Our manager calls up to its room, no answer. Eventually, the little creep comes whirring out of the side-staircase, no explanation for the delay at all, and says, loudly: "WHAT'S A ROBOT GOTTA DO TO GET A CUP OF FREAKIN' COFFEE AROUND THIS DUMP?!?" Can you believe him? Man...
I have been a HUGE fan of InfoSoc since I was in high school, and I've followed your work in video game soundtracks ever since. I am currently waiting anxiously for my copy of _hello world. Thanks so much for doing this AMA!
Do you play most of the games you write soundtracks for? And of the games you have done soundtrack work for, which one is your favorite?
I pretty-much have to play them, at least while they are in development, in order to understand what I need to create for them. I don't necessarily play them when they are done though. I should point out that I don't compose music for games anymore. The last one I did was in 2006. Since then I've been working on the full-spectrum in-house audio development side of things. The job is really a software-development job, not an audio job per se.
Oh, and Soul Reaver, definitely.
I thought you might go with Organians.
No, because "Pure Energy" is a non-concept with no meaning.
How far is it to Neptune?
Probably pretty far, about three billion light-miles.
We've emailed back and for a few times over the years. First I'd like to say I'm very appreciative of how receptive you are to your fans. That being said, as an artist, do you like the more personal approach to fans regarding social media and direct sales these days compared to how the music industry was say..in the 80's.
As a follow up question....any possibility of some remix stems becoming available from the current album?
Yes, I like it, although it only works for artists within a certain size range. It wouldn't work for, say, David Bowie. It also comes along with an economic model in which is it almost impossible to make a living off being a musician unless you are already a huge star.
Re: Stems: I don't know! Interesting idea. I'll mention it to Paul. :)
Amazing to think how far technology will advance in years to come! Its frightening now. Thanks for the reply.
Yeah, maybe we can think of a way to not drive the temperature up to far for most people to survive...
What was your favorite of the ::CatCompilations::?
The Y2K one!
when and how did you first come up with the idea for 300bps N, 8, 1?
I guess while we were making P&LI... I had been exposed to acoustically-coupled modems some 13 years earlier, so it didn't seem like a strange idea to me... Honestly, the only reason it was interesting is that at that time, it was already an antiquated method.
Hello, my question is: Why are you using again "Valaquen" on your nick name if you removed years ago? :)
I'm not. Where do you see that?
Hi, Kurt! I meet you in Brazil when InSoc played in São Paulo 1 week ago and get the InSoc Banner, remember?
So, I remember to talked with Mithat Konar about A.K.A and he told me some details about the sampler in the songs "Cruel Lovin" and "All You Ever Told Were Lies".
Where did you get the samplers? From any episode of Star Trek too?
He told me that there's more 3 songs, but only 2 was added on the single. You have any copy this?
Some were from the movie 'Evil Dead 2'. Others were from 'The Haunting Of Hill House' film called 'The Haunting'. ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057129/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2 )
I don't have any of those other demos, no.
Also, gimme back my banner!!! Waaaaaahhh!
Been a fan since "What's On Your Mind?", and collected just about all the vinyl 12" remixes up through P&L, INC. Sadly, when I was away in the Army, my box of vinyl was destroyed at home, along with some kick ass comics and collectibles. (Goodbye Amazing Spider Man 129 and a loooong run of The Flash).
Is there any plans on re-releasing the 12" remixes for previous albums?
That would be up to the labels who own those recordings, not us. It's not something for which we would likely lobby though...
Is there any chance of another album similar to Don't Be Afraid? It's a lot darker than your other albums but definitely my favorite!
Not too likely. These days I mostly contribute lyrics and melody onto tracks other people have already made.
What do you like doing these days? Besides audio industry. Does art or anything else have a huge impact on the work you do? (Also, I've been an avid listener of yours for about 3 years, can't get enough of the music!)
I like Roller Skating, and then of course there is my DeathGuild ThunderDome career:
We just played at KnotFest!
What are your feelings about hardware synthesizers / samplers versus software synthesizers (and VSTs, etc) / samplers, and would your answer 15 years ago have been different from what it is now?
My answer, 2014: Huh? Whatevs.
My answer 1999: If they can get the software versions to be as reliable as the hardware versions, then I'm all for 'em.
This has driven me nuts for YEARS. I remember TV trailer for the movie "Cool World", which came out the same year as Peace and Love, Inc. I seem to remember the TV spots featuring the titular song, but I've not been able to locate proof of this anywhere.
PLEASE put this issue to rest for me once and for all - was that P&L, Inc. my old brain recalls from those TV spots?
Boy, I wouldn't know. A record company can license its properties to anything without needing to get permission from the artist, and so sometimes that sort of thing happens and the artist doesn't even hear about it.
I can tell you, though, that that movie was full of music from 'My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult'...
Info Society is one of my top 5 bands of all time. Would love to see you tour Denver. Do you plan on expanding your tour to our area?
We will play any city in the U.S. that wants us badly enough to pay our way! (And fee) . . . (And give us doughnuts)
true, but as a kid in the dark days of windows 3, i saw the title, knew exactly what it meant, and felt like it was some sort of secret handshake for computer nerds. i knew two people in my school into BBSs - all of that kind of stuff seemed like esoteric knowledge back then.
Exactly! It was meant to be something that only a few people would get, and then they could share it with everyone else.
There is something like that on the new album too, if you have the CD... :)
Hello Kurt, best wishes to you from the UK! Just wanted to ask if we'll be seeing any more new music from the Larson Seibold Project? That version of Witch of November has to be one of the most gorgeous sounding pieces of music I've heard for a long time. Would love to see a full LP. All the best, and thanks again for the Skype chat we had a few weeks ago as part of the Hello World Pledgemusic thang! You were super patient with my many Don't Be Afraid-themed questions and ramblings. As we Brits would say, you were an absolute top bloke. -- Elliott
Hey Elliot, glad you like it. :) I'd love to see a full LP of that too, but it depends on Steven's schedule too.
My question is: Have you noticed that your wordpress site at insoc.org appears to have been hacked and has a spam post promoting some scam?
Yes, it was mentioned in another question here: We lost control of the domain by accident and it was quickly snapped up by an ad-squatter.
Are you done with doing video game music? What drove y'all to get the band back together now and are your various families enthusiastically supportive of it or are they all just along for the ride?
I think I am done doing video game music, yes. I have mostly been working on integrating the audio content and designing the audio tech and delivery systems on the software-development side instead in the last 15 years.
The families are ok with it because we really aren't away from home for the band much.
I also have a good friend of mine who's not so good with computers, if there's anywhere he could get a 45' rpm of running? Sorry it's a bit off the topic. Also, thanks for responding! I'd love to see a performance one of these days!
He probably could, but that wouldn't be something I would know about...
i had been totally uniformed of a new album. will check out.
Yes! We released a new album last month: http://informationsociety.bandcamp.com/album/hello-world
Kurt, thanks for the AMA and great music. I've been hooked since childhood. So nice to see InSoc back at the wheel.
I loved your work with Steven Seibold and Don't Be Afraid, it was so atmospheric, but it was ephemeral. You made a brief comeback with Siebold in 2011 and released The Witch of November and I want to know if you have any plans to release anymore material? Thanks very much and best of luck.
*phantom edit wrong year
I'd love to do more with Steven, but it would depend on his schedule as well as mine...
Hey Kurt, loved your officiating at Thunderdome btw.
Oh you saw that? At Burning Man?
Fair enough, thanks for the reply!
Bonus Question: Since you emphasized science, how do you feel about using autologous adult stem cell treatments on patients?
I am all for it!
Yeah, made the trek back in 2004. Thought about introducing myself, but didn't get past the "Don't be that kind of fan." thoughts.
Bah, should have. :)
Broke-broke, as in the solder connections from the USB jack to the PC board seem to have broken, or "just" broke, implying an integrated circuit failure?
I suspect the former.
Hey Kurt, is there any chance that Insoc or yourself would make an instrumental album full of music like Seek 200, Hard Currency, Funky at 45, etc ?
Greetings from Norway !!!
Of new music? Not likely.
Ok one last nerdy question from me, Kurt: where does the "with holly leaves and scanning skies" spoken word passage in Empty come from, and who says it? Did you write that yourself and get somebody else to narrate it?
Yes, I wrote all those lines myself and got a friend to read it.
Hi Kurt! Do you plan on adding any new videos to your youtube account? I really liked that last one.
I'm sure we will!
Which chapter/book of The Silmarillion is your favorite, and why?
I most enjoyed the story of the fall of Numenor, not sure why... the inevitability of their tragedy maybe...
I'm a fan of Insoc from Mexico City since I was 15 years old, I'm intrigued:
have you ever had gay relationships?
who is your favorite gay musician?
I have not, although I am very much in favor of equal rights and respect for gay persons. I performed a marriage ceremony last year for two male friends of mine, in fact.
I suspect that whoever my favorite gay musician is, I am not aware that s/he is gay!
Even with GPU acceleration?
Well, yeah... it's not like they are ever going to run out of ideas on how to spend CPU cycles on graphics.
That beautiful and poignant 'verse' has always been one of the highlights of DBA for me, right before the song builds into that huge crescendo. Thanks for answering my questions Kurt!
Glad it worked for you... :) I actually used that poem as part of my wedding some years later.
...are you sure you don't want to reply at length with an explanation of the 415 Sound Covenant show?
Fairly sure, but here is a brief explanation: Some friends of mine and my brother and I wanted to do a performance for the Game Developer's Conference. We put together a four-song show and that's what that was.
Hi Kurt, i am a Insoc's brazilian fan since the first time you came and i went to all the shows you made in Rio de Janeiro. I had the luck to meet you on the backstage in 2012 but unfortunately i was so shy and nervous that i couldn't say any single word, but i got at least a picture with you :). I have two questions for you: 1- Do you feel uncomfortable when someone ask to take a picture with you? 2- Why don't you wear roller skates in the shows anymore? It was so nice! I am very happy with this opportunity to talk to you, i am really a huge fan of yours. Sorry for my english LOL
1 - Yes! Always. I usually do it anyway.
2 - Because it makes everyone else on stage uncomfortable, and because it really requires a HUGE stage to do it right.