Sex Factor is a Finnish/British collaborative project between N.K. of “Dark Session” and Steve Bagman, known from projects like “Bagman” and “[Gone Dark] Bleach”. Their joined efforts resulted in a punishingly rugged and cruel debut tape which was released on Filth and Violence and instantly gained respect from lovers of depraved and in-your-face Power Electronics. I had a talk with Steve and N.K. about the story behind Sex Factor, their solo projects and many other things.
TM: Hi, N.K.! First of all, for all those who don't know you, who are you and what are your projects?
NK: I perform under Dark Session moniker and am one half of UK/FIN collaborative project, Sex Factor.
TM: According to Discogs, you have been recording under the name of Dark Session since 2008. The first and only release up to date is from 2013. What were the reasons for the long waiting time?
NK: The first “Dark Sessions” were made in winter 2008 and even though sonically it differed very much from what I’m doing today, that “era” ignited the flame that still burns very deep within me and therefore I credit those early years as very important part of my “artistic development”. First noisy recordings date back to the very beginning of 2011 and soon after I published my first experiments, Steve (Bagman) got in touch and things started to shape up.
TM: What kind of gear do you use to create the sounds for Dark Session?
NK: I used synth quite a lot of in my past works but nowadays I prefer to work with various sound sources, combined with synth. My gear is as limited as my knowledge, so my methods may come across as unorthodox to some but I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way, as long as end results are satisfying.
TM: I remember reading that “Hel(l)sinki” was intended to be “bare to the bone filth” - is that correct? What is the concept behind that particular release?
NK: It works as documentation for my trip to Hell. Basically I recorded some material at Obscurex container, some at BU bunker and when I got home I went through it all and selected the best parts. Then I cut them into shorter pieces and that’s about it. Didn’t want to overwork it but rather leave it as it is (“bare to the bone filth” as you described). Then I simply added it on my Bandcamp page until I decided its faith and soon enough I got contacted by few labels interested in releasing it. I felt that HATEHATEHATE tapes was the best possible choice because I have huge appreciation towards the guy and his label. Oddly enough Simon contacted me later that day and told me I should consider releasing the material in physical form so I immediately got back to him, asking if he’d be willing to contribute with his incredible art and like a great guy he is, he agreed instantly.
TM: You seem to have pretty specific thoughts about the ideas behind Dark Session. Can you describe the philosophy and what attracts you to the topics you choose to discuss?
NK: I have used this description in my past and think it’s still relevant: “Themes and sources of inspiration are varying from humans and surroundings (the ruins) to religion and morality (the hypocrisy), and from pain and pleasure (the most extreme form of sexual pleasure) to suicide and genocide (the ultimate form of death and destruction)”. However, I would never limit myself to these subjects as they are simply the ones that I currently feel very strongly about (and have felt since to formation of DS).
TM: Dark Session is still in a pretty early stage. Where do you want to take the project in the future? Any plans that are different from the style presented on “Hel(l)sinki”?
NK: There’s still long way to go to get the results I’m after but starting something from scratch is never easy – at least not for me. I’m currently trying out various ideas in hope for coming up with something new. The plus side is I haven’t formed my own sound yet so everything is possible. But fear not, I don’t have slightest interest towards mixing techno with noise.
TM: Unlike many other artists in the field, you don't release much. Do you think that less is more? Is a high level of quality important to you?
NK: I think this is mostly because I’m still searching for my own sound. Maybe I can start releasing stuff more frequently when I’ve found what I’m looking for. The material has to satisfy me personally for it to be worthy of a release so in that sense high quality is important to me. However, I can’t guarantee that others will enjoy it but that doesn’t really concern me.
TM: You have already performed live in Vantaa. How was the gig arranged and what was it like? Could you imagine performing live more frequently?
NK: I never thought about performing live but it just kind of happened. Everything went smoothly even though there were some technical issues on my part (due to my inexperience). I got to meet some great people, some of which’ work has been (and still is) very important influence to me. I don’t see DS as live act but in case someone offers me such opportunity, I’d seriously consider it. Maybe next time I can get it right, hah!
TM: You are one half of the project Sex Factor. How was the project born and what are the aims behind it?
NK: Sex Factor started to take its form soon after I had published my first experiments. Both, me and Steve enjoyed each other’s work so it was pretty natural to make something together. I find Sex Factor as somewhat a tribute to Filth and Violence and Finnish noise scene in general. The project name itself has a deeper meaning for me and Steve but I think that’s better to be kept secret.
TM: Are there any further Sex Factor releases planned?
NK: There has been some talk about it and we actually have some finished material but at the moment we’re busy with our solo efforts so time will tell. Working with Steve was great and he’s an awesome guy so I’m sure we’ll work together one way or another somewhere in the future.
TM: The Finnish PE and Noise scene seems to be pretty tight. What kind of experiences did you make at concerts and such? I hear that there was lots of hospitality.
NK: Most artists keep in touch with each other and gigs surely has all the regular maniacs present. I have only positive things to say and I’m sure everyone else agrees.
TM: Who are your favourite noise artists and why?
NK: I think instead of listing bunch of pioneers I should bring up some “fresher” names (along with few mandatory “old beards”). Some of my favorites must be Jaakko Vanhala (Häkki, JV, Secret Apex etc.) simply because I have never heard harsh noise album as dynamic, well crafted and diverse as his sophomore album, “Here Be Lions” (note: talking about the CD version on FA). Keith Finnan (STAB) for finding perfect balance between his brilliant vocal delivery, analog synth destruction and those killer samples that he uses. Pure bliss! Martin Bladh (IRM, MB, Skin Area) for his intellectual and well thought through artistic vision. Mikko Aspa (CoT, Grunt, N12 etc.) for taking power electronics to a whole another level with his glorious “World Draped In A Camouflage” album (in addition to his flawless discography). Pasi Markkula (BU, Snuff etc.) for pretty much defining Finnish PE/noise scene with his monster of a project, Bizarre Vitun Uproar! Pekka PT (Peenemünde, Sick Seed, SSRI etc.) due to his unique and constantly evolving approach. Peter Henning (Amph, MaB) simply because Amph, Mirrors Are Black and his label, Sprachlos Verlag, are awesome. Viktor Ottosson (Blodvite, Orquere, Enklav, Krökta Rum etc.) for being involved with some of my favorite releases that has come out from Sweden. Viktor’s Järtecknet label is superb as well… one of my (many) obsessions. Honestly the list could go on and on but aforementioned artists must be the most influential for me personally.
I feel a burning desire to add few more that aren’t necessarily influential to me but definitely something that I enjoy in great doses: Jean-Marc Vivenza & projects/bands fronted by Alexander Lebedev-Frontov. That guy is a genius plus he just put out new Vetrophonia DVD on Zhelezobeton Film!
TM: You have your own Youtube channel called “TheFilmifriikki”. What made you start it and what's the idea behind your activities on Youtube?
NK: My intention was to publish solely my own works but it soon got out of hand and now I have almost 300 videos of which only ten or so are mine. But I don’t mind, I feel like I’m doing something useful with my spare time plus it’s also pretty therapeutic to really focus on a release, select a track and try to capture the atmosphere in one picture (or in rare cases, to make a matching video from various found footage). I’ll keep uploading until I get banned for whatever reason. On the other hand, with the kind of (obscure) material I upload, that’s very unlikely to happen but you never know, right?
TM: Thanks! Any last words, greetings etc?
NK: Much love to my mate Steve for picking me up from the gutter and treating me like his own. Forever grateful to Pasi for all he has done for DS and Sex Factor. Also need to mention Markus for putting out the HELL tape on his hateful label spiced with Simon’s incredible artwork. Little Boy, Fatman, Myöhänen and Svartvit for the good times at drunken “gig-night after-party” and for the stockings man with a helping hand during my debut performance. Hails to all the labels and distros, bands and projects that are keepin’ it real. Thanatische Manifestationen, I salute you!
TM: Hi, Steve! First of all, for all those who don't know you, who are you and what are your projects?
SB: For the uninitiated, I am mostly known for the cathartic "Bagman" project, starting around the years 2006/2007 [although,i began creating "experimental" sounds in 1994,while playing bass for punk/art rock bands].
The concept kept the original "DIY" aesthetic of punk, and has always been comprised of one take live recordings... It has included albums, ep's, singles, splits, and self releases.
Since then my work has matured into "[GoneDark]Bleach",and more recently been distilled into power electronics act "Stark".
Along the way, I have collaborated with NK of Dark Session in the "Sex Factor" cassette released by Filth&Violence.
TM: BAGMAN is your most prolific and best-known project. What made you start the project? How did you come up with the name and what kind of themes do you cover?
SB: I began "Bagman" after reading of the killer/criminal/snuff movie maker Kenneth McKenna in "Killing For Culture" and "Killer Fiction".
His story fascinated me, and even as a hardcore lover of all things extreme, I found here was a man who pushed ALL boundaries... irrespective of law and taste. Apochryphal or not, this enigmatic tale resonated with me.
Expressive sound art, no matter what the style, needs to comprise of genuine emotions for me. My anger, mental troubles, obsessions, and addictions found an outlet thanks to a person who has made a lifetime legacy of his darkest impulses.
TM: Your latest project is called [Gone Dark]Bleach. What is the difference between BAGMAN and [GD]B? Did BAGMAN evolve into [GD]B, or do you see them as two separate projects?
SB: "[GD]B" was a straight evolution from the "Bagman" project, although I will always be happy to be known as 'Steve Bagman'.
As more and more of my own personal experiences became notably relevant, the name "BAGMAN" was no longer encompassing everything I wished to express, and the time felt correct for a change. Also, I began to concentrate on utilising different sounds : not "experimenting" exactly, but certainly putting a lot more thought in."[GoneDark]Bleach" has recently been condensed into the more stripped down sound of "Stark".
TM: The BAGMAN discography is very large, whereas that of [Gone Dark] Bleach consists of merely two albums. Is more “planning” involved in [GD]B?
SB: I recorded ALL "Bagman" material as a library of anything created. The 'tracks' were purely expressive of my feelings/interests at a particular time, and served to log the compositions; otherwise they would have been lost.
Since then, I have purified the intention of putting forth my inner emotions, and spent more time on preparing before I record. This began with albums such as "Memento Mary".
Extant tracks under the "[GD]B" moniker will be released as and when : beyond that I am sure it will be a 2 album project.
The "Bleach" aspect has proved to be as cleansing as intended.
TM: You have referenced several films under the moniker of Bagman, i.e. named songs after them. What made you do this?
SB: So-called 'extreme/underground' cinema has always interested me,since the days of the video nasty scare in the UK, when I was approximately 5 years old..
As a child, these movies held great appeal,and I made it my goal to see the majority of things that I probably shouldn't. “Cannibal Holocaust” and “Cannibal Ferox” were still carrying the myth of genuine snuff movie at the time, and “A Clockwork Orange” had been banned by Kubrick himself due to gangs in Britain carrying out copycat attacks. I recall witnessing an instance of this in the small village where I grew up.
Fourth generation VHS copies of “Animal Farm” and “Flower Of Flesh And Blood” were being passed around [often bought from dubious ice-cream vans!], so anybody with a vested interest didn't have to look too far.
The films I have personally done audio pieces about are not necessarily my 'favourite' films. "Clean,Shaven" and "Last House On Dead End Street" are notable by their absence, but the original composers in those instances covered the ground comprehensively.
TM: You have coined the term PURGE ELECTRONICS for your style and this also seems to be the name of your own label. How did you come up with the term?
SB: The term "Purge Electronics" came quite naturally after a short while, as did the live expression "Public Catharsis".
They both stemmed from the basic nature of my reason for creating the sound that I do. I don't record or compose for other peoples listening experience-everything is from my personal emotional position at the relevant time, whether it be as direct as self hatred & mental illness, or as removed as my views on historical figures/media/etc.
TM: What can you say about your new project "Stark?"
SB: "Stark" is inspired by a mixture of all my influences,and has given me a fresh perspective to work from.At a stage when i was fast becoming disillusioned,taking things back to basics inspired me.
Less "noisy" perhaps,but all the more intense for that driving force.
TM: Your last release “One Master” was a highly limited DiY release. Could you imagine doing releases of that ilk more often?
SB: The debut "Stark" cassette has been done in a similar style to "One Master", with hand made covers, and being limited to a short run [although, reissue is possible].
"T.P.T." was sent out to a production site who then posted me 90 copies of the cdr along with full colour inlays of the art by Agresso Expresso : However happy I was with the result, it didnt have the rough underground feel of what I envisaged for the Purge Electronics label,so future compositions will have the same approach as "O.M" & "Stark".
TM: Your sound is very recognisable. What kind of gear do you use?
SB: I started with just a Korg sampler, but since then gradually added to the arsenal.
My Microkorg synth is now fully comprised of my own programmed sounds, and my Kaossilator Pink [a gift from Paul of Sutcliffe Jugend] has proved invaluable.
I also use custom built tone generators and modulators, various distortion,delay,& pitch shifter pedals, scrap metal [on occassion],and my bass guitar with e-bow.
An MS-20 Mini is the newest addition, and I have a feeling it will feature heavily in future recordings.
TM: All of your projects have a very “primitive” PE sound. Is this brutality part of the concept, or could it also work with more “composed” sounds?
SB: Brutality, primitivism, and purity were always a mainstay of "Bagman" compositions,and I have tried to carry that on, but with a slightly more composed approach.
By coupling this aggression with a tighter, more pointed ideal, I am now creating the sound I always intended.
TM: You are one half of the project Sex Factor. How was the project born and what are the aims behind it? How does the interaction work?
SB: "Sex Factor" came about after NK [Dark Session] and I had been in contact for some time,due to our mutual respect of each others work and a shared interest in sound and imagery.
However,we have agreed to keep the deeper meanings behind SF a secret...
TM: You named yourself after the serial killer Harry Bosch and your projects seem to focus on the crimes others have committed. Are you a serial killer enthusiast? If yes, what do you find fascinating about them? Do you want to glorify or merely analyse?
SB: The term "Bagman" actually comes from the series of 16 video loops that McKenna was supposedly resonsible for [whether these exist or not has yet to be proven,much like the pseudo snuff of Gator Bait Ten and Snake Feast].
I suppose I could be regarded as a serial killer 'enthusiast'. I certainly have a huge interest in anybody who follows their own impulses to such an extreme extent, irrespective of social morality. 'Glorification' would be an unsuitable term for the way I view such individuals, although 'analytical' would definitely hit the mark. I am not afraid to admit to tittilation upon reading and hearing of the acts of these libertines, but, despite the overwhelming public interest, I seem to be in a minority with that admission.
Television and literature is full of such material, but an outward fascination with the subject seems to remain verboten.
A split release on Nefarious Activities and 412Recordings saw myself and US act Striations doing pure true crime power electronics [my own tracks concerning crimes close to home at the time of recording], and I regard Mike's act as one of the best in that genre.
TM: Judging from your statements, violence, depravity and perversion seem to influence your life to a great extent. You also talk about substance abuse and psychological disorders. What can you say about this?
SB: It is safe to say that my obsessions drive my life.
From a very early age I was completely aware of the world around me, and took umbridge at being viewed as a child. By the age of 9 my burgeoning acceptance of the importance of the world of pornography and depravity was very much apparent, and as far as media was concerned, nothing was denied me.
I have been lucky in the sense that I have come from a very stable background, and both of my parents allowed me the space to become the person I wished to be.
Thus, pornography and violent imagery was tolerated to an extent, although never part of home life.
Before I reached the age of 11, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and by the age of 16 this had been realised to be bipolar disorder [manic depression].
Like most people in the same situation I self-medicated from a very early stage, and at the present age of 35, I am still battling these symptoms. Within the last year alone alcoholism has landed me in legal trouble twice, and my history of abusing class A narcotics goes back many years.
I am now relatively 'clean', but I still recognise it as a daily struggle.
TM: You seem to be very interested in all kinds of art. What kind do you enjoy except noise? You seem to like pornography and splatter films for example...
Splatter/gore movies and pornography always excited me, and I see it as a definite art form. Around the age of 6, I was permitted to have pornographic imagery on the walls of my bedroom, and to amass a collection of horror movies.
For whatever reasons, I was drawn to such aspects of life and art, and continued to push the envelope as I matured. By the time I was 13, Throbbing Gristle, Skinny Puppy and Test Dept. had replaced early Napalm Death and Discharge as my audio favourites, and SS Experiment Camp, I Spit On Your Grave, and Last House On The Left had become solid aspects of my viewing.
Musically, I began listening to bog_standard metal, but quickly progressed to grind/blast/death/etc... the extremities drew me in most of all. Punk like The Expolited was a turning point, and T.G.'s D.O.A album was an absolute revelation.
TM: BAGMAN hails from the birthplace of Power Electronics Great Britain. How do you see the UK scene nowadays? Are you in touch with other British artists?
SB: There are some very talented individuals coming out of the UK at the moment, and the artists who have dominated the underground in Great Britain in the past are mostly still producing powerful material.
I have become friends with innovators Sutcliffe Jugend [who have been a large influence on my work], ACL, STAB Electronics [amongst others], and each of my live performances is almost always attended by a fantastic group of individuals.
I personally preferred the elite aspect of the days before the internet/social networking took over, though: it would seem that now there are many people thinking that of they can turn on a machine that makes a noise, they are automatically a substantial 'noise' act.
The main artist I am personally in touch with is my close friend Keith Mitchell [the man behind "White Walls"/"Inhibition"/"Reverse Records UK"], and he has my utmost respect as a person and an artist.
I cant think of anybody who does work as powerful and eclectic as Keith, and without his compositions my listening experiences would be a lot more staid. We both live in the North East of England, and tend to meet up a few times a week. Top bloke!
TM: Name five books and five people who have influenced you and say why.
SB: I'm not sure if these will hold any surprises: I like what I like, and my tastes are often sited by many other artists within the scene...
DAF DeSade: 120 Days Of Sodom; Justine: DeSade still surpasses almost all literature for me, and conjures up a world that although remains distant, strikes a resounding chord. "Dialogue Between A Priest And A Dying Man" is another piece of timeless prose.
Peter Sotos - Proxy: Peter Sotos is the one modern day writer who really fills me with a feeling of libertinism in its truest sense. A man who cares nothing of what the world thinks of his work, and who broke all boundaries with the 'Pure' fanzine. I've chosen "Proxy" as it combines a collection of his work, although "Selfish,Little: The Annotated Lesley Ann Downey" and "Predicate" also stand out.
I'm proud to say that Pete now owns at least 3 Bagman albums.
The Gates Of Janus: A no doubt controversial choice, due to its author 'Moors Murderer' Ian Brady.
Aside from all hype,this is one of the most comprehensive serial killer studies ever committed to paper, and includes Brady's own views on the motives of murderers as well as enlightening admissions from himself [when reading between the lines].
Throbbing Gristle - Wreckers Of Civilisation: Written by Simon Ford, this gives the early history of COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle the recognition they deserve. Named after a Daily Mail newspaper headline regarding their London I.C.A appearance as TG, it is a comprehensive account of all things genuinely industrial.
Sutcliffe Jugend: I first began listening to SJ shortly after their return to the world of power electronics.
It was during the demise of an extremely troubled 11 year relationship I had been in, and the anger and nihilism hit home at just the right time.
Paul and Kevin have become friends of mine since then, and I'm happy to have supported them at the "Confession IV" gig for Hinoeuma.
Francis Bacon: FB has always interested me.
The combination of love and violence in his paintings resonates almost as strongly as his Irish heritage and rampant alcoholism:"Champagne for my real friends,real pain for my sham friends".
James Dean: The last of the great icons, Dean remains one of the only figures in history to have left a solid body of work that borders on legend.
"Rebel Without A Cause" gave me lifestyle inspiration as a teenager, as it no doubt did for generations before and after, and the man himself was creative, challenging, and individual to a fault. I am close to obsessive about his imagery at times, and "Stark" is named after his character 'Jim Stark' in "RWAC".
TM: What does the future hold for you? Any new projects planned?
SB - At the time of writing,the debut "Stark" cassette release has been helped along by the owner of Quagga Curious Sounds, and is released by Purge Electronics [limited to 13 copies].
I fully intend for future compositions to be under this title, although I can never be sure where things will take me.
Extant "Bagman" album "New Wave Of British Murder" should be out this year [after a 4 year wait], along with the remaining "[Gone Dark]Bleach" work. There has been a recent cassette re-issue of the first 3 "Bagman" albums on Crucial Blast, but as far as I know everything else under that name is either sold out or with labels such as Murderabilia Recs, 412 Recs, Final Trauma, and Nefarious Activities.
TM: Thanks for the interview! Any last words?
SB: Thanks very much,mate!Always good to talk to you, and your support of my projects is hugely appreciated.