If there’s one thing the current global politial climate tells us, it’s that the dystopian sci-fi future we’ve been fearfully anticipating is basically upon us, so why not suit our musical diets accordingly? L.O.T.I.O.N. are perfect for the job, the punk band most likely to integrate computer viruses and drone strikes into their musical aesthetic. They’re from New York City, which is probably where the apocalypse will start, and their sound conjures visions of G.I.S.M., Ministry, Chaotic Dischord and Rudimentary Peni in equal measure, fusing all that confusion, frustration and paranoia (founded or otherwise) into thick chunks of hardcore-punk. I spoke with vocalist and bandleader Alexander Heir about the group and now I’m on my way out the door to get one of my ears pierced.

Is there one specific phrase that L.O.T.I.O.N. stands for, or is it ever-shifting and open to interpretation, like MDC or something? Are you willing to divulge its meaning?
L.O.T.I.O.N. is an even changing acronym. On our first cassette release it was “Leaders Of Tomorrow Ingest Only Noise,” on our second it was “Legacy Of Terror In Occupied Nations,” and on our newest LP we used a handful of different meanings, including “Logical Organized Technology: Intelligent Observable Network.”

Did the acronym L.O.T.I.O.N. come about from that first name, Leaders Of Tomorrow Ingest Only Noise, or did you start off wanting to be L.O.T.I.O.N.? It’s an interesting contrast, as “lotion” conjures images of soft skin and aloe leaves, or perhaps lubricant…
We started with LOTION. I can’t exactly remember how we came up with it, I think Tye and I both thought it was a gross sounding word that seemed appropriate for what we were going for; a little bit nasty and a little bit absurd. The acronyms came later, as the concept of the band was fleshed out.

What inspires the band more, fiction or non-fiction? What I’m wondering is, are you truly afraid the world is in shambles due to our insane reliance on technology none of us truly understand, or are you just really into the concept of Robocops and Terminators?
I think the unfortunate truth is that reality has caught up with a lot of the nightmarish scenarios of science fiction. Invasive surveillance cameras, lethal unmanned drones, military grade police equipment, phone and email data collection, cyber terrorism and more are all part of our reality. People have and will continue to have their jobs replaced by robots, and well-respected scientists are making public statements about the possible threats of artificial intelligence, all while people become more reliant on advanced technology.
While the imagery of machine-soldier is an exciting way to represent these fears, the rapid advancement of technology also makes it not such an implausible idea and something we might see in the near future.

Were the electronic instruments and percussion always integral to L.O.T.I.O.N. or did they arrive after the band’s inception? Was there a specific industrial influence at play as the band was forming?
The band was initially formed by Tye, who plays guitar, and me, after discovering our mutual interest in industrial and techno. We were particularly inspired at the time by Scumputer, a “digital d-beat” project started by Gabba of Chaos UK. The first two tape releases were just bedroom recordings of Tye playing guitar & bass over drum-machine beats I constructed and sang over. We were both interested in exploring what we could do with electronics while still
maintaining the elements of a punk band, and never expected to be able to play live. The band was fully realized when Emil joined, who, beyond being an amazing drummer, has an extensive knowledge of sound production and electronics, and was able to help us figure out how to perform as a full band with the addition of Cory on bass.

Credit: Adrian Miles

You released a split USB earring. How do you see something like this in the scope of the band? Is it an amusing trinket, serious commentary on technology, collector bait, something else entirely?
As a designer, I have always been intrigued by the functionality of fashion and the application of technology. Punk culture and fashion is very rooted in its own tradition… this seemed like an interesting way to modernize a classic accessory and make it useful beyond just fashion. I think the concept is similar to how we approach our music, as well. Clearly inspired by punk, but not afraid to add some new elements or embrace new ideas. We’re already living in a cyberpunk hell, might as well dress the part.

Are your newer songs being written by the band, or does it remain Tye and yourself putting things together? I am curious if working as a full “band” has changed your songwriting, or changed it in the past.
We’re definitely writing more as a band. Originally the songs were fully composed and demoed before the band learned them. We still do a lot of bedroom composing and recording, but there is a lot of work being done as a band in the practice studio. The songs change a lot more from the rough idea to the final product. Emil and Corey contribute riffs and ideas, as well, as opposed to just Tye and myself. We’re also learning more about how to create the sound we want; experimenting with different gear and exploring the possibilities of what we have.

In a way, I’d say L.O.T.I.O.N. is a highly political band, regarding your discussion and stance on technology. Do any of your fans or supporters ever discuss these topics with you? Do you ever feel nervous that many punk crowds are complacent on their iPhones, using the same apps and programs as the rest of society?
I have a fair amount of people talk to me about our subject matter; I think a lot of people are excited to see a band take on these topics, and have the same concerns about technology and the ever-increasing police state. Of course punks can be complacent, we are still people after all, but I also think the internet has been a huge boon for DIY/the punk scene. It allows bands/artists/people to directly communicate, advertise, and share information with no middleman, and makes it easy to stay in touch with friends/comrades from around the globe. For as much as I might fear technology and care about all the issues we’ve discussed, I still have an iPhone. Instagram is an integral advertising tool for my art/clothing, and we use a Mac to compose and record demos for L.O.T.I.O.N. I think the point is to be cautious and aware of these tools, but not avoid them completely. Besides, is it not this kind of hypocrisy that makes us human?

For a band that seems securely aware of the present, why did you release an album on vinyl? Do you care about musical formats, or intend to adhere to the punk tradition of vinyl records? Is anything besides “the cloud” a fetish object at this point?
In the age of the cloud I think vinyl is even more important. The experience of putting on a record and listening to it while you look at the album art and read the lyric sheet is hard to reproduce digitally. It allows the band to create an atmosphere beyond just the music. This is why a label like Toxic State is just as concerned with producing quality art and packaging as it is the music. It retains the sacredness of an album; there is a physical presence to the sounds, etched on a delicate object. To care for a song is to care for the vinyl.
Counterintuitive as it may seem, vinyl might actually outlive the digital formats we have now. The vice-president of Google (also considered one of the “fathers of the internet”) has made public statements warning of a possible “digital dark age,” in which all the music, photos, documents, and information stored on hard drives and even “the cloud” will be lost due to quickly evolving technology. Similarly to how it’s very difficult to pull data from obsolete formats like floppy discs and zip disks. Record playing technology, however, remains the same.