Article by Chad Sapieha (Interface version 13, 1998)
We have become used to the fact that many electronic artists afford themselves the luxury of side projects. Such a practice represents one of the great advantages technology-based music has over the acoustic mainstream; namely, a musician’s ability to explore on a grand scale his different musical interests, tastes, sensibilities, and talents.
We many now add to the list of truly prolific electronic artists one Jonathan Sharp, of Cumbria, England. He has been involved with no less than nine different bands, including New Mind, Bio-Tek, Hexedene, Hyperdex-1-Sect, Psionic, Tryophex 14, Gunhed, Black Talon, and Cyber-Tec Project. Ranging from industrial/EBM to flat-out techno, Sharp has covered more musical ground in his eight-year career than most musicians will in their lifetime.
This is quite an accomplishment for someone who was not immediately drawn to music. To be sure, Sharp had tinkered a bit with recording equipment in his teens, but his first artistic calling was visual in nature. As he remembers, “(When I was) around eighteen or nineteen, I was seriously into photography and trying to get a job in that line of work. Instead, I found a job running music workshops at a rehearsal hall.” Not long after, he realized that his music “was more than just a spare time thing.”
Sharp’s career began in 1990 with a project called New Mind. Other bands may come and go in his life, but New Mind is here to stay. “New Mind… is me 100%,” says Jonathan. He has released four albums under this alias, all of which have differed tremendously in style and content. Sharp attests that “(New Mind) is what happens when I write music for me.”
While New Mind continued to grow, it wasn’t until 1996 that Sharp’s productivity would dramatically increase through the introduction of the bands Hexedene, Hyperdex-1-Sect, and Bio-Tek. Hexedene was an attempt to reconcile his aggressive electronic programming with a luscious female vocalist; Hyperdex-1-Sect was a direct repercussion of a nasty situation he had experienced with Cyber-Tec Records; and Bio-Tek was simply to be an untainted outlet for Sharp’s EBM stylings.
Two years later, Bio-Tek is still going strong, having recently released a second album overseas. While the artist’s political agenda shows through in several of his projects, it does so with the greatest clarity in Bio-Tek, which tends to act as a vent for Sharp’s “serious problem with any organized religion.”
“I’m primarily concerned with the lack of personal freedoms, censorship… those kinds of issues. I don’t believe in being politically correct. The whole thing over the cover art for “Zero to the Bone” (New Mind’s second full-length)… that was so typical. Yes, it had a picture of a man shoving a gun into a woman’s mouth. Does it not occur to people that I was trying to make a point about gender issues here? The whole theme of the album was gender/sexuality, but very few people seemed to get past the cover and song titles and into the music.”
Hexedene still exists as well, though with a major line-up change. Katie Helsby (vocalist) and Ian Palmer (guitars) have left the band after being promised fame and fortune by a major label. This ought to suit Hexedene fans just fine, however, as Katie’s replacement is the thoroughly gifted Battery vocalist Maria Azevedo.
The rest of Jonathan’s alter ego bands haven’t released full-length albums – yet. They are still going through the stages of testing, reworking, and acceptance via compilations and EPs. Tyrophex 14 recently appeared on the “Glory of Destruction” compilation, while Psionic contributed to the “Dark Techno 199” comp.
While Sharp is pleased with all of his current record company affiliations, he is no stranger to “dodgy labels.” His numerous projects have found several places to call home, but rarely for long. Sadisque, Machinery, Cyber-Tec, Off Beat, Zoth Ommog, Fifth Colvmn – each of these labels have been privy to his considerable talent, only to squander it. “My main advice to anyone,” says Jonathan, “is to get a good lawyer, and never sing a thing until you get his okay.”
But perhaps the most disheartening issue which Jonathan has had to face as a musician was his involvement with Cyber-Tec Records and their “industrial supergroup” (originally dubbed Cyber-Tec Project but now known simply as C-Tec). After the release of a critically acclaimed maxi CD – which Jonathan reportedly still hasn’t received royalties from – Sharp was promptly replaced by Marc Heal (of Cubanate). Being replaced is alone enough to raise hostilities towards one’s successor, but according to Sharp, it goes further than that. “You know when you meet someone and you either like them or dislike them on sight? That’s what happened – we both kind of disliked each other on sight.”
The anger Sharp built up from the Cyber-Tec tribulation was put to good use though. From this energy arose a collaboration with Severn Ni-Arb of X Marks the Pedwalk, and the release of four songs under the name Hyperdex-1-Sect. The melodious, beautifully arranged techno undertones of Hyperdex-1-Sect easily represent Sharp’s most accessible work to date, and might be just what he needs to push himself to the next level of artistic notoriety.
These may all seem like baby steps to some, but it won’t take many more before Sharp fins himself among the international electronic music underground elite.