Interview with Walter Flakus
Formed originally in 1985 in Illinois, industrial legends Stabbing Westward are working on their first new album since 2001. Despite finding success with their first albums; Ungod (1994), Wither Blister Burn & Peel (1996), Darkest Days (1998), and Stabbing Westward (2001), the band broke up in 2002. After reuniting for a charity concert in 2016, the band found that their fans had not forgotten them and we're hungry for more. After completing a Darkest Days anniversary run of shows to grateful fans, the band started working on a new EP, “Dead and Gone”, which was released in January 2020. With the country still locked down in areas, the band headed back to the studio to work on their new LP “Wasteland”.
We caught up with one of the founding members, Walter Flakus, to see what he has been working on during this time.
EP: Your last live show was in February opening for Bush in Vegas. What have you been doing since then?
Flakus: Yeah, it’s been a bummer. We had a bunch of shows planned for the first half of the year that had to be scrapped. We love playing these shows but it’s really important to keep everyone safe. Packing people into a room to jump up and down and sing along with everyone is not a good idea until we can get a vaccine to control the virus. So we’ve been making the most of our time away from live shows to finish up a bunch of songs we’ve been working on for such a long time. We now have the time to give them the focus they need so we can put out our first album in 19 years.
EP: In what ways is the music scene in Seattle similar to Chicago’s?
Flakus: Sadly, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to be a part of the scene here in Seattle yet. But it seems very close-knit and very strong. Coming from Chicago, which to me is the home of industrial music, that was one of the things that drew me to Seattle. It’s one of the cities most industrial bands will hit when they play the U.S.
EP: In what ways is it different?
Flakus: Not much different. Just smaller.
EP: What music have you been listening to lately?
Flakus: I found that I’ve really been sinking into the old tunes that I grew up with. Call it comfort food in this crazy time.
EP: What inspired you to become a musician?
Flakus: I’ve always been drawn to music. My dad was a pro jazz trumpet player in his younger days so music was always around the house. I loved listening to the radio when I was a kid and I was determined to play music for people one way or another. Live in a band or on the radio. I ended up doing both.
EP: If performing didn’t work out for you, was there something else you could see yourself doing?
Flakus: I still maintain a radio career to help pay the bills. It’s been a lifesaver this year. It’s also allowed me to make so many connections on all sides of the music business.
EP: What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
Flakus: The energy and emotion that creating music can create! I love being able to create moods that people can relate to.
EP: What drew you to the keyboard as your primary instrument?
Flakus: The short answer is Ministry! When I first heard “Revenge” followed by the samples in “Nature of Love,” I was hooked. I started playing guitar as a kid, switched to drums in the school band. I’m able to put all of that together with programming!
EP: When you are up on the stage before your performance begins, what goes through your mind?
Flakus: I hope everything works! Just getting to the headspace of giving the best performance for everyone who came out to the show! We wouldn't be able to do this if it wasn’t for the fans. They deserve the best every night.
EP: Stabbing Westward is working on new music with their album “Wasteland” expected out later this year. What unexpected challenges are you facing creating new music during these unusual circumstances?
Flakus: We’ve become pretty comfortable working long distances since I was in Chicago and Christopher and the guys are in L.A. We’ve had many of these songs in various stages for a couple of years. I think the circumstances this year has given us the focus to get them across the finish line.
EP: Stabbing Westward has signed with a new label, COP International, which is a boutique platform combining both visual and audio arts based on the west coast. How has your experience with them compared to your previous experiences with other labels?
Flakus: Christian Petke and everyone involved with COP International has been amazing to work with. We are equal partners and every decision has been a collaborative effort. We don’t feel like just another band on a label roster. We’re all in this together, succeed, or fail.
EP: John Fryer has also teamed up with COP International and will be producing much of COP’s catalog including your new music. How does it feel to be working with John again as he produced both your debut Ungod release but also your second, Wither Blister Burn and Peel?
Flakus: Yeah, John being involved is a huge win for all of us. John was instrumental in pushing us on Ungod, trying different things and crafting a record which I think stands the test of time. The Wither album gave us the success that put us on the map. It’s super exciting to be working with him again. He’s someone we can trust. He’s been doing great stuff lately too!
EP: It is unusual for a band to reform after so much time has passed. Did you ever think your fan base would still be interested in welcoming you back?
Flakus: No, I didn’t, to be honest. When we agreed to do our first show back at Chicago's Double Door (R.I.P) I thought it might sell out but not in the first 3 minutes. I was floored. It’s been so amazing getting to talk to so many fans whom each has a story as to how Stabbing Westward has touched them in some way. I’ll never take our fans for granted and am thankful for each one. I’m still floored that people still remember us!
EP: Stabbing Westward is very generous with their time and is known for erasing the line between artists and fans by hanging out after shows, which your fans always appreciate. What is it like for you to hear how you and your music have made a difference in your fans’ lives?
Flakus: It’s always been that way. When we were traveling in a bus, word would get around that we would hang out after the show, you just needed to hang by the bus. Each of us would always come out, sign things, and talk with everyone. That’s how we built connections and relationships. That was always important to us and it’s still important in 2020.
EP: Is there anything about your new album in progress that you are able to share with us at this time?
Flakus: Well, the Dead and Gone EP we put out in January is a good precursor. We’ll try to hit all the different levels fans have expected on a Stabbing record. Christopher is a great lyricist and can still relate to our fan base. I can’t wait for everyone to hear this stuff!
EP: Do you have any advice for new musicians getting their feet wet?
Flakus: Never settle for a mediocre song. Push to make sure it’s the best it can be. Is it the best beat? Is it the best key? Does it have a memorable hook? Are the lyrics well thought out? Push beyond a four-bar loop and the same four chords. Attention spans are short these days and music needs to be great to cut through.
EP: Is there anything else you would like to share with your fans?
Flakus: We can’t wait to finish this album and get it in your ears. Once things open back up and it’s safe, we’ll be back on the road and can’t wait to see everyone at the shows!
Stay safe and WEAR A MASK!!