Hello ZCluster and welcome to Brutal Resonance! I always love opening up with this question. What are three of your favorite albums of all time and why?
INfest8: 1) ‘Danzig II: Lucifuge’ by Danzig because it just rocks! Crazy drum fills, blistering solos. Danzig at their best; 2) ‘Replicas’ by Tubeway Army. This album switched me onto electronic music. 3) ‘Hounds of Love’ by Kate Bush. Genius songwriting, great use of the technology of the time and the ways in which she deploys her voice as textures and instruments is inspiring.
SaiJaidenLillith: 1) Aenima by Tool, this album changed my perspective on music forever and I had an absolutely intense hallucinogenic experience whilst listening to it as a teenager; the blend of vulnerability, esoterics, eroticism and psychology was perfect to me, as well as the pounding drums and beautiful instrumentation. 2) The Fragile by NIN, especially Left - I still find this to be one of the most beautifully, meticulously constructed albums of all time, and I love the combination of rawness and beautifully realised textures of Trent's voice in this period. 3) Portishead (self-titled) - this album was the soundtrack to my sexual awakening / exploration as a teenager, and what a beautiful, desolate, delicate and sensual piece of work it is. Beth Gibbons sings the songs of my heart.
I see that you two are based in both Melbourne and Sydney. Tell me how you met, and how the idea for ZCluster came about.
INfest8: We met via some Facebook group and got chatting via Messenger. We met up (when Sai lived in Sydney), had a jam with real instruments as we can both play various things, and produced a couple of never-heard-again tracks. About a year later I produced ‘Echo’ and sent it to Sai who asked if they could lay vocals down, and the rest is history.
SaiJaidenLillith: Previously I'd been the main composer and guitarist in my bands, but I'd always wanted to be able to channel the intensity of emotions that I feel into a front-person space. Working with INfest8 was perfect for me to be able to drop the overthinking that had plagued me as a producer and drop into the rawness of expressiveness as a vocalist.
ZCluster is the music that I'd always wanted to make. INfest8 is my perfect producer, I absolutely love the sounds and compositions that they come up with, we're intensely musically compatible.
Who came up with the idea of the name and what does it mean?
INfest8: ZCluster was/is a loose association of chaos magicians from the 1990s. We appropriated the name.
SaiJaidenLillith: *nods in hood and robes*
Since your inception you’ve been sharing the stage with a ton of powerful Australian acts such as SHIV-R, Deader, SNVFF, and more. Was this rapid incline expected or did you kind of fall into it? What was your initial reaction?
INfest8: We’ve found that if you just ask, the worst people can do is say “no”. Luckily, most people have said “yes”. So, we’ve asked and been able to play with those acts and also support Peter Murphy and David J on their Bauhaus tour. We asked to play at Dark Mofo in 2020 and they said yes, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to the pandemic. We hope to be listed again.
SaiJaidenLillith: I've been around in the Australian music industry in various forms since 1995 so I've made a bunch of connections with a bunch amazing musicians and industry folk that I'm proud to call friends. I've worked in live / recording sound engineering, which did give me access to venues and also to find great bands and musicians. And honestly being a sex worker has definitely made me a lot less shy about clearly stating what I need and what we have to offer! Also, being a part of a niche musical scene also helps, haha!
You describe yourself as industrial and gothic,but listening to some of your back catalogue I catch vibes of late 90s and early 2000s alternative music. What are some of your biggest influences when you create your music?
INfest8: Sai and I are of a similar age and spent our formative years in the 1990s (although I’m from the UK and they are from Australia). Although I love electronic industrial music, I was also a big fan of grunge so bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains are an influence. Being English, I can’t escape the influence of artists like Bowie, T-Rex, Kate Bush, etc. either.
SaiJaidenLillith: Yep, we've got a shared love of the grunge era, and I have a predeliction towards dark, highly emotive/expressive music, like Korn, Evanesance, Tori Amos, Slipknot - places where it feels like the feelings are bleeding through; the songs you cry to, laugh to, fuck to, scream into the void to. Vocalists who push the envelope like Mike Patton. Vocalists who make you *feel* deep.
I'm always digging for new music, new inspirations, new experiences - some of the more recent new music I've been inspired by has been Bad Omens, Brutus, Vernon Jane, The Buttress, Tommy Genesis, Elsiane, Sofa Surfers, a whole eclectic range of things.
BDSM, gender and eroticism are big influences in my lyric writing, as well as finding healthy containers for transgression. My vocation as a sex worker and dominatrix inspire me greatly - celebrating the depths of connection and variety of ways in which we can find each other.
I've been on a wild journey over the past few years, deep shattering and reconstruction of self, of opening up and questioning why we accept the status quo, why we censor ourselves, why we fear ourselves and our own desires and needs and feel the need to police the needs and desires of others. This questioning drives me to write the counternarrative to our society that uses sex to sell everything but refuses to allow sex / eroticism to be seen. It is both a distillation of my personal philosophy and my activism.
I feel a lot. I have BPD and CPTSD and music is definitely one of my main relief valves, as well as a safe container where I can *feel* and express ALL of it without burning the world to the ground. I want us to share that space of *feeling*, of all that is unspoken, of all our fears, hopes and dreams. I want to scream into the void together. I want to share vast paroxysms of joy and ecstacy together. I want us to smash the apparatus of the moralising, punitive, reductive state together.
Up until now, you’ve been primarily releasing EPs and singles. Do you prefer this release format in comparison to the classic full-length album releases? Many creative artists state that smaller releases keep the algorithm flowing.
INfest8: The algorithm doesn’t really mean much to us. We get most of our traction through Bandcamp, radio/podcasts, and playing live. We like to try and release material once we have a cohesive set of tracks.
SaiJaidenLillith: Honestly, I've gone back and forth over "launch strategies" and finding the sweet balance of regular output and taking the time to really drop into a space. There's also that stagnation that can come from sitting on music for too long and conversely a dynamism that comes with letting the chips fall where they may.
Now, the big news is that you have your first full-length album coming out called “The Rapture”. Tell me about the idea behind the album. Obviously, “The Rapture” has some biblical terms. But, to you, what does it mean?
SaiJaidenLillith: I know it's kinda sappy but the title track "The Rapture" was a love song I wrote for my partner and muse Eve X, and how much they light up and transform my world - they are definitely a transformative inspiration in my life. It's about the power and joy of really getting in touch with your desires, with finding that beautiful, wild, rapturous world that lives in all of us - that we're told to be afraid of and protect ourselves from.
I appropriated "The Rapture" from the biblical meaning as a subversive act; in that it's shown as the ultimate ascension into a paradise through the lens of Christianity - but I've used it to show that we can have paradise and transcendence here, right now and in our bodies and with each other. We're working on a video clip at the moment which is going to explore all of those themes.
You call out and say that your sound has matured on “The Rapture”. In what ways? What have you learned since your beginnings that you’re incorporating onto the album?
SaiJaidenLillith: This is the first release for ZCluster where I've recorded my own vocals, and that's allowed me the time to experiment a lot more and take the time to let things sit for a while before reassessing them as opposed to trying to force them to work or hyperfocusing. I've been able to work a lot more on harmonies and just letting my voice be itself as opposed to trying to force it to be something. It's been the best midpoint between my previously 100% self-produced music and having INfest8 take care of all the production!
Lyric writing has definitely been a journey of being deeply vulnerable - I used to agonise over the artifice of lyric writing, but now I really just lean into words as textures, as vehicles for raw emotions and those ineffable thoughts that haunt us and just allowing what wants to come forth to manifest itself.
INfest8's production skills have definitely levelled up over time, and I love the new instrumentations that they're putting together. We've actually done a redux of "Shadow" from "Dusk", so you can literally compare where we started and where we are now; "Shadow (redux) is much closer to the vision that we had for the song, as opposed to what we were capable of at the time.
When can fans expect to hear “The Rapture” in its entirety? What song are you most excited for them to hear and why?
SaiJaidenLillith: "The Rapture" launches on 8 August on Bandcamp and will become available on all major platforms from that date onwards!
That's a very hard question to answer, haha! I think my personal favourite currently is "Monster", because it just didn't work for so long, and then something clicked, and everything just fell into place to create this intense, ethereal track. Lyrically it also came at a time of intense change and journeying for myself. Also, I'm a sucker for big tribal toms and driving basslines.
Lastly, I’d like to thank you for your time. I wish you the best of luck and can’t wait to hear “The Rapture” in full. Cheers!
ZCluster: Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to rant about our music! We hope you enjoy the tunes and thank you for giving niche artists a platform!
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
Share this interview