Just one more time
For the sake of sanity
Tell me why
Explain the gravity
Assemblage 23 is a Seattle-based one-man band, consisting of Tom Shear, though the lineup is expanded for live appearances. It was formed, or at least first conceived, in mid-1988 when Tom was attending a Depeche Mode concert in Cleveland, Ohio. Tom arrived at the show early, in time for a DJ warming up the gathering crowd with industrial dance music, which was an entirely new form of music to him.
Prior to that event, Tom had been dabbling with synthpop and punk music and saw industrial music as a perfect combination of the two. With purpose in hand, Tom began experimenting with a wide variety of synths, mixers, editing software, instruments, samples and effects. During the process he became somewhat of a master remixer -- to date, he has remixed over 100 songs for various bands, most of whom fall under the industrial, synthpop or futurepop banners. The Assemblage 23 website has a complete list of the songs, as well offering remix services to anyone in need that can afford it.
During the early 1990s, Tom was known as Nerve Filter, and released three largely unnoticed albums for the 21st Circuitry record label. After the last Nerve Filter album was released in 1997, he began work on the first A23 material. The result was his first album, Contempt, which was released in November 1999 on the diminutive Gashed! Records imprint. (It would later be rereleased by Metropolis Records, which became A23's label after Gashed! bit the dust sometime in early 2001.) The album was a success, despite the limited quanities that Gashed! was able to put out. It spawned the the now-classic club staples Anthem and Skyquake. (The life of a "club classic" is not usually long, and the fact that those two songs still receive fairly regular play at most industrial clubs is quite remarkable.)
From the time Contempt was released, Tom spent the next two years working on his next album, the phenomenal Failure, which also bore club classic fruit in the form of Naked, I Am The Rain, House On Fire, Awake and the awesome Disappoint. This album was a huge success in Germany, where many industrial, synthpop and futurepop artists have traditionally done well. Disappoint, in fact, spent eight weeks at number one on the DAC. (The Deutsch Alternative Chart, somewhat similar to the American Billboard Chart, only it actually lists good music! Imagine that.) Most of the other singles from Failure charted on the DAC as well, though no for so long or at so high a position as Disappoint. The success of the single lead to an actual release of the single itself. The Disappoint EP was released in October 2001. It contained seven different mixes of the song, including a new version by A23, as well as mixes by Funker Vogt, L'ame Immortelle, Lights of Euphoria and In The Nursery, among others.
Failure was also a success among Tom's peers, and as such, a remix album followed its March 2001 release six months later. Entitled Addendum, the remix album featured ten remixes by various contemporaries, such as cut.rate.box, Aghast View, Converter and God Module, among others, as well as three previously unreleased tracks.
The success of Failure bred several minor
tours of Europe, and limited engagements in North America and Mexico. As is the case with almost every really good industrial, synthpop or futurepop act, the band is much, much more popular in Europe than they are in their native North America. In Europe, bands like A23 frequently sell out large concert venues, some of them even sell out arenas when they tour, but in North America, such bands are relegated to smallish industrial clubs and low-capacity concert halls.
This is a document
To prove that I was here
This is a document
To prove I was at all
And when my voice ceases to be
Will the echo still ring loudly?
A23's third proper album, Defiance was released in October 2002. Its lead single, Document, immediately became a club hit upon its release a month earlier. The single for Document was actually more of an EP, and it contained nine remixes for the song, with standout mixes by Icon of Coil and Das Ich.
After a two-year break, A23 returned with the album Storm in September 2004, preceeding it with the single Let The Wind Erase Me the previous month, and following it with another single, Ground, in November of the same year. This album was the first to produce a full-scale tour, which hit 20 cities in the USA and Canada during the spring of 2005.
Tom has also tried his hand at producing, and ended up producing albums for Cesium 137, Lost Signal and Matrix. He's also covered a veritable plethora of new wave songs for various "industrial goes new wave" type compilations, most notably The Psychedelic Furs' Love My Way, which Tom has been known to perform live from time to time.
Since Ronan Harris of VNV Nation coined
the term "futurepop" around 2000, A23 has been lumped into that genre along with a handful of other artists, such as VNV Nation (naturally), Icon of Coil, L'ame Immortelle, Haujobb and Das Ich. This doesn't seem to have done anything but improve the reach of A23's music (and the other futurepop bands' music) to a wider audience. They think, "Oh, it's not that weird industrial stuff. It's pop music! I can listen to this! Wheee!"
Offical Assemblage 23 website: http://www.assemblage23.com/