With over 23 years and a sprawling discography, (including releases on MUTE, Ghostly International, Thrill Jockey, Third Man and more) ADULT.’s Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller have spent their entire career obscuring any defined genre or style. With a history as uncanny as ADULT., the pieces that make up Perception is/as/of Deception might be perceived as their most punk-infused and introspective work to date. The elements of frustration and apprehension that have consistently woven throughout their material are at full mast, although augmented by a strident and more head-on approach.
Tracks like “Have I Started at the End” successfully maintain the duo’s classic EBM signatures and synthesized aggression, cradled by a suspicious mantra that questions …what’s the point? The album’s dystopian anthem, “Total Total Damage”, comes in full force with an frantic energy which jolts any bystanders to attention, with only the defiant chants of Kuperus’ vocals outlining the ever-degenerating state of societal affairs. The dramatically glam synth parts scattered throughout the album, while at times ominous in nature, seem to also act as a merciful reminder that through the journey of Perception is/as/of Deception, one can still enjoy the chaos.
Adam Lee Miller: The day the CDC recommended you do a 14-day self-quarantine if you could do it, we decided that we could do it. That became completely disconcerting — we have friends in Italy and we knew things were gonna get really bad. Our tour was supposed to start May 1, and for a touring band, it’s like feast or famine. When you’re on tour, you collect all of the money from the work you’ve been doing — writing the demos, fleshing out the album, preparing a live set. So we’re looking at really, really hard financial times because of losing the tour. We’ve been taking our money down to zero getting ready for it.
We sat by the radio the day Michigan went into its 14-day lockdown, which was about 10 days later. I realized I needed to do something different, because the routine of checking the news and talking to family and friends was actually creating more anxiety. We were debating whether we were going to make a music video for “Total Total Damage” — we were like, what’s the point? Do people want this? I decided, besides anything else, I needed to do something. We needed to do it for ourselves.
We live in Detroit and have a strange house, it has a commercial building connected to the back of it. We have a ton of supplies like lumber, drywall, and carpet in storage, from years of doing installation projects and video projects. So we just have this stock pile of stuff we reuse. We realized we didn’t have to go out, and we had enough material if we thought creatively in terms of how many 2x4s we have, et cetera. So we ended up building a really elaborate set and shot a music video.
The crazy thing about it was, the original concept for the video a month ago was to have about six dancers, but the choreographer actually got COVID-19. She’s OK now, but we weren’t able to do the original idea for that obvious reason and there’s a statewide lock down and a pandemic. So we came up with a different idea, we built the set and then we completely destroyed it with a sledgehammer. I’m hoping that the video speaks to a lot of people, because everyone’s feeling stir crazy and wanting to get out; get back to “normal” life.
It took about seven days, and I was only allowed to look at my phone once a day — not looking at my phone and just doing manual labor, being completely immersed in something has been the biggest comfort we’ve had during this process.
Nicola Kuperus: I do have a side project I’ve been working on, too. Several months ago, a friend of ours was cleaning out his basement and he had two button makers and tons of button-making supplies. But they were mainly two-inch buttons — I haven’t always been a fan of the two-inch buttons, I’m more of a one-inch button kinda gal — but the day that Governor Whitmer locked down Michigan and closed down all non-essential businesses, I was talking to the owner of an independent print shop here in Detroit. I was like, “I gotta get printouts for these buttons I’m making! Is there any way?” I was basically bribing the guy to, at this point, illegally print out sheets of buttons for me. I was very sick last summer with pneumonia, and I’ve been really fearful of going out, so Adam went and picked up the printouts.
Adam: We put the cash for the printouts in the trunk; I pulled up in front of the store, called him, and he came out and I popped the trunk. He grabbed the cash, put the printouts in the trunk, and that was it.
Nicola: I’ve been making these buttons — it’s “Two-Inch Buttons for Six-Feet Social Distance Dancing.” So my new thing is bringing the two-inch button back into style for a pandemic.
Adam: I thought it was a brilliant idea of Nicola’s — we just had these two-inch buttons sitting around, and she was like, “Oh, my god, two-inch buttons now make sense because we can’t get any closer than six feet, so you need your button to be a lot bigger!”
Nicola: You need to have a big button! But it’s also been great, because we don’t have any extra money right now. I’m hoping to sell these things and make money, but we’ve been trying to figure out what resources we have and what we can do for free. So that’s also been fun, getting creative with what you can do without money.
Perception is/as/of Deception is out April 10 via Dais Records and available for pre-order now.