Conquer Monster is an electronic synthwave, sci-fi music and multimedia duo heavily involved in the Salt Lake City local arts scene. Originally conceived as a music venture alone, Conquer Monster has morphed into a multi-dimensional project combining sci-fi electronica music and retro-futuristic hallucinogenic visual and performing art compositions. Members Joshua Faulkner and Daniel Romero have made a name for themselves in the community as artistic innovators and collaborators. To accompany their first album, Metatransit, Conquer Monster created and released a comic book depicting the narrative which underlay and inspired the album. The duo went on to co-produce a ballet based on the comic book and utilizing the album’s soundtrack.
Their next multimedia performance operation, Outerdimensional Exploration, will come to life this weekend at the Clark Planetarium as part of Utah Arts Alliance’s light tech and art fest, Illuminate. Outerdimensional Exploration combines video, live performance and visuals customized for Clark’s dome theatre. I spoke with both band members over the phone this week to discuss their upcoming show.
How and when did you become involved with Illuminate and the Utah Arts Alliance?
D: This is our 3rd Illuminate Festival. We played the first one but last year the Urban Arts Alliance asked if we wanted to collaborate with the Clark Planetarium. The Clark Planetarium was going to open its doors to artists to help facilitate artists learning the dome software and how to render things for the dome. So last year we were the guinea pigs for their project called the Dome Lab Project. Even prior to all of this, though, we were familiar with Utah Arts Alliance from playing the Urban Arts Festival.
How have you been preparing for and developing this show?
J: Like Daniel said we did a version of this same show at last year’s Illuminate. To prepare for that, we were just bringing in little pieces of video and spending a couple hours at a time trying to make those pieces look right in the dome. It was a lot of back and forth between us and the Clark staff. This year we performed the show again at the Ott Planetarium at Weber State University, playing three shows in a row in that dome for their physics open house. For the upcoming Illuminate show, we’ve been working with one of the staff members at Clark to tweak the show a bit, so there will be some minor differences from last year.
D: Last year they asked us to do it in August, which gave us just a few months to get it ready by November. Even the day before the show we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to pull it off.
Am I right to assume that you are approaching this next show much more confidently?
J: Yeah. Last year was really successful. I think it only took an hour for all of the tickets to be gone for both the Friday and Saturday showings. For the Ott Planetarium performance, we sold out in about an hour as well. So yes, I think we are much more confident.
Tell me about the concept behind “Outerdimensional Exploration.”
D: The concept behind the show revolves around an educational video that will teach the audience about this new technology that you all would have just ordered. So, you’re unpackaging this new technology and watching this instructional video. That’s the general premise, I don’t want to give away any spoilers. It’s a fun adventure from there.
Through your art and music, all Conquer Monster work expresses a distinctive character. How would you describe Conquer Monster’s identity and how has it evolved? How is this show reflective of that identity?
D: A big part of our live set-up uses retro synths and modified computer equipment from the 80’s. We sometimes sample old radio shows from that time as well. So, we’ve always had an 80’s warbly sound and sci-fi influence. As we’ve gone through the years, we’ve further developed this over-the-top retro futurism. We’re like high tech but in the 80’s.
We started out as just a band making music together but soon, we knew that we wanted to, together, create some sort of sci-fi comic book. An electro sci-fi drama. From there we did a lot of collaborating with the Municipal Ballet Company and a ballet was eventually performed to the entire album. We created this line to collab with other entities. When Utah Art Alliance approached us about Illuminate, we didn’t want to just do cool visuals or art over our music. We’ve already been talking about a video for the album and this is shaping up to be a base for that. It is helping us evolve because now we’ve made a short film and developed it into something worthwhile.
Why is it so important to you or your musical identity to display your work through all of these varying mediums and how does the dome provide an even greater canvas for your work?
J: I think it’s being able to throw together our different creative parts. When we sat down to write the album, we had a story in mind. First, we said let’s just write a story and stick to it so that we have a cool coherent concept for the album. Then it was let’s put the story in the liner notes of the album. Then wait what if we transformed this into a comic book. I think that even though music is the core of Conquer Monster we don’t want to be pigeon-holed into just that corner. I really like graphic design. When we collaborate in graphic design I get just as much joy out of working through that.
D: I’ve also always been a visual artist. We both like watching things come to commission, it gives us a lot of gratification. For example, the creation of this show took countless hours. There were two days of shooting, then editing. We were putting all of this effort into it because it’s worth it for us to see it come together. There’s an enjoyment factor that comes from this type of art.
Lastly, how does your show fit into Illuminate and what do you hope it will contribute to the fest?
D: Our show fits perfectly into Illuminate, especially with the technology component. I just really like the idea of inspiring people who watch the show into wanting to create something themselves.
J: These collaborations kind of build on each other. First, we released the comic book. But because of the comic book we started talking to people from the ballet, which led to that collaboration. Because of the ballet, people started noticing that we were collaborating more and then we got involved with Illuminate. The first Illuminate put us on the radar for the Clark Planetarium. For me, I would love this dome show that we are doing to spark another collaboration somewhere. Someone who sees this knows that we are open to collaborating and contacts us and we can do something even bigger or different.
D: The light and technology festival is all about what people have made and are now showcasing. So, a bunch of those artists have created art based around light technology. It’s remarkable that we get to be a part of that—sharing ourselves and our art in the community.
10 400 W
Friday, Nov. 8 @ 6:30pm and 8:00pm
Saturday, Nov. 9 @ 6:30pm and 8:00pm
Tickets available at the Planetarium starting at 11:00am on Nov. 8th
(Free but first come first serve)