Interview: Realize

An excellent release that I didn't end up raving about much last year (due to delays with this interview) was Two Human Minutes, from Tucson, AZ's Realize. I had been impressed by their prior full-length, 2020's Machine Violence, but the new material represents a darker and more diverse take on punishingly crushing industrial metal that's equal parts gnashing blasts, chugging rhythms, and electro-ambient textures/experimentation—fine-tuned into compositions that tend to run about a mere three minutes apiece. Certainly amongst the finest industrial metal acts operating today, and one that tends to utilize their influences to create something of their own rather than simply replicate a classic aesthetic that's underrepresented in modern times, Realize should appeal to any fan of the genre.

What follows is a somewhat incomplete email discussion with Kyle Kennedy (vocals, bass, electronics, programming, and synths), which took place toward the end of last year. I had a few more questions to wrap things up, but haven't heard a peep since early-December (I certainly hope all is well). Despite the disappearance, Two Human Minutes more than deserves the attention, and I didn't want to let what exists of this piece go to waste, so... here we are...

Right off the bat, Two Human Minutes makes it clear that you're introducing more of an electronic angle to Realize's foundational brute force of pounding industrial metal. Not to the point of representing some huge stylistic shift, but the material is definitely more textured and nuanced, and the electronics stand out.

We wanted to maintain our guitar-heavy industrial sound with Two Human Minutes, while also blending in some texture and intrigue from electronics. We already had two industrial sludge albums that were drum machine- and riff-heavy, but felt we could build on those albums by progressing our sound and offer listeners something a little different. It's also more fun to experiment and see what you can create.

There's also more of an emphasis on winding, discordant-yet-melodic riffs amidst the crushing rhythmic churn; in addition to more tempo variation—whether that be blasting percussion, spacious atmospherics, etc.

Some of the guitar leads on Two Human Minutes are more structured compared to earlier releases, while also maintaining dissonant tones. We felt that these riffs were more interesting to listen to, while also alluding to feelings of suspense or uneasiness in a similar vein as fantastic theme songs like The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, or Unsolved Mysteries. Overall, we tried to craft an industrial metal LP such that a listener wouldn't feel fatigue listening to it all the way through. We felt we needed more song variety (ambient vs. blast) throughout the album to help it wind up and wind down several times... even within some songs.

I'm not that familiar with your prior bands, and you've remarked in the past about how they're separate and there's no real cross-pollination, but looking at the running times of Realize's songs/releases, I do wonder if something that you've borrowed from the hardcore/powerviolence niche is an efficiency/compactness of songwriting? Especially now that Realize is branching out into a wider range of influences, it tends to be unusual for industrial compositions to average right around three minutes or less.

While I do love the buildup and drone/ambient of longer songs from Nine Inch Nails or Neurosis, for example, I appreciate songs that are short and sweet and can pack a punch, so to speak. There's an element of longing for more when a listener hears a song that is short, efficient, and enjoyable. Also, being aware of listeners' (and my own) attention span is a factor, too [laughs]. One of my favorite songs is "That's the Way Love Goes," by Johnny Rodriguez, coming in at about a minute-and-a-half. The song so efficiently frames the melody, builds up to the chorus, and then beautifully draws down the song that it comes off so much more impactful to later longer versions of the song. Sometimes more can be achieved with less.

I also find it interesting that you've been able to land on a sound that's not directly analogous to its influences. Of course similar DNA is in there, but I don't sit down with your work and instantly react like, "Oh, yeah, that's total Godflesh worship. Ah, there's a Ministry bit. That's a Nailbomb part..." Somehow Realize does feel like a "modern" take on classic '88 - '92 industrial metal, but I wouldn't necessarily guess that that's what you're going for either.

Two Human Minutes is less worship/derivative of our main influences, and I feel that came about organically based on how we experimented with blending different sounds/textures/atmospheres from electronics, and also wanting to craft a more dynamic record from start to finish. Also, trying to create something new with your own spin on it is more fun than worship.

Your prior album, Machine Violence, was on Relapse, but now you're back with To Live a Lie—who had released your debut EP on vinyl prior, and worked with one of your other bands going back more than a decade. Did you just have a one-off agreement with Relapse, or did something more drive the decision to work with To Live a Lie again?

Will's an awesome dude and a good buddy (and a closet industrial fan) [laughs], and his label is top-notch. He doesn't necessarily focus on industrial releases, but there is enough crossover with hardcore/powerviolence fans and industrial in terms of music taste that we felt it was a cool home for Two Human Minutes. We're on good terms with Relapse and are thankful that they gave us a shot and released Machine Violence. At this time, we don't have any future releases planned with Relapse.

The lyrics on the last album were said to be a blend of the sci-fi and the "human." On Two Human Minutes, there's a lot of descriptively recurring imagery in terms of an almost apocalyptic sense of dissipation and decay, replicated or illusory existences, etc. Talk about where you were coming from with the lyrical direction this time around?

There is not a central unified theme across all the songs on Two Human Minutes. The name of the record comes from the idea that people can experience objective reality differently, in this case the passage of one minute of time. For example, one minute of glee is different than one minute of agony. Most of the songs are about negative aspects of the human experience, such as guilt, fear, regret, self-destruction, cowardice, conformity, and malevolence.

Based on my own experiments, I was fairly certain at first glance that Two Human Minutes was using AI-generated cover art (probably through Midjourney), and the credits confirm this. Over the course of the few weeks that I was playing around with such tools, there was a pessimistic part of me that felt like, "Shit, 'real' art might be dead..." I'm not entirely sure where I land on the arguments for/against AI art. Do you feel like it's an "end justifies the means" type of situation?

Yes [laughs], the cover art was generated from Midjourney. The art is in the prompt writing now [laughs]. We felt that it was appropriate to use AI art for an industrial release, while also considering the lyrical content of Two Human Minutes. It honestly took "a while" to curate an image from Midjourney that we felt was cool enough to use. In general, I don't believe that generative AI models will supplant human creation. Art and storytelling is a form of human expression, which is something that people will always pursue. If done properly, I see AI being used more as a tool to help create art. The potential for AI to be used for destructive or malevolent purposes is evident, but I don't believe it's inherently motivated to do anything beyond what humans prompt it to do.


Two Human Minutes is available now through To Live a Lie Records on purple (150 copies) or black (350 copies) vinyl. Hit Bandcamp (band/label) for digital, or stream through Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Also find Realize on Instagram.