There is a brand of mysticism that embraces entheogens. Essentially, another word for hallucinogens that make you communicate with God. Scientifically speaking, the chemically break down the barriers of the two hemispheres of your brain, traditionally thought to operate in tandem, but separately. Connected by the corpus callosum, the left manages speech, comprehension, arithmetic, etc. while the right hemisphere is your creative side, spatial reasoning, art, music, applying the harder skills of the left side into something more abstract. Removing the barrier between the two, through drugs or deep prayer/meditation is a profound experience. If you’re a believer in a deity or deities, there is no wonder why this experience is considered mystic.

Now, apply this to music genres. We live in a great era for music consumption and creation. Genres once compartmentalized are merging into wilder and wilder sounds, micro and nano-genres that break expectations and convention in favor of pure exploration, unhindered by the gatekeeping of local scenes and record store clerks. The interconnectivity of the internet age is beginning to manifest itself as the wall-breaking revolution it was once touted as. Incidentally, we are mostly seeing this in music and visual arts, but it is creeping into deeper aspects of life.

The greatest example of genre experimentation and uninhibited creativity out there right now is unquestionably Fire-Toolz, a solo project from Chicago by Angel Marcloid. I first heard Fire-Toolz upon the release of Eternal Home in 2022. I have never, even now with the rising popularity of hyper-pop, heard anything like this. Marcloid has created an intergalactic lasagna of vaporwave, jazz, black metal, ambient, noise, industrial, emo, new age, and experimental music where every layer is distinct and yet purposeful and nourishing.

Fire-Toolz is nothing short of a mystic experience for multi-genre music fans. Harsh vocals and electronics will swerve into nostalgia-heavy keyboard passages, a saxophone solo, glitchy breakbeats, merging sounds into day-glo art pieces, neon light haze, and soundtracks to a fantastic universe of clip-art images, dancing in a nebulous ether. Check out 2023’s I am upset because I see something that is not there for more examples of this. Marcloid was gracious and kind to accepting an interview for this feature. She provided a lot of information, which I have edited down a bit to fit the space of the feature.

Fire-Toolz is a collaboration of multiple projects by Marcloid, ‘a lot of times, projects split into different personalities, and some of those become their own project. These projects have minds of their own,’ she says.

Fire-Toolz started as more of a low-effort, lofi, avant-garde industrial/IDM/black metal type thing in 2013. Now, Angelwings Marmalade takes on much of that role, as Fire-Toolz has become more meticulous, detailed, complex, and intricate. Fire-Toolz consumed my late 00s projects Power Windoze and Inappropriate King Live. Those projects are defunct, and many of their approaches to music is found seamlessly blended with Fire-Toolz now… Fire-Toolz has remained my flagship project. It’s usually an anything-goes, umbrella-type thing.’

Her other projects, Angelwings Marmalade and Nonlocal Forecast do indeed have much more experimental noise and prog flavors to them, respectively. They are all worth exploring, if you would like to focus a little more on one aspect or another of Angel’s creativity. She can do no wrong. Fire-Toolz, however, serves as an ideal starting point to the mind of this complex and incredible artist.

‘All of the things you hear are reflections of music I like. I love smooth jazz fusion, new age, industrial, abstract noise, musique concrete, black metal, grindcore, deathcore, VGM, glitch/IDM, prog, early emo/screamo… these are all genres I listen to and love. So when I make music with mostly no borders, all of those genres creep into and help form a Fire-Toolz creation. I see no reason to arbitrarily separate these sounds for the sake of digestibility.’

Seeing no reason to arbitrarily separate sounds for the sake of digestibility may be the single most liberating concept an artist can ascribe to. Why do we let rigid structures of genre confine our tastes? Does any music fan truly, only enjoy one genre? I am not suggesting that everything moving forward be as forward thinking and adventurous as Fire-Toolz, but I certainly wish genre die-hards would chill on experimentation. Bob Dylan went electric. We didn’t die. Folk music continued. We did, however, get some timeless work from such a simple move.

It exemplifies the creative process in its most pure form, that real ‘see-God’ shit your dealer promises to have in a few weeks, if you can get ahold of him before it is gone, bro you just have to try it. ‘…Making music is always some kind of exploration in real time, pretty much nothing is premeditated with FT. It’s created as I discover it within myself,’ Angel says about her songwriting process.

All of this inspiration comes from many sources, Marcloid said, musically, ‘All of the things you hear are reflections of music I like. I love smooth jazz fusion, new age, industrial, abstract noise, musique concrete, black metal, grindcore, deathcore, VGM, glitch/IDM, prog,’ as well as inspirations outside of music, ‘Nature & animals. The wind and the rain. My cats. Colors. Subject matter-wise, I write about very personal things, often through lenses of psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. Lots of references to animals, mostly the ones I’ve been close to. There are rarely politics and social issues in there anymore, but they show up occasionally.

There is a lot to explore in Fire-Toolz influences. I asked specifically what Angel had been listening to lately:

The end of last year into this year I’ve been getting really excited about deathcore and how absolutely disgustingly devastating it’s getting. DISTANT, Vildhjarta, Humanity’s Last Breath, Tyrant, Rings Of Saturn, and a lot of other stuff on Unique Leader, or the SLAM WORLDWIDE YouTube channel. Extreme metal production is getting out of hand (in a good way). Bands are tuning so low that their guitars just become texture generators. … Vocalists are diving headfirst into exploring new challenging vocal tones and diversifying their palette to include all types of harsh vocals they may not have learned if they had trapped themselves in their narrow metal genre. … Will Ramos from Lorna Shore comes to mind, but even more diverse is Fred Nylist. He’s one of my favorite artists right now. He’s making the weirdest, most unhinged, creepy, disturbing deathcore/slam I’ve ever heard. 

‘I’ve also been getting back into noise a bit more heavily…I’m always listening to smooth jazz, fusion, new age music, AOR, and other 80s music. I went through a big AOR and sentimental hair metal phase late last year. I constantly listened to Strangeways, Romeo’s Daughter, and the first two Winger albums until I felt like I got my fill. Though every once in a while I will throw on “Is This Love?” by Whitesnake and let it repeat about 10 times.

‘I also am pretty committed to old emo/emocore/screamo/post-hardcore and all that stuff. Numero Group has been reissuing so many great records by defunct bands like Angel Hair, Mohinder, Indian Summer, Clikitat Ikatowi, C-Clamp, Lincoln, etc., and it’s just been so cool to see.

‘Also Clowncore, Darko, KNOWER, Sexual Jeremy, Blind Equation, COCOJOEY, Bent Knee, US Maple, old Dream Theater, The Contortionist, Vola, Airiel, Scarling, The Birthday Massacre, Lipsticism, Nailah Hunter, Oceansize, Harper, Spiritbox, Richard Elliott, Teller & Kallins, Leftyfish, old Death Cab, old Paris Texas, old Metallica, and I’m trying to explore the weirdest songs Bowie ever made so I can build a playlist.

As far as what’s next in store for Fire-Toolz,

‘Hopefully never-ending full-length albums and EPs. That’s all I want to do. More than I want to tour or play shows, I just want to make music.

I’ve work[ed] with some collaborators on my new stuff, including Nailah Hunter, Nylist, Sam Greenfield, and there will be more coming. There’s someone singing on one of my songs but I don’t want to spoil it yet because she isn’t finished writing and recording her parts, and I want it to be a surprise for everyone.’

I know I can’t wait for anything new from Fire-Toolz. Listening to this music makes me feel connected with the deep, rich history of pop and experimental music as much as it feels like diving into a futuristic cyberpunk fantasy.

Angel would like to leave us with some final points for reflection.

‘Be kind to every animal you come in contact with. Send it loving vibes from your eyes. They matter. Every bird taken out by fireworks, every cow raised in confinement and treated like a product and nothing more, every stray cat, every seagull and pigeon that shits on your bus stop bench, every oversized rabies-infested city rat. They are all beautiful creatures. It doesn’t mean we should allow them to harm us, but we shouldn’t be harming them either, as much as we can help it. This statement isn’t about animal rights or veganism or anything like that whatsoever. I’m not a vegan. But I think that the more pets and animals are happy, the happier we are. And vice versa. 

Be kind to each other, find common ground, and always be open to being wrong, no matter how embarrassed of it you might be.

And go to therapy. If you can.’

Fire-Toolz is…

Angel Marcloid – everything

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