Conquer Monster | Buzz Blog
Support the Free Press | Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984. Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

Conquer Monster

A chat with the electronic duo from their show with El Ten Eleven


This weekend was hella busy, to say the least, show after show, plus a parade, and a number of other weekend events which made it difficult for anyone to decide what to do over the past 48 hours. For me, one of my stops on Friday was over at The Urban Lounge to catch Conquer Monster as they opened up for El Ten Eleven as they passed through town. Today we chat with the electronic duo about their sound and career so far, along with pictures from their performance that night.

Conquer Monster (Joshua Faulkner & Daniel Romero)

Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

I'm Daniel Romero. I'm currently pursuing Bachelor of Science degrees in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science at Weber State University. I enjoy songwriting, collecting synthesizers, writing short fiction, creating glitch art and learning about artificial intelligence.

Joshua: I’m Joshua Faulkner. I’m married with two daughters, teach math at Walden School of Liberal Arts in Provo, and love experimenting with electronics in my free time.


How did you each first get into music, and what were your favorite acts?

My first experience performing music in front of other people was at a middle school talent show. In high school, I primarily listened to Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and politically-motivated punk bands like Choking Victim and The Unseen. The belief that social change is possible through music is what got me started and resulted in my being involved with a number of punk and folk projects during this time.

Daniel: I didn't really get into music until I started skateboarding in 8th grade. Big influences for me chronologically: AFI, Tool, The Blood Brothers, Glassjaw, At The Drive-In, Neutral Milk Hotel, Modest Mouse, of Montreal, The Unicorns, Animal Collective, Joanna Newsom, The Twelves, Breakbot, John Maus, Ariel Pink, 18 Carat Affair, Giraffage, Neon Indian.

What drove each of you toward more tech-based and electronic music?

When I listened to The Unicorn's Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, it really inspired me to start researching vintage synths and drum machines. I was 18 when I got my first synthesizer. The Korg Delta is an old giant analog beast from the early '80s, and it's still one of my favorite synths. I've continued to collect synths and drum machines ever since. I think what drives me to create electronic music is the fact that I don't really enjoy writing lyrics and making songs be about words. I love provoking emotions from the different personalities I get out of my synths.

Joshua: I have been modifying, prototyping, and circuit bending toys and musical instruments since I was in high school. Though my previous musical ventures were all guitar-driven, there were a few moments in Loiter Cognition where we used a TI Speak N’ Read, function generator, or homemade Theremin in our music. After years and years of modding, I had accumulated a huge pile of equipment that I wasn’t using to make music. This began to wear on me, so I started Conquer Monster to put all that equipment to use.


Prior to Conquer Monster, what other bands had you performed in?

I’ve been involved with many music projects over the years, but my two main projects were a political punk band called Loiter Cognition and my solo folk project.

Daniel: I played in the group Baug that created the soundtrack to Michael Biggs' short film Black Weeds. I appear on Silver Antler's All a River. I also had another duo project with my best friend Sawyer Vaughn called The Cloud Kings.

When did the two of you first meet up and become friends?

I started Conquer Monster with my friend Rion Buhler and Daniel just happened to see one of our sets at a house party. Both being dorky synth-heads who love math and science, we talked for a good portion of the night about synths and sci-fi. After that, we just stayed in contact through social media.

Daniel: It was definitely a destiny type moment for me when I joined CM. Josh has been one of the most consistent people in my life since we started playing together. We both share a strong dedication to our project, and it's very apparent we have the same goals for Conquer Monster.


When did you all come together for the band, and why did you eventually keep it as just a duo?

Daniel and I would chat about synths from time-to-time and it became apparent that the types of sounds that Daniel was into were the same types of sounds that I was into, so Rion and I asked him to join the band. We played as a 3-piece for a while, but Rion eventually wanted to pursue other interests, so we became a duo once again. Daniel and I are both busy, so finding time to practice and play shows is hectic enough with only two people. We have thrown around the idea of involving a drummer with our set or possibly a vocalist, but I think our core will always be a duo.

Daniel: Another reason we like being a duo is we both like the creative process of writing music. It seems easier to keep our songs more personal with fewer people involved.

For those who have never seen your show or setup, how did you develop the combination of gear you use to create your sound?

I’m pretty much just in love with my Roland Juno-6. It’s what I write all of my songs on. Keeping with the analog theme, I use a Moog Lil Phatty for gritty bass sounds and shredding leads. It wasn’t until later with the development of the comic book and the feeling of something missing that I added the Korg Microkorg vocoder. It really helped add a humanistic element while reinforcing the sci-fi concept we were developing.

Joshua: For me it comes down to a balance between gear that is cool and contributes to our live sound and gear that doesn’t take hours to haul and set up. My current live set up consists of two modded Commodore 64's running Cynthcart and MSSIAH and a Nintendo Gameboy with modded PS/2 keyboard running LSDJ. Basically, on stage, it looks like I’m trapped in 1989 and I’m frantically trying to finish three term papers at the same time.


Since it isn’t quite traditional music creation, how much experimentation goes into finding the right noises and beats to create something?

Experimentation and improvisation are the keys to our sound. For example, one of our more through-composed songs, Starport Destruction Sequence, was the direct result of a recorded jam session. When we listened to the recording, we knew that that was what the song was supposed to sound like, so I spent about a week learning my part note by note until I could play it exactly like the recording.

Daniel: I’m definitely a basement dweller songwriter. I spend a lot of time finding chord progressions that fit my mood or a mood I’m trying to convey. I’ll loop chords and bass and then experiment with melodies, leads, and arpeggios. I’ll bring song skeletons to practice a lot of the time, and together we’ll deconstruct them and make them our own.

What was it like for you getting out into the music scene and performing for the first year?

Before joining Conquer Monster, I had only performed a few times in front of people, so performing was very new to me. I feel like I adapted quickly, though, and it was fun to start letting people know I was in a musical project. Honestly, my favorite part was really just practicing every week. I’ve yet to find an art form I get more gratification from than writing and playing music.

Joshua: Coming from an energetic, guitar-driven musical background, my biggest performance hurdle, was trying to create movement on stage, when my instruments were so stationary. I placed guitar straps on all my keyboards and tried to play them all like keytars, so I could run around on stage like I was used to. However, this didn’t work very well. With even the slightest bump my cartridges would crash or power cables would slightly disconnect and reboot my computers. So, we had to go back to the drawing board with what it meant to have stage presence. We’ve incorporated projections of sci-fi themed video into our shows and we now feel comfortable enough on stage to dance around and have a lot of fun when we play.


You released your first self-titled EP back in late 2011, how was it putting that album together and releasing it to the masses?

Rion and I were primarily guitar players and this was our first attempt at electronic music. There were many technical issues I had to deal with because of my homemade equipment and learning how to play QWERTY keyboards as an instrument was difficult at first because the keys on a QWERTY keyboard are a lot closer to each other than keys on a piano keyboard. As far as the physical release goes, we went DIY with the packaging, which was a lot of work and really didn’t save us much money. However, celebrating the release was really fun, because we got to open for one of my favorite bands, Melt Banana, at the release show.

It was four years before you released your first full-length, Metatransit, in October 2015. Why the long wait between albums?

Conquer Monster went through some changes in those years. After we released the 2011 EP, Rion and I wanted to try incorporating vocals into our songs. We worked with a female vocalist/violinist for a while, but that didn’t really work out. Soon after that, Daniel joined the band and we wrote about 10 songs. These songs were recorded, but none of us were 100 percent happy with them, so they were never released. After Rion left the band, Daniel and I started writing Metatransit.


What changed this time around between recordings and what was it like putting together a full length?

In January 2013 we started writing Metatransit. We wanted to make a concept album about a sci-fi dystopian future. At first we were just going to write an outline for the story to help guide our songwriting, however, after we started brainstorming, we realized that making a comic book would be the perfect visual guide through the album. This is when we contacted Joshua Oman for help with the comic book. We held a number of brainstorming sessions with Joshua and together we came up with the story arc of the four-book miniseries. Eventually, Chris Black was brought onto the comic book team as an artist, and Black Omen Comics was born. Periodically, Black Omen would share pages with us and we’d share rough recordings of our songs. These exchanges helped both teams stay in sync with each other. Our songs were influenced by the comic book, and the comic book was influenced by our songs.

Daniel: This is my first album, and I had a blast making it! It definitely wasn't easy. Luckily, Josh has been around the block a few times. I still get excited thinking about it being real.

What did you think of the reaction to the album and the reviews and airplay it received?

I know we’re both extremely grateful for the support of our friends, families, and the local music community. We’ve had a really warm embrace from SLC and Provo, and we’re stoked about the new contacts we’ve made in the process of promoting the album.


You’ve become local icons in the electronic scene as of late. How does it feel seeing a swell in the fanbase?

I haven’t had the thought cross my mind that we’re local icons, but I do think what we’re doing is unique and pretty rad. It’s awesome to see how many people are interested in getting the album after our performances.

Do you have any plans to tour yet or are you sticking to Utah for now?

We definitely want to tour this summer! If our schedules allow it, we’ll do a west coast tour with Craft Lake City as either the first or last show on the tour.

Joshua: Yeah, I’m excited to see how well our music does outside of Utah.


What can we expect from you both over the rest of the year?

We’re currently looking to collaborate with a game developer to turn Metatransit into an NES-style game where we would write a modded 8-bit equivalence of Metatransit as the soundtrack.