Talking with Assemblage 23's Tom Shear


Assemblage 23, dubbed America’s most successful EBM act, debuted its maxi-single, “Binary,” at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot Singles chart this April. Taken from the band’s first full-length album since 2004’s Storm, the new Meta album’s success stems from the work of one-man band Tom Shear.

Though no stranger to Billboard’s recognition (Assemblage 23’s single, “Let the Wind Erase Me,” off Storm previously peaked at No. 17 on the Dance Singles chart), Shear sees the recent accolade as another chance to reach a wider audience.

“I always feel like I’m kind of trying, with each new release, to out-do the one that came before it,” Shear says. “[Now] we’re … meeting a lot of people who just discovered us, which is a really encouraging thing.”

Shear’s 15-plus years in the music industry have also expanded his business consciousness. Not only does he perform live as Assemblage 23, but he also plays with side project Nerve Filter, produces albums by other electronic acts through his 23DB Records label (including Lost Signal and SD6) and creates guest remixes on albums.

“I recently did a remix for Blaqk Audio, which is an AFI side project,” Shear says. “I guess that’s kind of what musicians have to do, especially in an underground scene, where there’s not mainstream radio or MTV exposure. You have to find other creative ways of reaching out to people who haven’t heard of you yet.”

Having formed Assemblage 23 at a Depeche Mode concert in 1988, Shear has come a long way in the music world. He and his wife, Megan “Fritter” Shear (part-time drummer for SD6), have even landed cameo roles as newscasters in a G.I. Joe comic written by the lead singer of Seattle’s SD6, Brandon Jerwa.

“Just having been there once was quite a surreal experience,” Shear says.

Exposing surreal truths has also become an agenda for Shear, as Meta focuses on social issues, such as the lack of media attention given after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, as well as political issues.

“I guess if there was something that I wanted people to take away from it [Meta], is that as citizens, it’s our duty to pay attention to what our government is doing,” Shear says. But the musician doesn’t want his lyrics to become exact translations of his songs.

“I’ve always viewed music as a collaborate effort between the artist and the listener,” he says. “The artist’s job, in my view, kind of finishes when the album is … released, and that’s where the listener picks up and filters what the artist has done through their own personal experiences.”

Amalgam Productions and Eden Promotions will present Assemblage 23 at Birdy’s Oct. 10.

“It actually will be almost 12 years since we played our first show ever, which happened to be in Indianapolis, so it’s kind of a sentimental show for us,” Shear adds.