Oct 2015 14

Seattle’s eminent hardclash entity, Rabbit Junk speaks with ReGen on the band’s latest musical endeavors, hinting at a new EP just in time for Halloween.
 
Rabbit Junk, Live @ ColdWaves IV - Photo by MizTabby

 

An InterView with JP Anderson of Rabbit Junk

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Rabbit Junk has gradually built up a considerable reputation as Seattle’s eminent “hardclash” band, blending elements of metal, hip-hop, various forms of electronic, and punk into a raucous concoction that has carried the band through the underground music scene for over 10 years. Since the release of 2010’s Project Nonagon, the band has settled into a regular stream of EP and single releases, maintaining an upward trajectory of style and development that has culminated in some of the most exciting and energetic music around now. All the while, Rabbit Junk has kept a steady creative partnership with fellow Glitch Mode Squad members Cyanotic, with members of the two acts appearing on each other’s recordings and sharing the stage, solidifying a unified sound and attitude that exemplifies the communal spirit of modern underground music.
Having just performed at the ColdWaves IV Kick-Off Party, Rabbit Junk spoke with ReGen on the band’s latest endeavors, hinting at the upcoming Beast EP – planned to drop in time for Halloween – as well as the rise of goth stylings in Seattle hip-hop, the audience’s response to the band’s ever changing live setup, and the future of music and the interaction between audience and artist.

 

Rabbit Junk just released the Invasion EP early in 2015, and prior to that was the Pop That Pretty Thirty EP; so what’s new for Rabbit Junk?

Anderson: We have a new EP and it’s looking like October 28 is going to be the release date. It’s called Beast, and it’s going to be five tracks. I’ve got to be honest; I’m a little bit nervous about this EP, because the thing that I was really challenging myself with it was my vocals – I wanted to stretch my range. I wanted to do really soft, really intimate vocals, and I wanted to do really screaming vocals.

Which you have done before with the Project Nonagon and The Struggle releases.

Anderson: I’ve kind of veered in that direction before, but I wanted to have the sort of vocals that really bring somebody nose-to-nose and really close, which is a totally nerve-wracking thing to do when you’re used to doing heavy vocals; you get used to hiding behind the scream and lots of distortion. But these are really clean and really soft and you’re right there.

It’s not easy to get the actual singing and melody in while also putting it through the harsher sound. Are there any kinds of exercises you do to keep your voice prepared?

Anderson: Well, the vocals for Rabbit Junk are super hard, because you’re right – it goes back and forth between screaming and going right back into singing and then back into screaming; doing this live takes months to prepare… just to do a 40-minute show, it’s really difficult. I used to do exercises and they really did absolutely nothing for me. (Laughter) I used to diligently do scales and such a half hour before a show, and they did nothing. So I just stopped and with the recording, I just go in there and sing the parts. Usually, they’re terrible the first time I do it, but I just keep doing it until finally they sound okay.

Practice makes perfect.

Anderson: Absolutely, that’s what it is. It’s nothing more than practice. You can’t really train yourself to switch from screaming to singing. It’s a terrible thing to do to your body; you just have to accept that you’re damaging yourself and just go that way.

Stylistically, Rabbit Junk has incorporated elements of black metal, industrial, punk, and some people still identify you as digital hardcore…

Anderson: …which I think is less relevant now.

And you’ve incorporated some elements of dubstep on some of the later singles. So what kind of music is currently exciting and inspiring you the most for your new material?

Anderson: What’s weird is that recently in Seattle, there’s been a huge resurgence of really Halloween-y goth music, but it’s not coming from the regular places; it’s this goth energy that’s really coming from the hip-hop scene in Seattle, which is really interesting. The hip-hop scene in Seattle has made goth relevant for me again. There’s a band called ThraxxHouse – I guess they’re more of a collective, and you’ve definitely got to check it out. It sounds exactly like you think it would; it’s goth hip-hop… like black fingernails, eyeliner, but hip-hop, and it’s been a huge influence on me. This EP is looking to be released close to Halloween, so it has lots of boys choirs, lots of atmospheric stuff, a very spooky vibe… it’s a lot of fun to write that stuff, to write for the season. Even though I was writing in the summer, my mind was on Halloween.

You are married to your band mate, SumGrrl, and you’ve been a father for quite some time, and Rabbit Junk has gone through the changes as your life has changed. At one point, Rabbit Junk was a full band, and is now back to its original configuration. What have you found stylistically to be the major advantages in working in this more tight-knit format?

Anderson: One of the major advantages is that I’ve pretty much abandoned acoustic percussion. Having a live drummer is such a pain in the ass that it’s been worth it to just say, ‘Fuck it, I’m not going to do that anymore and I’m just going to have a fucking drum machine.’ And I had an amazing drummer, and he’s still one of my best friends, but taking him into the studio… I might as well just piss away $2,000 to take him into the studio to record the fucking drums. Taking him on the road was a nightmare because the drum set is huge! So there is a huge advantage to just saying, ‘I’m just going to commit to electronic percussion and I’m going to be okay with that!’ The drums are coming off of a laptop, and that’s fine.

And that hasn’t hindered the band as far as the live presentation at all.

Anderson: No, not at all! I don’t think it’s made any difference. We just played last night, and we really warmed up that crowd, and a lot of that crowd were really unsure and thinking, ‘What the fuck is this?!’ And that’s a very typical reaction to Rabbit Junk and very warranted. But we really warmed it up and there was no drummer onstage, and I don’t think we lost any sort of energy. I think I started doing live shows without a drummer in 1999 and it was really weird then to not have a drummer and have drum sounds. But now, we’re in 2015 and people are used to DJs so they know and they get it. We look like two singers, two DJs, and a guitar player, and people are able to get into that.

That’s refreshing and gratifying because there is still a perceived stigma of not being a real band without a drummer, so to hear a band that embraces the technology and the style and does so unapologetically…

Anderson: Yeah! The real victory is that you look into the crowd, and you find that guy who you know is thinking, ‘This is bullshit!’ And you’re like, ‘I’m going to get you! I’m going to corrupt you, and you’re going to be mine!’ And you notice that he starts moving a little bit and is probably thinking to himself, ‘No! I don’t want to like this!’ That’s the real victory. Purism isn’t even happening anymore. The audience expectations are not so much on genre, as much as it is, ‘What are the acceptable ranges of emotion that I’m going to see right now?’ And for the industrial crowd, the acceptable ranges of emotions are, ‘I’m very serious, I’m introspective, I’m kind of shy and geeky, and I’m into music.’ So when you get up on stage and you have a tongue-in-cheek kind of attitude, it can be very jarring, so you have to deliver it in this kind of ambassadorial kind of way; you’re up here, and this is both serious and not serious, there’s irony here. Irony in music is very difficult, and you never know if anybody’s going to get it.

Irony in art in general is very difficult.

Anderson: Oh, absolutely.

And it does seem like, especially in the digital age, there are many more avenues for artists to make it out there without…

Anderson: …yeah, without some kind of label or some kind of centralized institution to distribute you. This is a golden age! People need to realize that this is a very special time, and we don’t know if this is going to continue. Right now, you can go onto Bandcamp and you can find thousands of bands in any genre and download most of their stuff for free. This is a special time. Embrace now! Make now important.

On that note, because you just played the ColdWaves Kick-Off party. What are your thoughts on how ColdWaves differentiates from other festivals? What makes ColdWaves special, especially now that you have been a part of it and where it can go?

Anderson: There’s nothing like ColdWaves! I’ve never experienced anything like ColdWaves! What’s going on with ColdWaves is a total anomaly of social experience. We spend most of our lives alienated in jobs, without experiencing any sort of tribal culture, so there’s a sense of kinship. What makes ColdWaves totally different is that this sense of kinship is absolutely thick in the air; it’s absolutely everywhere. I feel like I’m surrounded by thousands of family members. It is sad that a death brings us together, but on the other hand, it’s something as profound as someone leaving this existence to create and remind us of this tribal identity. The other festivals I’ve played have been a lot of fun, but nothing is like ColdWaves. This needs to be experienced by anybody into this sort of music; they need to come out here, and they need to know what this feels like. You don’t feel alone! Most of us feel alone – we listen to fringe music, we wear a lot of black, and a lot of times, we feel like we’re the only ones. But not here! You’re really not! Your crew is here, your clique is here, and it’s absolutely amazing, man!

Where do you feel music as a whole has yet to go, stylistically, artistically, etc.?

Anderson: What makes this a golden moment is that what marked the mainstream, a lot of those constraints on the mainstream are breaking down. This is an amazing time, and what I feel is that music is becoming democratized and becoming more responsive to what the people want, rather than being a top-down system of business executives choosing what the public is going to want. There is much more listening going on, and there’s this amazing diversity popping up, so you have no idea. Nobody can predict what is going to be mainstream in a year, or in five years. We don’t know if this lasts; this might be just another few years, and there might be another way that corporate control clamps down on creative output. That’s what the ’80s were! You had this small elite group doing a sort of top-down system, saying, ‘We’re going to prepare the public for what they want, and we’re going to produce something and shove it down their throats!’ Right now, we have the exact opposite – it’s all bottom-up. This is the moment for democracy in music, and people need to totally embrace it and support the people that they like.

What’s next for Rabbit Junk after the Beast EP?

Anderson: We’ve got the Beast EP and then there’s going to be a quiet time – I’ve got to go back to school because I’m working on a PhD. I’m spread so thin, so there’s going to be a quiet time before next summer, when there are big plans to get back to the UK and Europe; that’s pretty much where all the energy is going. United States, we love you; but we are super excited to get back overseas, and we’re talking to people about doing shows in France and in Germany, so if there is anyone out there who wants some Northern European shows, like in Denmark or Norway, please get in contact with me; there’s nothing like that lined up, so we’d like to make that happen if possible.

Rabbit Junk has been working with the EP and digital single formats, and in another publication, you’d done an interview where you were quoted as saying that the album format was dead. So, what are your thoughts on the album format as it relates to you?

Anderson: Oh, you’ve put it back into context! That interview took a statement I made and took it out of context – the album format is dead for me; I never said it was dead for everyone. You have to know what is possible for you and what your fans want. You have to have that sort of intersection, and for me, that’s EPs and shorter releases. I have a busy life with a lot going on, and I don’t know many people doing this kind of music, raising kids, and trying to earn a PhD… in fact, I don’t know anybody doing that. But an EP is possible, and I can put out the same amount of music in a year that most people do on a full-length; I just release it in sections. I wasn’t stating that there was some sort of objective rule that applies to everyone. You use your gut to know what kind of format is right for you, and if you’re the sort of band that needs 50 minutes of room to express yourself, then the full-length album is for you. With Rabbit Junk, I don’t need that – I need a half hour max to express what’s in my head. That’s all I need. I don’t have thoughts that go over an hour’s worth of music. I’m already going onto the next thing. This Beast EP has a very particular sound, and the next EP is not going to sound like Beast, I promise. I don’t work like that. I’m not in the same emotional or intellectual space when I record a year later. So an EP really makes sense; I make a lot of changes very quickly over a short amount of time, so I want to put out four or five tracks and it can be rough for fans, but JP Anderson is the last person to know what’s going to happen on an EP.

Is there anything we’ve not covered that you’d like to talk about, or any shout outs you want to give?

Anderson: Well, I always want to give a shout out to my friends, my comrades in Glitch Mode. We are a music collective; not a label. We are truly a group of friends, and our friendship is way bigger than music. We have been friends for a decade, and we’ve made music together, we’ve suffered together, and being able to put music out from a central source is really important. You can go to the Glitch Mode Bandcamp, and you can download mostly everything for free – you can choose to pay if you want, and there is maybe about 20% of the people who pay for the downloads, and that 20% keeps it going! It’s super important and they make this happen, so I want to give a shout out to those people – they are my people, my brothers and my sisters.

 

Photography by Tabetha Patton (MizTabby) – ColdWaves IV Kick-Off Party, Thursday, September 24, 2015

 

Rabbit Junk
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp

 

3 Comments

  1. Phil says:

    Welp my interview got mentioned on here. Yeah I should probably apologise to JP for taking that quote about the album format out of context, that was more of an editorial decision as I’m not in any senior position and the people in charge like headlines that bring in the clicks so that went above my head.

    • Ilker Yücel says:

      Thank you for reading – to clarify, I wasn’t asking the question to call you or the interview out; the headline had raised the question in me as I’ve read from other artists similar sentiments about the album format dying off.

      • Phil says:

        Oh yeah that’s fine, it’s just I was never too happy about the headline in the first place. My original headline was highlighting the track info the EP had, unfortunately someone above me decided that creating a controversial statement about full-length albums would generate higher readership and changed it. Since then I’ve asked for more control over my own content and got it but it’s a bit late to change a month+ old article now :T

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