May 2019 09

ReGen Magazine is pleased to present not only this conversation with Rabbit Junk founder and front man JP Anderson, but also this special exclusive stream of the band’s upcoming EP, less than a week before its release date.
 

 

An InterView with JP Anderson of Rabbit Junk

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

For over 15 years, Rabbit Junk has risen to become one of the underground scene’s most engaging entities. Blending industrial, punk, metal, hip-hop, dub, and virtually all forms of electronic music, the sound of Rabbit Junk has been an ever evolving concoction as each new release reveals a multifaceted approach that has appealed to a diverse and welcoming audience. All the while, JP Anderson has infused the band with a decidedly melodic style that grounds each song with the potential for wider appeal than the raucous and noisy arrangements would indicate; abrasion is but one of the textures at play, but it’s one that has only added to Rabbit Junk’s endurance across numerous album, EP, single, and remix releases. Onstage, it is no different as Anderson and his wife and musical partner Sum Grrl have over several different lineups maintained an energetic and confrontational presence that will see the band at this year’s Sanctuary and Terminus festivals.

The latest Rabbit Junk EP, titled Reveal, continues the band’s progression, presenting three new tracks in vocalized and instrumental versions. From the thrashing industrial bass assault of “Born and Bled,” on which fellow rabble-rouser Amelia Arsenic lends her own abrasive yet catchy vocal stylings, to the saccharine melodies and industrialized trap-meets-metal hooks of “Survivor,” to the addictively synth-laden title track of “Reveal,” on which the interplay between Anderson and Sum Grrrl is presented in all its distinctive glory, the Reveal EP is everything fans love about Rabbit Junk. With less than a week to go before its May 15 release date, ReGen Magazine is privileged to be able to present an exclusive stream of Reveal for you to enjoy – read on as JP Anderson speaks with us about the development of the band’s sound over the years, along with some further musings on the album format, the synergy of the band’s audio and visual elements, the fading individualism of classic dystopian science fiction, and more!

 

 

Rabbit Junk’s music has encompassed a number of styles from industrial to hip-hop to dub, dubstep, metal, etc. While always melodic and full of great hooks, the more recent material – Meditations on Mortality and the new Reveal EP – seem to be including elements akin to the recent synthwave trends (especially in the color schemes and the comic book style artwork). What are your thoughts on these retro trends and how they are being approached and expanded on by contemporary artists (including yourself)?

Anderson: Rabbit Junk has always had a bit of the ’80s in it, trend or not. For example, just look at the 2006 track ‘Slater’ off of REframe – it’s all about ’80s nostalgia. ‘Slater’ doesn’t sound synthwave per se, but the track is motivated by the same aesthetic appreciation that drives synthwave today. So, when synthwave emerged as ‘a thing,’ it felt completely intuitive to me – I had been waiting for that vibe to come back around, and I’m glad it did. Yes, EDM trends are all exceedingly annoying because it becomes a follow-the-leader scenario and we are reasonably entitled to condemn conformity in underground music, which ostensibly exists to resist the conformity of the mainstream. Nonetheless, the addition of synthwave to this music scene has ultimately broadened horizons and allowed for a greater emotional range in electronic music, despite its current trendy status. The trend will fade, but the contribution will remain. That’s how it works – same thing happened with dubstep. Dubstep became so ubiquitous by 2013, it felt oppressive, like an intrusion of falsehood into anything it touched. Now its star has faded and we are left with its innovations. Trends will come and go – what’s so exciting about electronic music is that it continues to evolve, and trends are part of that evolutionary process.

As far as recent Rabbit Junk art goes, I’ve always enjoyed using the ‘bisexual’ color scheme – pink and blue – to package heavy music. This is, in part, because these colors implicitly poke at the (very unconvincing) macho tough guy image that so many industrial and metal acts portray. These colors also fit with what Rabbit Junk is trying to do, which is be uncomfortably in-between aesthetics and genres, with the aim of opening up new space within intense electronic music for new kinds of expression. Rabbit Junk is hardly alone in this; lots of bands are fusing electronic and rock with a similar intent. Anyway, if you think about it, there have been very few Rabbit Junk releases over the past 14 years that don’t use the color pink. So, the art of Andrew Tremblay, which makes striking use of pink and blue, felt like an intuitive fit for me. Andrew and I have a great working relationship, and his art on the new EP is really worth checking out. It’s comprised of three connected pieces (one for each track on the EP), each showing one being revealing itself in the body of another. First, we have an android unzipping itself to reveal a human; then some sort of fiery, beastly creature bursts out of the human; finally, a mirror is held by the beast towards the onlooker, revealing their face. I have to admit, that’s some meta shit!

On ‘Born and Bled,’ the first track of the Reveal EP, you worked with Amelia Arsenic, and you’d previously done a remix of her ‘Architects of Death’ track; can you tell us about the songwriting dynamic between you two for this song, how it came together and how you worked your individual styles with each other? Did you encounter any surprises in the collaboration?

Anderson: Okay, so I just adore Amelia. We’ve been on tour together a few times and always have had so much fun together. I really feel like we have become good friends and I’m very thankful she is in my life. We had talked about a collaboration for years, and finally I had a chance to remix one of her tracks, ‘Architects of Death’ last year. What was surprising about that remix experience was that it essentially turned into part remix/part cover song! I ended up writing a whole new track with guitars and laid her vocals on top; then, I even went ahead and did some of the vocals myself! And we landed on this fun formula – D&B fused with obnoxious thrash metal and Amelia’s cyber-grrrl/punk vocals. It worked! So, we agreed to do a 100% original collaboration in the same vein, and that became ‘Born and Bled.’ I’m pretty sure this is not the last collaboration you’ll see between Rabbit Junk and Amelia Arsenic.

 

 

Aside from the Reveal EP and numerous remixes, you performed a cover of Toto’s theme for David Lynch’s Dune under your own solo moniker. What is it about this theme in particular that motivated you to cover it? In doing so (and with it being an orchestral instrumental track), how did it affect your approach to composition/mix/production?
Any other covers or perhaps original music that you plan to create under your own name?

Anderson: Dune was the first movie I watched after moving to the U.S. when I was around 6 or 7, and it left a huge impression on me. A big part of that impression was the music – it sounded like the epitome of power, and as someone who didn’t feel like he had very much control or security in his life, I was attracted to that. Hence, I’ve wanted to cover the Dune theme for a very long time. But I had to develop a lot of musical skills to be able to do so, and as I’m entirely self-taught – in both the studio and on my instruments – I only developed the necessary skills recently. In October of last year my dad died. I was with him; it was a transformative moment, and in the ensuing months, I became aware that I needed some sort of catharsis. Covering the Dune theme was part of that catharsis. I don’t know what the connection between Dune and my dad dying is, but I produced the whole thing in a weekend and worked through a lot of pain. I also learned a ton about production that I later put into the forthcoming Reveal EP. I decided to release the Dune theme under ‘JP Anderson’ because I didn’t think the final version sounded at all like a Rabbit Junk track. In retrospect, this was a mistake – the track is buried and hard to find now. I have no intention of releasing more music under ‘JP Anderson,’ but I may need to start another ‘band’ for some of the oddball stuff that doesn’t fit Rabbit Junk.

 

 

We’d spoken before about Rabbit Junk releasing EPs and digital singles more often than full albums; cut to 2018, and you release Meditations on Mortality. Granted, it was a little under 35 minutes, but it does seem like the notion of ‘full-length’ albums has been flexible in terms of the length (and many punk and metal records seem like rather brisk affairs). I’d asked you before about how the album format relates to you at that time in 2015; has that changed at all?

Anderson: By 2018, it had been eight years since Rabbit Junk had released a full-length. Full-length records, despite being arguably less relevant in the streaming age, nonetheless retain significant symbolism. I think the full-length record symbolizes a certain degree of commitment that an EP or single never could. Full-lengths put down roots, while singles seem to blow in the wind. Or, another way to put it, full-length records are simply ‘weightier’ than short-format releases; they are more meaningful to fans. So, I think it is important for a band that intends to make a mark to periodically release a full-length record, even though there may be less and less incentive to do so (at least from the point of view of Spotify, etc.). When we last spoke, I was becoming aware of the significant changes in the industry and adapting to those changes. I realized that MP3s were going extinct and it made sense to just give them away as part of a strategy to increase streaming listeners. It very much worked – I’m proud to say that music literally pays my rent and that this is in large part due to a consistent monthly income stream from service providers like Spotify. Adaptation to the new norm of streaming was best achieved through EPs. But at some point, I needed something that felt more permanent than another EP, hence Meditations on Mortality. It has been hands down Rabbit Junk’s most successful release to date – it’s been listened to over 700K times since January of 2018 on Spotify alone. And… I 100% self-produced that record while also raising two awesome kids (together with the mighty Sum Grrrl), teaching college classes, and working on a Ph.D.. It’s difficult to describe the sorts of sacrifices I made to get that record out; I probably shaved a few years off my life-expectancy – totally worth it! But an EP once or twice a year is probably a little more realistic for someone in my position. Still, Meditations… will not be Rabbit Junk’s last full-length.

To date, I’ve only had the opportunity to see Rabbit Junk live once and that was four years ago at ColdWaves in Chicago; now you’re performing in the lineup for Sanctuary Fest, along with shows in Seattle and Alberta. First of all, how did you come to be part of this year’s lineup for Sanctuary Fest? Are there any other festival appearances currently planned that you’d like to let people know about?

Anderson: My spot on Sanctuary Festival can be 100% attributed to Sean Payne (of Cyanotic and owner/operator of Glitch Mode Recordings) and his friend Chris (of Project .44 and Sanctuary Festival) – together they are CONFORMCO, a totally excellent retro-industrial outfit that will also be playing Sanctuary Festival (and ColdWaves this year!). So in short, I’m lucky to have great friends. Sanctuary is our only show in the Midwest this year, so we really want to see all our Midwest Rabbit Junkies there to represent! Rabbit Junk will also be returning to Terminus Festival this year in Calgary, Canada, which we are very excited about! The lineup for Terminus is just huge and people are flying in from all over the States, Canada, the U.K., and Europe for three days of ‘Industrial Valhalla.’

Secondly, touring is undoubtedly an arduous undertaking, and being a family man certainly can make it even less viable; that said, is there a possibility that you will ever take Rabbit Junk on a major tour? Is there a demand for it?

Anderson: The demand in undeniable; the trajectory for Rabbit Junk is decidedly upwards at the moment and that always comes with expectations of a major tour. But, you’re right, it’s hard for a husband/wife band with kids to go out on the road for a month. So, I’ve been talking with Amelia Arsenic about her filling in for Sum Grrl (which she has already done for tours in ’15 and ’18) for either a U.S. or U.K. tour. In return, I’ll be her backup band for her set. We could co-headline. What do you think, Amelia???

It seems like a large number of bands and artists are relegated to performing primarily one-off shows and festivals; aside from the difficulties in touring, what would you say is the appeal of these sorts of shows, both from the standpoint of the artist and the audience?

Anderson: The best part of one-off shows and festivals is that seeing a band that doesn’t play out much feels really, really special! And the band isn’t all haggard from being out on the road, so they are more likely to hang out with fans and be available (or at least, they should be!). I think one-off shows and festivals are probably a better overall fan experience. The downside is that they are just rarer and more geographically limited than tours. Personally, I love festivals shows – they are like family reunions! It’s a must see.

We are now in the year 2019 (Blade Runner, AKIRA, etc.). As electronic and industrial music have often explored themes of sociopolitical and technological upheaval, what are your thoughts now as we pass through time – in other words, how our perceptions of ‘progress’ and ‘the future’ change as the fictions of the past come and go?

Anderson: Blade Runner and AKIRA had some pretty dystopian and scary visions of the future, but I don’t think any classic cyberpunk comes close to just how precarious the present turned out to be. No, we turned out much closer to 1984 than AKIRA. Still, it seems that industrial music in particular seeks to prepare us for the cyberpunk nightmare visions of the ’80s that will never happen. I include Rabbit Junk in that critique. The dystopian tropes that I myself sometimes draw upon are implicit fantasies of individualism, in which one man takes on an unjust world, thereby finding purpose and moral certainty. Dystopia and apocalypse are attractive precisely because it’s easy to imagine that our choices would become clearer and that simple violence would essentially solve every problem. Only in a fictional dystopia can a regular person, it seems, become something more. In the real world, however, with all of its nuance and complexity, there is no clear path to meaning or power, and so many of us end up feeling alienated within mass culture. The actual problems that haunt the real 2019, the ones we are living through right now, require us to imagine new futures of cooperation and organization rather than mere survival in the neon glare of Neo-Tokyo. Unfortunately, you can’t blow away mass incarceration or ocean acidification with a cool looking pulse rifle. I think the most pressing aesthetic challenge of industrial music right now is to imagine futures that are still dark, exciting, and full of opportunities to express distaste for the ‘normal,’ and that also reject the self-limiting values of the prior decade’s futurisms. I think this is happening. I think this is the most dynamic and exciting moment that intense and heavy electronic music has ever witnessed. This sound has never been more relevant. 2019 is the year we can let go of ‘2019’ – we arrived and it’s a lot more complicated than we thought.

Anything I’ve not mentioned that you’d really like to talk about?

Anderson: I just want to acknowledge ReGen. Independent, underground music is nothing without people willing to discuss, analyze, and report on its existence. So, thank you for everything that you do! Likewise, Rabbit Junk would be nothing without people willing to listen to it and support it. So, big love to the fans! You are my people!

 

Rabbit Junk
Website, Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, SoundCloud, Bandcamp
Glitch Mode Recordings
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube
Sanctuary Festival
Facebook
Terminus Festival
Website, Facebook, Twitter

 

Photography provided courtesy of Rabbit Junk

 

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