After a three-year hiatus from making music and touring with numerous industrial rockers, Jason Bazinet returns to Sounds of Mass Production, giving ReGen the lowdown on what’s to come from the new assembly line.
An Interview with Jason Bazinet
By: Ilker Yücel
Since the mid ‘90s, Jason Bazinet has stood at the forefront of the industrial music underground, combining harsh electronics, scathing rock and rhythmic hip-hop motifs into his primary musical outlet, Sounds of Mass Production. After amassing a discography of music as aggressive as it is edgy across several record labels, including Re-Constriction and Invisible, Bazinet retired SMP in early 2008, embarking on a busy schedule over the next three years as an active session drummer. Working with such luminaries of the industrial rock scene as 16volt, Chemlab, Front Line Assembly and Stiff Valentine, to name a few, SMP remained just under the radar with some digital-only releases on Bazinet’s own Music Ration Entertainment. Breaking the silence was a new song on the Electronic Saviors compilation, which would eventually prompt the Coda EP release in 2010, signaling Bazinet’s return to making music as SMP. Now working with 64K’s Mike Ostrander and renowned producer Wade Alin of Christ Analogue, Bazinet lets ReGen in on the return to the industrial assembly line, touching on the recent re-release of his first album, his disillusion with the record industry past and present, and just what audiences can expect from the new Sounds of Mass Production.
Your most recent release of new material, Coda, came three years after you took a bit of a hiatus from SMP. What prompted you to return to making music as SMP, and in what ways do you feel the music on Coda is representative of where you plan to take SMP on upcoming releases?
Bazinet: I took 2008 off from SMP, but I was still involved in music, drumming for various acts. The desire to create as SMP just kept gnawing at me, so I got back into it starting with the track ‘Stay Sick’ for the Electronic Saviors compilation CD that was put together by my pal Jim Semonik. He was one of the people that called ‘bullshit’ on SMP’s hiatus. I was fed up with the business of music at the time.
Coda was put together fairly quickly. It’s really an EP. I wanted to get something out in 2010 to let folks know we were back. The new album will be different than Coda, though. Mike Ostrander from 64K is programming and writing on the record, which gives me more time to focus on the details and the vocals.
What was it about the business of music that had you fed up, and in what ways do you feel that business is changing, for better or worse?
Bazinet: Trying to ‘make it’ or make money doing music can be pretty soul-crushing. It takes a special kind of stupid to keep hitting your head against that wall. Obviously, I am that kind of stupid. I began to be pretty soured after dealing with Invisible Records in the early 2000s, so I had a go at self-releasing through my label MRE. People stopped buying music, and you find yourself 35 years old trying to sell a few thousand CDs which you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and your peers are buying houses and beamers and such. So I took a break, and now I’m back with a better outlook and attitude on the whole thing. The reason I did the drumming gigs was that they were way more fun and less stressful than being the boss at SMP, just not as rewarding.
You mentioned that Mike Ostrander from 64K is now working with you on the new record. In what ways has this partnership yielded a better sound for SMP, in your opinion? What is the working dynamic like between the two of you and how does it compare to when you were working alone?
Bazinet: Mike, in my opinion, is in the top 10 of programmers in this scene, so there’s that. Most programmers are hacks; these kids today couldn’t have hacked programming in the ‘90s. I hear a lot of lazy shit. Mike understands SMP, just like Wade Alin does, which is why we have him on deck to produce the record. We have about 16 demos stacked up and we are really excited about the record. I think it will be one of SMP’s best ever. Also, with Mike doing a lot of programming, I have more time to work on arrangements and just writing good songs.
Having worked with these other bands like 16volt, 64K, FLA, Chemlab and Deathproof, what have you found to be the most valuable lesson you’ve learned – either individually or collectively – from your experience, and how do you feel that is now being presented in the new SMP material?
Bazinet: Well, most of the bands I’ve toured with are more successful than SMP has been, so it is interesting to see how different camps run their show. I’ve definitely learned a few things here and there that I can apply to SMP. Musically speaking, not much will change. We are going to write from the heart and keep the production value high. Putting out a great record is the goal. I know what is popular in the industrial music scene. Mike and I aren’t interested in that.
That relates to what you said earlier about finding a lot of the ‘kids’ today being lazy with their programming skills. To what do you attribute this lax attitude toward making music these days? What do you think are the most glaring examples of this?
Bazinet: Programming today is just easier and cheaper – loops and presets and such. It seems like a lot of the more current industrial music is less complex and more pop-oriented. But if that’s what people like, that’s cool.
Your most recent release overall was a reissue of your first album as SMP, Stalemate. What prompted you to rerelease the album at this point? In what ways did remastering and revisiting the album affect your current mindset regarding your new music?
Bazinet: The heavy use of samples, the rapping and the themes of Stalemate will probably have an influence on the new record. I rereleased Stalemate because it is out of print, and I got the rights back from the label. So I put that out on Music Ration Entertainment as a digital-only release. I love physical products, but I see digital distribution taking off, and there will probably be some other special SMP projects coming out like that.
Working in the digital medium and rereleasing past music in this way, what have you found to be the major advantages and disadvantages in working in the digital realm, especially since you were making music before the advent of the MP3 age?
Bazinet: The major advantages are that it is cheaper to produce product and it gives you shelf space next to the big boys, since there are no brick and mortar stores to keep us out of anymore. There was a period where there was no digital money. Now it comes in pretty steadily — not a lot, but enough to see that this digital thing could be great someday. I will miss CDs, but now I see people making more collector items like LPs. Those are great.
You mentioned that the use of samples and rapping on your earlier material is now influencing the new record, and the rapping is something SMP has been especially known for. Samples fell out of style somewhat in the genre and along with rap/hip-hop seem to be resurging among select artists. As one of the originals, what are your thoughts on this?
Bazinet: Well, if you get too big, sampling is harder. But I see a lot of hip-hop acts surviving on the underground still doing it. I like it. Esham is one of my favorite artists. He’s not in the industrial scene, but I find his music to be very industrial, especially the last few albums.
You say he’s not industrial, but the music is. That’s something that also seems to be going on in this day and age as electronic/industrial elements are arising in various other genres, especially in the mainstream. On the reverse end, as you mentioned a lot of today’s industrial is very pop-oriented. What is your opinion on the divide between mainstream and underground these days? Or is there one?
Bazinet: I’m not up on most pop music, but yes, you do hear industrial elements popping up in stuff like Britney Spears, MIA, etc. I like when genres blend, obviously. I mean, it must be what it’s like to be a hip-hop fan and then hear rap being used in industrial music.
You’ve signed with WTII Records for the next album release and you’re shooting for a 2012 release. What was it about WTII that you decided to sign with them, and how do you feel they as a label are indicative of what ‘labels’ these days should be doing to move forward and keep pace with the changes in the audience and the industry?
Bazinet: I’ve been pretty anti-label for a while but I’ve known the WTII guys for a while now, and they are good people. I don’t really have any opinions on what a label should do in this day and age.
Not even considering your past dealings with labels?
Bazinet: There were all the same and all different.
What’s the next step for SMP after completing and releasing the new record? You’ve done a lot of touring in the last couple of years. Are there plans to return to the road for the new album?
Bazinet: Yes, I hope to tour a month or so after the record comes out, a U.S. tour with maybe some Canadian dates.
Do you have any concluding thoughts or statements?
Bazinet: That’s all, folks! Here’s a shout out to all the people. If you came and seen us or bought our CDs or downloads, I appreciate that! You keep us going. Peace.