ACTORS front man Jason Corbett speaks with ReGen about the band’s prolific activity, discussing the inner dynamics of the quartet, and shedding some light on the dark world of post-punk.
An InterView with Jason Corbett of ACTORS
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
To get some history out of the way, tell us about how the current lineup of ACTORS came together?
What is the performing dynamic like among the four members?
Corbett: We play together to serve the songs and deliver the best show we can. We cherish our time onstage together, so we try honor that every performance.
Beyond the instruments, what roles do you all play in making ACTORS’ music?
Corbett: We support one other. The love we have for each other makes the whole experience of recording and touring a less daunting task. We put some serious miles on the road in the last two years, but when we come home and don’t see each other often enough, we actually miss each other. I’ve heard that’s rare for a band.
Since the release of It Will Come to You in March 2018, the band has been on a seemingly constant stream of touring. First of all, tell us about the experience of touring… what have you found to be the greatest challenges, not just from the physical standpoint, but mentally as well, and how do you feel you’ve been overcoming them?
Playing all over the world, what can you tell us about the various audiences you’ve played to? Or to put it another way, have you noticed a difference in how American audiences respond to ACTORS music versus European audiences?
Corbett: We’ve had great audiences in all the countries we’ve visited. We’ve been treated very well. I haven’t really noticed a difference other than the obvious language barriers.
Has performing your material to so many people given you a new perspective on the songs you’ve written?
Corbett: When you see people reacting to the songs live, you can feel what’s happening. That shared connection of emotion is truly what I’ve been after from the beginning.
You’d mentioned to me in conversation that you were looking to work on an album by summer of last year, but the offers kept coming in for you to play live. In what was has the extensive touring schedule affected the new material you’re writing?
Regarding the lyrics, what would you say are some of the themes you’re writing about now?
Corbett: I would rather leave that to the listener’s imagination. I feel like good songs come through craftsmanship and being an open conduit to the universe and whatever energies that you’re picking up. I listen to the songs and they inform me what they want to be.
You performed at ColdWaves in 2018 and prior were scheduled prior to the pandemic to perform there again for 2020. Would you tell us about how you first came to be part of this eminent festival?
What are your thoughts on ColdWaves now versus when you were first asked to take part in it?
Corbett: Now we know people there. It’s more like visiting family that you like. (Laughter) That and we made it one line higher on the poster.
This year’s lineup also features other bands that, like you, present a modern spin on the classic post-punk sounds of the late ’70s / early ’80s. First of all, what do you feel it is about this sound that resonates with you now versus when you were younger or when ACTORS first started?
Corbett: The sounds of ACTORS never left me since childhood. It’s a mix of ’80s arrangements, the gloom of Wendy Carlos, the feel of a David Lynch movie, and on and on. It just took me years of exploration to mine those core truths and learn to produce them.
Secondly, beyond a wave of nostalgia, what do you think has inspired such a newfound interest? What is it about post-punk that is resonating with people today – both the bands and the audience?
Corbett: I have a theory that it’s the underlying bleakness of our culture – the fear of imminent darkness. In the ’80s, you had the threat of nuclear war with the Cold War. Now, we have terrorism, fascism, and radical climate change. It’s a scary time. We need to celebrate in the darkness, or it will devour us.
Besides ACTORS, you are a producer and mixer. Are there any specific bands you’ve worked with or experiences that have stood out to you in such a way that has affected your outlook on your own music?
Corbett: I’m learning all the time in that regard. I take my role as producer very seriously. If someone is going to trust me with their vision, that’s no small leap. I’m very excited about my work with Bootblacks. Their album will be coming out on Artoffact Records soon.
A quote from Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) has always stuck with me when he was talking about Mutt Lange’s influence on his band, ‘The role of a producer is to make you better than you are.’ Does this ring true to you?
Corbett: I would counter that by quoting Nile Rodgers, ‘My responsibility is to the artist first. There’s something that artists intrinsically know about their music and their fanbase that neither the record company nor the producer really knows.’
Band Photography by Kira Clavell, courtesy of ACTORS
Live Photography by Tabetha Patton (MizTabby) – from ColdWaves VII, 2018-09-23