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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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!
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Photography provided courtesy of Rabbit Junk