Interviews

Calming down with Chmcl Str8jckt (interview)

We’ve definitely lacked some industrial/EBM interviews, so with Zed Mann, the new member of the Rubber Axe team, aboard, let’s dive straight ahead to the dark waters of industrial musick with Chmcl Str8jckt and see what they had to say about their new material. – Rudolf

Recently, you started using the term, “outlaw industrial.” We’ve heard of “outlaw country”. Where did your term come from and what’s it mean to you?

Well, since our inception we’ve struggled with how to label ourselves ….. what genre are we? In 1989 it would have been simple….we are “Industrial”, like Pailhead and Revolting Cocks. In 1995 it would have been simple, we are “Industrial Rock”. Now, I personally don’t give a fuck about genres…you like the music or you don’t….it’s well written and performed or it isn’t, right? But….you MUST identify with a genre so that a new listener can know right away if they might like your music.

Many reviews of our debut referred to us as “Wax Trax!-era Industrial”. That upset some “purists”, though I found it flattering and accurate. Then….just a few weeks ago I’m chatting with our PR guy (William Zimmerman of New Dark Ages) and he says to me…..”with your apocalyptic cowboy visuals…the western influences that creep into your music….the lyrics like in “Black Vulture” where you drink away the horror of murdering your lover….this is Outlaw Industrial” I instantly thought, “Holy Shit!!! You nailed it, William.” So Outlaw Industrial to me is our genre…a blending of rock, metal and punk within an industrial framework with an apocalyptic ethos and a sprinkle of western influence. So far…other than Acid Horse’s “No Name, No Slogan” I believe we are the only band playing this genre.

What’s the meaning behind the band name, Chmcl Str8jckt?  Would it be a stretch to suggest it has to do with the “outlaw industrial” label?

A chemical straightjacket is a cocktail of meds that is often used to zombify an agitated patient….often in a psych ward setting. It’s haloperidol, diazepam, chlorpromazine, etc. It’s like “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” shit, but it’s real….and necessary and used every day. (Mike and I are both pharmacists). Sometimes you can’t talk down “crazy”…you have to neutralize it with chemistry. I always found this fascinating! While we didn’t plan our ethos at the very beginning….it was just a gradual growth of who and what we are together…I believe that the name and all else has evolved toward this “Outlaw Industrial” label. Factor in that we have caught some slack from the modern industrial crowd about having “too much rock influence” or “too much guitar” or “the song writing has verses and choruses and bridges like rock music” and we really are outlaws right now!

How did the recent signing with Cleopatra come about?

It was really very “old school”! We were all thrilled when we heard the final mastered version of WRTCHD THNGS and we felt it could appeal to a lot of people. We were already on Machine Man Records which is a great label…it’s young and growing nicely, but we wanted to do whatever we could to reach the ears of as many people as possible. We chose just 3 bigger labels that we liked and mailed (yes….mailed) the CD to them. We also emailed it. About a week before we were set to release the video for “Bomb Cyclone” I got a message from Cleo….”This is really good stuff.” And that was it.

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For someone not familiar with the Chmcl Str8jckt sound, what artists would you say you’ve been mostly influenced by?

I would say Ministry, the Revolting Cocks and that whole Wax Trax! era along with 80’s metal. It was such a fun, creative time in music! You had all these people making “Industrial Music” (using technology) but it was so exciting and diverse. You had punk industrial with Pailhead……rock industrial with Revco….EBM industrial with Front 242….jazz industrial with The Legendary Pink Dots….disco industrial with My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult…metal industrial with Godflesh, etc. There was a crazy, inclusive energy. But…for Str8jckt, add a splash of Nick Cave and Black Sabbath.

Does “Wrtchd Thngs,” the new album revolve around a central concept or are the tracks really stories themselves?

While the songs definitely share a vibe and a bit of a theme, they are each stories within themselves. Our mastering engineer, Maor Appelbaum, was brilliant in laying the songs out to create an experience from start to finish! The songs though, were written with no regard for other tracks on the album. “Baphomet” is a story about the Knights Templar while “Ode To Peckinpah” is about a Hollywood director….can’t get more different that that! Yet, it all flows nicely, and most of the songs are about very wretched characters…often doing terrible things!

Can you take us through the creation of a Chmcl Str8jckt track with the people involved?

It starts in 1 of 2 ways…..Mike will come over and lay down a bunch of guitar riffs he came up with. I record them all and then I’ll build a song around the riffs I like the most. I’ll write the lyrics and program all the synths etc. OR, I write lyrics and a vocal pattern in my head….then I program the keys, drums etc to fit the lyrics, then I give it to Mike to write his parts (guitars). During the process (usually about a week per song) I’ll email the song to Scott and Ian for ideas and feedback. Lately Ian’s been spending a lot of time with me at our “studio” adding good ideas. The 2 different approaches really add to our diversity of style!

What’s the story behind the track, “Black Vulture” and the video?

Black Vulture was born of 2 “Mike guitar riffs”. I have a huge love for Sabbath and Iommi’s guitar playing in particular. I asked Mike to give me an Iommi-style riff, which he did very nicely! I had always wanted to write a big, long song with many different parts. I realized that Mike had also given me a fast riff in the same key, so I decided to use them both and have a drastic tempo change. The first part of Vulture is 100 bpm, then over 8 bars it shoots to 170bpm! I wanted a haunting piano/organ intro so I called in a friend of mine who plays organ for his church!! Ha ha! Colin gave me a great intro and outro. I left a little room for JB (John Bechdel, our producer) to add a synth lead during the fast part. So it was really a nice collaboration!

I already had the lyrics written when I heard Mike’s riff and I knew it would fit. It’s basically the story of a guy who did something terrible….he killed his lover. Then he wanders down to the local distillery and dulls the pain of what he’d just done with vodka. My hometown of Branchville, NJ has a great distillery in it, Milk Street Distillery. They make “Black Vulture Vodka” …. we hang out there quite a bit and they even serve a drink called the “Chmcl Str8jckt”! So it was fun to write them into the song. During the first half of the song, the main character is comparing The Vulture (vodka) to religion…..basically, saying that the Vulture IS Jesus/religion because it gives comfort and hope….”If Jesus gives us respite and takes away our pain, the images in books are very wrong, For I see him in this church (the distillery), more avian than man, slick and black with a 5 foot span.”  In the second half the main character is in a drunk frenzy….feeling god-like and quite manic!  He is a terrible character.

We filmed the video in the distillery that is featured in the song. How cool is that? They opened the distillery on a Tuesday night for us and our friends. We have a badass team, Katana Visuals (Alan and Melissa), who did all of the filming, directing and editing.

What’s next in terms of recording and touring plans?

We are  thinking of doing a 4 song ep end of 2019 or early 2020….2 remixes and 2 new tracks. At the end of January we will go back out the JB’s studio and record the next full album, which is already written and in demo form!

While that is going on we hope to do some touring and such. That’s in the works now. We already have a show booked opening for Curse Mackey and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult in October…..and a show opening for The Genitorturers in November…..as well as playing The Dark Side Of The Con in March. Good stuff!

Take us back to the first ebm/industrial record that changed you and drew you to this kind of music.  What was it?  What do you think some of the most landmark albums were for the ebm/industrial genres?

For me, I remember hearing Ministry’s “Land Of Rape And Honey” and Nitzer Ebb’s “That Total Age” in the same week with Scott Luckamn (backing vocals and live keys). We were teens and it really changed our world. Of course, that took us to all things Wax Trax! and Front 242, Front Line Assembly etc. My personal landmark albums would be Ministry’s “The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste”, Revolting Cocks “Beers Steers and Qveers”, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult’s “Confessions Of A Knife”,  Nitzer Ebb’s “Belief” and Skinny Puppy’s “Too Dark Park”.

Finally, we see that “Wrtchd Thngs” just got an excellent review from The Grim Tower (entertainment website). The reviewer compared it to Wax Trax! era industrial music and bands like Killing Joke. Congrats! The reviewer also said that those that are into dark music won’t be phased but a feminist may take issue with the deaths of women that take place on the album. Do you care to comment on that?

Great question! And as the lyricist, I’d love to elaborate. First, we were thrilled with the review and the writer did a great job. I know they are limited in how much to write about an album, so I’ll provide the big picture as to the violence that abounds throughout “Wrtchd Thngs”.

The album is called “Wrtchd Things” because many of the songs are about completely wretched characters doing wretched things! These characters are certainly not heroes or portrayed us such. Even with “Ode To Peckipah (Bloody Sam)” which is one of the only songs to be about a “real” character….it’s a wretched one! Sam Peckinpah was an alcoholic American movie director. He made super violent westerns….his personal life was a disaster…he even hit his actors if they made an error! He was shunned by his peers and referred to as “Bloody Sam.” You see? Again…the album is called “Wrtchd Thngs” which is taken from a line in our song called “Love”. The full line is “We men are wretched things”‘, which is a quote from Homer in The Odyssey. The only songs that provide a bit of a break from the madness of the album are “Fantasy” (a fun cover of an Aldo Nova classic) and “Bomb Cyclone” which is a song I wrote about watching a badass, uninhibited woman shed the constraints and worries of life and just “go off” ie….have fun, rule the room, get wild, etc.

As I count, there are 4 female deaths throughout the album while there are literally thousands of male deaths. In “Baphomet”, thousands of the Knights Templar are burned and slaughtered by the Church. In “Love” the main male character goes to war on the beach to protect the woman he loves. After killing countless enemies, he himself is killed. In “Meathook” the main male character dies on a ….you guessed it! a meat hook! So, yes, it’s a very dark and creepy album toward everyone. The next album will also be dark, but it will have it’s own theme and vibe, lyrically.

Thanks for your time!!

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Zedd Mann

A mysterious figure lurking from the deep dark, enjoying the relentless beats and cold, heartless tones of the industrial/EBM musick.

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