Published on September 7th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron0
Interview: Jack the Stripper
A prominent flavor in the venomous brew of Melbourne’s heavy scene is Jack the Stripper.
Laid down over two years at guitarist Julian Renzo’s Legion Studio and mastered by the legendary Howie Weinberg in New York, it’s a neck-snapping chunk of brutality that leaps between math metal to death to chaotic hardcore in the space of a few minutes.
We checked in with Julian and vocalist Luke to talk about where the band fits in locally, what influences feed the band’s sound, and why it’s always good to take a few risks when making music.
BNU: You guys recently got back from a tour of Japan. How’d you find it? What sort of differences do you notice when you play abroad?
Luke: The Japan tour was fantastic. Great success with all shows.
I wouldn’t want to risk being boring over anything else.
One of the first things I noticed was the lack of social media saturation. There’s a very strong word-of-mouth system in place throughout the Japanese music scene and the crowds aren’t all staring at a phone screen during the performance. As a result of this lack of co-dependency on virtual networks, the bands all sound better. They’re doing it for the love of the music alone and that sounds like it shouldn’t be different from the norm, but it is these days. It was incredibly refreshing to see.
The crowds are an awesome experience too, particularly with countries where independent music is still really emerging. There’s so much anger and energy in places like Taiwan and it’s so good to see them releasing it at a gig. It reminds me why I first started going to see live bands in the first place.
What got you into heavy music originally? What kinds of bands have you guys been in before Jack the Stripper? Did you have a specific sound you were looking for when you formed the band or is it a result of friends coming together and making a band?
Julian: Originally it was collaboration between friends, but the direction has always been to sound obnoxious and dissonant. Max and I have been in many different bands playing different genres like pop, hip-hop, metal. Adam and Tim came from Confession. Tim has also played in The Red Shore, Abandonment and also plays in Metal Storm and Iscariot.
Raw Nerve is your second record, and it’s killer. So many different influences coming through that it’s hard to describe in terms of genre. How was that record to make? If I’m not mistaken it was mastered by Howie Weinberg of Nirvana/Beastie Boys/Ramones fame? How did that come about?
Julian: I run a recording studio in Williamstown, Victoria, called Legion. In between recording clients I’d work on our tracks and sounds. The process was pretty similar to making any record except I’d have more time for experimentation.
It’s about really reaching in and ripping out something honest and putting it into sound.
Howie masters most of the records I make.
It’s been pretty interesting to see what has happened to Deafheaven in that music critics lumped them in with black metal and all the black metal purists started hating them, and suddenly their meteoric rise flipped around and they somehow became “uncool”, even though their music is solid. So I’m interested if you think there is a risk associated with experimentation? I mean, you have carved out a niche for yourselves, are you ever hesitant to go too “out there”?
Julian: Originality is most important. I work with heavy music every day, so there is incentive to make new sounds to keep it fun, as well as have some variety throughout the album, otherwise our audience would be bored with us. I wouldn’t want to risk being boring over anything else.
Luke: Music is meant to push boundaries. It’s the sonic chronicling of human history and reflects the world in a far more stark and honest light than most other media forms, I feel. In this way it’s imperative that musicians constantly look forward to what the next big step could be. And that’s not just in terms of going digital with their equipment, or posting some memes on their Facebook pages or whatever. It’s about really reaching in and ripping out something honest and putting it into sound.
I know musicians hate having their music compared to other bands, but I hear hints of bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, and Deftones in your music, but also some older school metal like Beanflipper or Sepultura in the riffs. Are these bands you guys listen to, and what other bands do you guys as a band have in common?
As far as international influences, they would be Mr. Bungle, Pantera, Faith No More, Atari Teenage Riot, Deftones, Sepultura, and the like. Old school.
Do you have ambitions to take it to the next level or are you cool with making enough cash to record new albums? Do you think the heavy side of town gets the recognition it deserves in terms of radio play?
Luke: There’s definitely a glass ceiling in place for Australia. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the industry specifically here, rather than looking at the bigger picture. Anyone who takes their music and performance seriously will inevitably have to work out how to make the jump overseas.
Australia is great, but it’s a small scene. People forget how truly small it is. Because it’s small, a lot of the artists and agents keep their cards close to their chest with anything pertaining to professional advancement.
Jack The Stripper aim to play everywhere possible. There’s still a career out there for people who work hard enough.
I definitely do think that there’s enough radio coverage for heavier bands in Australia, especially with the admirable amount of work stations such as Triple J and RRR are doing with their coverage. Student radio stations such as SYNFM are a great place to hear up-and-coming acts as well.
Given that technology is leading toward music being accessible at any time through Spotify or whatever, there’s a lot more room for people to find bands under their own steam. But the presence of a radio host to bear the torch will always be essential and I’m glad that Australia is being serviced by some great hosts.
Would you say Jack the Stripper fits into a specific “scene” in Melbourne or do you play with other heavy acts?
Luke: We play with everyone and it’s great. Some shows are with hardcore bands, some with grindcore, death metal, thrash… We’ve even played with a few melodic prog and indie acts. We haven’t shoehorned ourselves into any scene in particular with our live act or our music—the band’s just defined as “heavy”—so the diversity is awesome.
I want our future to have an even further range of artists involved in our shows. Visual, musical, a naked fat guy smearing himself in cake, everything.
When I was a teenager my friends and I used to wait until a metal band programmed RAGE, tape it on VCR, and then transfer the good songs onto cassette. I found so many great local bands that way. That and taping Three Hours of Power. These days it’s kinda the opposite and listeners are totally swamped with new music. I wonder how you guys approach both finding music and promoting your own music?
Julian: I did the same. I get band suggestions from clients and Luke is always looking for new music.
I usually still keep up with mailing lists for my favourite labels and check out what they have to offer. It’s a bit old-school but it’s the best way. YouTube offers up a lot of great material too.
As far as promotion goes, we’re always on the lookout for new ways. Our music is pretty well distributed digitally through MGM and independently overseas, but there’s always something new coming up.
What’s next for you? If you’ve been working on new material, how does it differ from Raw Nerve?
Julian: We are in the middle of recording a new album. This one has even broader styles and sonics than Raw Nerve. As well as being heavier, faster, and taking more risks than one could hope for.
Luke: This new album contains tracks that are directly linked thematically and lyrically, while each having a distinction of their own. I really feel we’ve plumbed the depths of the dark for this release and will be bringing some seethingly punishing songs out very soon.