Genghis Tron

Genghis Tron
Hamilton Jordan is holed up in an upstate New York cottage, rehearsing with keyboardist Michael Sochynsky and keyboardist/vocalist Mookie Singerman for an upcoming mini-tour with the Faint and Jaguar Love before crossing the border for the Exclaim! Aggressive Tendencies tour in September. The band, who made their mark with 2005’s genre-fucking Cloak of Love, currently have their hands full with an upcoming remix series, which sees their most recent full-length, Board up the House (Relapse), cut up at the hands of 20 different artists and spread over five twelve-inches, released by five different record labels. So, yeah, they’re busy.

Do you go up there to rehearse before every tour?
Hamilton: If it hasn’t been a while, yeah. We haven’t toured in six weeks, so we need to practice. But if it’s only been a week or two, we usually go out cold. But if we need to, we come up here and work the rust out.

Sounds like a nice way to prepare.
Yeah, it’s nice. We’re thinking about writing our next record up here or something. We’ll see.

It seems a setting like that — natural, rustic — is at odds with the kind of music you’re making. You know: "It’s nature. Here are some programmed blast beats.”
Yeah, our music is, in that sense, incredibly not natural. It’s weird because that’s the kind of music we make but that’s not necessarily the music we listen to. We all live in urban environments but we love getting out here. The older we get, the more and more hippie-ish we become. Our next record is probably going to be all bongos and acoustic guitar and shit.

Besides being huge hippies, what are you listening to that influences what you’re making that might not be obvious?
We’re really affected by what we’re inspired by year to year. And then there are things that are always there. I’ve probably ripped off Philip Glass more than I have anyone else. Coil are a big influence on all of us. And ’80s pop — even if it’s not the way they write melodies, it’s the way the rhythms work and the way they put their songs together. Ever since I was young, I’ve been really into those 20th century minimalist composers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. I think that has affected the way I think about music and rhythm and melody more than anything else. And we all like Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy and the stuff that people would expect.

Bands tend to talk a lot about the evolution their songs go through live. You guys being somewhat confined in a live setting by pre-programmed elements, I’m wondering if there are ways you find to branch out live or change things.
What we do is pretty restrictive. That is one of the more frustrating elements about how this band operate. Not having a drummer and programming all our own beats is as liberating as it is confining. That’s not something we struggle with because we’re used to it but we’re constantly challenging ourselves to not settle into any patterns. The stuff we’ve been coming up with for our next record is going to be more different from our last record than any of our previous records have been from one another, if that makes any sense. And that’s one of the things: those live elements. We write a song and we record it and once that’s done it’s basically set in stone. I mean, it doesn’t have to be. If we really want to go back and re-program stuff and change it we can but once we’ve made a decision and stuck with it, it’s way more difficult for us to change it than a band with four guys who are all playing together. But with our next album, it wouldn’t surprise me if the performance element of our songs was a lot more live and less programming-oriented. It’s not like we’re going to get a drummer but maybe we’ll play the parts on drums pads. We’re constantly self-aware and trying to be really critical of our process. We really want to feel like we’re performing live to the fullest extent.

Are there songs you’ve revisited and re-programmed for the purposes of the live show?
Yeah, there are some songs we’ve cut short because we don’t like the endings anymore. And we’ll write little interludes to link songs together to make songs that otherwise have nothing to do with each other sound like a fluid piece. It’s not like when you see a Genghis Tron live show it’s nothing but us mindlessly replicating our records. We try to add a different spin to things and that’s something I hope to do more of in the future.

This kind of ties in to the remix project you guys have undertaken recently. I imagine that’s an interesting method of exploring the boundaries of your songs in ways that a traditional four-piece rock band can’t. What’s that process been like for you guys?
It’s been awesome. The whole thing, in general, has been a really eye-opening experience. More than anything it’s been flattering to contact musicians we admire who, more often than not, are for some reason interested in working with us. We’ve been talking about this project for years but it’s only now, after putting out a record where we felt strongly enough about the material, that we really wanted to go through with it. We sent out all these emails to people. We had a dream list of artists we wanted to remix our songs and we were shocked at the response. I’d say 80 percent agreed to participate, and we expected less than half, which is why it went from being one or two twelve-inches to five. We had verbal agreements from all these great artists and we didn’t want to back out on anyone. Some of the remixes sound exactly like you’d expect and some sound nothing like you’d expect. One thing I’m proud of is that band remixes often play up only one aspect of that band’s sound. They’re usually done by DJs and it’s usually a dance or an ambient remix. But we’ve been able to work with guys like Scott Hull from Pig Destroyer and Rob Crow from Pinback. They’re artists we admire and they’re the last people you’d think of to do a remix. It’s taken it beyond the bounds or what you’d usually expect. It’s something we’re really stoked has come together. We can’t really believe it. We’ve managed to successfully manage the cooperation of five different labels, 20 different artists, and everyone has gotten along and it’s worked out.

It’s pretty epic.
Yeah, it’s insane. Our album is 45 minutes. We only have about two-thirds of the remixes in at this point and we already have 90 minutes of material. We have twice as much remix material as there was music on the actual album. I don’t know how many people will buy all five but it’s something that, musically, we stand by. The artists have made choices I wish we had made. It’s been really cool. It’s also kind of a ridiculous vanity project. I hope people who like our music are half as interested in it as we are.

On a totally different track, you guys are headed out for four dates with the Faint and Jaguar Love. And after that you’ve got the Exclaim! Aggressive Tendencies Tour. Being in a band with some melodic parts and some really heavy parts, do you find that going on tour with a band like the Faint makes you at all nervous about being way more aggressive than other bands and how crowds will respond to that?
I’m excited about it. I wouldn’t say I’m nervous. It’s a much less intimidating position to be the heaviest band on a not-so-heavy show than by far the least heavy band on a very, very heavy show. And that’s how it’s usually been with us. We very rarely get to play with bands like the Faint, who I think we have some stuff in common with, if only because we both have some keyboard parts and we’re both influenced by Depeche Mode on some level. But for the most part, we stick out on the shows we play like a sore thumb, but it’s mostly with bands like Converge or Pig Destroyer. The first time we played with Napalm Death, I was convinced I was going to get a bottle thrown in my face. I can’t say I’m too nervous about not going over well with the 15-year-old girls who are there to see the Faint and Jaguar Love but mostly I’m just excited to do something different. We generally just play with very heavy bands, which is fine, but I enjoy playing diverse shows. All three of us are looking forward to playing with a band as poppy as the Faint. I’m sure it will be interesting and that’s enough to get me excited.

How about the Baroness tour? You guys have toured together before, right?
We did a full U.S. tour with Baroness, Converge and the Red Chord. It was cool because it was all heavy bands but everyone was really different and no one was the odd band out. I’m excited about that because musically, at least on a literal level, we don’t have a lot in common with Baroness but we’re big fans of them and they’re fans of us. We get along really well; they’re great guys. Our bands may not sound alike but we expect a lot of crossover from people going to those shows. Those are the sorts of tours I really like. The bands are different and it works. The Exclaim! Tour is great because it’s a lot of different-sounding acts that fans of interesting-sounding heavy music will hopefully appreciate on some level. And we’ve never really done an extensive Canadian tour before. We’ve done all the big cities a few times but we’ve never been in the country for more than four or five days at a time. It will be really cool to go across a lot of the provinces and see it on a more extensive level. Plus, we’re supporting a band we really like, and they were just up in Canada with Coheed and Cambria and they had a great time. We’re looking forward to seeing the country.