Genghis Tron's Mookie Singerman

Genghis Tron's Mookie Singerman
If there’s one band Exclaim! didn’t get sick of interviewing in 2008 it was Genghis Tron. By doing a simple search on the Exclaim! site, you’ll see that the Philly-based trio were interviewed by us on three separate occasions, for what turns out to be five different features. Oh, how they must have gotten tired of answering the same questions. Well, not exactly says front-man/keyboardist Mookie Singerman. "This is the first time I personally have spoken to you since the new record, so it's all new to me!!” he wrote in his email response. Hopefully it will be the same for everyone who reads it.

So, this felt like a breakthrough year for the band. What do you see being the biggest difference in 2008 compared to previous years? Were there any defining moments that stand out?
The whole concept of touring changed a lot for us. We had never done a support tour before December of 2007 so getting to tour with the likes of Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and the Faint was a huge step up for us. The Dillinger shows in particular opened our eyes as to what it's like to actually "put on a show.” We felt we were a little out of our element playing such big venues and we felt our stage show were a little threadbare--so we tried to step up our game a bit. We put together a pretty insane light show with no idea what we were doing and we're pretty stoked on how that came out. As far as a singular moment that stood out, there were just too many to count. Each night we got to play with Converge or the Faint was incredible, we got to play an insane French festival for thousands of people, we played in Sao Paolo, Brazil, my grandma saw our record review in The New York Times. All these were very surreal and very, very awesome.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed that Board Up the House signalled a change in the band. With songs like "Recursion" and "I Won't Come Back Alive," it felt like you were more interested in progressing as a band than you were trying to come up with breakneck transitions and throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks. What were you doing differently with this album compared to your past efforts? And were they conscious decisions?
I think you're right. In some ways we had the same intentions with Board up the House as we had with Dead Mountain Mouth - we didn't want to repeat ourselves and we wanted to avoid the cut-and-paste songwriting that defined our first EP. Beyond that, there wasn't a clear vision of wanting to try more straightforward pop songs. If anything, our songwriting was more of a reflection of our current states of mind and the music we'd been listening to. The cliche is that as you get older, you soften up in terms of musical taste, and our band has seemingly gone in that direction. We rarely listen to super brutal, technical stuff anymore so I don't think those elements are as present on Board Up The House as it was on previous records. Also, despite living in the age of the mp3, we were consumed by the idea of making a fluid, complete record, so songs that we thought we had finished had to later be tweaked and rewritten to better fit into the bigger picture.

Since Genghis Tron use such a variety of musical styles in your music, are you ever tempted to just go in one of those directions as a challenge and/or experiment? Like, say, a full-on ambient record? Or! Do you find mashing all of that up into Genghis Tron relieves your wandering interests?
It's never really that much of an issue for us. We have so many different opportunities to exorcise our genre demons (i.e. through remixes we do for other bands), that when it comes time to write a Genghis Tron record, we're comfortable approaching it the right way. We also know that by definition Genghis Tron is about exploring any type of sound we feel like without it sticking out on a record - I'd like to think songs like "Recursion" or "Relief" are pretty straight-forward and a different direction for us but they don't sound out of place on Board Up The House.

Are there things you guys try, or different types of genres you try and incorporate that just don't work?
There are a ton of bad songwriting choices that never see the light of day, but as far as genres go, we don't sit around thinking about what wacky shit we could slap together. It might sound crazy coming from this band, but since Cloak of Love we've never thought about incorporating different genres into our music. We're just writing the stuff that comes naturally to us and I'd like to think that we're approaching a sound that isn't just a bunch of disjunctive sounds mashed together.

Do you find your music appeals to more of a broader listenership, than say some of the metal bands you tour with? And is it of any importance to you to find fans outside of the metal/hardcore scenes?
Yeah, I think it definitely appeals to a broader listenership than some of the metal bands we tour with. The fact that we've been able to play shows with anyone from High Places to Napalm Death and not feel out of place on either show is incredible. However, there's still plenty of abrasive stuff going on in our music and that gives us somewhat of a ceiling in terms of who we can appeal to. Some people just don't want screaming and blast beats in their music, and that's understandable.

I'm curious about the remix EPs. Were those an afterthought? Or were you preparing for the album to be remixed?
We had always wanted to do a big project like this, but it didn't affect how we wrote the record. A month or two after Board Up The House was written we started brainstorming about artists we'd be want to remix the new record. We got in touch with over 30 different people and the vast majority wanted to do it. It was completely unexpected and awesome.

What made you decide to release the EPs through five different labels?
We had such a plethora of different types of artist artists involved that we felt it could be cool to split up the remixes amongst some genre-specific labels. We ended up being able to work with Temporary Residence and Anticon - two labels that we deeply respect and were humbled to get involved in the project. Also, every record geek like myself loves the idea of a record series and hunting down a complete set. We wanted to throw the dweebs a bone.

Will we ever see a proper compilation of them, or at least an edited remixed full-length?
We're trying to get that together as we speak. Hopefully something will come out in 2009!

I loved hearing a fellow Canadian CFCF (whose new EP is fantastic) turn "Recursion" into an electro-disco tune. Was it your hope that the artists that remixed Board Up the House would do so to the point where the songs were no longer yours?
If that's what they wanted to do, then yeah. We really just wanted the artists to take pieces of our music and do what they wanted. In my opinion, the only qualifier for a good remix is one where it's clearly a product of the remixer that incorporates something from the original song. It's a broad definition, I know... but we're generally pretty easy to please when it comes to this.

Is remixing something you guys enjoy yourself? Do you use a similar approach to it as you do to writing your own music?
Yeah, we do enjoy remixing other bands. Recently we've done ones for Subtle and Restiform Bodies. It's a lot easier than having to write something from scratch, because you're writing with finished components that already sound good. When we write our own music it's almost entirely from scratch. We have to tweak the samples, write endless melodies, piece it together, etc. It takes us a long, long time to write a song... whereas a remix usually comes together in a few weeks.

What do you see as the next step for the band? Have the remixes influenced what you hope to do with the follow-up album?
It was inspiring to see our music interpreted in so many different ways. I wouldn't be surprised if that further opened the doors to what kind of sounds we incorporate into the band. We've never had any self-imposed limits on what kind of music we make, but I feel this next record is going to be exponentially more "out there” and open-ended than anything we've done before. We're fucking stoked.