JP Anderson is the workhorse frontman of Rabbit Junk and formerly The Shizit, two of the underground industrial scene’s most celebrated acts. More than 10 years into his RJ career, the group is planning to release its latest genre defying EP, “Beast”, later this autumn. I spoke to JP about the new EP as well as his many side projects and how he’s been able to continue releasing so much music all this time.
Rabbit Junk’s not a band known for resting on its laurels and is constantly looking for new genre mashups. After “This Life Is Where You Get F__ked” and “Project Nonagon”, which went in more guitar-driven directions, you decided to go into an altogether more electronic area with subsequent singles and EPs, more akin to RJ’s early output. Will “Beast”, the new EP, be a continuation of the past few years?
JP: Last year I released the Pop That Pretty Thirty EP; the release of that EP felt like both a new era for Rabbit Junk and a return to some of my more electronic influences. Some of this was driven by changes to my little home studio – I decided to commit to 100% electronics for percussion. But I also was emerging from what I see as a 5 year personal slump that followed the release of This Life and Project Nonagon on Full Effect Records. Full Effect was a huge disappointment and the months following signing with them were demoralizing to say the least. This is not to say that they did anything wrong – at least not on purpose. The issue with Full Effect was more about how labels tend to unintentionally create a barrier between bands and fans by wrestling control of brand image, marketing, and distribution away from bands. When I was working with Full Effect I just felt isolated – without direct fan support I felt really low. They also made a series of bone-head marketing moves that made me feel idiotic – no need for details, but it just wasn’t a good match. I drifted away and decided to start releasing stuff on my own again. I was releasing singles like Bubble and Lucid Summations just to keep the project on life-support in my own heart. Then I very randomly produced up Break Shins to This and snapped out of whatever gloomy place I was in. One comment on the YouTube video was “that’s the spirit!” They were right, and that spirit comes from hard and heavy electronic music that makes you wanna dance and fight and fuck – sometimes all at once. So the forthcoming Beast EP, while exploring new territory as always, is grounded in 30 years of electronic music culture. However, the guitar is very prominent on this EP as well so expect some serious chuggery along with the electro-thuggery!
There are very few musicians who take on so many contrasting styles at once. What drives your ever-expanding output and desire to try new things?
JP: Writing solely within a “metal” or “Industrial” framework is miserably confining – I never experience an emotional state that can be easily satisfied by the output of a single genre. I make music for those who feel the same. I’m also deeply critical of segregation, be it racial, economic, or gender based. The pop music landscape mirrors the various manifestations of segregation that we experience daily in the midst of modern life; I think music tends to be thoroughly racialized, gendered, and classed. This can make music feel like a symbolic territory which is regularly policed by the listeners themselves. There is much talk about whether some band is “truly” metal or what inane subgenre of dance music best describes this or that producer. Many people engage in a continuous analysis of whether a band is “authentic” or whether a particular artist is “believable” when expressing certain sounds and ideas. This constitutes a sort of political correctness of music, an urge to police music genres and ensure that the status quo is not being disrupted by someone not following the rules – that’s all a genre really is: rules, rules of exclusion. Not everyone pays fealty to these rules, certainly not Rabbit Junk fans who are an unusually open minded bunch. Some may argue that categories are necessary to make sense of such a purportedly varied pop music scene. This likely true to a point. However, others, including myself, argue that rigid, self-enforced categorization and segregation of music is likely the product of a rigidly categorized and segregated society. Such societies are neither truly democratic nor free as far as I can tell. So make music you fucking like, yeah! No “should”. And if that means crossing some genre boundaries, so be it! If that means mixing it up, do it! Segregated, hyper-categorized music is not a neutral, apolitical development of the “market” i.e. consumer demand. I think it’s worth considering where we learn what belongs and what doesn’t and whether we are willing to accept these boundaries as they are given. I am committed to being a music producer who does not automatically respect the boundaries drawn before me. I urge others to do the same. I also respect those working within a single genre to delve deeper into its mysteries – this can move genres forward. But let’s not be mindless rule-followers and genre police!
Aside from Rabbit Junk, you also record with several side projects (The Named, Wolves Under Sail and Fighting Ice With Iron) as well as studying politics in college. How do you find the time for all these different projects?
JP: I’m a graduate student of American Politics, Political Theory, and Public Law and the University of Washington in Seattle and am working towards a Ph.D. I teach Political Science as part of my studies as well. I’m very much into – big surprise – interdisciplinary study. I also have two kids. And some chickens and a bunny and a cat. And an awesome wife (Sum Grrl) – not like I do all this on my own. But I make a lot of sacrifices to keep putting out music; I spend a lot of time cooped up in my studio and sometimes I really question this nose-to-the-grindstone life I have set up for myself. I love making music. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy every second of the process. A single track is hours upon hours of tedious work in front of a computer monitor during my “off” time. I brutalize my mind making this stuff. Yet I keep on doing it so I’m likely some combination of obsessed and insane.
Can we expect any new released from these acts in the near future? How likely is it that we can expect live shows from any of these side projects?
JP: I doubt there is going to be a live Named show, but I have done Named tracks during Rabbit Junk shows. As for WUS and FIWI, I have plans to record new EP’s for both but no solid plans to tour as either. A WUS show would be amazingly fun but it would require a pretty heavy duty band, at least 5 or 6 people doing all manner of things. We’ll see.
Has your politics course affected your lyrical output? ‘Discipline’, the track you recorded for The Named’s self-titled remaster, was inspired by the writings of Foucault, for example.
JP: Hehe, well I was having to write a 50 page essay on Foucault and also really wanting to do another The Named single when I figured “why not multi-task?” The lyrics of Discipline are directly inspired by Foucault’s Discipline and Punish as I was having to read the book anyway. I’ve always been interested in politics – specifically the study of power – and my first band The Shizit was very political. With Rabbit Junk though, I’m less interested in obvious, soap-box politics and more into nuance. Pop That Pretty Thirty is a very political song for instance, and also influenced by Foucault, but hopefully not in a heavy handed way. Foucault is just so fucking metal! I think all heavy bands might owe him a debt. He is the Meshuggah of Political Theory.
It’s now been 5 years since your last full length album. Do you prefer extended plays to the full length format? Phil Anselmo once stated that Down were no longer to record albums due to the amount of filler he has to produce for each one, where as EPs give him more freedom. Do you feel the same way?
JP: For me the full-length album is dead and short albums rule. There are many reasons for this, but first and foremost, with my busy schedule that is really all I can do at the moment. I think the fans would rather have a few tracks every few months than 1 album every two years. Plus my plan is to release about two EP’s a year for the next few years, which is like releasing a full-length every year – but it’s just more manageable. EP’s also work better for the pay-what-you-want model, which is how Glitch Mode Recordings works: all releases are free but you can pay if you feel it is warranted. We don’t believe in barriers. Also, I think Mr. Anselmo is right, EP’s do feel more “free” in that you are only committed to 5 or so tracks and don’t feel pressure to create a unified sound across 10. Maybe this allows for a faster evolution of a band’s sound? BTW, when I was 14, Phil signed my forehead (in Sharpy! Took a few days to rub off hahah) and Dimebag (RIP, brother) signed a guitar strap that I still use to this day. I was a huge Pantera fan when I was a kid.
All of your EPs have been released through Glitch Mode Recordings, run by the boys in Cyanotic. Some fans have accused the association of affecting your own sound, but how would you react to those critics?
JP: Glitch Mode, which is not a label but rather a collective, is run by Sean Payne and he is one of my oldest and dearest friends. My friends influence my music. So do my enemies. But any shitty production or writing decisions I make are mine own alone and I bare full responsibility. Sean doesn’t call any shots or pressure me to sound a certain way. I call on him to help when my ears are fried or when I have run out of steam. He is always there for me. My sound is going to constantly change because I myself am going to constantly change. I am not the same person who made Reframe back in 2006 and I don’t know who I’m going to be exactly in 2016 – a lot can happen between now and then. That sort of unpredictability is what makes life worth living, for me at least. Inevitably some people are not going to like new material. Likewise some people are not going to like old material. You can’t be a people pleaser – it’s impossible so don’t bother. I would say don’t be nostalgic about Rabbit Junk – it’s all a constant experiment. I have no idea what is going to happen when I start recording. It’s all far less intentional than you might think. If you don’t like an EP give the next one a chance because no one knows, not even me, what it’s going to sound like. That’s maybe why I keep putting ‘em out – I’m just curious!
Heading back to “Beast” and very little is still known about the release. Anticipation for the record is very high, so is there anything you can reveal to us about what we can expect later this fall?
JP: How about a track listing!?
- Fffriends (Yes that is three “F”’s)
- Dig Dug has a Posse
- Blue Slush
Are there any plans in the works to tour in support of “Beast”?
JP: We play Cold Waves IV in Chicago, September 24th 2015. Beyond that nothing firm is set, but keep a look out. We want to play in the UK again soon!!
Lastly, as it’s near the end of the year, we at RockSins traditionally like to ask our interviewees what particular albums they would highlight as the best of 2015. What artists/albums have caught your eye this year?
JP: I think Cyanotic’s Worst Case Scenario Vol. 1 was a stand out for industrial of ’15: really a fantastically brooding record that captures the hopeless austerity of Chicago’s frozen streets and how one must retreat into media-driven fantasy in order to survive the withering drudgery of wage-slavery.
Wolfgun – Road to Jupiter: This totally caught me off guard. Wolfgun does epic, very 80’s inspired, sort of video-game or film soundtrack influenced vocal electronic music. It’s cheesy in all the best ways. This is the sound of someone being totally true to themselves.
Skinny Girl Diet – All I want to say is…more please. It’s stripped down, lo-fi grrl punk that oozes…something I want more of – worth checking out if you’re feeling tired of big production glitz.
Thanks for the interview. Anything else you’d like to add for readers?
JP: Thanks for reading! Thanks to RockSins for letting me mouth off! The Beast is coming and it’s going to pound your fuckin’ earholes! In the mean time you can download Pop That Pretty Thirty, Invasion, The Named, Rabbit Junk Live 2014, all for free @ https://glitchmoderecordings.bandcamp.com/