INTERVIEW: Rabbit Junk – JP Anderson

INTERVIEW: Rabbit Junk - JP Anderson

Rob: Hi JP! It’s always great to talk with you, Today marks the official release day for your new album Apocalypse for Beginners. How has the day been for you so far?


JP: I woke up this morning and the album was #1 on bandcamp’s metal chart and #2 best selling album on the entire site. Meanwhile the album has already racked up 15k streams on Spotify. So this is without a doubt our most successful release yet. I’m walking on air!
And the day is not yet over!Rob: Wow! That’s incredible to have achieved that that quickly, congratulations!JP: Thank you! We’re very happy. Especially being a 100% indie band with zero label or media support. Just fans. No “taste makers” or influencers backing us, and still hitting hard.

Rob: It’s been really cool over the years that I’ve known you to watch your music take off the way it has, I’m not just saying this, Rabbit Junk really does get better with every release. Apocalypse for Beginners is incredible, what goes into writing and recording one of your albums?

JP: A lot of work haha! The process is mostly done solo. I’m vocals, guitar, drums, and all the production. Sum Grrrl and I collaborate on lyrics for the tracks she appears on. I record, mix, and master it all. The only aspect I contract out is the art. And typically I don’t have a lot of time to make a record. I had to make most of this record in a 6 week period during the summer. Luckily I have a job right now that provides summers off. I’m very fortunate that way.

Rob: To listen to the album you would never guess that it was recorded that quickly, these songs are very multilayered and have a huge sound.

JP: Thanks! My work flow gets very efficient once a few tracks are completed. It has to be. But I don’t sleep much while I’m constructing an album and I’m really beat up after it’s done.

Rob: Your music covers a pretty wide array of music styles, what music did you grow up listening to and what artists inspired you to become a musician?

JP: Yeah, I have odd music tastes. I’m a metal head who loves techno and it always made sense to me that they would go together. When I was a kid, 12 or so, I made mix tapes with Sepultura, NWA, NIN, and assorted dance tracks and it never even occurred to me that this was breaking some kinda rule. I think that the music biz has gone the same way and we now seem to live in an era where “genre” is increasingly unimportant.
As for as why I became a musician: I really needed a refuge from stress as a kid and making music provided that. I could retreat into my  own world and just be myself. It’s still that way!

Rob: I relate to that and one thing I actually admire about the younger generation is that musical clicks really aren’t a thing for them, they’re exposed to a lot of styles both new and old. Realistically musicians shouldn’t be categorized. As a musician who pulls from a vast array of influences do you find that concept useful, limiting, or a bit of both?

JP: Categories of any kind cut both ways. On the one hand, a category allows us to communicate a lot of information very efficiently. On the other, a category never describes an actual human life or human endeavor, so categories box us in to being less than we really are. Categories are dehumanizing; that’s the price paid for using a communication shortcut. I think the reasonable middle ground is to accept some degree of categorization but never let a category become an internalized identity.

Rob: I couldn’t agree more, I think that concept is the root of a lot of problems in our world.

JP: Agreed. Categories applied to our social world are a navigation device; they simplify a complex social world into manageable chunks of data. But they also impair our understanding of the social world and can mislead us. In terms of “genres” of music, these can too often become rules which limit creativity.
That said, I think the current generation doesn’t take genres very seriously. And I certainly never have. But…lol…imagine what happens when someone asks me “what kind of music do you make?”. To make life easier I just say “metal…kinda stuff” I don’t care how others categorize Rabbit Junk. What really matters is if I let some genre become a set of rules which hold me back.

Rob: Hahaha! Yeah, trying to describe your music in a review is complicated because you don’t really fully fit the label of industrial metal or digital hardcore, I think that is oversimplifying what you’ve done musically.


JP: I agree! But it can be a useful starting point for people unfamiliar with what we are doing. So I totally don’t mind being called “industrial metal”. Like I said, the danger of categories is when they start to structure our creativity and limit our work to what’s considered “normal” for that genre. Fuck normal.Rob: Exactly!Rob: I feel like the seeds for this band were in what you did with The Shizit, there’s a lot of musical parallels there but with Rabbit Junk you went way more musically diverse. Was that always the plan for this band or did it just naturally evolve that way for you?

JP: It was very intentional. The Shizit quickly became constraining because it’s “brand” was essentially political outrage. That focus was never going to allow me to really be myself. So I started Rabbit Junk with the full intention of making emotionally expansive music that wouldn’t be limited to merely being pissed off.

Rob: I think it’s fair to say a lot of people are curious about the answer to this question, How did you come up with the name of the band?

JP: I wanted a name that didn’t indicate any genre affiliation or really give us a sense of what someone might hear. I had seen the phrase “Rabbit Junk” in an anime during the 90’s and it had always stuck with me. A little more digging and I found the phrase in an anonymous beat poem published in a newspaper in the 1950’s. I’m pretty sure it’s a drug reference, but that’s not the meaning I intend. I decided to adopt the term as a moniker because it is odd and unique, and wouldn’t pigeon hole the new project. Honestly, I didn’t over think it. I just needed a name and went with it.

 

 

Rob: How did you and Sum Grrrl meet and how did Rabbit Junk first start?

JP: Sum Grrrl was the girlfriend of a guitarist I used to play with. This was before the Shizit. They broke up and we fell in love. We were very young, maybe 19. We got married when we were 20. Fast forward to 2003: I’m recording the first Rabbit Junk demos and I really wanted female shouts and “heys” in the tracks. I pulled my then wife into my little studio, put her in front of a mic and just said “yell go!”. I loved how she sounded. So I convinced her to be in the band. She had zero ambition to be in a band and agreed only if we basically kept her anonymous. We came up with the moniker “Sum Grrrl” as a sort of inside joke that the band had some some girl yelling in the background.

Rob: Hahaha! That’s awesome!

JP: She jokes that her vocals sound like a psychotic 10-year old. I love them (and her!).

Rob: Yeah, it’s not bad that I agree with her is it? Or an anime girl with attitude. But when she does songs like your cover of “the metro” by Berlin or “Rabbit out of hiding” I think she’s awesome in that new wave influenced style.

JP: I agree, Sum Grrrl adds a very special element. And it’s amazing how much she has developed as a vocalist and performer, especially considering that’s really not how she sees herself.

Rob: She’s definitely an essential piece to the band’s sound and it wouldn’t be the same without her.

JP: 100% agree. The only thing holding her back from being more present on recent albums is time. We both work two jobs, but one of mine is music. So she is really hard pressed to make time for the studio, which is very understandable.

Rob: Before I’d even heard the album I thought the title was very fitting for the current state of things in the world, The title track really delves into that topic. Can you tell us about what inspired the theme of Apocalypse for Beginners?

JP: It’s like, all of our current existential crises as a species are so damn obvious. It’s like we’re doing apocalypse with training wheels. We all see these things on the horizon but trudge ahead like we can do nothing to avoid them. It’s kinda amateurish lol. I imagine other intelligent life out in the universe crafting far more sophisticated ways of destroying themselves. Our species is definitely new to self-destruction hahaha

Rob: On a global scale I’d say that’s true, but then again humanity has always been its own worst enemy.

JP: Yeah but not like this. War and inequality are perennial to human “civilization”. But we only recently have the capacity to truly end ourselves because we remain committed to ideas that were relevant generations ago.
But what I’m talking about here is difficult to explain and time consuming. The album is not really attempting social commentary. I’m finding the title resonates with people almost intuitively. I’ll leave it that way for now.

Rob: It might surprise people that a recording artist doing this style of music is a teacher at a university. How do you balance being a teacher, a recording artist, and a family man?

JP: I’m still learning that balance.  I’m a faculty member at a research university, so this means I teach courses and also am responsible for producing original and impactful research. Honestly, the job really emphasizes research over teaching, and that’s a lot pressure. It’s pretty stressful to be making time for both music and teaching AND research AND my family. When I figure it out I’ll let you know haha!

Rob: it’s got to be a bit of an interesting balance because you have fans worldwide, you play festivals, and yet in the past we’ve talked and your students have no idea their teacher does this outside of school. Is that true still now that you teach in San Diego instead of Seattle? And Is it stabilizing for you to have that sort of difference in audience?

JP: Oh I definitely don’t tell my students about the music. Occasionally they find out and are very surprised. But they always have a positive response. I try to keep the two worlds separate but I’m realizing that this means I’m not being fully myself at work. I’m being “Professor Anderson” and it’s pretty alienating. Honestly this life is just one big work in progress and there is no “how to” manual for having two careers.

Rob: I can imagine! In a way you’re kind of similar to Indiana Jones, only instead of hunting for historical artifacts in your spare time you’re out there on stage tearing it up in front of industrial fans.

JP: Hahaha I guess it is a bit like that. But in all honesty it’s a struggle right now, and I hope it can get easier. I need some of that Harrison Ford energy.

Rob: “Nostromo” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, how much of that song is about Ridley Scott’s first Alien movie?

JP: I use the Nostromo as a metaphor. The track talks about sleep walking the deserted decks of a drifting Nostromo only half aware of being hunted by the Alien. The inflection point in the narrative is awakening from my sleep walk by a shadow cast across the floor and that moment in which I either freeze or run. As a metaphor, it describes living life on a sort of autopilot and realizing you’re trapped in this life with a monster. Who or what the monster is is left open to interpretation. Perhaps it’s inside or outside of us. I leave it up to the listener.

Rob: One of the most surprising curveballs I’ve heard in your music was utilizing the intro to “misirlou” by Dick Dale and His Del-Tones to help create the sound of “Bodies”, Did you get the idea for that while watching Pulp Fiction? It’s a really cool track.

JP: No, I was listening to old surf rock with my kid and realized that the classic surf sound would meld really well with d&b and punk. That’s not surprising really because punk and metal share some musical DNA with surf rock. So I came up with that surf riff and just built the track from there. It was an experiment. Not sure I totally pulled it off, so I may try again some day.

Rob: I definitely think you did a really cool hybrid of it, but Rabbit Junk style.

Rob: I love the cover art for this album! It’s like a nightmarish version of computer advertisements similar to what we had back in the 80s and 90s, who did the art this time around and how involved are you with that whole process?

JP: The art was done by The Iron Parasite, a very talented artist out of Ireland. I came up with the basic concept after deciding on the album title. It’s exactly as you describe: a play on those computer manuals from the 90’s.

Rob: Do you guys have any shows planned in support of this album?

JP: We’re very happy to be playing Dark Force Fest in April of ’23, which is happening in New Jersey. Beyond that we are still figuring out how more shows and some tours can fit in this crazy life we lead.

Rob: if you could be there for the recording of any album ever recorded, which one would you choose and why?

JP: Just one?! Oh c’mon, I dream of being that “fly on the wall” for so many albums and tracks. Almost all from the 1970’s, when the music business was a bloated money waster and studios were super lux and indulgent places. I would want to be witness to any recording by Led Zeppelin. Also, and this is gonna be a surprise, would love to see the Beegees record. They got such silky tones and were amazing musicians. But really there are so so many. I love studios.

Rob: good choices of bands!

Rob: What’s the meaning of life?

JP: Hahaha! That’s a brutal way to end an interview lol! Especially for someone who has absorbed a bit too much philosophy over years. I’m going to default to the nihilists as an easy way out. There is no meaning other than that which we create. The universe is bereft of objective truths and ultimately an absurd comedy in which we merely imagine the consciousness we experience. We are only temporarily animated dust, waiting to be returned to chaos. Hahaha

Rob: Brilliant Hahaha!

Rob: Thank you very much for your time and congratulations on a killer album!

JP: Thank you so much! Really enjoyed this!

Rob: I did as well!

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