Just over a year ago, Ghengis Tron blew our minds with news that after a decade of radio silence, they’d be releasing a new album. The announcement put us on high alert, because even though lead single and title track “Dream Weapon” gave off zero indication that the band would be dropping another electronic mathcore jazzterpiece, it did hint at something far more significant for Genghis Tron: an evolution.
However, the new direction for the band wasn’t the only thing that had us swooning. This time around, founding members Michael Sochynsky and Hamilton Jordan were to be joined by Nick Yacyshyn of Baptists on drums and Tony Wolski of The Armed on vocals, by virtue of suggestion from punk production legend Kurt Ballou. Although the absence of former vocalist Mookie Singerman still stung for a few bewildered fans, these additions proved to be dream come true when it came to the new album.
Now, we’ve made a fair amount of noise about Dream Weapon. It was on our shortlist for greatest releases of 2021. “Pyrocene” was our most streamed track of the entire year. Just a couple months ago, we geeked out with Zach Weeks about how ‘under a microscope’ the sessions for the album were. Truth be told, my fiancé even looked high and low for one of those splatter-edition vinyls for the album, but ended up getting me a very cool mint one instead for Christmas. It’s still wrapped in plastic.
Ultimately, what we’re trying to say here, is that after all this blabbing about, we decided to go directly to the source with some of our greatest questions about the album. After playing phone tag for nearly a month, we finally carved out some time with Hamilton Jordan, and we’re honored to present this chat here with him. We sincerely hope you find as many revelations in it as we did. Enjoy!
FB: I might be able to hear you a little better if I… let’s do a quick test. Tell me what you had for breakfast, if anything?
Hamilton: I had a glass of fresh made juice that my wife made that’s really delicious, a piece of toast, and a scrambled egg.
FB: Oh, wow, okay. First of all it sounds good, but also, that sounds good!
Hamilton: (laughs) Good, glad you can hear me okay. And thanks for being flexible with having to push this back a couple times.
FB: Oh, of course! I’m sure you’re very busy. But let’s just get right into it, just in case you get a call or something, we’ll get most of this done. So let’s talk a little bit about the band for a little bit. So you took ten years off. When you get back together from the hiatus, it would be expected that there’s a warmup period. What would you say was the most challenging part of you and Michael starting to make music again?
Hamilton: I think it was crossing the threshold from pooling together ideas we liked into the zone of writing full-fledged songs. Because over those ten years, Michael and I were always exchanging ideas, even if it was very infrequently. We would have dry spells where one of us would Goa year or two without sending anything, but we were always thinking about the next LP somewhere in the back of our minds. So over those ten years, we did send each other a fair number of ideas back and forth, but it wasn’t until Fall of 2018 that we sat down and said “let’s actually write a song.”
It wasn’t like we were writing songs and tossing them aside because we didn’t like them, literally ten years had passed without putting together a full song. And at first, I had to ask myself “do I still know how to do this? Do I know how to make a song that I like?” Coming up with a drum beat you like, or a riff or melody, that’s one thing, but putting together a whole song that’s compelling, that was something that we were definitely rusty on. That was the biggest challenge at the outset.
FB: I’m glad you guys were exchanging ideas, we’re gonna circle back around to that in a little bit, because I read a couple interviews you guys did for the album, and it seemed like you knew some of those ideas were going to stick, right?
Hamilton: Yeah, definitely. There are segments of Dream Weapon, the album and the song, that are quite old. Little pieces of riffs and drumbeats stretch back as far as 2008, just after Board Up the House came out. If five, six, or seven years pass, and we both still really like a melody or riff, that’s a pretty good indication for us that it’s gonna have longer term staying power and that it’s something we really want to make into a song. I’d say maybe 10%, or even 15% or 20% of the stuff on Dream Weapon has roots from years ago. But most of it was written in 2019 and 2020.
FB: Seems like it all happened really fast then!
Hamilton: Yeah, for better or worse, our process can be really deadline driven. A big turning point was my moving from the west coast in California to Michigan in late 2018, and that put me a lot closer to Michael, who is in New York. Once we had the beginning of two songs that we felt good about, then we said “let’s do this, and let’s set a timeline.” It was sort of now or never. Life was getting in the way, and now that we have this bit of momentum, we have to do it now, or we run the risk of it never happening. Once we got into that mode, and we realized we have to write songs and record an album… things moved more rapidly.
It still feels like it took forever because we spent forever writing, and we, came out of it with only six songs, but that’s par for the course for us. Even in the Board Up the House days, it would take us a really long time to put everything together. The difference now is we have families, jobs… Board Up the House was just Michael, Mookie, and I literally living in the same house, working side jobs but really trying to do Genghis Tron full time, writing every day for months on end. When you’re all together, and all you’re doing is writing, things move faster than when you’ve got other stuff going on.
FB: Sure, that’s very true. I also live far away from my band at the moment, and I definitely know how even just missing one member can jam things up. So I imagine having all your members in different places is a process that takes a long time to hone?
Hamilton: Yeah writing long distance, as it sounds like you know, is definitely a challenge. We made a point to see each other a couple times a year, just because there is something nice that happens when you’re in the same room even if it’s just two or three days. But yeah we’ve definitely got used to writing things remotely, and sending things back and forth over the internet… I just said the internet, as if there’s any question of how to send demos back and forth! (laughs)
FB: I mean, maybe I’d believe you if you said you’d used a telegraph or something.
Hamilton: I could be burning CD-R’s and dropping them into the mail! That was what we did for Kurt back in 2005 when we were prepping to record Dead Mountain Mouth. We just cold mailed him, I don’t think we’d met him before, we sent him a little letter with the previous EP and a couple demos from Dead Mountain Mouth, and asked if he’d be interested in working with us. So there was a time when I was burning CD-Rs for demos, but it’s been a minute! (laughs)
FB: Well, it sounds like it worked, you got pretty lucky! I mean how many times have you seen “we absolutely don’t accept demos” or “don’t send us CD’s, links, mp3’s…” you know. So it’s sweet you got in there!
Hamilton: We’ve had a lot of luck. Any measure of success involves some amount of luck, but even with the label that put out our first EP, Crucial Blast Records, same thing. We sent them a demo in a package, asked if they’d be interested… two weeks later he called and said “yeah, let’s do it!”
FB: It was an easy sell though, I mean it’s weird to say, but it’s such an addictive, crazy sound. Your first few records really speak to people with ADHD I feel. I can say it as someone who definitely has it (laughs) but I think people who can tap into heavy music, or hyper IDM, there are moments for freaks on both sides, and it makes those first few records so… you know. We don’t have to spend too much time kissing your ass but yeah, they’re a really great time, I still really enjoy them.
Hamilton: Thanks man, I appreciate that. it’s fun looking back and thinking about where we were during those years. I don’t want to date myself but yeah, I’m just old enough to grow up in a time just before everyone was getting all the music for free off the internet, and the world was a little smaller then, musically. When I moved from Georgia up to New York to go to college, I met Michael my first week or two of college. I’d literally never met anyone who listened to on one hand Cryptopsy, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Nine Inch Nails and on the other hand was into Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, and Autechre. I was so shocked a person like this even existed. So we had so much fun very literally making music that was a combination of all the things that we loved. Now it’s more common for people to be into different stuff, which is great, and I don’t think I’m articulating this very well, but I’m just remembering how special it was to make a friend, and eventually collaborator, who shared so many of my reference points, and reflecting that in the band was so fun for us.
FB: That’s always a great moment when you have that chemistry, where you have the same musical touchstones, and you don’t have to explain this album-to-album sequence in your mind, because you know they already understand. Was there anything that he introduced you to?
Hamilton: That’s a great question, and I know there is… He definitely had, and still has, a much broader
knowledge of electronic music. I think while I was familiar with Autechre, as an example, Michael was really into them and turned me onto albums of their I wasn’t really familiar with. He was also really into Coil, and just has a broad familiarity of industrial music. I liked Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, but Michael turned me on to bands like Skinny Puppy and Front 242. When he was in high school, he was doing a lot of doing, and was exposed to a lot of electronic music, particularly dance music.
FB: That’s rad, I didn’t know that! So even back then, were you guys experimenting with any ideas that informed this more progressive, psychedelic turn you’re exploring these days?
Hamilton:That’s a good question… I don’t remember thinking or talking about where the music would go several albums down the road, or even any further than what our songs were sounding like. But I can say, I personally see connections in the composition choices we made, as far back as Dead Mountain Mouth. It’s harder for me to see on Cloak of Love, which I still have a fondness for and has some cool parts on it. “Arms” is a really good song, “Ride the Steam Bolt” too, it’s just interesting as the years pass.
FB: You’re like, “what was I thinking?!”
Hamilton: Yeah, I do have that thought! (laughs) I listen to some songs on Cloak of Love and Dead Mountain Mouth where I’m like… “what the fuck was that?” But I don’t have any regrets, that’s just not where my head is at. I feel that way about some songs, but others, I’m like “yeah, this still rules.”
Even on the song “Dead Mountain Mouth” is really repetitive, there are a lot of iterations of the same riff, and then this part in the middle without drums that’s just two synthesizers and a guitar interlocking this pattern and melody trading off between left, center, and right channels. We definitely wanted to create a psychedelic vibe with that moment of that song. There are a couple other parts on the album that are a little repetitive, so even back as far as 2005 we were giving into that… have you heard the band Oneida? They’re a three piece from New York, and have this song called “Sheets of Easter” that’s just super repetitive, like extremely repetitive. Check it out, you’ll lose track of time and space. We always got such a kick out of it, and we’d listen to that and other stuff they did and other songs in that repetitive space, so we were getting into it a long time ago.
Now that I’m talking about it, earlier you mentioned Terry Riley, and I know Michael is super into Terry Riley and was definitely thinking of him when he wrote “Ergot,” track 10 on Board Up the House. It’s like the intro to the last song, “Relief.” And since I was in high school, I’ve been a huge Philip Glass fan, and way into the way he comes up with these beautiful, cyclical melodies that expand and contract and create a hypnotic state. There’s a guitar part in the middle of “Arms” from Cloak of Love, that’s this guitar tapping part towards the end, and I remember when I wrote it, I wrote the melody really slowly at first, and I basically was just trying to do something that sounded like Philip Glass, then just sped it up a lot!
So the songs on Cloak of Love don’t preview or predict where we are now, when I really think about it, which I haven’t done in a really long time, I realize that some of those same influences that make repetitive, psychedelic music attractive to me now, some of those influences are part of what I listened to twenty years ago. It just took a long time to surface.
FB: It’s interesting, it speaks in a way to the same mindset, but maybe approaching it with a different solution. Like when you’re scattered mentally or have a lot of ideas at the same time, you can embrace it full on and have a million different parts, or you can use the same flow or energy to try to maintain. It’s like a willpower thing, like a mantra that gets more powerful as time goes on.
Hamilton: Yeah that’s a good way of putting it, that’s interesting. Michael and I both like repetitive, trance inducing music, and at the same time it’s not to say that’s where we will always be or continue to do next. While I love that stuff, what’s most important is song structure, and having something compelling. That was definitely a balance for us. If you have a riff or part that you love and it makes sense to sit in it for several minutes, that instinct can feel good, but at the same time, it’s pretty easy to get too indulgent. It’s sort of cliche, but like a lot of times in a jam band, the people having the most fun in the room is the band themselves. You can make that joke about some noise musicians as well! (laughs) It’s one thing to do your own noise show, it’s another to watch someone else’s. It feels the same way when writing music that’s outwardly repetitive.
It can be fun to sit and play the same riff for four minutes, but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna make a good song. We definitely had to reign it in at some points. We still ended up with long songs that had some repetitive moments, but if you can believe it, some of the demos were several minutes longer. That’s when Nic and Tony both were really awesome collaborators in the album writing process because they’d put fresh ears to a song that Michael and I had been working on for a year or two, tell us what they like, but also ask important questions like “do we need to repeat this part twelve times? can’t we just do it eight?”
FB: Having someone to help you trim the fat is always good! So all of that considered, would you say the creative process of Dream Weapon being more progressive and clean was a conscious decision, or realization that happened over time?
Hamilton: It definitely happened over time. It sort of revealed itself to us. We didn’t go into the writing process with a mission statement of how we wanted it to sound, it was after we put together a couple demos, like three or four songs, even though they were incomplete, we had these skeletons of the album and it became apparent to us that this is a warmer vibe, not as outwardly heavy, at least in an abrasive sense, it’s not going to be chaotic… even when it came to working on vocals. We experimented with more progressive screaming vocals at first, but we all agreed it just didn’t really fit. Even on that front, for several years, Michael and I both were wondering if that would make sense with where we figured the album might go, just knowing we wanted to do something more hypnotic and create more of an inviting world. But definitely was a process. We had some vague ideas of how it would come together, and as it came together, the album vision became more clear. If that makes sense.
FB: Yeah, sure! It sounds like it’s really sort of a subconscious bubbling up between you two, like “it’s on the surface now, let’s just embrace what we’ve already built towards.”
Hamilton: Yes! (laughs) You’ve expressed it very well in ten seconds what I just struggled with for a couple full minutes.
FB: I’m just here to put in the blurbs! (laughs) I think people are honestly interested in that kind of stuff, I know I’ve been pretty curious about the smaller details for a while. To both my fiance and I, it just has this really big, strange place in our hearts.
Hamilton: Thank you man, I’m glad it means something to both of you, and congrats on getting engaged!
FB: Thank you! Yeah we both worked at Zion National Park last year, and crazy stuff would happen there (flash floods, heatstrokes, landslides, bugs the size of your head) and Dream Weapon made for a perfect soundtrack. Whenever a track from that album would come on in the commute, we’d just put the whole thing on.
Hamilton: That’s awesome!
FB: That was my most listened track of last year, it’s some disgustingly high number.
Hamilton: (laughs) Wait, what song was it?
FB: It was “Pyrocene.”
Hamilton: Nice, awesome. “Pyrocene” is the first song we finished back to front… wait, why’d I say back to front, front to back! The first true complete demo we had was that song.
FB: Interesting. I’m glad you mentioned that because my next question is kind of similar. For a lot of the Genghis Tron discography, the songs go into each other, it’s pretty orchestrated when it comes to sequencing. Is that something you think of when you’re writing the album, or something that happens in the studio?
Hamilton: I think this has been the case for every album, I can’t say 100%, but certainly Dream Weapon, we had the sequencing down long before we entered the studio. It’s definitely something we think about in the songwriting process, having a complete, cohesive sounding album is something that’s really important to us. It’s something we’ve viewed as important since the first album, but between Dead Mountain Mouth and Board Up the House, we put a lot more thought into it with Board Up the House. It’s a huge part of the songwriting process, to the point where, earlier, I alluded earlier to how once we had three or four demos, we started to understand what the album was, and could say “okay we have these songs, what else does the album need?” Trying to balance it out, think of a flow, sequencing… yeah. We tend to think of sequencing before writing the final songs of the album, we try to write final songs to fill in the needs we think the album has. So we think about it both in terms of what’s going to make for a balanced album that feels right together, and in terms of of what’s going to sound right coming out of the song that’s just finished.
FB: Okay, wow. That’s a classic DJ skill, like “how is this going to fade…”
Hamilton: Oh yeah, that’s interesting, I’ve never thought about it that way. Without talking to him about it, I’m sure that his DJ history probably inform’s Michael’s thinking about the sequencing.
FB: It’s like putting together a mixtape. The album came out April, last year, right?
Hamilton: Yeah, late March of ’21.
FB: What a good time for new music. So a few months ago, I spoke to Zach Weeks about the production he had a hand in for the album, and he described the sessions as “under a microscope.” Was it sequencing that you guys were thinking about? What were the most important things from those demos you needed to make it through the studio?
Hamilton: You know, we went into the studio with all the synth tracks finalized, so Michael recorded all the synths at home. The main purpose of the time at God City was to A, to record guitars and bass, and B, mix the drums and vocals and everything else. As far as the “under the microscope thing,” we spend a lot of time mixing, more than most bands I think. I think we spent ten long days mixing this album, and in that time there was a a lot of work put into what I want to call the vocabulary of sounds we were working with. We knew that the same drum tones and guitar tones for Board up the House weren’t going to fit these songs. It took a long time to come up with a drum mix and guitar tones that were appropriate, that were powerful and heavy, especially on the drum side. But not too abrasive.
It’s a warm sounding album and that was a purposeful choice, we didn’t want a lot of buzzy, high, ear piercing sounds to take you out of the moment. So there was just a lot of time that went into striking that balance, and having things be powerful and heavy in their own way, but clear and warm at the same time. We have a lot of tracks on our songs – there are some bands that have more, but some of these songs pushed a hundred tracks with tiny synth pieces or drum overdubs. Nick did a lot of incredible drum overdubs, the vocals can be super layered, and getting that balance is always a tough for us… We ended up being super happy with this mix, but it took a long time to get there. If I say we spent ten days mixing it, it might have actually been more, like eleven or twelve, but it wasn’t until we had two or three days left that we felt like the sound of the album as congealing in a way that we liked. There are so many directions you can take a mix. We definitely really carefully think through all of our choices. You might say, Zach might say, Nick or Tony might say that Michael and I overanalyze these things, but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Especially with twelve years between albums. We couldn’t know how anyone else would perviev this album, but we knew we really had to be happy with it. We put so much time into the writing process, and it was an intense studio session because we didn’t want to have to the experience of walking out of there with mixes we didn’t like or fell short of accomplishing our vision.
Thankfully that didn’t happen, Kurt and Zach are amazing to work with. They’re very patient with us and willing to try all sorts of different things. It was really cool as the true sound and identity of the album congealed in the mixing room, to get to the moment where both Kurt and Zach understand what we’re going for now, and why this one is a little different than what we’ve done before. In the end it was something we were all proud of, including Kurt, and it was super satisfying.
FB: You really couldn’t have picked a better team. Both Kurt and Zach are both specialized in their own ways – obviously Kurt is God City, but Zach is the perfect engineer for a place like that too, and to see those minds work with your minds, you’re all meticulous in different ways… it resulted in a really incredible mix when it comes to the drums, the synths, the layers between them with the vocals, it’s freaky. It’s some of the best drums sounds I’ve heard in years, the way they’re layered up and warm sounding, it’s… like Dave Grohl on crack.
Hamilton: (laughs) Well, first off thank you. I’m stoked to hear when someone appreciates the sound of the album as much as I do. I just have to give a shout out to Nick for being such an amazing drummer and all around musician to work with in person in the first place. And his friend JJ Heath up in Vancouver who recorded the drums – Nick couldn’t join us in Salem because of Covid, and what we thought was a terrible thing at first end up working out beautifully. He was able to get into the studio for five days, the most time Nic has ever spent, at the time, tracking drums for any one album. For him to have the flexibility to mess around with overdubs and extra takes give him some extra creative room. And then JJ and Nic together selecting drums, getting the right sounds and knowing what we were going for. We had a couple reference points, and one of them was Dave Grohl’s performance on the self titled Killing Joke album. Just totally killer sounding drums, check it out if you haven’t heard it. But we knew it was a very rhythmic album and we wanted the drums to be very front and center. And with the expert help of all these people who are way better musicians than Michael and I, I think we achieved that goal. (laughs)
FB: Was there any gear you ended up using for these sessions from before?
Hamilton: On the synth front, I don’t think, with maybe a couple exceptions, Michael didn’t use any of the same synths that he used on Board up the House. On the guitar front I haven’t bought a new guitar since before the Board Up the House days, so I’m literally using the same guitar. For the dirtier tones, I did use one of the same amplifiers I used for Board Up the House, which was the Diesel Herbert. I used that for every guitar track on Board up the House, and on this album I used it on couple tracks for heavy parts, but blended with a couple other amps as well. But I’m not a gear head, I just never got super into gear. Michael hasn’t either. Neither of us is super knowledgable about gear, despite us being very into tones and how the album sounds, we go into the studio of what we want, bu we have to rely on the expertise of people like Kurt and Zach to choose what amps and pedals or guitars and basses are best to achieve those sounds. We’re not precious about what gear we use, especially with this album. I wanted to be very open minded about what was best for each song, so I used lots of Kurts gear, he has so many great amps in the studio. We’d just try out different lineups for each part till we came up with something we were happy with.
FB: As surprising as that is, it’s refreshing.
Hamilton: Surprising that we’re not gear dudes?
FB: Yeah, it’s such technical sound, especially on Dead Mountain Mouth and Board Up the House where you’re like “this guy must have tweaked this thing for days to get this synthesizer sound” or get these drum sequences put up. But yeah, if you know your internal process, why complicate it. It’s cool your open to your songs like that.
Hamilton: I feel like writing a good song is already hard enough, and if I have all these gear options too, that just expands the range of choices and for me that can be an option paralysis problem. And like, you spoke to having ADHD earlier (laughs) and it’s an issue for me too, and for me it’s part of why I’ve never got super into understanding gear. I just don’t have the patience for it. It pushes my patience enough put a song together and get the guitar parts down. And Michael’s great with the synths that he has, he jokes he’s not a synth wizard, but at best a synth lord, and that I’m a synth… serf. I have one synthesize myself, and used it on one part of the album, but I really don’t know what I’m doing with synths. I can write melodies but I’m not good at coming up with good sounds. Michael on the other hand is great at coming up with synth sounds but he doesn’t have like, ten synths. For this album he relied entirely on two hardware synthesizers, and a couple soft synths that we work with in Ableton Live. For us it’s not about what we’re using it’s about how it sounds in the end.
FB: Was that synthesizer line you referred to of yours from “Alone in the Heart of Light?”
Hamilton: Oh! So the answer to that question is no, but I know what you’re talking about. That arpeggiated melody in “Alone in the Heart of Light” is one of the very first things I wrote for the album, and it was sort of the jumping off point. I brought that melody to Michael’s house the first time we hung out in person in a couple years, and we weren’t even planning to write music that weekend. I played it for him, he was into it, and we started putting chords on top of it, and after a couple hours we were like “holy shit, we’re writing a Genghis Tron song!”
But no, even for that, you’d laugh, I was using some terrible placeholders of synth from Ableton that sounded dinky, not good at all. It took us a quite a while to come up with a sound we were happy with for that melody. The one time I used my own synth for the album, I think was “Desert Stairs,” there’s a bass line in that where I use the synth, and maybe the bass line in the intro, “Exit Perfect Mind.” Point being, as far as sound design, I contributed one or two out of a hundred synth sounds on this album, that’s all Michael’s realm. I do write synth parts and melodies, I’m just not good at coming up with good sounds (laughs). Our initial demos require a lot of imagination, because we’ll be using sounds that are objectively terrible. Michael and I are used to being able to listen to the other person’s demos, and bring in the imagination to trust this good melody in an otherwise terrible sound will one day be majestic (laughs).
FB: I’d take someone that can do that over a technical wizard or shred any day. It’s better to have someone that can hear that “completeness” in the idea that you’re implying.
Hamilton: Totally, as much as I wish I had those skills, I just don’t. That’s part of coming of age as a songwriter, realizing where your strengths and weaknesses are. Some people can do everything, write amazing songs entirely on their own, perform all the parts, do a killer mixing job, all that, but I’m not Trent Reznor and neither is Michael. We each bring different stuff to the table that compliments what the other does, but we need the help and input of many skilled individuals to get to a place we’re truly happy with.
FB: Sure. So sort of in the same direction but a little more macro here, “Great Mother” is sort of this combination and reference to all these dynamics and parts within the album, at what point did that come together? Was it something you thought of first, or a longer song where in the end you thought you should split it up?
Hamilton: It’s interesting, as far as it referencing other parts of the album, the first thing that jumps out in my mind is how it concluded with the same synth part that opens the album. If you can believe this, when we first finished “Great Mother,” I didn’t even realize that’s what was happening. Or rather, we finished “Great Mother” before we’d written the intro, but Michael put “Exit Perfect Mind” together, and when he did I recognized the part right away, but it didn’t occur to me that’s how the album was both ending and beginning. As far as referencing other parts of the album, even though I’ve listened to it a ton, off the top of my head… I’m not making those connections right now.
FB: I didn’t write them down all the parts, but I remember thinking at least a couple times, “oh, that shows up here…” and I thought that might have been the point. But I don’t know!
Hamilton: I totally believe you, I just don’t even remember anymore! (laughs) Michael was consciously borrowing from “Great Mother” to write “Exit Perfect Mind,” but other than that I don’t know. If there are other connections, which I totally believe, they would definitely be subconscious.
FB: Maybe I’m making them up because I have problems!
Hamilton: (laughs) It definitely feels like out of all the song structures, “Great Mother” is the one that feels to me like older Genghis Tron. Certain parts repeat, but there’s more of a linear alignment, with part A, part B, part C, part D… over the course of the song it goes a lot of different places.
FB: I hadn’t thought about it like that, but that totally makes sense, especially compared to Board Up the House, that’s a logical sequence. So, if you can recall, what made you guys cover “Bad Penny” from Big Black?
Hamilton: (laughs) A couple things, actually. First, being a drum machine band ourselves, and admiring Big Black’s legacy as one of the first, if not the first, aggressive drum machine rock band. “Bad Penny” is maybe not even in my top three or five but it’s one of the catchier ones, and we played it for a whole year on tour. But also Mookie, our singer at the time, was a really big fan and liked that song in particular.
FB: Tastefully done, I’d say! I don’t know if this will be slightly deeper, or more boring for you. I know Tony did the majority of the lyrics on this record, did you guys have kind of a back and forth with that?
Hamilton: Yeah, we had this really interesting process where he would sing sounds, and some words, in the demos. He writes his vocals coming from a place of ‘what syllables and sounds work the best over these melodies?” So we’d be dealing with this half-english, some real words or phrases, but mostly sounds. That’s how he writes his vocal patterns at first. Then Michael, Tony, and I would listen, and suggest lyrics we thought would work with the cadence and rhythm of what he’d put there, then Tony would take Michael and I’d ideas, and come up with the master lyrics. So Tony wrote the lyrics with input from Michael and I based on melodies and rhythms he’d put together.
FB: Okay, so this next part shouldn’t feel too out of place then. In the fact that you guys were sort of taking turns driving that narrative, do you think that working as a complex civil litigator influenced you in any way?
Hamilton: (laughs) Thankfully, no. I mean, there are probably some parallels between being a lawyer and writing music in Genghis Tron, but not many! They’re both very time intensive and use a lot of brain power and can be all consuming, but I’m definitely pulling from different parts of myself.
FB: When you release an album, and you know the crowds are into it but it doesn’t change the output, the caps don’t change, you see the same people at shows… on a some level it can be distracting. Was that something that was frustrating for you guys at the time when you were like “we need to take a break?”
Hamilton: The mindset back in 2010 when we decided to take break didn’t have anything to do with our trajectory as a band. In fact one of the harder things about taking a break was turning down a couple things that would have far and away been the biggest tours we’d have been able to do, and playing in front of audiences that would have been new to us. It definitely took some resolve to sit with out decision to say no. I won’t say things were taking off, hardly, we were playing small venues still but things were picking up each tour and we were curious to see where it would head next. But that wasn’t really involved in our decision to take a break, just personal stuff and feeling burned out from touring. It was starting to feel like a job in a way I was uncomfortable with. we’d been doing it full time for several years so it was literally a job, but it started to feel like an obligation. I just wanted to take a break from all the driving around and work on something different. We all were more or less in agreement on that.
What’s weird is how long that next phase of life took. None of us would have anticipated it would take ten years, we also wouldn’t have anticipated that Mookie wouldn’t be involved. But to swing back around, I know Michael agrees, it would have been interesting to have stayed together and kept writing music. It’s an alternate universe that’s interesting to ponder, but a big advantage that came out of the long hiatus was as painful as it was to have this much time between albums, when we finally came back to the table, we’re at a point where Genghis Tron is never going to be a full time endeavor for us. It’s pure passion, and there are upsides and downsides to that. We can’t be on the road all the time, or getting together writing music every week, those are downsides. But the upside is because we’re not trying to make a living doing this, we’re not trying to blow up or achieve financial success, we’re very literally and purely doing only what we want to do. We only made this album for the personal satisfaction of writing songs together. Writing music with Michael and being in the studio, tracking stuff and coming up with a final mix, it’s one of my favorite things to do on Earth. Some of the greatest moments in my life have been finishing mixes in the studio and feeling the satisfaction of putting on headphones and listening and being like “wow, we created this world” So we’re doing it purely for the joy. Stepping away from the band as a career did have that really positive impact and purified the process for us. It made us feel free to write what we wanted for this album.
It’s been ten years, we knew maybe some people would remember Board Up the House or Genghis Tron, but for all we knew most everyone had moved on, so we felt extra liberated to just purely make the music we wanted to make. It’s nice to be able to have that separation between recording and what the expectations would be. Of course, when we finished the album, I actually started to think a lot more about “what are people actually going to think of this? Are people going to love it like I love it? Are they going to be disappointed?” There are people in both camps and plenty in between, I won’t sit here and pretend I don’t care what anyone thinks about what we do, but I can say it’s not part of the process of putting it together.
FB: It sounds like a healthy relationship.
Hamilton: Yeah, I think so. Of course you care how your work or art is going to be perceived, but I do think it’s less a factor for us now than it ever has been.
FB: You guys are all basically spread across America, right? Well, the same half of the US towards the East Coast, and also Canada?
Hamilton: Coincidentally, Tony and I are both in Detroit. Michael’s in New York, and Nick is the one that’s truly far away in Vancouver. But the rest of us are relatively close.
FB: Do you have any advice for bands in that situation, that are now in remote situations?
Hamilton: I can say from experience that, although it’s not necessary, I would encourage and say it’s useful to have time in a room together. If you can make that happen, it’s really great. Throughout this whole album creation process, there were maybe four or five times where Michael and I would get together for a weekend or a week and it would just accelerate things. You can write and finish an album with everyone completely remote and never seeing each other, but for us, I found those in person meetings super useful. We wouldn’t even realize it at the time, there was one time we spent a week together and came out of it with no new stuff, but in the week or two after that once we’d gone home, all of the failures of that one frustrating week together motivated us each to do all this new stuff that ended up really great. So even if it’s just four or five people spread out, and only one or two can get together, any fashion of the band working together on stuff is useful. That in-person chemistry yields different things.
But it’s definitely not necessary, it’s 2022, so I’ve been emailing, texting, and calling Nick Yacyshyn since three years ago, and I’ve still never met him. Same with Michael, Michael only met Tony after we finished the album. Tony was my friend before he joined the team for this album, but all the vocal work he did, none of it involved us being in the same room. I’d love to change that for the next album, but we don’t have any plans yet.
FB: There hasn’t been any shows in support of Dream Weapon, right?
That’s true – the last gig we played was in 2010 in Australia with Converge. We don’t currently have any shows booked, so I don’t have any breaking news on that front. I can’t even say if there will be any shows, but we would like for it to happen, we’re talking about it. We hope that it’ll happen. We’re actively thinking and talking about it, but it’s too soon to say.
FB: Of course, I remember you mentioning that if they were to happen, there were some production aspects you were looking forward to putting in on.
Hamilton: Yeah, if we’re gonna do live shows, we wanna do them right, and if we do the shows, there won’t be many. For the people who can come out to those shows we want to make it worth it. It’s like with the album, if we’re gonna come back and do another album we gotta be really proud of it and something we can really get behind. We don’t want to half-ass anything.
FB: Last but not least, have you had the Dream Weapon IPA and where can I get some?
Hamilton: No I have not! I think they sent some to Michael so I’ll get back to you on that. He’s the big IPA guy in the band. I’m a simpleton, and I’ll drink Miller Lite till I die. (laughs) I’d love to try the Dream Weapon IPA but even if it’s the best IPA ever created, I wouldn’t realize it.
FB: I undestand, they’re pretty heavy. I’m interested in trying the Dream Weapon because I always think of band beers as gimmicky, but I had the Deftones one a while ago, the Phantom Bride. They don’t all taste like that, it’s really good. So I’m trying to be open minded.
Hamilton: The company that made the IPA, True Brewing out of Denver, they’re totally awesome. I lived in Denver six or seven years ago, and I visited that brewery several times, and they had some awesome beers. But I don’t know a lot about beer, and it was a total shock when they, of all breweries, came out with a Genghis Tron beer. I’d like to try it some day!
More like Dream Interview, amiright? Big thanks again to Hamilton for his time and willingness to get weird with us! We learned quite a bit. Coming up we’ve got a surprise project from a cherished face in math rock, questions with POUND, and a fistful of surprise exclusives. Don’t forget to recaffeinate us here, or check out our existing compilations here while we slowly hack away at the next one. More on that soon! Thanks for reading – until next time!