Another interview this week – all coming at once, eh? This time, with a project from two veterans of the industrial scene, who burst out last year to great acclaim, and return very soon with a second album. That band is Cocksure, whose members have a long and storied history in the scene – Jason Novak with Acumen Nation, Acucrack, and of course the label Cracknation; and Chris Connelly’s work with Revolting Cocks, Ministry, The Damage Manual, his own solo work and other bands besides.
So, in the run-up to the album, their first UK shows next week, and of course Cold Waves next month, I spoke to both of them to see what’s going down.
amodelofcontrol.com: Chris, you’d been away from the industrial scene for a while (and indeed I was recently enjoying your book about your time with RevCo and Ministry the first time around) – what inspired you to return to this style of music?
Chris Connelly: The old “revolting cocks” died under a failing captain, I thought we could have gone on to grander, more hideous things, but it just kind of shriveled up like an old john’s dick….
“The old “revolting cocks” died under a failing captain, I thought we could have gone on to grander, more hideous things, but it just kind of shriveled up like an old john’s dick…”
amodelofcontrol.com: Jason, you’re juggling lots of projects at the moment (Cocksure, Czar, the Cold Waves festival, the occasional reunions of Acumen Nation) – how on earth do you find time for all of this?
Jason Novak: Ritalin… and coffee. It’s a pretty smashing couple months ahead, and the work put into going back to the Acumen vault to resurrect the whole first album’s worth of original backing tracks has been brutal, but it will all be over in an instant, and then you sit and cry! I’m a fortunate freelancer for work too, so odd hours can find anything squeezed into it I can.
amodelofcontrol.com: Cocksure comes across as picking up the baton from where the Revolting Cocks left off. Was this the intention for it to be interpreted as such?
Chris Connelly: Originally yes, unfinished business and all that.
amodelofcontrol.com: How’ve you found the reaction to Cocksure so far?
Chris Connelly: Great, no one in my family will fucking look at me, I have lost 5 jobs, so yeah, sweet…
Jason Novak: People seem happy to have something like it back. We’ve been focused on keeping a retro sound with a future mindset, and the old cowboy hat making an appearance once in a while doesn’t hurt. Not playing Wembley anytime soon, it’s still a fucking bottom feeder, but it’s proper!
amodelofcontrol.com: The new album includes an intriguing choice of cover – and I can’t wait to hear what on earth you’ve done to it – Harold and Cindy Hospital by Severed Heads. What made you pick that particular song?
Jason Novak: I’ve been in love with the Heads since the first time I heard Hot with Fleas at Medusas (iconic all-ages dance club in Chicago). Tom Ellard’s organic style of programming was a big influence on me, there’s always something alive sampled in his music, pulsing or warbling instead of just programmed beats and synths. Some of the melodies on early SH tracks are crushing, especially off Big Bigot and Rotund for Success, another important factor in my industrial upbringing. I’d been pursuing them for Cold Waves festival for a couple years, and once they let us put together the 7-city US run for them this September, it just clicked, and I told Chris we have to do this song. He thought the lyrics were completely mad and dove right in.
amodelofcontrol.com: In general, though, how do you think you’ve evolved the sound of Cocksure for the second album? Or have you purposely not evolved it and stuck with what works?
Jason Novak: The first album contained a pretty severe credo: it should sound like late 80’s industrial musicians woke up from a 25 year coma, with only the same creation tools… but perhaps with current production tools. There was winking about the Just One Fix style of drums on Guilt Speed and Carbon, maybe a little purposeful No Devotion in TKO Mindfuck. But with this record we felt like maybe our coma subjects were allowed to breathe a bit, experiment and take a darker, weirder turn in my opinion. I will say dealing with low-end has always been something for me to tackle with this project. Personally I love huge throbbing sub, but most old Cocks had very little sub bass, so it has always been something to keep in mind while mixing, this more mid-range kind of sound.
amodelofcontrol.com: Chris, there was a particular song on the first album that caught my attention – Ah Don’ Eat Meat, Bitch!. Presumably this is a reflection of your lifestyle choices being questioned, or is it more lighthearted than that?
Chris Connelly: Ha ha ha! No one questions my lifestyle choices because no one gives a shit, and they shouldn’t “Ah don’ eat meat bitch” is prison slang I learned inside during my “dark period” a couple of years ago, see if you can work that one out for yourself, sweetie.
amodelofcontrol.com: It seems to come across in some cases that the lyrical flow and rhythms are more important than the words themselves (very William Burroughs at points). What are the general inspirations for the songs?
Chris Connelly: On the new album? Drones, making porno’s with drones, weird Russian drugs made out of toilet cleaner, Lager, Lager, Lager, and, you know, the usual cast of Transvestite hookers, crappy serial killers, botched heists, and let’s not forget my man Duane Swierczynski’s book Severance Package he is simply the best writer out there, to me he writes the way Cocksure sounds.
amodelofcontrol.com: Cocksure seems to straddle the ever-narrowing chasm between industrial, rock and hip-hop – what bands would you say influenced the sound of the band?
Jason Novak: Late 80’s Acumen. Fucking serious! When I got my first sampler at 18, all I did was try to mimic Wax Trax! bands, even programming my way into a call from Jim Nash and a couple meetings with them. Anyway, all that material got shelved as we moved into more live drums and guitars. So when Chris proposed this project, I went straight to a dusty box of 25 year old floppy disks, fired up the Roland W30 and found massive inspiration. Special thanks: me. Ok and maybe Cabaret Voltaire, a little Consolidated, definitely Jack Dangers and Fear of a Black Fucking Planet.
amodelofcontrol.com: How is the Chicago scene nowadays? It seemed a fun place to be for a rivethead last year at Cold Waves – would you say the festival reflects the vibrancy of the scene in the city? I see also Neo has closed, although promising to move – do you see that as a problem?
Chris Connelly: I never go out and I hate talking to other musicians, I just start yawning and pretend to faint.
Jason Novak: As somebody somewhere once said… Where is the youth? If there are industrial bands in Chicago, they’re all much older. It’s a fucking shame, but any “scene” here is people enjoying the dance floor. Neo will keep that spirit alive wherever they go, but don’t get Chicago confused with LA, which is experiencing a nice revival of forward-thinking young innovators. Here there is much more “oh my aching fucking back… can you grab my MPC?”
amodelofcontrol.com: Jason, Cold Waves has a fascinating line-up this year, including a couple of bands who haven’t played in the US in a long, long while. Presumably you and David (Schock, WTII Records) are having fun subverting expectations and getting different bands onto the line-up?
Jason Novak: While I’ve been to, and enjoyed many other industrial-style festivals, I think we try to do stuff that is more sound and musical experience-oriented than perhaps dance floor oriented. I’ve never been into copycat or fashion-forward goth-industrial. Bands that play actual music or innovate with sound are fare more attractive to us vs. bands that press a button and growl. Moving forward I hope we have a chance to book more diverse acts, definitely more women, and bands you never thought you’d see again, all while keeping the cold waves spirit, and the Chicago vibe intact.
amodelofcontrol.com: You play your first shows in the UK in August (at Infest and then in London) – what can your UK fans expect?
Chris Connelly: I dunno, I have not been back in a while, is Thatcher still in power? MAGGIE MAGGIE MAGGIE!! OUT OUT OUT!!!!
amodelofcontrol.com: Chris, have you continued your own Solo work while Cocksure has been a going concern?
Chris Connelly: Yes, I do a lot of personality shifts, I like being in disguise.
amodelofcontrol.com: Jason, last year at Cold Waves the Acumen Nation show was a blast – and you and the band looked just as happy to be playing as the crowd were to see you. Did that show inspire the band to mark the twentieth anniversary of Tranmissions from Eville in the way that you are – and is there any chance of a remaster of the album?
Jason Novak: Last year felt good for sure. Weird still without Jamie, completely sad and surreal, but very bonding for my Acu brothers (and sisters, was a blast to have Kelly join us on stage for a bit!) and while we can’t demand an hour to play through the record at Cold Waves, we thought a more intimate event that was still tied to everything was in order. I can’t wait. Never thought I’d play some of these obscure tracks again, and now we have one more shot.