Jugem's Cloud: Infidel Interview #69
First off, just want to thank you for participating in this edition of Infidel Interviews. Could you start off by giving a little information about you to the audience? Whatever you feel comfortable with, but name, age, and where you live would be pretty standard?
Thank you for having us, and we appreciate your killer review of our debut album, Nature Vs Humans! Here’s the essentials: We are an electro-industrial three-piece band based out of Chicago’s northwest suburbs. The band was formed by Mark Lewandowski in the summer of 2010 as a side-project, with Rob Ludwin and Michael Lewandowski contributing and later joining as official members. We’ve always had a goal to produce solid, classic-style industrial with a modern edge and a focus on great songwriting. Since you are involved a musical collective, I wanna ask, how do you all manage to get together musically, and then continue to stay together on the same page? Has it been a journey of compromise or do you find that you work together fluidly? Would you say there has been any major obstacles working together?
We make sure to get together at least once a week, usually Thursday nights. It’s great to have an opportunity to get together after a long week and have a little fun, rehearse, record, and put together some incredible industrial music. During the rest of the week we are also constantly working on Jugem’s Cloud stuff whenever we can find time. Usually that involves songwriting, mixing, sampling and more. It can be tough, we all have full-time jobs and personal lives, but to me, it’s totally worth the sacrifice. We’re also really lucky because we grew-up together! Michael and I (Mark) are brothers, and our dad was best friends with Rob’s dad growing up. It’s weird how that worked out! We’ve known each other forever and have a really good friendship. We grew up listening to industrial and were inspired by the same music, sci-fi, and other media. We’ve had some rough patches along the way, but things have balanced out at this point and are looking up.
You had a debut album recently come out. You have obviously put a lot of time and effort into it. Is there anything in particular you want to say about your record? Was there any funny or unique stories you wish to share about it's inception?
Nature Vs Humans was a strange beast, but I think it turned out really well. As mentioned earlier, Jugem’s Cloud was originally just a side-project idea that I had formulated when I was fourteen. In my mid-twenties, I was playing bass in an alternative rock band in Chicago. Michael had been playing drums and percussion in various groups since he was 12. I always had a huge interest in industrial music, and had been writing stuff on my Korg Electribes and Alesis Micron on the side. In mid 2010, Rob and I purchased a Native Instruments Maschine, which became the backbone of Jugem’s Cloud music production. We decided to put together an official industrial music project, and I began spending all my free time working on it. I had a ton of music experience already, so segueing into electronic music fit like an old glove for me. A few months into the project, my alternative rock band had to break-up, so I decided to turn Jugem’s Cloud into my main focus. That’s when the real Jugem’s Cloud was born. While writing the songs for NvH, the studio was primitive but the songs felt right. It felt like these songs needed to be created; like it was meant to be. This feeling kept me chugging along night after night. The equipment improved and so did the production value. Rob and Mike starting showing up more and more, and began to collaborate. Eventually the idea for Nature Vs Humans manifested: the eternal struggle between mankind and the environment we live in. Nature always wins! Most of the songs follow in the motif of man’s struggles, especially key tracks like The Craftenstock Corporation. The song paints the bleak picture of a man working endlessly for a dark, heartless corporation, and how there is no way out. Sadly, many people in this world actually do live that reality. The album took about three years to complete, and another year before release because we got burned by a record label. We launched in on our own in 2014. What do you see in the near, and far, future for your creative output?
We’re really excited about the future! First off, we’re a solid, functioning band now. After Rob and Mike joined, we spent a tremendous amount of time honing our sound and our brand. Each member now has a designated position. Mark is the frontman/singer/guitarist/programmer, Rob sings on every song now, and is in charge of manipulating synths, and Mike runs the NI Maschine and records/plays samples. We’ve been working on our sophomore album The Factory Bloc for several years now, and the sound and songs will blow people away. Seriously. We’ve engineered this album from the ground up to have professional-level songwriting, better production value and equipment, and a more confident, in-your-face sound. We learned a lot from from the first album and now know what works and what doesn’t. It will be more mainstream, but still be completely kick-you-in-the-face industrial. Rob and I will be doing back-and-forth vocal duties, and there will be significantly more crushing guitar to back it up. The sound totally works, and is a huge step up for us in every way. We are hoping to release by the end of 2017 on vinyl and digital. What do you feel separates your music from the rest of the music in the Industrial music scene?
To us, it’s all in the songwriting, consistency, and putting together a great industrial groove. I want every song to be catchy, well-written, and unique. The punchiness is really important too, because I want the music to really hit hard with the kick, snare and bass synth. That’s what it’s all about for me. We all come from rock backgrounds, so I tend to write in a traditional rock form with distinctive verses, choruses, etc. We draw inspiration from many different genres of music, not just industrial. Every song should have a set purpose and goal, and I make sure each song is distinctive yet still fits the Jugem’s Cloud mold. Since we all have different preferences for “flavors” of industrial it works to create a good balance. If we’ve got a killer riff or melody, we want to let it breathe, but not hang the whole song on it. Then we switch it up a bit, which makes awesome variety. We want our voices to sound as aggressive as possible, but since we’ve got something to say we don’t drown out the vocals with distortion.
Your musics aggression, and your strong lyrical themes independence and activism, leads me to believe you guys have some pretty strong philosophical and political views. If you had to sum up your general belief structure into a few concise statements, how would you summarize your stance in politics and spirituality?
Our music tends to point out the harsh realities of the world we live in, along with a lot dystopian sci-fi themes. As a musician, I’ve always felt that the music should do the talking. I think the level of ignorance that people have toward world problems is frightening, so our music is another way for people to understand the issues of society. It’s not all doom and gloom though, our music is definitely meant to have an element of entertainment to it. We want people to enjoy it. Our music is never angry or destructive, just insightful and entertaining. So much has been said, and it sometimes feel that every word combination has every been taken. As a lyricist myself I know the pain of how hard it can be to articulate something in a way that is both engaging to the audience and uniquely artist. How do you find inspiration for your lyrical poetry?
Lyrics can definitely be tough! We find inspiration from all over the place, from sci-fi movies, to books and pictures, to our own imagination and experiences. A huge part of our influence comes from traditional industrial machinery. I look back in history, particularly early to mid 1900s South Side Chicago, which was a huge industrial area. We’ve visited these places. It’s always been fascinating to me that there were thousands of human beings that lived in those very harsh, industrial environments. We try to tell their story. I also see our music as an exploration into the obscure, dark, scientific, and unknown parts of life. When it comes to your musical self and your real world self, would you say that their is a separation? Do you find yourself getting into a character or mindset when you create, or do you find your music is a representation of your day to day self?
There is separation, but it can be blurry. It’s mostly a mindset for us. We see the industrial world that exists, and we tell it’s story, one song at a time. We’ve always been interested in industrial things, and I think it’s a really cool and underrated facet of life that most people look away from or are afraid of. We embrace industrial, and draw inspiration from it. Too many people see the world through a sunshine and rainbows perspective, but we take a different approach. We look the industrial world right in the face and extract our music from it. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration and creative sterility of the rat race, so it’s nice if you can flip that around and use it for inspiration and energy for songs.
What sort of processes do you go through when making music? Do you have a formula(s) that you follow, or do you feel it out as you go along? Or is it more of a mixture of the two? How would you describe the composition of a typical track within your musical group? Do you have primary songwriters, or do you each take time writing individual tracks and bring them to the rest of the group to flesh out, or do you jam tracks out in a live sort of setting?
I (Mark) am the primary songwriter, and I’ve been in the game long enough to know that you should never stick to one formula or your music will become stale. I have a systematic way of doing things so that the songs are created efficiently, but the songs are never really made the same. About half the time, I have a distinct idea or melody that’s been stuck in my head. The other half the time I am just experimenting with a loose concept. Once I find an inspiring idea, and I’m confident that it is “song-worthy”, I’ll put together the bass synth, kick and the snare. I’ll experiment and flesh out the idea, and mix the three together with levels, compression and EQ. If they are gelling right, it’s usually a home run and I’ll build the rest of the song around it, little by little. Some songs feel so perfect that they seem to write themselves, while others require more work. I never settle for “OK sounding”. With most of the songs, the initial lyrics and melody pop into my head within the first few hours. Of course they’ll need to be refined, but those are some of the best and most inspired lyrics we’ve put together. If you are forcing them, then something is wrong. Once I have a song about 75% done, I’ll show it to the guys. They’ll offer suggestions and we’ll make changes and edits. Then we add samples, guitar and other background sounds. They’re both very knowledgeable with lots of different music, so they can be really helpful in producing the songs and offering another set of ears. We’ll usually jam on the tracks in a rehearsal setting, then try and finalize them.
Musical composition nowadays can be aided by so many different tools and devices. Do you favor a complex approach of using lots of different instruments, or are you in the keep it simple until you have to boat of refining certain elements to their maximum potential? Or would you say your philosophy lays in between?
Initially, with our first album Nature Vs Humans, I had a lot of sounds and synths going into each song. As I’ve matured, we’ve taken a more streamlined approach and now focus on having just a few great sounding synths, and making sure it is not cluttered. Then we’ll records and use a variety of industrial instruments, beaters, treatments and samples. It’s kind of a less-is-more attitude, but the new songs actually sound heavier as a result. The sounds aren’t competing as much, and I’ve turned down the delays to give the sounds more room to breath. The new songs on coming out on The Factory Bloc are much more in-your-face, and the result is a slicker, more professional sound. How would you describe your relationship with musical technology? When you make music are you primarily a hardware or software oriented musician?
I’m a huge music tech and gear guy! I love the scientific and physics part of music, which is one of the reasons I’m big into audio engineering and mixing. I love both hardware and software music equipment, but all of our music is now composed with NI Maschine and soft synths. Mike does most of the sampling. He will record anything from 8-tracks to vinyl, found sounds, VHS, CD’s and anything else he likes. He specializes in the lost art of sampling metal. Anything from high-pitched, low rumbles, scrapes, klinks, klanks and everything in between with a variety beaters and treatments. The guitar sound is 100% analog, however. I have a very intimate connection with electronic music composition and mixing, I find it is really what I excel at. What are your thoughts on genres in general? Do you find them creatively helpful as a template to work with? Or do you find them restricting? Or possibly somewhere in between? Now that the internet has caused so much crossover in music, would you even say genre labels are relevant any more?
Genre labels are definitely still relevant, because people need to know generally where a band fits. However, the truly amazing bands out there seem to transcend their genre and include many different styles. We try to do that, which adds to our unique style. We’re all into lots of different genres. In fact, both Rob and Mike have gigantic vinyl collections. I’ve always felt that good music is good music no matter what the genre, so I’m definitely inspired by everything from classic rock, to 80s synthpop, to alternative, to industrial, and a lot in between. You can take a songwriting technique that is used in a classic rock song and apply it to an industrial song, and this can really open doors! I love moving outside of the key too, and if it’s done cleverly, it adds completely new dimensions to a song.
Would you say that your choice to pursue music has changed your life since you started? Would you say that creativity has evolved you spiritually, emotionally, or logically?
We can’t say that music has changed our lives, because it has always been completely intertwined with us. We’ve always made music and always will continue to make music, whether success comes or goes. I think if you truly believe in your music, and you are really talented and creative at it, success will follow. How bout giving one strange or interesting insight about each member of the band to our audience?
Mark is an Eagle Scout who loves geography, photography, audio engineering and mixing. Rob does a lot of gardening/landscaping at his house (where we practice) and is working on getting into standup comedy. Mike is an avid outdoorsman, he loves ultalight backing and camping. Mike also found an old dust mask illustration, and we liked it so much that we decided to dub him Yaroslav, aka Mr. Respirator, and use him as our mascot of sorts. We certainly see him fitting into the setting of many of our songs. What sort of new bands have come out in recent years that have caught your attention? Is there any bands out there you see yourself, or would like to, remix or collaborate with in the future?
Obviously the heavy hitters right now are 3Teeth and Youth Code, but my my personal favorite is Dead When I Found Her. Michael Arthur Holloway puts together some killer and consistently good industrial. Also we’re friends with Cyanotic, another Chicago-based cyberpunk industrial band that has put out some fantastic material. I’d love to do a remix wars with DWIFH or Cyanotic. Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?
Do yourself a favor and check out our debut Nature Vs Humans, and watch out for the end of 2017 when we plan on releasing our sophomore effort, The Factory Bloc on vinyl and digital. Also, check out our website at http://www.jugemscloud.com/
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