Interview with Jungle Rot Guitarist James Genenz
“The sound of a Panzer tank rolling down your street and politely knocking on your door, then smashing your head in when you open it,” laughs guitarist James Genenz, as he describes what Jungle Rot's latest album sounds like.
“What Horrors Await” is the Wisconsin-based band's sixth studio album since 1996's “Skin the Living.” The Jungle Rot regime released the 14-track death metal unit across Europe May 4, 2009, and with May 19 scheduled for the record's North American invasion.
“Jungle Rot fans are eating it up,” Genenz said of the response so far. “Some critics have been a little harsh, but that’s to be expected. We never set out to please everyone.”
Pamela Porosky: How has the band's sound evolved since Jungle Rot's first full-length album, “Skin the Living?”
James Genenz: It’s a little broader now. The first albums were more full-on death metal. We’ve honed the sound now that we want. The songs are catchier and groovier and more moving. I think the flow is a little better now. We still love playing the old shit, though. How can you not?
Porosky: What kind of effects have changes in formation had on the band's overall sound?
Genenz: New blood in the band brought in new influences and such. I think it’s been a good thing. The lineup now is the most tight-knit that it’s ever been. I think that closeness helped a lot on this new album. We’ve been together for three years now.
Porosky: Can you give us a brief rundown on the band's history and how you settled on the current lineup?
Genenz: Dave started the band in 1994 with some musician friends. Over the course of the years members came and left, and multiple albums were recorded. We feel this lineup now is the ultimate Jungle Rot lineup, and we plan on sticking together for a while.
Porosky: The band has worked with a lot of different record labels in the past, and even spent a couple years without. How did you end up joining forces with Napalm Records?
Genenz: We toured in Europe in 2008 and met up with a couple guys from Napalm. We sat down and talked and continued our relationship when we got home. Eventually, we wore them down and they signed us.
Porosky: What's the biggest challenge when trying to decide which label to work with?
Genenz: Well, you can’t really be too picky anymore, unless you’re a top seller. We just wanted a label that would do their end, like a label should do. We’ll do our job, and they should do theirs. We are musicians; we’re not trying to be entrepreneurs or businessmen. We’ll make the music and play live as much as we can, as long as the label gives us the means to do so.
Porosky: What were some of the pros and cons of not working with a label between 2005 and 2008?
Genenz: We were on Crash Music [for distribution] during [part of] that time. They released the previous album “War Zone” in 2006, and a DVD soon after. We split with them in late 2007 and immediately started looking around for something new. There aren’t many pros to being without a label, the cons were the period of inactivity. But during those times, we just try and get our personal affairs in order and such.
Porosky: Is it easier to concentrate on being creative when you know you've got someone backing you up?
Genenz: Not really. I mean, if we were living off of our music, I could see how that could really help, but since we are not, the creativity flows anyway. I don’t need support to be creative; in fact, I think it’s when times are tough when true art is produced.
Porosky: How did you approach songwriting on “What Horrors Await?”
Genenz: We just start jamming riffs that each of us might have, and work the song together. I think because the lineup has been so stable and we all actually like each other, that we had a little more fun during the writing process. We got a little computer studio in our practice room this time around and wrote and pre-produced all the songs before we went to the actual studio. I’m sure that helped a bit.
Porosky: When you start to write and plan an album, do you put things like touring on hold, or do you try and keep doing both? Any reason?
Genenz: Usually we’ll write during downtime, but there have been exceptions. Sometimes, one might feel a bit creative on the road and we’ll try and work that idea into the songwriting. But, usually if we’re writing, we’re holed up in the practice space a few days a week and just hang out and laugh, smoke, order bad food, drink beers and just see what happens. It’s not forced at all.
Porosky: You're album covers always have some crazy intense artwork. What goes into Jungle Rot's art and how do you decide on things like theme, artists, etc.?
Genenz: I think the album art typically suits the theme and style of music we play. Most of the time, we’ll search for a suitable artist, usually based on other works he’s done, and then we’ll shoot him some ideas and lyrics and see what they have to offer. So far it’s been good, and on this latest album the artwork is simply amazing. The artist [Gyula Havancsák] went above and beyond on this one with individual page art and such in the booklet. The artwork is quite striking, and we’re all quite happy with the end result.
Porosky: What kind of tour plans do you have for promoting “What Horrors Await?”
Genenz: We need to tour in the U.S. We haven’t done it since 2004, so we’re trying to secure a booking agent over here to take care of that for us. So far, we do have a headlining European tour in September that we are doing, and I’m sure that will be great because we love Europe.
Porosky: Where can fans - and potential fans - go to check out a few of the tunes from "What Horrors Await?"
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