Trapped, Wrapped & Strapped
Infinity Press June 1997
by William S. Brewster and Chris Schmieg
Is industrial dead? The genre that pulsed the anger of millions across the globe, is it finally played out? In a recent interview, Jeff Elder of The Frustrated Housewives told IP that industrial music had died in the hands of Ministry, when they mixed in the grinding hammer of heavy metal. So, we were curious. Are there any true industrial bands that haven't fallen prey to the metal beast? We knew that there were a few obscure acts still trying to preserve the pure volatile nature of their manic mayhem. But what about right here in the quietly evaporating town of Tulsa, Oklahoma? Then, while fishing through some lost demo tapes that had been shoved to the bottom of the inevitable "we'll get to it later" file, we came across something. It was obviously an underground project, produced by an obscure label called Intolerance Records. This sounded promising. So, we popped the tape in, sat back and waited for sound. What came from the speakers was an intricately textured, highly innovative power punch of raw anger. After listening to the cassette twice, once for the sheer discovery, and once for the sheer enjoyment, we knew that our long search was over. Tulsa had redeemed itself. Industrial music is alive and well in the creation of Jason Shepherd, the angry young band we now know as Slugwrench.
We had seen info on the band appearing in the pages of Shawn Moffits monthly expedition into the underground, a.k.a. the Okieload, but we had, for reasons beyond our editorial control, not sought out the Slugwrench. But now, with the answer to our burning question in blood spattered sight, we had to find the maniac behind the madness.
We had contacted Shepherd and let him know that we wanted to do an interview. He was ultimately amicable, and invited us to spend an evening at his apartment/studio. We, of course, accepted, and the rest we shall now divulge.
IP: How and when did you begin playing music?
Shepherd: "My father played the drums, so I was exposed to them since I was six years old. He used to jam with the guys from Devo back before they were a band. I've always liked them, even back when they were still undiscovered in Ohio. I didn't start playing guitar until I was fourteen. I was born in Ohio, and didn't move to Tulsa until the third grade. Then my mother and I moved back to Ohio, and later, I came back to Tulsa alone."
IP: Why did you come back to Tulsa?
Shepherd: (Laughs) "Well, I figured I needed to grow up basically, and get away from my parents. The only way I saw to do that was to get as far away from them as I could. I needed a good kick in the ass to keep me going."
IP: So you went to the farthest corner of the conservative world, namely Tulsa, Okalhoma. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. What was the kind of music that you listened to that gave inspiration for what you do now?
Shepherd: "Well, my first project was a death metal band. The very first record I ever bought was KISS 'Creatures of the Night.' My second record was probably Devo-- that whole electronic thing really got me going. But I didn't know at the time how to approach it. So, I just began my career with a basic four piece band and started playing out when I was seventeen, and I just kept going on from there."
IP: When you came back to Tulsa, did you already have a musical project in the works here?
Shepherd: "I had learned from playing with other musicians in the past, that if I ever wanted to get anything done, it had to be me. I knew that you can't always depend on people to come through-- to show up to practice on time..."
IP: Four different influences trying to coalesce in some way doesn't always work. We heard Pete Tomshany, formerly of the Tulsa band "Dead Clown" say the exact same thing. That's what he's doing now. He is 'Peter Rush And The Imaginary Band,' and he plays all the instruments. He also didn't want to deal with the hassle of a group anymore because people are so unreliable.
Shepherd: "I knew that if I wanted to succeed, it had to be me. I had to do it for myself."
IP: You are an industrial band now, obviously, and you don't play speed metal anymore. What was it that converted you over to the techno side of music?
Shepherd: "I felt like I had taken a standard four piece band as far and as heavy as it could go. I needed something stronger-- something to evoke more powerful feelings. And I was able to do that with electronics because you take your imagination, starting from scratch, and get whatever you want out of it."
IP: Now that Slugwrench has officially taken off, how often do you play a live show?
Shepherd: "I'd like to play out more, but it just doesn't seem to happen that much because I'm constantly practicing or working on recordings."
IP: How many other players sit in when you record in the studio?
Shepherd: "Really, nobody in the studio. I usually just go ahead and create it myself. Then I take it to other musicians and say, 'Play it like this,' or 'what can you play on this-- what can you add here?' Then I'll get down on the guitar or the drums to show them how it goes to see what they can come up with."
IP: How many instruments do you actually play?
Shepherd: "I play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards-- I've never messed with any sort of wind instrument, not yet anyway."
IP: That's still pretty versatile-- you are your own four piece band. How would you characterize the style of music you are creating now? I listened to it and I easily recognized the hard edge and the angry overtones. What does the music mean to you?
Shepherd: "Every song is different... It is angry-- that's probably a good word for it. It's how I feel about a certain thing. Every song has it's own abstract story."
IP: What inspires you?
Shepherd: "Cannabis Sativa." (Laughs)
IP: How do you feel substances like that affect your crativity? We have heard a lot of musicians say things like, 'Oh, it used to make me creative, but now I'm just kind of burned out.'
Shepherd: "I don't feel that way at all. Actually, most times I sit down at the equipment and start doing it sober, and I'll go for as long as I can. Then, if I want to, I smoke a little, and that seems to fuel my crativity."
IP: It gets wheels spinning that might not normally spin?
Shepherd: "It picks me up."
IP: I think, from what I've seen, a lot of the industrial and some of the nore obscure artists lost something when they quit doing drugs. They seemed to be much more creative when they were a little younger and a little crazier. It's unfortunate, but alot of times it seems to go that way. As they get older and more sober, their music gets more stale. Then, you've got Trent Reznor who's a different case. He was great when he was angry, but he doesn't have anything to be angry about anymore. It's hard to take someone seriously about their anger when they make that much money.
Shepherd: "He can just go for a ride in his Porsche, like 'I'm so upset.'"
IP: It's much the same way with Perry Farrell. He's definitely lost alot of his edge. He's a great musician but he just doesn't have the anger he had. In some ways it's not even the anger; it's just being driven-- being possessed by what you do.
Shepherd: "That's just like me. I have to play music or else I'll go crazy. It's my release."
IP: Out of all the songs you have recorded on Slugwrench Demo 1 and 2, what is your favorite-- a self portrait if you will?
Shepherd: "Probably 'Slugwrench Rapes and Pillages' or 'Repulsive Discoveries'."
IP: What do these songs mean to you?
Shepherd: "'Rapes and Pillages' is kind of like an anthem. The song starts out like an introduction for a band playing at a dinner party, it definitely sounds like a place where Slugwrench wouldn't be playing. Then all of a sudden, there it is, and it kind of rams it down your throat."
IP: How do you feel about the way industrial music has morphed over the past decade to become what alternative rock radio has labeled industrial? Do you believe that industrial is dead?
Shepherd: "Definitely not. As far as industrial music goes, when I sit down at my machines, I want to create something that I would want to listen to. If other people like it, that's great, but I'm making music for me. Industrial is kind of a catch-all term now."
IP: We would agree. Alternative music for the most part has become mainstream. Industrial is one of the only parts that hasn't sold out completely. You still don't hear a lot of Wax Trax artists on the radio-- Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Palehead-- you just don't hear them a lot. They are a segment of alternative music that has not been heavily commercialized. What sort of music do you listen to in your spare time?
Shepherd: "I don't listen to music anymore."
IP: We honestly didn't expect anyone to be playing this kind of music here, simply because there's nowhere to play. Where have you played primarily in Tulsa?
Shepherd: "Eclipse has been the place we've played every show we've done. We have contacted IKON, and hopefully when they reopen, we may get to play there."
IP: Do you think there are opportunities for you in Tulsa right now, or do you think you may have to leave Tulsa to make it happen?
Shepherd: "I really don't think I would have to leave. I don't expect record labels to just come to me. But with IP's and the Okieload's help, with getting the name out, making people notice, urging them to listen, a lot more people will listen to us. TVT Records contacted me two weeks ago, It woke me up on my answering machine and I was stunned. The rep wanted me to have a promotional pack courriered to her, so I did. And she sent to an A&R rep in TVT/New York. I haven't heard back yet, but I was surprised."
IP: What do you have planned for the next few months? Are you planning a CD?
Shepherd: "We've had contacts with a few investors that may help us with that, and hopefully we'll get something in the works soon."
While the interview was under way, we got the opportunity to meet one of the men behind Intolerance Records and the main promoter of Slugwrench, David Basteri. He shared with us the concept of this innovative new Tulsa record label.
Basteri: "We are promoting acts that have the same type of drive as Slugwrench-- more hard edged bands that are definitely experimental. We don't want things that have been done to death, we want new sounds, or at least sounds that were never perfected. The label was originally formed to promote Slugwrench from total anonymity to where we are talking to you today, and hopefully alot further."
IP: Do you guys have an official office?
Basteri: "You're in it." (Laughs) "Sometimes, Jason and I are doing two totally different things, but we try to help each other out. We are here to help the growth of Tulsa's musical culture. Intolerance is definitely a part of that just as much as anyone else. We plan to keep the business based in Tulsa, but we can see ourselves branching out all over."
IP: I think that alot of people get frustrated with the musical mentality of average Tulsans. How well has Intolerance Records been received?
Basteri: "People respect us and accept us. We are not rich men by any stretch of the imagination, but people are starting to take notice. They know we're not just sitting on our asses not producing anything. We aren't just whistling Dixie." (Laughs.)
IP: Is Intolerance representing any other bands?
Basteri: "We are promoting other bands, but Slugwrench is the main thing that we believe will push Intolerance into people's faces and make them respect us more."
IP: How long have known each other?
Basteri: "I've been friends with Jason since sixth grade."
IP: What have you thought of the progression of his musical development?
Basteri: "Phenomenally, I think. His death metal band was nothing in comparison with what he is doing now. He's not playing just riff after riff of power chords to one c ertain audience. I think that Slugwrench is different than anything being played around here. You either love it or you hate it. But anyone with an open mind can listen to it and say, 'That's different.' It's not something that can be taken lightly."
IP: Now, getting back to Slugwrench, Jason, what kinds of things piss you off and inspire your style of music?
Shepherd: "The government, overpopulation-- it's stupidity, it's ignorant people. Here in Oklahoma, I have an abundance of those things to choose from."
IP: How do you feel about the American obsession with the 'mainstream/alternative' sound? There are angry people still, but many express their feelings in a basic marketable way. How do you feel about that trend?
Shepherd: "The four piece rock and roll band has been done, almost to it's limit. Nirvana did it best, and they took it to the top. But where can you go after that? Music needs to have new sounds to choose from and I think electronics can capture that."
IP: Who plays with you live?
Shepherd: "Aeroin Jabs is my drummer and he is an excellent musician. He interprets my style really well."
IP: What instruments do you play live?
Shepherd: "Depending on the song, along with the sequencing I am playing guitar and singing, for another song I'm just playing keys, for another I'm just singing with the sequencing and drums. I try to always keep everything moving and changing because I don't ever want to have two songs that sound alike. That way I don't ever get bored."
IP: That's amusing because a lot of popular bands today have every song that sounds the same as the last one they played. But that's what is marketable. Do you even care what is marketable?
Shepherd: "No. I realize I need to in some respects, but I make music because I want to make it. If people are behind me and like what I do, that's even better."
IP: What constitutes a good show for you?
Shepherd: "When the audience ends up naked and bleeding."
IP: No seriously.
Shepherd: "It just feels right. I don't think a show is ever wrong if everyone does their part."
IP: Do you have plans to add additional members to the stage show?
Shepherd: "Yes I definitely do. A bassist and possibly another guitarist. But all of it will be backed up by the sequencing."
IP: I like those kinds of shows where you have the instruments and the industrial sequencing going on in the background. It makes the sound a lot more textured.
Shepherd: "Texture is very important to me. It's kind of a sound environment-- what you picture when you shut your eyes and let the music just flow into you. I like to take people on a ride, and see what they come up with."
So, the burning question was finally answered. Industrial music will live on, and hopefully, thrive with the efforts of artists like Jason Shepherd and labels like Intolerance Records. Keep your eyes open for a Slugwrench electronic painfest at an Eclipse near you. Also, If you would like to try a dose of the madness in the discomfort of your own home, Slugwrench Demo 1 and 2 are available on cassette at Mohawk Music and Starship Records.
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