Saskatoon horror rock band to release Soldiers of the Mark LP at Amigos, Sept. 12
The New Jacobin Club first began playing dingy all ages clubs and halls back in the mid-’90s, just under two decades ago. And while that gives them the distinction of being one of the longest running bands from Saskatoon, they are also one of the longest running horror rock acts in Canada, if not the world. And in this crazy world, brought together by the Internet, the band enjoys infamy in pockets around the globe.
But as much as NJC is a band that is constant, it’s also a band that has always embraced change. Different styles and eras, different members coming and going, all under the NJC banner, flapping in a blood red sky. The latest NJC album morphs the group once more as their fearless leader, The Horde, shares more of the song writing and conceptual work with the other souls in the band.
They’re still exploring the dark corners of history with their new record, Soldiers of the Mark, but they’re also shifting and changing with fresh input, finding new ways to express the music and push the envelope of their stage show. The new album is called Soldiers of the Mark (the band showcases the new material at Amigos on Friday the 12), available on CD, vinyl, by download, and there’s also a wicked coffee table book.
I held a séance to reach over to the other side, getting psionic messages from other worlds from a few current members of the band, to explore how a bunch of freaks, artists, and performers came together in this incarnation of the NJC. And don’t let the stage show throw you into thinking this has all been some kind of gimmick; I haven’t met musicians that have bled so much to put it all into making music. Even with ghastly faces, the flames of hell shooting all over the place, and men dropping dead of heart attacks from sheer terror, with the New Jacobin Club, the music comes first.
Ominocity: Where do we find the NJC as this new album comes out? You’ve mentioned giving up some control and having the band own more of the project now?
The Horde (guitar, vocals): This album shows a sort of unity in direction that we didn’t really have before. Not that anything we did before wasn’t focused, it just wasn’t this focused. [Drummer] RatKing, [cellist] Luminous, and myself have been playing together for enough years now that we really anticipate and compliment each other’s playing styles and compositional ideas. RatKing in particular became a major creative presence on this record. The end result of our collaboration is an album that I think does a great job of representing us as a group, and not just any one individual member’s ideas.
OM: Is there pressure from The Horde to do things a certain way or has he given you artistic licence? (Note, it’s not my fault if that scary bastard cuts your throat for wrong answers: you’ve been warned).
RatKing: It’s actually hard for me to write something that wouldn’t fit the NJC. My influences are such that writing darker, aggressive rock n’ roll is kinda what I do. When I do write, my main goal is to try to write something that fits with the band, but is maybe a little left of what The Horde would do. I feel that past members were very good at adding variation to each album with the songs that they wrote, so I’m hoping my songs are doing something similar.
I think I’ve been in the band long enough now that our ideas of a ‘proper NJC song’ are very similar. I was a fan of the band long before I joined so I’m more than familiar with where the band came from, and have been a member long enough to know where it’s going. The Horde gives plenty of artistic licence, but is a master at moulding things so that it fits each individual members style and ability. Basically, anything goes, but its then brought to the band and we shift it around until it feels right.
OM: Similar question to Mistress Nagini [vocals, keys, theatrics] – is The Horde supportive of the directions you want to take things with songs you write?
Mistress Nagini: The Horde gave me full freedom to write how I interpreted the music, and then suggested edits using his years of experience with songwriting. It was an amazing collaboration.
OM: The new album also features a lot more female influence in the vocals department as Poison Candi (percussion, Theremin) steps up to the mic. Candi, what do you brought to the mix, especially in terms of vocals?
Poison Candi: Well, aside from the Theremin, I hope to bring another dimension to the band with some more melody driven female vocals. I’m influenced by a lot of spooky girl vocalists so hopefully I can bring some of that to the table, but I want to keep up the horror punk end of things as well. It’s probably obvious but I’m a huge Misfits fan. Horde has been amazing at getting me into this. Vocals were never part of my plan but he really convinced me and taught me a lot. He has been a huge inspiration and given me a lot of creative freedom as well as a lot of really great advice. I seriously would not be doing this without him.
OM: What is the concept behind Soldiers of the Mark?
The Horde: In this episode of the NJC saga, a gentleman’s club meets and holds depraved ceremonies to help bring about the end of the world as described in the Book of Revelations. Their goal is to be servants to the two great Beasts: the Beast of the Earth and the Beast of the Sea. The Beasts rule over humanity for 1000 years during which time those loyal to them, the Soldiers of the Mark, utterly destroy all civilization.
Or, if you prefer, it is social and political commentary in it’s most terrifying form – a return to what the NJC does best. In the Book of Revelations the “Mark of the Beast” was code for the Roman currency that bore the likeness of Emperor Nero. Only those who had it were allowed to conduct business. Some Jewish merchants attempted to mint their own coin and use it instead – that didn’t go well. When you think about how the Western world controls the vast majority of the world’s wealth and insists that the rest of the planet’s nations bow to their wishes…it should chill you to the bone. Look in your wallet. You wear the Mark everyday. It’s a social and economic dependency. It’s your bank account number, your SIN number, your credit card number, you driver’s license. You serve the Beasts, all citizens of the West are Soldiers of The Mark.
OM: You know how to bum a guy out, Horde. Mistress Nagini, How do you put yourself into the mindset to write songs for NJC?
Mistress Nagini: I wrote the lyrics for the spoken word part of ‘Garthim,’ and the mindset I used was: Victorian Hellfire Club dilettante meets strange occult ritual. Perhaps some things are best not spoken – ancient, horrifying beasts may be awaiting the call! I wrote this while at a rehearsal; hearing the album performed live is the best way to dream up spooky ancient occult beasts!
OM: You’ve always been a band with a theatrical stage show, increasingly so in later years, but Soldiers of the Mark was specifically written to go hand-in-hand with the stage show. How does this all balance out?
The Horde: Our stage show is still a very even combination of music and theatrical highlights. We used to have two or three major theatrical acts that unfolded independently from the music; with Soldiers of the Mark the music interacts with the stage show a lot more and so we have a more continuous spectacle. There are a couple places where we need two or three songs to accommodate a costume change or prop preparation, but otherwise it’s a fairly dense show. The major theatrical acts are now written into the songs in a much more time sensitive way – we gotta be on time, we gotta be ready, it’s a whole new level of preparedness.
OM: Mistress Nagini, you manage the stage show. How hard is it? Can you tell me a bit about what goes into it?
Mistress Nagini: Managing the stage show is a madcap, exhilarating ride. It involves coordinating: smashing parts, gooey parts, fire safety, stage obstacles, various unseemly liquids all while keeping an ear open for song timing. I also want to acknowledge the assistance of friends backstage at every show that make sure I am snuffed out and my metal corset is on tight! The level of trust between band mates when inviting me to wreak controlled havoc on the stage is an amazing feeling. My job is to amaze and delight the audience while keeping us all safe, and I love it!
OM: When I got my press kit, I was blown away to see this amazing coffee table book. It’s full of photos, posters, lyrics, and more. How did that come about? How will it be sold?
The Horde: The book is something that actually came about four years later than it was supposed to. I really wanted to have a proper companion book for our last album since it was such a complicated and intricately constructed rock opera, but it never came together. This time we planned far in advance. Never before has the NJC included lyrics of any kind in our album packaging, so this is compensation for years of leaving it all out.
The book itself is meant to stand alone as a literary and visual counterpart to the album. It is not a book about the band, it is the Soldiers of The Mark told through lyrics and accompanied by original artwork, concert posters, and concept photography. For this project we were very fortunate to be allied with RunRabbit Entertainment, who used some our music for a short film in 2013 that premiered at the Calgary Horrorcon. Photographers Jess Thamnos and Kathryn Trembach are responsible for the look of the band as well as the look of the album itself, and Kathryn’s incredible stage and studio photography dominates the book. This book really belongs to her.
The book is available to order at newjacobinclub.com and includes a digital download of the special 15 track deluxe version of the album. We are also selling it at concerts while we still have some left, but the vast majority were reserved in our fan club pre-sell or snapped up at our last two shows in Alberta. We haven’t yet decided if we’re going to do a second print. If we do, it’ll probably be soft cover – making only the first run hardcover with dust jacket. Don’t snooze on this one if you want it!
OM: I have it displayed proudly on my shelf! Ok, we gotta wrap it up here, but I want to know from a couple of you, what do you personally get out of being part of the legacy of The New Jacobin Club?
Candi: This band isn’t just the most fun I’ve ever had; it’s a family. The ability to express myself creatively with such amazing people is a huge gift and an opportunity I never expected.
Mistress Nagini: Being a part of The New Jacobin Club is like being a superhero, albeit a fire wielding snarling one. Or perhaps it’s better described as a Cinderella story with tentacles. I have the pleasure of expressing my love for the strange and weird during a performance, then [going] about my normal life the next day! We don’t live the stage life 24/7 and I think that keeps us grounded. So when we perform, we are sharing our passion for music and performance with our fans, and we love to talk with them after too. My favorite thing is when a person that perhaps was looked down on for liking spooky things tells us after seeing our show they don’t feel as alone. It’s an incredible feeling.