Thursday, November 16, 2006

Interview: Discordance Axis

I'm going to start this the most pretentious way that i can: Discordance Axis are the most important grindcore band since Napalm Death and nobody knows it.

I'm generally not like that and i don't do such grandiose declarations of even my most beloved bands, that doesn't mean i don't think about, it's just that i don't usually share those thoughts because there's a big distance between the real world and the Fairy World that is my imagination; i also don't want to put DA in an awkward situation, making them seem like if they were bigger than they really were when they were together. The point about my opening statement is that i, like many others, feel that Discordance Axis did more for the genre than what 99% of the bands that are lumped into the same musical category have done collectively; stripping it off from it's more generic tendencies that many bands possess, the band injected their sound with angularity and austerity to add even more force to their hyperfast and short songs, making them add such then-unexplored languages to the genre like like odd-time signatures, for example. More so, the band connected grindcore out of leftist politics and political incorrectness to a more cyberpunk stream in the lyrical, conceptual and aesthetic senses; with themes belonging to classical sci-fi literature being screeched by vocalist Jon Chang, ambitiously packaged in DVD cases for the most part with artwork that oscillated from the futurist to the typical in a minimalist ambient (a style which was brought to a bigger crowd than grindcore fans when Studio Grey did an edition of movie posters for the film Resident Evil) and, in general, giving it a sense of unlimited posteriority that would plug grindcore out of it's established formulas to transform it into a genre ideal for experimentation, paving the way for such bands as the Dillinger Escape Plan and the Locust to more contemporary artists like Genghis Tron, Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck and Gånglîå.

The band was formed around the year 1992 in New Jersey in an unusual way for a band to start, without much live gigs and sporadic recording sessions that would spring out in different labels as EPs, full lenght albums
or splits, the later which they did with such bands as Melt Banana and Corrupted; the band always had a connection with the Japanese scene, taking them to play there live, release splits with bands from there and even share band members. The band ended in 2001, a little after the release of their most popular and, probably, most cohesive album in their time together, The Inalienable Dreamless; the band found more recognition after breaking up, thanks in no small part to their mysticism, to the rising popularity of Hydrahead Records, the label which has released or re-released the bulk of their discography, to drummer Dave Witte's high profile, whose resumé includes Melt Banana (because of their ties with DA), Burnt By The Sun, Alec Empire, Municipal Waste and Human Remains, among a shitload of others; and their crescent direct or indirect influence on this type of music; a curious effect of the later happened in the form of Our Last Day, a posthumous album that features an unreleased song, a remix, their collaboration with Merzbow and a song by Jon's post-DA band Gridlink, but among all of this, there's a tribute paid to the band in the form of covers by bands such as Melt Banana, Gate and Mortalized; even more surprising is the Cide Projekt side of the album who reinterprete various Axis songs as MIDI versions which are brutal, funny and curious at the same time.

Oscillator recently talked to Jon Chang about the life and times of Discordance Axis and his more recent projects, chief among them his return to the musical front with Gridlink; emoticons courtesy of Jon himself.

Marcos Hassan (Oscillator): Please introduce yourself.

Jon Chang (Discordance Axis): Jon Chang. Former singer of Discordance Axis and current singer in the band GridLink. Writer/Co-Creator of the TV series Scratch Trigger Era and TF-134. Presently working on 2 video games KETM and Black Powder, Red Earth with Studio Grey.

Who or what inspired you to start playing this kind of music?

My first exposure to grind specifically was Napalm Death's From Enslavement To Obliteration, it was one of my favorite records for many years. I liked music from an early age though: The Who, Kiss, Motörhead, Maiden, AC/DC, Slayer, etc.

Do you consider the music you did with Discordance Axis "grindcore"?

Yes, that was the idea ;-)

What artists influenced you the most?

Philip K. Dick's books and Neon Genesis Evangelion probably had the largest impacts.

What are the differences between Discordance Axis and Gridlink, musically?

Rob and Matsubara are totally different in terms of their play style so the music is very different. It's hard to quantify ;-)

How was the whole scene back then as compared to right now?

Have no idea. I was never one to go and hang out and make friends.

Who did you consider Discordance Axis' peers? How about Gridlink's?

Never really thought about it...still not really thinking about it ^o^;

Why did you start out putting out splits with other bands?

Honestly, split EPs are all about marketing; getting your stuff out to a broad audience that hasn't heard you before...thanks lists operated much in the same way, people like a band, so they read their thanks list and find other similar bands. But these days, with bandwidth being so cheap, I feel split EPs have outlived their usefulness...

Can you talk a little about the progression from your releases?

Well, we started out more by the seat of our pants operation and got better playing together as time went on. ^_-

Our Last Day is not something most bands would do; how did it come about? What's your favorite song in there?

Honestly, the remix of "Ikaruga", seems a little more savage than the original; in regards to the covers, I like them all. Cide Projekt was probably the most creative of them all. The entire idea of Our Last Day came about after we heard his covers.

Can you tell us a little something about your bandmates and their contributions to the music?

Rob Marton wrote 99% of the guitar, Dave did all the drums. In GridLink, Matsu writes all the guitar, Okada works on the rhythm and mixing; Ikeda and Terada just smoke like crazy haha.

Why did you feel more affinity with bands from Japan and how so? How about now?

In the past yes. We were much more influenced by the Japanese bands than the US ones, they were faster with less cop-out mosh/slow parts; these days I really don't keep up with it all. I like a lot of Japanese bands though.

Did you conciously tried to push the boundaries of grindcore with stuff like your collaboration with Merzbow?

DA was essentially 3 very strong personalities clashing constantly haha. A lot of GridLink is designed like a painting, I suppose it's an unusual way of writing but everyone has their own particular methodology.

The band -actually your bands- sort of had a mysterious image and never gave up too much away, why?

Why not? :-P

Hahahahaha, the perfect answer strikes again. How important was the live show for you? can you describe what a Discordance Axis show was?

Rob hated them, Dave loved them, I fall somewhere in between; sometimes they are cool, other times they are exhausting. A show for us meant 2-3 months of rehearsal 4-5 days a week blasting through the set twice with no breaks, by the time we played we were tired of all the songs but we could play them without pause and that was the effect we wanted ^_^

Discordance Axis' artwork is very distinctive and original, how did it come about? What's Gridlink's artwork going to be like?

Hard to say where things come from exactly, sometimes it's planned and sometimes it spontaneous.

GridLink is going to be very different; we're not giving anything away yet, but we're building a lot of costumes and elaborate stage props for the art on the CD.

Did you ever consider doing Discordance Axis full time?


What's your favorite or proudest moment in D.A.'s career?

To be honest, what stands out most is the post mortem. It's D-Day plus 5 years and people still like us.

When we were started, we couldn't even sell 500 copies of most of our EPs; 99% of our US shows had less than 20 people at them.

We got some good reviews but we mostly got crappy ones, people said we were pretentious and elitist. They were more interested in bands who had breakdowns and mosh parts. Oh well...

It's always surreal to read people talking about you on message boards who've never met you, especially when they have deep seated beliefs that we were either awesome or jerk offs.

What do you feel are your contributions to extreme music?

I have no idea, I am always surprised to find anyone remembers/likes us at all.

What's going on with Gridlink? When is your album coming out? Can you expand a little on the band?

We're hoping to finish recording/mixing by late ‘06 so the LP will probably come out sometime in ‘07. Only a year late! LOL

Honestly though, it's better we took a little longer; the whole piece is shaping up nicely. 10 songs, 14 minutes. No break twitch ^_-

What's the weirdest thing or best time you ever happened/had onstage?

Most of our live shows are a blur, I remember little to nothing about specific shows.

If you could recommend a few bands for people to check out, who would they be?

Well, it depends on what they are looking for; the best grind stuff I've heard in a long time is Mortalized.

What have you been listening to lately?

EQ8OR, Merri, X Japan, Slayer, Sex Machineguns, Patric Catani, United 93 (OST), SOB, Mortalized, Cave In.

What's next for you?

GridLink, Amber Grey, the CD; KETM and Black Powder, Red Earth.

DA with Melt Banana

Discordance Axis - Ruin Trajectory.mp3 from the album Ulterior, 1995.
Discordance Axis - Tokyo.mp3 from split with Melt Banana, 1995.
Discordance Axis - Castration Rite.mp3 from the album The Inalienable Dreamless, 2001
Discordance Axis - Sega Bass Fishing.mp3 from the album Our Last Days, 2005

Discordance Axis:
DA in MySpace:
Studio Grey:
Dave Witte:
Dave Witte in MySpace:
Hydrahead Records:

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