Chicago based band Genus has become a permanent fixture in my mp3 player. They've released an EP back in March of 2012 titled "Orgin" and this December 18th they released a remix album "Orgin Extracted". Along with doing what local bands do best by trying to play the best shows they can, these guys have had a hell of a year with no signs of slowing down. Check out the interview and stay tuned for the album review!
Let’s start off with the obvious, for those who don’t know, how did you all come to be Genus?
Russo: It originally started around 2002. The band’s original founder wanted to put together a band of musicians that all came from different backgrounds. The idea was to take those musicians who were still playing/performing after high school and throw them all into a band together. The interesting thing is that myself and Brell were in rival bands in high school so the thought of us playing together didn’t really cross our minds. I remember calling and telling him about the idea of being in a band together and we were both like “how about we jam first to see how it goes”. At that same time the band that Brell was currently in was moving further and further away from being metal and I had to assure him that this was going to be metal and it was going to be heavy. When Brell and I jammed for the first time it was magic! We fit so well together; me with my melodies and him with his harmonies and chord progressions. We both looked at each other and were like “why the fuck didn’t we jam together sooner!”. Interestingly enough Dan (our bassist) and I were in a band in 8th grade but had a major falling out that lasted about 15 years. We both thank Halo 3 for bringing us back together as friends and then eventually leading into him joining the band. Ryan (our vocalist) we found from an ad on Craigslist after being on a singer search for 3 years. We knew Ryan was a great fit when he auditioned and didn’t have a problem writing to our non-cookie cutter song structures. His scream was solid and his voice was unique and original…he was exactly what we were looking for. Not to mention he was creative lyrically. We recently acquired a new drummer, Alex, and we are super stoked about what he has been bringing to the table. His ideas are fresh and his technical skills are a welcomed addition to the band.
RYAN: I was singing for a different band around the time I put up an ad looking for some new musicians to jam with. I really enjoyed how odd the timings were and how inconsistent the structure of music was. I hate being bored with music and I knew boredom wouldn't be a problem with these guys as for the first time in a long while I actually struggled with writing a vocal pattern. This is what attracted me to working with them. Sadly my first tryout went very well, but I wasn't sure if I had the time to commit with work, so I informed them I wouldn't be joining. Months later when time freed up a bit for me in my work life I contacted Russo again and asked for a second chance. He was reluctant, with good reason, but gave me another shot and well...here we are now.
How did you come up with the name Genus?
Russo: The name came with original idea of the band. All musicians from different backgrounds being a part of one. When Ryan joined the band this idea was taken further as in, we are all the same genus; we are all humans being. Our songs embody this as well as you can hear different elements of the various subgenres of metal in our music as well as the lyrical content speaking to what it means to be human.
RYAN: I had nothing to do with the choice of the name Genus, but I did love it as it wasn't your common "Slave Killer/Skeletal Vomit/Burning Placenta" kind of name you see so much in metal. I decided to give my interpretation of the name as Russo has described and I felt it fit and gave me more creative motivation for lyrics and themes for songs.
Your EP “Orgin” is an amazing album! What for you stands out the most within the album?
Brell: What stands out the most for me, and what I hope stands out when people hear it, is that we put everything we had into it, artistically speaking. We just went balls deep into making it, and the end result went way past my expectations for it. Our main reason for doing this EP, and wanting to make the best one that we could, was really for personal fulfillment. We wanted to leave something that was our statement to the world of metal. So that is what I hope stands out when people hear it; the sound of 5 guys putting every drop of blood, sweat, and tears into our music, for no other reason than this is what we love to do.
RYAN: What stands out most for me is the amazing production value. BOTA Studio and Electrowerks did a fantastic job and I really want to give a huge thanks to Charles Macak for the mixing/mastering as he really brought together the rough ideas we laid down into something special and truly proud of being a part of.
Dan: Origin has amazing songwriting, exciting performances, and can be listened to all at once, or in pieces, which is fantastic. It has many layers, so if you like listening to music and just to take in an overall impression, Origin really works- but if you like to dissect music and see what makes it tick, Origin has so much to offer. The album plays on an emotional level, the songs play on an emotional level, the lyrics are brilliant, and the musical components are fascinating.
Alex: What stands out for me from Origin is being consistently inconsistent. You're having a good time, you're enjoying our little sonic adventure, you think you know what's coming--BOOM--a brutal left hook, in the form of a time-signature change or chugging double-bass/drop-D guitar breakdown, socks you in the face. You don't know how it happened, you don't know where you are, but you like it. That is the "Genus Way" for ya'll in a quantum nutshell.
Tell us how a song is birthed for you guys. Do you have you have a main songwriter in the band or does it start with an idea and everyone feeds off that idea?
RYAN: For me a song is first about tone/theme. Once I decide what that is I give a premise/idea to said tone/theme. From there I just let my mind wander on possible lyrics and try and structure them in a way to give good solid emotion and melody. The rhythms of vocal patterns is the piece I do last as we never are truly sure how long the song will stay the same. Usually what we first write gets tweaked so much that by the third time we try it, that's when the magic happens and we all say to each other the pivotal phrase: "I'm starting to really feel this one." That's when we know it's a song.
Dan: We play riffs, and we all react to one another. If someone plays a riff that someone else enjoys, then the other person trys to add to it, or modify it, and it gets echoed around the band a lot until it really hits form. There's a moment when we then get excited enough to take the parts and fashion them into polished songs with flow and transitions and sequence.
You have a new EP “Extractions” that was released on this week. Whose idea was it to do a remix album and how do you feel it turned out?
Dan: I love the idea of re-contextualization- of taking something and dropping it into another paradigm and seeing what it becomes. When you hear Ryan's vocals on "Indecision" over Justin Wilson's orchestral arrangement, it's something else. Other artists have completely different perspectives on music, and by giving them creative license, you see your music become something more than it ever could have on its own. You also realize that the full meaning of a performance is sometimes not revealed until you hear it from a triangulated position. It's a testament to the performances on Origin that there was so much fertile ground for the remixers to pull from.
Tell us about some of the people who remixed the new EP and how it came that they were chosen to do so?
Dan: Justin Wilson is a brilliant pianist, recording artist, producer, and performer. His compositions are wholly unique, and yet immediately familiar. AutoAxon is a powerful artist who develops divine visions for his music, and his sound is aggressive, dark, energetic, yet haunting. SutureSelf is a signature artist of the Industrial music world, he proudly carries the industrial flag and executes on a high level, which provides an impressive profile of quality and artistry for his genre. SerfCity is an up and coming artist- he's productive, and he is able to create hypnotic rhythms for tech house and techno that people can lose themselves in. My favorite remixer is "The Slaving Class". He came on a bit awkward, threatened us a bunch if we didn't let him on the album, but his track is bold, complex, bombastic, fearless, and honest.
Brell: We played a show with SutureSelf a while ago, both of us were opening up for Ventana. After that show, we kept in touch with one of the guys from that band, Brandon Chase, through Facebook. When we posted on our Facebook page that we were looking for remixers for this EP, he was like "Hell yeah, I'll be a part of this!". And his track turned out great! The Slaving Class...We have no idea who that is. We didn't want him on the EP. He kind of forced his way on to it. He told us if we didn't let him remix a song, he was going to kill all of our children; which is kind of weird because none of us have children yet. We figured it's best not to piss off a guy like that, so we let him do a song.
RYAN: The only one I know is "The Slaving Class" and he warned me to keep my filthy mouth shut =)
What do you want people to take away from a live performance from Genus?
Dan: We have a genuine front man, who crafts intelligent, emotional lyrics about complex topics which can inspire, and make you feel. He's got charisma, and stage presence, and a unique voice with diverse capability which he employs to great advantage. We also have the best lead guitarist in Chicago, who can work out phrases and harmonies, and marry them with deep technical capability without ever getting in the way of what he is playing. Our rhythm guitarist is a true blueblood, metal head, historian, and can switch to any style necessary for the moment, which is the key to our diverse sound. Alex our new drummer is a still developing technical phenomenon, whose ease with time signature changes, and ability to "play big" are self-evident immediately after hearing him. I play on six strings, and I often use three fingers, play chords, slap n pop, and smack the bass, so it should be fun and interesting for bass players to watch me play (I hope!).
RYAN: Arrogantly enough, I want people to be impressed, motivated, inspired, and completely in awe of the face-melting barrage of molten awesome we just ejaculated all over their ear-pussies.
How difficult has it been being an independent band in the Chicago area?
RYAN: You can't walk fifty feet in the Chicagoland area without passing a bar/venue playing original music on a Friday night. There are so many amazing (and terrible) musicians in this city that standing out is an effort of sheer futility. Let's be honest, the ones that garner the most attention ironically tend to be the ones doing much of the same. The flavor of the month in metalcore or indie-hipster-rock is what, on a broad scale; people enjoy being a part of. I know there are a lot of guys out there like us that just love doing what we do and aren't looking to "make it big". So if you're asking is it difficult to make loads of money and have a huge following? Yes, very, unless you're willing to just give people what they want and expect. If you're asking is it difficult to love what you do? Not at all.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Russo: I’d say my biggest influences are Death, Pantera, Dream Theater, Opeth, Devin Townsend, Maiden, and Tool.
RYAN: System of a Down, Queen, Korn, Guns N' Roses, Marilyn Manson, NAS, Prince, Thursday, and Deftones.
Dan: Perfect Circle, Dream Theater, Devin Townsend, Les Claypool, Matisyahu, Muse, Richie Hawtin, BT, DJ Icey, Iron Maiden, Glitch Mob.
Alex: Dream Theater, Megadeth, Rush, Between the Buried and Me, Alice in Chains, Opeth, Slayer, Machine Head, Nile, August Burns Red, Arch Enemy, Killswitch Engage, Morbid Angel, Meshuggah, Animals as Leaders, As I Lay Dying, DevilDriver.
Brell: Pantera, Sepultura, Death, Amorphis, Carcass, Strapping Young Lad/Devin Townsend, Napalm Death, and Cynic. Non-Metal influences: Hot Water Music, Dredg, Frank Zappa, and Tom Waits.
What are you looking forward to the most with the New Year coming up? That is if the apocalypse is true and we are all wiped off the planet.
Russo: Getting back in the studio and playing more shows. Origin was recorded in a weekend, I’m really excited to see what we are able to accomplish when we aren’t limited by time.
RYAN: Our New Year's Eve show at Penny Road Pub in Barrington, IL headlining the main stage right after the countdown to the New Year!!! Well come on, surely you expected the shameless plug? After that I just want to keep moving forward writing new material and accomplish another album.
Dan: Getting back in the studio. We can take what we did right and do it again, and learn from our mistakes, as well as get another shot at finding some new ground to explore. We're ready to go with another EP, and we're still writing new material. Then, there will be a 2013 Genus release. Genus has a lot of diverse talent, and we don't have any band members with a fatal personality flaw. People like us, and we do what we can in earnest. That means we can meaningfully pursue cool stuff, like the remix album for example. The current champion of POWW wrestling came out to the ring to the song "Tides" off Origin. We like art, we like t-shirts, we do stuff, because that's what's fun about this- being with other creative people who have similar interests and engaging in multiform art together.
Alex: I can assure you that being in my first solidified musical outfit is a humbling and kickass experience. After playing with these homies a month ago, and soon to do it again this New Year's Eve, I am stoked to see what new endeavors we will face together. We have already started working on new material, as well as uncovering as-yet-to-be-heard material and writing new drum parts for them. A new year marks new unparalleled territory for me and the band. Heaven, Hell, or Science only knows what's in store for us this coming year!