Revolver has teamed with Genghis Tron on an exclusive vinyl variant of their new album Dream Weapon in Electric Blue with White, Cyan Blue and Neon Green Splatter. It's limited to 250 copies worldwide — grab yours now before they're gone!
In 2008 Genghis Tron dropped Board Up the House — an experimental, genre-defying album that served up a head-spinning hybrid of extreme metal and electronic music. The group's sophomore release (which featured a guest shot by Dillinger Escape Plan's Greg Puciato) was a critical darling — and later the focus of remixes by tastemakers including Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu), Danny Lohner (Nine Inch Nails) and Ulver.
Genghis Tron soon found themselves playing Coachella and collaborating with their heroes Converge on "Wretched World" (from the Massachusetts crew's 2009 album Axe to Fall). But despite the recognition and accolades, just two years after Board Up the House was released the band decided it was time for a break.
"We really meant it when we called it a 'hiatus,'" says keyboardist Michael Sochynsky, of his band's 2010 announcement. "It was just a lot longer than we had expected."
"Making music took a serious back seat for both of us for quite a while," adds guitarist Hamilton Jordan. "After working different jobs, we each went back to school, we started new careers, and we started families. I also moved states a few times."
Genghis Tron's musical resurrection arrived, without ceremony, in 2018 — when Jordan was visiting Sochynsky in New York and their casual hang turned into an unexpected creative session.
"We had been talking about writing music again, but that wasn't the goal of the trip or anything," says Sochynsky. "But when we were hanging out, he showed me this cool little cyclical melody he had programmed on his computer."
With their musical connection rekindled the pair began writing the material that would become Genghis Tron's new and third record, 2021's Dream Weapon (due on March 26 via Relapse Records). The album — which features new vocalist Tony Wolski (in place of original singer Mookie Singerman) and drummer Nick Yacyshyn (also of Sumac/Baptists) — sees the band evolving their riff-filled, synth-fueled sound and pushing the music into what Sochynsky describes as a "more meditative, hypnotic, and maybe psychedelic" direction.
Like Board Up the House and its predecessor 2006's Dead Mountain Mouth, Genghis Tron teamed with producer and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou for Dream Weapon. But quite unlike those first two records — this time the band had to figure out how to record the new album in the midst of a global pandemic. Because of social-distancing measures, the bulk of the music, besides guitar and bass, was recorded remotely before the band convened at Ballou's GodCity Studios. But instead of being a hindrance, the scenario allowed the guys more room to really fine-tune their sound.
"This ended up being really cool because it allowed us to spend a lot of time on mixing and production. We spent a lot of time talking with Kurt both before we got to the studio and during the mixing process about the sound we were going for. We didn't want to do 'heavy for heavy's sake.' Instead, we wanted the heaviness and intensity to come from the songwriting itself. So we asked Kurt for a cleaner, more subtle approach that kind of creeps up on you and kicks your ass without you even realizing that it's happened."
Below, Sochynsky and Jordan walk us through the winding journey that led to Dream Weapon — from ditching blast-beats and Nintendocore to finding comfort in the end of humanity and more.
IN 2020, AFTER A 10-YEAR HIATUS, GENGHIS TRON ANNOUNCED ITS IMMINENT RETURN. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO RESURRECT THE PROJECT AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS?
MICHAEL SOCHYNSKY We had always intended to write another album. … As the years went by, Hamilton and I actually did send a lot of song ideas back and forth to each other, but nothing really ever came together in a concrete way. And a lot of those song ideas had a shelf life. Something that we thought was good enough to put on an album in 2011, for example, would sound stale/hokey/uninspired/whatever when we returned to it in, say, 2015. So a lot of ideas kind of fell apart due to the passage of time.
It wasn't until 2018 that things really took off again. Hamilton was visiting me in New York. He actually came to just hang out. We had been talking about writing music again, but that wasn't the goal of the trip or anything. But when we were hanging out, he showed me this cool little cyclical melody he had programmed on his computer. I pulled out one of my synths just for fun and started messing around with some chords over his melody. I stumbled onto an interesting chord progression and things just kind of started to click. It felt really exciting and motivating to be collaborating like that. That jam ended up becoming the song "Alone in the Heart of the Light." We ended up spending the rest of that weekend talking about what an entire album might sound like, and quickly realized we had very similar ideas for the direction we both wanted to take things. We just kept building momentum from there.
WHAT WERE YOU UP TO DURING THE BREAK? FOCUSING ON DIFFERENT CAREER PURSUITS, STILL PLAYING MUSIC ON THE SIDE ...
SOCHYNSKY You pretty much nailed it! Day job, family, and friends! That pretty much covers it. I also kept messing with synths and electronic music, but not in any serious way.
HAMILTON JORDAN During that whole time of focusing on school and work and family stuff, we both remained obsessed with music and continued to listen to it a lot, and talk about making more of it, but neither of us had the time or energy to really work on it consistently.
HOW DID YOUR TIME AWAY IMPACT THE CREATIVE PROCESS WHEN YOU FINALLY STARTED WRITING THE NEW MATERIAL?
JORDAN The hiatus impacted the creative process in a few ways. First, it ended up making us laser focused on writing and finishing this album. Our lives are different, and a lot busier, than they were ten years ago. We just don't have a ton of time to devote to music, so we each had to be super disciplined with the time we had. So seriously, for two years, Michael and I would talk several times a week, and we would each wake up early before work or stay up late to squeeze in whatever creative time we could manage. The whole process was really intense, but I loved it and I can't wait to do it again!
Also, the hiatus gave us a lot of time to contemplate what we wanted to do next with Genghis Tron. By the time we started writing in earnest in 2018, ten years had passed since we released our previous album, and during that time we had developed a strong shared understanding that we wanted to try writing something that was more hypnotic, more "psychedelic" (for lack of a better word), and more cohesive than Board Up the House.
WERE THERE ANY UNIFYING LYRICAL CONCEPTS OR THEMES YOU EXPLORED ON DREAM WEAPON?
SOCHYNSKY It seems fairly clear at this point that humanity's days are numbered. Humans will fade away due to their own greed and short-sightedness, but that's not actually the "end of the world." Our planet will heal and move on. There is serious comfort in that, so we shouldn't fear the future. Instead, we should embrace it with acceptance and love. The album is about a lot of different things, but I think that's the unifying thread.
WHEN YOU AND HAMILTON FIRST GOT TOGETHER DID IT TAKE A WHILE TO GET YOUR CHOPS BACK UP TO SPEED? WERE YOU SURPRISED BY ANYTHING: INSTANT CHEMISTRY OR MAYBE "GETTING TO KNOW YOU" PERIOD OR …
SOCHYNSKY I don't really have any chops, per se, to begin with, so that definitely was not an issue for me! To be honest, I think I know a lot more about synthesizers and music production now than I did when we wrote Board Up the House or Dead Mountain Mouth. So this time around, I was much more deliberate about creating the right sounds and textures, and was much more conscious about creating space for things in the mix. In terms of chemistry, I love making music with Hamilton. It really didn't feel any different this time around than it did back in the mid-2000s. We've been best friends for a long fucking time, and we are completely open with each other when we write music. But yeah, instant chemistry for sure.
JORDAN My guitar chops definitely faded a bit! Honestly, during the hiatus, I would routinely go months and months without ever picking up my guitar. But beyond that, I definitely got a little rusty with songwriting in general. Although Michael and I are best friends, and we never really stopped trading ideas over the years, I definitely felt some nervousness — and some healthy peer pressure — when we got seriously back into writing songs together. I also felt some internal pressure, like, Damn, do I still know how to write stuff that Michael will connect with? That I will like? It took a few months for me to get past that.
WERE THERE ANY NEW MUSICAL INFLUENCES OR REFERENCE POINTS THAT EITHER OF YOU GUYS BROUGHT TO THE TABLE FOR DREAM WEAPON?
SOCHYNSKY Genghis Tron has always been an amalgamation of all of our collective musical influences. When we started working on Dream Weapon in 2018, I personally was listening to a lot of German electronic/psych music from the Seventies, like Cluster, Neu! and Ashra. I was also listening to a lot of dancey Eighties industrial, like Ministry, Front 242 and Skinny Puppy. I've been listening to industrial music since middle school, but the German stuff was definitely new to me at the time. I'm not sure how prominent or noticeable any of those influences are on Dream Weapon, but that's a good chunk of what I was listening to at the time. More broadly, I think we drew inspiration from a lot of disparate sources for this album, so it's hard to distill it into any kind of coherent summary. We've been talking about making an "inspirations" playlist on Spotify. I always enjoy it when other bands do that and I think it could be a fun project to do at some point.
JORDAN Like Michael, I'm not sure many of my influences have an overt presence on the album, but over the last two years I spent a lot of time listening to Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. Also some newer electronic music like Jon Hopkins and Blanck Mass. Oh, and Tool —always lots of Tool! Tony [Wolski] loves when I rep Tool.
SPEAKING OF TONY, DREAM WEAPON IS THE FIRST ALBUM WITH HIM ON VOCALS AND NICK YACYSHYN ON DRUMS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY BROUGHT TO THE MIX?
SOCHYNSKY Working with Nick and Tony was awesome! They both definitely each brought their own style to the project. But I also think they both totally understood the sound we were trying to achieve and approached the project with the goal of helping us get to where we wanted to be. Hamilton and I generally did not share anything with Nick and Tony until we had a fairly finished instrumental demo with temporary programmed live drums. After hearing a demo, Nick would help refine our drum patterns, and would show us his ideas by sending rough recordings of him playing live over the demo. For a few key moments on the album, Nick proposed entirely new drum arrangements that totally blew our minds. A good example of that is the drumming on "Alone in the Heart of the Light."
As for vocals, Tony wrote all of the vocal melodies, although we provided him with feedback and guidance along the way. Tony really seemed to understand what we were going for, but at the same time, he came up with parts that we never could have imagined and that redefined the songs in awesome ways. As the project progressed and we became more comfortable working together, Nick and Tony also started making songwriting suggestions beyond just the drums and vocals, and their ideas fundamentally changed the structure of several songs. They are both just really talented, well-rounded musicians, and we feel really lucky to have been able to work with them!
HAVING LIVE DRUMS ON THE RECORD IS ALSO A FIRST FOR GENGHIS TRON, RIGHT?
JORDAN Actually, Kurt Ballou played a mini toy drum set during the bridge of "Endless Teeth" from Board Up the House. But other than that, this is indeed the first time we've ever played with a live drummer.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE RECONNECTING WITH KURT BALLOU FOR DREAM WEAPON?
SOCHYNSKY Working with Kurt is always great. We've recorded all three of our albums with him. Because of the pandemic, this record actually came together in kind of an unusual way where we ended up recording most of the material before we got to God City. Nick recorded his drums in Vancouver, Canada with JJ Heath at Rain City Recorders. Tony recorded his vocals at home in Detroit, and Ben Chisholm from Chelsea Wolfe's band worked with us on vocal production. And I tracked nearly all of my synths at home before we even got to the studio. So by the time Hamilton and I got to Kurt's studio, all that was left to record was guitar and bass.
WERE THERE ANY MAJOR OVERHAULS OF THE GEAR YOU USED COMPARED TO BOARD UP THE HOUSE?
SOCHYNSKY Definitely some changes in the synth department. The main synth I used for Board Up the House was an Alesis Andromeda, which is this totally insane analog monster from the Nineties. Unfortunately, it suffered some pretty bad water damage in a flood while in storage, so I couldn't use it on Dream Weapon. So for the new album, I used a Sequential Prophet Rev2 and the Korg Minilogue XD, both of which I love! I also used a few Arturia soft synths.
JORDAN My guitar rig had no changes, other than swapping a few pedals. My main gear changes came in the synth department. I bought a few synths — which was a first for me — and some soft synths too. Over the years I have gravitated towards writing more and more stuff on synths/keyboard instead of guitar. I still enjoy writing and playing and guitar riffs, but it's often easier for me to write stuff I like on synths, even though I'm seriously not a keyboard player. And Michael is way more skilled at sound design, so I only contributed a small handful of synth sounds to the album. But my favorite piece of new gear is the Moog Grandmother — it's really easy to use.
ALL SAID AND DONE — HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE SOUND OR VISION OF DREAM WEAPON COMPARED TO BOARD UP THE HOUSE?
SOCHYNSKY I remember right when we started writing Dream Weapon in 2018, I sat down and listened to Board Up the House from start to finish for the first time in a while. In retrospect, I honestly have no idea how we wrote those songs — and wouldn't even know how to go about constructing songs like that now. So we kind of knew from the outset that trying to recreate Board Up the House was not a good idea, and it wasn't something that interested us. Instead, we were really drawn to this idea of doing something more meditative, hypnotic, and maybe psychedelic. Music that has traditional hooks, but is also something you can allow yourself to get totally lost in. That was the goal at least! Oh yeah, spoiler alert: there are no blast-beats or "Nintendocore" — whatever that means — parts on Dream Weapon. Sorry!
OBVIOUSLY LIVE SHOWS ARE ON HOLD RIGHT NOW. BUT ARE YOU INTERESTING IN TOURING AGAIN WHEN RESTRICTIONS LIFT?
SOCHYNSKY I definitely think about touring and would love to try to make it happen. But no concrete plans at the moment. What do I miss the most about touring? Easy! Seeing people enjoy and connect with music that I wrote. I definitely miss that more than sitting in a van for eight hours a day!
HAVE YOU DEVELOPED ANY NEW CREATIVE ROUTINES OR NON-MUSICAL HOBBIES OVER THE LAST YEAR DURING THE PANDEMIC'S LOCKDOWNS?
SOCHYNSKY Nope! Between my day job, my family and finishing up the new Genghis Tron album, I have like five minutes a day of free time. So I can't say I've taken up any new hobbies. That said, with this album done and about to be released, I'm starting to get the itch again to write some new tunes … That's kind of the only hobby I need.