Hello Kevin and thank you for joining us! Let's Start off with the basics for those who might not know who you are. Tell us who is in CHMCL STR8JCKT, what they do, and three of your favorite albums of all time.
Kevin Snell: Sure! CHMCL STR8JCKT is myself (synths, programming, lead and backing vocals), Mike Cairoli (guitars), Ian Omega (percussion and backing vocals), and Scott Luckman (synths and backing vocals). Mike and I write all of the songs. Three favorite of all time? That's a tough one, of course! Ministry's "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste", Revolting Cocks' "Beers, Steers and Qveers" and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult's "Confessions Of A Knife" come quickly to mind. They had a massive impact on us.
There are four members in the band as far as I can see through promotional photos. How did all of you meet and when did you decide to make CHMCL STR8JCKT a reality?
Kevin: Mike, Scott and I actually grew up together! We went to high school together, played Dungeons and Dragons, and were all into industrial music. This was the Wax Trax! era. Every Tuesday we would scoop up all the releases. Pailhead, Acid Horse, etc. Mike and I started a very raw industrial project back then. I did synths and programming, Mike played guitar and our friend Chris did vocals. We went off to college and that faded away. Mike and I reconnected about twenty-seven years later and he convinced me to "do it again". Chris wasn't interested so I took on lyrics and vocals, too. When we started gaining momentum and realized we must play live, we recruited our old buddy Scott to do live synths and backing vocals so I wasn't tethered to a synth. In the meantime, I met Ian who was in a rockabilly band at the time. He loved industrial music and we hit it off right away. It was very natural for him to join and play percussion.
Who thought of the name of the project? And why did you choose to remove the vowels from the name of the project? Was it so fans could spot you on Google or Facebook easier?
Kevin: Ha ha! Back in college I was studying psych meds and learned about the chemical straightjacket. It is a cocktail of strong psych meds used to incapacitate out of control patients in mental institutions. I said to Scott, "If I am ever in a band again, I want to name it Chemical Straightjacket." Well, thirty years later, I am dusting off my untouched synths and playing music again! We searched online and found the name was already being used by a fellow doing metal down in Georgia, but he wasn't very active. I still wanted the name. Our good friend, Grove, is also our graphic designer. He came up with the logo. Another friend, JR, suggested using an "8" in the name. We loved the logo and thought the absence of vowels made the name look "harder". What we didn't anticipate is the rise of Amazon's Alexa! Try asking Alexa to play CHMCL STR8JCKT. Doesn't work out very well. Fuck me.
Since your inception in 2017 with your self-titled album, you’ve been referring to the band’s genre as “Outlaw Industrial Rock”. Why do you describe CHMCL STR8JCKT as such?
Kevin: Well, we quickly realized that we were "old school" industrial music. We loved that back in the Wax Trax! days industrial music was more about "attitude" and vibe than a sound that you had to have. There were disco elements (Thrill Kill Kult), metal elements (GodFlesh), rock elements (RevCo), punk elements (Pailhead), and jazz elements (Legendary Pink Dots). That's what we loved about it. After our debut, we heard "You don't fit in, too much guitar, too much rock, too much metal, etc." We had no intention of changing, of course. If anything, on "DRK PRGRSSN" we dive even deeper cross-genres. So, combining the fact that we don't fit "modern industrial" (which we do quite like, by the way), aggrotech, heavy dance beats, and such, and given our love of all things "western" like cowboys and ghost towns, someone referred to us as "Outlaw Industrial Rock" and we thought it was perfect! It's really an attitude.
Just from looking around, I have seen many, many publications and fans call out Wax Trax! influences on your music. Is this appreciated and do you agree with the comments?
Kevin: We certainly appreciate it! It is the label that provided the soundtrack of our late teens and early twenties. Most Wax Trax! releases were very beat driven so I don't know that the comparison is perfect, but we'll take it! Haha! I have to point out that WE did not make that comparison first. After the debut came out, Claus Larsen of Leaetherstrip said that it reminded him of Wax Trax!. Then, our very first review (Sonic Seducer Musik Magazine) started with "Bathed in Wax Trax, Chmcl Str8jckt, etc." It was the first four words of our very first review.
Your most recent release is “DRK PRGRSSN”. Let's Start off with the theme of the album and the cover art. What is “DRK PRGRSSN” all about and how does the cover art correlate to the album’s meaning?
Kevin: The theme of "DRK PRGRSSN" is basically the musical journey that we have taken over the course of three proper albums. On the debut, I hadn't played in twenty-five years or so. I used the same sounds that I used in 1990 (more or less). It was the first time I ever wrote a lyric or performed vocals. We had no producer and recorded most of it in my laundry room. It was raw, but charming in a way. On the debut we were really paying tribute to the bands we loved. I said, "I'm gonna write a track that's musically inspired by Ministry or by Nitzer Ebb, etc." Once we connected with John Bechdel (Ministry, Killing Joke, Fear Factory, Prong) as a producer, we quickly wrote "WRTCHD THNGS". John taught me a lot about proper construction of a song, sound frequencies etc. On "WRTCHD THNGS" we mostly stopped emulating other bands that we loved and started developing the CHMCL STR8JCKT sound. We quickly realized that we love genre blending, too. I consider "WRTCHD THNGS" to be our learning album. I love that album but months before it was even released I started writing the songs that would become "DRK PRGRSSN". I was excited to use everything that I learned from the last few years and write the album that IS (in my opinion) the essence of CHMCL STR8JCKT. "DRK PRGRSSN" is quite dark, too. My wife's father passed away during writing it. Covid was running rampant (my wife and I got very sick), etc. Songs like 'Capesius' and 'Somber Town' are among the darkest things we've ever written. Of course we wrote some fun, upbeat songs to mix it up, as well!
The cover art was inspired by our "Outlaw" feelings and, again, our love for western imagery. After we wrote the soon to be prophetic song 'Texas' (I'll be moving from New Jersey to Texas soon) and a demo that didn't make the album called 'The Life Of Poor Johnny Ringo' we were in full Outlaw mode. Our graphic designer friend, Grove, once again came through big time for us. He made a digital image of an ox skull with a candle and roses for us (it's the cover of the 'Texas' single). We loved it! We recreated it with a real skull, candle and roses and our photographer, Sam Martucci, did the rest. It really captures the vibe of the album.
You have a grand total of thirteen original tracks on the album, one new cover song (The Police's 'Invisible Sun'), and three additional remixes on the end of the album. I’ve noticed that a lot of bands usually stick to ten songs or less on a full-length release. What made you desire a long album?
Kevin: The truth is simply that we didn't want to stop. We were writing song after song and I had to keep telling John Bechdel, "We just wrote one more that I want to include on the album!" Poor John! Haha! He is so busy with so many projects but he always made time for us. When I finally re-wrote all the lyrics to a Who song and wanted to bring in strings and such, we realized it was time to STOP! We have about six demos currently in the works for the next album.
Tell us a little bit about the three remixes at the end of the album. How did you meet Biohacker, Krebs, and Missing in STARS and why did you decide to work with them?
Kevin: I wanted to end the album with some bonus tracks (they won't fit on the vinyl release that's coming soon). I figured it would be fun to include remixes of songs from the previous album to perhaps encourage someone to look back at "WRTCHD THNGS" if they enjoyed "DRK PRGRSSN". Scott Durand introduced me to both Dan Guenther (Missing in STARS) and Tufty Hacka (Biohacker) when I told him that I wanted to do a remix album of the self-titled debut a few years back. I knew very few people and Scott took care of that quickly! Biohacker and Missing in STARS did killer remixes on the "RMX" release. Then Dan did an amazing remix of 'Bomb Cyclone' that came out on "WRTCHD RMX". Tufty did a killer remix of 'Fantasy' and we decided to hold that as a bonus track on "DRK PRGRSSN". Michael Haggerty (Krebs) and I met from being on Machine Man Records together before we signed with Cleopatra. I love the Krebs material so I asked him to remix 'Ode To Peckinpah (Bloody Sam)' from "WRTCHD THINGS" to also be a bonus track on "DRK PRGRSSN". Dan (Missing in STARS) also mastered "DRK PRGRSSN".
Tufty (Biohacker) and I have very similar senses of humor (filthy) so after "DRK PRGRSSN" was complete, I used some rejected demos and lyrics that were left over from STR8JCKT. We combined it with Biohacker's killer programming and we formed a project called Handsome Abominations. It is myself and Ian from STR8JCKT, my wife Misha, Biohacker and our friend Traece. It is very groovy and sleazy music; just complete fun! After taking the STR8JCKT album so seriously, it was fun to dive into some madness and mayhem. Our debut, "Embrace The Condemnation" will be out on Cleopatra Records this year, as well!
The one song that stuck out to me on the album,as far as titles go, was ‘Ode To Peckinpah (Bloody Sam)’. Why did you choose to dedicate a song to the controversial filmmaker?
Kevin: We like to pick flawed (often awful) characters to write about. Sam Peckinpah fascinated me for some time. Of course, he made Western films so that's a no-brainer! But, while he had insane talent, he was quite awful in many ways. He was an alcoholic, he beat his actors if they made an error; truly a twisted soul. I loved the movie The Wild Bunch and I really enjoyed Peckinpah's biography. To this day, the imagery and rawness of his films is hard to beat. On "DRK PRGRSSN" we also explore Victor Capesius in the song 'Capesius'. He was a terrible human being. He was a pharmacist (just as Mike and I are) but instead of helping people, he performed mass murder with Mengele at Auschwitz. The book about him called The Pharmacist Of Auschwitz disturbed me for weeks. I had to write a song about it. In '1911' we explore mass shooters and how the press turns them into gods (in their minds). On the debut album we wrote a song called 'Today The Devil Dies' about revenge-killing Dylan Roof for his atrocities against innocent people. Dark characters are a staple to STR8JCKT because I simply can't understand them. I don't understand such evil, but writing about it helps.
The physical CD comes with a sixteen-page booklet. What’s inside that booklet and what can fans expect to find inside?
Kevin: Well there is a lot more cool photography! Also, all of the lyrics and a very long list of credits! We used a ton of friends to contribute. Everything from sampling our mechanic friend playing ratchets, car jacks and air compressors to a slide-guitar playing friend, to friends adding backing vocals, and my father-in-law's telephone message that became the opening of 'Texas'.
And what else is on CHMCL STR8JCKT’s plate for 2021? Do you have plans to release a remix album as you did for your debut and “WrtchdThngs”?
Kevin: We don't have plans for a remix project for this album YET, but it will probably happen! Haha! We will be releasing "DRK PRGRSSN" on vinyl, which is exciting. We keep trying to all go to Texas to film a video for the song 'Texas', but Covid keeps messing that up. We still plan to do that! In the meantime, our video for 'Destroyer' is released. Like everyone else, we are dying to start playing shows again! Mike and I have teamed up with Steve Thomas-Green as partners in the new 24/7 Ghost Wave Radio to be launched end of March 2021 so we'll be DJ'ing and learning from Steve how to run a radio station. The side project, Handsome Abominations album "Embrace The Condemnation" will be out this year, too! We keep busy!
Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time.I wish you the best of luck with “DRK PRGRSSN” and leave the space below for you to mention anything that I may have missed. Cheers!
Kevin: Thank you! We appreciate all of the time and care you put into Brutal Resonance. I've said too much already, haha! Now check out "DRK PRGRSSN" if you like some rock, metal and punk infused in your industrial!
This interview was commissioned through our Ko-fi page.
Mar 02 2021
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I would say that the most important thing in life and probably our biggest freedom is for people to be themselves. And if a person has the opportunity to express themselves, they shall not hesitate to do that for one second. And it's not a question of doing that in a creative or artistic form of art. So I think that would be my last words. If you can express yourself, DO IT!
Front 242, Jan 01 2003
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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