Interview with Jared Hendrickson of Chemlab at Chicago Trax on 11/4/95 during the recording of the new Chemlab album.

Photos by Jester Copyright © 1996

[ The merry trio of myself, Ed Finkler, and my roommate Nick all arrived at Trax at approximately 9pm only to find that Jared was still enroute to the studio. After a food run and standing around the studio feeling stupid we ventured back to the main recording room only to be intercepted by Brian McNellis and introduced to a menagerie of guests present for the recording sessions, including, Zalman Fishman, the owner of Fifth Column Records, John Bergin of Trust Obey and his wife, and John Elliot of Dessau. Finally Jared made his presence known is his usual showman like style, more introductions were made and after a few hours of creative recording input we persuaded Jared to give us a short interview. ]

Jester: Tell us a little about the interview you did with Option magazine.

Jared: It was a two hour and forty-five minute conversation that I thought was reasonably good. She asked some good questions, but she only printed one page of it. Sorry, Sandy we had a good time, but you could have printed more of the interview.

Jester: What was the deal with the blonde hair in the accompanying photo?

Jared: In September of last year, Craig Albertson died and I cut off all my hair. He overdosed and I cut off all my hair, it was time for a change. I dyed it blonde, it used to be a lot longer but I cut it all off again. Now it is this sort of two tone mess.

Jester: How has the past few weeks of recording been going?

Jared: Very well, we're having a blast. I don't know if anyone is going to appreciate it, but honestly I don't care. We're having a really good time, and we're recording some really cool stuff.

Jester: What does some of the new stuff sound like? We've heard the teaser on the Forced Cranial Removal sampler, but that is only the teaser.

Jared: Well I don't know, sort of like the Chemical Halo remixes, a couple of Codeine like pieces and a couple of way out tracks. I don't mean to be very esoteric but it certainly not predictable at all. It is not a Summer of Hate II at all.

Jester: How is the new album lyrically? Are there any changes from the previous albums?

Jared: I don't know. You'll have to find out yourself. I think that there is always a change. There is a whole lot more sex.

Jester: Are you working less with treated vocals?

Jared: Definitely. A lot of coming to terms with your art is a process that is evolutionary and reflects a very personal aspect of my life. I'm not sure, I'll have to think about that a little more.

Jester: With the album title almost solidified with the advent of the press release, what made you choose the title, "Jesus Christ Porno Star?"

Jared: The title is still not set in stone. I could change that album title five minutes before the pressing of the CD.

Jester: What was the methodology behind that particular name?

Jared: I thought of it one day in the shower, and I gave the idea to Dylan, and he said, "Holy Shit, that really makes sense to me!" Some people see it as sort of a shock value but I just see it as a sick twist of "Jesus Christ Superstar", It hasn't been thought over and discussed and dissected, it's just a title. I mean, who cares what the title means. The idea came to me in the shower. Now, of course it has tremendous meaning. It would not be the album title if it did not have meaning. That is why the new title is, "Fuck You Teenage America", just kidding. People should listen to the music and not complain about the title. If you don't buy an album because of it's title that no excuse. Maybe you buy an album and like the music and hate the lyrics, or hate the music but like the lyrics but don't not buy an album because of the title. People should get over it. Decide the if you like the album because of the music, and if you don't buy it because of the title you are so superficial. The way that everyone is carrying on online upsets me. It concerns me that people just don't think.

Nick: Is the title of the album actually referenced at all in any of the songs?

Jared: I actually sing about the character at one point. The song that Dylan is working on right now is called "Vera Blue" which is about three of these nocturnal females that I know. Actually it is a composite of all three. I've met a lot of strange people in my life. I'll turn 35 later this year and I have a lot to reflect on. The title is sort of a reference through the lyrics in general, they don't make much sense. There could also be a scenario where people buy the album despite the title and think that it is really great.

Nick: Are the stories told with some of the lyrics occurring before the previous album, or only between 'Burn Out..' and the new album?

Jared: Of course. I periodically draw from very current stuff as well as stuff from the past. You always pull lyrics from earlier experiences. I never restrict myself with only ideas that occurred between albums. Dylan does the same thing with his music as well. You can't just break down the concepts from a specific time period. Dylan is the translator of the previous experiences and all four of us in this room will get something different out of it when we listen to it.

Jester: How did you get involved with Vampire Rodents new album "Clockseed", and most specifically, the track which you did vocals on, 'Low Orbit'?

Jared: Daniel is just a brilliant guy, I really like his music. I always have. His whole sense of composition is really dense and I like that. I've worked with Dylan many times before in writing music but Daniel has a very different compositional approach. It is sort of like math-rock. He is one of the people I could call an intellectual and not laugh when I say it. I enjoy his approach to music and for some reason he enjoys hearing my burned out, cigarette twisted voice. Daniel is tremendously prolific, beyond that of most musicians. He's writing some children's music now. I think you should really talk to him about this. The music is so demented that he knows that it will never be performed in front of children. It is the whole pedophilic approach, but not in the negative sense. Musically it is a very interesting concept. Musically I think my vocals straining his music and that the music itself would function just as well without my vocals, just like I think Dylan's music could do the same.

Jester: We talked briefly about John Bergin when you introduced him to me earlier and Brian McNellis showed me some of his artwork he brought with him, is he up here negotiating a possible album contract with Fifth Column?

Jared: Yes, we are trying to work out a deal to put out his C17H29No3 music. He sent me a whole box of music and I scrolled through a CD and a handful of cassettes, and I told him that if he took it all and compiled it into an album we'd put it out on the label. Nothing Records doesn't want to focus on anything besides the sound of the four bands already on the label. So we're the machine to put out his music, so we'll do it. He's a great guy. I enjoy putting out artists records like John Bergin or The Final Cut. The only problem is when. The problem about being a general manager for a label is that I don't want to schedule another band's release at the same time as the new Chemlab album. I don't want to detract from the other bands focus just because my band is releasing a new album. The new Chemlab, Final Cut & Acumen records are all coming out during the beginning of the next year and we have to schedule the limited promotional dollars evenly which is a pain.

Jester: What has it been like being the General Manager of Fifth Column Records the past year?

Jared: It's been like a real record label. it has been good because I sign the bulk of the bands on the label. When we first got here a club downtown had a Fifth Column Records night and I was going to go down and surprise them, but I was worn out. I was looking at the whole Fifth Column catalogue and thought, "Wow, music from my living room." I love being involved with the label. It give me the chance to help people put their records out. It's an imperfect situation, I would never think that the record industry in the best scenario could be a positive situation, but our label has to be one of the better ones. The entire recording industry is full of sharks, rapists, pedophiles, policemen and priests. Ugh, those are all the worst things possible known to man. The record industry is horrible and a lot of the time I hate being associated with it. I try and make something positive happen. Why not? I try to be idealistic about it.

Jester: How has the label done financially? has it done incredibly well?

Jared: Are you crazy? We call it the 'stealth label'. It is amazing, we drop the CD's in the stores but they just don't sell.

Nick: I've seen Fifth Colum music in the most amazing places. Backwoods country record stores with a Fifth Column section.

Jared: It is really frustrating because this distribution situation is terrible.

Jester: Has the label broken even yet at all?

Jared: The label is just about to make money. Knock on metal! [ Jared raps his hands on someone's old Akai ]

Jester: Do you plan on releasing the same number of records next year as you did this year?

Jared: I'd like to plan on releasing four albums a month. That is more than I'd like to do. Hopefully we'll begin making money the first couple of months next year and we can put it towards focusing on our music. For example, Cameron Lewis called up and was concerned that because his record was not doing well, that perhaps Fifth Column Records was going to drop him. I asked him if he was crazy. I signed that not because it was going to sell like crazy. I would hope that it would, but that was not the reason why I signed Ipecac Loop. He sent me this tape and I listened to it on my headphones late at night walking around New York and it spoke to me. I told him that if the record label is still around when he wants to put his next album out, I'll put it out. I hope we'll gain some financial stability going into the new year.

Jester: Have you gotten all of the kinks out of the labels yet?

Jared: No, of course not. We're close. It's not a perfect world going through three different cover artists and multiple people doing text layout. Optimally, we'd have one artist doing all the artwork.

Nick: It seems to me that all the independent labels have problems with distribution. Has anyone ever thought to get all the labels together and form one distribution center yourselves?

Jared: Why don't you do it?

Nick: Because I don't have that kind of financial backing?

Jared: I'd bet with all the labels that are out there that it would be able to be done. With enough labels involved, money would not be an issue.

Nick: Do most of the people in the industry not get along well enough to pull something like that off?

Jared: I at least try to get along with everyone. I'd really see someone try to start something like that because there are not enough channels of distribution for independent labels. Caroline Records is a frustrating joke. There are not a great deal of other choices; Cargo, Metablade, R.E.D. Priority, Dutch East, Twin Cities. I've deal with all those in the past.

[ A mild interruption occurs when Geno of Filter calls Trax asking for Jared, so we pause a few minutes and continue after all the bad Filter jokes subside. ]

Jester: Is MTV still avoiding playing yer video?

Jared: Yes!

Jester & Nick: We came up with a sick idea of utilizing the 'MTV - Invades Your Space' contest, and having all of enter the contest, and then take over MTV for the weekend and show all industrial videos, and showcase Rockumentaries on anyone who wanted to show up and help us take over the cable network.

Jared: If somebody does that, I'll show up and figure out a way to write it off.

[ Zalman Fishman, the owner of Fifth Column records showed up with the movie selection of the evening and we ended back up on the topic of the album title.]

Jared: The more someone tries to tell me that the title of the album is a bad choice the more I want to keep the title.

Nick: How many fans will even recognize the origin of the title?

Jared: "Wasn't that like a musical in the seventies?" I'm not adverse to offending people. I can change the title, and who knows, it may change. I'm kind of enjoying the ruckus it is causing.

Jester: It is probably doing wonders for the press.

Jared: Of course it is. Finally someone realizes the point I'm trying to make. Now everyone understands. I definitely enjoy playing games with my public and I'm definitely not finished doing it yet. The name Chemlab was chosen because we needed something for the cover of the "Ten-Ton Pressure" EP and it looked good so we kept it. Dylan and I were complaining finishing the artwork and I was mumbling, "My head feels like a chemical lab.", and suddenly it clicked. We both liked it and it made sense.

Jester: What are the plans for touring with the new album?

Jared: We're going to tour like crazy. I'm sure we're going to tour. Chris Randall and I from Sister Machine Gun have been talking about doing another tour together. That will be a really interesting change of affairs. TVT has nothing else better on the label which is why Chris is touring right now with Die Krupps. TVT would be nuts not to market the hell out of his album. In terms of business sense TVT would be stupid to not push his album. So, we're gearing up the touring machine for early next year. Hopefully we'll tour before the release of the new album.

Nick: Any plans to tour overseas?

Jared: Yes, I'd like to tour overseas. We're talking with at least two booking agencies, and a few others have expressed interest. I'd like to do it in the Spring of 1996. I am not sure how were going to pull it off so that is why we'll be touring before the album is released to work out the kinks.

Jester: Are you still thinking about playing the college circuit like you talk about before?

Jared: Sure, if they give us enough money. The way college budgets are set up, are that if they are not used, they goto thing like reseeding the front quad or putting more books in the library, which by the way I am not against. I'd be glad if they bought more books, but not if they reseed the lawns. Give me the money, I'll use it to entertain.

Ed: What is the story on Full Contact Records?

Jared: It is sort of a side project for the label. Full Contact Records is a way for us to put out different stuff. It will probably start out as jungle, trip-hop, gabba, and some weird low-fi stuff that I'd like to get into. It is a way for us to put out different music, kind of like Cleopatra and Hypnotic Records relationship.

Jester: Any last words before we finish up?

Jared: Don't live by anything I say, and please, don't take anything I say as advice.

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