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Robot interviews Coriolis
September 22, 2009
The problem with Cornerstone Festival (www.cornerstonefestival.com) is that there are so many great bands, and so many conflicting set times ("Should I see David Bazan or Brian Welch, because it ain't gonna be both"), that finding time to check out new bands can be exceedingly difficult. However, after reading an HM Magazine newsblurb proclaiming "industrial metal... influenced by Circle of Dust," I knew I had to make a point of catching Pennsylvania-based Coriolis. I was not disappointed! Recently, I had a chance to speak with band founder and frontman Jonathan P. Stamets, one Klay Scott fan to another...
RNS ROBOT: So I'm with Jon Stamets of Coriolis on the phone here... what is Coriolis all about, Jon?
JONATHAN P. STAMETS: Oh geez, um, well it's really hard to throw it into a single category like that. But as far as the lyrics go and the message I'm trying to portray, I'm really trying to portray honesty. There's just not... in my opinion anyway... enough of that in music, people are either trying to please the Christian market or they're trying to please the mainstream market, you know, they're always kind of catering to someone to either sell more CDs or feel better about their music or whatever. With Coriolis we really just want to be honest, sing about what we're going through, write about real life and sometimes write about nonsense. Whatever we feel like at the time basically. As far as the music goes we're just trying to combine some of the influences that we've had. For example, I always loved the band Rammstein, if you're familiar with them...
Robot: Oh yeah, Rammstein's awesome.
Stamets: I've always absolutely loved Rammstein, but only the first couple albums. Then they got away from the real industrial/ electronic sound and more into 'the heavy metal.' We are trying to keep the real techno/industrial sound in our music. I was always a fan of Circle of Dust, Celldweller, you know all that but I was never quite happy with the guitars in that because they were never quite as metal as Rammstein.
Robot: The production quality of the mid-nineties stuff certainly too was, lower based on the time and the relative - not a lot of money to that stuff.
Stamets: Yes, absolutely.
Robot: Coriolis is not actually a 'new' band, really, I was surprised to read. You've been out for a number of years now.
Robot: Ddoes it feel like Coriolis is starting a new chapter? With the new label, a new album, working with a full band. How is it changed over the years?
Stamets: Coriolis was
always just a a one-man band. It was just myself doing all the instruments
and vocals on the CD, in fact any of the recordings you've heard so far
were all just one-man band recordings. I've always wanted to have
a live band. And ... our
Robot: You are currently signed with the label Youngside Records, who at one point had Disciple ... so they have a little bit of history to them. Um, What do - What has that label offered you so far... how have they helped Coriolis out?
Stamets: So far most of what we've been dealing with Youngside is on the distribution side. Arlene is a really, really great lady. I've spoken with probably a half-dozen other independent labels and Youngside was the first one to start delivering on the promises they made. And that means a lot, because in this business you hear a lot of people making a lot of promises, but once the contracts are signed, they don't really do what they said they could originally, and then you come to find out that it was greatly exaggerated. With Youngside, she's definitely - definitely helped us get the foot in the door in a lot of avenues that it would have taken a few more years for us to do. In addition, we feel that she really does have their artists best interest at heart.
In the sense that the deals they make are mutually beneficial to everyone. Even though there is not a whole lot of money to go around, at least we always feel like they are willing to work with our needs.
Robot: Can you find Coriolis CDs in stores across the States?
Stamets: Not quite yet, at least not that I'm aware of. I have seen CDs pop up on a few Amazon stores or eBay stores that also have physical locations, and those must have been some people who bought small quantities to sell, but nothing in large numbers yet.
Robot: Alright, now Coriolis' overall sound, like you say, you are doing kind of industrial metal, the techno, whatever you want to call it. What is it like doing a sound that right now is the farthest thing from trendy, what kind of response do you get? Do you have any resistance, are people apathetic towards it, do you find people are excited about it?
Stamets: People are tremendously excited about it - once they hear it. And that's the dilemma. Because when you're talking to booking agents or promoters, reviewers, people who are really the gatekeepers in the industry, they say no one is really interested in hearing industrial music anymore. Okay. Then once you are able to get your foot in the door, say at Cornerstone, we had people coming out of the woodwork saying 'Oh my God, it's been so long since I've heard anything like that, I really wish there was more music like that out there.' So we've been getting tremendous fan support, and support from the live audiences, et cetera, but I think it's still going to be a little while before we can prove that it still has a draw.
Robot: So you can pack 'em into a club or a church or a bar or whatever. If you put Coriolis on a bill, you probably will get some people to pay money to come see them.
Stamets: Yes, exactly.
Robot: Um, which is an interesting thing. I don't know what your personal thoughts are of the term 'Christian music' or the Christian industry or anything like that, but Coriolis, as far as I can tell, you play whatever show comes along, whether it's in a church or a bar or wherever.
Robot: Do you have a preference as to where you're playing?
Stamets: Honestly, yes. It's embarrassing to some degree, but at the same time, what we're really all about is honesty. And honestly, we really do prefer to play in the secular venues and bars, simply because those are the venues that are able to pay better. And at this stage of the game when we're paying our own gas and we're buying our own food - there's no such thing as a rider at these stages. It's nice to be able to go to a bar and get a percentage of the tickets sold to have enough money to get back home and stop at Burger King or something like that. Whereas, we're thankful for all the Christian shows, coffee houses, churches, things like that, but they're doing it as a ministry and so they can only really offer what's left over after their expenses are covered. And when they only have fifty or sixty people show up, there's normally not that much.
Robot: That's the tough thing... fair enough. What is your current live show like? At Cornerstone you had a three-piece, on your website is listed another member. What do the members bring to the table for the live show?
Staets: Each live show is a little bit different. We are normally set up as a three person band - myself on vocals and keys, sometimes some lead guitar, our guitarist Dan Schultz and our drummer Jim Yanus. And that's the band you saw at Cornerstone. For the larger shows, when we're able, we also have a keyboardist, the former keyboardist from the Wedding Party, KL. He's also the founder of the band Bridgeshadows, so when we need another body on stage and want to make it a little more visually interesting, we'll have him along. We actually played a very small show last week in the window display of a local Hot Topix store.
Stamets: There wasn't much space available and there were a lot of sound constrictions, we had to keep it quiet, so it was just myself and my guitarist Dan just playing along to some backing tracks. And it still went over very well, but we couldn't fit the drummer there. Basically we just try to be as accommodating as possible, if people want a big band we bring in the four piece, if not we do what we can.
Robot: Do you prefer playing with the live musicians as opposed to playing with the tracks?
Stamets: Absolutely. One of my biggest complaints in getting into industrial music was that drum machines were abused.
And I really do like the energy of having a live drummer there so the people can see it's not just a karaoke show. There's just too much of that anymore. Two guys with a laptop computer on stage, singing along.
Robot: Yeah, I mean, I can play Rock Band in my living room, why am I going to pay money to see a dude do that?
Stamets: Yep. We have no problem with the backing traps because obviously, with industrial music, that's the nature of the beast. KMFDM, Rammstein, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, they all use those backing tracks. But I do at least like to have the live drummer there so it's more of a rock show.
Robot: And also your live drummer is huge and can kick anybody's butt if they want to give you trouble.
Stamets: Correct me if I'm wrong but he does like Duke Nukem.
Robot: I'm going to completely agree with you on that one. So the self-titled album was originally produced in 2005 and recently re-released with a bonus track on Youngside. So when is a new album coming?
Stamets: We are planning on a spring release for this coming year, 2010. We actually recorded three or four tracks for it already and it should most definitely be recorded by Christmas/New Year's, and so it should be pressed and manufactured in time for a spring release. Depending on the tour schedule next year we might actually release it AT Cornerstone, or we may release it a little earlier. We're just not sure on that part yet.
Robot: What can we expect from that sound, especially with, uh, four, four and a half years of growth as a musician?
Stemets: Bands say this a lot, but I'm wholeheartedly confident that it is going to blow the old album away. Honestly most of the songs that were written on the self-titled CD were written when I was sixteen years old. Lyrically, they were... good enough. I hate to phrase it this way but they were good enough to get us into the Christian market because honestly the standards were a little bit lower and musically they were good enough to really put on a good show, and radio-friendly enough to get us on some radio stations. But I was a sixteen year old kid. I didn't know where I was going musically, I didn't know a great deal about music theory, and so with this upcoming album not only do I have the help of a guitarist who's much better than me and a drummer who's much better than me, but now I also know the direction I'm going musically a lot more. I've just learned a lot more about songwriting. It's going to be a lot more consistent, there's a lot more dissonance, there's definitely a lot of a Nine Inch Nails vibe to go with the Rammstein style of guitars. It's definitely dark, ominous, and a little bit more progressive. So far the songs have been ranging from five-ten minutes in length. So I'm going to have a few radio edits to get the good promotion out of it, but the album cuts of these songs are you know, up there with Dream Theatre.
Robot: That's sounding pretty epic then.
Stamets: Yeah, I guess you could say that.
Robot: One influence I liked, I don't know if you're going to continue doing this, I really got a kick out of, was the penny whistle vibe on the first record, with the "Paladin" song, it was the Kung Fu/Kill Bill vibe. It reminds me of kind of a Zamfir thing, which is interesting to throw into the mix. Is some of that non-traditional industrial sound going to be on the new album?
Stamets: Yes. I've always been a huge fan of new age music. I think I own every Yanni album. I just love when when you go to a show, for example, one of my favorite bands is Dire Straits in the 'eighties. And you'd go to a Dire Straits show and you'd see somebody playing a saxophone, and a couple things later you'd see someone come out and start playing the flute, and then somebody'd be playing a guitar on his lap. And I just miss that, too much of the performances are, I hate to say it, but boring. And I like to be able to say, we know how to play these different instruments and we're not afraid to do it live, so I like to have that on the album as well.
Robot: Speaking of, a not-boring show, I've read that you have a martial arts background which sometimes comes into play for live performances. How does that work for you? What's your background in that?
Stamets: I spent three years studying Pai Lum Kung fu, which is White Dragon Kung fu. It's a Hawaiian style of Kung fu that was based on the traditional five Shaolin animals. It just looks kinda cool and it's easily incorporated with the beats. Every once in a while I like to pick up the glow-in-the-dark nunchuks, or a chain whip and whip that around my neck. But the shows that we've played in the last year or so, the stages were so small there just isn't room to do that. So sometimes that just has to get sacrificed so we don't destroy equipment or... bandmates. (laughs)
Robot: But it's another element that at the appropriate show you can put into the Coriolis experience.
Stamets: Absolutely. We do love theatrics.
Robot: I really find that a lot of Christian interviews don't seem to care about the music they just wanna talk about beliefs. Now that we were able to talk about some music first, I want to talk to you a little bit about maybe some specific 'Christian' art questions.
When we talk about industrial and Christians, I don't know how many people really know it, but in the mid-nineties there was some amazing Christian industrial music and heavy underground goth music. Bands that really... received little to no support or didn't sell very well. Because you know even though it doesn't seem that long ago, doing heavy music as a believer was not something that went over well.
Robot: Bands like Circle of Dust, Rackets & Drapes and Klank, some of whom no longer have anything to do with Christianity, sadly, but they really broke ground. Today, Christian heavy music is huge. Is there. a goth/industrial scene - I don't necessarily want to say a Christian scene - but is there any kind of community of goth or industrial believers creating music right now?
Stamets: Yes. Are you referring more towards fans or artists themselves?
Robot: Artists themselves. Who should fans of that kind of music check out? Who are some people, some bands you know that are good and working hard at it?
Stamets: I do have to naturally give a plug to the band Bridgeshadows, of our keyboardist, KL. That is the project he started when he was no longer in Wedding Party. Bridgeshadows has been around a little longer than Coriolis, but received very little support. Also an independent band. I'm actually in Bridgeshadows as well, I produced their album "Pray for Rain," so a lot of the Coriolis influences are in Bridgeshadows. But that particular CD we also had a female vocalist, and so that lent a really cool vibe to that. There's also the band Leper, from Chicago. You probably saw their name around Cornerstone quite a bit.
Robot: They're a GrrrrecordS band, aren't they?
Stamets: Yes. I am a huge fan of their newest album, it's definitely got a really cool, almost 'eighties darkwave sound to it. More on the techno, club- friendly industrial side, there's the band Paris Oroborus...
That's actually the former bass player from the old band Global Wave System... obviously, [fellow Youngside Records band] Conspiracy of Thought. They've got enough industrial influences to keep my attention, and they also put on a good show.
There's also Autumn's Descent, from Chicago.
Robot: So there is kind of a scene out there, it's just kind of small.
Stamets: Yes. But with the exception of Coriolis and Leper, very few are actually supported by a label in anyway so they're just independent bands.
Stamets: Easier to get in touch on myspace and things like that, but you're probably not going to read about them in __HM Magazine__.
Robot: Would you consider Coriolis part of the Christian music industry or is it just you're a band, you do your own thing?
Stamets: Yes, that is a constant thought. I hesitate to really put my foot down and say 'yes' or 'no.' But I'll just explain what my beliefs are. I'm a Christian, and I write all my lyrics from a Christian perspective. With that said, Christians get mad at God sometimes, Christians screw up sometimes, and not all Christians have the same beliefs. And the problem that I've seen is too often you will get a band that comes out as a Christian band and, well, for example. I've known some Christian bands that drank. Now, some Christians believe that drinking is a sin, some Christians don't. But nobody is going to say you are going to go to hell if you claim to be a Christian and you drink. Yet those same people said they can't be called a Christian band if they have a drink at the bar after their show. And so I've really tried to stay away from the Christian label because I don't want to disappoint people. I don't want to be labeled as a hypocrite. But at the same time people are labeling others as hypocrite when they don't actually know what the word really means in the first place.
Robot: That's like calling somebody a sell-out. People throw that word around so often misapplied.
You know you're only "selling out" if you go against your personal beliefs for the sake of money, but if your goal in the industry is to get paid as much as you can and you don't care how you do it, and you change your sound to do it, well you didn't sell out. You're achieving your goal and you didn't go against your integrity for it. But people like to feel like, bands owe them something.
Stamets: Yes. And I know that is, to a large degree, why the original push for the industrial bands fizzled out. People just found it too hard to believe that bands like Circle of Dust and Klank were actually Christians. And it just got to the point where they were so tired of defending the Christian side of their music they just said heck with it, we'll just focus on the music. So, long story short with Coriolis. We're perfectly comfortable playing in a church, we're perfectly comfortable playing in a bar. My personal beliefs come through the music, but just like the Psalms, not all the music is going to revolve around how great God is. In the words of the original Circle of Dust, 'Christian music shouldn't just be a Christian pep rally.'
Stamets: And we do have a tendency to sing about some of the issues that Christians don't like to hear about sometimes.
Robot: What would you would like to see more or less of in Christian music, music made by believers, however you want to phrase it?
Stamets: In a word? Professionalism. In the Christian industry, one of the biggest things that I've noticed is that everyone really is operating as a 'ministry.' And most of the ministries I've seen are operated on a volunteer basis. The problem that you run into ism a secular bar has a bottom line. They know exactly what's expected of them, and if they don't meet their goals they lose money. And so they do have a higher standard for bands, but at the same time they end up treating the bands a lot better. They return phone calls when they need to, they return emails, they'll tell you exactly when you're scheduled, they'll give you good promotion, et cetera, because they're going to lose money if they don't. Where on the Christian side of things, more often than not, when you try to get someone to return a phone call you don't hear from them until it's too late, or when you try and get someone to return an email, you find out your email was never even opened. They just don't seem to have the professionalism and the motivation that the normal music industry has and would normally makes things go more smoothly.
Robot: Fair enough. What is your favorite song to play live currently?
Stamets: Probably 'See You In Hell.'
Robot: (laughs) Is that as self-explanatory as the title sounds or is there...
Stamets: Ha. It's actually quite deep. That is a song that's going to be on the upcoming album. 'See You In Hell' is a song I have listed on our myspace player, so you can hear it right now. Basically the song is talking about how everyone has someone living inside of them that they really don't like. It's like Paul says, 'I do things I don't wanna do, I don't do the things I know I should do.' And yet, no one really knows why. And so just like everyone else I noticed that other person inside myself that I absolutely hated. So I decided to make a song about what I would actually do to that person if I could get my hands on him. The song has pretty racy lyrics, 'you make me hate you/I wanna suffocate you/I only wanna see you die/you long to rape me/and I'm so out of shape thanks to you and all your lies." So live, I see a lot of people with some funny looks on their faces, like 'is he really sayin' that at a Christian venue?' But that really is what it's referring to, it's referring to killing that nature inside of all us, ending it with "yeah, I'll see you in hell."
Robot: If you could open up for any band, present or past, who would it be?
Stamets: Hmm... that's a really tough one. I think I'd have to say it's a tie between Rammstein or Marilyn Manson.
Robot: Be pretty cool shows either way. We'll just say how about, Marilyn Manson is headlining, Rammstein is on the bill, and you're the first band. Go with that.
Stamets: That would be great.
Robot: Is there any question that you would like to be asked that you haven't or have never been asked?
Stamets: Hmm... (pause) to be honest with you, you actually already asked quite a few questions that I've never been asked before.
Robot: Cool. Just really quickly, where can people check out Coriolis if they've never heard you and are interested?
Stamets: The best place is myspace.com/coriolis.
RNS ROBOT: Cool. Thanks again Jon.
STAMETS: Thanks again. Have a good day.