We are honored here at Popblerd to begin The Blerd13 in 2012 with Ryan Shuck, singer/guitarist of Julien-K. Julien-K’s latest album, We’re Here With You (Out now! Read our review here.), is an electro-rock tour-de-force and made it all the way to #2 on the US Itunes Electronic Music Chart during the week of release. Mr. Shuck recently took a moment to shed some light on the new album and what’s in store for the band you must know in 2012:
1. For those who don’t know, what has been happening in the Julien-K camp between Death To Analog and We’re Here With You?
Lots of touring: 2 European runs, and we’ve been slowly taking over all the band operations ourselves. We have our own company now, so we are slowly learning what works and what doesn’t work in terms of releasing our music worldwide, setting up a functional web store, promoting the record, etc etc. We are making a lot of mistakes, but one thing we have NOT fucked up is our music. Our new record and videos are stellar.
2. We’re Here With You is decidedly more electronic throughout. Was this a conscious decision during the writing process or was it something that happened as the band evolved?
You think so? Because were not really sure. I think we brought guitars back in a really cool way, but yes, we did try to make the record more danceable. And we have always had very strong electronic roots.
3. I love the idea that WHWY is labeled as “10 sonic postcards” because the songs definitely have their own feel to them yet the album as a whole is still very cohesive. Was it your intent to create songs as love letters to your favorite cities all along?
No. They are not all love letters. But they are HEAVILY influenced by traveling. We do love to travel, and we get a lot of vibe from our favorite cities and cultures – its really more of an atmosphere or context from which we can tell our stories… all great songs are great stories wrapped in an amazing new atmosphere or sound. We happen to get that sound or “vibe” from travel, as well as art, music, culture… movies, fashion. The art “stream of consciousness” from around the world.
4. Do you have a favorite song on the new album? Favorite to play live?
Very common question, and I still don’t have the answer. I really enjoy the entire hour I’m up there.. I don’t really get especially excited over one particular song in a live setting. I really like the entire new record. I suppose my favorites are “Breakfast In Berlin”, “We’re Here With You”, “Palm Springs Reset”, “Close Continuance”, “Ill Try Not To Destroy You”…..
5. What are the touring plans for We’re Here With You?
We are going to tour until people wake the fuck up and support the music that they love (us). We are going to bring our music to every city possible. We love to travel and we love to play so we don’t consider touring work. We love it.
6. Has there ever been thought of some new takes on Orgy classics in a Julien-K set?
Yes there has. I’ve thought about it a lot. I love what we did in Orgy but at the end of the day, we want Julien-K to stand on its own without the crutch of Orgy so we need to be very sure we have established ourselves as something NEW before breaking out old songs from one of our other bands. Its very tempting for a new band that comes from a very successful previous band – to play that previous bands material – but that is SO typical. We don’t want to be typical. We want to have courage and confidence in what were doing NOW. I believe as an artist, you need to be bringing something new and convincing to the table every time you bring a body of work to market.
7. Speaking of tours, what would be the ideal venue for you to play? Stadium? Theater? Someone’s backyard?
We don’t think like that. At all. That is the way a person who has never played a show thinks. We want to play for people who “get it” – or COULD “get it”. Period. We don’t care where or how. We love to travel and we love to play. The reason we create music is to bring it to the world. The world means many different venues, and we really enjoy the variety. The only thing I really demand (and we don’t always get) is a great sound system.
8. How have your responsibilities changed over the years from your role in Orgy to now as frontman of Julien-K?
I have to set the tone now, and in many ways i set the tone in Orgy. I was a hairdresser before I was a professional musician and I designed much of the look for Orgy, as I have in every band I’m in. In Orgy I wrote many vocal ideas and performed many vocal duties with Jay on our records – now I have many more duties to perform vocally because we don’t really have another really good singer like we did in Orgy with Jay and I in the lead. Of course when you are the lead singer, the pressure is ultimately on YOU to set the bar high in a live performance and to really make sure you work as hard as you can the entire show. It’s harder of course. It can be exhausting. You also have to be the spokesperson for the band and set the tone in terms of mood and vibe for the band…. if you aren’t into it you can destroy the whole band.. you have to be careful if you love your band and your art. Lead singers are powerful – and you have to be careful to not let your attitude fuck everyone else up – because lead singers are not always the most talented or influential people in the band….. everyone in my band is immensely talented.
9. I noticed that the previously released “The Hunting” didn’t make it onto the final tracklisting. Are there plans to release it or other non-album tracks down the road?
I think we released it. At least I count an online release as releasing it nowadays. I feel no need to spoon feed our music to a fan base that simply wanders into music retailers when “they feel like it’ to “possibly purchase our music”. To be honest, that model is dead, and I have no interest in it. I want to sell to a fanbase that fucking pays attention and is connected. I want a fan base that is capable and nimble, not attached to the old ways of consuming music. Our real fans have the song, and that’s what I care about: creating more REAL fans who are directly connected to us through the web via facebook, julien-k.com, systeme de street, LIVE SHOWS (thats #1), and other outlets.
10. What is your take on the music industry today? Being a member of such a DIY band, do you feel the backing of major labels is important or that with social media, the majors are definitely a thing of the past?
Majors are a thing of the past in many ways, but can be helpful if you are a big pop act (pop can mean anything that has the potential to be REALLY popular and commercialized in the dumbest sense). Almost any great band can become a pop band… and all the bullshit of being on a “major” comes with it. I fucking hate it. Here’s an example: a major label would have made us release “Cruel Daze of Summer” as our first MAJOR single – as the first release on our record. Even though we released the record in the winter (fucking stupid). We decided that we wanted to release a few “vibe tracks” to SLOWLY build the band (“Breakfast in Berlin” and next: “We’re Here With You”). A major would NEVER do that. We shot two videos back to back, paid for it ourselves, and did NOT market to commercial radio. We let it happen on its own… we didn’t assume anything. We just put it out. We are actually charting now with “Breakfast in Berlin”, and we didn’t even try to do anything other than create a vibe with the track. The track is honest and authentic – its unassuming, and the video is fucking COOL. That’s powerful. Fuck labels.
11. What triggered the move from Metropolis to Tiefdruck?
It wasn’t about Tiefdruck – it was about Daniel Heerdman. We believe Daniel is brilliant and we wanted to work with him, and we think he is going to become a major star. We are actually Julien-K INC (if you want to get technical). We are not on Tiefdruck. It is these huge fucking companies like Amazon that don’t have the ability to quickly absorb changes like: we are not with the same company any longer! We own our own company now and that company is Julien-K INC, and Daniel is our partner. We started something new. But again – we don’t really give a fuck about what these giant slow idiot companies put out as “definitive information” or “minutiae”. We just keep creating great music – that’s what our fans care about.
12. What’s next for Julien-K? Will the gap between the 2nd and 3rd album be shorter?
Fuck yes. It will be shorter. We’re in control now. Whats next? Really? We’re going to tour our asses off until people understand what the fuck we’re trying to do.
13. For my own peace of mind, is “This Machine” ever going to show up on a Julien-K album?
Thanks again to Ryan Shuck and Julien-K for taking the time to chat with us. If you haven’t picked up We’re Here With You yet, what are you waiting for.