One of the most significant bands is without any doubt the Canadian one-man project Re_agent leaded by Justin Tripp. With his last release “Abandon” Justin earned well deserved recognition from around the whole globe. Time to ask for some facts and secrets behind this project, just also right in time, because Justin is going to release his new CD “Abscond: The Abandon Remixes” just now while you read this! “Abscond: The Abandon Remixes” will feature – like the title says it – several new and remixed stuff taken from “Abandon”. And again: Re_agent is not signed, so best way is to contact Justin directly at www.reagentoverdose.com. But first, the interview…
Chain D.L.K.: Same procedure as always, Justin. Please introduce us briefly Re_agent. How, when and why did you create your music project?
Re-agent: I’ve been writing music on my own ever since I was a teenager…well, trying to write music at least [laughs]. I took a break from it for a number of years in the mid 90’s and came back to it in ’99 or so. It was actually during this time that I came up with the concept for Re_agent. A lot of things have changed since I started writing again and the original concept is now long gone, but I truly feel like I’m going in the right direction now. Originally Re_agent was going to be a horror/sci-fi-themed project. I got the name from one of my favorite horror films (Re-Animator), but my life took a drastic turn a couple of years back which resulted in the project turning into something very personal. Now, Re_agent is really just therapy for me [laughs].
Chain D.L.K.: We always try to sort artists into different music styles. I would qualify Re_agent as a Dark Techno/Electro act, while you see yourself based in classic old-school Industrial. Please try to describe your stuff to somebody who has never heard your music…
Re-agent: Well first off, it’s not that I consider myself “classic” or “old school” Industrial. Everyone has an opinion on where Industrial started and (possibly) stopped. Some could argue that Industrial was dead before I was even born, but for me Industrial was what I listened to in my teenage years…I’d listen to anything from Foetus to Leaether Strip to 16 Volt and it was all Industrial to me. There was very little debate back then about what sub-genre bands belonged to. Then all of a sudden it was “Oh, this is Darkwave and this is Coldwave and this is a hybrid of this and that”. For me, Industrial has just always had a very specific attitude…not so much a specific SOUND. It’s dark, it’s honest, it’s aggressive and it’s not afraid to have a little bit of fun underneath it all too. I find things are very different now. Our sub-culture has become really divided, which is unfortunate. It used to be that you could find all sorts of different elements in your typical industrial release, but then people started picking out all of those little elements and specifically categorizing EVERYTHING. Now it’s like, you’ve only got one choice when it comes to “your sound”. You can’t put out a CD that has a variety of elements because then you won’t fall under one of these SPECIFIC categories. Nowadays, an artist could put out a new album with the slightest change in their sound and people will freak out because the artist has supposedly leaned towards a different “genre”! The result of this is that now we’ve got artists restricting themselves because they’ve been pigeon-holed into one specific type of sound and if they want to do anything DIFFERENT, they’ve gotta do a SIDE-PROJECT for it! I feel like we should just drop all the goddamned categories and just go back to embracing the industrial genre as a whole, so artists won’t be feeling like they’ve gotta write the same shit over and over again. I mean, obviously you’re going to have artists who WANT to concentrate on a specific sound, and that’s fine. But I PERSONALLY don’t like the fact that if I write a noisy track and someone hears it and affiliates me with the noise GENRE, you have all these people throwing their hands in the air screaming “RE_AGENT’S NOT NOISE!!!”, like I’ve tainted their fucking water or something! So I don’t really find it all that easy to describe my sound. Fact is you’re going to hear a LOT of different styles in my releases. I’m not going to be confined to any one specific sound. If I want to write something noisy, I’m gonna do it. If I want to do a track with guitars, I’ll do it. If I want to write a mellow, Ambient track, I’m gonna do that too! But the overall attitude will remain the same. It’ll still be me and if people don’t like what I’m doing this time around, hey…try again next year.
Chain D.L.K.: A look into your discography: I see compilation appearances on Sub.Session or the TIK, both labels normally based on Powernoise/Industrial music. How does an Electro/Industrial act with ”real“ vocals fit into their program and how did you get in contact with them?
Re-agent: Well, TIK and Sub.Session are both local labels and it’s a pretty tight-knit community here, so it wasn’t that hard. I‘d known Squid (of TIK, who now runs BugsCrawlingOutOfPeople) for YEARS…we actually used to DJ at the same bar back in the 90’s and I met Wade (Sub.Session) through Mike Morton (DISPLACER). So yeah, as you can see, everyone knows everyone somehow around here and Toronto’s very supportive of its homegrown talent, so it was just a matter of time before we were all working together. When Sub.Session asked me to be a part of their compilations and when TIK asked me to take part in the Saturation Bombing II fest, they didn’t rule me out because I wasn’t just “noise”. They heard my music, they liked it and they took a chance and supported me, whether I fit perfectly into what they were doing or not. Both of them are great and they’ve played HUGE parts in my success to date.
Chain D.L.K.: There is also a first demo CDR called “Demolish”. Is this release still available or did you delete it after the release of ”Abandon“?
Re-agent: No, it’s not available anymore. “Demolish” was just a cheap demo (hence it’s title) that I handed out around town. I did it in an effort to get my name out as well as get some outside opinions on my music. To my surprise, the little thing ended up being really well-received. DJs started playing it and word started to spread, so it certainly did its job. But it’s definitely long-gone and I plan to keep it that way. 3 of the 5 tracks on “Demolish” made it onto “Abandon” anyways, and believe me when I say that no one’s really missing out on those other two tracks… [laughs].
Chain D.L.K.: The kind of music that you produce it is often intended to make dissonance visible and to share critical thoughts through lyrics. How important to you are your lyrics? And what inspires you lyrically?
Re-agent: Well, lyrics are somewhat important to me. I use vocals to vent, essentially [laughs]. Like I mentioned earlier, Re_agent was originally supposed to be a horror/sci-fi-themed project. If you’ve heard “Brain Death”, that track was the dying breath of the original concept. After writing 4 or 5 tracks which were horror-themed, I found it increasingly hard to write lyrics about something I didn’t really give a shit about. I didn’t really want to write songs about zombies or Dr. Who or whatever. It felt too empty to me. The other problem was that I found that there was just too much emotion in the music I was writing to have such light subject matter overtop of it. I was using my music as an outlet for my emotions, so the accompanying lyrics ended up being really personal. Now, most of my lyrics are inspired by something I’ve felt or experienced.
Chain D.L.K.: Besides that you have several instrumental pieces on „Abandon“. Compared to the tracks which feature your vocals, how important to you are they? How and when do you decide to make a track instrumental or filled with vocals? How is the normal way in which you compose a typical Re_agent track?
Re-agent: Right, well like I was saying, I’m usually split on doing vocals. Sometimes I’ll feel a track just works well enough on its own and doesn’t need anything more than maybe a few samples that help carry the mood of the piece. Other times I’ll write a track that COULD sound good with vocals, but I don’t record any because the track just doesn’t end up flowing that way. When it comes to my procedure for composing, well, there really isn’t a specific process…I can only work on music at certain times. I’ve gotta be inspired by something first and foremost, but I basically start with a loop or melody that I feel accurately portrays the mood I’m trying to depict and I build on that. I’ll work on the track’s composition as a whole, work on the flow, and while I’m doing that, I see if it’ll work as a vocal track or not.
Chain D.L.K.: After the release of „Abandon“, I am pretty much wondering why you are still an unsigned artist. Any news about a co-operation with a label you can fill in here? Where do you see the pros and cons of being unsigned?
Re-agent: Well, I’m unsigned for a number of reasons, really.
One, I’m a complete control freak when it comes to my music and I don’t like the idea of anyone interjecting and trying to tell me how I should be doing things.
Two, I’ve got several friends on labels and after what I’ve heard and seen them go through; I don’t even WANT to be on anything. There appears to be quite a bit of tension between a lot of labels out there and I don’t want to feel like I’m joining a fucking hockey team or some shit. I like a lot of different acts on a lot of different labels, so being on the outside and working with them without any outside influences interfering is really nice. Hopefully I can continue doing this without labels developing problems with ME! [laughs]
Three, it’s SO easy to get your music out there on your own. All it takes is a bit of effort. The internet is a phenomenal tool for artists in general. It allows us in the underground get our art seen and/or heard around the world without the support of some cash-cow company.
But I actually originally sent out the “Demolish” demo to a bunch of labels and I got a good response. A lot of them contacted me wanting to hear more, but as I wrote new material, my songs became more and more personal. It eventually got to a point where I just couldn’t fathom anyone owning the rights to my music accept me. So I never bothered to send anything out after that. Plus I’m comfortable doing this on my own. Too many artists are in a rush to get signed. Everyone is seeking this instant “rockstardome” that comes with getting signed, but that’s really not what I’m about. I don’t feel like I need a label to make my status as a musician “official”. Unfortunately, that’s the way a lot of people see it…you’re nobody unless you’re signed. But, you know, I’m happy to have to work this much harder in order to get a little recognition. In the end, the product I put out is pure, unfiltered Re_agent, and as an artist, that’s what’s most important to me: maintaining creative control.
Now, that being said, one of the first labels to inquire was Optikon Rekords, which is run by John (Kaiju) from ANDRACULOID. John’s a super-nice guy and we get along great, so we recently discussed how we could work together in a way where I would feel comfortable, maintain creative control and retain the rights to my music. He feels very much the same way I do as an artist, so he respected my concerns and we pounded out a deal. I’ll be doing an upcoming EP as a split between Optikon and my own label, which is still somewhat of a secret. Keep your ear to the ground!
Chain D.L.K.: With “In Your Eyes” released on “Interbreeding IV: Gefährlich” out on BLC Productions you are already giving the audience a new track. What is to come next from you? Any street dates of a new release you can already confirm here?
Re-agent: Well, that was really just a beta track for “In Your Eyes”. The track was really well-received, but it will be re-appearing later this year on the new EP (tentatively titled “The Overcast EP”) in a slightly altered form. I’ve also already received remixes for that track from PNEUMATIC DETACH and FRACTURED, both of which are incredible and will see the light of day on that same disc. As of right now, there’s no release date for it. I’ve got to record vocals for a few more tracks, and then seek out a few extra remixes. I’m aiming for a summer release.
Chain D.L.K.: You made also a few live appearances on stage. How did it run for you and what does a Re_agent gig look like?
Re-agent: Well, I’m still working on the live show. I’m very picky about what shows I play because I’m still too busy concentrating on the music aspect and don’t want to get too distracted by live shows right now. The past year or so I’ve played a number of gigs and they’ve gone really well. After the EP is out of the way, I’m really going to concentrate on the live act. Right now the live show consists of myself and one of my friends usually filling in on keys. I’ve got some great background visuals care of francist at thisisnotdesign.com to make the live show that much more interesting, but I’d really like to assemble something solid this year. I’ll be looking for a keyboardist and drummer to accompany me on stage this summer, so the live show will just be getting better and better as time goes on.
Chain D.L.K.: Besides music, what does Mr. Tripp do in his private life?
Re-agent: Well, it wouldn’t be very private if I told you now, would it? [laughs]
Chain D.L.K.: Your plans for your future musically and personal?
Re-agent: Well, both of them are linked for me. Right now there is no set plan. I’ve gone through some major changes in my life the past few years and I’m currently getting back up on my feet. I’ve got a career in design right now, but I’d like music to pay all the bills some day. And while I don’t necessarily think that I’ll go multi-platinum in this lifetime, I’d really like to get into doing soundtracks…composing music for film or TV or something. We’ll just have to see where things go from here. Absolutely everything is up in the air for me right now.
Chain D.L.K.: Any final comments you would like to add?
Re-agent: Yes. There’s no capital “A” in Re_agent. ;]
Chain D.L.K.: Thanks for the interview!
Visit Re-agent on the web at:
[interviewed by Marc Tater] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]