This THE NEW JACOBIN CLUB interview with Xerxes Praetorius, aka “The Horde” was done in order to find out more about this exciting Canadian band. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
What is a jacobin club? Is there any greater concept behind using a word like Jacobin in a band name context?
-It is most definitely part of a larger concept that has been present since day one. I would feel ridiculous if I attempted to begin a history lesson on the Jacobin Club was and what it represented, there is plenty of info out there online and in history books. The important part of it that we identify with is that we do not believe in rule by birthright or advantage of wealth. We also are a viciously anti-theocratic lot. When money and religion corrupt and twist governing bodies, we are the ones that are there to challenge it in a very public and grotesque fashion. We are the artistic embodiment of what every fat conservative upper middle class church going bigot is afraid of.
You have a new EP out that you are promoting. Why did you do just an EP and not a full length album?
-The upcoming full-length album is a stand alone concept, where this EP is a special collection. Last year we had studio time at a new place in town and since we were fresh from touring to support “This Treason,” we didn’t have any truly new material. As a sort of 15th anniversary celebration we recorded a few songs that had been in our live repertoire in the 1990’s. 2 of these had never been properly studio recorded or released. The way the 7 piece band in 2011 handled material originally written as a trio in 1996 was so interesting and exciting that we thought it warranted a release of its own instead of just quietly slipping one or two of them on to the next album. This EP forges a link to the bands past, I think it was important for us that people hear it. It’s not raging metal. It’s not symphonic goth. It’s not 3 chord horror punk. It’s something else, it’s what NJC has always been about, no matter how we’ve approached it over the years.
When you are that many people involved what influence does that have on the creative process?
-I would have to say that the interesting part about our creative process is that you often have one person trying to tell 5 or 6 other people what they think they should be doing. Being the polite Canadian artists we are, we always comply. Then the mind blowing revelation comes when someone finally turns it around and says “I’ve been working on something different for this song – we don’t have to use it but check it out.” There’s always a moment where I stop and think – “boy this song was sort of a drag until we started doing it that way” The theatrical performers are also always coming up with more and more elaborate things leaving the musicians a monumental task of trying to work it into a song, sometimes it actually influences the creation of a song. In this wonderful but indirect way, even the non-instrumentalists in our group influence the music.
For the last album you did a DVD too. What was the idea about the DVD and how was it received?
-We wanted people to be able to take our show home with them, and also give our fans elsewhere in the world a chance to be right in front of the stage at one of our shows. At first we had an idea to shoot a few videos that would follow the concept of the album (the story of Sir Hugh Despenser), but in the end we opted for a deluxe live show – multi camera angle, mobile recording studio, the whole 9. We still shot a video for the title track, and included it, but the live show is what makes us what we are. In addition, we wanted to do something big. CD’s are virtually dead as a format, and have become little more than souvenirs for concert goers. We wanted to make the album worth picking up. You can listen to it streaming online anytime, you can buy it on iTunes, but you can’t see any of the 90 minutes of footage anywhere but on the DVD.
Has modern technology made it easier to fully realize your artistic visions in bringing the show to more people in a few easy steps?
-In terms of outlets like youtube, yes, I suppose. For a very long time we were always called “Western Canada’s most shocking secret” or something similar to that. The fact is, people won’t drag their lazy asses to a concert if they’re not sure it’ll be a good time, but they’ll look it up on youtube and then go “holy shit! I’m gonna check this out when they’re in town” I openly admit we have been extremely slow to adapt to the social networking technology available to artists in the 21st century, but we’re working on it.
When you have an as elaborate stage show as you guys have is there ever any danger of the music taking second seat?
-Of course, but for us it’s not a danger as much as it’s merely a possibility. Sometimes the music IS secondary to what’s happening on stage. We play songs that stand alone, and we play some pieces that are designed to co-exist on stage with the theatrical component. We are a group of performers, not just a band of musicians. On CD we are musicians. Live we are something else. I recently saw the Broadway musical “Wicked.” I loved it, I loved the story, I loved the sets, I loved the huge animatronic head, I wasn’t into the music so much. My point is that a Broadway musical on stage is not just about the music. Buy the CD and listen to it at home alone in the dark if you can’t take the extra stimulation.
How do you develop the stage show? From what do you base it on?
-The Angry Teeth and Mistress Nagini have been coming up with theatrical scenarios for the shows, we as a band put together a set and try to tailor it to what will happen on stage.
Sometimes it’s the other way around – we sit down and say “for this tour we’re playing these songs – fit the theatrics in with them” The only time the songwriting part of the group really influenced the stage performers was when we did “This Treason” live in 2010 and we had characters from the concept album on stage – the Queen, the Countess, the Executioner, the Jester – it was probably the NJC’s most collaborative moment.
When you mix a stage show with music is there ever any limitations to what you can do on stage depending on the places you play?
-Absolutely. We are pretty flexible, but obviously if you want to see the greatest extent of our show you’ll want to find out where we are playing a bigger stage and drive out to see it.
If we limit ourselves to stages that accommodate everything we want to do, we’d play about a third of the shows we do. I think we already limit ourselves enough just by having the sideshow, it definitely narrows down the number of venues and promoters that might want to have it on their stage.
What kind of reactions do you get from the Canadian music fans to mixing stage show with music?
-We get a lot of curious people in the door who might not otherwise be interested in the band, especially people who are sure they won’t get into our music, but then after the show they buy an album. We also attract a lot of people from the performing arts scene – sideshow and burlesque enthusiasts, as we have elements of that in our stage show.
How would you like to see The New Jacobin Club develop in the future?
-We’ve always been a very thoughtful and literate group of artists, I hope the direction we continue to head towards will make that more and more apparent as the group matures.
It’s easy to look like all venom and fire when we want to, it’s a much greater thing to be in control of it. I think we are more in control than we were several years ago, and we are using all the diversity of our colourful sounds and stage show to an advantage. I think this will be apparent when one gets to hear the new material we’ll be performing live this spring.