James Plotkin Interview

This is a repost of an interview I did with James Plotkin back in December, which was accidentally deleted. No intro needed. It's Plotkin.

HAMMER SMASHED JAZZ: As far as I can tell, you began your musical career with Old Lady Drivers. At that point, grindcore was a very straight forward exercise. Obviously,you had some thoughts on expanding those early boundaries.

JAMES PLOTKIN: It wasn't a conscious decision to push any boundaries at that time, other than trying to create a completely fucked up record. Was it even called grindcore at that point? The album had a sticker that said "speedcore thrash" or something like that because grindcore meant something else back then...slow, crawling music more akin to the Swans early output and Head of David as opposed to the type of music the term eventually became linked to.

HSJ: The first time I ever heard you play was on the Grindcrusher compilation (Colostomy Grab Bag,still a favorite). The sound of OLD mutated a lot. Do you feel that you accomplished all that you wanted to with OLD?

JP: The only goal we really had was to avoid making the same album twice, so I suppose we did pretty well. When you're young and digesting art and music in absurdly large amouts it's hard not to mutate. You also have to consider the attention span of the hyperactive teenage male, which is obviously much shorter than any other demographic.

HSJ: Lo Flux Tube featured guest work by John Zorn. Was that the first time you guys had worked together, and how did you guys hook up?

JP: It was the first studio encounter with John - I met him through Mick Harris and he was a fan of some of the Earache releases so he agreed to help us out a bit. Mcik would usually crash at my place back then so when he would work with Zorn I'd tag along. I was able to see some pretty amazing recording sessions...Painkiller, Naked City, etc. Crazy stuff.

HSJ:I've always felt that your work between OLD and Khanate ( Flux, Namanax, Body Lovers, solo releases like a Strange Perplexing, collabs with KK Null and Mick Harris ) was criminally overlooked. What are some personal highlights of yours from that period?

JP: All of them were great experiences, without even considering the music itself. I can't really say there are pieces I like in particular because I never really revisit any of the recordings. I tend to think the best work is the most recent anyway, so for this reason I'd say the Kurtlanmak/Damascus, Khlyst, and Jodis recordings deserve the most attention.

HSJ: I've always been interested in the ideas and discussions that were had leading up to the formation of Khanate. As extreme as the music sounds, on paper it had to just seem completely absurd.

JP: Khanate was an near-instantaneous thing. I met Steve and we talked on the phone once ot twice, but as far as creative intentions went, we didn't talk about anything beforehand. I think we had two or three rehearsals before we started recording the debut. Complete songs technically weren't even written until after the recording had taken place. In contrast the forthcoming final album took almost 3 years to finish.

HSJ:Its really no secret that Khanate became a pain in the ass to you personally at the end. Does your frustration stem from the fact that you had many more ideas for the band to execute?

JP: Not really, though I did find Capture & Release a very frustrating experience, both musically and creatively, but it had little to do with why I left the band. There are always outlets for ideas, and any other ideas I may have had for Khanate material have been and will be used in other projects in some context.

HSJ: Speaking of criminally overlooked, my personal favorite project of yours has been Phantomsmasher (originally called Atomsmasher) . Will you ever create anything under that name again, or create another similar project? I've always found it so ironic that you are a figurehead in the slow music scene,but so many others know you as a master of forward thinking grind.

JP: Eventually there will be a third album. I keep thinking I'll have the time to work on more recordings soon and then something else always comes up. It's a long, involved process that I almost feel like I need to take "time off" for. I don't know if I'm known for any particular genre of music I've been involved with. I'm amazed anyone knows my work at all to be honest. I'm really just trying to keep myself interested, so things are always changing.

HSJ: Tim Wyskida seems to be your right-hand musical man now. How did you originally hook up with him, and what is it that makes you guys click?

JP: I met Wyskida through a mutual friend ages ago, but we didn't start working together professionally until Khanate came together. I work with him mostly for reasons that have nothing to do with music, and I'm way too lazy to try and find other musicians that have as open a mind as Tim. His work ethic is actually pretty solid when he's taking a break from patting himself on the back.

HSJ:You have a new project called Jodis, with Aaron Turner. Tell us abit about that. Does this group replace Lotus Eaters, or is that group still going?

JP: Jodis has nothing to do with Lotus Eaters, and I believe Lotus Eaters is finished for now. Jodis is a much more substantially structured sound with very basic instrumentation - vocals, guitars, and drums. The sound is full but very minimal at the same time, it has a lot of breathing room compared to a lot of my releases. Aaron really put tons of effort into the vocals and he's trying a lot of new things on this album, moving in quite a few different directions. The debut should be released early in the coming year.

HSJ: Any last thoughts,future plans?

JP:Question everything you've ever been told.

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