With the release date of the new album The Outsider In The Mirrors (Possession Records) coming up pretty quick there’s been a bit of time giving the answers to the questions being asked in a variety of interviews.
Here’s the first one to go up, in the UK-based online magazine Altvenger. Thanks to editor Marija Buljeta for taking the time to draft up some good, open-ended questions for which, well, some very detailed answers were given back in return.
Soft Riot is a solo project of the Canadian artist Jack Duckworth (JJD). However, Jack has been living in the UK for the past decade where he became a notable part of the synth music scene. His sound is rather distinguishable; it’s described as minimal synth art-punk disco by the artist. Although one can hear various musical influences in his work, Soft Riot’s artistic expression has its own distinctive signature. Jack is undoubtedly inspired by the world that surrounds him, life experiences, impressions and ideas, rather than the music history alone. He is interested in exploring new sound possibilities and he’s open to experimentation. His sixth album, The Outsider In The Mirrors, will be officially released on 9 February on Possession Records. Jack kindly agreed to answer a few question before his first 2018 tour date.
1. Prior to Soft Riot you played in punk, hardcore, post-punk/new wave bands, if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell us how that felt compared to what you’re doing today? What made you choose the electronic sound after experiences with punk and post punk?
Jack: Yes, that’s how this whole journey properly started, when I was around 14 years old. Before that, when I was a child, I was into random bits of music, like the soundtrack to “2001 A Space Odyssey” (Ligeti in particular), some bits of Depeche Mode and Canadian synth/rock stuff. My stepdad was always playing mid-80s Rush albums (the more synth-heavy ones) in his 1980 Pontiac Firebird. Maybe that rubbed off?
The town I grew up had a big skateboarding and snowboarding culture, which at the time was tied into the punk scene. I was attracted by the DIY ethic, sense of community, and accessibility; people forming bands together, putting on small shows and writing zines. It also catered to the feelings of angst and politics that was growing within me at the time. I eventually left home and moved to Vancouver and got even more involved. This was around 1996-1997, I guess. From there I discovered a lot of music that was very experimental and presenting new sounds working within the punk and hardcore genre.
SoftRiot_OutsidersBy the mid/late 90s a small group of bands within that Canadian/US underground scene started bringing in keyboards and elements of what was then just known as “80s/synth” sounds; bands like The VSS, Satisfact, The Faint and even The Rapture when they were first starting out. It was a total revelation hearing these bands using those sounds in a different context and within the scene I was active in, especially at that time when synths was totally out of trend. Before that I associated synth music with what you’d hear on music television or LPs you’d find in the sale bin at the local mall record store. It was now being done by people I could relate to and interested in the same things I was in.
Around this time I started discovering a lot of classic and less known goth, post-punk and synth pop. I was finding something that resonated with me quite a bit as the atmospheres, sounds and moods better matched how I felt and the landscape of my mind. The aesthetics and emotions felt right and like home. From there the course of my musical output shifted; synths, post-punk, general gloominess all around.
All these years later it feels like it’s coming full circle. In the last 5-10 years I’ve become quite connected to fellow musicians and music lovers in the underground synth/wave scene in Europe. There’s a lot of similarities to the sense of community, experimentation and passion for music that I felt when I was younger and involved in punk. The sounds might be different but the feeling is exciting and familiar. It is a truly great thing.