A Chat With Julien-K
aaamusic | On 04, Mar 2012
Daniel Cairns chats with Julien-K about how difficult life can be when you have drugs and the whole world is an Orgy.
- Ryan Shuck – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
- Amir Derakh – Lead Guitar, Synthesizer
- Anthony ‘Fu’ Valcic – Keyboard, Programming, Samples, Bass Guitar
- Frank Zummo – Drums
AAAmusic: Who did ‘Julien K’ start after ‘Orgy’ and how was it for ‘Ryan going from guitar to lead vocals?
Amir – Basically we started Julien-K at a time when ‘Orgy’ was really dysfunctional and Ryan and I just started writing allot of songs which Jay wasn’t really interested in working on. So it just organically started to progress into something else. The band was just in complete disarray at that point and I think it was, erm we were a mess.
Ryan – It was essentially a situation when the band was creating music and wanting to continually be a band but essentially Jay didn’t seem to be interested in doing ‘Orgy’ at all. He wouldn’t show up to rehearsals, he wouldn’t show up at the studio, he just went MIA. So me and ‘Amir’ just kept on writing music, so we just kept on doing what we wanted to do and that turned into ‘Julien-K’ and for a lack of a singer. It just kinda of happened. I said hey I wrote vocals and did vocals as well as Jay, Jay’s a great singer and great vocalist. I’m not taking anything away from him but I just finished, instead of writing parts I continued and wrote the whole thing and we tried it and recorded it and Amir said ‘You sound like a good singer you should just try and do this with just us two!’ It tends to become a band after a while.
Amir – I have a pretty good knack for sensing talent, pretty early on, and you know the funny thing jay was the bass player before. And yeah we had other bands before and he played bass and he would step up to the mic and sing and I was just, ‘You sound better than our singer why don’t you sing!’ And he was ‘I don’t want to sing’ and eventually Josh Abraham and I kinda conned him into it and basically it was the same thing with him. I would see him doing background and I was like ‘oh he has got a good voice too!’ Maybe we need to push it a little bit and see what happens. It’s tricky in the beginning because I guess just doing anything artistically at first you’re not going to be super confident. So you have to sort of like go with him, It’s just like on the first record really, just let him try a lot of different things and go in a lot of different directions and we kinda figured out what he is best at. I think on the new record it’s more about what he is best at, cause we kinda know.
AAAmusic: Tell me how ‘Dead by Sunrise’ came about?
Ryan: We became friends with ‘Chester’ when we recorded ‘Vapor Transmission’ in ‘Orgy’ and ‘Hybrid Theory’, which was ‘Linkin Park’s’ name at the time that they were recording next door to us at ‘Energy Studio’s’, because of their major label deal. ‘Chester’ was kind of walking up and down the hallways singing and I was just being me, and back then I was really kinda crazy and drunk a lot and we partied and ‘Orgy’ did tons of drugs. We were just F**king insane. We’re just a classic rock band, which was just great and I was kinda the guy that would run around and meet all the other bands. I was the guy that went over and met ‘Rammstein’ and we became great friends with those guys and it was normally that which instigated some of the bullshit. And I kinda decided when this guy was walking up and down the hallways that he was fuckin amazing and I could hear him singing and I was just like ‘What the F**K!’ I see this little guy, that is scraggy, skinny and when I come out and he is like ‘Oh hey!’ and he was a huge ‘Orgy’ fan and I heard him sing and I was like ‘Dude was that you singing?’, and he was like ‘Yeah!’ and I go ‘How do you just walk up and down the hallway screaming to warm up before recording?’ ‘like what the f**K I would have no voice!’ and he was like ‘I can do this all day long and I don’t know why I’m just like a mutant!’. So I was like ‘Oh WOW! so we became friends, At the time ‘Chester’ drank a lot to and we started drinking together and having a good time and ‘Linkin Park’ has never been a big party band so ‘Chester’ would come out and party with us and we would have a good time and drink and listen to music. We listened to ‘Linkin Park’s’ first record as they were recording it and we were like ‘wow!!!’ this is going to be a really big band and then we ended up playing some shows together.
Ryan: Then they actually opened for us and about a year later we opened for them. In front of f**k loads of people, so we only sold a measly three million records and I think they sold fifty million so they actually made a really big band look really small. It was pretty funny, but we remained friends for the whole thing and I would go over to ‘Chester’s’ house and he would be playing his acoustic guitar and singing these little ideas. When I heard it I called ‘Amir’ and said hey dude ‘Chester’s’ singing these really cool ideas, like really cool shit and ‘Chester’ and I were talking about maybe doing a project together. We did this for probably a few years and then finally when ‘Julien-K’ was in the middle of recording our record for like for real. Really doing ‘Death to Analog’ ‘Chester’ was coming over to my house a lot. My house is where our studio is, I told them about ‘Chester’s’ music and we just put out one microphone and Amir and I gave him an acoustic guitar and just let him lay down the rough ideas. Just his voice and the guitar and like ‘Chester’ goes ‘Well do whatever you want with it just do something and make it cool!’ He came back like three days later and we had ‘Let Down’ almost completely done and we just f**king went crazy on it and these two just went to town and it was awesome and when he heard it he just goes! And he realised this was not going to be a solo project this was going to be a band. That’s how it started and we continued to work like that.
AAAmusic: There was a great deal of emotion on the album for me some of those have been my break up songs.
Ryan: I think for ‘Chester’ they were break up songs too. He was going through a really bad bout with alcohol and drugs at that time. See like the thing with us, I’ve always been someone that can party really hard and then get back to business and drop it and not really care. Unfortunately for some other people in different a band that we have been in, they can party really hard and can’t really stop and that’s where I think Amir and I kinda split off from people. The cool thing about ‘Chester’ is that ‘Chester’ when he realised he was going too far like a f**king man he got his shit together and he’s in ‘Linkin Park’ and ‘Dead by Sunrise’. He is one of the best guys and one of the best and most successful singers in the world because he’s f**kin the man. He took responsibility and cleaned his act up quickly. So I think that’s why he is still in our lives.
AAAmusic: So tell me what’s different about the new record ‘We’re here with You’ and the concept of the album?
Ryan: The concept is something which Amir pushed for really hard. We didn’t want to be so dark, we didn’t’ want to write a record about me breaking up with my girlfriend which I did. And obviously being the singer I’m going to dump a lot out into the record, but these guys stirred me really hard towards trying to have a little bit more fun with our music, simply because we don’t just want to be a mirror of all the bad shit in the world. To me and Admir especially, we thought that is the laziest thing that you could possibly do to continually rehash this negative, self loathing, F**k my life bullshit. I know people can Identify with that but seriously at the end of the day! ‘F**K off!’ We wrote this record to make people feel better, to make ourselves feel better, it doesn’t mean it’s not dark, we are dark guys that’s never going to change but we wanna get the f**k up and dance. So that’s where we are at.
Amir: I don’t think we are really capable of writing happy music so it’s always got some sort of dark overtone even when we try to write something kinda, do I dare say poppy or whatever it is, it’s like it always get covered in the balance by something dark so there is always the light and the dark mixing together
AAAmusic: Well that’s right when something good happens something always comes along terrible to mess with it.
Ryan: I think sometimes some bands can get lost in just the bad parts of life, cause I just gotta be honest it’s easier to write about the negativity, It’s very, very easy, cause it’s a purging thing, you know what I just look in the mirror and just say ‘Fuck Off Ryan get over yourself!’ That’s why ‘We’re here with you’ was the first song we have written that’s what it’s kinda about. It’s still kinda hard, it’s militant, it’s dirty… it’s got a sleazy rhythm to it, it’s dark electro and at the end of the day it’s almost like a militant dark party to get you the F**k up off the floor song. It’s sorta that call out to the crowd and you know what the f**K you are doing, wake up what the F**k you thinking, get moving ‘We’re here with you!’ it’s happening, it’s on, let’s do this, so it’s kinda like kicking my own ass.
Anthony: There is darker ones musically like ‘Breakfast in Berlin’ and ‘We’re here with you’ are kinda the more positive one lyrically and there is kinda the opposite with ‘Close Continuance ‘and kinda dark lyrics and pretty up lifting music.
Ryan: ‘Close Continuance’ is easily the darkest song on the record. I think lyrically it is the heaviest and most brutal song. It was really written front to back literally with a f**kin bottle of whiskey sloppering on myself, on my f**Kin kitchen floor at 5am, doing rails of crystal meth, just in hell. Just the worst time ever in my life and friends coming over to check on me and just like basically come over to me and look over the kitchen counter and see me on the floor and ‘go he’s alive he has got a guitar in his hand and got an empty bottle of whiskey and another bottle of whiskey and he has got a cd with drugs on it!’ and ‘shit so he’s f**kin going for it!’. It was a bad time and it would have been the darkest song on earth but ‘Amir’ and ‘Anthony’ came in and basically, Were like ‘Look at yourself!’ and they kinda aimed the music to like counter act what I was talking about. I think it’s become a really great song. It could almost be a single. It wouldn’t have been like that if these guys hadn’t done that. If these guys hadn’t taken the music and did it for the better.
Amir: It was a little bit tricky, doing this record because obviously we had done the first record and like I said it was kinda an experiment because being more freshly out of ‘Orgy’ there were things we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to be ‘Orgy’ we wanted to create something new. Which is what we do with every project we do. If it’s ‘Circuit Freak’ ‘Dead by Sunrise’ ‘Orgy’ ‘Julien-K’ whatever they all have, like a distinct idea, you know a direction. The first ‘Julien-K’ record had that but like I said you know a lot of experimenting, we kinda had to pull from that and kinda push-a-way the things that we felt. You know you get kinda of tired, let’s just kinda focus on the things we instinctively really love and I think that a part of it was the whole thing with ‘Ryan’. You know he was really on a downwards dark path and we kinda chopped that off. You know right away what we’re not going to do. It’s ok if you’ve got a song or something like this, but we need to go this way, we need to do something more fun, and now people are getting it too. And I’m sure there are some people who going ‘Ah it’s not as dark as the first record but!’
Ryan: And to them I say get the f**k over yourself!
Amir: I like always to explain this record as being, well this is the one with the lights on and ‘Death to Analog’ is the one with the lights off, so you get a little of both and as we move forward I’m sure there is going to be a lot of different changes. But everything was definitely approached from the very beginning with a really continuous effort to do something different, like the guitars for example. I literally laid down a rule that for the most part no power chords were allowed, there is only one song it’s your song, it’s your song that has power chords. That’s ‘Sam Vandell’ over there.
Ryan: But the power chords in that song, if you notice, are used a little bit more in the background
Amir: It’s more of a wall of sound thing; it’s not meant to be like that normally
Anthony: ‘Nights of future Past’
Amir: Yeah, so that was kinda one of the rules, just like no power chords, we have to do this in a more rhythmic and upbeat way than just drudgy old chords on everything. So that the whole approach is just twisted at that point. When it came to the guitars we had always been used to kinda of doing that in ‘Orgy’ and whatever. It’s like the old let’s just drop tune guitar and that’s not all that. I think in this record we actually establish our guitar style finally.
AAAmusic: So you kinda had an embedded sound you would kinda always go for?
Amir: Yeah, but it was a bit of a process, so the early songs we wrote we were definitely playing and kinda struggling to find what we call cracking the code of the song. You know trying to get it to click, some of the songs we wrote, we wrote the choruses or verses multiple times and finally all of a sudden something came together between the music and the vocals and songs like ‘Cruel Days’ and ‘Surrounded’ and actually ‘Nights of future Past’ we tried so many different choruses but ended up going back to what we started with. It ended up being really good and sometimes you go down that path and you realise that we have to go back.
AAAmusic: A lot of your imaginary is very Japanese are you a fan of J-Rock and if so what bands do you like?
Ryan: I’m not a huge fan of J-Rock and I never really thought of our imaginary being Japanese ever, I never thought of that.
Amir: Well it kinda is.
Ryan: But that doesn’t mean it isn’t just because I didn’t think of it.
Amir: Not that it was that we were there maybe even before they were, but it’s a big thing over there and I think a lot of that fashion. We like that style, we have liked it for a long time so I think because we wear a lot of black, very tight and kinda of high end type clothing there is definitely that underlying thing there, but it’s not conscious, it’s just how we are. Our influences are more from Japanese designers than bands.
Ryan: Absolutely on that front, architecture, design, all that kind of stuff. We’re into Japanese, They definitely have it now.
AAAmusic: You guys are very futuristic, one thing I want to know Star Wars or Star Trek?
Ryan: Let’s say both were a huge influence but ‘Battlestar Galatica’ the new one, ‘did you see that?
Amir: Yeah the re-vamped ‘Battlestar Galatica’ but for me would be ‘Blade Runner’.
Ryan: Well the whole vibe behind ‘Orgy’, actually that was ‘Blade Runner’ with a little bit more. In ‘Star Trek and Star Wars’ it wasn’t really a fashion thing we have always been into fashion and design and look at ‘Blade Runner’ that first opening scene it’s just like oh holy F**K and just even the clothing, the make-up, the hair and everything in it is just F**king amazing.
Amir: I always love the dichotomy of the underground versus the over ground. That to me always seemed like a real future with you know the urban spawn on the ground with things being not much different than they are now. Then the people that are in the air it’s like whole a different world they live in. I kinda believe that’s how it will be, it seems more realistic to me.
AAAmusic: You have done a lot of remixes which one was your favourite and who would you like to remix one of your songs?
Amir: Probably the ‘Motor’ one ‘Flashback’.
Anthony: It was a ripping song to begin with and they made it all new.
Amir: I like the ‘Cure’ one we did that was pretty cool and the ‘Avenged Sevenfold’ one was great but for whatever reason it never got used. It’s pretty amazing though, we have had so many people remix us we have been very lucky! ‘Kris Kofestein that guy from France is the one I would like to remix us.
AAAmusic: So what’s next for ‘Julien-K’ and will there be another ‘Dead by Sunrise’ Record?
Ryan: I feel like there will be another ‘Dead by Sunrise’ record and I think that ‘Frank’ is actually an interesting key in that ‘Chester’ and ‘Frank’ are actually good friends, as ‘Chester’ introduced us to ‘Frank’ and I actually think that, that means making a ‘Dead by Sunrise’ record more likely. Not that ‘Ellis’ wasn’t a great drummer and a great friend, but I think that ‘Frank’ and ‘Chester’ are friends on another level and certainly we’re friends with ‘Chester’ on another level. I think for ‘Chester’ ‘Dead by Sunrise’ is a fun thing he gets to do and ‘Linkin Park’ seems to be something of a more serious thing. I think that ‘Dead by Sunrise’ is something a little less intense and he gets to do his thing and we support it and it’s really more kinda about nourishing him as a singer, I think that this line-up as it is right now is almost kinda the perfect line-up to do that.
Ryan: As far as ‘Julien-K’ we are really looking forward to doing it, and I think that ‘Frank’ again is a huge piece of our future and I think that not taking anything away from ‘Ellis’ because we love him and are absolutely happy with him. He is our brother forever but I think that ‘Frank’ naturally is doing, kinda what we were naturally doing when we set out to do with this record. Tonight when we play I think that people are going to see that. The band sounds a little different and I think it is really cool and right for what we are trying to do right now. It‘s one of those things, that we were sad about it in the beginning. It turned out … well ‘Ellis’ is having this wonderful life having a new kid and so on and so-forth, and we get to do this with someone that I think will help us grow into something even better, and make the project even cooler. So we have the whole year to work on ‘We’re here with You’ and we have a couple of videos in the can. We’re going to shoot more videos, we are going to try and do five or six videos for this record. We have a lot of really cool things in store.
Amir: Yeah! We have got one video that is already done which is going to come out shortly; I’m not going to tell you what it is yet. Let it be a surprise, We have a remix EP that is already done which our brother Vandell over there remixed his song which is very cool, it’s got six tracks on it. We are also going to release a deluxe version of the album which is going to have some new remixes on it as well and tracks that haven’t been released and all that stuff on it and lots of touring this year.
Ryan: I think that one of the biggest things this year for us is debuting in the top ten around the world. I don’t know if anyone has noticed we are not on the radio so that is a big thing. We were up against ‘M83’ for days at the number two spot, just knocking on their door, and every time we turn on the radio they were on every fifteen minutes. You know that told me that the work that we have been doing is bearing some proof and I think we are on the right track. People really seem to like the record; I noticed that on I-Tunes on the singles we weren’t number two. In the albums we are number two so people are buying the entire album and they were talking to their friends about it and their friends were buying it. So I think that kinda made us go like ‘oh shit!’ I think we are doing the right thing and that’s cool, so let’s keep pressing forward so that’s what the years going to be about.
AAAmusic: So who are you touring with and what is the best band you have toured with?
Ryan: Too soon to say who we are going to be touring with. We have a lot of options and there are some really big options and some really small options and some medium options. It just depends. It looks like we will be back to Europe two times this year which is going to be f**king great cause we love it here. We are working on a US tour. What band did we like best to tour with. With ‘Julien-K’ I’d probably say the ‘Project Revolution’. The line-up was amazing ‘My chemical romance, Mindless self Indulgence, Placebo and Linkin Park’ what a f**King great line-up, of course ‘Linkin Park’ how many times have we gotta play with those guys they are f**Kin great. You know they are great guys and best friends and they’re f**kin amazing.
AAAmusic: What do you think of the new reformed ‘Orgy’ and have you been to see them?
Ryan: We haven’t been to see them, we are not super happy with the reformed ‘Orgy’ because we don’t think is ‘Orgy’. It actually isn’t ‘Orgy’ there are more original members of ‘Orgy’ in ‘Julien-K’ than there is in ‘Orgy’. Well we think, well I think I won’t speak for everyone but I think is lacks authenticity, it lacks originality.
Amir: Our signature, trademark sound and look.
Ryan: That all is gone, The funny thing I think is they’re using pictures of us, ‘ Amir’ and I. When advertising this new ‘Orgy’ thing and of course we are not there. That’s kind of f**king telling you it all, they are basically trying to fool the fans into thinking that it is all of us, but when fans go there they’re going to find out that you cannot make the sounds that we made with guitar centred gear. You can’t just go and buy a macea boogie amp, or I don’t know what they will be playing, but you can’t just go buy an amp and special effects and do what we were doing, what we did we created, we own it.
Amir: That looks like an Orgy to me. (Holds up my old promo photo of Orgy)
Ryan: I know if you’re going to do ‘Orgy’ you do it, you do the look, you do the whole f**King thing, you do what we created; you don’t go just out there and get a bunch of blokes. If you want to do something different and new you call it something new like ‘Julien-K’ or ‘Dead by Sunrise’ or ‘Machine gun Orchestra’ but that being said. I wish them luck, you know. I doubt I will go and see them because if we went there to see them we would have to sign autographs in the crowd for f**king ever and they know it. It would be f**king terrible and we don’t want to think we are trying to f**K ‘em up, cause we are not.