The Burnside Project
By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 2003
The fusion of indie rock and electronica opens up many musical possibilities, so it’s nice to hear bands like The Burnside Project taking full advantage of this creative freedom. On their CD, ‘The Networks, The Circuits, The Streams, The Harmonies,’ the Hoboken-based trio avoids leaning too heavily in either direction and seems to effortlessly bring together a wide variety of influences. The drum ‘n bass percussion loops, jangly guitar lines, strange electronic noises and often soft-spoken vocals come together to create a very unique sound. The group was started by Richard Jankovich as a solo project, but evolved into a band rounded out by guitarist/keyboardist Gerald Hammill and keyboardist Paul Searing.
The following is an email interview with Jankovich.
In your bio, you say that in ’96 you made an effort the ‘rediscover electronic music.’ What types of electronic stuff had you been into before? In exploring newer sounds, what differences struck you the most?
Well, in the 80’s I was really into the british tech-pop thing with bands like New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode, a lot of the Factory Records stuff – in the later 80’s I really got into Industrial stuff like Nitzer Ebb, KMFDM and Thrill Kill Kult. Somewhere in the 90’s I turned my back on it and became a bit of a rock purist and ate up the Indie Rock scene. The differences I find between new electronic acts and those older ones are in the subtlety with which the sounds are used. With a Real Life track the snare drum would blast through, caked in reverb and the synth leads were so sharp it was dangerous. I really like a lot of current I.D.M. and House records where the snare is a really crisp, gated and condensed sound, more like a “snap” than a “CRACK.” and the synth parts are warmer, rich and full. Like comparing Boards of Canada with Erasure. It’s all about subtlety. Though one thing different is the lack of importance on song-writing these days. It’s all about the groove, the atmosphere and sometimes it works but other times, I find that I miss the theme, the lyrics, etc…
Since you originally conceived The Burnside Project as a solo endeavor, are there particular ways (perhaps unexpected ones?) that the other members shaped the sound/direction of the band?
Absolutely, both Gerald and Paul are fans of music that is not necessarily lyrical or bookwormy (as I am.) As a result, the music we are making now is more concerned with tone, atmosphere, sound as opposed to a quick lyrical turn. I used to write the songs first, then try to recreate them with the band. Now, we are writing more together and allowing the music to have it’s own space as well as the vocals/lyrics. Also, they both bring an immense amount of knowledge in music styles, trends, etc and they both come up with some awesome parts. Normally, I would say something snappy about them that would embarrass them but I feel like taking this interview seriously.
What is your writing process like? For example, do you tend to compose on the electronic instruments, or start off with more traditional rock instrumentation?
It varies with each song. The newer material is being written around electronics, a sample or a drum loop or a synth tone. Our last record, though, was mostly written on guitar and then brought into the mix and, I think, you can hear that.
Is there anything you’d like the electronic equipment to be able to do that isn’t yet possible, in terms of either sound manipulation or control?
Do something to make my voice not sound so stupid. Not like a vocoder or anything, but some cool effect that makes it sound like I can actually sing. Or rap. Something that can make me sound ghetto. I guess I find all electronic music limiting from a performance standpoint. Hitting play on a sequencer or a laptop isn’t very emotionally expressive. I wish there was a way to be able to recreate our recordings more naturally.
What type of equipment set-up do you use (both in the studio, and live)?
Perfect follow-up question. In the studio, we sequence everything through a PC running Cakewalk audio software. A bunch of synthesizer by Roland, Yamaha and Casio, a mess of Gibson and Fender guitars and amps, etc. That’s the boring stuff. Live, it is pretty simple�- we have our beats sequenced and then we play along with them (Richard – bass/vox, Gerald – gtr and Paul – kybds)
Have you done much touring outside of the NY/NJ area? If so, where�have you enjoyed performing the most? Where have you found the best crowd reaction?
We played in Tampa, FL about two months ago and that was fun but crazy as hell. I hate Tampa but Gerald is from there so he begged to play a show there. Florida is my least favorite place in the United States (no offense) but I also live in Jersey and most people say the same about that so…what the hell do i know? We always have fun in Philadelphia. Baltimore, DC and Boston have been ok, nothing special though. We don’t really have much of a fanbase so any crowd reaction has been appreciated. We seem to sell records while at the same time failing at bringing people out to the clubs. I don’t understand it – maybe it’s because of how Paul looks on stage with that crazy Beer-Mug-Straw-Hat thing.
I heard something about Burnside Project music in a movie – what’s�going on with that?
Yes, the new movie “The Medallion.” It stars Jackie Chan. It’s supposedly a horrible movie. It uses one of our songs during the opening sequence. I haven’t seen it yet.
Is film music work something you’re actively pursuing?
I am in graduate studies at NYU for Film Scoring and have already done a bit of work for television, commercials and some feature films. Someday, I wanna pull the Elfman trick. But still keep doing Burnside as well. Sort of like if Elfman were still scoring Tim Burton movies and touring with Oingo Boingo.
I’ve already said that I notice a New Order influence … who else would you say you’ve been influenced by? Perhaps not even in terms of sounds – are there any bands/artists who simply inspired you to get into making music in the first place?
Oh, I don’t know. Me personally? I have been influenced by 80’s punk rock bands, new wave and euro-pop stuff. I don’t know, my influences are sooo boring. Replacements made me want to pick up a guitar. I’m sorry, I am always horrible at this question. I feel like I have to comb through my CD collection to give you a proper answer. The real answer is that my tastes change so quickly that anyone I tell you know, I will most likely have turned my back on in about 3 months. I am, indeed, that shallow.
What’s in the immediate future for the band? Long term goals?
Working on our new record. Working on getting this last record licensed overseas. Long-term goal? To keep putting out records.See all interviews →