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jihad logoInterview with

James Mendez (Music / Lyrics / Vocals) from Jihad

Many people know how I like old-school Industrial / EBM projects as the forerunner of modern genres and styles. It is their music - they created these same genres, working on their definition and content. In the mid 00's we saw the flash of interest to electro-scene, we are seeing some decline now, and I have often wondered - what happened to the pioneers of the style, scene, which built it?

But 2015 presented us one of the most powerful comebacks in the segment Industrial / EBM scene. JIHAD – this project is the backbone of the American Industrial / EBM scene along with BENESTROPHE, FEKTION FEKLER and MENTALLO & THE FIXER. ‘A Prayer In The Night’ released on 1st May 1997, but it still excites the minds of fans of old school EBM music. Founder and inspirer of JIHAD - James Mendez - kindly agreed to give an exclusive interview. And it is almost the first time in my practice, when I got so grateful interview. James answered all of my questions more than detailed, explained a lot of interesting facts about the Texas Industrial scene and got fan in my person. Very large interview, to read a lot - but it's worth it. I recommend.

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Your release ‘A Prayer in the Night’ (1997) became to some extent a cult. How do you evaluate it? Especially after 18 years?
James: To be honest, I had no idea it would have such an impact in this particular genre of music and am very taken back (in a positive way) to hear about it. Looking back, I will say that my brother and I were in very different places in our lives and we were so much younger (mind and spirit) in comparison to how things are today. A little insight as to how we both worked on music back then if I may. All of the music that I wrote was done in absence of Rich. And the same goes for all of the lyrics he wrote while being apart. We would then get together to visit our parents every week on Sundays (I left my music studio in tact at my parent’s house after I moved out), and then work on structuring everything after our visit. Thus, a new track was born. J When you compare the music from our first / only album to what I am doing today, there is a very noticeable difference in my opinion, especially with the tone and mood the music sets in comparison. Understandably, both the lyrics and music were much darker back when the album was initially released and believe that it had a lot to do with personal matters, feelings, and emotions we both experienced back then. I also believe there are many other contributing factors such as age, experiences in our lives during that time, influences from various amazing bands back then (i.e. BENESTROPHE, SKINNY PUPPY, TEAR GARDEN, etc.), being exposed to new and different things, etc. I would think that most / if not all electronic bands that were around during that time also express themselves in a similar fashion through their music. I don’t know if I could ever reproduce the same atmosphere with my music today, but am very grateful to still be working on new music and I’m very enthusiastic about where it will take me. I’m in the process of working on a new album and hope to have it completed late this year / early next year. If interested, you can keep up with any updates on either the label’s (Electro Aggression Records) direct website or through their Facebook page as well as mine. I am very blessed to have made many new friends (who mostly reside in Europe) through my music, which makes me happy.

RoD: Why did you choose to come back now? What motivated you to start working on a new release?
James: Well, although it may appear as if I’ve made a subtle appearance in the music scene as of recently, I’ve never completely stopped working on music after our initial release back in the mid / late 90s. Things slowed down significantly for many years after the release so I could focus heavily on my career. However, I was still working on music during my “hibernation” period so to speak. J MySpace was the happening place to be online for musicians in the late 90s / early to mid-2000s and that for me was the gateway to reconnect with people online after so many years. That was my first experience meeting other electronic bands and friends and invested more time building these relationships. This was the starting point where I would not only make more friends in Europe, but also embarked on my very first journey there as well (May 2009). I met the members of PYRROLINE (Formerly known as NORDSCHLACHT) who reside in Germany, who I’m still very much in touch with today. Their invitation to perform with them in Trnava, Slovakia is where I met a lot of really amazing people / friends whom I’m also still in contact with today. Through PYRROLINE, the network of friends and other like-minded music lovers came into fruition. As I fell in love with Europe after my first visit, I would slowly start to revisit which now has become a reoccurring thing for me today. I just can’t stay away! J During this time of making new friends and networking in the music scene, I met the label owner of Electro jihad prayerinthenightAggression Records whom I’ve decided to work with for my upcoming release. In my opinion, he’s the modern day Ric Laciak (Former Ras DVA label owner I worked with for my initial release) for the dark electro music scene today. He plays a significant part in the music industry for this kind of music and I’m grateful to be a part of his old school dark electro family. All of what I have been saying really does have a purpose and I’m finally getting to your question. Really. So, after my long and drawn out explanation of how all of this came about, here is what motivated me to start working on a new release. It’s a combination of my experiences in Europe, making new friends, and also receiving a lot of positive feedback from those who currently support my music. Most recently at the show in Bratislava where I performed on February 28th, 2015, I was very fortunate to have shared the stage with some of the greatest dark electro bands of this time. That entire experience plays a big part in what drives and motivates me to not only work on a new release, but to continue to work on music. If interested, you can preview a recent video that was posted of my cover version of BENESTROPHE’s ‘Endangered Species’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpukIEiB_ac&feature=youtu.be

RoD: Have you practiced music during these 18 years? Did you stay informed at industrial and EBM scene and (or) note some new projects and releases for yourself? Or have you departed from this business completely?
James: Well, I will refer to my previous answer, which I hope explains and answers most of this particular question. I’ll elaborate a little more and provide more content regarding my involvement with music during that 18 year stint. After the release, I continued to work on music but didn’t focus so much on vocals. I really wasn’t sure where I was headed but knew I still wanted to continue to make music. I started up a small project a few years ago by creating a small website where I post very old songs that has never seen the day of light. I have an old shoe box full of cassette tapes (30+) that I’ve been going through (Still have much more to post) and transferring online for anyone to preview. I would post 2 new songs every Friday and would continue to do so but stopped sometime last year. I plan on picking up on this again very soon. All songs can be previewed and downloaded here if interested: http://music-archives.atomcatcher.com. There is also a little side note about each song that I’ve posted (You have to hover your mouse over one of the small circles next to the song) so you can gain a little insight behind each track. I’ve also been posting rare / collaboration work / remixes I’ve done over the years as well on Sound Cloud (https://soundcloud.com/jimi-midi). Remixes are another thing that has kept me going during the long break as well. Remixing songs for various bands that I like and also know personally. Even though it wasn’t new material for me, it was a creative outlet and allowed me the freedom to continue to write. I’ve also kept up with the music scene during the long break which is something I enjoy doing.

RoD: About your new release - will be any surprises for audiences? How will you distribute it? Only through Bandcamp? Will there be a version for "fans of the genre" and collectors?
James: Great set of questions! I was just having this conversation with the label owner last weekend on the phone and we are putting together some ideas around what my upcoming release will entail. I don’t want to give away too much, but there will be a lot of music on the release. There will definitely be some surprises along the way too, so please stay tuned. As I mentioned in your previous question, I am working with Electro Aggression Records (http://www.electroaggressionrecords.com) and will rely on various forms of distribution (Between their methods and mine). There will be both physical copies as well as a digital release on Bandcamp. Obviously, the physical copies will have a lot of extra goodies that you more than likely won’t be able to receive digitally. I hadn’t thought about a limited edition release, but will definitely keep this in mind. If this is something I choose to do, it will be something well worth the purchase and will personally guarantee it. All of this is still being worked out in further details and will be announced as the time grows near.

RoD: Tell, what has become of Texas industrial-scenes of 80th-90th? Than is those musicians now engaged? How are things with the same MENTALLO & THE FIXER? You communicate?
James: Unfortunately, the scene in Texas has nearly died off from what I’ve seen. There is a small following in various cities within Texas (Austin and San Antonio that I can attest to). There isn’t much support for this kind of music. Especially when comparing the scene in the States with Europe. Though it may appear smaller to those who live in Europe, I would say that it is much more alive there than here in the States. Of course, that is only my opinion and can’t speak on behalf of whoever is left in the scene in the States. If you’re referring to industrial bands in Texas, I honestly can’t say. All of my old friends (BENESTROPHE, FEKTION FEKLER, MENTALLO & THE FIXER) have slowed down some with writing new music. Gary (MENTALLO & THE FIXER) has been working on some newer material the past several years but it is very different in comparison to his older classics. Dwayne and Johnny B. (FEKTION FEKLER) have been working on a new side project the past few years and have a lot of music completed. As soon as they’re ready to release their music, I will definitely help promote it online. I still keep in touch with MENTALLO, but more so with Gary. Dwayne recently moved to Dallas Texas and is a further away both from Austin and San Antonio. I recently visited with Gary a few weeks ago (7th March 2015) and I will be helping him promote some of his music online. It will be a mixture of old material that no one has ever heard before as well as previously released and some newer material. I am really excited to help him get this project started and will post more updates on my Facebook profile very soon. We’ve also talked about having another get together / reunion in the near future. It’s always a real treat seeing everyone and hope that we can get together again very soon. If you care to see some photos from the past two reunions several years ago, you can view them here:
Austin: Music Reunion Part I [08.06.11]
Austin: Music Reunion Part II [09.15.13]

RoD: I learned that you communicate with Russian old school EBM project Ultimate Soldier. How did you meet this project? Do you know other representatives of Russian industrial and EBM scene?
James: That is correct. Dima and I became friends back in late July 2014 and we’ve been in touch on many occasions. He’s a really great guy and I’m a big fan of his music. His style of music is very reminiscent of the old school dark electro style and is well written and well produced in my opinion. I have made a promise to Dima that I will work on a remix to one of his songs which will happen in the near future. My only ask is that I hold off on it for now until I can finish up some new music for my upcoming release. Be on the lookout for a remix in the very near future which I am looking forward to! Unfortunately, I am not very familiar with the industrial / old school EBM scene in Russia. However, I am very curious to learn more about it. Perhaps Dima will be my gateway into this scene. I would love to know more about it, so please share some content / information as to where I can learn more about it. Thank you in advance.

RoD: Do you returned to service completely? Will be Jihad permanent project? Or all depends on the inspiration and the public reaction at upcoming release?
James: Yes. I have returned 100% and will continue to make music and work on new releases. The only dilemma I see happening is that it typically takes more time for me to release new material these days because of other responsibilities and interest that I have. Aside from this partial delay, I am on board 100%. I do have ideas for a side project that I would like to work on, and it will encompass a very different style than I typically write. It would be music that I also enjoy writing that may not necessarily fit the style of the typical sound of Jihad. It will be a style that varies between ambient, synth-pop, other kinds of styles of music. It is too soon to tell, but I have many ideas around what I would like to release which I will post more updates in the very near future. I wanted to take a moment to thank you and Dima (Ultimate Soldier) for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions for this interview. It was a real pleasure and enjoyed elaborating more on some of your questions. I hope I was able to provide a little more content around what you’ve asked. Best wishes, James.

I express my thanks to Dmitry Ilyin (Ultimate Soldier) for the help in the organization of this interview.
Written by Viola Noir (Ukrainian Gothic Portal). The Russian version of the article is available HERE!


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