Jenkins goes against the grain. No doubt about it. Rocking out
the mike first with the highly influential Only Living Witness,
then with the cursed Miltown, the overlooked Milligram and currently with the brutal
and vastly underrated Raw Radar War, Jenkins' music only seems
to be getting harsher and more brutal with time. As those
keeping tabs on his career can attest, his pipes seem to be
growing stronger and more corrosive with time also.
Looking back at his career and the consistency of his output one
thing is clear; Jenkins is a man unwilling to compromise. A man
whose talents, though heralded in the underground, seem to also
be on permanent collision against the possibilities of
commercial success. I just love his vocals in every single
record he's put out. Read on and spread the word.
I understand that your mother was a
trained vocalist, how instrumental was this on you starting up
Yeah, she sang
as a soloist in a tour across Europe when I was a kid. She has
been singing in choirs and choral groups for as long as I can
remember. She was in an all girl rock band from Worcester, MA
called The Gyrlls when she was a teenager. They played some big
clubs in the northeast, but never recorded anything except a
jingle for a commercial. I wish I could find a copy.
One of my most vivid early music memories was singing along with
my mother to The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album. I used to listen to
all of my parent’s records; everything from King Crimson and the
Beatles to the Carpenters. They had a big custom van with a
painting on the side of a bug-shaped spaceship rising out of a
swamp. We used to drive all over New England, because my mom was
an artist. We'd go to art shows. The whole time I was riding in
the back of the van, listening to the 8 tracks. It was a lot of
Boston, the Cars, ABBA, Charlie Daniels Band, Alan Parsons
Project, Asia, Styx. My parents got me really into music, so as
soon as I could buy my own, I was psyched. My first record, a 45
was "The Theme From S.W.A.T."
At 17, you picked up singing, what motivated this?
As I bought and traded music with friends,
we all would sing along and I figured out that I could yell a
little louder than everyone, so I kept doing it. I started
yelling along with records, and then singing again. At 18, I
joined a band, and I've just been doing that ever since.
What do you remember the most about Only Living Witness? Was
there anything you disliked?
I remember it meaning everything to me. It
became everything that I was about. I have always had a job, but
it was always to facilitate the travel and financial component
of being in a band. OLW eventually opened up the world to me, by
making me think beyond my own existence. To write about
something more than my own place in the world, to travel, to see
things that I never knew existed.
I didn't like that we drew people to our shows that wanted to
beat people up. I was very open about this at our shows, and it
created a big backlash for the band. But I still believe that I
was doing the right thing by telling people to stop the beat
downs. It was and is something that I detest in the world of
music, the mentality of some people that want to physically
bully those around them.
Was it a bit strange to be signed to Century Media?
Yes. I wish we hadn't done that, but it
did get us to Europe, twice.
How did you get signed to them?
Considering they were at the time pretty much a straight ahead
They were the first label to make a real
offer. If we had waited another year, I think we would have been
offered something by a more established label, but we were
concerned that it was our only chance to stop having to pay for
our own recordings.
Looking back to the days with OLW, would you change anything
in the way you sang in any of those two classic albums?
Yes, but it was all part of my own
development, I had to make certain mistakes in order to learn
what I know now. I was just doing what I knew how to do back
then, which wasn't much. I was trying a bit too hard on some of
the Prone Mortal Form performances, and I still cringe when I
hear those parts, but I think by the second album, I had found a
more natural approach to what I was trying to do.
Production-wise, I always felt that the production on
Innocents did not let the listener appreciate what is really
going on musically? Would you agree?
It's the mastering. Have you heard the
re-release? It sounds like it should now. There are certain
elements that could have been brought up in the mix, but they
would have been competing with other elements. I like that it's
a wall of tones. On the re-release, you can finally hear the
complexity of the bass drum parts and the cymbals cut through. I
really dislike how polished the first album is.
Especially during the last few years, it feels like everyone
is discovering/re-discovering the music of OLW and so many talk
about the band with reverence, does it ever feel like 'damn, we
were right, it was the world that needed catching up'? Have you
talked to the other OLW members about this?
Yeah, but we talk about it in a very
positive way. I'm glad people enjoy the band now, regardless of
how long it's been since we were an active band. That's why we
made albums, so that they could be enjoyed after we were gone.
If I got my facts straights, after OLW you initially worked
on both Miltown and Milligram simultaneously. With the former
you signed to Giant Records, what happened that there were no
releases under this label?
The label representative told us that our
album was ‘sabotaged’ because of internal squabbling. He denies
it now, but he said it to all of us. In the studio, we were told
that the producer was hired because of an allegiance between him
and a woman named Missy Worth. She wasn't getting along with our
rep, Larry Jacobson for reasons that I don't know. The recording
was made, but they told us they ‘didn't hear a hit’ so we'd be
forced to re-record it. Between that pressure, the fact that
we'd spent 250,000 dollars on an album that was never going to
be released, and other negative intra-band dynamics, we split
up. One of our guitarists, Matt Squire went on to produce Panic
At The Disco, if that tells you anything.
In 1998 Miltown recorded Tales of Never Letting Go
which is still unreleased. Why is it unreleased?
Warner Brothers owns it, and it was never
What was the cause of Miltown's demise?
We were never really friends, and we had
radically different visions of what kind of music we should be
Milligram, excellent band. Dude, the first half of This
is Class War is good (unfortunately haven't heard Hello
Motherfucker yet), but the second half is brilliant.
Relentless, merciless, powerful sound. A vast departure from
your early work, were you consciously trying to distance
yourself from the dynamics of OLW? Or was that just due to the
fact that it was an entirely different band you were one fourth?
Milligram started out a lot more subdued,
but we got a new bass player, Jeff Turlik, and he helped us to
shift toward a more abrasive, energetic sound. I'm very proud of
This Is Class War.
What was the cause of Milligram's demise?
Our guitarist was very unstable at the
time, and we didn't find a suitable replacement before the
Jonah, while checking your work with OLW, Milligram and Raw
Radar War the first thing that struck me is that in a way you
are going against the grain. I mean, your bands are only getting
heavier, more corrosive, which is the exact opposite way of most
musicians who typically become blander with time. How conscious
is this progression/change?
Somewhat conscious. I have been compared
to bands that I really dislike when I have been in very melodic
bands and I grew tired of interacting with people that wanted to
exploit that kind of music, just because it had commercial
potential. I like people to hear the music, but I dislike the
components of music marketing which require silly photo-shoots,
product pairings, sponsored tours, and the usual business-minded
non-music fans that treat musicians like they are doing the
bands a favor while making more money off the bands than the
bands will ever see. Playing music which is non-commercially
focused makes me happier.
Stylistically, the way you sound in Raw Radar War is
entirely different to the way you sounded on OLW and something
very similar could be said about Milligram and the other two.
Now, your voice sounds much stronger and at times is impossible
to connect your work to the same singer. To what do you
attribute this progression? What have you done in order to adopt
I've never taken any lessons. I learn in
the practice space, and by playing shows. I listen to music that
evokes emotion, so I want to do the same. I happen to be making
very austere violent music right now and it is a lot closer to
what I was intending for all of the bands I've been in. When I
was in OLW, I kept trying to get them to sound more like Bolt
Thrower, for instance, but that was 1989-1995, and in all that
time, the closest we ever got was a few riffs that sound
Slayer-influenced. In RRW, we work within our own talent
limitations, but try to push to make something unique, even when
we emulate our favorite songs. That's really what I've been
trying to do in all of the bands of which I have been a part.
At this point in your career, what's the meaning of success
for Raw Radar War?
We've achieved what I was hoping. A
full-length release that is creatively cohesive, rabid sounding.
I liked what you said about the split release...that it
'threw you up against the wall Exorcist-style.' That's
success to me, in this band, anyway.
What's next for Raw Radar War?
We are working on songs for a new album.
We're hoping for a Spring 2008 release. Unfortunately, we do
write kinda slowly, but we're trying to change that.
Any other musical projects outside Raw Radar War?
I'm playing with the Only Living Witness
guys, and we've written some melodic songs, but we wouldn't call
that project Only Living Witness. We'll probably have one
official OLW reunion show, and then we'll probably have a new
name, so that people don't feel that we are trying to relive the
past. We aren't interested in that. If we played OLW songs, we'd
also do some Miltown songs, because these guys are much better
musicans than anyone in Miltown, and those songs sound better
than they ever did. The newer songs are like a mix of Miltown's
style, and early Milligram because the bass player from the
first Milligram record, Bob Maloney plays with us.
Someone once wrote : ‘Jonah Jenkins has spent the past
decade making bands of enormous commercial potential and then
simply walking away'. I and many people who love your work see
the truth in this statement. Would you agree?
Yes. Though it hasn't always been my own
choice. I did not leave Only Living Witness.
Jon Sox (from the FU's/Straw Dogs)
Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)
HR (Bad Brains)
John Brannon (Negative Approach)
Chris Notaro on the first Crumbsuckers album
Eddie Sutton (Leeway)
Jon Joseph (Cro-Mags)
Chris Reifert (Autopsy)
Rennie Resmini (Starkweather)
Colin Burns (La Gritona)
This includes bands that influenced me
over the years, some complete discographies, and some that may
seem out of place, but I love them all equally, in different
Boulder - Ripping Christ,
GG Allin - Public Animal #1,
Meatmen - We're The Meatmen and You Suck,
Autopsy - Mental Funeral,
Murder Squad - Insane, Unsane and Mentally Deranged,
La Gritona - Arrasa Con Todo,
Toxic Reasons - Kill By Remote Control,
V/A - This Is Boston Not L.A.,
Leeway - Born To Expire,
Starkweather - Crossbearer,
Cro-Mags - Age of Quarrel,
Entombed - Clandestine,
Dismember - Like an Ever Flowing Stream,
Zoetrope - Life of Crime,
Sheer Terror - Just Can't Hate Enough,
Holy Terror - Mind Wars,
Crom - The Cocaine Wars 1974-1989,
Deadbird - The Head and the Heart,
Accused - More Fun Than an Open Casket Funeral,
Rwake - If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You
Naked Raygun - All Rise,
New Model Army - Ghost of Cain,
Noothgrush - Failing Early, Failing Often,
Persuasions - Street Corner Symphony,
Septic Death - Now That I Have Your Attention...What Do I Do
The Dogs - Fed Up!,
Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea,
Repulsion - Horrified,
Wire - Chairs Missing,
Black Helicopter - That Specific Function,
Scissorfight - New Hampshire,
Sonics - Here Are The Sonics,
Napalm Death - Mentally Murdered EP,
Bolt Thrower - Realm of Chaos,
Winter - Into Darkness,
Mission of Burma - Signals Calls and Marches.
I could keep going, but that doesn't seem necessary.
Any last words?
Thanks very much for the time and space.
Read our Lost & Found piece on
Radar War Official Site
Radar War MySpace
Living Witness MySpace