The Mack is Back - and she’s brought along some friends.
A couple of years ago, I was head writer for GoreZone magazine, a monthly horror publication fondly remembered by many of you. Among the many great memories I have of my time there was the time I was asked to undertake a quick interview with an actress from Saw VI - a franchise I’m pretty fond of.
When I made the call, the actress mentioned that she also had a CD she’d released along with her band. Back then, I also wrote the CD reviews column, so I covered it in the next issue.
The band was Auradrone, the actress was Jon Mack and from then on, a friendship was formed. I spoke to Jon to catch up on her acting career earlier in the year. At that point Auradrone were working on their second album. Jon contacted me a couple of weeks ago to let me know the album was done, and would I like to hear it?
Would I indeed? Is the Pope Catholic?
I was curious to hear what Jon and the band had come up with this time, having enjoyed their first CD and still use it as chill out music quite often when I’m writing. Actually, here’s what I wrote about it back then....
From GoreZone issue 50:
"Whitelite Britelite": Auradrone
This is an album full of surprises. Not the least of which is the revelation that Auradrone are a band fronted by multi talented model/actress Jon Mack. Yes - THAT Jon Mack from "Saw VI"
When we spoke for a recent GoreZone article, she told me that music was her other passion and her band Auradrone was her baby. "Whitelite Britelite" is a stunning debut album with an assured, confident performance from Jon Mack who also showcases her skills as a songwriter and guitairist. Joining her in the band are Shah, Bernard Galane, Pete Griffin, Lee Wertman, Xavier Gomez, Shawn Lyons and Tiki Lewis with Mitch Manker guesting on one song.
Jon Mack’s honey-smooth vocal delivery gives the songs a seductive tone through a range of songs that range from dance to techno to soft rock.
In essence, Auradrone seem to take something from each of these genres, yet they’re impossible to pigeonhole because their unique blending of styles gives us something more than the sum of the parts..
So, what are the songs actually like ? Given the mix of musical styles on display here, I think it’s fairer to pick a few individual songs from the 10 on the disc.
"Auto Erotic" is the first song and promises an upbeat rock/pop beat which is easy to listen to. The second track, "Appetite" begins with much the same feel, but has a harder, faster beat to it and sounds like a suitable single release.
As we kick into "Dark Matter", I couldn’t help but feel that the singing style reminded me very much of Madonna at her peak on certain notes, while still retaining Mack’s individuality.
Track six is a change of pace as "Petite Mort" is a haunting soft rock melody which is perfect for that point of the album, as is track seven’s "A Channel".
Again, there’s a change in pace to a dance rhythm with "Semantix" on track 9 before closing with the wistful "Just Outside"
An excellent album with higher production values than could be expected from a debut album.
And I gave it a full five stars. Something that I was known for hardly ever doing.
So where do Auradrone go from there? How about in a startlingly different direction? There’s no doubt about it - Bleeding Edge is a bold move by anybody’s standards. It’s a harder edged, more socially relevant album than the wistful and dreamlike seductiveness of Whitelite Britelite. The sound is still very much techno, but there’s none of the soft rock that was a feature of the previous disc. This is industrial strength techno rock, with Jon still at times sounding reminiscent of Madonna but with a self assured raunch and swagger that wasn’t evident before. Bleeding Edge is described as a post apocalyptic love story which explores self reliance, transcendence and faith in the face of betrayal and entropy
In view of that synopsis, I believe that a particularly relevant song, bearing in mind the "Occupy" movement is track 3 - "Shadow" which is a favourite of mine with its ballsy lyric:
"Who’s the sacrifice, I’ll bet I know, I let it all go. Your masquerade is stripped away so fuck your mission statement"
(Purchase information for both albums through Amazon is provided at the links at the end of this article.)
The band lineup is Jon Mack on vocals, electronics and guitar, Fred Traverso on electronics and Christopher Fudrich on electronics and guitar.
Having spent a week listening to the disc on a constant loop in my car, I had some questions as ever, and was lucky enough to be able to ask them straight to the lady herself. So here’s the chat I had with Jon Mack - film actress, model - and bona fide rock star.
RP: Tell me a bit about Auradrone - how did you guys all get together? Did you hold auditions?
JM: Auradrone started as my conception. It's similar to Nine Inch Nails in that it's one person who works with several others over the course of recording and touring. I do hold auditions but it's usually less formal. A lot of people I collaborate with come to me more synchronistically.
We tend to find each other as we're meant to work together. Chris came to me through other musician friends and that's the way it's tended to happen for the most part.
RP: I'm sure recall you mentioning to me that some of the band members are European. That adds an even bigger logistical nightmare to the already fraught artistic process that preceeds a recording like this - how do you manage to pull it all together when you're not even in the same country?
JM: That's true. I've worked with people from UK, France, Brazil, Germany and even Serbia. When we played Exitfest last summer half of my live band were Serbian.
The internet has changed everything for us artists as far as collaborating with others who we may not even physically meet. This is how I've managed to work with some talented & wonderful people I never would have otherwise. It's great when you have that magic online then you meet and it's like you've always known each other.
RP: You've created an unique vocal style that is at times wistful and dreamlike yet at others you do a full-on Madonna. Who are your recording influences?
Thank you! Haha, sometimes people say Madonna but she's not a huge influence.
Respect to her but my influences were more along the lines of Peter Gabriel, Perry Farrell, Mike Patton, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, Nina Simone...also love Kurt Cobain and Chino Moreno. I tend to like more male singers for some reason and always have. I love to sing from a place of power like the boys!
To me, it's not about perfect since we have that on X Factor and shows like this. It's more about raw emotion and setting a sonic tone. The voice is a character like in a film or play.
I don't care for singing that's just by the book with no burning ember behind it. That's just copycat rubbish.
RP: I know from this album what you think of mission statements, but what's the artistic direction of the band? What's your message?
JM: DIY. Self reliance and strength. Evolution through difficult things such as devastation and disappointment. These are themes I believe everyone pretty much relates to time to time. It's not just dwelling on these issues but actually going through to the other side.
I suppose this is the general theme but there's more layers and I love hearing other's interpretations since it is truly subjective.
RP: Bleeding Edge is a harder edged album than it's predecessor, Whitelite Britelite (which always struck me as being a little gentler), was this intentional?
RP: The Escape has inspired a hard hitting video. Can you give me any informaion about its making? How long did it take? Who was the creative force behind it?
JM: We shot in a day which is insane. We had only so much time so it all kind of came together. Myself and Richard worked out the concept together. I knew I wanted 3 rooms in 3 time periods and colours yet with a theme of restriction. I worked with editor Pete Martich doing many recuts after we shot.
Director Richard Funston gave us beautiful spaces to work with and he was totally on board with the indie glam look I envisioned. It's nice to work with people who aren't afraid of going a little dark & sexy with it. The song called for it.
I also got to work with my friend and co-star Callum Blue, an actor from the UK who I'm sure many are familiar with as well as Tony Ward which brings us back to this mysterious Madonna thing again ;)
RP: When you sit down to write a song, what inspires you?
JM: It's never one thing but more of a conglomeration of what I'm going through at that moment. I notice that emotional patterns or feeling a certain way for a while makes me want to write. It doesn't have to be good or bad, just strong.
RP: As a writer, I know my own process, I know when it's time to sit down and get going and how I'm structuring. I wouldn't have the faintest notion how to go about writing a song though. Can you tell me a little about your process - what comes first, the music or the lyrics?
JM: When I first started writing the lyrics always came first but now that I'm more versed in PT and guitar, I tend to get ideas this way. I play a lot with samples and sounds sort of collaging things together until I starts speaking to me. That's the best way I can describe this process. Every musician has tons of scrap ideas lying around and it's really that spark that takes one of those and shapes it into form...like birthing.
RP: Movie star, model and two albums with your own band. How do you juggle three successful careers when most people can barely cope with one? How do you co-ordinate for example, spending time not only writing songs, recording AND producing with auditioning and appearing in movies, which often takes you out of town (and recording studio) with location work?
JM: These past couple of years have been nonstop which is great! I love it and thrive on it! It's when things slow down that I get in trouble. I'm one of those people that needs a lot going on because it keeps me in positive momentum. When one is slowing down I switch on the other which keeps me somewhat sane.
I feel creatives always need to keep that flow so it's important to expand the focus.
RP: Any plans for a tour? Would you like to take the band out on the road?
JM: Yes! I definitely want to tour! We played Exitfest last summer and it gave me a taste of festivals and reaching a larger audience and I think it's the best thing now for bands...especially indie bands who aren't always signed to a label. I love performing and miss it when I'm not doing it for a while. I'm definitely itching to tour and absolutely MUST play the UK. Any bookers want to bring Auradrone across the pond? ;)
RP: As Auradrone you have two incredible albums - how long until you start planning a third?
JM: Thank you. Already started on the third.
RP: Of all the tracks you've recorded across both albums, which is your favourite and why?
JM: That changes all the time. I have my favourites but no one favourite. It's like picking a favourite child. They're each special in their own way but some are definitely stronger among the bunch. On this new album it's hard for me to choose. Something More, Born Again, Starseed, The Escape...all songs I'm very fond of.
RP: Okay - last question, just for fun, I'm going with the Desert Island Discs route - Jon Mack is on a desert island and you can only have six records with you. What are they?
JM: Janes Addiction - Nothing Shocking
Depeche Mode - Violator
NIN - Downward Spiral or Broken
Radiohead - The Bends
Peter Gabriel - Passion : Music For The Last Temptation of Christ
Killing Joke - Killing Joke
Queens of The Stone Age - Lullabies To Paralyze
Okay, that's 7 isn't it? There's so many I've left out...Wow, that's tough! I hope I'm never stranded on a desert island without a fully loaded ipod!!
As ever, my sincere thanks to Jon Mack for her time and for supplying all the imagery for this article. Thanks also to publicist Allison Ravenscroft for her valued assistance and the material she provided for this article.
You can buy Whitelite Britelite here and a quick click here will take you straight to Bleeding Edge.
Copyright © 2010 - 2011 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.