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the band that wasn’t there
By David King

Genghis Tron bypass their local scene to become a national act

 

If you had told me a month ago that Genghis Tron were from Poughkeepsie, I wouldn’t have believed you. Funny thing is, it’s likely someone living in Poughkeepsie would tell you the same thing. Genghis Tron’s odd art-school, keyboard-soundscape grind just doesn’t seem to fit in with the emo, metal-core scene more typical of the city they started in. By the time you read this, though, there will be no more confusion. Genghis Tron will no longer call Poughkeepsie their home. They’ve outgrown it, and they’ve never actually played a show there except on the campus of Vassar College, from where they all just graduated.

A recent MySpace ex change between the Fishkill band A Kodak Moment and Genghis Tron might better explain Tron’s relationship with Poughkeepsie.

A Kodak Moment: “you guys aren’t even grind YOUR SCREAMO give up im ashamed to be from the same place as you guys and all you scene fucks that listen to this go slit your wrists”

Genghis Tron: “thanks for the kind words And were ashamed to be from here to we aren’t locals anymore though, we’re moving out of our apartments today and will be in philly from now on. . . ”

Despite their departure, I need to know who or what are the mystery three-piece who call themselves Genghis Tron and who haunt the Internet and the satellite-radio airwaves. Since they supposedly reside in Poughkeepsie, I give Mookie, the lead singer, a call. I’m told the three men who make up Genghis Tron are Mookie (vocalist, theraminist and lap steeler); Michael (keyboardist and electronic drum programmer); and Hamilton (guitarist and drum programmer). I ask Mookie if perhaps each band member has more than one name apiece, and what he did to earn the name Mookie. He informs me matter-of-factly, “Mookie is my real name. I changed it several years ago.”

Who are Genghis Tron?

Genghis Tron are too cool for school.

That’s why the three-piece graduated this past weekend and got out of Dodge. That’s why they didn’t even play a show at Poughkeepsie’s Chance Theater or take part in the city’s hardcore/metal-core scene, which lead-singer Mookie describes as “hard to break into,” and “full of scene politics.”

Actually, they didn’t take part because they didn’t need to. “We were writing music in our keyboardist’s bedroom,” explains Mookie. “We made a three-song demo and sent it off to some labels, and Crucial Blast signed us immediately. We were signed before we played our first show.”

Mookie says that the band’s Atari-being-eaten-by-the-Trans-Siberian-Orchestra sound comes from their disparate influences. “I personally have been into noisier stuff, more aggressive stuff,” he says. “Hamilton is into most of the metal, and Michael was a DJ for a while and really brought the electronica elements. Now we all listen to the same amount of metal and electronica stuff.”

Despite—or perhaps because of—their mishmash of influences, the trajectory of the band’s career has been meteoric. After releasing a five-song EP, Cloak of Love, in 2004, the band were soon touring the country and seeing strong play on Sirius Satellite Radio. But the boys were not exactly satisfied.

Fitting in somewhere between national acts like the Dillinger Escape Plan, An Albatross, the Locust, and Mindless Self Indulgence, the Tron throw a lot of people off. And there are lots of stories floating around about people’s first experience with the Tron. There is the typical “I heard this weird shit on the radio and couldn’t stop listening!” story. The “I was at an industrial dance night and the DJ put on this stuff with weird beats and people were dancing until the crazy guitars and screaming started.” Then there’s the metalheads’ reaction: “Dude, this shit is wicked heavy! Wait! What’s all this pussy-dancey keyboard shit?”

The band’s genre hopping and varied influences have led to a particularly diverse reaction from fans of all sorts of music, but do not always lend them a sense of seriousness or credibility. The Tron set about fixing this on their new album, Dead Mountain Mouth. “With our new album, we wanted to shed any attachment to, like, a joke-band gimmick,” Mookie comments. “We were sort of labeled that a little bit ’cause of the first EP. We wanted to tighten things up.”

How did the Tron set out to show that they were not some one-off joke, or a genre-splicing, wacky band like Mindless Self Indulgence, a band to whom they are often, generally unfairly, compared? They hired Kurt Ballou of disaster-core stalwarts Converge to produce the album.

Converge are known for their off-kilter hate dirges, which sound like a hardcore band falling down the stairs, and while Genghis Tron have a similar sense of raging improvisation, Mookie says that spontaneity is not something Balou brought to their recording sessions. “Spontaneity doesn’t come into our writing process,” he says. “The writing process for us is real tedious. We have to program all the drums first before we do anything else. Then we sit around the computer and map out the song in our drum program, and then we figure out every instrument pretty separate.”

Compare the Tron’s first album to their new one and it will be immediately clear what Ballou brought to the sessions: a whole lot of heavy and a whole lot of art. While Cloak of Love jumps spastically between dance breakdowns and guitar breakdowns, with deep synths riding the waves of baby-eating guitar riffs, Dead Mountain Mouth flows together in one tormented soundscape, like a robotic rock opera spat through knives and distortion.

As different as Tron are, and as much as they stand out from the upstate hardcore-metal scene, nationally they are part of a growing trend of metal bands who are mixing art and the absurd with their steel. Newer bands like Between the Buried and Me, Cult of Luna, the Locust, Horse the Band, and old stalwarts the Dillinger Escape Plan and Isis are making art metal the standard rather than the exception. But Mookie says as much as he respects some of these bands, he can’t really see the Tron being part of the established metal scene. “We’re not about putting ourselves in situations where we would be pigeonholed,” he says. “Lots of metal-core bands end up doing four- or five-band package tours. I feel like when we start to do that it is very easy to get pigeonholed. But we do pride ourselves on being able to play shows with really brutal bands like Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan, and also being able to play shows with quieter or not as aggressive bands.”

Despite being in a period of transition, no longer college students, without a hometown, on the verge of the release of their first full-length album, Genghis Tron may now be more comfortable in their own skins than ever before. “This isn’t a really lucrative job, being in a touring band,” says Mookie, “but this is what we’re gonna be doing full-time. We are touring this summer and in the fall, and then we will set right in another album and tour in the spring, and hopefully we will be recording again this time next year.” The band who don’t belong anywhere may have found their true calling: to be at home on the road.

dking@metroland.net


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