Death Instinct Interview
Please give your name, age, and respective instrument:
Jon M. - 28 - vocals, guitar, and production
James V. - 25- percussion
Lynn P. – 28 – bass
How did you all meet, how long have you all known each other, and how did Death Instinct start?
Jon – I wanted to form a band during my last year of college and start writing more seriously. I had a few ideas but didn’t know anybody in a band. I was looking for like-minded musicians online- particularly drummers. It just so happened James was a drummer looking to start a project and had freakishly similar influences.
James – ‘laughs’ I put an add on craigslist. I wasn’t expecting to find anyone with similar taste. I wanted to start something in the vein of The Gun Club, The Birthday Party, Swans, etc. Jon happened to respond and said he was free to play music after the semester ended in a few months. I didn’t expect him to follow up, but he did. I was really glad when we were able to get together to play music and he wasn’t a craigslist murderer.
Jon - Lynn and I have known each other for about 9 years. She joined the band in 2017 after our original bassist, Turk, graduated from CMU and moved to Atlanta.
What does Death Instinct mean and where did the name come from?
Lynn - We were sitting in a coffee shop in Highland Park in the fall of 2014. Jon had just picked me up from work and we started talking about ideas for his band name.
Jon - I wanted to have something based on Greek drama or mythology, and thought of thanatos, or the death instinct. I’m not really sure what drew me to that idea, but I thought the concept of the death drive was interesting. At the time I was into noise and transgressive performance art like Pharmakon, Puce Mary, Damien Dubrovnik, and Sexdrome.
Lynn – Then we started thinking of words related to those ideas, but nothing really stuck out. Jon mentioned ‘death drive’, but we joked that those words together made us think of the film, “Death Proof”. I said that he should just use the word ‘death instinct’. James and Jon ended up using ‘death instinct’ as their name.
Since being a band, what is your favorite band story?
Lynn – We are all really close, so we have a bunch of silly experiences together. I would say my favorite music-related experience would be playing with Ritual Veil around Halloween. I think we played really well and everyone was really sweet. We had a lot of fun dancing.
James - The Ritual Veil show was great. I really liked playing with my friend, George Cessna’s band, Snakes. They put on a great show and it was one of the most fun times I had playing.
Jon - I liked playing with Adult and Hide. We were super nervous, but Nicola and Adam and Heather and Seth were very sweet people. We ended up having a great time.
Who are your biggest influences and who would you say that you sound like?
James - I think we all have slightly different influences that come together and come out in different ways in the music. I like a lot of twangy post-punk, Jon likes a lot of darkwave and electronic post-punk and Lynn likes death rock, as well as the aforementioned styles. She helps balance it out. I really love 16 Horsepower, The Gun Club, Rowland S. Howard, These Immortal Souls, The Birthday Party, Slug Guts and The Cramps.
Lynn - I really love the bass tones of Paul Raven of Killing Joke, Tracey Pew of The Birthday Party and of course, the queen - Patricia Morrison. As a kid, I remember the first ‘alternative’ thing I saw was the “Tonight Tonight” video from Smashing Pumpkins on a video player in K-mart. That was a game-changer for me and I was captivated by D’arcy Wretzsky.
Jon - My influences are constantly changing but primarily I take influences from the Chameleons, A Place to Bury Strangers, The Soft Moon, and Soft Kill most of the time but there are dozens of other secondary influences.
Could you briefly describe the music-making process? How you write your songs? What are the lyrics about?
Jon - I write all the songs and the bulk of the parts. Lyrically for The Offerings E.P. the lyrics were mainly a therapeutic exercise, describing feelings of alienation and isolation that I think are universal human experiences. For our next release, the lyrics will be more conceptual and interrelated between songs, but I don’t want to give away too much at this point. As for the songwriting process, I’ll record scratch tracks and I’ll show the parts to Lynn and James, and in learning the songs they will modify their parts to their own liking. We also pass ideas back and forth about the direction we like to go in sonically and visually. Lynn is the primary role behind the visual aspect of the band.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
James - When Jon and I first started playing the music was very loud and more post-rock oriented with a lot of feedback and soundscapes. With time, the songs began to be more traditionally structural with a dark, intense more controlled atmosphere.
Jon - We were more experimental when we started. Also because we didn’t have a bass player the guitar had to be more shoegaze-y and loud to fill that void but now we can focus more on hook-driven songs with a melodic rhythm section.
What are your plans for the future, obviously the EP release, but what else?
Jon - We are writing a second E.P. with more songs than The Offerings and with a more cohesive thematic idea.
Lynn - We are also looking to tour hopefully in the fall. We also want to work on video/ visuals more.
What are each of your favorite records to “play alone?”
Lynn - Currently I’ve been nonstop listening to Heterofobia’s “Queremos Ver El Mundo Arder” and if I’m being honest with myself -90s Euro House. I tend to listen to one album for a couple of weeks at a time while taking the bus and walking, so within the past few months those albums have been DBUK’s discography, Bambara’s “Shadow on Everything”, Kontravoid’s self-titled, The Birthday Party’s “Prayers on Fire” and Christian Death’s “Only Theatre of Pain”. I also like to belt Misfits’ “Static Age” when I am alone.
James - I base records I listen to on the atmosphere of the day. I think there’s a record for each day. Two of my favorite records I listen to a lot are 16 Horsepower’s “Sackloth N’ Ashes” and “Miami” by The Gun Club. Those records always put me in a creative mindset and inspire me.
Jon – My favorite albums to play alone, that’s tough. I really love to listen to Wolves in the Throne Room’s “Celestite”, Interpol’s “Turn on the Bright Lights”, Drab Majesty’s “The Demonstration” and Boards of Canada’s “Music has the Right to Children” in solitude.
Find Death Instinct's first EP The Offerings here.