Jim Semonik Tells Us Why He's The Electronic Savior

Jim Semonik

Update: Hey Nimrods! Glad to bring you another interview, and this time with Jim Semonik from Rein[Forced]. Stay tuned for our upcoming review of "Electronic Saviors: III" compilation.

Nimrod Street: Since there are four discs all together how did you choose which artists and bands were worthy of being part of this massive project?

Jim Semonik: It's not a matter of being worthy. I encourage anyone with an electronic project to participate.  However, we have limited space and time so song quality, production, exclusivity and song length are just some of the factors that go into consideration.  I also have to worry about how well known the bands are that submit because, obviously, we want to sell copies of this comp so it's a daunting task finding the right balance of new and unknown acts standing shoulder to shoulder with seasoned veterans. I think we pull it off the best way possible.

NS: Please explain the significance behind the name "Electronic Saviors". Who came up with it?

JS: The name and the idea is totally my baby.  I remember thinking up the name on the ride home from work one evening during the time I was in chemo and radiation.  I knew I wanted to help people and I knew that if I could convince enough of my friends that I have worked with over the years to back me on the project, that we could have something really special.  So I didn't care who submitted.  As long as you had electronics in your song somewhere, I didn't care.  That spirit still holds true.  My doctor (the great Dr. Medich) once told his interns that "This guys saves more lives than any of us." He was pointing at me.  I'm not sure I believe that but I do think the power of these artists is very strong.  It got me through.  It saved me.  So they are all Saviors in my book.

NS: "Electronic Saviors" III is under Metropolis Records, did their artists influence what sound you were going for on this album?

JS: I own every release ever put out by Metropolis Records and have great respect for Dave Heckman, so I do have vast knowledge of their catalog (notice the din_fiv live track on vol.3-they were MET021).  However, I listen to and collect music by all of the US labels past and present including WTII, COP, Vendetta, Nilaihah, Re-Constriction, Fifth Colvmn, 21st Circuitry etc.  I also buy a lot of imports and am a big fan of Out of Line, Dependent, Alfa Matrix, Infacted, Celtic Circle, Zoth Ommog etc.  I know some of those labels are defunct now but my love for this music will always live on.  To answer the question, I like spreading the love.  We have bands from all of those labels spread across the comps so I just didn't want to have comps limited to one label since I like them all.  Many Metropolis bands are included though and even a couple tracks from my own label, Distortion Productions.

NS: I have to ask you about the artwork because it looks so menacing! Who is the genius responsible for designing the cover?

JS: That would be my long time friends Jeff Confer and Samantha Johnson.  I met them back in 2003-2004 while they were going to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.  Jeff and I shared a similar interest in nerd culture, "Star Wars", and action figure collecting and we started hanging out.  Jeff became one of my best pals.  He designed some fliers for me for shows that I had done in town over the years, so when I got sick, and told him the idea for the comp, he jumped at the chance.  Jeff and Sam did all 3 and I love these people dearly.  In fact, when I was diagnosed with pancreatitis and almost died from the chemo, Jeff was the one who carried me down the steps of my apartment so I could get into the car to go to the hospital.  Jeff draws and inks.  Samantha colors and does layout.  They are perfect.

NS: The figure almost resembles different faces of a Deity holding up crosses while a white light shines behind it. Does the unique artwork accurately symbolize your personal belief that there may or may not be an afterlife?

JS: Haha.  I am not a religious person at all, so I leave the art open to personal interpretation.  For me, it is sort of the end of my story.  I was pronounced cancer free last September by my doctors so in a way, I have told my story with these comps so now, I want to tell the stories of others and help them in any way I can.  The cyborg symbolizes my victory over cancer.  I hope the music helps others as it has helped me.

NS: I really love the music because it’s very upbeat but still harbors a beautiful darkness. How much of it reflects, if at all, how you were feeling during the time you were seeking treatment?

JS: 100%.  The music on these compilations runs the gauntlet of emotions.  When I was in treatment, I listened to a lot of Dark Clan and 16 Volt.  Both of which appear here.  During radiation, the nurses actually let me bring in my own music to listen to.  So I got blasted with radiation while listening to Chemlab.  I couldn't imagine a better way.  The thing is, when diagnosed with cancer, one calls so much into question.  Music allowed me to channel everything I had inside me to fight this disease.  Without it, I'm not so sure I would've made it.

NS: Coming from a very emotional place, the lyrics to your song “Defeated” are quite deep. Now that you've stepped into the shoes of someone with Cancer how does it change your outlook on life?

JS: I try not to waste time.  I try to savor every moment I have with a loved one.  It doesn't always work out but essentially that song is about how I am a changed man from the whole experience.  I am now missing several organs.  Life can be very difficult in dealing with that.  It keeps me from doing certain things.  Outdoor events are pretty much not a good idea anymore.  I just have to be careful.  I am still standing, though and I think that's what is important.  I'm glad Defeated struck a chord with you and I am extremely proud of that song.  I hope others can relate to it in some capacity.

NS: I have known several survivors, and have lost members of my own family to this horrible disease. What is the one thing for those who have been diagnosed to keep in mind?

JS: YOUR LIFE ISN'T OVER.  It is very important that I stress that fighting and keeping a great mental outlook is key.  Try not to waste any time and do the things that make you happiest in life.  I guarantee that if I ever get a diagnosis that the cancer has come back and I only have a certain length of time to live, that the next day will be my last day of work.  I will spend the remaining time with my family, friends and loved ones.  That's kind of just the way I see life after getting that kind of diagnosis. But for those who have a fighting chance?  Fight as hard as you can and draw strength from anything that makes you happy and don't let anyone else tell you different.

NS: Do you think having Cancer prepared you to have a sense of determination for putting such an ambitious project together?

JS: In the beginning, yes, it was my main drive because I was fighting for my life.  Now, I like to think of it as I am fighting for others. I love going to events in other states and seeing strangers that have latched on to the project as a source of hope.  I can't help but hug and kiss them.  They are my brothers and sisters and we are all in this together, so yeah, the project is meant to give strength and inspire.  It is the source of my drive.  Even in the darkest winter of my life this past year, I drew strength from it as I was putting it together.  Volume 3 is a treasure to me because it symbolizes many personal triumphs.  I can't wait to see what others think of it.

NS: There’s now a new found freedom, so what else are you hiding under your sleeve that you’re ready to take on?

JS: Well, we want to head to the Terminus Festival soon to represent the comp, then we hit the road in July and have several release parties.  When that is done, we will be releasing the Spider Lilies EP on Distortion, followed by The Dark Clan's new album, a Transformers tribute cd to the '86 animated movie, the debut of my side project The Anesthesiologists (with my good friend Tom Whittaker-check out It Never Ends on ES3), which is basically the 2 of us with a bunch of guest vocalists on every song.  Claus Larsen of Leather Strip may appear and Martin Atkins may have some drum tracks too but we'll see.  The next Rein[Forced] album "Your Mind Goes To Dark Places" will be underway and then "Electronic Saviors IV:Retaliation" in 2016.  But you should also really check out Steven Archer's Stoneburner project that comes out June 24th.  It's badass tribal electronica. Great stuff.
Of course, I'll still be promoting live shows and djing here and there.  Living life to the fullest.

NS: For my last question, I heard that Rein[Forced] were working on another record, but it has since been delayed. Are there any plans to finish it up for an official album release as well as a world tour?

JS: Well, I'm not sure if you heard X Amount of Stabwounds in the Back.  It came out on WTII Records in 2012 and it's companion piece Pre Existing Conditions came out last September.  We may play some gigs with Hocico in September.  The new album stated above has not been delayed but it will probably be out sometime in 2015.  Most likely the back end of it.  Lots to do.  But I do want Sean Payne of Cyanotic to produce the album.  He did our ES3 track and it is amazing to me.  So I guess that's it. Thanks so much for the interview.