Amir Derakh ('Orgy')
’Let The New Games Begin’
The best rock music always combines raw power and absolute panache. It should pulse with sexuality and pathos, but look damn stylish in the process. It can forge heavy, almost Paleolithic riffs – yet retain intelligence, cunning, and pure pop hummability. In short, the best rock is utterly savage, unabashedly stylish, and entirely guilt free.
But records like that don’t come along very often. Enter Punk Statik Paranoia, the latest and greatest Bacchanalian musical salvo from L.A.-based death-pop quintet Orgy - Jay Gordon: vocals, Amir Derakh: guitar synthesizer, Ryan Shuck: guitar, and Paige Haley: bass.
A cursory listening of Punk Statik Paranoia should have music fans scurrying to lock up their daughters, sisters, and/or moms. It’s that good. The first single, ’The Obvious,’ pours layer after decadent layer of sweet distortion over subterranean fuzzbass and deep rhythmic grooves, all infused with a pop hook that’ll haunt your head like a hangover. And it’s danceable.
Throughout the disk, Orgy spin decadent lyrical yarns of love, medication and psychotic associates over addictive arrangements that alternate between chilly, electro-glazed soundscapes and monstrously heavy metallic pop. Dark gems like ’Leave Me Out,’ ‘Inside My Head,’ and ’Vague’ are some of Orgy’s most focused and catchiest works to date – and ironically their loudest.
Releasing their 1998 debut album Candyass on Korn’s Elementree label as the flagship act inside a year of forming, Orgy struck the singles charts twice with a bruising cover of New Order’s ’Blue Monday’ and the dynamic follow-up ’Stitches.’ As the record soared to platinum-sales status, pundits tagged the Orgy sound from “electro-rock” and “industrial synth,” to “sleaze rock” and “techno-goth”!
In the year 2000, Orgy debuted its sophomore album, the sci-fi concept piece Vapor Transmission at No 16 on Billboard’s Top 200. The sound was harder this time out, the songwriting more complex, and the record garnered even better reviews than had Orgy’s first, spinning off a pair of strong singles in ’Fiction (Dreams in Digital)’ and ’Opticon.’ More successful touring followed, with Orgy once again headlining.
And now they are back with their third album, Punk Statik Paranoia. Taking some time out recently with guitar synthesizer wizard Amir Derakh, I first mentioned that this new effort sounded lyrically louder – and therefore wondered if this had been purposeful? ”Yeah, it was definitely something that we set out to do. We wanted to do this record backwards to what we normally do – which was to write and record the songs in a more live environment – whereas before we kinda programmed and added the live element into it. So, we kind of switched it up. And I think that with Jay’s lyrics that he’s kinda writing a little about more of what was going on at the time – when we were making the record. There was a lot of bad stuff going on, basically and I think his emotions just sort of came out into the songs that we were writing. We always like to do something different every time. We consciously try and strip it down a little. We wanted to make it a dirtier record; a little grungier.”
Tell me more about this inner turmoil that was going on back then ”Pretty much everyone knew what was going on with us and our label. There was a lot of transitions at Warner Bros. that we were kind of stuck in the middle of when we were making this record. I mean, we basically made it on our own because we had to. We had no money to go in and make a record. There was also a lot of personal problems that a lot of the guys in the band were having so it was a very difficult record to make considering that we didn’t have anybody behind us as well. But, yeah, it was just such a mess all around at the time. But finally, Jay managed to get a deal and we got out of the situation with Warner Bros all on good terms.”
Tell me where the new album name Punk Statik Paranoia came from? ”Actually, Jay had had this title and had been tossing it around for a while. I think he actually wanted to use it for a song that never got finished. I like to think of it as the fact that it’s a three-word title and it’s our third record, where our second record was a two-word title, and our first record was a one-word title! Which is absolutely not why we named it that, but it does get people out there thinking that it’s a weird coincidence.”
Orgy’s music has been described from "Techno Goth" to "Electro Rock", but what do you think sums up the bands music? ”The thing is that when we started the band we never really set out to be some … thing. We just did what we did and that was that, and usually when you do that you start to set yourself apart. We knew we wanted to do something different, but that there were obviously going to be certain things that would be familiar as well. And I think any great band uses those elements in a great melting pot to create something new. So, we blend many elements, many different eras and many different styles together in all the things that we do and so it’s kinda hard to pin it down. But people will label us whatever they want to label us as obviously we fit into a lot of different things.”
Due to your first hit being ‘Blue Monday,’ are you still lauded as being ‘that one-hit-wonder cover band’?! ”I can’t believe that people still talk about it,” he gently laughs. ”I mean, it’s like to me Soft Cell did ‘Tainted Love’ which was a cover and was their biggest song. I mean, but who would know who Soft Cell was in a large sense had they not covered that song? It’s just one of those things even with us. I’m sure that people really liked that song [‘Tainted Love’] as it’s not just something that they pulled out of a hat! I think they had a passion for the song and that’s why it came out so well. And it’s the same with ‘Blue Monday.’ It’s always been one of my favorite songs and is to this day and as a DJ I still play it – I don’t play my version, I play their [New Order] version,” he again laughs. ”I also think that when we did the record a lot of people were doing ‘80s covers and I’ve always liked doing covers. I think it’s fun.”
Back in your youth and growing up in Los Angeles, what were some of the bands you used to check out? ”Growing up as a band in ’85 [Rough Cut] we were listening to bands like Ratt and Motley Crue. We were kinda in the middle of all the those bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns and W.A.S.P. and believe it or not those influences do actually creep into Orgy. Pretty much everyone in the band were big ‘metal heads’ one way or another.”
How does Orgy get a fix on their publicity image for each album? ”I would say that the image probably fits with the music each time. I think the first couple of records were very polished and very pretty as far as the sound and the look of the record. I think now this one is a little grungier, but not that we’re not doing our usual thing, but it’s gonna be tamed down a little, that’s all.”
I know you designed and created your Yamaha AES-AD6 guitar, but it’s hardly a catchy name, now is it?! ”The thing is that I’m not really a big fan of having a signature model and it having my name on it. I just wanted it to be another model in their catalogue and be something different that people could buy that has my fingerprint on it. It’s really sort of a melding of the old and the new whereas most of my designs are pretty out there,” he laughs. ”This is a very tamed down version for the masses and I’m actually working with them on another design right now that’s pretty crazy”
Tell me more about your work on Red Tape's debut album, Radioactivist on Roadrunner Records ”It’s the first album that I’ve produced and mixed entirely by myself, but I’ve been a producer, mixer and engineer on quite a few records before. But for me I really thought it was time to take a hold of a project and I really believe in the band. I think it’s a great record and it’s totally different from anything I’ve ever done in the past. It’s pretty hardcore punk, The Used meets Black Flag kinda thing!”
Finally, what is one of the most unfounded rumors that constantly surrounds the band? ”The first thing that pops into my head is that people always think we’re gay. I think that’s always been a constant thing with us because we wear make-up, we dress crazy, whatever! Usually, if they’ve hung out long enough with us they figure out that’s not the case!”
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Back To Archives