Man Vs. Monster: Ten Questions With Jusan Smirdt/Jason Schmidt of GRAF ORLOCK & Vitriol Records

I have finally gotten a chance to speak to the man behind acts such as Graf Orlock, Dangers and the amazing label Vitriol Records. This man goes by many names, some of which are Jusan Smirdt and Jason Schmidt. What’s his real name? Who fucking cares, the dude shreds like a beast. Check out the interview below.

How’s it going, man? Can you introduce yourself to my readers and tell them what it is you do?
My name is Jusan Smirdt and I play guitar, do half of the singing, and do the samples for Graf Orlock. I also run the increasingly confusing label Vitriol Records.

My first question is about the term “cinema-grind.” Was it the band or the fans who originally came up with this description and how do you personally feel about it?
This is humorous because I see people complain about how ridiculous it is. Originally, we made it up because we thought it was ridiculous, I mean look at all of the splinter genres of an already fringe genre like “hardcore”, “grind”, “porno-grind”, “gore-grind”, and so on. So I find it even funnier when people ask me about it or post stuff saying how dumb it is when in actuality, it came from us. There are many things about this band that keeps it endlessly entertaining for us,
and this is one of them.

From the bands inception until the release of the Doombox EP the vocals were handled by Kalvin Kristoff. After his departure vocals were handled by Karl Bournze. Did this change the overall vibe of the band at all?
Definitely. After you are in a band so long with a certain set of people, the change definitely facilitates either a change in sound or the way the band functions interpersonally. In this case it was both. Although people are never satisfied completely with anything, a lot of people complained on Doombox about how his vocals were different and whatnot, but they wouldn’t have liked any change. On this new 7″ his vocals are a lot more focused and he kind of found his niche with the music. On an interpersonal level, it made touring a lot more fun because we had been friends for a long time and there was no bullshit. Also Kalvin died so we were forced to change things up.

Speaking of the Doombox EP, whose idea was it to release it with the ghettoblaster packaging? That is pure marketing genius.
I don’t like the term marketing per se. It makes me feel all corpo. For the most part the drummer and I come up with ideas and see if we can make them happen, whatever the next step to outdo ourselves further. Records and music are such a clusterfuck these days, I don’t
want to put something out that looks and sounds like shit, so we focus on at least making it worth the money people are spending on it. And on top of that it is nice to make things that are out there and completely stupid.

You guys will be releasing the Los Angeles EP very soon. This EP is based on the film Heat starring Robert DiNero. What made you guys focus on this film in general?
Starting with Doombox things started going in the urban theory thinking about LA direction a lot more (although Doombox was split evenly between LA and NY). This is the next logical step, talking about the city of Los Angeles through all of the messed up relationships people in this 1995 movie have. This is obvious right? No, I know it makes no sense, but in our illogical round about thinking, it was perfect.

Since the bands formation you have only recorded two full-length albums. You have recorded a handful of EPs and splits, however. Why do you typically stick to EPs rather than write an entire album?
This is just a consequence of writing things in sets of 8, which we always did. This predicates an EP more than an LP, and for me in the context of this band, it is a lot more cohesive to keep it on a smaller scale. I don’t like the process of getting to the end of a record and disliking the beginning because it was written so long ago. So unless we can put off a chunk of time to go straight through and write and LP, I would rather stick to EPs. Right now we are also kind
of all of the country and doing different things so there wouldn’t be time to do a full length if we wanted to, which I don’t.

You own and operate Vitriol Records which has been called home by not only Graf Orlock but also Dangers, Ghostlimb and Owen Hart. Does running the label complicate or fuel your music-playing?
I think it fuels it. For the most part I am playing all the time because I play guitar in Gorlock, Ghostlimb, and Dangers. So in a circular sense, it only propagates itself. Every tour is good for the bands and the bands are good for the overall label, thus it continues on into the oblivion of hardcore mediocrity. On the other hand, it makes it really hectic to try to tour a lot and do all of the records and still have subsistence-level jobs, but it is one of the only things I like to do.

Can you tell me a little about the Destination Time trilogy? I know that it was inspired by a controversial UCLA screenplay, but to be honest I don’t know much about said screenplay other than a point of the controversy was due to the fact that no sources were referenced when you guys made it. The end result being a riot.
It was the PhD dissertation in our film studies. It never got completely but I was thinking of printing it and putting it out with an LP box set of the trilogy sometime. Most of this stuff is public record, but a couple of us did short stints (the original bass player of Gorlock did some hard time in Chino), but it urged us in not so many words, to steer clear of academia and do something else. This band is a testament to wasted creative energy with no clear objective.
We will see what happens.

What’s next for Graf Orlock and Vitriol Records?
The label has been pretty hectic the last two years since it started. By the end of Spring I will be on the 26th or 27th release which will be a new Ghostlimb full length being recorded this week. As for tours there will be a Graf Orlock Euro tour this summer and more than likely some east coast dates for Ghostlimb. I guess we are just driven by Satan to not stop doing anything.

In closing, are there currently any films that you would recommend my readers or I check out? New, old, independent or well-funded.
Wow, this is a loaded question, and although I would like to answer, I want to keep this interview under 10 pages.

Graf Orlock will release their new EP Los Angeles on April 24th via Vitriol Records.

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