Jason Novak is best known as one of the masterminds behind Industrial legends Acumen Nation… However, he’s spent recent years putting a bit of distance between himself and the rivetheads… with varying degrees of success.  For the past half decade Jason’s been handling guitar, vocals, and bass for a Chicago trio (rounded out by Brian Elza on guitar and Dan Brill on drums) that plays, as they describe it, “experimental, esoteric metal that rules.”  That band is Czar.  Czar have been around since 2009 and 2011 saw the release of their debut, Vertical Mass Grave, which proved to be quite a hit among metal aficionados… both critical and popular.  The band have spent the past two years writing their sophomore LP, but, the unfortunate passing of producer and collaborator Jamie Duffy, has proven to be mournful roadblock to its release.  However, the band has resumed activity in 2013 (albeit more in the Industrial community than the Metal community).  They opened a handful of dates for KMFDM last month and are about to begin a string of dates as support for Killing Joke, including an April 21st stop at Union Transfer, in Philadelphia.  I recently got a chance to chat with Jason about the band and just what they have in the works for 2013.

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Izzy Cihak: You’re about to head out on tour with Killing Joke, arguably one of the most significant bands of all-time.  How excited are you for the tour? Are you a big fan of the band?

Jason Novak: Definitely excited, have always been a fan, as are the other Czar members. So much catalog to look back on, I am psyched to see what they choose to play. We just hope that fans aren’t so focused on Killing Joke that they don’t give us a shot! We know we have a rabid audience to gain favor with and are excited for the challenge.  While I have always thought our styles were fairly different, at least three reviewers of our last album brought up Killing Joke as a reference, so… I think we are gonna warm everyone up nicely.

IC: What can be expected of your live show?  I definitely think KJ fans should make a point of getting to shows a bit early.

JN: Cheers, thanks. It’s a bit of an assault really. We chose a short selection of pretty punishing material, but also tracks that incorporated some synths and samples into them. We are also covering a very old track of our previous band, Acumen Nation. The three of us like to hide under a sheet of bizarre video projections in the shadows of our stacks and kit, so safe to say it will be a sensory blast!

IC: Your sound embodies a pretty interesting amalgamation of genres.  What would you consider to be your biggest influences and inspirations, whether musical or not?

JN: After so many years in other bands, playing music and styles that we might not have felt akin to at certain times, I think the biggest inspiration at the moment is to write and play unique and complicated music that can at once cause the listener to scratch their head, while bobbing it. The older we get, the heavier we seem to write.  It’s hard to say the word “metal” and have it mean anything cohesive to any one music fan, but that is our main genre I guess. After years of locking in to looped grooves and samples (with Acumen Nation and electronic project Acucrack) it’s a blast to have more freedom and room to breathe, musically.

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IC: You’ve said that one of your biggest influences is the “History of Punishment and Torture.”  Do you have any particular favorite texts regarding such things?  I’m hoping the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom and Pasolini’s cinematic adaptation would make the list.

JN: Our other guitarist, Brian Elza, is a crazy collegiate bookworm and fountain of horrible knowledge. This kind of thing falls right in his wheelhouse, and has been tremendous at helping us funnel daily angst into something a bit more literary than your average metal vocal yelps. I find it fun to take the basic human desire you might want to sing about, “I fucking hate your guts asshole!”, or something base, and then take the time to deliver it in a much more intelligent way. Of course, that also alienates a lot of music fans that just want to bang their head and scream exactly those quoted lyrics. Oh well. Aim high, crunch riffs, and read the Marquis de Sade, excelsior!

IC: So I hear you have your sophomore LP written and you’ve recorded some demos.  How would you compare your new work to Vertical Mass Grave?  What can your fans expect?

JN: I think “intensity” is the word to represent the new material. I feel like we cranked it up… Not necessarily faster or heavier as a whole, but the deep bits got deeper, the sludge got sludgier, and the twists and turns even headier. Fun extremes in the same song, heavy blast attacks, tempered by mammoth-speed interludes. We brought back more sound effects (a la the first EP) and tried to add more surprises and pockets, even some classic metal bits that we normally would have tried to over-think. In a way, I think it resembles the story we told on VMG, the way the tracks are laid out, but to a more ferocious degree.

IC: How do you plan to spend the rest of 2013?

JN: After the Killing Joke tour we come home to record the new album, hopefully spend the first part of summer mixing for a fall release. There is also a documentary about our label (Cracknation) and the history of all our bands coming out in May, so hopefully we will be enjoying the fun that will come with that. Finally, in September we are producing a Chicago music festival called Cold Waves II, with over a dozen bands like Prong, Skrew Die Warzau and 16volt, all coming together to pay homage to a long-time fallen partner and raise money for an anti-suicide charity. It’s ironic, with Czar, we were so excited to leave all things “Industrial” behind and focus on our longtime desire to just play Metal… but after opening a few shows for KMFDM last month, the Killing Joke tour, and this upcoming “Industrial rock” festival, it seems that every time we try to get out, they pull us back in!