Iron Lung is a two-piece, hardcore band originally hailing from Reno, NV. Their new album, White Glove Test, released on their own Iron Lung Records, helps bridge the ever-closing gap between hardcore punk, noise, and power electronics. Out the gate, these two dudes smoked anyone who was willing to share a stage with them. Touring extensively through Europe, Asia, Australia, and NZ, they put on shows that are somewhere between a stand-up comedy night and a fistfight.
Their label, has given way to some of the heaviest hitters in modern hardcore punk’s recent history, including Total Control’s Henge Beat, Hatred Surge’s Human Overdose, and my personal favorite, Kim Phuc’s dark, dingy, and honestly borderline emo, Copsucker. (RIP). They still stuff all the records themselves: more than likely that order you just received postmarked Seattle, has a little bit of co-owner Jensen Ward’s DNA on the box. They were able to take time between back rubs, navigating NYC subway lines, CMJ shows, and releasing the best, brightest, and most eclectic punk records in the country to give us here at Noisey a few minutes.
Noisey: Iron Lung has been been a band well over a decade now, right? But now you both live in different places, Seattle and San Francisco, respectively, how did this come to be?
Jensen Ward: Reno, where we are originally from, is a rough place. We found Seattle on tour once and it just seemed crazy enough to live in. Or at least a sick place to be for a while. We wrote Sexless//No Sex there. And then Jon found love in the Bay. We’re considering changing the band’s name to Higher Love. Looks real nice going through customs that way and it really sends a positive message. We are all about groovy positivity, man. I will probably never leave Seattle. I love the gloom. People are too depressed to exert any real energy on violence or evil until they snap and mass murder each other. Seattle owns the proper city mentality without having to watch over its shoulder all the time. Easy times.
Jon Kortland: My brain chemistry just can't handle the gloom.
You guys both do Iron Lung Records, how well does that work living in different places and running a label. Obviously it’s not unheard of, but who gets stuck stuffing all those records?
Jensen: I do most of the day-to-day operations. Jon is the strong/silent quality control man. Out in the wild, living free. Being in the office all those hours affords me my wonderful parlor and cheery disposition.
Jon: I'm totally willing and ready to get my hands dirty when I’m in Seattle. Jensen does get stuck with most of the unpleasant tasks though.
Everything you release is different from the last, almost in every way imaginable. You started with a very uniformed look for the 7”s and then started changing the game up. Musically and stylistically—from Nerveskade to UV Race. Wasn’t the initial plan to only put out 7"s for homies? What have been some of the benefits and hindrances you've faced doing the label? You can't tell me when you send a box of new releases out you don’t get a few "What the fuck is this?" emails back.
Jensen: The initial plan was to release records for homies, yes. That is still the plan and we’re sticking to it. That first batch was a series. The ones with the stamped sleeves. We are in the middle of a new two-song single series right now. So we haven't strayed much from the original vision. We only put out stuff we like and between the two of us we have a wide range of tastes. Before we started the label we tested each other as to what type of music nerd each of us was. Using the top 10-Desert Island test. It came back inconclusive. That's how we beat the system. People have definitely sent confused emails as to our content, but that just means that folks are taking our word for the quality and ordering blind. This is the biggest compliment we can get as a label. We stand behind everything we’ve put out. There’s a lot of other labels that can’t say the same. We are stronger. People still complain about shit. “The mailman broke my box. Shipping overseas is too expensive. Your LPs aren't European enough.” A bunch of fucking wimps out there.
What’s the next series gonna be? Can you give us a small taste? While on the subject, what are your 10 Desert Island Discs.
Jon: I could try to be funny, but instead I will forthcoming and sincere.
The Cure - Pornography
Swans - Public Castration
No Comment - Downsided
Wire - Pink Flag
SPK - Mekano
Throbbing Gristle - Heathen Earth
Crossed Out - Discography
Siege - Drop Dead
Flipper - Generic
Rudimentary Peni - Death Church
Jensen: The desert list (today) reads like this.
Rudimentary Peni - Death Church
Wire - Pink Flag
Van Cliburn - Beethoven Sonatas
Dead Kennedys - Plastic Surgery Disasters
Bauhaus - In The Flat Field
Swans - Cop
Crossed Out discography
13th Floor Elevators - Easter Everywhere
Death - Leprosy
Jon: Imagine that, we have a few duplicates. We'd probably be ok stranded on the same island.
Jensen: What if Puerto Rico was our island? I'll bring my Dicks record.
Tell me about White Glove Test. Why did you decided to make two different versions of the same record?
Jon: We wanted to make a record that can be experienced in more than one way and even be different on repeat listens. There is nothing better for me than when I hear something new in a record I've been listening to for 20 years. Also, we are passing the savings on to the consumer. It's like getting three records for the price of one.
Speaking of Rudimentary Peni, did you guys have to deal with Nick Blinko of Rudimentary Peni to get the art for Sexless//No Sex, or did you deal with his art dealer?
Jon: I'm not really sure how many people deal with Nick Blinko directly. We "communicated" with him through his art agent.
You know what’s crazy about Rudimentary Peni? Their last record came out in 08 and it kinda rips.
Jon: I really like a bunch of later Peni records.
Jensen: Kinda? The Underclass is a total ripper. I know that wasn’t the last record to come out but still. No More Pain is also killer. Even the Pachelbel cover. They’ve always been so removed from punk trends. Best band ever.
How is White Glove Test in its entirety intended to be listened to, or experienced, rather?
Jon: The thing with WGT is that we set out to make a hardcore record that can be played on it's own; a noise record that can be played on it's own; or both records can be played together. That way it can always be a different experience depending on what the listener wants to do.
That’s on some next level shit. How's the feedback been so far?
Jon: Positive as far as I can tell. Quite a few people have told us about setting up dual turntables to play the record in its complete form.
Jensen: I have a bunch of photos of people's dual turntable setups. It's fucking sick, and unplanned, that people moved their shit around and teamed up just to listen to the record. "I'll bring my stereo over to your house and we'll party!" Iron Lung brings people together. Haha. It's inspiring.
Iron Lung started in Reno, what was coming up in "The Biggest Little City In World?" Tell me about the "Ramirez Brothers."
Jon: Reno is the kind of place that either "builds character" or sucks you down with it. You mean the Rojas brothers? Those were the kind of guys who would show up to a party and hospitalize everyone there even after one of them gets run over with a car.
Didn't you tell me one time about them curbing some fool?
Jon: Yes. That was one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever seen. That image in my mind still makes my teeth hurt. It can be a very dark place.
Jensen: I lost everything in Reno. Family, money, virginity. That being said, I'm glad I grew up there. It forced me to make my own path and build a better family. There are some great people there. And some of the lowest human garbage too. Most of the trash comes from tourists that get stuck and just completely give up the fight. That sort of transience offers a new and unique street experience every single day. A friend of ours got his jaw busted and had to drink meat shakes for a couple months. No reason. There are juggalos that hang out in the river to jump kayakers. No reason. Reno makes a person tough and misanthropic at the same time.
What does Iron Lung Records have coming out next?
Jensen: I’m stoked for what’s next. Coming up is a new LPs from No Statik, White Wards, The Lowest Form, and a S.H.I.T. 7". All those should be out by the end of the year.
The Lowest Form? Isn't that Paco's band?
Jensen: Indeed it is. The recording is so ill. We will be playing a couple shows with them when we hit England in a couple weeks. I never knew he could play until I heard the TLF demo. Not a bad drummer at all. And early next year has Total Control’s new album (sorry all other labels, we win!), Warthog 7”, Pig Heart Transplant LP and (finally) the TRTRKMMR record. Really looking forward to all of that. I’m sure there will be much more after.
What’s this next for the singles series?
Jensen: Round two of the two song singles series. So far it has been Pig Heart Transplant, Diät, Column Of Heaven. The Dead Boomers’ “Arak” 7” is the next one. That one is kind of a power electronics/sex beat pleaser. There will probably be eight releases in this series. Same as the first. They all have the same style sleeve. Not like the first series, but cohesive in the same manner. The two-song limitation really let's bands get free from their normal trappings and allows them to concentrate on writing strong focused material. Some of our best.
Logan's on Twitter - @itsloganworrell.