Clear Head, New Time: An Interview with Spit Mask
Spit Mask. Photo: imbalancearts
The forces behind the industrial sounds of Spit Mask are Bryan and Rachel Jackson, and the pair is truly as full-time as it gets for a band given that the two are married. Although the band formed only relatively recently, they’ve already performed alongside the likes of Denmark’s Leaether Strip and L.A.’s High-Functioning Flesh, and their high-energy sets are nothing to sleep on. Free Press Houston sat down with the couple to discuss the band’s origins, their recording process, and what it’s like to be in a band with your significant other.
FPH: How did you decide to start the band?
Bryan Jackson: In late January of 2015, I stopped drinking and got sober. You know, when you get sober, you need to fill your time, keep your mind busy. I’ve always loved playing music and I needed to do something. I wanted to play music again and the only person I really trusted in the world was Rachel, so I wanted to play music with her.
Rachel Jackson: He’d been asking me for years to play music before that. I felt like him getting sober was a good time to start something together. Clear head, new time.
FPH: How did you come to find your sound?
Rachel: The kind of music I typically listen to is industrial or 80s dance-pop kind of stuff. We were trying to more of the noisey aspect of industrial, but it just came to be straight-forward industrial.
FPH: Why did you choose the name Spit Mask?
Rachel: Cops. We watch a lot of Cops. And Jail. A spit mask is what you put on people to keep them from spitting on you when they’re typically drunk and unruly. It’s so degrading when you’re in a spit mask.
Bryan: It’s the most humiliating thing ever. You get sat in the corner in the chair, basically with a bag over your head. It just kinda stuck.
FPH: Your music is very hyper-sexual. Where did that come from?
Rachel: Well, just our lifestyle. I’m a pretty hyper-sexual person. I couldn’t really keep it out if I wanted to. It’s pretty clear that we have a fetish aesthetic about it. Also, I’m a total pervert. [laughs] I like sex and I like the way it looks. It’s like art to me.
Bryan: I like it because it makes people feel uncomfortable. I’m not saying our goal is to make people feel uncomfortable, but the way that I see it is that there needs to be art that makes people feel uncomfortable. There have been many, many, many artists who have written albums that make people feel uncomfortable, have written songs that make people feel uncomfortable. I’m not saying that sex makes people feel uncomfortable, it shouldn’t, but it still does, which is strange. It’s a fact of life. What people do behind closed doors is whatever, it’s a part of life. But it does make people feel uncomfortable. We’re not the first ones to do it, but that’s what appeals to me.
FPH: What is your recording process typically like?
Rachel: Sometimes together, sometimes separate, and we do it in pieces. We have different tracks and we’ll do one track, record that, I’ll come in with my synth part, record that, and then maybe three days later Bryan will record his vocals and maybe we’ll add a sample and then put it all together. We have recorded a song in one day before, but typically it’ll take a few days to a month.
Bryan: It’s a lot of layering. It’s completely different than writing with what I was used to, playing in old bands. To me, it’s more malleable. We’re not paying anyone to do it, we’re doing it all ourselves, it’s completely DIY. We’ll keep buying new equipment and upgrading until you have the stuff that makes the sounds that you want.
Rachel: I feel like that with this kind of music, if you were going to pay someone and go in the studio and do it, it would take forever. I don’t really see how we could go into a studio and record any other way than just us doing it.
Bryan: It’s because of the way we write the songs. We sit down and we obviously have to start out with a drum beat. Sometimes Rachel will play me something that she programmed and I’ll love it or I’ll play something and she’ll be like, “Add another beat right there.” It’s a constant moving thing.
FPH: What’s it like to be in band when you’re married to each other?
Bryan: It’s different in so many ways, but it’s better in so many greater ways. We constantly bounce ideas off each other. It’s being in a band all the time. I don’t trust anybody else’s advice when it comes to the stuff that we do. If we didn’t have each other, it wouldn’t make sense. To be honest with you, it’s hard being in a band with your wife or your husband. I’m no prince. [laughs] It’s the best, too.
Rachel: I wouldn’t want someone else’s advice necessarily either. He’s taught me a lot and I’ve taught him a lot about the genre in general and I’ve never been in a band before, so I get to learn a lot from him.
Bryan: Rachel has shown me some shit that I didn’t even know existed, and on the other hand, I’ve shown her stuff, too, that she was like, “Oh, that’s how that goes.” It’s a give and take and I think it’s awesome that we can lay in bed at night and go, “So, do you want to take Part D out?”
Rachel: And then he’ll wake up at 3 in the morning and just add something because he’s thinking about it.
Bryan: It’s being in a band 24/7 with your best friend and the person you trust the most. It’s cool. And you can’t quit the band. [laughs] It’s not like you can quit the band, it’s pretty much like, “No, you’re coming to practice.” You don’t go to practice, you aren’t sleeping in bed tonight.
Spit Mask’s upcoming EP, “Swallow,” is currently available for preorder.