Interview: David Judson Clemmons on ‘Generation Vulture’

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David Judson Clemmons has had quite an extensive career.  He began his musical journey as a member of the duo, Ministers of Anger.  Then he was the frontman of the great, but short lived, prog metal band called Damn The Machine, featuring ex-Megadeth guitarist, Chris Poland.  But since the mid-90s he’s commanded an array of musical projects, including The Fullbliss, his own solo effort, as well as the subject of today’s conversation, the band which bears his name: JUD.

Check out our interview with Clemmons as we discuss his new album, Generation Vulture (review), the Syrian Refugee Crisis, and what he’d do if he was President Of The United States.

Generation Vulture, out Nov. 17th at:  iTunes | Amazon | From The Band [physical]

For more on David Judson Clemmons, visit:
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CD Review: ‘Generation Vulture’ by JUD

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If you’re not familiar with David Judson Clemmons, now is time for a change.  He’s emerged in various incarnations throughout the years, as showcased in our Artist Spotlight write-up.  On Nov. 11, 2016, he’ll emerge once more with JUD, his German-transplanted, L.A.-fueled mode of expression, and its new album, entitled Generation Vulture.  As soon as I heard of his intention to make this record last August, I immediately expressed interest in writing a review.  JUD’s previous album, Sufferboy, remains one of my favorites, and I felt this one was long overdue.  He calls it “an album for the living, an album for the dead.”  I call it “my latest purchase.”

JUD isn’t your typical band.  The brainchild of a Virginia-born boy who moved to L.A. and saw the ugly underbelly of the glitz and glamour finish, only to pick up and move to Berlin, it’s a gritty, often snarling embodiment of Clemmon’s view of the world.  While dark in tone, it has frequently been a vehicle for him to push forward with a sense of purpose or longing.  One look at the existing JUD albums show a string of aspirations, with titles such as Something Better, Chasing California, and The Perfect Life, all of which evoke a desire to improve or attain some lofty goal.  The last two, however, Sufferboy and Generation Vulture, break from this and show obvious distaste for the state of affairs, whether personal or societal.

Generation Vulture is very much a work of societal criticism.  Clemmons, along with his compatriots Steve Cordrey [bass], James Schmidt [drums], Jan Hampicke [acoustic guitar/vocals], and Anne de Wolff [strings/vocals], lay into the listener immediately with the opening track “Blind Society.”  I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what that track is trying to say.  However, the criticisms are rarely stated directly, leaving the lyrics vague enough that I’m sure I’ve already appropriated the group’s condemnations for my own ends.  For instance, while I couldn’t tell you precisely what he is referencing, there is failure implicit in the line, “Celebrate; it’s too late,” painfully sung in “Find Us, Heal Us” which is followed with the essentially hopeful “I need my brothers to get stronger.”  I could readily apply this, from my own point of view, to the case of civil rights in the United States up through the present day, but I can’t be sure this was Clemmon’s intention.  So while dark, brooding, and critical, there are glints of hopefulness that reside throughout this album.

I really like this LP, but it’s different than those that preceded it.  For one thing, it contains much fewer songs than any previous JUD release.  Generation Vulture only puts forward seven tracks, shorter even when compared to the ten from the ensemble’s first release.  However, it features some truly powerhouse-length tunes.  The longest, “Humanity, the Lie,” weighs in at over 8 minutes long.  What this means is that the listener gets less diversity in music, which might be unfortunate if these lengthier tracks weren’t wonderfully composed.  What is also different than the other albums, which might turn a few people off, is that this release is a little less heavy than what we’ve experienced in the past.  Their last album, Sufferboy, certainly possessed faster songs than anything featured here, but there is a particular desperateness presented in this release that sits heavy on your mind.  In particular, the manner in which the closer, “How The West Was Lost,” is conveyed is quite poignant.

I won’t tell you that David Judson Clemmons and JUD have released their ultimate album with Generation Vulture.  Personally, their last two releases, Sufferboy and The Perfect Life, strike my psyche a bit stronger, and the former would be what I would recommend any curious listener.  However, their latest release is no slouch, possessing some truly moving works of art which bring a smile.  I’m interested in seeing where they goes from here.  I don’t believe Clemmons is done trying to change the world.  At least, I hope not.

Order Generation Vulture now: iTunes | AmazonFrom The Band

Check out our interview with David Judson Clemmons on Generation Vulture.

For more on JUD, visit:
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Artist Spotlight: David Judson Clemmons

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When I first started writing I wasn’t lucky enough to have anyone come and ask for reviews of their music, so I wrote about albums and artists that I loved no matter how old or new. I just wanted to share good music with people, and I still do. That’s why, today, I’d like to share with you a musician who receives far less attention than he deserves. For more than 20 years, he has been involved in a variety of projects spanning a number of genres, but there is great material to be heard from all of them. His name is David Judson Clemmons.

Following the release of “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?,” lead guitarist Chris Poland was kicked out of the thrash metal band Megadeth. After taking a moment to explore a solo career, he joined forces with his brother, Mark, as well as bassist David Randi, and guitarist/vocalist David Clemmons to form a progressive metal band called Damn The Machine in the early 90s. Clemmons had previously been a member of Ministers Of Anger, an extremely politically charged metal group whose subject matter found a welcome home on the self-titled Damn The Machine record. Following the album’s release, they went on tour with Dream Theater, Flotsam & Jetsam, and Voivod in Europe. However, in the mid-1990s their record label dropped them, as well as a handful of other acts, and the group disbanded and went their separate ways.

Damn The Machine

Damn The Machine: Chris Poland, David Clemmons, Mark Poland, David Randi

Check out: Damn The Machine’s “On With The Dream”

After the split, David Judson Clemmons enlisted the help of bassist Steve Cordrey and drummer Hoss Wright to form JUD. Their first album, Something Better, produced by Ross Robinson (KoRn, Sepultura), was released in 1996. JUD was much different than Damn The Machine, fluctuating between bass intensive, aggressive songs filled with crunchy guitar riffs to atmospheric songs with almost spoken word lyrics. It was more like a bastard child of Prong, Sonic Youth, and Nirvana than Dream Theater.

In addition to Something Better, JUD went on to release three more albums: Chasing California (1998), The Perfect Life (2000), and Sufferboy (2008). Over time the band members changed, and with them came a more refined sound. The latter two are my personal favorites, containing some fantastic melodies and heartfelt confessions. Clemmons described the last release as “songs of mental torture and the most energetic, aggressive record I’ve ever made.”

Jud - Sufferboy

JUD: James Schmidt, Jan Hampicke, David Clemmons

Check out: JUD’s “Drained”

At about the same time that JUD’s Something Better was released, Clemmons connected with several other musicians and demoed out some songs that didn’t fit the mold of JUD. These tunes would go on to form solo releases, as well as tracks for a group David calls The Fullbliss. These albums included Fools and Their Splendor (2000), This Temple Is Haunted (2001), Life In The Kingdom Of Agreement (2004), Yes Sir (2006), and most recently Cold White Earth (2011). In comparison with JUD, The Fullbliss and Clemmons’ solo releases are generally less aggressive, but retain their introspection. They also have a tendency to include a wider variety of instrumentation, such as violin and even horn sections. The last release, Cold White Earth, centers on an acoustic environment that allows the lyrics to become the focal point of the album.

The Fullbliss

The Fullbliss: Jan Hampicke, Anne de Wolff, David Clemmons, James Schmidt

Check out: David Judson Clemmons’ “The Shores” (live)
Check out: The Fullbliss’ “Our Houses”

To me there’s something very special about the music that Clemmons creates. I find myself as captivated by Damn The Machine now as when I first heard the music, and his other groups have stood the test of time for me as well. Despite the different styles of each ensemble, there is an allure to be discovered in each. There is a transcendent quality to “The Shores” from Clemmons’ solo catalog, for instance, and you can’t help but be swept away. JUD’s track “Drained” equally lifts you from your feet, but by a means that is more akin to a tornado. And I’d be remiss not to mention The Fullbliss tune, “Our Houses,” which remains one of my all-time favorites of any of Clemmons’ works, as it paints the struggles of his life with a backdrop of remarkable positivity. Maybe that’s the appeal of David’s work: it’s very honest. The world that David Judson Clemmons paints in his songs is painful and difficult, but not without slivers of hope. That portrait of reality is what keeps him moving forward and what keeps me coming back.

 

For more on David Judson Clemmons, visit:
Official Website
Buy Clemmons’ music at: iTunes | Amazon | From The Band
Buy Damn The Machine’s album: iTunes | Amazon
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