Talking With Jord Samolesky of Propagandhi

By Eric Kamm Published June 23, 2010

Around September of 2005 I began my three-year stint at DRUM! Magazine. On my first day of work I sat down at my space, about thirty feet from Editor-In-Chief Andy Doerschuck’s office, and began preparing old printed DRUM! Magazine articles for this website. At that time the individual cubicles were partitioned by six-foot dividers. The walls were brick and when everyone started talking, things were loud. Now Andy had a boom box that he pumped all the new promo records through, and the entire office got to listen. It was great because you got to hear to new music all day long!

I remember sitting at my desk and hearing this beautiful guitar line, accompanied by some very fusion-ish drumming on a ride cymbal, ride bell, China cymbal, and a side-stick on a snare drum. All of a sudden this huge distorted guitar hit these power chords accompanied by deep crash hits and a mean bass tone. The band halted for a few seconds, then the drummer started a very creative take on the standard punk beat. I could hardly sit still the music was so good.

About a minute into the tune the vocalist entered “A new Iron Curtain drawn across the 49th Parallel.” Politics. I can put two and two together—amazing metal influenced punk (thrash) mixed with social commentary usually equals Propagandhi. I drew up the courage and knocked on the side of my new boss’ door (which he always kept open) to ask about the band. “This is Propagandhi,” he said cheerfully. It was a promo copy of Potemkin City Limits, and he had been playing the opening track, “A Speculative Fiction.”

Shortly after this incident I caught the band performing at Slim’s in San Francisco. Before the group went on, they had a political activist come on stage and talk for a while about many of the incidents leading up to the 2006 Haitian election. Now remember, this was in 2005, years before their massive earthquake, and a time when nobody was paying any attention to the Haiti and their then recent political upheaval.

So…after the activist’s interesting talk, Propagandhi hit the stage and put on an amazing performance. Jord Samolesky, the drummer, had shaved just the top of his head and looked like a clown. He was playing an old red Pearl Export Series drum set, and it sounded amazing. It just goes to show you--it’s not what you play, it’s how you play it. The lead guitarist/primary vocalist, Chris Hannah chose to perform in a giant fluffy French fry costume and sunglasses. The show was so good that I mentioned it for weeks at work--political speeches, costumes, and all.

DRUM! used to have a section called Outspoken, in which a drummer could talk about any subject except the drums. Several months after Propagandhi’s performance at Slims, Andy asked me to interview drummer Jord Samolesky about Haiti. On Tuesday, January 17th, 2006 Jord spent an hour speaking to me on the subject, in addition to humoring me by answering all the other questions I had about his band and music.

After I wrapped up the interview and prepared it for the magazine, the Outspoken section of the magazine was removed entirely from the publication before Jord’s interview could be published. Luckily, several months later DRUM! ran one of their Special Warped Tour Issues, and several of Jord’s comments presented an interesting alternative take on the festival. So, while the article completely missed the point of the interview, at least Jord’s words didn’t go entirely to waste. In addition, Andy generously granted me permission to try to and submit a re-worked version of the article to Punk Planet as a freelance piece. Punk Planet told me to send the article along so they could have a look at it, and shortly thereafter their magazine went out of business. This just wasn’t meant to be.

Now fast-forward three years later. In 2009 Propagandhi released, hands down, the best full-length punk (or thrash) record of the year entitled Supporting Caste. The record is extremely progressive, poly-rhythmic, political, and by far their most melodic effort. Jord Samolesky is one of the most rhythmically intelligent drummers playing today, and he’s managed to capture an organic drum sound in a genre where it’s nearly impossible to play with feeling. You can listen to the entire record here (http://www.myspace.com/propagandhi/music/albums/supporting-caste-10998190). If you are not familiar with the group, I would recommend starting here, and working backwards through their studio records—all are great and unique in their own way.

Recently the band released The Recovered E.P. which features 3 “recovered” tracks from several of their earlier records. The tunes have been re-mastered and are available on iTunes, where all proceeds are being donated to Haiti. I thought this was also a wonderful opportunity to finally publish this great interview from early 2006. Although it’s long, I highly suggest reading through the entire thing, which I will be releasing in several installments. Jord has a lot of interesting things to say about world politics, drumming, and the music industry. This first installment will be an introduction to his band.

Interview continued in Part 2.