The Silence Of The Black Swan // An Interview with PUSH BUTTON PRESS

Apparently longstanding Tampa, Florida based trio, Push Button Press, led by Jim Walker, have blasted steadily into the new year with their sophomore album “Black Swan”, via Cold Transmission Music, stretching the boundaries of their 80s inspired goth-tinged dark post-punk sound, never been so powerful, incisive, evocative and intriguing without ever losing its melodic appeal, but rather reinvigorated it with a raging subdued punk energy and a compelling lyrical dive into helpless dystopian doom. I’ve had a nice chat with Jim about the LP’s creation and other stuff… Enjoy!

  • How did you get started playing an instrument and making music? What were your early inspirations?

When I heard Joy Division as a teenager I realized that I wanted to take making music seriously. I was naive enough at the time to think, “I can do that!” The reality is that it is much more difficult than it sounds. Music is hard work.

  • Let’s start with the origin and early stages of the band, when I featured your track a couple of years ago, I wrote ‘debut in 2015’, at the time I did have few Infos, you had barely a Soundcloud and Facebook account…

Guilty! The band was taking a break between 2013-2015, and it wasn’t until 2018 that thinks really began to pick up for us. The first album is basically “bedroom recordings” of songs that have floated around since 2008-ish. There was some good material there that probably deserves more proper renditions.

  • Your music is clearly rooted in the legacy of the 80s gothic post-punk with some dark punk leanings of bands like Misfits or Social Distortion, Danzig maybe, when did your interest in the genres start, which bands influenced you the most, and apart from the usual names, are there any minor, less known ones, who had the same impact?

I have been into goth since I was a teenager in the 1980s. There is a gothic band out of Rhode Island called “Holy Cow” who had a record called “Call it what you will” that was a huge influence on me. I recently got an original copy on vinyl from 1985! Other bands I love that are lesser-known are “Mighty Sphincter”, “Gargoyle Sox”, and “Comsat Angels”.

  • Do you have any penchant for other music genres and other forms of art?

Yes, I listen to Crooner music from the 1930s and ’40s for my guilty pleasure. I love the vocals and strive to similar in my work. Visually I am a big fan of Expressionist and Futurist art. Of course, my literary heart lies with the existentialists.

  • The very passionate goth site/collective, Obscura Undead, rose right from Tampa recently, a sign of a certain creative ferment. How is the Tampa music scene and what is your relationship with it? How was it important and how did this influence your artistic development as a musician?

They are all my good friends and have been for a very long time. The Tampa scene has always been a good one, even in the early 1990s. There has always been multiple great clubs to hang out at. What I have done musically in the past, however, has never been in step with the times until recently. I am very lucky for the post-punk revival.

  • I was really struck by how your lyrics delve into dark socio-political realms submerged by isolation, fear, and the Matrix or the Debord-like ‘Spectacle’, as you’d like to call it, running rampant throughout. When did you write the songs?

All of these songs were written before the COVID epidemic, and it struck me suddenly at a rehearsal in May 2020 how relevant the songs are. It was sort of a surreal moment. I have always been fascinated by the writings of Baudrillard, Derrida, and Post-Modernism in general. I also muse over the real possible outcomes as we ignore the warning signs of climate change.

  • What is the significance of a ‘Black Swan’?

“Black Swan” is a metaphor for events that come as a surprise or an idea that challenges your preconceived notions. We think we know facts, until other facts change our views. I always try to be open to the possibility that I am wrong. Only when we are wrong do we learn.

  • It seems all doom and gloom, is there any sparkle of light at the end of the tunnel or some sort of cathartic way through turmoil and despair?

No, unfortunately not. The best we can do is live every moment to the fullest and take nothing for granted.

  • Can you tell us a bit about how your new LP was born? What were the inspirations and your process for arriving at the end result?

I think the record developed organically from simply working with a live drummer and bassist. I drew my inspiration from the same well I always draw from, the world and how we all relate to it – remembering how fleeting our existence. Instrumentally, I really wanted to write a more “rock” sounding album just because no one else is really doing that right now. Maybe it was a reaction to hearing so much “post”, and not enough “punk” in “Post-Punk”.

  • Do you feel you have come full circle between the melodic quality, the deepness, energy and consistency of the sound, and the visionary of the lyrics?

I never feel satisfied with the music. I always know I can do better. The next song will be the best. I try not to concentrate too hard on older material as it can prevent moving forward. I have a note on my computer monitor that reads, “Do your work and then let it go, only in this way will it endure”.

  • How is born your relationship with Cold Transmission? Do you have any special bond with any of your label mates?

I think PBP and Cold Transmission has a very special relationship. Andy, Suzy, and I have been working together for over two years now and it is very exciting to see their success grow so much. Cold Transmission is the best label I have ever worked with.

I often keep in touch with Josh and Luna from SYZYGYX. We send texts and tell jokes. They are my friends and label mates. This is what makes Cold Transmission more than a just a label, it is a family and that is what makes it so special.

  • Were there any pivotal records or live concerts that changed indelibly your perception of music?

Yes, when I saw the Christian Death reunion tour with Rozz Williams and Rikk Agnew in the early 1990s. I actually hung out with them in their Winnebago before the show! Also, Dead Can Dance “Towards the Within” tour was a huge influence on approaching songs with different instrumentations.

  • How has the pandemic and the lockdown been for you? Needless to say, you live activity is hindered at the best part…

It has been hard. We have been rehearsing and writing throughout the pandemic. The hardest part is to see the progression of the band’s maturity as a group, but being unable to share it on stage.

  • What are the songs from the album that resonate in you the most and you’re most fond of?

“Vril” is probably my favorite song on the album. When Max and I were putting it together we were both convinced that song would not work. But, when we actually played it the song really came alive. Plus, it is a fun song to sing. “The End of Time” is also special. After that song was written the band sort of found its footing. We debuted the song in Mexico City just before the pandemic and the reaction was electric.

  • What kind of old/new music are you listening to when you’re not creating your own one? Any current bands/artists are you into at the moment?

There are many really great Goth/Post-Punk/DarkWave bands out there right now! I usually get my musical fix listening to Twitch.tv streams from goth lockdown DJs. It is great fun drinking wine and listening to all that is new and old. I would mention some bands, but I would hate to leave anyone out.

  • Maybe not an appropriate question for these times, but what are your plans for the future or probably better, is there anything else you’d like to add?

The biggest plan is to get the band vaccinated and begin playing shows again. Also, we will be heading back into the studio in a few months to begin working on the next record. We want to thank everyone who takes the time to listen, and we hope to get back on tour and see all of our wonderful friends again. Lastly, thank you for giving us this opportunity.

Keep up with Push Button Press: