John Bergin has been crafting dark synth gems since the 1990s, with his band Trust Obey, his solo work, and with collaborators such as SWANS’ Jarboe. Vehlinggo readers will know him well for this, plus his work behind all the great art for releases on Lakeshore Records. (Check out this page with all the Bergin coverage. And check out the documentary, The Rise of the Synths, in which he features prominently.)
Today, I’m pleased to premiere “Set Me On Fire,” a ferociously good track off the LA-based artist’s new album, Grinder-X, which releases Friday. It’s a killer ’90s-informed, contemporary industrial cut with scuzzy synths, searing guitars, and propulsive rhythms. It’s the perfect cue for a film not yet made, which is exactly what he says the album is. As with the bulk of Bergin’s body of work, “Fire” is something you can easily rock out to but it also is ripe for body-moving.
Bergin told Vehlinggo a bit about the Grinder-X album:
Grinder-X is a soundtrack album for a film that doesn’t exist. I won’t relate the narrative I imagined because I’d rather listeners make their own mind-movies. Song titles, musical tones, and the album cover hint at the story, but I will say that “Set Me On Fire” is the track that plays during the scene in which the villain gets up to some seriously questionable shit.
While composing the track, it began to remind me of something I’d heard before. This happens sometimes; you think you’ve written a fantastic melody, only to realize it’s from an old Journey song (or worse). Instead of steering away from the memory, I leaned into it and ended up with something that’s not really a cover song but is definitely a tribute—and that would be to Big Black’s “Kerosene.”
Grinder-X releases Friday, Oct. 28, on streaming platforms and in digital and physical formats on Bandcamp.