Published on February 21st, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Richard Jankovich On Big Mother Gig’s Reunion & His Other Projects
Richard Jankovich is not only talented and prolific as a musician, but also as an entrepreneur within the music industry. His 1990s Milwaukee-based band Big Mother Gig released three titles before disbanding in 1996. Burnside Project, which did the theme for Queer As Folk and had a major fan in Cameron Crowe, released four albums. As the producer and remixer Pocket, Jankovich was nominated for a Village Voice honor in 2007. Mon Draggor — another recording project of Jankovich’s — was also acclaimed, as its 2015 studio effort Pulling Strings/Pushing Buttons was selected as the year’s ninth best album by PopMatters. Meanwhile, Jankovich has been at the helm of the music promotion company Shoplifter and the music branding strategy entity B(R)ANDS Music Branding.
Big Mother Gig returned a new EP and began performing live last year; the song “The Great Heist” was premiered via New Noise Magazine last month. To learn more about the Big Mother Gig reunion — which also includes Riz Rashid, Matt Deede, and Brady Roehl — I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with frontman Jankovich. More on the band can be found online at www.bigmothergig.com.
Big Mother Gig reunited last year. What prompted that?
Richard Jankovich: Since the late 90s, I had largely walked away from loud guitars and shouted lyrics in favor of more subtle music forms. When Big Mother Gig was active, Nirvana were huge and bands like Dinosaur Jr. were getting played on the radio. I spent 20 years exploring other styles of music and I woke up one day and just realized I missed it. Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing for myself, trying to reclaim my youth. But I felt like the world needed another stab at making loud, earnest and urgent music from me.
Since regrouping, how many Big Mother Gig songs have been written? Do you have a favorite of the batch?
Richard Jankovich: We recorded an EP in 2016 — 2017’s Almost Primed — and we have four singles coming out in 2018, so we’ve written about 10 new songs since the reformation. Obviously, the newest ones are the ones I’m most excited about. We just premiered “The Great Heist” this week, which is all about how future generations will look back at the Trump administration the same way we look back at historic low-points with a catchy name, calling Trump’s time in office “The Great Heist of 2017” or something like that.
Releasing these new singles aside, what is coming up for Big Mother Gig? More touring?
Richard Jankovich: More shows! We had the unique thrill of opening for Luna three times in the last few months, and we all really enjoyed playing to larger, appreciative crowds. So the focus for this year is the singles and playing as much as we can.
Do you have any goals or expectations for Big Mother Gig? Or is it simply about playing music for enjoyment purposes?
Richard Jankovich: Honestly, at this point in my life — and my fellow band members — it’s just about having fun. Once we stop having fun or if it becomes too much like work, then I suspect we would stop. We all get along great, we have so much in common. It’s almost more like a night out with friends than playing a show. At 45 years old, and a dad, this is my main source of entertainment. Some dudes get old and golf a lot, some collect antique cars, I play loud guitar and scream my heart out.
Is there a Big Mother Gig accomplishment you are most proud of?
Richard Jankovich: Well, in the ’90s, we started an honest-to-goodness bar-room brawl in a country western bar in Northern Wisconsin. All that was missing was the chicken wire. But more recently, I’d say I’m proud that this little-known band from 20 years ago seems to be finding a new audience in 2018. We’ve actually reached new ears on Spotify, we had our latest songs played on the radio, we’ve gotten written up in great music outlets, I’d have to say the entire process of reviving Big Mother Gig in the last two years has been one major accomplishment that I am very proud of.
Do you have any other musical projects in the works at the moment? Anything from the Burnside Project or Pocket?
Richard Jankovich: Short answer is yes. Burnside Project is planning a slew of re-issues to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of our biggest record, 2003’s The Networks, The Circuits, The Streams, The Harmonies. Right now, we are collecting unreleased tracks and reviewing it all. The plan is to digitally re-release our entire discography with bonus tracks galore. Also, Pocket is releasing six EPs of music this year, a clearing of the vaults of songs that were never released or are no longer available. But as far as making new music, that’s all Big Mother Gig these days.
Aside from making music, you head up Shoplifter and B(R)ANDS Music Branding Group. Does your work with those companies ever cross with your work as a writer or musician?
Richard Jankovich: All the time. It can be tricky. You don’t want to be pimping your own music during the daytime, but I’d be a fool to not use what I’ve learned in my business to help benefit my own music.
A lot of people look at the music industry being in decline, but you have found continued success in several areas of the music world. When did you realize that you were going to be a music lifer?
Richard Jankovich: My career path had a lot of twists and turns in it, but it all makes sense now in retrospect. But I’ve been very lucky to have offered services that the music industry felt was valuable. Shoplifter is going to be five in a few months and it’s the single most successful thing I’ve ever created in the music business. Hopefully, that will continue!
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
Richard Jankovich: What free time? I have an almost-five-year-old daughter.
Finally, Richard, any last words for the kids?
Richard Jankovich: I hardly think I’m qualified to offer any type of advice to “kids.”