Artist Spotlight

John Kunkel of The New Division

John Kunkel of The New Division

| Interview by Daniel Codella conducted on August 19, 2010.

With so many children of the 80's in their twenties and and early thirties, it should come as no surprise that synthpop and new wave sounds are everywhere. Synths are creeping their way into rock bands and hip hop groups, drum machine tracks are replacing the sounds of acoustic drum kits, and low monotone vocals a la Joy Division have become the norm. While many bands have embraced the asthetic of the 1980s, few do so with the sincerity, authenticity, and tender care as The New Division. Instead of trying to copycat, these guys from Riverside, California are genuinely making music based on what they've been inspired by. The result is nostalgic but with a modern twist. Their latest EP, The Rookie has been praised on blogs and music sites all over the world. We caught up members John Kunkel (Vocals) and Michael "Janzie" Janz (Synths) at one of their shows in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles, California in April. John and the rest of the crew let us know they have been enjoying FourTrack and the Discrete Drums sample collections.

We've read that the band started out in a dorm room, how did you guys evolve from there?

Janzie and I started playing mini shows in the dorms, and eventually Brock woolsey showed up one day to one of the shows. From there, they began playing together, until one day Mark, a fan at the time, came to see us play. We talked to him after the show and asked him to join us.

Who would you say your biggest influences are? Do you guys enjoy any genres or artists that might surprise your fans?

Probably Depeche Mode and New Order. Both of those bands seem to be in just about every song we write one way or another. We also are influenced a lot by the progressive house scene, with guys like Deadmau5, and Adam K & Soha. As for genres that might surprise fans... I listen to a lot of trance music. I think it's one of those styles that you either love or hate. I actually hated it for many years until I started designing web pages. Trance would always keep me energized even though I'd be really sick of working. It's also the genre that, I believe, has improved our production quality. Trance producers are probably some of the most talented engineers out there.

It seems like after the Pitchfork feature, everyone started taking notice. Is it a bit overwhelming at times?

Not really. We still feel like we're the same guys we were 2 years ago. The only difference is that we feel a lot more confident about what we do. It could be a combination of people taking notice and just getting better with time at our production and live performance. It's really cool though to see that people all around the globe are hearing about us. Our fans are pretty unique...

When it comes to production, do you guys have a particular method or workflow?

I tend to be the lead songwriter/producer behind whatever we write. I started the New Division back in '05, and ever since then the rest of the band has always trusted my judgment when it comes to producing/songwriting. Typically, I start a song with presets from different VSTs, and then I'll just add a number of effects to that sound that will help inspire the start of a good song. I use a lot of sample packs from all kinds of genres: from trance, to progressive house, to hip hop, to lounge, chillout... The way I see it, the more you got to work with, the more options you have to make something really good.
We recently worked on a song all together, which was a really fun experience. The song will be featured on our new EP, "Shadows." Although I started with the initial idea for the song, the rest of the band came together and finished it. It's a lot longer of a song than usual, but it's also one of the better one's we've done I would say.
As for guitars, Brock comes up with his own riffs for the songs I write. I don't try to mess around in that area too much since he has a particular technique that's unique. His style of effect processing and playing brings something essential to the table that creates that "New Division" sound.

Recently you guys got DrumCore and Discrete Drums sample packs, what did you think of the sounds? Any chance they might be used in demos or final productions?

DrumCore and Discrete Drums were really awesome to work with. I really enjoyed the Discrete Drum samples because they reminded me a lot of those 90s Depeche Mode drum styles which are hard to create (unless you have samples). The quality is really phenomenal. I particularly enjoy the Turbulent Filth Monsters sounds. Oh yeah, there's no doubt they are going to be used. They are so easy to work with!

What can people expect at one of your live shows?

A lot of energy, danceable tunes, lights, and occasional laughter. It's true, we're sort of goofballs on stage sometimes. We try to be serious, but at the end of day we just can't help but laugh if something goes wrong, or if we see something funny happening in the audience. The way we see it, life is too short to be serious. Gotta laugh every now and then, right?

Where can our users hear more of your music?

All of our links can be found on our website, We've got our remixes on there, links to social media sites, tumblrs, bandacmp, etc. Check us out there!

"DrumCore and Discrete Drums were really awesome to work with. I really enjoyed the Discrete Drum samples because they reminded me a lot of those 90s Depeche Mode drum styles which are hard to create (unless you have samples). The quality is really phenomenal."

John Kunkel of The New Division

Check out The New Division's latest EP "Night Escape":

John uses the following Sonoma Wire Works products:

"DrumCore is so handy and so very easy to use! It's very close to having a live drummer with you."

Learn more about DrumCore
Anthony Gonzalez of M83

"I'm obsessed with this recording app on my iPhone- the Sonoma Wire Works FourTrack. It's like you have a superpowerful studio in your pocket."

Learn more about FourTrack
Trey Anastasio of Phish

"Just tried out Sonoma Wire Works GuitarJack plus the new upgraded FourTrack app. Beautiful crystal clear sparkling audio in iOS!"

Learn more about GuitarJack
Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater

"RiffWorks is an incredible tool to get songs done stupid fast!"

Learn more about RiffWorks
Johnny "Juice" Rosado of Public Enemy