Take elements of heavy electronic rock and trance, add in a strong political statement and an eclectic mix of musical influences, and you have an idea of the music on Reactive, the debut album from shore musician Mitch Burger. Musically, the songs are at times angry and at times contemplative, but the lyrical content is a constant message of questioning authority.
“It comes from the idea that people and societies usually wait until some kind of disaster happens to handle long known about issues that could have been dealt with much easier had they been acted on earlier,” Mitch explains. “For example, the recent global recession, which could have been mostly avoided, or the lack of action on climate change.”
Mitch has a musical pedigree that stems from his father, long-time shore singer/songwriter Bob Burger, who not only has a loyal following in the club scene, but has co-written songs with Glen Burtnik and Bobby Bandiera, among others. Some of their tunes have been recorded by Styx and even utilized in soundtracks. However, Mitch has deviated quite a bit from the standard “Jersey Shore” sound. His background includes a stint in the punk band Exit 09 as well as the thrash metal band Severed Hand and the black metal band Eternity Void.
It was a desire to get away from any genre that motivated Mitch to become a solo artist. Working with bands can be limiting in terms of the need to develop a consensus on the direction of the music. He felt as a solo artist he could follow whatever path his musical experimentation took him.
“Usually a musical idea will pop into my head, and if I like it and it keeps reappearing, then I’ll demo it,” Mitch says. “I’ll wait until much later to flesh it out musically in order to gain a fresh perspective. The lyrics for all the songs get written around the same time, not long after all the music has been written and recorded, so that they are conceptually more cohesive.”
Nine Inch Nails, Joy Division, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd are some of the influences Mitch cites, with Retroactive having an especially strong dose of Nine Inch Nails-style drum programming. “I would describe it as straddling between alternative rock and more electronic-based music such as new wave and industrial,” he states. “Although there’s other, more subtle influences such as psychedelic, jazz and dub. My goal basically is to not be boring. Musically, I always want to do something that doesn’t sound like anything I have done before, and I try not to do anything that has already been done by a million other people.”
All the instruments on the album were played by Mitch, which gave him complete control over the particular parts and feel of the music. While his main instruments are bass and guitar, he wanted do as much as possible by himself, since it was his first endeavor as a solo artist.
Tracks getting an especially strong reaction include “Road to Ruin (Part I)” and “Slit my Wrist.” The album artwork has also drawn accolades, and is to some degree an extension of the message. Again, the shore locale came into play for Mitch. “The cover of Reactive was taken outside of the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank,” he says. “The rest of the photos used for the packaging were taken nearby. The idea behind the front cover was for me to be looking at a streetlight, which is really a hidden camera. The back cover is the front cover from the perspective of the hidden camera. We chose that location because the nearby buildings were kind of falling apart and gave the image of urban decay.”
While the message is very serious and meant to draw attention to issues that have a strong political and societal bent, Mitch is not without a lighter side. “Once after a Severed Hand show, one of the guitar players and I thought it would be funny to go into our singer’s car and ‘steal’ a bunch of stuff from it, as our singer tended not to lock his car,” he laughs. “It turned out he also tended to leave his keys in the ignition, so we drove his car and hid it somewhere. When our singer and his girlfriend came out of the club, she freaked out that his car was stolen. He also didn’t know it was a prank, but for some reason he wasn’t the least bit phased that his car was gone.”
As far as the immediate future, Mitch plans to keep writing and working on his own, as opposed to putting together a live band. “For the time being, I don’t plan on playing any solo shows,” he says. “However, currently, I am working on a follow up to Reactive, which I hope to have out by the end of the year.”
You can get more information about the album, and about Mitch and his musical endeavors, at mitchburger.com.