James Mendez is the man behind a project known simply as Jihad.
The project was conceived in 1988 and has a very interesting history. I have taken the time to write this article as not only a reflection upon important influences in my life, but to tell you about his amazing new album, Retrospekt, which is now available on Bandcamp.
Now I’m about to take you on a strange journey …
James comes from (in my opinion) a royal line of Industrial music history that emerged out of San Antonio, Texas. I personally know this because I attended high school with him in the early 90s. Back then, I saw him as that one guy everyone liked, someone who stood out to me because he was talented and into a dark electronic scene I wasn’t quite familiar with. I didn’t really know what Industrial music was. I was a defiant, stubborn girl fixated in a world of pure goth and punk music–and I didn’t want to let go of it or taint it in any way. I didn’t think this “industrial” thing would ever make its way into my head (because it wasn’t The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie, The Cure or Bauhaus–things I was more familiar with). James changed that for me.
I remember being in junior college when it happened–he invited me to his brother’s place, we had to be 18 or 19. When I walked in, we almost immediately sat down to watch music videos. These videos were in a style I had never experienced before–they peaked my interest not only musically, but visually. The use of strong messages layered within them led me to believe in something more powerful. These weren’t the videos they were showing on MTV. They were Skinny Puppy videos, my introduction into a world I would never escape–or ever want to.
James and his older brother Richard (who turned out to be of San Antonio’s legendary Benestrophe, with connections to Mentallo & The Fixer – a couple of guys who would also influence me in my later college years) showed me the power that electronic composition really had. The fundamental ideas I thought I had on the use of instrumentation were now shattered, and all that electronic “stuff” my father had tried to introduce me to as a preteen suddenly made sense. That Gary Numan guy and those Kraftwerk dudes knew what they were doing all along. Skinny Puppy had merely found a way to appeal to the darker side of that electronic movement–they stuffed the ingredients in a blender and threw the contents of it in your face. What James had introduced me to made perfect sense. It influenced me for the rest of my life. And was it just a strange coincidence that we had all attended the same high school at some point? Yes, James of Jihad, Richard of Benestrophe, the guys from Mentallo & The Fixer, and also another very talented music producer, Jakob Core, who would later record a few of my albums, all attended the same school at some point. Were they putting something in the water fountains or in those weird school lunch burritos?
Let’s get to the album, Retrospekt (cover art by Jeff Murray).
James is the surgeon to the patient wanting more from a chaotic madness that has become a somewhat diluted scene. He is delivering to us its roots, while surgically enhancing his own art. He has envisioned the evolutionary changes industrial music needs, but not to the point that might alienate devout followers. It’s just enough to help press it forward, enough to keep us hooked. The sound is well-developed, intricate, and exact in delivery. And I very strongly advise that you take a listen.
Tracks to mention:
(I Can’t) Let Go: This track is a very strong start to the album. The composition is well done with smooth transitions carried along, at times, with beautifully placed strings.
Visions: is pure perfection. Beginning delicately, then carrying the listener into an electronic dream-state. The lyrics are real, relatable, and have meaning to them.
We Believe: gives off an addictive, cinematic feel. Especially as it intensifies toward the ending.
Matter of Perspective: like many other tracks on the album, is catchy and dance floor-worthy.
Degree of (Im)mortality: is a track constructed with nice, unexpected transitional changes that work really well.
I make it a rule to review what I truly like. Most often, I am reviewing bands or projects I have no connection to personally (although that is becoming more difficult in this business). To me, this review is a full-circle experience. I have been fortunate to have crossed paths with James. Take a listen to his music and see what it does for you.
Photo credit: GAndy_EA
Featured article main photo credit: Kyle Michael Porter
Article by Veronica Campbell, singer/song writer/music producer of Death Loves Veronica
Originally published on May 5, 2020.