Laugh at the end of the world

The grim punch lines of Clawjob
By WILL SPITZ  |  August 19, 2008

NO, BUT SERIOUSLY For their current exploration of modern-day anxieties, Gintz and Burgess wrote
through the naive perspective of 19th-century America.

The two guys who make up Clawjob, bookish gents named Mike Gintz and Nick Burgess, have an unnerving tendency to describe something as funny when it’s anything but. As in, “There’s a funny Andrew Jackson speech where he’s explaining why Indian removal would be such a great thing for them.” The speech, says Burgess, was the inspiration for “Reservations,” the finale of Clawjob’s new EP, Manifest Destiny. “It’s horrifying to read.”

A Clawjobian description of Burgess & Gintz’s project might go something like this: “Their albums are funny concept pieces — a rock opera about a love triangle in outer space, a post-punk paean to the 19th century — that are really just veiled satires of human cruelty, environmental destruction, and the coming apocalypse.” Of course, as anyone who’s heard them can attest, Clawjob, who play at the Papercut Zine Library in Harvard Square this Friday, defy summary.

Burgess and Gintz met at BU freshman orientation in the summer of 1999 and started Clawjob as a joke during their sophomore year, recording an album of covers of mediocre ’90s songs played in the style of other bands — Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” as Limp Bizkit, Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as “Mexican revolutionaries in the desert” — in their Warren Towers dorm rooms. Later that year, they recorded the entire soundtrack to the video game Mega Man 3 using guitars and computers — a painstaking process undertaken with limited technology. Project X, as they called it, was such a huge hit among the then-burgeoning video-game-remix community on the Internet that they decided to spend two more grueling months doing the Mega Man 2 soundtrack. Video-game-music fans (nerds) ate it up. “We knew at the time that if we ever made any non–Mega Man music, it would never be anywhere near as popular as that stuff,” Gintz recalls. Six years later, the Project X Web site still gets some 600 visitors a week.

In the fall of 2002, our heroes’ senior year, Gintz started the beloved Clickers, his first “real” band, and Clawjob/Project X fell by the wayside. After graduation, however, Gintz and Burgess got jobs at the same photography place in Newton. They began talking about old song snippets they had written in the dorms, how in their fragmented state they sounded as if they could be parts of a rock opera. Clawjob was (re)born.

For months they wrote songs to fit the plot of the opera — a process Burgess describes as “convoluted.” They started recording Space Crackers in the summer of ’05 (after Clickers had called it quits) and finished the following winter — three years after the idea was birthed. (“We work at a very, very slow pace,” says Burgess. “Glacial.”) Space Crackers, which they released themselves in May ’06, is a sprawling, multifarious mélange that tells how humanity came together to solve a worldwide hunger crisis; it ends with ravenous aliens attacking Earth and killing everyone. Like most of Clawjob’s music, Gintz explains, it’s about consumption and sustainability.

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