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With a sleight of hand and a quick nod to the past 15 years of synth-based music, Con’s John O’Herron pulls many tricks out of his electronic bag for Lucky 13, his band’s debut CD. While O’Herron’s vocals and lyrics remain entirely within the confines of goth (i.e., heavy-handed odes to pain and displeasure), the music lifts sounds and styles from several different electronic music genres, including techno, early-’80s synth-pop, and modern industrial. O’Herron freely admits he was influenced by more than just the Wax Trax posse. “The Wax Trax stuff was cool, but it was too slow and dancey; it wasn’t punky enough. So I wanted to do it myself. I wanted to make stuff I wanted to hear. Stuff like the Dickies, but electric.”
O’Herron says Con “evolved over a long time,” recalling that he was “in a lot of different bands. Punk bands, heavy metal bands, rock bands….[I was] mostly into punk stuff, and I always really liked electric music—Yello, Skinny Puppy, and just wacked-out electric stuff.” About two years ago, O’Herron finally decided to do Con on his own; he built a home studio and began working on Lucky 13. He says the early stuff “used to have a lot more guitars in it, but we took them out because they weren’t the sound I was looking for. Basically, I just wanted to make a punk rock record with weird, cool sounds.” Or, as Con’s ads confidently state, “electropunkrock like you’ve never heard before.”
“Some of [the songs] are just punk rock, like ‘Pick Yourself Up’ and ‘System.’ They’re just like boom-punk rock with different sounds. ‘Desire’ is slower, gothier. I guess the vocal line is pretty ‘gaaa-thic,’” O’Herron laughs, mocking his own dark voice. “Then [‘Watch Us Fall’] and ‘Munk’ are just completely…I think you can barely call them music. They’re just so tripped-out all the way. I just do what’s interesting for the song. I try to take it to its furthest end…and give [Con’s music] a hectic, in-your-face feel.”
A 27-year-old bartender by night, O’Herron grew up in D.C. and Maryland as well as South Africa, Portugal, and Belgium—his father was in the Foreign Service. “It helped to keep me confused,” jokes O’Herron, who still feels like an outsider and a transient as far as D.C.’s Dischord-centric scene is concerned. “There’s zero [scene for Con]. I hardly know any other musicians. I don’t even know what’s [going on] here.”
In fact, Con, which features the live lineup of O’Herron on guitar and vocals with drummer Jon Modell and keyboardist Peter Miller, hasn’t even played live in the area. The trio’s first show is Oct. 3 at Asylum. Lucky 13 is available for $10 postage paid from Object Recordings, P.O. Box 53147, Washington, DC 20009.