Producer Interview: Jon Markson

Posted: by The Editor

Photo by Ryan Scott Graham

If you follow anything in hardcore and the general punk world, there is a good chance you’ve come across one name in the production credits: Jon Markson. Though his work dates from over a decade ago, his imprints can be felt with Drug Church’s breakthrough record, Cheer. It found the band taking their rough post-hardcore grime towards something more pop-minded. It was a record so influential that you can now feel its influences clearly in something like Squint and others that may be a bit more imperceptible. Since then, Markson’s profile has only grown, working with bands ranging from Stay Inside to grunge revivalists Soul Blind. 

At the beginning of our chat, Markson seems to be aware of this fact noting, “I think that my profile has gotten way bigger in the past three or four years as far as being outside of being the scope of the bands that I was in… Drug Church is my baby, and it’s their baby too.” Being pigeonholed is bound to happen for any producer, and Drug Church can attract a wide variety of bands to him. “The bigger picture of bands who are attracted to working with me, I think, have been bands in the guitar world that want to get freaky without being nerdy.”

And though that sounds high-minded, listening to the recent output of his production credits does bear that out. You can even look at something as minor as the EP from One Step Closer at the beginning of the year. It features some creative leaps in certain respects. There is clean singing and, in general, a poppier framework compared to earlier material. He even hints at a new record from Kharma that he worked on that has some singing, which came as a surprise as a Chicagoan deeply familiar with their heavy brand metallic hardcore. Regulate, too, stands out, enmeshing hooks within its pummeling metallic hardcore. But no matter what kind of music it is, boldness is one of the recurring traits Markson is interested in. It comes up constantly in our conversation, but he does make a distinction. 

“I think that it’s not up to me to have those bands make bold moves, but I think I am a conduit to helping bands make some of those bold changes.”

That boldness leads back to Cheer, as I’ve mentioned a few times. There was a moment in the recording of the record that worked as a shift without meaning to. When it came time to record vocals, the band wasn’t satisfied with the same approach vocalist Patrick Kindlon had been taking. “I heard this natural musicality in the way he was doing his aggressive thing, and we ended up at this new nexus for their sound,” says Markson.”That was kind of a bold maneuver that paid off, and I’m honored that I get to work with bands when they get to do something like that.”

Though I have focused on the last five years, the credits for Markson are vast. He’s worked on many records from Brothertiger, an artist he describes as indebted to 80s pop. Over the years, he’s produced many of his bands in Taking Meds and Such Gold. He points to the latter’s EP, Deep in The Hole, as an important record that presaged what he would do in the following years. He’s mixed and mastered many other releases, including Living Proof by Drain and Primitive Desires by Jivebomb. But there are even more minor contributions that stand out in our talk. In college, he briefly participated in a hip-hop group called Time Crisis. He describes it as a DIY affair that gained some notoriety thanks to Frostwire, where one release was downloaded over 500,000 times. It serves as a timestamp that I never would have uncovered on my own. It reflects a decade of grinding as an engineer and producer. 

If you want to understand Markson’s trajectory a bit further, we can get more granular and look at his background in music in his hometown of Allentown. That history runs up against what he may be typecasted as the producer for when bands want to be poppier. His journey in high school doesn’t bend toward that narrative. To friends now, he grew up in what he calls “hard to follow-core.” It encompassed an extensive array of technical music. He was experiencing Snowing and the incarnation of the early emo revival thanks to living in the Lehigh Valley. With that also came some skramz, as those two scenes bordered each other during that time. But he would also watch producer Arthur Rizk’s (Code Orange, Power Trip) high school band grindcore band/ 

This time in high school would prove formative, even if it’s not readily apparent when listening to the singles for the new Koyo record, for example. Markson, during this time, would be introduced to recording and producing. It wasn’t his singular focus back then.“Recording was more an exercise in hearing my own songs,” says Markson. He would operate as almost the primary support for the bands he was in or, as he calls it, the “b-guy.” This situation could be partially because of circumstances, as Markson was playing with his friends of his cousin, who were a few years older. But this fact would ultimately lead to the introduction of a recording studio, which would then maybe plant the seed to pursue this line of work full-time with college on the horizon.

After college, Markson would primarily record in New York. In the past few years, there has been a shift. As he notes in an interview with Tape Op, the change came out of feeling creatively stifled. New York was starting to grate on him. And about two and a half years ago, he would make what feels like a stark but necessary turn towards a recording studio called The Animal Farm. The name is not some sly tongue-in-cheek marketing; It is a restored barn from the 1800s that was turned into a recording studio. Outside, there are chickens and cows. It allows people to get into a creative mood that may be impossible in another environment. Other outside pressures in a city like New York aren’t as present. It feels like a rolling sleepover party where experiments are welcomed. In that way, it does feel like the synthesis of what Markson has been building for over a decade: creating a safe space for artists to take chances and be bold with their records or whatever projects they want to make up.

Hugo Reyes | @hvreyes5

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