Jon Gusman is an acclaimed Punk/Hardcore vocalist, drummer, painter, publisher, podcaster, and multi-media artist originally hailing from Long Island, New York. He is either currently or has been a member of Rule Them All, The Fight, Restless Spirit, Dead Last, Soda Bomb, Car Chase, Founders, Guilty Party, Ward Number Six, T.O.S., $TEP UP 2, Fight Them All, Y.O.D.A. (You Only Die Alot,) Mount Doom, Death Metal Pope, Detriment, and Pillars of Ivory along with Jack Xiques (Age of Apocalypse, COLOSSUS, Hellkeeper, Sentinel) and Jason “Jay Peta” Petagine (Mindforce, No Souls Saved, Out for Justice, YACHTCLUBBAZ.)
Gusman single-handedly owns and operates The Cauldron of Burgers, which functions as an ever-evolving self-sufficient comic book universe, quarterly ‘zine, publishing company, podcast network, YouTube channel, etc. In addition to his newly-minted Jon Records label arm (once, also, somewhat confusingly called Cauldron of Burgers,) Gusman recently launched his own Prog Rock-leaning one-man band, Jon The Movie. Gusman self-released his debut solo EP, A Glimpse That Made Sense, in conjunction with Chicago-based imprint New Morality ‘zine, earlier this year.
A Glimpse That Made Sense served as a quasi-prequel/extended trailer and showcased a sonic sneak peek at Jon The Movie’s then-widely unannounced debut full-length; a cassette tape-only J-card packaged along with A Glimpse That Made Sense housed an exclusive five-panel comic strip detailing The Holy Parking Lot’s lead-off track, “The Scholar.”
I spoke with Jon (The Movie) Gusman earlier this year about his A Glimpse That Made Sense EP.
Accompanying the recent track premiere of “Toward Fire”, we have a comprehensive new behemoth of an interview with Jon Gusman himself supplying us with all the juicy details about Jon The Movie, The Holy Parking Lot, The Cauldron of Burgers, and Jon Records. Check out our interview below, which has been lightly edited for general clarity, along with some exclusive pieces of artwork from the ever-expanding Cauldron of Burgers Universe. Jon The Movie’s The Holy Parking Lot is out January 25, 2023 on Jon Records.
How would you say your overall sound, style, and musical approach as Jon The Movie has changed, evolved, and progressed since A Glimpse That Made Sense?
The way I see it: the demo is the “blueprint,” the EP is the “pilot,” and the LP is the “final product” for a band. My 10-minute epic, “Quest for Materiality,” was the demo, A Glimpse That Made Sense (AGTMS) [EP] was the pilot and The Holy Parking Lot [LP] is the final product. A Glimpse That Made Sense compiles all the music I’ve written and recorded on my own over the years. The first three tracks were chosen for this EP with the intention of solidifying a Garage/Prog/ Weird Rock sound for the band. “Coffin Position” was the only track written specifically for AGTMS; the other five were pre-written and or pre-recorded. I believe The Holy Parking Lot expands on and explores what I was trying to get across with AGTMS. I won’t say it perfects the sound, but I think it definitely brings me that much closer to perfecting what it is I’m trying to do as Jon The Movie.
Why did you choose “Toward Fire” to serve as the album’s lead-off single last week? How does this track fall into the grand scheme of the album that is The Holy Parking Lot?
It’s the most pedal-to-the-metal song on the record and I believe it’s the perfect introduction to what The Holy Parking Lot is about. It, also, achieves everything I’d want new listeners of the project to hear: driving grooves, speed, time signature/tempo twists and turns, crazy guitar solos, and catchy hooks. When I wrote the song, I knew that “Toward Fire” would be significant. The phrase “on your way toward fire…” refers to those moments of realization that lead to bursts of inspiration to keep moving. So, when the two tracks kick in (“On Your Way” / “Toward Fire,”) there’s sort of a conversation happening between the restless protagonist and the ever-watching eye. Within this conversation, The Scholar explains The Eminence and how their existence is not only beneficial to the end goal, but it is imperative for it gives Jon the skills/wisdom to advance. Moreover, The Eminence grows from the plot of space where the lot is meant to go. Once the problem is solved, Jon can move towards the fire that will, eventually, heat the tar.
Would you mind talking briefly about some of the storyline and overarching themes that can be heard throughout The Holy Parking Lot?
It’s a “loose” concept album. I consider it more of an experience. The songs themselves are not chronological, but there is an emotional timeline to it. It’s like a series of different events that happen that lead to an overall outcome. It’s about answering the call and all the difficulty that comes along with relentlessly pursuing it. The story begins as a young teenaged Jon (The Movie) subconsciously takes on the challenge that The Scholar lays in front of him to create something that will be forever used by the masses but won’t ever glorify those who made it. As the listener moves through the record, they can hear Jon as he deals with judgement, dissatisfaction, and gumption turning to distorted obsession while unknowingly persevering to fulfill The Scholar’s challenge piece-by-piece. It speaks to the idea of doing things with purpose and not for a return on investment.
Who are the primary characters that appear throughout The Holy Parking Lot ans where exactly did leave off last with each of their individual stories?
There are only a few prominent personalities that exist within The Holy Parking Lot. The first, obviously, being Jon, who is the “protagonist” (if you will.) There is, also, The Scholar, who acts as the ever-watching eye in The Cauldron of Burgers Universe. Making a brief appearance in the song “Not Much At All” is The Narrator. This character is indicative of the mental chatter that comes along with the pure O-side of OCD. The last legible concept in this record is The Eminence. It is a set of mountains that form as Jon’s conditioned nature collides with the wisdom he’s recently attained. The only way to continue the task at hand is to move these mountains, which are meant to seem impossible until the newly-found wisdom is applied. They’re sort of like a crash course to exercise new ways of thinking and for unlocking new skills, as well.
How does your artwork and The Cauldron of Burgers Universe tie into the world of The Holy Parking Lot?
I tend to weave together concepts I create separately. A lot of that seems to happen very naturally because when I write anything, I think about what figure could take on which role and, oftentimes, characters I’ve already released out into the world fit the mold. Cameos and Easter eggs are really easy tools for world-building. The Scholar & The Narrator are two figures I painted for my exhibition, Burger Salon, back in 2020. I pretty much cherry-picked them for this album with said tools in mind.
What drove you to re-record and include “I Can’t Help,” “Coffin Position,” and “Miracles Until The End?” How do these new versions differ from those that appeared on A Glimpse That Made Sense?
I always intended to re-record those tracks. The EP versions were recorded at The Cauldron (my “studio,” which really is just wherever I can set up.) Initially, I thought a whole lot about who I could reach out to for the eventual studio-quality LP, but at a certain point, I realized that the point of this record might be lost, if it didn’t carry the Garage-y spirit that truly inspired most of my experiences as an artist.
The conception of this record was born out of the “conceptual weaving” I spoke about previously, as a lot of these songs have been written for years as GarageBand demos. There’s only a few that were written specifically for this record, those being: “Introverture,” “Toward Fire,” “A Tale of Compassionate Detachment,” and “The Holy Parking Lot.” I’d like to mention, also, that even though “Coffin Position” was fully realized for AGTMS, I had always planned to have that song make its way to the completed LP.
The Holy Parking Lot is a bit rawer than AGTMS. I recorded everything with the “work with what you’ve got” approach, so most of the techniques I applied were unorthodox (which, theoretically, means “wrong.”) The re-imagined songs have a lot more layers of synth and, overall, have better vocal performances. They, also, emphasize a lot more of the parts that I felt fell short on the EP.
Who or what would you readily cite as some of your primary sources of inspiration and influence while creating The Holy Parking Lot?
I’m constantly inspired by music and hear little things every day across all genres that make me want to write music; that being said, I do have a core group of bands that ring true above all the rest. In no specific order, it’s [The] Smashing Pumpkins, Dream Theater, Frank Zappa, Guided By Voices, John Frusciante, Faith No More, and Iron Maiden. There’s, also, plenty of nods to Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Kill ‘em All-era Metallica. I would, also, make an honorable mention of all of these band’s respective side-projects/worlds.
What did your writing, creation, product, etc. processes behind the making-of The Holy Parking Lot typically entail?
It was so much work! A lot of it being mental, but a lot of it being muscle training. A huge reason why I decided to use archived GarageBand ideas was because I finally got to a point of confidence with my guitar playing. Even still, a lot of the ideas I have are way outside my comfort zone on the instrument, so when I write something, oftentimes, I have to practice a sh*tload and, then, record multiple demos of it just to create muscle memory. During that process, I’ll usually hear things across all [instruments] that I could tastefully add to the final recording. At some point, usually, I have a concept come to me that make sense either for a song or a record. So, all in all, it’s a lot of maintenance and a lot of mental labor, but, also, a lot of waiting around for the most righteous idea to appear.
What’s the thematic relationship between A Glimpse That Made Sense & The Holy Parking Lot?
If you own the tape of the [AGTMS] EP (put out in 2021, via New Morality ‘zine,) you’ll notice a five-panel comic in the J-card, which gives a visual account for the first track of The Holy Parking Lot, “The Scholar.” I did this kind of like little “teaser” after the credits that you’ll get in any comic book movie. Other than that, AGTMS was really just my way of introducing what is and what is to come with this project.
How does the music for The Holy Parking Lot inspire the artwork/creative components and vice versa?
They’re very symbiotic. When I’m making visual work, a lot of the time, I’ll wait ‘til I’m a couple hours in to take a break and start playing guitar. Sometimes, I hear riffs or just get excited to write music. When I’m writing music, I am always blasted with visuals, which get me excited to pick up the [paint] brushes. All of the visuals you see come from a place of cerebral synesthesia. The point of this project was to create an experience, not a concept album. The characters’ placements within The Holy Parking Lot were more an afterthought that fit the role nicely, as opposed to a narrative written for the characters in the form of a Rock Opera or some sh*t.
Who else (if anyone) in addition to or aside from yourself contributed to the conception, making-of, or creation of The Holy Parking Lot?
Aside from you being my PR guy, it was all me! I wrote the songs, recorded all the instruments, produced, mixed, mastered them, and did all the visuals for it. There are a few people I want to make mention of. The first being my girlfriend, Brittany, who has made so much space for me to be able to explore my creativity. A lot of that being in our apartment, but, also, a good portion being in her creative space after-hours. She, also, bought me the guitar that I wrote this entire record on for Christmas the first year we were together. A lot of this wouldn’t be happening, if not for all of that. Second, I’d like to thank the guys that all make time to play in my live band. The line-up is as follows: Gerry Windus (Stand Still,) Mat Reinecker (Stand Still,) Marc Morello (Restless Spirit,) Terry Orlando (Age of Apocalypse,) and Chris Rini (Jab, Wreath of Tongues, Shellshock Audio.) We’ve only played two shows, so far, but they’ve both been a blast. I work with all of these guys pretty regularly outside the band because they’re all tremendously talented. Terry & I are currently forging a joint visual art effort, which there will be more info on soon, Mat got me the current job I have right now in live music production, Gerry & I have a podcast together (The Gusman-Windus PM Pod,) Marc & I play in Restless Spirit together, and Chris has recorded most of my bands’ [notable] releases.
What exactly is the so-called Cauldron of Burgers Universe? Additionally, what can you tell us about your new label imprint, Jon Records?
To put it simply, it is the visual side of whatever my brain can come up with. It is ever-developing and ever-changing. It is full of absurdity and is most of the time, very surreal. I’ve been an independent artist for the better half of 15 years. I’ve seen the good, the bad, [and] the ugly, and have tried to learn the best I could from all of it. Additionally, in the Indie world, mistakes are the only thing going out of their way to tell you what you could improve on. I used to just use Cauldron of Burgers as an umbrella term for all my work, which I think even confused me. It didn’t make much sense to keep doing that, so I decided to simplify and divide my work into two different categories: visual/audio. Cauldron of Burgers is the publishing outlet for all things I make that are visual. Jon Records handles all things audio. Let this be the ribbon-cutting ceremony!
Who would you pick to play yourself and the album(s)’ other primary characters, if you ever got a chance to make Jon The Movie as part of The Cauldron of Burgers Cinematic Universe (CoBCU?)
You know, I think judging on how I look right now, maybe, Ben Kingsley or Action Bronson, but the person that makes the most sense is Jack Black. I could see Christopher Lee doing the voice of The Scholar, but that would, also, just be fulfilling the side of me that can’t NOT see things through the lens of Lord of The Rings. You know, it would, also, be a total dream come true to collaborate with Mike Patton [Faith No More] to voice all of these characters.
What is the intended meaning or significance behind the album title and musical story arc forever known as The Holy Parking Lot and its self-titled album closer?
There [are] a couple things. To start, the title track closer is the grand finale. It’s a song of reflection looking back on the happenings of the tracks behind it. It, also, explains a good deal on how hardship with no resolve in sight causes emotional distortion, which, then, clouds your vision from seeing all the progress you’ve made. So, this is the song that basically says, “yeah, that all sucked, but turn around and look at what you’ve built.”
The concept of The Holy Parking Lot was thought up on one of my late-night walks where I’d go to 7-11 and eat snacks in the parking lot alone. I thought about how parking lots are something everybody uses and gets frustrated when they don’t have access to, but never take time to credit or appreciate the people that lay down the pavement. I’ve, also, spent a lot of time on the curb contemplating; it’s where I’ve had some of my most integral spiritual epiphanies.
One day, the name [The] Holy Parking Lot just popped in my brain and that was it, a new project was born. Even as I type this out, I feel the sentiment rings true. As an independent artist, it’s really easy to get discouraged when you’re all wrapped up in analytics, creating forward momentum, judgement, or things that you poured your heart into that might not have had the results you believed they would get. It’s not often that we get to reflect on all the stuff we do and God dammit, I do a lot of sh*t! It feels good.
In addition to or aside from Jon The Movie and The Holy Parking Lot, what else are you currently working on or preparing for release musically or artistically?
As of right now, Restless Spirit just wrapped up recording LP 3, Rule Them All is working on a new release, Dead Last, also, has some stuff coming out very soon. Both bands are playing FYA Fest 2022 out in Tampa, [Florida] in a little over a month! 2023 is looking very sick as far as shows go. Art wise, as I said before, Terry [Orlando] & I are working on something very special that I will have more info on soon.
What’s planned next for Jon The Movie?
I got two EP’s written and am currently writing my way through LP 2, which will have a bunch of goodies loaded into it. I’m, also, planning some kind of celebratory event for this record, more info on that soon. Overall, I would like to get out there and rock some more gigs, so hit me up, people, if you have one!