Its story begins as many do—a high schooler finds himself through music, and everything becomes boundless. That’s precisely what happened to Pittsburgh’s Jim Semonik, whose destiny was forever altered when he saw his first goth/industrial show: KMFDM and Chemlab at Metropol. He began hoarding albums, and the genre’s aural assault has guided, transformed, and saved him ever since.
After spinning goth/industrial nights throughout Pittsburgh as DJ Hiem, Jim founded Distortion Productions in 2000. His mission through the music-promotion company has always been to provide local, national, and international goth/industrial bands with the very best experience as they pass through to play Pittsburgh. As such, Distortion has hosted countless acts of varying prominence for 15 years, making it the longest-running goth/industrial music promotion group in the city’s history.
Jim’s passion, kindness, dedication, and extensive knowledge solidified his reputation as he formed relationships with local venues such as 31st Street Pub, Club Laga, Pegasus, Mr. Smalls, The Rex Theater, and The Thunderbird Café; bands including VNV Nation, The Crüxshadows, Front Line Assembly, Combichrist, and 16Volt; and innumerable fervent fans. In 2014, Distortion proudly presented its 150th show, an incredible milestone for someone merely spreading his passion and allowing his audience to make the most incredible and unforgettable memories.
After his cancer diagnosis and treatment, Jim partnered with Chase Dudley to create the acclaimed Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music to Cure Cancer compilations, released through Metropolis Records and the source of over $30,000 donated to cancer-related charities and research teams. It was while finalizing Volume 2: Recurrence that Chase jokingly suggested the pair start a record label since they were already undertaking the required labor. Since it was the next logical step, Jim did just that, bringing Chase on to Distortion Productions, which they transformed from mere promotion company to full-fledged record label in 2014.
Distortion Productions is now home to twelve acts and counting. It champions emerging and local and regional talent, such as Red Lokust, The Dark Clan, Null Device, boxed warning, Shutterdown, Spider Lilies and Stoneburner, as well as internationally-renowned forces including Dope Stars Inc., Am Tierpark, Tenek and En Esch. Likewise, Distortion caters to all subgenres of goth and industrial music, from goth rock, EBM, and synthpop to tribal industrial and powernoise. Distortion also continues to promote live shows in Pittsburgh, all the while maintaining its distinguished home-grown, in-it-for-the-love reputation.
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Jim Semonik may hold a B.A. in Psychology from Penn State, but he’s spent his life pursuing his passion: goth/industrial music, which he discovered during high school. He’s fluent in all aspects of the music scene, including DJing Pittsburgh’s now-defunct legendary club night Ceremony, acting as head music purchaser for Eide’s Entertainment, fronting electro-industrial acts Red Lokust (with Lee Lauer of Aslan Faction) and Rein[Forced] and (which has shared the stage with the likes of Chemlab, Aesthetic Perfection, Combichrist and KMFDM), and promoting live shows with the founding of Distortion Productions in 2000. After his stage 3 colorectal cancer diagnosis in 2008, Jim partnered with close friend Chase Dudley to develop the Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music to Cure Cancer compilations, which, after three installments released by Metropolis Records, have allowed him to donate over $50,000 to the charities, researchers, and doctors supporting and saving the lives of cancer victims every day. 2016 was a huge year for Jim—he leveled-up to eight years cancer-free, unlocked his 170th show achievement, and maxed out his attributes by expanding Distortion Productions' roster as a record label. Jim’s life may be consumed by the music he loves, but he’s sure to make time to amass comics, occasionally dust his intimidating and expansive action figure collection, and enjoy Taco Tuesdays with his beautiful, spunky co-conspirator Emily. This year, he plans to continue bringing mayhem to Pittsburgh by pushing out new releases, staging live shows, and working on a multitude of musical projects simultaneously.
Late Night Wizard of Technical Things
Chase Dudley is a 3-D CAD designer by trade. He earned a B.S. in Entertainment Design. Having undertaken landscape and product design, animatronics, and robotics, he changed course and returned to his first love, music, as a sound designer. He also picked up a keyboard and began to play around, spawning Distortion Productions’ own experimental ambient electro act boxed warning, which has shared the stage with internationally-renowned acts such as Funker Vogt, Assemblage 23, and Nachtmahr. After moving to Pittsburgh, Chase befriended Jim Semonik and began to play Distortion-promoted live shows, constantly evolving his unique fusion of audio-visual stimulation. From the birth of Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music to Cure Cancer, he wanted to help out in any way he could. Chase brought his adept eyes and ears to the compilations through mastering, package design, manufacturing preparation, and technical support, including website design. He joined Distortion Productions during its transition to record label. Chase lives in Pittsburgh with Valerie, his fiancée and incredibly talented partner-in-crime. In his spare time, he can be found playing the Fallout and Deus Ex games, napping with his adorable Dachshund Chester, photographing his moody cat Shadow, and creating with his 3-D printer. This year will see the release of boxed warning’s EP I Have Been Terrible, and Chase is excited to return to the stage thereafter.
Lucent Lady of Lexicon
Maresa Whitehead is a life-long writer of both professional and creative natures. A published poet, she obtained her B.A. in English – Business and Professional Writing from Columbia College in her home state of South Carolina before transplanting to Pittsburgh, where she earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing – Poetry from Chatham University. Maresa has been an active member of the goth/industrial subculture for over 15 years, but it was not until after her graduation from Chatham that she found herself and her place within the city’s tightknit scene, which has become her extended family. Maresa has been supporting Distortion Productions shows and local club nights such as Hanging Garden ever since, having become the person she always knew she could be while living the life of which she always dreamt. Enslaved by the corporate machine as a marketing project manager and writer/editor by day, she conducts band interviews and reviews shows and albums by night for COMA Music Magazine. She has written and photographed for a vast array of other print and digital media, and she has published over a dozen poems in literary journals and anthologies including shady side review and The Criterion. Maresa lends her wordsmithing skills to Distortion Productions by generating content for the website and editing marketing materials. In her infinitesimal amount of free time, she dotes over her Arabian gelding Ghost and her cat Sihaya. Best known for her obsession with Nine Inch Nails and Dune, Maresa strives to discover the profound beauty in all things dark.