Hey, what happened? An interview with Mario Jimenez of Stanford Prison Experiment

Mario Jimenez sang for Stanford Prison Experiment.

I can’t quite remember when I first heard Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE), but most likely it was sometime in the mid-90s when I was in high school. The Gato Hunch, their second release, was the first album of theirs I got. I liked their post-hardcore sound, similar to a cross between Rollins Band, Fugazi and Quicksand with vocals reminiscent of John Reis from Rocket From The Crypt. The band was politically minded without being heavy-handed and knew how to create somewhat darker edged songs that were simultaneously hard and melodic. And to top it all off, SPE had the ability to write songs that got stuck in your head. They are certainly one of those bands that make you say to yourself, “HOW CAN MORE PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT THESE GUYS?!”

SPE taught me up to Noam Chomsky (the last track on The Gato Hunch is a speech by him), the film Shakes the Clown (“Man…fucking people!”), and the actual Stanford Prison Experiment itself. As I may have mentioned in previous entries, when I was younger I would often hear things on albums or read something in liner notes that I didn’t know about and it would instill in me a desire to learn more, whether it be other bands, pop culture references or political ideas. It’s one of the best parts about my experiences with music (especially DIY and punk rock material) and SPE were certainly a band that inspired that sense of curiosity in me.

Like a number of indie bands from the 1990s, SPE signed with a major (Island) for their third album, Wrecreation, before ceasing to exist in the early 2000s. While I haven’t heard their first, self-titled album, I would certainly recommend either of the other two albums.

Where do you currently live?

Rincon, Puerto Rico.

What do you do to pay the bills?

I own and operate a coffee bar called Banana Dang.

Are you still involved with music in any way (work for a label, play in a band, do press for a band, book shows, etc.) or any of the other arts (performing, visual, literary)?

I listen to it everyday, but owning and operating a coffee shop at the level that we are working towards involves a lot of the same creative efforts as being in a band. It’s a team effort and you try your hardest to produce the best.

At what point did you decide to “give up” the touring and band life and why? Was there a sudden realization that you wanted to live in the “real world” or was it gradual?

It was a subtle transition from music to doing other things. We always were looking for creative things to do, so at one point I got more into graphic design and specialty coffee and that sort of took care of the creative itch. All my band mates found other projects and endeavors.

Do you still speak with the other members of the band (Stanford Prison Experiment)?

Yes, via Internet and phone at times since I’m in PR.

Are you content with not living the “rock and roll” lifestyle of your past or do you miss it? (Please note: I use the phrase “rock and roll lifestyle” loosely.)

For me, that “lifestyle” has always been about thinking for yourself and doing things with passion that are interesting. So that ethic is still a part of my life but just transferred over to a different medium. I do miss the friends that supported us along the way as well as my bandmates, but creative work with a social impact continues for us.

Do you feel as though you can still relate to the person you were when you were in a band and touring? Why or why not?

Yes, since while touring we were doing our best to write and perform the best of we could. We still believe and enjoy music as a social force. This continues in the way I try to work and deliver to the best of my ability. What I do now has that thread of working for a better world–it’s just in the context of buying fair trade, organic/sustainable coffee at every opportunity and keeping in mind the “seed to cup” connection.

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One response to “Hey, what happened? An interview with Mario Jimenez of Stanford Prison Experiment

  • Bevan

    Hey, this is just brilliant. I had a very similar experience to yourself with this band in the 90s and have been wondering about them for donkey’s years. Not sure how I found this blog and IV but very pleased that I did. Good job. To bad you couldn’t get more out of him.

    I would love to make a mini-documentary about these guys. Touring with Jesus Lizard and Rage and getting each persons PoV on their experience.

    Hey! I bet you wanted to get a question mark tattoo on your forearm, too? Yeah man!

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