Interview: Jami Morgan of Code Orange (Glasgow, March 17th 2017)

Before Code Orange’s explosive performance last week with Gojira, Declan had the opportunity to have a chat with lead vocalist and resident skin smasher, Jami Morgan. Amongst other things, they discussed the new album Forever and “addressing the mainstream metal scene”. Read on for the full transcription…

You’ve recently released your new album “Forever”. What do you think you were able to improve on this album in comparison to the last album? I think there has been a lot of improvement in terms of the electronics, song structure and interesting ideas.

I agree, I just think we are getting better and that’s really it. The last record was as good as we could do it at the time, this record is as good as we can do it now and the next record will get better and better because we just learn what works, what doesn’t work and what we want to add into the mix. If the records aren’t getting better then there’s just no point to do them at all, if we do a record that’s not better in our eyes then we’ll just quit.

So if you were to record another album that wasn’t as good as the last then you wouldn’t release it?

I mean, it doesn’t matter whether other people think it is good or not, but if I listen to it and I’m honest with myself and I’m like ‘this shit just ain’t as good’, then it would be hard for me to continue because then it’s kind of like ‘what’s the point?’ I mean we’ve got to keep pushing ourselves and just making it better and improving on it. Song structure is subjective but if it feels better to us and not to other people then we’ve won, so when I heard it I already knew it was a victory. It just depends on what other people think is good for them, but it seems like we’ve got the best reaction to date – so it seems like a win to me.

You decided to work with Kurt Ballou again to produce the new album, why was this? Did he understand where you guys were going on this new album? Did he make any suggestions?

Yeah, he did one side of the record, he did all the music and the electronics. Vocals we did with Will Yip in Philadelphia who’s done bands like Title Fight and a lot more kind of rock shit, he’s a really good buddy. We got the best of both worlds but yeah Kurt is fucking amazing for sure.

To me it seems like every small detail of your music has been analysed and well thought out to benefit the album. Even something as simple as the feedback from the guitars has been tailored to sound nothing other than Code Orange. Do you get what I mean by that?

Yeah man, we focus on every single thing. I really appreciate that because there’s not one single note or one single string of feedback that wasn’t agonised over for as long as we were able to during the studio time we had. I mean, at that time that was the best we could do really, and we just learn every time what sounds good. This one is mastered the best, the songs are better and I don’t understand how you can listen to it if you’re our fan and not get that from it, you know what I mean? But that’s awesome, I appreciate that a lot so thank you.

Yeah, I would agree. You will always get people who think the old stuff is better but I think it’s pretty obvious this album is something special…

Yeah I don’t give a fuck what other people think…

Usually when a band who lives in the hardcore scene attempts to branch out to the public eye it can be quite a risk. However, it feels like the mainstream has come to you instead of the other way around. I don’t feel like anything has been compromised, it’s actually a heavier album than its predecessor yet feels much more accessible at the same time. Do you feel the same way?

Yeah, because it’s better. Honestly it just comes back to that. It’s definitely more accessible because the songwriting is better and it sounds better. Our voices are a little bit better so everything’s improved, meaning you can turn things up and make them work more but there’s no attempt on our end to make things accessible in terms of what other people want to hear. When it comes to the rock songs on the record, the kind of strange rock songs, they were some of the first songs we wrote; “Bleeding in the Blur” and “Forever” were literally the first two songs we wrote on the disk. We have pillars to set things up and then we build on that like, “Ugly” came from “Bleeding in the Blur” and we knew what gaps we wanted to fill.

The thing about it is that there’s always been people in the hardcore scene who hated our shit and there’s always been people who have been really supportive but we’ve never been a cookie cutter type of band at any stage of our game – ever – so it’s hard for them to say “they turned into this”. I mean, from what record including our demos when we were fifteen is just straight up? There’s none. We set ourselves up for that in a good way, we are always changing, we are always making it weird so we keep getting weirder people who aren’t going to freak out because they’ll be used to what we do.

So how has the moshing been received in front of a majority metal fan base, that may not understand hardcore?

This tour isn’t about that and it kind of pisses me off when people say “sorry the crowd sucked tonight”. Dude, we have this crowd, I can see it in their eyes, I can tell by all the interactions and the applause. You don’t go see a band for the first time and go fucking crazy mosh, there’s been shows during this tour where people mosh and push mosh and everything. When we get that type of reaction its great and super fun but it’s not about that for us. I mean, we love doing hardcore shows but we can perform very well in this environment as you’ll see, whether they are doing nothing or something. We’re going to bring even more energy when they are not doing anything.

So… they are both victories, as long as I can feel it in the air. There’s been a couple of shows where I can’t feel it. Most of the shows I really feel a connection with these new people, they are like ‘Wow! This is awesome!’ that’s really the only reason we are here, not to get people to mosh or any of that shit. We can always do that. We’ve been doing it – that doesn’t really matter to me on this tour at all.

I imagine there have been points where it has popped off. Most metal heads that first see hardcore moshing are thinking ‘What are they doing? Karate fighting?’ How have the crowd reacted to this at these shows?

There’s not that much of it at these shows, it’s a lot of people just pushing each other. It’s a lot of new people. Most of these shows were close to sold out before we even went on tour. We have a lot of fans coming but this is us purely making new fans. There’s a lot of pushing and crowd surfing, it’s awesome – I love it! We don’t give a fuck. My ideal show is like the ultimate hardcore shows and like the big ones were in the 90’s and even the 80’s, where you have all kinds of moshing, you got metal kids doing their thing, hardcore kids doing their thing, crowd-surfing, stage diving, everything. That’s the best, most fun show.

It doesn’t need to be like everyone doing karate or whatever, or everyone doing pushing and being mad about karate. It’s just chaos, everything is fun! I don’t give a fuck about all that. I’m sure the metal kids don’t like karate, I’m sure the hardcore kids who like to do that shit think push moshing is stupid… but we just don’t care. My goal is to feel it in the air and feel it from the applause and feel it from…just the vibe. I can tell from the vibe. There are nights when they are not super in to it. Most of the nights we have really won a lot of people over, I can really tell and that’s the complete goal.

I’m not surprised by that. You are one of the best live bands out at the moment.

Thanks man, thank you. I think this is the best we have sounded, on this tour and on our last tour in The States. We’ve never sounded this good. We just added a new member into the band and it’s never sounded this good. It’s sick as fuck.

I have watched a number of live sets online and I have noticed that when you play bills that are not exclusive to hardcore, you have mentioned that the scene has to change and Code Orange are the first step in doing that. Are you wanting bands to become ‘bands’ again and have their own identity and not follow trends?

Definitely. I’m addressing the mainstream metal scene – that’s why I don’t say it in our community – I say at these big events (festivals etc.) because there’s a lot of impressionable people there. I just think that there’s gotta be new stuff… and there is new stuff that’s coming up, it just has to be more accepted by that world if you’re going to have more cultural acts and it’s not just about us. It could not be us one hundred percent, there’s a lot of great bands coming from our world and other worlds that are organic and there has to be more organic stuff that makes its way up the bill so that it is not the same bands up there forever… it really doesn’t have to be us – it probably, most likely won’t be.

But I think that we are going to try to blaze our own path and just show people that we are going to achieve whatever goals we have at the time. We are going to do that whilst never abandoning our artistic credibility, to us, again it’s about what we like. So, I have to love it or it’s just not worth it, know what I mean? I trust myself, my ear and our ears. Nobody can tell you what’s good or not.

What bands do you rate at the moment?

There are a lot of good bands in the hardcore scene. There’s a couple bands that are doing stuff. Whether it’s like Nails, Power Trip or Turnstile, then there are bands under them that are coming up; Twitching Tongues and Harms Way. The bands that are under all those bands that are newer… Vein are a really good band, Eternal Sleep are also a really good band. There are bands that I see that are creative and have good ideas, we are going to do our best to help facilitate that. The bands that are in our generation of hardcore are doing their own things and doing big things.

A couple are now on Metal Blade and Turnstile is on Roadrunner with us and Nails are on Nuclear Blast. I think our scene is going to start to make an impression on the bigger outside world. The only way that this will fail is if people abandon what they are doing artistically to become something else – which I don’t think any of those bands will do. I think it’s a new era in that way.

I feel recently there has been a sea change regarding what people are looking for in music. For example, NXT are taking on a lot of good, honest bands…

They need to put our fucking shit on there! I really hope they do and I’ve been a fan of all that shit for a really long time. We will see about that, continue…

I feel people are sick of seeing the same shit, bands caring more about their look than the music they produce. Bands not having an identity. I feel this will change in the next couple of years, it’s not going to be immediately as these things take time.

Yeah! And it’s funny, for instance, when our record came out it did really well, especially for us, it did better than any record we have ever done. But then I see an article ‘Code Orange Kid’s Record is a Commercial Failure’ or something… I’m like dude… we are all from the Hardcore scene trying to come up and do this and we are all doing better than we have ever done. It’s good, help build it if you like it. If you don’t like it you will talk shit on it as much as you can but, it’s dumb shit – people just don’t get the big picture? We are just going to keep doing our fucking thing and I have a lot of cool ideas that I am planning so, we will see what happens…

What do you think of a band like Gojira, not playing it safe? I have been to lots of gigs within this venue where the main act is by far the best act of the night. With this tour, Gojira are taking two serious bands on tour with them…

Yeah! Which they should do! That’s what bands did back in the day! They are still the best, they are unbelievable, I think they are great…

But having these serious support acts (Car Bomb and Code Orange) means that Gojira need to show up every night and prove themselves worthy of that headline slot!

They do! And they do show up! They are unbelievable live and I feel that’s what bands used to do. Slayer would take System of a Down, System of a Down would take Hatebreed and Dillinger Escape Plan, I mean, that shit doesn’t happen now. It’s starting to… Lamb of God took Power Trip, Deftones took us for a few days, Gojira are taking us for a whole tour! We are going with Killswitch Engage and Anthrax. Nails are doing all kinds of stuff… It’s starting to happen for sure but it should happen, that’s the way it should be – it should be great bills across the board. You need quality, there is so much quantity out there that the bills should all be quality and it should be good bands. But yeah, Gojira are fucking great man, they are unbelievable and I am really glad they have brought us.

From looking back at bands like Korn who blew up on the scene with a new exciting, vibrant sound, by album three they released a record titled ‘Follow the Leader’ (the album title refers to the number of bands that attempted to copy Korn’s unique sound at the time). Do you feel like bands will start copying your sound?

Uhh…. I don’t fucking know? There are definitely bands in the hardcore scene now that sound like us… we sound like other bands, we take influence from other bands. I don’t know. There are definitely bands out there that annoy me, they are straight ‘biters’ and it’s not just us, it’s any band that gets popular. There are bands now that will copy that quicker than ever because everything is just so fast now.

Would that be a big thing? I have no fucking idea… If it did happen I would take it as a compliment. I think everyone should do their own shit and try to build their own thing but if bands are influenced by us that’s fucking awesome. We were influenced by Converge, Dillinger Escape Plan, Hatebreed… We have tried as time has gone on to mould that into our thing, so if bands are influenced by us hopefully as time goes on they mould that into their own thing. That’s a beautiful thing, that’s how it all goes around.

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