Firstly, congratulations on another triumphant release. Dark Black is a fantastically brutal piece of work. Considering the general theme, it’s rather ironic that it is such a joy to listen to.
Thank you, I’m blown away by the response. We didn’t even know if anyone but us would even like this album. There’s something really beautiful about making something with no real commercial value, and watching it make more friends than my usual stuff normally does.
My heart really does belong in noisy music.
You’ve been very open about Dark Black being influenced by a period of significant depression; Not just your own but also, Scott Lee Andrews, who you co-wrote the record with.
We’ve been very open about it, because that was the reason we even wrote this album. I was about to bail on the project until Scott and I discussed making an album that actually reports on the human mind under an attack of depression. It was something really unique that we both obviously had a lot of affinity with.
How does this differ from the previous Mutation releases? I’m wondering if the Frankenstein Effect and Error 500 were also born from periods of poor mental health or is this something unique to this newest set of songs?
The first Mutation album was mainly recorded because no-one was making music like that. I was playing with Michael Monroe at the time, and was really keen on doing something harder and more aggressive. The second album was a product of Shane (Napalm Death) Embury, Jon (Cardiacs) Poole and Denzel, Mutation’s long standing drummer, exploring rhythms and fucked up time signatures, aided and abetted by Paul and Rob from Hawk Eyes, who I loved since Chickenhawk. We also had plenty of utterly random guests, like Japanese noise-scaper Merzbow and Mark. E Smith.
The new album is more streamlined, in comparison to the first two. I was listening to a lot of Zeke and Discharge at the time of imagining a third Mutation album, and wanted to create something relentless with a kind of band or album sound, or identity, like Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing, which the first two didn’t really intend to have.
The intensity of the new record is undeniable. To my ears, it’s a seething brew of anger and frustration sound-tracked with some of your most brutal riffing; It’s clear that this is music coming from a very dark place. However there are brief moments of light too, where the music opens up and the clouds appear to lift (Notably on Devolution and again very briefly on Dogs) To my ears it is an implication that all hope is not lost. There is a sense of empowerment in these songs too. There’s something about the nature of screaming out against the bastards that grind us down.
The fact that this album exists at all is testament to hope never being lost. Sometimes it’s all you have, and that’s the main theme behind this album. Stand up, speak up and never give up.
I’m interested to know to what extent this was a cathartic experience for you. Was it a helpful process? Can you tell us what the impact of writing these songs and putting them onto tape has had on you on a personal level?
To begin with I was just relieved that we had a theme on which to hang the album, but the more we got stuck in the more it felt empowering to make such a righteous noise from something as potentially negative as mental health issues. The really helpful part of the process is to find that the music has helped someone else with their own struggles. No compliment resonates with me quite like that one.
One of the defining features of all Mutation records has been the involvement of many guest performers, For example, Devin Townsend and Phil Campbell feature on this collection and on past releases, Mark E Smith and Shane Embury have both been involved. Can you tell us some more about how these collaborations come together? I’m interested to know if you have a wish list that you reach out to or whether people approach you, asking to be involved. Is there anyone you would have liked to collaborate with who declined or wasn’t available?
It goes like this. We finish a song, have think who’d be a great guest for this particular song, then we ask them, and they usually say yes! Not sure why, but we’ve had very few people turn down the offer to appear on a Mutation album. There have been a few, but we won’t even mention them.
You’ve put out a video for the track, Hate. (see it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LvySwEwbXU) Is there anything specific about that song that inspired you to single it out and put a video to it?
We decided to make a live-in-the-rehearsal-room video for Hate, because we had no idea if we were any good as a live band, we’ve never played a gig yet. It made sense to double check before booking shows. It turns out we sound great, but we had to be 100% sure, y’know?
Can we talk about one of your other projects for a moment? Your current solo album, Ghost in the Tanglewood is available as a download at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/ghost-in-the-tanglewood. Written in a country style, it represents a very different aspect of your song writing when compared to Dark Black. How would you persuade someone who came to your work via Mutation or maybe the fizzier, punk influenced Hey! Hello! to check out the songs on Ghost in the Tanglewood?
The writing on Ghost In The Tanglewood is very honest, as with Mutation. Obviously it’s a lot more melodic and melancholy, but it still lives in a pathologically honest world of open confession and revelation.
Is there anything else you would like to say about it?
I’m very proud of Ghost In The Tanglewood. It represents something I’ve wanted to do for decades, make a country/folk album that touches on the styles that appealed to me as a little kid.
I’m currently in the studio recording the follow up. I love writing in this style. I’d be happy doing nothing but the country/folk stuff and Mutation, to be honest. Just get all the shit out of my system with two very different projects. Sounds like bliss.
Finally, in addition to writing you own music you are obviously a fan too. What three albums would you recommend our readers go out and buy RIGHT NOW?!
- Cardiacs – On Land And In The Sea
- Strapping Young Lad – City
- Discharge – Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing