Code Orange

12 January 2017 | 12:51 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

"We weren't necessarily trying to do anything differently, we were just trying to improve everything."

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As one of the flag bearers of the American hardcore underground, Pittsburgh bruisers Code Orange have followed in the footsteps of renowned acts like Black Flag, Converge and Integrity, by making vicious and unrelenting metallic hardcore with zero comprises. Armed with a brand new album and record label, Code Orange are now poised to step out of the shadows of their former selves and make one hell of a ruckus. Back in late December, spoke to the band's drummer, co-vocalist and all-round nice guy Jami Morgan leading up to the release of the band's third album 'Forever', to discuss Aussie crowds, Roadrunner Records, feeling the vibe and curating artistic expression.

Good morning Jami!

What's up? How's it going?

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Good, man. How are you doing?

I'm doing great. It's night time here, but it feels good. 6:00 p.m.

It's, uh, 9:00 am in the morning for me, and also in the future for you.

Dang, that's crazy [laughs]. We’ve been over there once, and the time difference was messing with my head, but it was awesome.

Yeah, I caught Code Orange when you were over here in 2015, and it was insane,  dude. So, so good!

That's awesome. I haven't talked to anybody yet who's actually seen us, so I appreciate that a lot.

It was a great show; heaps of energy and just absolute chaos.

Yeah dude, the crowds over there were really good, man. It was very, very fun. They got a good scene down there. Which show did you go to? What city?

I'm from Brisbane, and I went to the Crowbar show.

Oh, that was one of the good ones. That was cool. Dude, the whole tour was actually awesome. There were a couple of shows that were kind of weird but the kids were awesome, man. It's crazy to be from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and go over there, and have just anybody know who you are. So, it was awesome.

That's very cool. Now, let’s talk about the new record ‘Forever’ coming out next year. I recently heard the new track ‘Kill the Creator’ and watched the video this morning, and I have to say, it's really fucking heavy.

Thank you, man. I'm glad. I think it's a nice taste of the album. It's heavy, but there's a lot of dynamics there, you know? There's a lot of different stuff going on, and that song was kind of like a real chaotic blast of all of that.

Absolutely. In terms of the writing process, what were you guys looking to get from ‘Forever’, coming out of the success of ‘I Am King’? Were you doing anything differently?

We weren't necessarily trying to do anything differently, we were just trying to improve everything. On ‘I Am King’, we have little nuggets of ‘sound-escape’ that kind of made the record a little different, in my opinion – and not everyone agrees – to our other records. It kind of set it apart, and with this one we wanted to make that gap even bigger in a lot of ways. So, we wanted to have a lot of different elements and really put our own twist on every song. There are just layers of sound but it's all in there, you know? I think with a lot of, like, ‘post-hardcore’ music, it kind of dirges on and on in my opinion. But we ain't ‘post-hardcore’; we are very now, so I feel very happy about it. I think we worked extremely hard on it. I think ‘I Am King’ was the foundation, and this kind of takes things that we used to do in a lot of ways, but also things we've learned and it makes it a lot more creative, I think it's more artistic in a lot of ways and it's a lot darker.

Reading the press material from the label, I saw that you guys worked with Kurt Ballou again at God City Studio, but you also hooked up with Will Yip as well, to work on the album. I found that a little bit strange, as I'm familiar with Will's previous production work, and I'd say that traditionally he doesn't seem to work with super heavy, chaotic bands like Code Orange. So where did that connection with Will come from?

The thing is, if you know him, it's not really strange at all. It's kind of something we've always planned on doing, but I can definitely see that from an outside perspective. He’s just a very creative guy, and he's worked on everything from rock and that Run for Cover Records kind of stuff, to hip hop stuff to everything, you know? And that's what we needed. We needed someone to help assist us. What we did with him was the vocals, and a lot of the electronics, the sound scaping and all that stuff.

So, that's stuff that he knows very well and he knows how to touch those different levels of the ear that you can't get by just banging on guitars and pounding the bass. That was one of the ideas I was fascinated with when attempting the idea of the record: what if we can make a hardcore/metal record, that hurts the way hardcore and metal do when they're great, but it touches on the different dynamics that other kinds of a music can touch on? And Will was the guy to help us do that. Kurt was the guy to help us make our stuff sound as good as it can possibly sound, and he's unbelievable as well. So, I’m very happy with them; they're two of the best in the game, and we got to have them both.

That's awesome. After doing two albums with Deathwish Inc., you guys decided to make the move over to Roadrunner Records. Which is a big label, with a huge, impressive roster and a lot of different acts on it. What motivated the decision within the band to make that move, and how is Roadrunner the right label for Code Orange?

Well, you know, the decision was made simply because they were a partner that was willing to come to the table, and do what we wanted to do creatively, visually, and musically. We were fully able to do what we wanted to do, you know? But we weren't just some kind of parlour project either. They're gonna put their full into it like they do with a lot of these other bands. And that's what we needed; we needed the balance of those two things.

We needed a push, and we needed to be able to continue to execute our vision the way we wanted to. And that's what I hear we have. So, so far it's been great, and we’ll wait and see how it goes. It's been so good for us so far, and they've done a lot of bands in the past that we really, really admire. Especially in, you know, the late 80’s, the 90’s and a little bit in the 2000’s. So, in a lot of ways, we want to be part of reinstating the cultural aspect of their legacy, you know? And they want that too, so we’re very glad to be a part of that.

Definitely. I feel like Code Orange has always been very much in touch with the artistic side of the band, kind of creating the ‘whole package’ with strong visuals, the crazy live show, and obviously, the music itself has always been your own element.

Thank you.

You're welcome! With the video for ‘Forever’, and the title track of the new record, there’s some really powerful and arresting imagery there that really seems to match the intensity of the band's music. But I also noticed a call back to both ‘I Am King’ and its own title track video. Is there any kind of thematic, ‘grand’ narrative that the band is working with, in terms of your music, videos, lyrics and the overall aesthetic of the band?

It is 100% very calculated. It's cold and calculated, every step of the way. What we do with every record, I feel, is we get better at realising that. When we made our first records, we were 15, 16, 17, 18 years old, you know?

Wow, that’s very young.

I started writing this record when I was 21, almost 22, and now I'm 23, so you know things change in that time. The last record we really firmly established aesthetically what we wanted to put forward and what we were into, and that's very important for me and not a lot of bands focus on that. There were a lot of bands on Roadrunner in the past who focused on that, and it's something that I really love a lot with music. When you look at some of the biggest artists in the world, when you look at hip-hop stuff or anything, it's all very aesthetic based. But what we're doing is a very real aesthetic, it's what we like, you know?

We're just trying to get better at it all, every time, and it is all connected. There are a lot of narratives and lyrical things that continue on, and that's to be seen on the record, and you can kind of already see that on some of what we released. But ‘I Am King’ in a way, is a big part of the reason why we changed our name. It's not because we don't like the stuff that we did previously; I really do like that stuff. It was definitely a little bit different but I really do like it in a lot of ways, especially for how young we were. No one's turned their back on that. We just came across a different vibe that we wanted to push forward, you know, and it was a vibe that was more in touch with what we were feeling then, and it's still what we're in touch with feeling now. When we improve ourselves, we improve our songs, we improve our lives and we are passionate every single day; every fucking day, you know? We improve our visuals, we improve our videos, and no one can say we don't, you know? So that’s all that I want out of us, is to just improve on ourselves and create our own legacy in that way.

Absolutely dude, and I think that definitely comes through in Code Orange’s music. In terms of growth, you talked about being younger when the band was releasing your first material. and you're obviously getting older as time keeps rolling on…

We're still young, though. Don't forget that. Very young.

[Laughs.] Of course, but now when you're 23, what things are you drawing from creatively, as far as influences go Jami? What feeds that level of intensity in Code Orange? Is it film, or art, or maybe even politics?

It's all of the above! I mean in, in a lot of ways, I become very fully fixated on one set of things, and you can see that when you go look at all of our t-shirts, or you look at anything. We're very set on this vibe that we’ve created, with different people in the band, like our guitar player Eric. Eric's the same, he's been a big part of that and the things he likes, we incorporate into it all as well, you know? I'll just see things that are completely different mediums and I'll be like, ‘We have a take on that.’ That’s how all art is kind of created, but I think we're just getting more comfortable with what our take on that is, and how you have to tweak that every record and even during the record cycle. And that keeps it interesting for us and it keeps it interesting for the kids, you know?

We're not ever just gonna put out a record that's the same shit. We're never gonna do it; it's never gonna happen. We're always gonna do, and I said it before and people sometimes take it the wrong way or whatever but I don't really care, but we're gonna do what we want to do, and it's not some bone-headed, idiot, arrogant thing. It's the way we're inspired and what we're inspired by, as we go on we incorporate it into what we're creating, you know, and sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s much more obvious ways. It creates growth that's gradual, but also very sharp. So, when the new record comes out, people will see that ‘Oh it's so different. There's a lot of different things.’ And they can see where it comes from, though, but at the same time, it smacks them in the face. It's all about finding that balance.

But Eric, our guitar player, is very influenced by film, and there's a lot of that in the record and semantically those things influence us as well. There are certain bands that we really look up to, you know? I don't like to hear them all that way, but we're influenced by Hatebreed, we're influenced by Nine Inch Nails, but we're also influenced by Converge, you know? We're influenced by all sorts of things and it's kind of like boiling it down into what we are. It's not about aping it or ripping it off, it's about letting it go through and influence you, go through the machine and become part of what we are. That’s the same with all great art and that's what we're trying to make.

Absolutely, I totally get that dude. It's finding a synthesis of all those things, and then whittling it down to the very essence and core of what the band is.

It is, for sure. And at the end of the day, when I walk around I'm influenced by Code Orange and my friends and what we're doing and that's what matters to me at the end. And that’s what I want it to be: I want us to create Code Orange's sound, and I want people to be influenced by that sound. That's my goal. Too often there are too many other bands that are trying to be other people. We're just trying to be us. And hopefully, other people can be influenced by that down the road.

That's great! Jami, I just wanted to say thank you for taking time out with me today and I wish you all the best with the new record!

Thank you so much for actually listening and, you know, caring and actually knowing us as a band. And I do really appreciate all the questions, thank you very, very much man.

No worries at all dude. I'll catch you next time you're all down here.

See you soon brother!

'Forever' is available from January 13th through Roadrunner Records. You can read our review of the new record here