Metalmance witnessed MUTATION’s chaos recently at Damnation festival in Leeds, and it’s fair to say the band’s sound is not for the faint hearted! Featuring Ginger and Denzel (THE WILDHEARTS and many other projects), and Scott Lee Andrews (EXIT_INTERNATIONAL, JAWS OF DEAF), their third album Dark Black is a noisy affair and Scott kindly let Metalmance pick his brain about the album and the band’s direction.
Q. Hi Scott, great set at Damnation! I must admit, I hadn’t checked out MUTATION before the festival as I was keeping the sound a surprise, I heard it was unlike anything Ginger had done before and chaotic! And I was glad to find it was all true! How would you describe MUTATION’s style? Or is it more a spectrum of styles?
Scott: For sure – it’s an exploration of Ginger’s more extreme tastes, and that also shows in the personnel brought to the table to make this record. From Shane Embury to Merzbow to Devin Townsend, all sit in distinct pockets of the heavy/extreme music world, and guys who are visionaries with it. MUTATION’s use of an ensemble cast during the first two records allowed a wide coverage of these genres to be touched upon. Someone recently described our live show as ‘Chaos-punk’ which I thought was fucking great.
Q. Since Damnation, we’ve had Mutation III: Dark Black on heavy rotation! I feel like the whole album has a nostalgic feel, it reminds me of all sorts; a bit of MARTINI HENRY RIFLES here, a bit of 90s there, did you have a production style in mind while recording?
Scott: Your MARTINI HENRY RIFLES reference – I’ve been in a band with Fudge (bassist – MARTINI HENRY RIFLES) since 2009! That might be a bit of him rubbing off on my influence that has shown up there. I’m more into ‘alternative’ noise – SONIC YOUTH, NIRVANA, PART CHIMP, ATARI TEENAGE RIOT for example, this was the vibe I wanted to bring to the table, to allow Dark Black to stand out as a fresh record. When Ginger and I were passing song ideas and riffs back and forth via email, we were listening to THE BODY as a main reference point. The intention was to make a thoroughly disgusting album.
Q. With bands choosing to have a more polished production these days it’s refreshing to hear more of a raw and chaotically rich sound with MUTATION. Was this something you were aiming for?
Scott: Absolutely, mainly due to the fact the sonics used in heavy music seem to adhere to a quite narrow set of guidelines. As neither of us have day jobs in that realm, it was obvious that to be taken seriously, we had to push everything into the red. Both of us wanted to one-up each other in terms of how far/fucked up to go, and neither of us said ‘That’s too far’.
Q. A standout track for me (I’m sure also for many others too) is Irritant. I think everyone would find this song highly relatable and honest! But I find this with Ginger’s/your lyrics in general for MUTATION. What do you draw from to produce such brutally honest and unforgiving lyrics?
Scott: Ginger titled each song from a list he had prepared prior to the writing sessions. The one-word, succinct nature of them tell you off the bat this record was going to be very direct, certainly from his lyrics. It’s not as wordy or poetic as his other output, probably to ensure maximum effect. We both wanted to make a warts n’ all record in all aspects. I cannot comment on specific examples that birthed a chorus as vitriolic as Irritant, but as you picked up on, people have found the record dropping at such a low point economically, politically and even personally in many of our lives this record speaks for its time.
Q. You’ve just completed a tour in Japan. You’ve said before how much you like the country and playing there, what makes you go back time and time again?
Scott: That was my second time to Japan on tour, I think Denzel has been there around 7 times with Ginger and fuck knows how many times he has been over the last 20 or so years. But from my experience it is like being on another planet. Every single waking second is filled with awe. It’s very hard to vocalise. The people of Japan, from demeanour to our label’s organisation leaves you in a dream state. Such an incredible experience.
Q. It’s always fun to see who you collaborate with, and seeing Devin Townsend credited may come as a surprise to some people if they don’t know about his WILDHEARTS days. How involved was he in the writing of the album?
Scott: We wrote and demoed the album in 5 days in North Wales in the summer of 2015. The last time Devin worked with Ginger I believe was on a b-side called Kill Me To Death, during THE WILDHEARTS’ Endless Nameless campaign. Devolution was the final track we wrote for Dark Black. We knew someone like Devin could just take our version and stamp his style all over it. There was no direction given, and [he] let us have it. The stems/tracks he sent over broke my computer when I tried to load the session up. Many people believe Devin had a hand in the album, as comparisons to STRAPPING YOUNG LAD kept cropping up, but it was just that track. Devin was a pleasure to work with, and will also feature in the forthcoming video for the track.
Q. I saw PRIMITIVE WEAPONS live back in January and their brand of noisy post-hardcore isn’t too dissimilar to MUTATION, although I was still surprised to see Arthur Shepherd from PW also contributed vocals to Mutation III: Dark Black. How did that collaboration come about?
Scott: Arthur has been a friend of mine for a few years – he is a fantastic human. I am a massive fan of many of one of his previous projects by mostly GAY FOR JOHNNY DEPP – my band EXIT_INTERNATIONAL played with them a few times. When we had finished the tracking of the album (Ginger and I both tracked our own verses/lyrics without hearing each other’s input) we found the gaps for some guests. I reached out to a wishlist of friends who I thought could push it further and Arthur stepped up. He tracked his vocals in NY with Travis Bacon of BLACK ANVIL/HOGWASCHE.
Q. Scott, thank you for your time! Lastly, Metalmance aims to cover new and underground bands, are there any groups or artists on your radar you think the metal community should know about?
Scott: BARRABUS for a start – featuring the mighty Paul Catten. Fucking great band and honoured to have them perform with us at our London show. MADE OF TEETH who have an ex-TAINT member in the ranks were awesome too. We also played with an insane band called DISGUNDER at one of our Tokyo shows – well worth checking out. I look to Belgium for most of my heavy/noisy fixes these days. Bands like RAKETKANON, DRUMS ARE FOR PARADES, STEAK NUMBER EIGHT, THE ROTT CHILDS, KABUL GOLF CLUB…all making very non-traditional heavy music.