Crowhurst: The TovH Interview + An Exclusive Mixtape
Crowhurst is the prolific noise/black metal/whatever recording project of Jay Gambit. His new album, II, has already made waves all over the place, including on this very blog. Stream it below while you read an interview with the man himself, then check out a playlist of his recent inspirational jamz.
First off: Tell me everything you can about the movie Old Dogs.
Well, Old Dogs is a cinematic masterpiece. It’s got everything you could possibly desire in film – Williams has shown his acting chops in films like One Hour Photo and Insomnia so it’s no surprise he’d deliver such a gripping performance showing the limitations and joys of fatherhood with his performance as Dan Rayburn. Not since Moment To Moment have I been so engulfed in a character Travolta has played.
We were going to do an homage to the film on the CD version of II‘s label but unfortunately the plant wouldn’t move forward with pressing until we changed it. I guess they weren’t Seth Green fans or something.
Not Seth Green fans? Absurd. On that note, though, Crowhurst has always had a unique visual aesthetic among other noise and metal acts, as evidenced by the covers to albums like Death Van, In The Speedboat Under the Sea and even last year’s self-titled record. What draws you to these kinds of images?
I’m a visual artist and a lot of my stuff is inspired by cinema and the art itself. A lot of times I’ll work around the images themselves like Speedboat to set the tone – or with Death Van where the art came after the record, I knew whose art would make sense. It’s the Justin Pearson philosophy that a record is a total package.
To me, II feels much angrier in tone than the more melancholy I. Can we expect III to be the trilogy’s happy ending?
I can’t give you any sort of definitive answer besides the fact that I’m not good at writing “happy” music. Another thing I’m going for is to make the record sound like a conclusion. If anything, the goal is to write something very cold, almost mournful at times. Matt Elliott’s The Mess We Made is a great example of what I mean.
Each of the albums in the trilogy has been (or will be) recorded by a completely different lineup save for yourself. What themes (if any) connect the three, either lyrically or musically?
Well, Andy [Curtis-Brignell, Caïna] is on the third so it’s not like every lineup is insanely different. It’s just a matter of working with musicians that are appropriate for what needs to be played. The idea that somehow this has a ton of bearing on thematic consistency seems to be a concept I keep running into – but isn’t it much more common that a band writes the same goddamn record over and over again?
I find it much more interesting to work forward with a look back. By the time I was done, I knew what to do with II – but when we were making it we made considerable effort to make the record feel like the sequel. Everyone involved with it knew what the first record sounded like, so while the personnel was different – it wasn’t like they were completely divorced from the other material just like III will undoubtedly informed by the first two.
It sounds like that ties back to what you said about taking influence from film. Are there any directors or movies you look to for inspiration in particular? Obviously “Luna Falsata” from I was inspired by Werner Herzog…
Some films I always come back to for inspiration are Man Bites Dog, Strotzek, Titicut Follies and Dear Zachary.
Is the inspiration you take from those thematic or less literal? Man Bites Dog is obviously pretty brutal but I feel in general your music is less fixated on violence than projects like Whitehouse or Deathpile.
Much more thematic. I think of MBD as much more of a film about Remy and his motivations than his actions. At first you feel a kind of contempt for him – he’s a murderer, a narcissist – but as you go on you begin to realize that he’s just like everyone else. He’s doing his job, for better or worse.
As you begin to get to know him, see his interactions with the crew and his family, you realize he’s a lonely man who’s doing his best. You begin to feel bad for him, and by the end of this film you’re feeling a deep sympathy and humanity for a character who’s admitted to infanticide and raped a pregnant woman.
I could focus on that “brutal” shit, but isn’t the psychological makeup of someone like that and the arc that warps the audience in their favor just as brutal?
It’s not because Remy is a good person, it’s because he’s so terrible that makes him such an interesting thematic basis for a record. Not all of us are rapist and child killers, but when it’s presented in the way that the film does – it makes brings characters like Remy down to our level and makes us look them in the eye until we see bits of ourselves. That ugliness and it’s evolution are what I hope to achieve with the trilogy.
It’s funny you mention that. There are obviously tons of acts within metal and noise (especially death metal and power electronics) who focus exclusively on lyrical depravity, often including graphic depictions of gore or extreme personal violence. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power fantasies of those themes. In other words, the nameless victims in so many metal songs are directly representative of real-world factors in the writers’ lives, though I doubt many realize it. I see this as more less the basest level of catharsis, one for which plenty of artists explicitly strive. In dissecting the subject of a movie like Man Bites Dog, are you looking to make a broader psychological observation or a more personal statement?
I’m not really qualified to speak on those levels of “extreme” subject matter. The only time I’ve ever given in to those tropes was SNUFF – and the intention was specifically to play to those stereotypes. Other people do it much better than I do, and they would be better to speak on the various power dynamics that come with those types of recordings and acts.
Personally, I feel like my approach is in line with the consistent themes of mental illness, addiction and struggles with the internal and external world that I’ve been dealing with for the history of the project.
So what’s the impetus behind writing such intensely personal music? Is there any message you hope the listener takes away?
At its core, I do this because it’s therapeutic and it’s what I love to do. I have no message, really.
Let’s change gears a little: do you have any dream projects you’d like to do? Musicians you want to work with, movies you want to score…
There are tons of dream artists I would love to work with. Genesis P Orrige, Skinny Puppy, Mark Kozelek, Gridlink, Youth Code, Michael Gira, Gatecreeper, Marshstepper, Tollund Men, Venetian Snares, Soft Kill and I would love to do the score to pretty much any documentary or horror film.
Your music video for “The End” is largely based on footage of hunting and car chases. What kind of imagery would the other songs on the album soundtrack?
I would say that visually I would place this record would probably feel more like a Kern film… this interview will have more references than an episode of The Dennis Miller Show during Zippergate. [Editor’s Note: Hey-o!]
I… have no idea what that means. So you win! Can you tell us about the mix you put together? What about these songs inspires you?
I put these together because this is the type of music that has been really inspiring me recently. Super relaxing, super evocative, interesting arrangements and can be both musical and ambient.
I think that about wraps things up – any final words to the readers?
Pick up the record at your local Sam Goody or Peaches on August 30th. Or you know, wherever you buy records.