Interview: Crowhurst talks Noise, Heavy Metal, and Horror
Crowhurst is an ugly, many tentacled thing. Through an endless stream of splits, collaborations, EPs, and full-lengths, Jay Gambit has exhumed the darkest and most frightening sounds from his imagination and printed them to tape. Harsh noise and drones to soundscapes and honest-to-god heavy metal, Crowhurst has done it all. I sat down with Jay to get the skinny on his new collaboration with Gnaw Their Tongues, his upcoming conclusion to the extremely metal Crowhurst trilogy, and get some advice on navigating the perilous noise scene.
You just put out a collaboration with Gnaw Their Tongues. You’ve both established your own dense, and at times difficult, sound. How did this collaboration come about? Did you approach Maurice or did he come to you? And what did you hope to accomplish when working together?
Jay Gambit: I’ve been a huge fan of GTT for a long time, and I reached out to him around 2015-ish about doing something. He was kind enough to say yes. As far as the goals, there was one very clear one in mind for me – and that was to create kind of an auditory horror film. To me, Mories is the best at creating the most insane kind of traumatic noise. Truly nightmarish audio unlike anyone else, that goes beyond the general confines of the genres of noise or metal and goes into something else entirely.
You’re a connoisseur of spooky sounds and visuals. What horror film would best compliment this record?
What was your working process like? Did you meet up in a room and hash it out or did you send tracks back and forth a la The Postal Service?
Exactly like The Postal Service. 100%.
I noticed that certain corners of the blogosphere haven’t been too pleased with this record. How do you feel when you read a negative review? Is it demoralizing or energizing to see someone confused or dismayed by your work?
It really depends on what they’re saying. That specific review you were talking about, there was framing as to them basically placing themselves in a hellish condition, listening to a hellish record, a hellish amount of times. Someone who already isn’t a noise fan. Then they wrote a really fun read, one that pointed out certain divisive creative decisions like the claustrophobic as hell mix – and left it up to the comment section to discuss.
Not everyone is going to like everything I do, nor do I want them to. There are times that I make creative decisions that are intentionally challenging. I think there’s as much merit in a vicious .05/5 than a 3. Just look at Lester Bangs on Metal Machine Music.
That’s an interesting comparison. There are folks out there that point to Metal Machine Music as the first noise record. There are also folks that think Lou Reed was fucking around to get out of a record contract. What’s your take?
I think you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
We gotta talk about III. In 2015 you dropped Crowhurst, a record that is a real deal Holyfield metal album informed and twisted by your noise and industrial aesthetics. The next year you put out II, one of the wildest and best experimental metal records in years. Pretty soon you’re gonna close out the trilogy with III. I’m hearing murmurs about it and I’m stoked. I also heard you signed with Prophecy and racked up a hefty bill putting this together. Any veracity to those rumors?
When I spoke to Prophecy, they had mentioned interest in some of the more ambitious ideas I had for the record. Without getting myself into trouble I can put it like this – as the home of records like The Mantle and Souvenirs d’un autre monde. They have had a lot of success investing in ambitious attempts.
What I can say is that we didn’t dick around and spend a bunch of money on sportscars or whatever. No expenses were spared for the production though. This isn’t a noise record – it spans everything from full blown choirs over blast beats, post punk and shoegaze and straight up slowcore. Every tone is deliberate. We recorded parts of this record in Los Angeles, parts in Manchester UK and the rest in Salem at GodCity. There were a lot of moving parts, and that was expensive. Fortunately, Prophecy were really cool about it. I’m glad nobody came to break my legs after we turned the final product in to them.
It’s wild that records can still be made that way in this day and age! What did you get out your sessions from these different parts of the world?
The parts that we wrote in the UK were mostly me sitting with Andy us and getting very, very stoned. We’d watch music videos and I’d pitch various ideas for tracks and he’d work on programming them. Once that was done it was simply a matter of getting demo guitar and vocals down. The stuff that was done in LA was a fair amount of editing work. One of the tracks that Andy worked on was great, but needed to be slower and more dramatic – also more harsh and dense. All of those materials were what we brought to Kurt, and he kind of helped bring some of our less focused ideas to a more refined point.
I’m hearing there are big names attached. Who did you work with making this record? And how did they play their part?
So many incredible talents are on this record. The godfather of neofolk – Tony Wakeford (Sol Invictus, Crisis, Death In June) plays on one track. Sludge and doom pioneer Ethan McCarthy (Primitive Man, Vermin Womb) contributes noise to another. Coldwave innovator and Type O Negative collaborator Tara Vanflower (Lycia) lends her voice to one track and breakcore legend Lynn Standafer (End.User, Blood Of Heroes) lends his talents to the crushing conclusion.
I wrote the record with Andy Curtis-Brignell of Caïna, with contributions from Christian Molenaar and Brandon Elkins, and it was produced by Kurt Ballou of Converge. He’s done so many of my favorite records, so it was truly an honor to have him work on this. I don’t think anyone else could have made this as well as he did. Brad Boatright who has done work for everyone from Sleep, Poison Idea and Full of Hell to Yob and Integrity meticulously mastered this thing.
The art is all by Brandon Geurts and the first video is the directorial debut of Jane “Pain” Chardiet who did Pitchfork’s album cover of the year for Pharmakon’s ‘Beastial Burden’.
Any kind of crazy physical packages planned?
Some truly nutty ones. 45RPM 2LP with an etched D side and crazy expanded art in the gatefold. Don’t even get me started on the details for the trilogy reissue boxed set… seriously, I will get myself into trouble.
Many Toilet ov Hell readers aren’t super attuned to noise. As a form of expression it can seem impenetrable to outsiders. How would you recommend they find their way into it? Are there any landmark albums you’d recommend? And furthermore, how in the world did you find your way into noise?
I would say, just explore. That’s how I got into it – exploring outwards from the noisier records I knew I already liked. I run a YouTube channel called Full-Noise Albums and there are hundreds of tapes archived there. There are also some playlists of artists of note in the genre with very specific styles. I wrote an article for another site that’s a guide to noise that may be helpful.
What’s a major faux pas in noise that we might not be aware of?
If I show up to the VFW show wearing one of your longsleeves am I gonna get shunned like a poser?
If you don’t, we aren’t doing our jobs well enough.
What else should the Toilet ov Hell know before we let you go?
Someone really needs to put out some sort of Jamie Gillis boxed set on Blu-ray. If anything calls for a 4K restoration, it’s his filmography. If any TovH readers have a lead on how this can be done, let me know. Hey — worth a shot.