This year was the year for Code Orange. Formerly an aggro hardcore band on the fringes, their third album Forever sent the Pittsburgh bruisers stratospheric in the sphere of heavy music. The mix of brutal hardcore and experiments with abrasive industrial noise set them apart from the pack and solidified the four-piece as one of the best young bands on the planet right now – it’s no wonder Forever made it to number three in Metal Hammer’s Albums Of 2017 list.
We caught up with drummer Jami Morgan to talk about the journey Code Orange have been on over the past 12 months – from Download festival to NXT and beyond.
Did you realise how much your third album, Forever, would blow up?
“Well, I was definitely super confident in the material. It’s still very difficult to predict how people will react to shit, but I don’t really care as long as I put it on the headphones and it’s what I want it to be. So far, so good.”
Other bands have praised it. Employed To Serve even said you guys were the next Slipknot. How do you feel about that?
“That’s a really cool compliment and I feel like we just want to be – and it could be really corny to say – but we just want to be the first us. So, I don’t know how far that goes, or how that works, but I definitely know that we can do all that. We have the ability to kill shit like that and take it to that level, but is that going to happen? I don’t know if we’re in a climate where that can happen. Who fuckin’ knows? I don’t really give a shit. But if things come along, we’ll fucking do them, of course. We absolutely want to take it as far as possible, while still having complete control over what we put out there and make sure that it’s quality – it has to come hand in hand, you know what I mean? You never know.”
What was it like supporting Gojira and playing those bigger venues?
“The UK tour was amazing – that’s really helped us start cracking the UK and cracking Europe. Then we came back and did all those festivals – that really shot it through. Those were the best ones out of all the tours we’ve done with them. They’ve got great fans, and that’s the number one reason I like touring with them, and their fans understand where we’re coming from I think. Their fans are cultural and they’re in it for the long term – those are the kind of fans we want to be playing in front of, man.”
Has it opened you up to new audiences?
“That’s been in my fucking game plan since the get-go. We want to crack all kinds of doors open, and when we did our headline tour over here, we brought in an industrial act, we brought in this almost neo-folk act, and then we’re hitting the metal stuff, we’re hitting the hardcore shit, we’ll even hit up the rap shit; we’ll hit up all of it. That’s part of the game plan, but the metal and the heavy music world is definitely our baseline world, and it’s those people who we mostly need to get out to. You can read all the shit you want on the internet, and you can think, ‘Oh my band’s killing it’, but you get there and you see that most of these people don’t know who you are, so you have to go get in front of them – there’s no [amount of] internet that can do that. When you’re a band like us, there’s no short cut, you just got to go get in front of them, you got to get in front of every single one.”
What was the thinking behind integrating so many styles of music on Forever?
“The way that this went down was it was a conscious decision to rebuild that house and restructure, so that we can really start rebuilding the artistic output we want to make. So, when we made the record I Am King [in 2014], it was like, ‘Ok, we’re going to strip it down a little bit, but it’s going to be more concise and we’re going to set the stage for what we can do going forward with some songs that we really love. So, we did that, and this was when we kind of started laying it on thicker and peeling back the layers, peeling the skin back a little bit and adding more of the soul of what we can do here. I still think we even held back a little bit; there’s still a lot more room to go. Sometimes you got to hold back a little bit with whatever you want to do to have some room later. We got a lot of room to build on that, but I feel thus far with the record it captures everything I want to capture best, and what we want to put out there. Going forward we have a lot of room to build off that and just build and build on that record.”
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What’s been the highest point of 2017 for you so far and what aspirations do you have for 2018?
“It’s hard to pick one high point. Obviously, having the record come out was huge and theSystem Of A Down run was huge, the Gojira run was huge, some of that UK festival stuff was awesome, the WWE thing was huge. We just did a video on Cartoon Network on Adult Swim that was huge [The Mud]. Yeah, just being able to grow and being able to make a plan and watch it happen. I’ve always felt in my heart that when I used to watch wrestling as a kid, I knew that we would get on there. When I watched all that shit, I knew we would get on there one way or the other, and I’m glad that we were able to do it the way we wanted it to do without even a lick from anyone.”
Do you think NXT is a good platform for getting a wider audience into alternative underground bands?
“Yeah, I think it definitely can be, and I mean, there’s a lot of things that it’s taking chances on, which gets a lot of respect from me. I hope we get to work with them again in the future. Dude, you’d be so shocked about how much they told us to just do our thing! There were some time constraints, but other than that, they just let us do our shit. Originally, I think they wanted us to play to a click track because that’s what everybody does, and I was like, ‘Nah, just let us free wing it’, and they were like, ‘Alright!’ and we fucking nailed it – we nailed that shit, so that was cool.”
What have you learnt most about yourself in 2017?
“I’ve learned so much this year, and the thing that I’ve probably learnt the most is stay focussed, stay in that tunnel vision, because all you want to do is be fucking working. It’s hard, we’re still struggling all the fucking time and we haven’t really made it in any sense of the word other than we’re getting recognition. We still have to struggle, we still have to ride in the van, we still put in the miles every single day. We don’t have the nice bus, or the nice hotels – none of that. We’re working our ass off. We need to stay focussed and make sure people get the fucking message about what we’re trying to do. I just learnt to trust my gut, keep going on the path, keep working hard, don’t take a second to even breathe, just keep fucking going. It’s just like any other thing, and people treat music like it’s different, but it’s not. You have to be working every day or something else comes along or you just get complacent. We’ve won the battle, but we ain’t close to winning the war. We got a lot of shit to do.”
You can read exclusive interviews with all the bands that made 2017 – from Myrkur to Satyricon to While She Sleeps – in the latest issue of Metal Hammer. Buy it directly here or become a TeamRock+ member to read it right now.