It’s time to forget everything you thought you knew about Crowhurst. After four years and enough solo noise and experimental electronic releases to last a lifetime, mastermind Jay Gambit’s taking things in a new direction. With a full quintet in tow, the project’s main focus has shifted to experimental black metal—and an incredibly heavy and bleak blend in particular, even by the genre’s already lofty standards on that front.
Ahead of the band’s first foray into their new sound—a self-titled album due for release next month—we talked to Gambit about the band’s new sonic ambitions and his plans to continue noise recordings now that Crowhurst’s gone metal. Here’s what he had to say:
Crowhurst started off as a solo experimental electronic project of yours. In all, I counted 66 different offerings on your Bandcamp page—full-lengths, live albums, splits, EPs, you name it. When did all this begin, and how were/are you so prolific? What the hell’s your secret?!
I started making noise in around 2011, mainly due to a frustration with my inability to create things I wanted within the confines of a monogamous band.
As for the prolific nature, it’s weird—they just kind of built up. There are too many people to work with, too many opportunities that I would feel complacent and lazy if I didn’t go ahead and make records. I also have some nasty health shit that put me in a position where I had an ample amount of time to record and experiment.
Black metal, despite being pretty obstinate and set in its ways for so many years, has seen a whole lot of boundary pushing and experimentation in recent years. Did that play a role in your change in direction to metal—and specifically to this type of metal?
I honestly feel like the genre shift has a lot to do with the current lineup and the type of music I listen to. Crowhurst was always odd man out in the noise scene, probably because my heart lies heavy in the direction of shit like John Zorn and Michael Gira despite loving Incapacatents and Consumer Electronics and stuff like that.
We all had different kinds of influences though, Eric [Soth, drums] plays jazz and Spencer [Wessels, bass] listens to a lot of Rudimentary Peni and started off playing stand-up bass. Johann [Curie, guitar] is a black metal wizard who loves bands like Dispirit and Agalloch, and Brian [Reis, guitar] loves Neurosis and is one of the most intelligent people I’ve met. That all kind of blends into how the sound developed.
How did the rest of the band come to join the fold? Were they into experimental stuff at all? What was the recruitment process like?
Brian has been jamming with us the longest. Eric came into the fold soon after our original drummer and organist left. Johann and I linked up when we did a show with Wreck and Reference and have been jamming ever since, and he brought Spencer into the fold.
The early shows together were all jams based around noise I was making and after last year’s SXSW we decided to get serious and make a record with songs as a band as opposed to just always jamming out cool stuff.
Since so much of Crowhurst’s past output was collaborative in nature, I’m curious—are you all considering the new, metal-focused lineup your primary foci at this point? Or is it still collaborative—are you going to keep working on other projects after this?
Well, I have Girl 27 which is the continuation of the noise output of Crowhurst, except it’s all solo. No collaborations, at least not in the same sense. Crowhurst is more about concept and Girl 27 is more about tone.
Crowhurst kind of requires more focus as its a band, and that means there’s a ton of factors at play that you don’t need to deal with when you’re working solo.
I’m always open for anything though. I’m working with Orbweaver in the studio soon and touring with Caïna in September and there’s going to be collaborations there – but it’s not like Crowhurst was where we’d have a small town’s worth of artists making one record.
Moving on to the album, when I listen to it, I’m hearing elements of drone, black metal, post-metal, doom, etc. To my ears, it sound like, at different times, you take influence from everyone from Swans to Tom G. Warrior and the later Celtic Frost and Triptykon stuff. Who would you say were your biggest influences on the metal side? D’you prefer to be classified under a particular camp, or are you open to different interpretations?
Our influences were all over the place. In the studio there were specific names thrown out for certain parts or sounds, but overall I can’t think of a certain specific band we wanted to sound like.
As for classification—hell, we barely know where to classify ourselves half the time. As cliche as it is, we kind of just let everyone else classify it and focus on making stuff.
Walk me through the creative process for the album. How long were you guys working on this thing, from conception to rehearsing, recording, etc.?
We started in April. Songs like “Judgement” and “It Is The Mercy” were written around jams we’d done and songs like “Black Oceans” were intensely labored over in practice sessions. “Luna [Falsata]” was all improvised, one take from everyone—including Eugene [Robinson, guest vocalist].
I noticed that the production was handled by Jack Shirley, who’s well-known for making these massive, immersive albums for a little band called Deafheaven that the kids at home may have heard of. How did you come to work with Jack, and what kinds of things did you learn from him in the studio? Anything that might also be applicable to your electronic work?
I could type 10 pages on what I learned from Jack and it wouldn’t cover half the ground he touched upon. There’s a reason he’s got a reputation for being phenomenally talented and incredibly kind and nice.
The final track, “Luna Falsata,” seems like the biggest highlight, not just for its nod back to your past sonic experimentation, but also for a guest spot from, as you mentioned, Eugene Robinson of Oxbow. How’d that collaboration come about?
I’m an Oxbow fan, as well as a Eugene fan. I sent him an email and he said yes. I’m still in shock and the record has long since been recorded.
The song’s lyrics are in fact a monologue from Werner Herzog’s “Burden of Dreams”—a documentary about the making of his movie Fitzcarraldo. It’s a quote about how being in the jungle is being in a place of obscenity and misery, created out of anger. It seems like a terrific parallel for your sound—and I mean that in the nicest possible way! Was that the intention?
Definitely. Eugene didn’t know what we had planned for him, mostly because I had no set plan—I rarely do. We used to open our sets with that monologue and since we’re all big fans of Herzog, it made the most sense.
Changing gears just a bit, I have to ask you about the album artwork. When I hear this thing, it seems like the kind of thing that should only conjure up shades of black and grey. It’s very morose. And yet the cover, by Johnny Ryan and Nicole Boitos, feels strangely vibrant—great use of color even in a somewhat gruesome image. What was their concept behind that? Does the piece have a name?
Johnny did the back and Nicole did the front. Nicole did all the cool woodblock prints for Swans as well as the Body Lovers stuff. Johnny does Prison Pit and is one of my favorite artists ever. I don’t remember if I gave Nicole any suggestions, as I try not to inject more influence than I have to on an artist that I admire and trust. Johnny’s concept was halfway between Begotten and the Criterion cover of Salò and he nailed it.
Winding down here, I know in the last couple of months—in the run up to the album’s release—you’ve done shows with everyone from Botanist to Maledict to our local boys in Mutilation Rites. Any further plans for after the album’s release? Any other live dates in store?
Oh yeah. April 10 is the release show, then we’re winding down and writing something new. I’ll be touring solo over the summer, then Crowhurst will tour as a full band. But right now we’re more focused on making a new record.
And finally, so I was looking through your Bandcamp page and noticed you had a series of albums telling certain artists “Fuck You.” We’ve got “Fuck You Morrissey,” “Fuck You Bono,” and “Fuck You Beatles.” So I have to ask: are there any more “Fuck You” albums in store, and if so, who’d be your ideal target for the next one?
Dave Grohl has been at the top of the list for a while. The original concept was that Morrissey would one day find the record and I’d piss him off. A few months ago I got an angry letter and the record was booted from Spotify. I feel like Grohl would give me a “cool dad” laugh and buy me a beer if I made a record called “FUCK YOU GROHL.” I’m getting angry just typing that.
Many thanks to Jay for his time.