“Admiration is for poets and dairy cows…”. Thus spoke the eccentric character of Benjamin Horne in the much appraised series Twin Peaks back in the early nineties. I´ve got admiration for a british band named Code, and I speak from the centre of my mind in the present! True artists challenge themselves, shake things up and take zero notice of what others may think about their creations. These UK chameleons have shaped a bold statement with their new album “Mut”, a statement with substance and purposefulness shedding all prior Black Metal influences. Guitarist and main songwriter Aort was kind enough to make time for a skype session, which may have started with technical difficulties but ended in a pretty interesting conversation about the album´s writing approach, the confrontational nature of producing and releasing it and the unpretentious aura around a band, that in my opinion, might just have written the smartest progressive post rock album this year. Read on and I´m sure you´ll feel an urge to go check them out!
So yeah let´s get started with the new album. First off, I´d like to congratulate your on this release. You´ve done well in my opinion and it seems to have been well received.
Aort: Yeah, thanks a lot, I really appreciate that. It was always going to be a roll of the dice with this one, but I hope it comes across that we made this album from the heart, if people can latch onto that, it´s good of course. There´s been some people who didn´t like it, but then again, you can´t please everyone, not with a drastic change like this.
Yeah sure. Do you feel some weight has been lifted from your shoulders now seeing as it was a great departure from previous albums?
Aort: Well, I feel that we as band may have struggled a bit too much in the past in pleasing peoples expectations. With this new album, we just wrote it for ourselves, so it was more enjoyable in that sense.
Can you perhaps talk a bit about the whole writing process? How long did it take to create this album?
Aort: The writing process went down the same way it has always been done, which is basically me locking myself away and come up with music essentially. This time I wanted to try something completely different. I suppose the first aspect was changing the guitar sound I´ve been using for the past 13 years and how it made me write differently for this album. I´d send the first ideas and ask the rest of the guys if this would be something to pursue. The feedback I got was that the music I was writing was different but definitely worth exploring. So I carried on writing for about 4 months and from there it all kinda took its own form in arranging the whole picture, with our vocalist writing lyrics up until we went into the studio to record.
It general it went quicker this time, because we were all close by working on it, whereas in the past the music has been written fairly quickly, but because of various lineup changes and members living far away from each other, it´s taken longer time to plan a studio period.
I have to say that when I was listening to the album at first, I thought it was an extremely uncatchy.
Aort: Yeah that´s partially due to the reactive writing process for this album. I wasn´t analyzing stuff the way I´ve done it in the past, so it appears a bit disjointed sure but I kinda liked that, not having hooks all around, it makes it a bit too easy otherwise if you know what I mean.
Yet at the same time, the more I listened to it, the hooks started to appear by themselves strangely enough. I think it´s one of those album that´ll win more and more people over time. Do you tend to agree with that observation?
Aort: Yeah I think so. I think seeing as the music is deliberately obtuse, the vocals are where the hooks are, and maybe that´s were people will get some catchiness. I think it might take some listens to get on the wavelength of what we´re going for with this album.
Can you shed some light on the album´s concept and title perhaps? I mean, I´ve pondered over and over again on what “Mut” is hehe.
Aort: There´s definitely a concept. I´m speaking for the vocalist now, which can be dangerous sometimes, speaking about his lyrics and all. But yeah, I think the primary goal was to keep things as clear and as succinct as possible, which is why we have a lot of one word titles this time for example. The album title, I think the way we stumbled upon it, someone had gotten it from an ancient egypt word which means “to lose life”, and we saw that as a fitting transition, the end of a journey.
I´d never guess that but it´s interesting and fitting to say the least hehe. I´d like to move on to another subject, namely yourself. Have you always played in bands, how did you get into music in the first place?
Aort: I wasn´t always playing in bands. I got into the extreme metal stuff in around ´91-´92 and I started with the whole tape-trading thing and wrote for a couple of fanzines and connected to the whole musical area through that, writing to bands and all sort of things. I didn´t built up too much confidence to even entertain the idea of writing music. I guess around ´99 when recording equipment started to go into PC´s and everything became a bit more accessible and cheaper, there was a possibility to record on your own. So I spent a few years doing that, writing and recording on my own, until I met our original vocalist, whom I talked about recording something together, and that´s essentially where Code began, I think it was around 2001.
I guess you´ve partially answered my next question. How did Code come about?
Aort: I guess we´ve broken it down a bit yeah, but it was essentially myself and Kvohst who got together to do the band. We did the demo with another guy who I was working with before that. The idea with that demo was to see if we could get a record deal, and luckily one label did take a chance on it, and so we went on and got together a full lineup, wrote the first album, rehearsed it a few time before recording. Very humbled beginnings.
The band has always been affiliated with the Black Metal scene, at least from what I read. Do you think that would be most obviously genre to associate Code with?
Aort: I think in the past it was entirely justified really, because with the first album, we were basically trying to make the Black Metal album we wanted to hear essentially. We had an obsession with early 90´s Black Metal and we wanted to do our own take on it, it wasn´t going to be completely revisionary anyway, so I´ve no problem in calling that first album Black Metal, because musically it was although the lyrics were different. At the same time we´ve always expanded, especially with the last two records.
Going back to being a musician, I´ve noticed that the rest of the members are involved in several other projects, yourself playing in Indesinence, another band that I quite like.
Aort: Yeah, speaking for myself, I´ve been in a few bands, Indesinence being one of them, we actually just finished recording a new album, really pleased with how that one turned out. Yeah and the other guys in the band are all involved with other things as well. I guess that keeps things fresh in a way because everyone brings their own set of experiences into the band with all the different backgrounds and whatnot. The most important thing is that we all enjoy the music we make when we come together as Code.
Yeah, I was going to ask if Code serves a specific purpose, when everyone else also has other musical endeavors?
Aort: Yeah exactly! I mean, the interesting thing with this latest album is that we didn´t really know what we were making until we got to the end. I think it was confusing us a lot while making it and I think some people latched unto it more easily than others, but at the end of the day, we´ve come together and made something that we´re really into. Hopefully you can hear that we´re enjoying what we´re doing.
“Mut” is the second album being released by Agonia Records, your current label.
Aort: Yeah, this is album number two. We signed for two albums and now we´ve done them. I´m very pleased with the label, because obviously when you change stuff that much as we have with this album, there´s a worry on how the label´s going to react, but they were really going for it. I mean, they´re a label that deal with Metal but they´re open enough to listen to other stuff and support it down the line, and that´s what they did with our new album, and you can´t ask for more than that really. It could´ve been awkward but I´m really thankful they were open about it.
Yeah exactly, I can identify with this support in change. In my opinion I think your new album defines extreme music but in a different way. People will argue that it´s more mainstream or whatever but to me it sounds every bit as extreme as the next punishing Black Metal album, because it´s daring.
Aort: That´s really good to hear and that´s also an important point actually. It´s amazing that people ask if we´ve made this change to become more popular, the idea is completely absurd to me personally. At the end of the day, no matter how much we change our history, we come from a metal background and by changing things rapidly, inherently it´s gonna be harder to sell to people, it´s gonna be harder to get gigs as a result, because of not fitting into the average festival, especially if you have such a mixed back catalogue. But yeah, I think there´s lots to be said about this, as I feel this album has been the most confrontational to make for us.
I agree. I thought your release definitely fitted into my blog profile, as the whole point with Extreme Metal Voyager is to seek out music that isn´t necessarily extreme by the standard norm that it almost has become today.
Aort: It sounds like you´re exactly the person that we´d hope to get to listen to our music then hehe. It´s extremely difficult to get noticed in this day and age, so when someone comes along, it´s really nice for sure.
Moving along, I noticed that you had a release show confirmed in London. Are there other shows confirmed in support of “Mut”?
Aort: No, nothing at all actually. That´s what I was mentioning earlier about commercial viability. We´ve got this release show, which we´re working hard on to get as good as possible, but I think it´s harder with this album to get gigs because of the step we´ve taken. At the end of the day, I´d rather do what we did, make music we´re proud of rather than keep churning out albums just to get shows which are poorly attended anyway hehe so.
Yeah I get it. Do you feel it´s a good time to be recording and releasing music in this day and age? I mean with all the social media madness running nonstop and the supply being more than the demand. I mean music is being released almost every single second by now. How do you feel about this?
Aort: Yeah it´s a difficult one. I mean, when we started out it was difficult and obviously it´s not getting any easier with time. I guess it´s maybe difficult to accept that after 13-14 years, but I´m just enjoying this journey for what it is basically. This is not my full-time job if you know what I mean, so with home recording equipment, you can actually create something and maybe share it with people and be content with that and not worry about who´s gonna like it and who´s not gonna like it, album sales etc.
I like to throw that question in there for musicians to answer, because I think it´s interesting to hear the answers from that angle you know.
Aort: Yeah, I mean I think everyone has to deal with it in their own way. It´s difficult to argue about the bigger picture when you´re a part of the problem yourself hehe. I mean Code is another band out of thousands releasing a couple of albums, flooding the markets so to speak.
If we look into future endeavors of Code, I see you have your demo lined up for a re-release?
Aort: Yeah that´s right! People have been interested in that one for a long time. I mean I don´t see the reason why people should to resort to expensive e-bay copies wanting to get it, so I thought it´d be a nice thing to put out as a re-release. I mean it´s not a recording that we´re massively proud of, and at the end of the day that demo served the sole purpose of seeing if any labels would be interested in us. That´s all it was there for, but if people want to hear it, I´m always happy to do what I can to make that happen, it´s nice to share it again I think.
And finally, do you have any other plans lined-up for this year?
Aort: We have a live CD, which we´re putting out in a few months, which is a couple of shows we did in Holland last year. Yeah, that´ll be out in 3-4 months time, so if people want to hear that, they can then of course. It should probably be treated more as an official bootleg rather than an official release, cause we got told at the last minutes the these shows were being recorded, and so we were asked if we wanted to do something with the material and so we have. We´re also loosely talking about doing a re-release of our first album on vinyl, because there weren´t many copies produced with the original one. It´d be nice to get that done, so hopefully we´ll do that.
Thanks Aort for taking the time to do this interview, you have the last words.
Aort: Thanks to you for taking the time to talk to me, we always appreciate when people take an interest in the stuff we´re doing, so thank you for that. People are welcome to check out the album, I mean all we can ask for in this day and age, is a few minutes of your time, try it and see if you like it.
For more info on the band, check out their Facebook page here
“Mut” is out now through Agonia Records
Extreme Metal Voyager review here