Features Interviews

JAAW Interview: “It was completely stress free”

Andy Cairns and Jason Stoll talk us through the supergroup’s debut release.

Collaborations are a crucial part of the story around these parts. Without knowing any sort of numbers, I’d wager that releases of this nature are predominantly what fill the column inches throughout this site.

Which brings us to our unveiling: JAAW, the band consisting of the masterful minds from the experimental metal/rock alumni, featuring vocalist/guitarist Andy Cairns (Therapy?), bassist Jason Stoll (Mugstar, KLÄMP, Sex Swing, ex-Bonnacons of Doom), vocalist/guitarist/ synths Wayne Adams (Death Pedals, Big Lad, Petbrick), and drummer Adam Betts (Three Trapped Tigers, Goldie, Squarepusher).

Today marks the release of their excellent debut LP, Supercluster. Vaporising sound templates in what is an eight song pile-on of noise-riddled madness, JAAW pull from the fringes of the alternative landscape spanning over the last 30 years, and the result is a hard-nosed, thunderous black wave of acerbic discord.

JAAW is a collaboration in its truest sense, with all members’ involvement decisive, drawing from slightly different sound worlds of their respective pasts. Once again, Adams is having a stellar year from behind the studio glass (most notably harnessing the chaos of Bruxa Maria’s latest dispatch, Build Yourself A Shrine and Pray), maximizing Stoll’s hefty bass weight and Betts’ throttling percussion. Meanwhile Therapy? fans get a double dose of the Andy Cairns experience, with the band releasing their latest LP, Hard Cold Fire, earlier this month.

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As well as recording and mixing Supercluster at his Bear Bites Horse studios (the album mastered by Khanate’s James Plotkin), Adams wrote the lyrics alongside Cairns, some of which were inspired by the movies from Italian-Canadian film director, Panos Cosmatos.

“Those titles were all Wayne!” says Cairns who alongside Stoll answered a series of questions via email in the lead-up to Supercluster. “We really liked them. There were certain touchstones we covered when discussing how we’d write the lyrics and films we liked were included in that. The movies of Panos Cosmatos were discussed and Wayne suggested I watch his film Beyond the Black Rainbow for inspiration as I’d never seen it.” 

As you’d expect, from the get-go JAAW launch straight into business, with the rip-and-tear crust punk of Thoughts and Prayers (Mean Nothing) which is fuelled by Betts’ arena-like drum fills and rapid switches in pace – his role throughout Supercluster arguably the most vital cog in a machine that moves at breakneck speed.

From here, the self-proclaimed greyscale psychedelia of Reality Crash heaves like a beast emitting thick clots of tar, with Stoll’s lumbering bass lines alongside Cairns and Adams trading barbs as co-vocalists. Through thick blankets of synth and howling guitars, Total Protonic Reversal and Bring Home the Motherlode, Barry swell with ear-splitting dissonance, as the roads of noise-rock and psychedelia entwine.

On Hellbent on Happiness, JAAW guide us through their greyscale metropolis in a proto-metal rage, and while the mood is tempered by the atmospheric slow-motion wave of The Dead Drop, it leads into the closing encounter where we are met with a surprising cover of Björk’s Army Of Me. Of course, JAAW give us their own flavour, with a razor wire thrum reminiscent of Shellac’s II Porno Star.

In all its heavy textures and blackened tones, Supercluster is a record that gets stronger with each listen, coincidently not too dissimilar to the latest Therapy? LP. All told, Supercluster is gloom ravaged psychedelia for grimy rooms and cold floors, subconsciously mirroring the collective state of mind in a post-Brexit world.  

JAAW (photo: Steve Gullick)

Sun 13: I’d imagine you have known each other for years, but with the projects you’ve all been in, how did the idea of JAAW come about?

Andy Cairns: “I only got to know the boys recently. Jason got in touch through Therapy?’s Instagram as he was aware I was into God Unknown releases and I think Wayne was aware I was vocal about how much I liked Petbrick. Jason started up the correspondence and it led to a suggestion we make music together.

“I was completely over the moon as I like Mugstar, Sex Swing and KLÄMP and think God Unknown is one of the few essential record labels out there, Wayne Adams is an absolute genius at the desk and Adam Betts is one of the best and most visionary drummers I’ve ever heard.”

Jason Stoll: “I have known Wayne for a few years after he’d working on the last Sex Swing album and we’d see each other at shows from time to time. At one show we started talking about Therapy?, I said to Wayne he should record them and Wayne said ’No, we should do a band with Andy’. So, having been in contact with Andy via Instagram I asked him. And six weeks later we were in the studio recording Supercluster

“I had not met Adam before but glad Wayne asked him as he is one of the most powerful and wonderfully creative drummers out there.” 

S13: You recorded this record in a couple of days at Wayne’s Bear Bites Horse studios. Was recording these songs at a frenetic rate vital in capturing the intensity of the album?

JS: “We started sending bits backwards and forwards to each other in the run up to going in the studio, so we had some ideas together. Although it was recorded at a frenetic rate it was also one of the most enjoyable and relaxed experiences I’ve ever had in the studio. And I think that’s what comes across in the album.” 

AC: “I don’t even think we thought of it in those terms, I certainly didn’t. It was all so exciting and everyone was brimming with ideas. I would leave Bear Bites Horse and by the time I got home that evening Wayne would have added more sounds and synth parts to what we had already recorded that day and it would sound stunning.”

JAAW - Supercluster

S13: Wayne always seems to catch that live sound within the studio walls as well. He’s the best at what he does, I think. How vital was he to these recordings?

AC: “I agree. In thirty years I’ve never worked with anyone in the studio like Wayne before. It all seems so organic and he’s completely fearless which is refreshing. I set up my normal guitar sound and with just a couple of tweaks and some pedals he had in the studio he completely took it somewhere else and somewhere glorious.”

JS: “Wayne is such a wizard in the studio, bringing out the best performances in people and is always brimming with idea. Wayne was 100 per cent vital to this record and sculpted how Supercluster sounds.”

S13: One thing that strikes me with the album is that it feels like you’re all having so much fun! Was that the general vibe?

JS: “As I said this was the one of the most relaxed and enjoyable experiences I have ever had in the studio and that comes across in the feeling of the record. It was also an exciting process as well, from the initial discussions to sending ideas back and forth to bring in the studio all together for the first time. Bearing in mind the sessions for the album were the first time we actually all met together.” 

AC: “I certainly was! It was completely stress free. At the time we didn’t have a label for the project, there was no deadline and we all contributed when we had the chance. It made for a relaxed, upbeat and creative session.”

S13: And you all come from different slightly different scenes and angles, too, which is both indicative of the songs and the album’s title. Was that something you wanted the songs to represent?

JS: “Wayne came up with the album and song titles. I think he perfectly captured the essence of what we wanted to represent. 

AC: “I’m not aware that we even thought about that at all. Everything came together naturally, in its own time piece by piece. I would get inspired by hearing the others playing styles. Jason has a unique way of playing bass that gives everything he does a magical intensity, Adam can turn around dynamic shifts breathlessly in a heartbeat and Wayne’s vocals guitar and keyboard lines take melodic turns that I would t have been able to think of.” 

JAAW (photo: Steve Gullick)

S13: I like the term ‘greyscale psychedelia’. I think if you wanted to take every riff-orientated genre and throw it in the melting pot, then it’d sound something like this. Was that the intention?

JS: “We knew it was going to be a heavy, psychedelic, industrial trip from the tracks we were sending to each other before we headed into the studio. So the intention was there from day one. ’Greyscale psychedelia’ is the most perfect description for this record, it’s definitely not sunny psychedelia, this is a full on dark journey.”

AC: “It all seemed totally organic. Wayne and Adam had mentioned an Industrial style at the beginning of the project and Godflesh etc. we’re mentioned but as the sessions went on they took different angles and twists. Wayne’s production values and sonic nous were what inspired the term ’greyscale psychedelia’ when the songs were starting to take shape. The Film set of Eraserhead gate-crashed by four noise mongers.” 

S13: The cover of Björk’s Army of Me is a nice touch to finish the record, too. Did that idea come early on during the writing process?

JS: “Again Wayne came in with the idea, I think fits perfectly on the record. I love Björk and has an abstract way of writing, which fits brilliantly on Supercluster. Hope she likes it. 

AC: “I seem to remember Wayne had mentioned it very early in the project and it’s a song I liked anyhow and could completely envisage how it would sound with Wayne’s production. It was a lot of fun to record. Adam’s drumming on it is sensational.”

S13: You all live in different places and, in your case, a different country. Do you think your own respective surroundings played a part in how the album turned out?

AC: “From my point of view not at all. It was the studio environment at Bear Bites Horse and being in the company of these wonderful musicians that gave me the inspiration.”

JS: “I don’t necessarily think my surroundings have influenced the album. However, since I moving to the Netherlands my musical world has expanded and have been working with a lot of different musicians, so I think that has informed my playing and style more than anything else.” 

S13You’ve got some shows coming up too. Do you feel like Supercluster is only the beginning for JAAW?

AC: “I hope so!”

JS: “Like Andy said, I do hope so. Really looking forward to taking this out on the road.” 

Supercluster is out now via Svart Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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