Interview: Chris Coulthard and Steve Stewart - Jaded Eyes
JADED EYES is a band out of Leeds, UK that has recently released its second album, 'The Eternal Sea' on Boss Tuneage Records - and it's probably the first great album of 2016. The following is an email interview with guitarist Chris and vocalist Steve. Photos supplied by the band
..First off, can you tell us what your earliest musical memory is, and how you got into music? Were you into anything prior to Punk, or was it a kind of ‘Year-Zero’ moment?
..Chris) I think I can say, as kids of the 70s, we all had an interest in music from an early age; in that sitting-in-front-of-Top-Of-The-Pops, completely fascinated sort of way. We probably all liked guitar driven bands, anything vaguely punky, rocky, ska or new wave would have caught our attention as kids, probably some completely cheesy pop too, a great tune, is what it is..
I'm pretty sure we all loved ADAM AND THE ANTS... Ian our drummer, and Dale the other guitarist, had elder brothers into metal, Ian's brother was about #4 in VENOM's fanclub, and a big KISS fan. Dale’s brothers took him to see MOTORHEAD, JUDAS PRIEST, and lots more in their prime, when he was essentially still a kid. Steve, our vocalist, was a big IAN DURY fan. My first record was ELVIS COSTELLO.
There were some really strange and different people in music then; it makes a difference, possibilities are more obvious, music seems more democratic, open...
I'm sure none of us were musically Punk as kids, but we'd all have some moment in our teens, earlier or later, either with Punk or Hardcore... So with Punk, I know our bass player Stew, who's the relative baby of the band, first heard ‘Orgasm Addict’ by BUZZCOCKS, and thought this is amazing, I can relate to that (haha)... Personally, I remember hearing ‘Holidays In The Sun’ by the SEX PISTOLS at my mates, and when Steve Jones struck that first chord, it was that proverbial lightning bolt. I was 12, THE SPECIALS had broke up, I was a little lost for music. It was a few years old even then, but Punk is always so new, if you're hearing it for that first time…
..How did the band form? You’ve all been in some well known bands in the past VOORHEES, THE HORROR, DEAD PETS and others, but what were you hoping to achieve with JADED EYES that your previous bands didn’t?
..Chris) JADED EYES actually started as an instrumental band in Leeds, between myself, Dale and former KABINBOY drummer Ricky Adam (whose photography book Destroy Everything is fantastic). It never had that name, but it was definitely the seeds of the band... That was over the summer of about 2005. It kind of ran out of steam, but the idea, to do something very DC sounding, was filed away for a possible restart.
I reignited the idea with Dale in about 2008, and between us we just started jamming with little practice amps in each others houses. I had a lot of ideas, and Dale found his enthusiasm to write back again, and began bringing some really good stuff too. After a couple of false starts we got Stew on board, who was a great bass player. I'd just ran into him a few times, we became mates quickly, and he was up for doing something after DEAD PETS, something different.
Which is to answer your question, is what we all wanted, something new something we didn't think we'd heard in other bands going then, and different from previous bands and experiences.
Continuing with how it happened... Ian was next, and is one of mine and Dale's oldest friends. The three of us are all from the Middlesbrough area originally, we'd been in various bands up there in the 80s. We were struggling for a drummer, and even though Ian lives in West Sussex, we thought we'd be much better off asking someone we trusted and knew. He immediately wanted to do it, and made it happen quickly, despite the distance. We jammed for at least a year, on a nearly monthly, weekend basis. After a while, we had a lot of songs, but worryingly, no vocalist. We were scratching our heads about the problem, when out of the blue, Steve asked if we were still looking.
We'd known Steve from his early Sunderland days, VOORHEES and Out Of Step Records, so he was very welcome to try out. After a weekend jam with him, it all finally clicked. A harder, but slightly vulnerable vocal style, against tougher but melodic music, it just seemed so right… We've not looked back.
I think what we want to achieve was to take the spirit, almost the mindset, of that Punk and HC we all loved, and not just imitate it, but almost imagine, that despite time, we would write as contemporaries of those bands. I hope that doesn't sound too pretentious, but it's important. We're not nostalgically imitating them, that's too boring, and it's an easy mistake. We have to try harder, because those bands were great, and that's our key, hopefully we're achieving some of that.
Those old bands strangely stop you watering it down, guarding against modern musical trends that don't work for us…. Also, we now very definitely have our own path to follow, right in the present, it's always a mix of inspirations…
We also really hoped this wouldn't be a one record band, but something we could do for some time. I over dramatically would say stuff like, "This is it, I haven't got another band in me, this has to be right!", which probably got a few deserved laughs from the others for comments like that as well...
There's also new bands, and some older bands, that have that excitement too, that informed optimism, that wide eyed excitement and energy, which is great, keeps us going.
..There is a distinct Revolution Summer influence to all that you do. Is that something that came about naturally, or a direction the band decided to head in?
..Chris) Early on we talked about how much those bands meant to us, from early SCREAM and MARGINAL MAN right through to RITES OF SPRING, SOULSIDE and JAWBOX. The quality of Dischord’s releases in the 80s was pretty incredible. Then there's GOVERNMENT ISSUE and SWIZ, who have a very special place in our collective minds. Just amazing bands. GI made great records time after time… and SWIZ, wow. RED HARE btw, is a more than worthy return….
As a specific from that scene, I'd say, as much as that SEX PISTOLS moment was a lightning bolt, and every Punk/music fan has a series of those throughout life, I think, for me, hearing EMBRACE was one of those. That record is incredibly special to me. As much as BATTALION OF SAINTS, BLITZ, or BL’AST! can make you clench your teeth and shake your fist, some records make you sit down and reflect on your attitudes, just like Anarcho Punk did. EMBRACE was like that; raw, honest. Also it's musically amazing, it never gets out of second gear but its power is otherworldly. A different kind of tension…
It's hard to be specific though, on influence, early HC, BLACK FLAG, NAKED RAYGUN, AOF, THE FREEZE, TSOL, DOA with Chuck Biscuits was amazing. Dale brings his love of DC stuff combined with his appreciation of the quirks in bands like VOI VOD and NOMEANSNO, that's important stuff for our sound...
Finally, I think what's also as important for us, is the inspiration of bands like THE RUTS, BUZZCOCKS, THE DAMNED, WIRE, KILLING JOKE, PIL, even ‘The Time Was Right’ era PARTISANS - that's untouchable for me - etc, that informed us. It's amazing how adventurous those bands were at times, their power is not just speed or volume... I can't tell you how much this band loves THE RUTS, probably more than DAG NASTY, but they undoubtedly loved them, and all those UK bands too...
..The band has recently released its second album, ‘The Eternal Sea’. In what ways do you think this is a progression, on debut album, ‘Gods And Monsters’?
..Chris) I think it's a better record. It was written with Steve, not only in mind, but very much contributing as we all wrote. We just didn't have that on the first album.
We also focused and worked a little bit harder I think. It's a common mistake to take it all for granted after a first record, we could see that trap, so we tried to give it more depth, work harder on ideas. The production also has a warmth to it on the new one, that's a little lacking on the first album. It's strange, but ‘Deep Throat’ is as old as any of the first album songs, but it finally came to life, and made the cut. We have a backlog of older songs/ideas on tape. Some have fallen by the wayside, but there's some potential good in there, to be mixed with more new songs.
..Did you approach the recording of the new album any differently from the debut? I note you used the same producer for both, Matt Peel - how much of an influence in the direction of the recording does he have?
..Chris) At the time we were so happy with the first record we just decided to go back with Matt. He's a ball-buster for getting a good performance out of you, and I mean that as a compliment. His studio is amazing, he's a top level professional, he's pretty funny too. I'm no expert, but he must have ALL the gear...
As for the process, it's sometimes a struggle. He has a lot of ideas, and I wouldn't even say he knows our influences, but that was OK. As I inferred earlier, we don't want to sound exactly like all those bands we love, it's not parody, so it's no problem to start from scratch... We clashed with him on some things, for instance, he likes effects pedals more than us, and that gothy reverb/chorus was on every other band out there at that time. We liked a little bit of that on atmospheric parts, but to drench our sound with it, it just wouldn't be us. We're not exactly a pedalboard band, yawn, which is deliberate... A couple each are more than enough... But we didn't mind any discussion over sound, because the outcome was always good, whether ours, or his vision prevailed. We may well try somewhere else next time, but just out of our own sense of trying new things.
..Can you tell us a bit about a few tracks on the album, starting with ‘Deep Throat’. It's quite a damning song about someone whose life work was rejected and culminates with this someone having blood on their hands. Who is this about? It almost reads like it is about some kinda Maxwell, News Of The World/ Sun journalist...
..Steve) You're in the right ball park with ‘Deep Throat’. It's one part Edward Snowden, one part Julian Assange and one part artistic licence. It all ended up with a rather confused narrative but I didn't care as I like the way the words flowed. I guess It's saying there are consequences to even noble deeds.
..What about ‘We All Bleed’? It seems to echo similar sentiments of over-vocalised opinions from someone with a superiority complex of some form.
..Steve) This one is about a very specific incident but I tried to make it a little vague so you could apply your own experiences to it. It's essentially about dealing with a person that you cannot see eye to eye with. A person that seems to be at odds with everything you believe in. Sometimes that kind of conversation can get bloody.
..Sounds a bit like you work at the same place as I do!! Would you say there is a theme running throughout the album? It could be suggested that ‘Conservative’, ‘No More’, ‘The Weight’ and possibly ‘Plan B’ all have a vaguely similar implication as the songs mentioned above.
..Steve) There's no theme other than all the songs are drawn from my own experiences. I don't really like to spell out what each song is about as it's nice for the listener to be able to interpret them as they wish. However, I will oblige. I think that 'Conservative' and 'The Weight' are pretty self-explanatory. 'No More', is about the fact that someone you loved is no longer around. 'Plan B' was inspired by the skateboarder Rodney Mullen. I had watched the Bones Brigade documentary and was blown away by this guy. He has such a great philosophy to life. The song is essentially saying, do what you love until the day you die.
..Is it just coincidental that opener, ‘Do You Remember?’ kicks off with a very similar beat as ‘New Day Rising’?
..Chris) It is and it isn't… Ian just drummed like that when we were putting it together, it's just a sort of ‘New Rose’ or even Motown stomp really… Steve, who is an expert on all things SST, spotted it straight away, and you rumbled the song title, double reference straight away too… It's such a great pounding beat, fun to play that one...
..The art work for both albums is quite distinctive, using a uniform green tone for both releases. What was the inspiration behind that artwork? Was the idea created by the band, or did you give the artist, Graham Pilling, a free run?
..Chris) We spoke to Graham for the first record and we had some ideas about a face.. When he started on this mysterious creature, we absolutely loved it. We wanted a character all our own, so we could resurrect it for other art. We're all into horror, but that could mean creatures from folklore too. The greens give it an earthy primeval feel.. It seemed untypical and intriguing. Graham's fantastic; he puts a lot into his work, can't ask for more than that. One idea we considered, that didn't happen was, if we were to make enough albums, have a series of strange coloured faces that could form a totem pole if laid out. And I have to credit a workmate Adam with that idea… That's pretty ambitious, probably too much so.
..How has the live reception been to the band? You played overseas at all yet? Ever play any covers?
..Chris) It's been good, we have a lot of great friends who'll come and see us. Our last London gig at the amazing Birds Nest, with gigs run by Bloody Kev formerly of HARD TO SWALLOW, was the best yet. People falling into the stage, jumping around, and just enjoying themselves, it doesn't get any better than that…
We'd love to go overseas, but we'd probably need some outside help. Hopefully we'll organise something….
We haven't done a cover as yet… I wanted to do something like an EFFIGIES or TOXIC REASONS cover for the Hardcore side of things. We also thought about doing ‘Elected’ by ALICE COOPER, such a great song… Dale had it all worked out, sounding great, but new songs got in the way - sometimes covers are a distraction, but I like them too. Maybe someday… A friend of ours was shouting "Do a MOVING TARGETS cover!" at us in London, perhaps he has a point…
..I note you are playing Rebellion this year. Have you attended previous years? What are your expectations?
..Chris) We've all been, bar Steve I think… Stew with THE DEAD PETS a few years ago and Dale has worked with THE DAMNED and THE DICKIES quite a lot. I've played with GEOFFREY OICOTT, actually their first ever time, and last year too, which Ian stepped in to drum for, after OICOTT lost their drummer… It is what it is, I meet enough friends and great people. Punk as a music is getting old, but some of the old bands are still amazing, some not so, but that's no different from any all dayer/festival out there. A lot of active people go there, you can watch JOHNNY MOPED and POLICE BASTARD in the same venue and meet Punk people from around the world. I think that's great, for one weekend a year…
As a band, I just hope some folk watch us and we meet some new great people.
..Tell us a bit about life in Leeds. It’s a city with a long history of Punk and DIY ideals. How do you feel it compares with London or Manchester? Recommended bands?
..Chris) Leeds continues to be a beacon for Punk people to live in, and contribute to… Wharf Chambers is great, Temple Of Boom is great, the same old pubs still have their gig rooms, the Brudenell thrives and is well run… There's always new bands, and all the older faces still keep at it too… I have to include Bradford in that too; the 1in12 is just as important. All the regulars from there over the years are still the lifesblood of what happens now, even if some young Punks have taken it on… The Out Of Spite thing still continues, some hard working people in that scene…
I lived in London and it wasn't so different from the Leeds scene, just different accents. Local bands, PERSPEX FLESH, FLEX, WAR ALL THE TIME, MOB RULES, CYANIDE PILLS, BURNING FLAG, YOUNG CONVERSVATIVES, er DOOM!
..How important are those DIY ideals to you as a band existing within Punk?
..Chris) It's important, everything we've done is all our own. Working with Aston from Boss Tuneage, he's a bona fide DIY hero, he's got ethics of stone, he's just a dedicated, passionate person... We've all seen exploiters, poseurs, ‘professionals’, and just people's bare cynicism. They always makes me laugh, it's kind of obvious… I think we're pretty normal, hopeful people, who just happen to be in a band. That's all..
..For those who may be travelling to or through Leeds, what do you recommend they check out that’s a bit off the beaten track.
..Chris) I'd say, Leeds Armouries.. I ain't no warmonger, but it's free, and full of history, they also have Birds of Prey!
..Coming off the band, what are your thoughts on the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels? Any thoughts on how the threat of terrorism from the likes of Isis could be resolved?
..Chris) Unfortunately it seems Isis are not interested in anything other than the destruction of freedom; they're the Nazis of the Muslim world. It pains me to admit it, but I'm pretty sure they have to be destroyed. It's over simplifying a little, but they have to go. That's not even a political position, it's a people position..
..And the inevitable what about Donald Trump? What can you envision for America’s future should he become President?
..Chris) Unfortunately it seems Donald Trump is not interested in anything other than the destruction of freedom; he wants to be Fuhrer of the Western world. It pains me to admit it, but I'm pretty sure he should be destroyed….
Yeah, he's as dangerous as Isis. He's not qualified as a human being to have that power. Beyond his ridiculous rhetoric, he's absolutely terrifying. We're in trouble if he gets in… In reluctantly mainstream terms, I'd have elected Obama for life, and given him a free hand, seriously...
..A fun question: You can invite one vocalist, one guitarist, one bassist, one drummer and one keyboard player to work with you on the next album. Name them and why.
..Chris) I'll see if I can select for each member of JE, not easy! People who we really admire… Vocalist, Steve might have Rollins or Dez come in and drop in some FLAG venom… Drums, Ian might want Jay Robbins or the late Pat Brady (RIP) from MOVING TARGETS… Bass, Stew might want Jerry Casale from DEVO, or one of the guys from the SONICS or 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS, he loves those original garage sounds… Guitar, between me and Dale probably the late Paul Fox (RIP) or Tony Iommi, they're both heroes. We might both agree on Jason Farrell or Brian Baker... Keyboards, I'm actually a big 70s Vangelis fan, he'd do… He'd take us to a strange mythical place tho. That's a lot of names I've dropped in, sorry about that...
..What plans does the band have from here? Have you already began working on the third album yet? Any tours in the pipeline? EPs?
..Chris) We have a couple of new things we're working on song wise - the process starts again. We've considered doing an EP before the end of the year. A lot of my favourite hardcore records were six song 12"s in the early 80s, I like those mini albums... We're thinking of asking Aston if he'd be into that, otherwise it'll be a while for an album...
Because of our geography, we practice a full weekend once a month on average, we cram a lot in on those, but it can be slow. It works, but it's so different from a band that practices every week... We really want to tour, go abroad, we'll try and hunt down the contacts we need, or maybe they'll hunt us down…
..Anything you want to add?
..Chris) Thanks for your questions, and your review… It's really appreciated.
Best wishes to our friends around the country, a lot of the best people end up in Punk Rock... If anyone can help with a gig, or anything else, let us know… You can contact us through Facebook or me at [email protected].