The BIG Über Rock Interview - Scott Lee Andrews (Exit_International/Mutation) Print
Written by Rich Hobson   
Sunday, 01 October 2017 04:40

As one half of the dual bass/vocal assault in Welsh noise favourites Exit_International and the brain behind the eardrum-hating Jaws of Deaf, it’s fair to say that Scott Lee Andrews was a thunderpunk in his own right long before he signed on to the ever evolving Mutation project. Teaming up with Ginger for the ‘Dark Black’ album, Scott provided some of the fury and creativity that fuels the record’s (dark) black heart. We managed to catch up with him (twice, no less) to discuss everything from his uber-Wildhearts fandom to mental health, what to expect at the live shows and what may come next...

 

Mutation - Scott Lee Andrews

PHOTO CREDIT: Will Hutchinson

 

Hey Scott, thanks for speaking to us today about the Mutation project.

 

No problem mate, thank you for doing this again. Feel free to mention that we tried to do this once previously, but that I wasn’t alright, I wasn’t there – I want to be honest about all of this stuff.

 

 

That’s probably the best way to play it, in truth. Speaking of, it’s strange speaking to you today, with the announcement this morning of Scott Weiland’s death – especially considering the Mutation project’s ties to mental health.

 

Yeah, it’s a bit of a strange one, really. The whole idea of the album was about this vulnerability, the juxtaposition between the extremity in sound of the record, against the content which we created. I think really good artistry, lyrics etc. you have the ability to connect with people for a certain feeling. The irony – and this thing is steeped in irony – is that the place we were in when we wrote this record, there’s no rhyme of reason to any of it.

 

 

 

The visceral nature of ‘Dark Black’ probably has more of an effect than the lyrics. We weren’t in the headspace to be able to go “this is the issue – here’s how we make sense of it”. Lyrically, you can’t look at it and think it’s a dissection or summary of how two people feel overall. It’s a snapshot of illness.

 

It’s very disjointed, almost note-form.

 

It’s very disjointed yeah, almost William Burroughs. The irony is that the nonsensical nature means you can’t latch onto it. The whole idea of trying to communicate feeling sad or down, that’s not the thing. It’s more like the rage inside the brain that makes no sense. In hindsight, you can chip away at it, like “this is what I meant to convey”, which is why some of the songs like ‘Irritant’ use repetition, latching onto certain lyrics like a raft in the sea. Everything else is a bonus.

 

We didn’t know how it was going to come across to people, because it’s hard to communicate that the album was a snapshot. If it had been recorded three weeks later, it would have sounded very different. Part of me didn’t know what was going on, but we committed to it – it was born, we had to watch it have its first dance and then get out the door, all the while not knowing what people would think.

 

Speaking of reception, how has working with the fan community associated with Ginger and the Wildhearts affected the overall premise of Mutation?

 

First off, I’m a fan – I’m one of those people in that community. I’ve been a fan longer than I’ve been a member of Mutation. I became a Wildhearts fan in 1996, when I brought the cassettes of PHUQ and Earth Vs, which was cut off on both sides because you could only have 45 minutes worth of music on the tape either side. It gave me the impetus to follow the records and I ended up becoming a supernerd, starting with going out to find the ‘Caffeine Bomb’ single, then it was ‘Shandy Bang’, ‘Push’ the instrumental ‘Saddened’… So there’s always been this history, and now I’m in a band with him.

 

How did you make that transition from fan to co-conspirator?

 

One of my old bands supported The Wildhearts a couple of times, but I don’t think Ginger was all that interested in the band. When I got into Exit_International I sent Ginger a copy of our record and he came back saying “I fucking love this – come and play a show!”. I was blown away and eventually he offered me the chance to sing on ‘Gruntwhore’ (from ‘Frankenstein Effect’). It was a blind test; I’d got the music, but no vocals and no idea what the rest of the record sounded like, so I just went fucking nuts. I didn’t want to replicate something that was Wildhearts-esque or whatever.

 

I was actually invited to take part in ‘Error 500’ but for whatever reason it just fell apart and I wasn’t able to. I emailed Ginger a couple of riffs for non Exit_International material to see what he thought and he came back with “I can smell a third Mutation record”, so I kept sending in these collages of sound. It was horror influenced with screaming and white noise. There were no songs in there, but Ginger said “fuck it, let’s make an album”.

 

Is it fair to say you have a lot of stock in creating something that was true to the legacy of Ginger and The Wildhearts?

 

Mutation video shoot

 

The Widhearts have been my life – they influenced my music, my approach, my songwriting from a very early age. Particularly, when ‘Endless Nameless’ happened, I was making choices about my own musical direction and where I wanted to go. It might have fucked people off, but ‘Endless Nameless’ was the album that changed my life. In terms of musical geography, if that term makes sense, I’d always been a huge Wildhearts fan, but I was really into Placebo and leftfield noise at the time – Sonic Youth and the like.

 

Placebo were making this music that nobody else did and to this day there’s still nobody like them, their tuning is so off for what is essentially a pop band. But then, The Wildhearts did ‘Endless Nameless’, and it had the ‘smell’ of music I’d always wanted. Those two bands had a massive impact on my sound, so much so that I’d say if you took ‘Nancy Boy’ plus ‘Anthem’, it equals ‘Chainsaw Song’ by Exit_International.

 

As a polarising project, do you think there has been any level of neutering involved to get the music to a point where it can offend but still attract Wildhearts fans?

 

The last thing I want to do, is go out to appease all the old fans – I’m cutting my nose off to spite my face. Growing up I always wanted to join The Wildhearts, I always wanted to create riffs that were bigger than Ginger’s. To give you an example – I wrote ‘Hate’ on the new album and that middle-eight was pure Wildhearts to me, I just really wanted to recreate that glorious era of B-side Wildhearts type stuff that came pre-‘Endless Nameless’. That’s exactly what I’ve tried to do with Dark Black, I’ve tried to take that carnage and throw in some Wildhearts rip-offs!

 

So what do you bring to the table for Mutation?

 

It’s funny; Ginger these days hasn’t done The Wildhearts for a long time, but people are still clamouring for him to make something like that. So, they look at me and think I’m the guy that offers an out from all that – I’m not! I have an intrinsic sense of what Wildhearts fans will like – even if they don’t all like it – and I often bring that to the process as we go, taking the huge doominess of something like ‘Inglorious’ and putting it into the Mutation sense of heaviness.

 

Did the move to Australia affect your outlook on the music business at all, and does that level of removal come in handy when it comes to writing and recorded such uncompromising music?

 

To be honest with you, the entire experience of this record has been entirely natural. Outside of the writing period, we’ve not really been in the same room. Before I left the UK I did all my tracking in Pontypool with a guy called Todd, who is Phil Campbell’s son. We did that in two days, did loads of stuff, we demoed ten songs – though you’ll notice that there’s only nine songs on the record – but that extra track ended up only making the Japanese release. It’s a bit too fucked up.

 

So I sent those songs over, Ginger would stick some bits down, then I’d add more noise in, then it’d go to Dave Draper who would make it magic. It was business as usual, up until the ‘Hate’ video where it suddenly became “does this sound like a band?” and that was the first time we got to execute this as a live band. We embraced technology on the record, but in that room it was more about being a band.

 

To give you an idea of our days in that initial writing period – we’d get up early, around 5 or 6, clean the floors of the caravan with wet-wipes, clean all the surfaces, then I’d go “I’ve got a riff” and I’d start recording. I’d programme the drums to how he wanted, he’d record, we’d answer some emails and do more recording, then have a song ready by 5pm. It was very regimented, which is crazy considering when he picked me up from the train he straight away said “you should go home”. I was at the end of my tether anyway, so we decided to go back to the caravan for a drink – and we drank for a while – and then we talked through what we would make if we were to, which spurred him on to make the record.

 

Would you agree that Mutation’s musical output has been heavily influenced by the players who actually appear on the album?

 

Absolutely. For this tour I’m having to learn some of Jon Poole’s stuff and I haven’t got the balls to ask Jon what he’s playing! I’ve gone from being a single note player, to having to learn the kind of basslines that you’d normally hear on a Cardiacs album. But, I haven’t backed down from it even though it’s been extremely difficult.

 

Mutation studio photo

 

I always imagined that Mutation would be a six-piece, if I’m honest. A Slipknot type vibe on stage – a sampler, keyboards, almost like a musical – maximum carnage onstage. Because of the number of guests on the album, there are sometimes three or four layers of guitar on a song, with guitarists doing different things, so I always saw it as an ensemble. Ginger and I’s favourite musical is ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ so it’d be something like an S&M version of that meets Martyrs. You know the video to ‘Destroy All Monsters’ with body modifications and whatever? I thought it’d be that! But Ginger is in love with this Motorhead, Nirvana, Big Black thing so we decided to go low-key.

 

What would you say are the sonic ancestors to Mutation?

 

Underworld! Thinking back to the ‘Endless Nameless’ era, the track ‘Born Slippy’ – there is no way a song like that could infiltrate the pop world now. It was a massive part of its era, but it existed outside of it too. Aphex Twin too, come to think of it. ‘Born Slippy’ and ‘Come To Daddy’ are Mutation 20 years ago.

 

Where do you think Mutation fit on the musical landscape?

 

We don’t. It’s weird and cool for us to be on a bill like Damnation, because that’s a very specific version of extreme music that we don’t necessarily fit in with. My extreme music isn’t necessarily yours. That’s part of the difficulty of finding a support band for Mutation – I want it to be complimentary, but I don’t want it to be more of the same, like Ghost supporting Black Sabbath. There’s a band out here called Batpiss who sound like The Bronx on downers – I really wanted to get them out.

 

If you could do any song in a Mutation style, what would you choose?

 

Fuck, that’s hard. Personally, I think now I’d go for an Elliot Smith song. I’m a huge fan and to get into that vibe of darkness, it’d be good to hear a Mutation version of that. Some of the stuff he did when he died were noise experiments and they sound insane, so I’d probably go with that.

 

You mentioned previously that you’re working on potential B-sides for ‘Dark Black’ – will they be representative of the album, or…

 

We’ve had a brief discussion about it. We’ve got some song titles – and that’s what 'Dark Black' was based upon. Ginger had the titles, we found the music and went “that’s this song”, matching the songs to the feeling, finding the right hook. We’ve got some song titles and we’ll work from that. There’s one called ‘Weakener’ that I’m quite excited about.

 

Do you know someone, who whenever they open their mouth, you die a little inside? That’s a Weakener. Whatever you do, when you make the biggest sigh you can possibly make because of someone, that’s all weakener. It’s a term coined by Darren Sadler (from Undergroove Records), he’d say “such a fucking weakener” and when I heard it for the first time I pissed myself. It’s not that they’re a cunt, or a fuckhead, it’s a good way of describing what they do to you.  It’s the opposite of ‘Irritant’, in a way. If ‘Irritant’ is about outward feelings towards somebody, ‘Weakener’ is internal.

 

So there’s still plenty to rage about, then?

 

Mutation

 

Oh god yeah. I haven’t even got started on social media yet! There are things it does to you, especially in terms of mental health, that we still don’t fully understand but have to live with. We haven’t run out of things to sing about, I tell you that much. Even between me and Ginger – to give an A and B – Ginger is extremely political and I struggle to make a cup of coffee sometimes, because my head is so fucked. We’re very different people but somehow we converge into a place where we can communicate without words.

 

That’s one thing that hasn’t really been mined for Mutation yet – politics. Is it something you reckon you’ll go to in the future?

 

From Ginger’s point of view, he’s always going to be a strong lyricist. You listen to the verses on ‘Irritant’ and they’re extremely blunt, something being triggered. Same goes for ‘Skint’. It’s almost like a vendetta, Ginger is really good at capturing those things. Outside of that, he’s also been very active about his support of Jeremy Corbyn and it’s not that I’m not, but I struggle with everyday things right now, struggle to make my body move at times without thinking about the bigger picture. It sounds like a selfish thing to say, but it’s my coping mechanism – it’s how I live my life.

 

If you could pick the direction Mutation go next, how would you describe it?

 

Swans meets Cheap Trick. Sonic Youth meets Peaches… I have ideas for another Mutation album, the idea for about six tracks. Very spiky, under three-minutes. That said, who knows if it will happen? When this album finished recording I was like “I’m done”, it was an exorcism. So, Mutation IV – what would you have it sound like?

 

Well, you had thrash on the first album, grindcore on the second, the third has an electronic feel so the fourth would, to me, be noise punk all the way. I’m talking Cows, Butthole Surfers, something that can really push that nastiness with a nugget of clarity in the centre.

 

I love how excited you got about that description! If I had the choice, right now, I’d say three-chord punk. You heard the new Guitar Wolf album? It sounds like somebody got an iPhone, set it up in a room and the band just went “ONETWOTHREEFOUR…YEEEAURRGGHHH”.

 

I love that. You can hear the intrinsic melody, but the recording… it stinks. It actually stinks – you can smell the band. Sweat and shitty venues. It sucks super hard. We’ll attack it from a completely different angle.

 

Do you have anything special planned in the way of a stage-show/on-stage theatrics, or is it a meat and (broken) bones affair?

 

Live, it’s going to be very weird. At a Ginger Wildheart show everyone is drinking and chipping in, singing along and shouting requests… Mutation is going to be the exact opposite. It’s going to be a fucking ordeal. This could be so intense that the first gig ends up being a 15 minute set. I’m talking sonic warfare, infrasound.

 

Have you ever seen the film ‘Irreversible’? There’s a French gentleman who created the soundtrack to that, he creates a low frequency wave that oscillates to an uncomfortable level, so that even though you know what you are seeing visually, it is made all the more unsettling by the soundtrack. Infrasound played a big part in that – it’s anything that goes below 36 hertz but is still audible. Horror movies use it a lot – ‘Paranormal Activity’, ‘Blair Witch Project’ use it pretty heavily. They call it the terror frequency.

 

Ginger has already said that we’ve got the go-ahead to destroy anything we want to – just so long as we keep going. It won’t be like a HECK show, where the madness is constant and we’ll be jumping around the stage doing cardio. It’s all about building up to a singular moment of dangerous abandon. It has to make people go “fucking hell!” - Ginger is getting fit to do these shows, but in terms of the physicality of the shows – I’m not worried, I want something more viscerally, a Richie Edwards thing. The same thing isn’t going to happen every night – you physically can’t do that, the human body can’t take it. And you know what? I’m excited about doing it.

 

‘Dark Black’ is out now.

 

Mutation will tour the UK this October/November. The dates are as follows:

 

Friday 27 October - Leeds, Brudenell Social Club

Saturday 28 October - Wolverhampton, Slade Rooms (Ginger Wildheart Halloween Hootenanny IV feat. Oaf, Exit_International, The Ordinary Boys, Knifeworld, The Main Grains and The Idol Dead)

Sunday 29 October - Manchester, The Deaf Institute

Monday 30 October - Glasgow, Stereo

Tuesday 31 October - Newcastle, Riverside

Wednesday 1 November - Camden, The Underworld

Thursday 2 November - Cardiff, The Globe

Friday 3 November - Brighton, Mike’s Frog Bar

Saturday 4 November - Leeds, Damnation Festival

Wednesday 22 November - Belfast, Empire Music Hall

 

www.facebook.com/XXMUTATIONXX/

 

scottleeandrews.bandcamp.com/album/jaws-of-deaf-vol-1-5

 

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