27 Dec 2021 - Thorsten
Day four – usually the day when we break our new year’s vows – but that’s not something for Veil of Sound. Thus we give you another mind-blowing interview with a really important artist – Jay Gambit, the mastermind behind (blackened) noise-project Crowhurst.
Whenever we come across an artist as self-reflective and still seemingly impulsive as Jay Gambit aka Crowhurst I seems as if one feels like lost for words, as his work can be really overpowering at times, because there is so much happening in his songs. And just when one thinks to have him all figured out, one must realize (upon hearing his next record) how far away from really understanding Crowhurst one has been. You can find him working alongside neo-classical composers, progressive black metal artists or other noise projects. Of course there are many things we wanted to talk about with him, and he surely had a lot of things to say. Especially eye-opening are his honest words about his experience with labels. So let’s dive into the world of Crowhurst.
Hi man, thanks for doing the interview with us.
No problem. Thanks for taking the time out to speak to me.
Whenever someone looks at your discography it feels as if you cannot sit still, yet when looking at your social media it seems as if music is just a part of your fill-to-the-brim life – when do you ever sleep, eat or do other stuff normal people have to do?
I am glad I have the reputation of some sort of bionic musician, or that I have an immensely full life – but realistically it’s fairly dull. Maybe it was more full during the more active years with Crowhurst but it really all stems from having a spinal injury and having limited mobility. When you’re on your ass and you have difficulty communicating those feelings, sometimes music is easier. It’s certainly more present.
As I mentioned your Discogs-page basically explodes with more than three dozen full-lengths in the last ten years – how can anyone be so productive?
Equal parts depression and ambition. I like to be busy, and I don’t take it personally when someone doesn’t want to participate in my dumb creative ideas. Oddly, more folks are down than aren’t.
Then taking into consideration all the records you worked on – how do you choose those records? Like the work on Noč Na Krayu Sveta - do these bands come to you?
I think that was the rare case where they came to me, but I don’t want to mis-remember or anything. Most of the time I’m the instigator.
Would you say that your music is the result of a driven person?
Oh yeah, but I feel like you have to be driven if you care about anything.
You have worked with several big labels over the years – and have now recently some things via Prophecy Productions – is that a label that you might consider home for several years?
Probably not. They own my back catalog, so it’s not really my choice. When they initially signed Crowhurst their intentions were very different. As far as I know, it will sit in limbo forever. I can only hope that one day some of my past work will see a release, but my experiences with them as an artist have been unpleasant at best.
How did you choose the labels for your releases? Many of them are small, underground labels?
I used to just work with whoever. This got me in a lot of trouble with some of the more prominent noise labels I’ve been on, as their intention was to “cultivate a roster”. That experience kind of led me away from working with a lot of labels for a while. These days it’s mostly smaller labels I love (To Live A Lie, Somatic) or larger labels with more infrastructure that I have admired for forever like Profound Lore.
For what it’s worth, without Chris and PL have been the best label I’ve ever worked with.
You have also played Prophecy Fest some years ago – how was the experience?
We played Prophecy Fest USA, and it was an awkward uncomfortable gig. It felt like a lot of people who were there must have gotten free tickets and the others were just there for Alcest. The crowd didn’t seem to want to understand us. Some great pictures are out there of us playing at full force while the audience stared at us like we were giving a calculus lecture in Mandarin.
How do you experience these festivals – also Roadburn for example – are these mere gigs to you or do you try to take as much in as possible?
I love festivals because they’re a chance to play for a really excited crowd. With my spine how it is, I really don’t want to play unless it’s a good show and festival gigs usually are. Some gigs can be off due to a litany of reasons, but festivals usually rule.
What was your last big discovery during such bigger festivals?
That roast pork in Portugal is worth an 11-hour flight.
Now let’s talk about the technical side of your music – how do you go about creating those noisey parts? Which instrument and set-up do you use mostly?
I love computers and software because it’s cheap and accessible. I can work with hardware because it’s fun and occasionally is better for more specific applications, but I prefer a laptop in studio. On stage my main hardware is a Boss PS-2 pedal and tape machine.
Your projects have a range from noisey “grindcore” (for example the collaboration with Gnaw their Tongues) to minimal ambient (the one with Gavin Bryars). How eclectic is your own collection?
I wouldn’t venture to call my own taste eclectic, but I’m happy to live in an era where music of all forms is somewhat accessible. As someone who collects records, it’s nice to be able to get stuff that my parents’ generation definitely couldn’t have without significant effort.
If you had to choose one record for each of the last five decades – your personal favorites, not necessarily the best records of each decade – which ones would you choose and why?
2010s – Dean Blunt - Black Metal 2000s – M83 - Dead Cities, Red Seas, Lost Ghosts 1990s – Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible 1980s – Robert Fripp - Exposure 1970s – Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom
At the moment we are witnessing a huge discussion about whether artists and users should keep on using Spotify. Where do you stand in that discussion?
I think paywalling music sucks. In a perfect world, we would all get a cut – but realistically the industry has always fucked us. Bummer we can’t live on CD royalties, but that’s the industry.
How must I imagine your listening habits? Streaming, vinyl, cd, what?
I love vinyl, I collect vinyl, but I listen to a lot of music streaming. Vinyl at the gym? On a walk? In the car? Seems impractical.
Nearly all of your tracks are longer than 5 minutes and a lot of them are longer than 8 or 9 minutes – how does that come about?
I’m just generally long winded.
Is the elaboration of a track aka its length also part of the strive for each song being a complete entity with built-up, climax and outro?
Well yes, it’s like telling a story to me. Every track is like a little story, or film, or poem. It’s supposed to have an arc.
Collaborations – you seem to love them, right?
Can’t live without em.
When is a collaboration a good collaboration?
When both artists are surprised at the outcome. Whenever someone comes in, particularly producers, to stretch a band past their limits – that often makes for a great record.
Do you actively search those or are you rather the one being approached?
I usually instigate the whole thing. It’s very exciting when someone reaches out to me about working together because their goals get to expand outside of my reach. That happened with the film I coordinated the score for, and that went to Cannes – farther than I could have ever dreamed. That wouldn’t have happened if the filmmakers didn’t reach out.
Are there any limits – musicians or genres you cannot see yourself collaborating with?
I wouldn’t call them limits, but there are barriers.
How important is it for you to share the same values with your collaborators?
There are musicians I admire musically who I’ve passed on working with. It doesn’t happen often but occasionally there are things that I find irreconcilable about certain artists’ persona or discography in terms of collaboration.
As you love such work – could you give us your three favorite collaborations of all-time (your own not included, of course)?
Most records are collaborations even if they’re not explicitly listed as such. Fripp’s Exposure is a great example. [Iggy] Pop and Bowie on The Idiot or relatedly Low by Eno and Bowie.
Which artists influence Jay Gambit? What are your role models?
Visual artists, writers, cinematographers, makeup artists. The people who build the creative worlds around us are who I look to for inspiration. Sam Rolphs, Jesse Draxler, Joe Pera, John Wilson, Ally McGillicuddy, Nate Faustyn and Brian Kramer are a few.
How did you get into the music scene?
Folks on social media wanted to release a tape of Crowhurst stuff and it spiraled from there.
You are often seen as a sound manipulator – but what is your favorite instrument? Which one(s) do you play?
My favorite instruments are computers because there’s no limits to what they can do.
What is the current status of Crowhurst – is it a one-man project once again?
Crowhurst has always just been me with collaborators. Right now it’s not my main priority, nor do I imagine it’s anyone else’s.
Which record(s) are currently in your heavy rotation?
Piñata Beats by Madlib.
You have already worked as a sound engineer – is that something you want to pursue further?
Probably not. Producer maybe? But engineers are more talented technically than I am.
Executioner’s Mask – a name that at first might hint at a sludge or black metal band. But then it is pure post-punk. Did you want to lead listeners astray?
The opposite! I thought it sounded like a stereotypical goth band name.
How much post-punk is in Crowhurst, if anything at all? Because I basically do not find any Crowhurst in Executioner’s mask at all?
They’re different beasts but Mask feels like a logical conclusion to where the sound on “III” went. Specifically songs like ”Ghost Tropic” where I sing. Singing is the only musical thing I have any training in.
Who came up with the idea of starting a band that basically follows classic song patterns?
I did, but mostly so I had something to show my then-partner who couldn’t describe Crowhurst.
Was it difficult for you to write such songs?
No, much much easier. I love this music, but it’s also a lot less emotionally draining in every way.
Was post-punk a big influence on your life?
Sort of? I am a bit of a sad bastard and my music collection has always reflected that.
Will we ever get some new music by Girl27?
If I’m ever prevented from releasing solo music as Crowhurst.
Some shorter (and less serious) questions: Jay Gambit – how often are you being asked in everyday life if you have something to do with the X-Men?
Is there an idea of naming one of the next records “IV”?
The trilogy is done. I don’t have any ideas about future Crowhurst material, but that’s just not my focus right now.
You can choose any other artist (alive or dead) to cover any of your songs – which artist, which song and why?
Winston Edwards because he was a genius and I’m a fan.
Is there any (kind of) classical music you enjoy?
Almost all of it. I am also a pretty big fan of opera. Really excited to see Ahkeneten at the Met next year.
Do you really hate the Beatles?
Not at all. I think anyone who grew up during the final regurgitation of the band’s attempts at modern relevance (those incessant commercials for 1’s or the few horrible Beatles movies for teens like Across The Universe) would understand why they would be irritating.
Yes, we get it, they made a few good pop records. It’s been 60 years. There’s plenty of others with matched influence that we never discuss, because the Fab Four dominate that conversation.
And now onto our infamous quickfire questions, please choose one alternative and explain it shortly:
Darkthrone or Today is the Day?TITD
A-Sun Amissa or John Cage? Cage
Amenra or Author & Punisher? Both at the same time.
Scoring movies or covering other artists? Scoring.
Beer of wine? Depends on the climate.
Bigger amps or more effect pedals? Depends on the room.
Reverb or distortion? Reverb.
The mountains or the seaside (for vacations)? Mountains, as long as there’s a stream.
Touring or writing/recording? Being in the studio.
Pittsburgh Steelers or Philadelphia Eagles (or any other sports team)? Nick Gage.[American wrestler]
Cats or dogs? I foster cats and work with a cat rescue, so I’ve gotta go with cats.
Be sure to check back with us in the next couple of weeks because maybe we got a little present by Jay for all of our readers!