INTERVIEW: Hey Colossus | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Continuing a process begun with 2013’s amazing Cuckoo Lives Life Like Cuckoo album, Rocket Recordings release In Black & Gold sees the mighty Hey Colossus move further away from their gloriously noisy sludge origins (“Fudgetunnel meets Can” was an early manifesto), bringing in a wealth of new textures without losing the sheer in-your-faceness and headfuckery that makes the band so special. I kicked off our conversation by asking vocalist Paul and guitarist Jon how In Black & Gold happened.

“We probably do things in reverse to most bands, whereby we record the songs and then try to replicate them live,” explains Paul. “It means that the songs change from gig to gig and change a lot. I have a feeling we’ll be playing our tails off this year. It was good to scale the shows back last year, not release a record and concentrate getting a schedule planned for the start of this year. Though, I am fit to BURST waiting to play. We want to play this record everywhere and I’m really excited to play Newcastle.”

Jon is a comparatively recent member and witnessed the change in working methods. “On the previous two albums we’ve made since my involvement, there has been a steady mutation of the recording process. RRR was recorded the morning after the night I was invited to join the band. We literally plugged in and pressed record. On Cuckoo… there were more rehearsals prior to recording but the songs only took shape in the mixing process. The In Black And Gold rehearsals were more structured. We had pulled the sound into focus on Cuckoo… and we wanted to explore this further.”

In the last couple of years, Rocket Recordings has really come into its own as a label with a strong ethos and dependable quality control (let’s not mention Goat) and it feels like a natural home for this new album, the way MIE did for Cuckoo… and Riot Season for the brutal, astonishing RRR. How did the signing come about?

“This kind of thing is nearly always about the timing,” Paul explains. “We were in the process of writing and putting the record together and I know they were hearing some of the last couple of records and enjoying it. If you put literally everything into what you do, you at least want to know the people dealing with the manufacturing and distribution are doing the best they can because they’re as passionate about what you do as you are. And that’s the case, as it’s always been whoever has put the records out. It’s always a collaboration of aesthetics when you work with a label, and I hope we’ve pulled it off on this one. No idea which lucky label will have to deal with our bullshit next time around.”

in black and gold

“I think a band or artist who is associated with the dreaded ‘psych’ label is duty bound to evolve and explore their sound in the true spirit of the psychedelic experience”

The new album has a strong post-punk feel – traces of The Pop Group, The Bad Seeds, even Gang Of Four – alongside some of the band’s trademark mania. A large line-up (currently six members) presumably sees a lot of different influences being brought in? “The band is constantly and naturally in a state of flux and everyone brings something different to the table. It’s why it remains interesting to work on and shift what a heavy guitar band is supposed to sound like,” Paul explains, while Jon adds “I’ve been able to have more input this time round. You can’t join a band as a third guitar player and start throwing your weight about straight away. It’s been four years now so I thought ‘fuck it!’. On RRR I had no idea of what was supposed to be happening beyond it being LOUD. On Cuckoo… we caught a glimpse of what was possible. I know what each component does now so designing riffs and structure for some of the songs on In Black And Gold was easy.”

The noise/psych scene is in rude health at the moment, and after 11 years Hey Colossus must almost feel like elder statesmen. I wondered what they make of the term psych and their comparatively veteran status. Jon’s answer is in equal parts thoughtful and scathing. “I think a band or artist who is associated with the dreaded ‘psych’ label is duty bound to evolve and explore their sound in the true spirit of the psychedelic experience. I would hazard a guess that the psychedelic zeitgeist is mostly down to sites like Silk Road. Culture is becoming generic. Advertisers and designers have been tripping balls for decades, you see it everywhere. So much so that its imagery is actually opposite to the genuine experience. Psychedelic seems to be a by-word for reverb and vagueness nowadays, but it should be describing a shift in perception and senses.”

Paul is more equivocal. “I’m not really interested in pulling this one apart too much. I suppose you’re more likely to come up with some interesting ideas if you point your guitars in the direction of ‘psychedelic island’ rather than ‘clothcap, waistcoat and whippet alley’. Whichever way you set sail – make sure you have a BAD TRIP now and again.”

And their veteran status? “We are by no means elder statesmen,” ruminates Joe. “We have had year upon year of DIY shows and thankless support slots. Every time we wake up on a cold stone floor at a kind promoter’s house we cry ‘never again!’. Then we do it again. I’ve been laughed at by some of my contemporaries who have been afforded more luxurious travel and accommodation. But what are we supposed to do? Stop creating, performing and communicating? Fools!”

In Black & Gold is released by Rocket Recordings on 9th February. The band play Head of Steam, Newcastle on Thursday 19th February.

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