Interview by Adrian Hextall with added content from Krishan Singh
Mutation Live Pictures (C) Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
While MUTATION has been called “the manifestation of all the horrible stuff that goes on in Ginger’s head,” the most extreme moments on those first two records sound like David Essex’s “Hold Me Close” compared to the seething, mentally shattered insanity of Mutation III: Dark Black. This is a ridiculously extreme, obnoxious and hostile piece of work. It’s an exorcism, a venting of malevolent spirits and mental exhaustion. But it’s also an extraordinary piece of art and one of the most obscenely exciting bursts of freewheeling, kamikaze noise that you will ever hear. With that in mind we spoke to Scott Lee Andrews, the man whose bass in a Mutation live show will, to quote Hellraiser, “tear your soul apart” in advance of the recent London show.
MGM: Based on what we have heard from Mutation so far, one extended set, no talking. You guys just hit it. Any breaks in between the songs, we’re looking at white noise and then you get to the end of the set. And that’s it. You are done. What really drove you to that? Because that’s really unusual for a band. No band does that really.
SLA: To be honest with you, I think it was the first night when we all physically got together, this has been myself in Australia, Denzel was in Belgium at one point– Berlin, sorry. Ginger obviously between the Caravan [his second home when he’s writing], where we wrote the album at St. Helens, up making all these plans and saying all this extreme stuff with more thought or consideration into whether they are achievable or not. Which is a typical Ginger thing to do, I found out. But the fun thing was, is that I was on the same page and I just wanted to make sure that I could, if Ginger wanted to achieve something, I am not no-er person. I will say yes. But also, I’ll go, round to round with them without doing extreme things. If he says “let’s do this”, the first night we got together then turn out to– I was like “no, I want to do this” and then basically, it’s like a fun “how far can we take this?” kind of game. Obviously, I’ve been a Wildhearts fan for a fucking 20 years myself, coming off the back of Mutation albums and the connection to the Endless Nameless. I wanted to out-do that in every way possible with no budget. It was a case of, how extreme can we be with the most limited access to resources? That way, basically means that you can’t really fuck about– you have to have a team which is all willing to go-
MGM: And you also, presumably got to know exactly what you want to do. From the off?
SLA: From the off, which is, when you’re talking about things like Extreme Noise, you never really kind of view what it’s going to be like until you get into a room together for the first time and that was almost 2 weeks ago. It went in to that point where was like, we’re sitting in this room, we tuned everything up and the sound in that room was almost deafening from the off. Make the samples louder than that, everything louder than everything else, it just basically started– kind of try to push the walls of this tiny room out.
MGM: At that point as well, if you’ve pushed the volume as far as it can go, it’s not just volume, isn’t it? I mean, for what Krishan was telling me about the pedal board and what you’ve got going on as well there, there’s more to it that just that?
SLA: That just pure volume, yes. A couple of things have been said about the loudest gig people have been to since Motorhead’s and things like that. For Ginger that’s like-
MGM: The ultimate compliment for sure.
SLA: Fuck, massive shit-eating grin! And even some of the things people have been saying in regards to the intensity on the noise is that, actually is a lot of thought going into the frequencies that have being used. I mean. I’ve been researching stuff, like infrasound, stuff they’re using in films that when the scary part happens in a horror film, [Click here and check out this article on the topic] that, in that frequency race, if it’s at certain volumes, it can make you feel anxious, so my perverted part of this was, “I’ve got an idea, Ginger. What about the things you can’t do as opposed to this white noise and distortion?”, these things in there which I intended to make, to bring unease, like sonic warfare Ginger described it, and I was like, “Okay”. And what you do is Google it, sonic weapons and I researched some sonic weaponry and things and then applied it.
MGM: As you mention it, on the sonic weaponry side of things, we’ve examples of, say, what the US military is using, where they’re firing those sonic beams from those trucks that are design to disorientate….
SLA: Stop riots and-
MGM: Yes, exactly, make people feel nauseous, and it stops there, doesn’t it?
SLA: We’ve got this, this’s the most recent thing, it’s what happened in Cuba, where they’ve pulled out diplomats because they believe sonic weaponry is being used — and that was just perfect timing because we shared the story. This can be achievable, you have to look for it. It was kind of, how do we implement that within a set? Which then, as Krishan mentioned, it’s close to being like a rock gig, it doesn’t look like a rock gig with the kind of board setup and make it not sound like a rock gig. People come in and this is a new thing what they’re going to see or hear for the first time. We wanted it to leave a massive imprint.
MGM: Yes. In terms of what’s not your typical rock gig piece, you’ve got Denzel, front and center, for what Krishan was saying about the recent Halloween show, everything is driven around Denzel, you two are watching him. He is the one leading everything, sound driven from the drums instead. A total about face to the way you’d normally approach it.
SLA: Yes, and I think, the idea was, Ginger wanted Mutation not to be a Ginger-branded project and even down to the actual– the way the shows are presented initially, Ginger didn’t wanted his name on the posters, it was something we had a lot of discussion with the agency because they wanted to push this, “There’s this new band that no one has heard of and if Ginger’s name is not on it, it’s not going to attract people”. But Ginger was quite– he wanted to get across that this was a three person– we’re all responsible equally for the thing that happens. And then is a case of, especially myself, because people know Denzel, you have to step up and be on the same level in terms of the way that we stand and communicate with each other. So it’s not like the guy at the front listening for four clicks– we kind of have to wait in front a moment to start a song, almost.
MGM: And it really does make the whole event a three-way event rather than just another Ginger project. Everybody wants– naturally, you want to see Ginger as a fan but actually it’s a three-way piece, it’s very cool. You two are handling also the vocals, constantly, it’s not a switch between you, I understand that it’s both of you, at the same time, all the time.
SLA: Yes, I think it kind of harks back to the fact on a lot of the Mutation records, any different song might have had any one of six to eight people when you look at the credits on that song. How could a three piece condense what is essentially an ensemble’s cast’s worth of music together? And that was when we needed to use every part of our fucking bodies to make this work, if it’s there a spare appendage, I’m sure if we had got more rehearsal we will be beating stuff with our dicks to get extra sounds out, because it was literally all hands on deck and I’m just saying-
It was kind of, nothing is too awkward or weird or– that’s why all the samples– Denzel sent me one of these– the stuff that he has to play is too complicated as far as I’m concerned, I stand and watch him, sometimes going, “That is not fucking real”. He’s playing out of his skin, still singing, we all kind of– we’re at the maximum capacity for the show, it’s not kind of, swinging the guitars in the air, pull rock poses. There is such an incredible amount of concentration which is why we are pretty static, because the intent, what we are doing, it’s so much going on.
KS: There was three times in one show that Denzel broke his drum kit and it had to be repaired. It shows how much he’s doing to it.
SLA: And that’s another reason why between the songs there is that– what’s it called, what we call that lull, we haven’t got any of that white noise on stage, that’s all for you, that’s our present to you, and that’s for us just to fucking fix things, but basically, prepared for the next massive, every song is an attack.
MGM: That’s why you got Dunc running back on, “Fix this, fix that”.
SLA: Yes, because it is so– he’s done a fantastic job, because there’s so much going on for a three piece, I imagine bands like Muse or whatever. They’ve got guys under the stage doing things and pressing buttons and all that stuff, but everything that you hear comes– It’s just that fact that we thought we bit off a bit more that we can chew, but we-
MGM: But it works.
SLA: -Stuck it to the back of our teeth, swallowed it dry. [laughs]
MGM: The way Krishan described it, he said, is as much performance art as it is a gig. Would that be the same for you as well?
SLA: Yes, because, the first thing, people point out, this is not banter, this is no thanks or that kind of– there’s almost a disconnect, like you would be at, for example, at the theatre, the performance you are watching, something which is set to a certain degree and that is it. The interactive element is removed because we want it for that outward attack, not to break the fourth wall, for you to literally feel that physical, all raw manifestation of Mutation is completely “Have this, you bastards”.
MGM: In terms of venues on the UK tour as well, of all the venues to choose, The Deaf Institute [laughter] there’s an element of irony on that one, isn’t there?
SLA: Yes, and now even today, it’s the fifth gig, it’s our fifth ever gig. Each show has brought its own challenges, for lack of a better word.
MGM: But also, special moments, presumably?
SLA: It’s that one thing, every gig we’ve got to overcome something and even if in some everything seems to be going right, everyone is on complete edge until we get back in the dressing room after the set.
MGM: And the tour diaries that you see being posted, are team effort or they just Ginger’s viewpoints?
[YOU CAN FIND THE TOUR DIARIES HERE]
SLA: I think, Ginger wanted– he’s asked if we wanted help, but to be honest once he started the first two, there’s a thread and I think you got to– people again, an insight into his mind.
MGM: Where he is at at the moment. Is he pretty positive about this?
SLA: Yes, I think, considering that there were a lot of personal issues which happened during the rehearsals and it was, I mean, an extremely difficult time. Without going too far into it, it wasn’t the most enjoyable period putting this together. And there were moments where we didn’t think that we would actually get to the point where we’re going to get in the van.
MGM: Yes, I was going to say, you’d be totally excused if you’ve said, “You know what? We just can’t do this, lads”.
SLA: As this little unit, we kind of banded together and kind of tried to instil a bit of faith that this was going to work. There was a lot of anxiety and things that everyone’s been feeling to a certain degree because of the complexity of the material and what are people going to think. And then it’s kind of just reminding ourselves that this is supposed to be an attack and you kind of have to be– when you go on stage, as long as we’re all in the mindset that, for the next 45-50 minutes, this is the only thing in the world and then that it shuts the day off.
MGM: It’s therapy for the soul, really, isn’t it?
SLA: Yes, everything at the moment that it ends, my eyes open for the first time in the day, basically.
MGM: Fantastic. And in terms of the way it’s worked out, I mean, if you go back to the Halloween show actually getting to deliver that with all the bands on the bill as well, that was not mean feat, that line up changed. You guys were looking to play with Exit International at one point, that fell apart, Ordinary Boys, fell away, that went as well. So to get to that final bill where it all worked, you guys were then there, it’s top of the bill, finishing the night off. There must have been times when it all felt like “You know what, I don’t even know if we are going to be able to do this”.
SLA: Yes. And I think, a lot of the background work that’s gone into this has been– it’s just been thought there’s a curse that surrounds Mutation.
MGM: Certainly from a support band perspective. I mean, what the hell of a job you’ve had.
SLA: I think, that bleeds into, I think, everything to be honest. There is a kind of, not paraphrasing the first line on the fucking album, but that dark cloud– There is something which follows us around. And there’s moments that we forget it’s there. And speaking personally, in regards of mental health issues, you got myself, Denzel and Ginger in very similar boats and having to take signals to see if someone stopped– you know, pick each other up, and then it’s a constant fucking thing, like electricity that’s surrounding this–
MGM: Every night. Presumably–
SLA: Every single fucking waking minute of the day, there’s something, it’s the only way, there’s something that follow us. That thing you just can’t put your arms around its neck. Because if we could, we would have fucking ripped its head off by now. Just to get it away.
MGM: So you can at least move on again. Who have you ended up with tonight? Because obviously the supports have been changing night on night. Who you have got today?
SLA: Today it’s Barrabas, one of Paul Catten’s many projects, he’s a good part of Darren Sadler-run Undergroove, who released Dark Black commercially for us, and then the other support we have got is Nasty Little Lonely, they supported Exit International, when we played– it was earlier this year, we toured and we played London with them and then they were there when DeadCuts fell away.
MGM: Is it maybe one of those things when you sort of pull out the little black book and you flick through and think “They might be free. What about them?”
SLA: We actually put out a public service announcement for bands to step up, and any band that has stepped up, it’s a testament to them, because we– there’s points when Ginger, and I think he mentioned it in one of the diaries, about “Where are all these bands that would like to play shows?”. If Exit were in a position where someone like Ginger offered the show, we would travel to play gigs of this kind of magnitude if you want to. For better phrase. But people, it was very thin on the ground, it was really hard to get people–
MGM: It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?
SLA: You know what I mean? It doesn’t seem like things– I don’t know what has changed, I don’t want to think about it too much, to be honest with you, but new bands just don’t seem to have a kind of “thing”.
MGM: You think, generally it’s too easy to put music together in your bedroom and stick it online.
SLA: And stick it online. Yes. The art of actually kind of like, earning your stripes, taking your batteries and basically developing resilience and things like that. And people, are just, I think, apathetic. Just, “meh”.
MGM: That’s a sad state of affairs, isn’t it?
SLA: Yes it is. It’s a horrible way to think.
MGM: Because there is no better way of learning your trade than being confident enough to stick yourself on the stage and stand in front of people.
SLA: Ironically, that is exactly the position we are in, in this band now, having to play these shows, with this fucking material, as dense and as weird as it is, at such short rehearsal time, with someone like Ginger’s reputation. It puts us in the same place.
MGM: Because it’s not what people expect from 20 to 30 years of his output, is it?
SLA: Exactly. There’s a quote , “It’s not a case of 29 times the pain, it’s the pain, with Mutation”.
MGM: Oh I like that. You have seen the show, Krishan. What’s your view compared to what you’re used to, and how did this impact you?
KS: Well, I’ve heard the three albums, going into the show. And I knew what to expect, I knew the songs, but wow, I can’t tell you what it did to me and the rest of the crowd. We all walked away, we walked out that night, we were like zombies. It was incredible. How you put it together? How you put that show together and pull it all off, I don’t know.
SLA: Well, bringing that up, we found that every single night the crowd looks like zombies, they are standing, they’re– what we wanted is– laughing in the van we said “We want the feeling to come from behind the crowd”. So we are looking out at this fucking–it’s like something from a horror film, you got this people standing with their arms by their side, with this fucking face, like they have seen something, are possessed.
It’s kind of reflecting, visually, what we are…
SLA: Yes. It’s actually, that face is looking out– you have got a mixture of smiles, which I think is like kind of almost semi-bemusement, because they’re like, it’s a fucking circus of sonic horror. You know what I mean? But then, I think it also becomes a bit hypnotic with all those elements, the volume, the white noise, the absence of melody across the board, the light spikes, because you need light for the dark.
MGM: You do. Absolutely. And you talked about that as well, didn’t you? Because this, you know, one of the things I want to hear you play was Carrion Blue, for example, that’s one of the light elements. You can pull the melody from Carrion Blue, can’t you?
KS: You got that section, and you’ve got Carrion Blue, and you’ve got Friday Night Drugs, I mean, just-
MGM: It’s enough to latch on to.
SLA: And from that point, there is a concerted trajectory upwards into chaos. It’s kind of massive impact drags the melody, and as you’re moving on, the melody disappears on the carnage, kind of hits that cross point.
MGM: It’s pretty much the same time per show? Is that reminiscent of all the other shows on the tour as well?
SLA: Yes. Because it is this performance’s art element, it’s almost scripted. The samples need to be in a particular order, there needs to be a structure which is not very malleable, it’s locked.
You don’t want to say people aren’t going to get– people are going to question “Are you going to get value for money?”.
KS: They’re not. Believe me, they’re not. That 45 minutes, it’s intense.
SLA: It’s enough. Yes.
MGM: It’s so much of an assault on the senses, you probably can’t deal with more than that.
SLA: That’s correct. When we timed the set we realised that any more, it needs to be at that point because that’s where it reaches its biggest impact.
MGM: So you were actually genuinely aiming to leave people so assaulted on the senses that they actually say “Yeah I’m done now.”.
SLA: With, the gentleman Ollie, that’s doing our sound–
MGM: The poor fellow, we have to feel for him.
SLA: He’s done Prince, he’s worked with Prince, the lad’s extremely technically minded. But he’s also a lot, well a little bit saner, than us. And has certain standards that he likes to adhere to. But as the tour has gone on, we’re rubbing off on him, and things are getting louder and more intense… He is a part of the band, we’re taking him to Japan with us, he is a critical part, we couldn’t do this with the normal house guy, he has as much to do with this as us.
MGM: I’ve got all three Mutation albums, but I’ve still got no real idea. This is the first live show for me. I wasn’t up at Wolves, Krishan was, and I don’t quite know, despite him explaining it to me what’s gonna hit me tonight.
SLA: Well that what’s been the most important thing so far. It’s that people have described what they’ve heard. But the power of words has made people more interested as the tour has gone on.
MGM: All it needed, like Krishan, and that’s exactly what I got when asked him. He started with, “Oh, mate.” That’s all you need. It’s that “Ooh”. There’s something there, “What am I gonna hear then?”.
KS: I’ve been to so many gigs in my life and I can definitely say I’ve not experienced anything like that.
All of Mutation’s albums are available now, a tour of Japan has also just completed. Who knows what next…..?