I can hardly imagine it’s been more than a year since we had the chance to have
JØTNARR play in Paris. More than one year, without almost any shows at all. We had plenty of shows booked for March, April, May, and June … and more after. The world has decided, that we had to stop it.
As I do not want to stop anything related to music, I decided to still write my small interviews. Organizing shows takes a lot of time, and doing theses interviews was something I was doing when I had the time to. Most of the time, I tried to interview the band before the show: giving them a space to express theirselves before the show and maybe sometimes making people to come see them play. I asked
JØTNARR before their show but didn’t had the time to do it. One year after I was thinking it was time to fix that mistake.
JØTNARR throught the mighty React with Protest label (Sabine and Lars) and I am listening to them because of that. As they are good friends with the Ulrich family they did play a couple of time at the
Cry me a River fest (best place in the world ?). That’s where I did see them for the first time. I think that I do not have to say that their show here was impressive but the thing I felt that evening is that their personnalty was also part of the good vibes we had here. I did see three people, three friends playing their music, with a big smile on their faces wanting to share something with the people here at
CMAR. They were so fun.
That’s why we kindly asked them to come play in Paris for the first birthday of the collective. It’s not something that is doable everytime but they did come on a week-end playing a first show in UK before taking the boat to France and play here. No Brexit at this time, it was, I think, pretty easy for them to come here. But not all bands will do that to play a show for less than fifty people in a bar in Paris.
They did sleep at home and we had a great time with them, one of the band you want to have at your home everyday. Lots of good laughts and vibes.
As always I’m adding to this blog post, some photos and some tracks you can listen on the Bandcamp. If you don’t know them, give them a try, as they are in my opinion an underestimated band, at least a not so well know band as they are mixing different styles, from classic metal, to heavy metal and a bit of screamo. Not a recipe you can ear everyday.
So here is this small interview of
JØTNARR. Thanks a lot to the band and especially Chris who takes the time to answer my questions.
The recent news about the Brexit says that it will really be applicated from January first. From my point view the Brexit is an absolute catastrophy. If I'm understanding well it will not be possible to travel to the UK from a foreign country without a visa. For instance, for a show in Paris (like the one with us last January) you'll need a visa to come play. So it makes the "organization" even harder for you if you want to play outside of the UK. How do you feel about it. I'm far to be an expert regarding the UK politics, but people I know from UK are clearly against the Brexit. Do you think a last minute change is possible, and how are you going to deal with it especially about touring outside of the UK ? Last word for me for this question : Fuck the borders.
Chris: Urgh, Brexit is a fucking disaster. There are people far more qualified than me to explain this mess, but of course I voted against it, I voted to remain.
At the time, I didn't understand much of anything about the implications for trade etc., but I could see that a 'leave' result would validate and increase general racist and anti-foreign sentiments, so obviously fuck that. It was a slim margin that won it for "leave", but I think people didn't really have a clue what they were voting for - we were blatantly misled on things, like the promise of hundreds of millions of pounds freed up to be pumped into our National Health Service if we left the EU. A total lie. Anyway, I don't want to go on and on about it, but I can't believe the absolute state of our country at the moment. Unfortunately Brexit is just one horrible part of over a decade of disastrous Tory rule.
On Brexit, I do keep some small, naive hope that we'll somehow be able to reverse this bullshit, just because it already looks so disastrous that people won't stand for it... and I've no idea at the moment what it will mean for us to try and play again in Europe... But things don't look good at the moment. Fuck borders and fuck the Tories.
JØTNARR album was now released almost 2 years ago (May 2019). Are you planning to release new stuffs ? If I'm not wrong (looking at your facebook profiles) somes of you now have babies and are now "dads" (speaking of it congratulation ;-) ) (and correct me if I'm wrong). Does it slow down the time you have to play together or to do rehersal with
JØTNARR ? On the other hand did the COVID crisis gave you more time to work on new songs or was impossible to meet each others for doing that ? We personnally had to cancel almost 10 shows, and this virus crisis is a huge wreck. We are a bit demoralized about it, like having that feeling that the "normality" (about shows) will never come back. What's your personnal feeling about it ?
Chris: The short answer is yes, one of the less important effects of the pandemic and our government's murderously negligent handling of it is that we haven't been able to play any shows or get together just to write and rehearse nearly as much as we'd like. On the plus side, I've had loads more time at home to play guitar, so I've written lots of new material, and we had a good backlog of stuff since the last release anyway - so yes, there are definitely plans for more
JØTNARR recordings as soon as possible.
Simon recently had a beautiful baby - Magnus - with his partner Machaela (aka Mach Sabbath), and my partner Abbi and I are expecting a little girl any day now. Oli already has a daughter (who is on the cover art of Burn & Bury) with his wife Laura, so we will all be d-beat Dads, hahaaa.
I noticed some super melodic parts in
JØTNARR's songs, some of these parts sounds like heavy metal songs. I was a heavy metal listener in my childhood. Especially Iron Maiden. As you are from the UK I felt obligated to ask you a question about Maiden. First of all because I'm a Maiden fan (sometimes ashamed of it) and secondly because I want you opinion about the band. Most of the time when I speak to British people I'm asking this question. Do you like Iron Maiden or not ? I have to admit they disappoint me a lot especially their political positions (sometimes patriotics, their position about the brexit). If you do or do not like Iron Maiden, please tell me why ?
Chris: So, this is kind of a running joke within the band that Simon only likes Blaze Baley era Maiden, but the honest truth is that Simon absolutely hates it all, hahaha, whereas me and Oli are definitely Maiden fans. Before we started the band, I wasn't really into them at all, but Oli's devotion made me reconsider. Powerslave really clicked with me, and then Seventh Son, and I was like "okay, I think I love this band". Somewhere In Time sealed the deal, that album is maybe my favourite, what a ripper! I'm not actually sure what the bands politics are, but it wouldn't surprise me that Bruce particularly was a bit of an old gammon, but I honestly have no idea... I've briefly met Steve Harris twice and he just seems like a genuinely nice, down-to-earth dude that's totally unaffected by being in one of the biggest bands on the planet.
I saw that Chris did a "gofundme" to raise money for "Mid and North Essex Mind" which is a local and independant charity who provide mental health service for different people. I notice that you choose to support a "local" (in Essex, you live in Colchester) association. First of all congratulation for this, doing 25 press-ups for 25 days is not something I'll be able to do. Was it hard ? I'm stopping jokes. Do you think that action like this one (which are for me some kind of political action) is better when it's done locally. I mean when you do politics in your town, neighborhoods you directly see that you are acting on things you see and do everyday. Secondly why did you choose mental health. I'm personnally learning a lot about it these days and I do think that it is something very important to talk about it, and I do know people who are suffering from it, and I personnaly -sometimes- suffer from it too.
Chris : Thank you! Fuck knows how I managed it! I've actually kept doing press-ups (just not 25 a day) and I go running regularly because it really seems to help my own mental health.
So the "25 press-ups for 25 days challenge" was one of those viral things on Facebook where people nominate each other, and the idea was supposedly to raise awareness about PTSD and depression and mental health issues. I felt like watching people just do press-ups was pretty fucking boring, so I tried to make it funny, mostly with this alter-ego 'Metal Melv', but I also pretended to be Ronnie James Dio and Dani Filth and stuff. A surprising amount of people were liking the videos so I thought I'd set up a donation page and try and actually raise a bit of money for a mental health charity. Mind is a nationwide mental health charity, but they have regional organisations - so I just chose my local one because... well because I suppose any sort of political act on a smaller or local scale appeals to me, just because trying to understand and address everything that's wrong on a national scale seems like such an overwhelming, insurmountable idea.
I couldn't wait to spit the taste. to scrape it out of my mouth. running like a boy. into summer freedom. scratched the dates. in the timber. and threw away the blade. when I turned to face the field. all the flags of hate were there.
easy to see. far from the thick of it. the food and favours. the narrowed view. that shifted gaze. vile shit you'd defend, and I'd condemn.
flesh and fascist slogans make us enemies, not friends.
I'm always reading band's lyrics. I wanted to know who is writting the lyrics in
JØTNARR and what are your inspirations ? The texts are in general very short (a few lines). I tried to search some political meaning it. The only song I did found who seems to be polictical is "Spit the taste" (maybe Drugs. Terror. Death. too). A sentence of "Spit the taste" is "[..] easy to see. far from the thick of it. the food and favours. the narrowed view. that shifted gaze. vile shit you'd defend, and I'd condemn. Flesh and fascist slogans make us enemies, not friends.". I'm maybe wrong but it is the only song on which you clearly takes position. On the other hand some other songs seems to have other inspirations, Nazgül Youth for instance (maybe about the Lord of the rings). What is you current process when writting some lyrics and what is the message in it (if there is any message) ?
Chris: I write all the lyrics, and I find I just like writing about a load of different stuff, so yeah, I guess the lyrics don't always have an on-the-nose political point... sometimes I will just want to write about RoboCop or whatever, but there is always an effort to try and make it have some other meaning. "Spit The Taste / Vile" I guess has the most overtly anti-fascist sentiments, but, for instance, "Rise By Sin" is - to me - about bands or artists who flirt with edgy, nationalist imagery or ideas, but like to say "we're not political" because they know that being a self-confessed nazi is a terrible move, and they simply don't want to lose a good portion of the audience. I think because people hear a black metal influence in some of our songs, that even that vague association can cause people to wonder about your political views, and I totally get that. I think if you read our lyrics or come to our gigs there can be no doubt where we're at, and I would never seek to maintain some sort of edgy mysticism by supposing to be apolitical or some bullshit, but at the same time I don't want our political views to be the sole focus of our material - besides, there are loads of bands doing that way better than we could anyway. But yeah, obviously, fuck the fash.
Nazgul Youth is about feeling like you lose time being trapped or inhibited by your mental health issues. For me personally, it took me a long time to understand and address some mental health stuff, but I don't want to just write a very matter of fact song about that, I want to try and make it sound cool so I'll sing about "nine riders" and all that shit as a way of talking about that stuff in a (hopefully) more entertaining way.
You did release a split with Aureole Of Ash. The first vinyl I ever bought was the 7" of Louise Cyphre (Wenn wire menschen) (in 2001, so 19 years ago), so for me React with Prostest is something very special : a label I follow since a very long time. I'm ALWAYS listening to their new releases. I wanted to know how did you make the connection between you and Lars, and why did you had this idea to make a split with Aureole of ash (Lars from React With Protest is playing in it). You also played at the last "Cry me a River" festival (first time I saw you), and you were planned to play for the last one this year (which was cancelled because of the COVID). Can you tell me more about this connection you have between Sabine and Lars/React With Protest and
JØTNARR (how did you met each others, do you often play in Germany, is there another split planned to be released on RWP .... and so on)
Chris: I knew of Lars and Sabine / RWP / CMAR because of our friends in Battle of Wolf and Me & Goliath. I went to a CMAR, but it wasn't until Gaby (Me&G, Lich) put
JØTNARR on in London with Ressurectionists that I properly met them. That's when Lars first saw
JØTNARR, and he seemed to love it, I'm pleased to say. He's a brutally honest person - if he doesn't like your band, he's not gonna pretend and just be polite, so I know he has a genuine affection for us - which has been brilliant because it's meant we've played CMAR 3 times, and that has provided a means to play in Europe, not to mention a means to see fucking sick bands and make friends with some absolute legends. I bloody love the German punk family. Going to play over there for those champs honestly feels like some sort of punk utopia, I wish we could just do that all the time.
The Aureole of Ash split is basically an out-of-print EP from each band. So for us, it was our "Divide The Growth and Stone" EP which had never got a vinyl release, so it was really cool that we got to do it as a split with AofA. The split was entirely Lars' idea if I remember rightly. I think there was talk of doing a tour together around it, but for one reason or another it didn't happen - but they eventually came over with Fluoride, so I put them on in Colchester, and got to play with them the following day in Norwich. Fluoride and AofA were fucking awesome at those shows.
When you did play in Paris last January (... that seems so far to me, right now) we had a lot of fun. You were one of the bands with which we had the funniest moments. I remember we didn't stop laughing when you were at home (was it you tasting french cheese at 2AM after the show ?). The thing is I sometimes feel that there is less and less fun at shows and that -sometimes- people feel the music too seriously. You seems to be people who like to party, making jokes and have a good laugh. Do you share also this feelings that sometime things are getting too serious and that a show is also here to have fun, drink beers (or whiskey, or softs) and to then have good memories to share or to remember (It obviously does not prevent talking about serious subjects when necessary). The scene here in Paris tends to be more and more "serious" (this does not means bad) that’s why I'm asking the question ?
Chris: HAHAHAAA! I remember your fridge smelt incredibly strong to me. Alas, I didn't try your cheese, I'm a vegan who didn't even like strong cheese before I stopped eating it. I think I remember you kept Marmite in your fridge, and I was telling you how much I love Marmite, and that Oli and Simon think it's odd that I make a hot drink from it. We had a great time playing for you guys - very grateful we got to come to Paris shortly before this Corona virus stuff shut all that down. I'm just sad we had to leave so early in the morning, so didn't really get to stay up partying properly.
I think I can speak for all three of us when I say we are extremely dedicated and passionate about the music we make, but that doing a band is supposed to be fun, so yeah, we definitely want to get high and have a few beers, and shout at some confused locals about classic rock and nu metal.
I remember being worried that going to play CMAR for the first time, all the German bands were going to be incredibly reserved straight-edge people that took everything very seriously, but most of them are legendary pissheads who are absolutely gagging to talk about Mercyful Fate and sing 'Hold The Line' with us, so it's all good. I do know what you mean about people taking things a bit seriously, I have put on some bands before that are a bit dull / take themselves too seriously, but not many... I think I'm naturally drawn to herberts that love a few beers and a laugh.
I'm asking this question (the exact same question) to each band I interview. I wanted to have your opinion about the rise of social media (facebook, instagram), and music streaming "applications" (bandcamp, spotify). Do you think it changed the "scene" ? I mean ... I feel a lack of sincerity when using those things (for instance a political action is now resumed by changing your profile photo on the Facebook) and see it more like a threat than something good for the music and the scene we love. It changed a lot the way the gigs are going on (I did stop going to show for more than five years and saw a lot of changes), people always using their smartphone, to film or take photos and sometimes forgetting the most important thing ... listening to the music, enjoying the music. Do you think the rise of these new technologies changed a lot of things during shows. Do you think there is also a paradox in the scene, a lot of bands, venues are clearly struggling against what we call "capitalism" but are using those applications (facebook, instagram), the thoughts and the actions are in total opposition. I do believe that punk is capable of more for instance why not using software which are open-source, decentralized, and not owned by the biggest fortune companies of the world ?
Chris: Wow, yeah, I hear you... There's a lot to unpack there. I don't think I can give you much more of an answer than to say I think it's a double-edged sword from my point of view. Social media can be absolutely awful for people's self esteem etc etc, but it's a great means for me to stay in touch with people, promote gigs and the band. I think Spotify and apple and all that stink, they're super convenient for the user I imagine, but not great for the artist. Bandcamp seems the best bet out of all those large streaming services. Bandcamp is the main thing we use to push our music online I'd say, and I personally use it quite a lot to listen to new stuff from bands I like, or to find new bands (although I don't do nearly enough of that...)
My personal experience of the gigs I choose to go to as a punter, and the ones that we play, isn't that people are glued to their phones - but I work in a venue and I have definitely seen that sort of behaviour, especially amongst much younger music fans... Fuck I sound old. I don't know, I agree people should probably relish the opportunity to not look at thier phones for a little while and just watch a band. But it's weird talking about this stuff because, due to the pandemic, I haven't actually been at a gig for almost a year. Maybe people will behave altogether differently once we're able to go to gigs again.
You can add anything you want to say in this last question. The last word is for you !
Chris: Yeah, I would just urge all the French punks to give Marmite a try. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me! Loads of love. Xxxx