Jay Gambit is the driving force behind L.A.-based experimental noise/metal/everything project Crowhurst, and feverishly produces noise music as a solo artist. He has dozens of albums to his name, and has collaborated with the likes of Today is the Day, Tanner Garza, The Body, Oxbow, Black Leather Jesus, and countless others. Last year, I reviewed II, an album featuring members of Ævangelist and Caïna. The third album in that instalment features “guest appearances by King Dude, Tony Wakeford (Death In June, Sol Invictus), Tara Vanflower (Lycia), Justin Pearson (The Locust/Head Wound City) and Ethan Lee McCarthy (Primitive Man),” and is slated for next year.
I felt compelled to reach out to Jay for a few words, so I did, and here’s the result. We discussed a bit of the noise scene, his influences, mental health, and what we can expect from Crowhurst in the future, or in the past when combing through his discography.
Tristan: Artists you’ve collaborated/played with include Tanner Garza, The Body, Water Torture, Steve Austin, and plenty more. Any stories come to mind that you’d like to share? Humorous anecdotes? Heart-to-hearts?
Jay: I think everyone you’ve mentioned have all been super nice. Steve is a great dude and I think Tanner doesn’t get nearly as much credit as he deserves. He’s one of the better underground ambient artists of the past decade.
Tanner Garza’s “Give Up the Ghost” with Vomir got a bit of a burst in popularity on Sputnik due to a user on our site reviewing it. But, then it got deleted because said user had a tendency to write sexually explicit prose. The injustice!. Would you say there is a connection between noise music and the sexually obscene? Can noise music serve as a sort of critique on how society views sex?
I think that there’s a link between the extreme and taboo, whatever the subjects may be. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything sexually explicit on record aside from maybe the cover to the BLJ split (oddly enough) but that’s as far into that world as I go. I once live scored an amputee porn for a premiere party for the site BurningAngel… but again, that was more GWAR-grade kitsch (for me, anyway) than any exploration of sex and sexuality.
I’m not too familiar with the LA noise scene myself, but the name Sean Carnage comes to mind as a fairly significant figure in that regard. Have you worked with Sean? If so, can you elaborate on his involvement?
Sean put on shows at Pehrspace for a while. Always was very nice. Not a shitty thing to say about him. Unfortunately again, not much to elaborate on here since he only hosted us once and we weren’t booked directly through him. That said, there are certain venue owners who have nixed the idea of us playing there even if the headliners ask specifically – so he’s definitely one of the good guys.
“there are certain venue owners who have nixed the idea of us playing there” is there something about your shows that irks some venue owners?
Perhaps I could broaden this question to ask what people unfamiliar with you could expect at your performances? Either with a band or solo
I think there’s a lot of venues/promoters who either don’t view “noise” as legitimate unless it’s pigeonholed into a very niche, commercially proven realm. If I started a project tomorrow that was quite literally what I currently do, but added a drum machine and called it “industrial sludge ffo: jesu, eyehategod, swans” then I’d be open to a lot more accessible in the eyes of those folks.
That said, I think there’s a certain expectation – at least with Crowhurst – that the sets will have a level of unpredictability as far as the material. It used to be a lot more structured but as opportunities varied, so did the sets. For the show with Inquisition we had two guitarists and vocals and it was like a drumless Khanate set. For the set at Superchief LA it was 2 hours of constantly shifting soundscapes. In the UK it was all solo sets playing with cassettes and pedals.
I only recently made the connection between your band’s name and a sailor named Donald Crowhurst (for readers who don’t know, he was famed for trying to cheat in a round-the-world yacht race in 1969, though succumbed to insanity and suicide during). What was the inspiration for picking the name?
Crowhurst’s story instantly resonated because it was the story of a man who’s dreams and ambitions drove him insane. The story of isolation and hopelessness fit perfectly with the theme of the project
In a review for your second Crowhurst full-band full-length album II, I wrote: “Crowhurst lean into an interesting post-punk/black metal hybrid, occupying a niche that is probably under-utilized […]”. Do you see yourself really honing in on this style on your third album? (not actually your “third album” per se, since your discog is massive, but…)
There’s a track on III called ‘Self Portrait With Halo And Snake’ that has Tony Wakeford (Death In June) and TJ Cowgill (King Dude) that’s got that neofolk influenced post-punk sound but obviously filtered through the Crowhurst lens. Another track called “The Drift” which actually came from slowing down something Andy sent and building layers on top of that.
That said, there’s elements of Blasphemy and Celtic Frost worship in there and the whole noise element finally bubbles to the surface with some Pharmakon style death industrial and even flirtations with hard techno. If anything, the Crowhurst trilogy gets more unhinged with each track and record. Kind of like Donald Crowhurst sailing in circles to his own complete collapse.
You have a huge back catalogue, which can be a lot to digest for newcomers of your music. Any particular albums you’d consider essential listening?
Memory-Loss, Aghoree, In The Speedboat Under The Sea, Death Van, Lightbearer
No Life To Live is essential but daunting.
You cover a lot of different styles: noise, ambient, black metal, punk, free jazz, etc. What motivates you to be so plural?
The idea that someone wouldn’t be plural in that sense is somewhat weird. I guess if you’re trying to sound just like something else or really refine a specific style, maybe it would be advantageous to build and work inside a set musical cage so to speak. I get bored playing a single style. Truth is, I’m a big fan of music and my goal is to pick out the little elements of shit I like and work with that. If you look at Miles Davis or John Coltrane, they did the same thing and ended up with daunting discographies filled with challenging music.
I know you’re a Bill Laswell fan, and I’d hazard a guess to say you’re also a bit of a John Zorn fan?
Oh yeah, he’s a genius. Totally fucking fearless.
Both Laswell and Zorn can, in my view, be seen as a bridge between rock and jazz due to their prevalence in those realms. As Crowhurst dips more into black metal, do you see yourself being sorta the same thing but in regards to bridging noise and BM? I’m aware of bands like Wold, Black Cilice, and Enbilulugugal that mesh those styles, but you have an expansive background in noise as a solo artist and have worked with countless noise artists. I guess I’m making a bit of a prediction here: am I on the mark?
It would be super flattering to be held in that regard but I think that comes with time and context. I don’t like to think about making any grand declarations or changes when it comes to the experimental music scene. I’m a relatively new artist and while I have played with a lot of great people across the spectrum, it’s not in my mindset to think about what anyone else is doing. Andy and I would joke a lot during the making of “II” that we were a trio with a noise, black metal and death metal musician and were making a record that felt more akin to Marilyn Manson than what anyone would expect. Why make a record you’ve made before?
I think a lot of people forget to be listeners first and players second, which is easy for me to say as someone who doesn’t play a traditional instrument. That said, that helps me because I can only communicate with my collaborators through point-of-references like songs or artists and not specific chords. That also requires a degree of trust and freedom when it comes to how much of themselves everyone wants to contribute — when I can’t be there to be like Prince and tab out every instrument for every composition. Part of me wishes I was that talented and able, but for now I’m just fortunate that my current scenario allows me to do what I do with so many talented, competent, killer individuals.
“I think a lot of people forget to be listeners first and players second” this actually ties pretty well into a question I was planning on asking anyway. Would you say music, as an art, is defined by the listener? Or should the musician’s intended vision be of equal or greater worth? I think I know what the answer will be in terms of “yes or no,” but humour me anyway?
Musician’s intended vision should only matter to the listener if that’s what the listener wants. Sometimes a cigar is a 92 on Cigar Aficionado and was hand rolled in Cuba and contains notes of mahogany and cherry. Sometimes it’s just a fucking cigar. Up to the motherfucker with the match.
Just realized that makes me sound like a total chode. But uh, whatever – I guess? I originally typed an analogy about weed instead of cigars but I figured that gave me the personality of a pair of pot leaf socks.
A friends of yours from Intestinal Disgorge (Ryan) wrote an article about using music as a means to reconnect with the outside world despite crippling anxiety. I suspect that you’re a bit more extroverted than that, but does that sentiment still ring true for you?
Why do people think I’m an extrovert? I’m not. I spend most of my time at home listening to records. People have some sort of idea that I go out — but just not to *their* shows or that I am being a snobby prick when I don’t watch people’s sets or talk to them and it’s honestly because I suffer from crippling anxiety, depression and paranoia. I don’t know what to say most of the time. The beauty of the internet is that I can delete shit and give a measured, filtered response to things and that makes me more comfortable. But it’s very obvious to me why, since I was home schooled after going to 8-9 high schools and spent most of my time on the computer. I always had a computer because I have a neurological problem that has always made it super difficult to write shit out by hand — it’s how my brain has always worked. But I guess it is how I connect to a world that seems super alien to me most of the time.
This is a bit of a gut-punch response, in that it’s scary relatable. Many of my social interactions feel forced and I often come across as incredibly rude and standoffish, but it’s due in large part to extreme social anxiety. And, I enjoy computer interactions for similar reasons.
I suppose I’ll hit the home stretch here: what are a few 2017 artists or albums you’d recommend checking out? Can you comment on why they’re significant for you?
Just typed a big response but it deleted ugh
Soren, TALsounds, Good Willsmith, Spit Mask, The Holy Circle, Oxbow, Dead Cross, Body Of Light, Soren, Somali Extract, +HIRS+, Country Death, Future Blondes, Dreamcrusher, Jock Club, Destruction Unit, Uniform, Night Sins, HIDE, Pod Blotz, Gnaw Their Tongues, Bleak, Haggus