A while ago, Trollmusic founder Thor talked with J. & D. from JADE, a new band whose debut demo tape contains some of the most atmospheric and haunting death metal recorded in recent years. The four songs of "Smoking Mirror" get now re-released on vinyl as well as on CD (on the well-respected Nigredo Records), and in support of those releases, we chose to publish this in-depth conversation in its original (English) form.
JADE seems to appear out of the blue, yet your "demo" tape presents four tunes which reflect mature musicianship alongside – still? once again? – burning passion. What made you choose a moniker which is not exactly unique for this kind of heavily Nineties inspired "good old" death metal, and how did JADE take form in the shadows of your other musical entities?
J.: There’s a flame inside which has been burning strong since mid 90’s when began my personal music venture from the creative side. Since years before and still now, music, from all its parcels, has given a lot to me in terms of inspiration, goals and chances to develop myself. As a key piece to my life, music allows to explore and develop not only technical skills but personal. From the experience got from the other projects I’m involved in, JADE appeared as a need on developing something from a very unique and single initial vision and experiencing where I might be able to take the band to. Defining very clear foundations musically and aesthetically was the very first step to take, and this Death Metal rediscovery I have been lucky to live during the last five years was crucial for betting for this old vibe language a bit distant from what my main band develops.
My good friend D. meant to be the best complement to this way of facing a band. Very clear ideas, roles and same level of passion and compromise. Easy as fuck to fill the gaps of those initial only music demos, a general concept and the expectation of being able to present a band with strong enough foundations to grow by its own in the old way: mouth to mouth and step by step, because its honesty, clarity of ideas and ambition to go forwards beyond the already known.
D.: JADE is not for kids! This was nobody’s first time in a band or a studio. Yet "Smoking Mirror" happened without a single rehearsal. This is what happens when two veteran players from fairly different quadrants of the metal world meet at a festival, hit it off, and decide to go for it. J. sent me his demos, I learned them, flew to Barcelona, and laid down the tracks.
For a lyricist, JADE is water in the desert. It is very freeing to write lyrics about themes beyond the occult and horror literature, or European history and politics, etc. These songs take place in imagined Mesoamerican and East Asian fantastic scenarios, and deal with alien concepts of hell and battle, alchemy and idiocy, and much else that can be encompassed by that special stone JADE. I had a lot of fun with these.
Although "Smoking Mirror" is "just" a demo, its production is nevertheless superb and supports the haunting old school Gothic atmosphere. This is everything but halfhearted. How much time did it take to forge this iron?
D.: Drums were tracked in three hours on a VERY hot day. The lyrics came more quickly than anything I’ve done before. Wrote the whole thing in one go, on a domestic flight in the UK. In a way, though, I had been writing them in my head for a long time, turning the concepts over without putting them into words.
J.: I was working on these songs filling the gaps that my other bands left during a year of high demand and effort due the release of new albums, live dates, promo and so. Home made demos which was useful enough to present D. the expected music result and vibe of this first release. After he learnt and came to Barcelona for recording the songs at Moontower Studios, I still needed some months to close the vocals with D.’s lyrics, and re-record guitars and bass. Is at this point when A. enters in the equation and fills the gap of guitars due my lack of skills playing them beyond a homemade demo. I’m originally bassist, so, getting the guitars properly recorded and arranged by this classy band mate before going again to studio and face the mix, was a must. As you can deduce, the album was recoded by our own, except the drums, and later re-amplified by the magician Javi Félez at his own Moontower Studios. Beyond general approaching comments in terms of production and atmosphere, so suitable to your comment about the "old school" atmosphere, he gave to the mix and got this deepness and wide space production filled with rhythmical power. Density is one of the foundations of what I have always looked for on music, whatever language I may use.
Your music transports manifold emotions and moods: There's a triumphant vibe, yet it's rather sublime, not too obvious. There's despair, madness, a will to resist and survive, a hidden beauty... it's like in the good old days when metal music was a kingdom into which the listener traveled... I probably romanticize too much, but maybe that's your fault since your music makes me remember how deep I drowned in "The Astral Sleep"?!
J.: To read your diagnosis in terms of emotions means the best of compliments, Thor. It’s not weird that you recognize all those early extreme music moments turning what was dark and brutal into a sort of beauty. There has been a process, from cold to warm, from raw to majestic… always close to the night and depths of human fears. Everything takes its own moment and place in Jade’s music. You can call and detect Death Metal, Black Metal or Doom… to me, this is an approach to timeless codes of Metal music, and how this creature called JADE belongs to all these periods and moments. Let’s also talk about a wide range of emotions and moods already known for most of us from late 80’s to the current days. I’m sure you know what I mean describing this transition among the dark music paths from primitiveness and rawness to where other emotions make the difference.
D.: These songs blend the brutal and the atmospheric in a very special way. J. really outdid himself with the riffs, leads, and vox alike. It helps that the songs are not "too fast". After spending years playing at breakneck speeds, it was enjoyable (and challenging) to slow it down a touch and see how much I could get these grooves to rock.
cover artwork by Adam Burke
What I especially enjoy about the "Smoking Mirror" that the recordings already sound so consequent, with quite some nasty details giving it an extra punch and depth. That guitar passage (almost solo) in "Dead Stone Mask"... fukk, is sooo good and epic. How does your "quality control" in the band work?
D.: Practice makes perfect!
J.: The way I began each song development came with a lead guitar. What you almost call a solo is with no doubt a riff in itself, not only an arrangement. So, a key element in order to recognize each song, later dressed with real arrangements, bridges or fills. I’ve always believed in the "less is more" sentence, but even more in the use of a very few amount of very recognizable elements and tools on each parcel. Look at these lead / solo guitar lines driving most of the songs, or the vocal resources which give coherence to the whole entity and speech. Emotions can be felt whatever production you may use, but it’s true that JADE was conceived to be a heavy beast dealing with putrid beauty. That’s what the tuning, the distortion, the slow tempo and the depth of the songs walk as one on an epic claustrophobic sense.
You released "Smoking Mirror" on tape, a medium which lately witnesses a revival in the metal underground; probably due to nostalgic reasons for "our" generation. Although I'm not the typical materialistic collector of metal items, I highly value some tapes which I bought on my first concerts or ordered via obscure underground mailorders, and especially one tape by my former fanzine writer buddy Rüdiger (r.i.p.) who taped me his fave demos / albums every now and then and sent those tapes by snail mail. What remembrances and motivations inspired your decision for this tape release?
J.: There’s a common approach to the motivation it took us to bet on releasing 100 tapes for these songs. We learnt and discovered music by trading tapes with friends here and there. More than a nostalgic act, to release these first release on tape responds to a personal wish on allowing people to experience what to me, at that time, was a sort of ritual experience. Choosing songs from other friends tapes to compose personal compilations, etc… probably could be compared to what people is doing now with MP3 or streaming platforms. But in a time where only vinyl and tapes exist, the rhythm and process of approaching us to music, was so different to what nowadays happen. I want to think it was a bit more conscious approach to music, but probably this is the opinion of an already too old lad… So, let’s say that these tapes are our personal way to explain from when we come from and how we have experienced music. Perhaps then, people may see a connection element to who is behind JADE.
Will the songs be featured on future releases as well?
J.: If you are thinking of "Smoking Mirror" as a demo which might be translated or adapted among other titles in theoretical first album, the answer is no. I don’t conceive these songs as another thing than the foundational moment. I really think every compilation of songs composed in a band, respond to a live moment. So, to get them as clear and connected to that, being four songs for a demo, EP, or first work is the best way to keep the spirit and essence of a very first moment and connection to that time.
There are some labels interested on these songs, and might be part of a re-edition also on tape or any other format. Let’s think on future releases with new stuff and new emotional addition to the compilation. I think is much better and interesting in terms of digging into a band universe.
What plans and dreams do you want to realize with JADE, or do you simply leave it to a – mercyful – fate what the future might bring for this entity?
D.: We’re really happy with this demo. Of course we’ll do more.
J. No… I think it’s so important to have an idea of which future someone expects to reach. Let’s think on setting the band’s music out there strong enough on an underground level. To get this music heard out there in the international scene through the right channels or people is not an easy thing. I’m so glad to count with people helping out in the way it’s happening. Four songs as "Smoking Mirror" offers should be received as an introduction card. But releasing a hungry beast like this out of the cave, also needs the right control of the forces and resources. As I commented, we are already in touch with some labels showing interest on releasing these songs. I trust that JADE’s music can grow by its own, but to get the help of a partner would make the difference in terms of exposure. Whatever it may happen, in a year or so, I would like to offer a second chapter with new songs. Not sure if it should be an album or a sort of EP. But I know that a second chapter probably might put the band in a better position in terms of facing the Live stage. JADE is a long time project, and needs to set things properly.
Thanks for taking the time to answer; I hope to see JADE live rather sooner than later!
J. Me too, dear Thor. Let’s make this creature grow strong enough for facing the Live level with even more content and job done at our back, and see you soon out there. Thanks from the bottom of our heart for opening the doors to us in this very first interview ever. Having the chance of explaining some of the motivational process behind JADE is a privilege.