Code Orange’s Jami Morgan Wants to Turn Max Portnoy ‘Into the Fullest Monster I Could Never Be’
Jackie spoke with Jami about the band's unique methods of teasing their new music and manner in which Morgan takes all elements from their music to the promotional efforts into creating a puzzle for fans who enjoy having that extra layer of artistic insight into their music.
Morgan also explains how having Max Portnoy on hand has helped the band and offers some insight on how their dynamic works now that he's moved out from behind the drum kit.
And with a number of fall festivals on the horizon, we got Jami's thoughts on playing these major rock festivals and he offers some advice for up-and-coming bands who are now using that platform to build their audience, just as Code Orange had done in the past.
Check out the chat in full below.
On the show with us is Jami Morgan from Code Orange. Jami, leading up to these two new songs that were released, the band posted an elaborate video showcasing a hostage situation. And prior to your What is Really Underneath remix album, there was a mysterious Mud TV news report that surfaced leading to a phone number. How much fun are you having with these teases and why do you feel it's important for bands to find these unique modes of promotion?
I don't know if it's necessarily important for every band. I think for me, the visual art side of things is a big part of my enjoyment of the whole thing. And I've got some really talented people in the group and I feel like we like to kind of slowly build out a world around whatever it is that we're doing. Hopefully there's stuff that you can take at a surface level that is enjoyable.
Then, the more of a fan you are, the more clues and connections you can find between things - everything from our shirts to our album art to, these videos and promotional stuff and music videos, we try to leave all kinds of little connections and pieces of a puzzle that are slowly forming together. So I find that to be enjoyable and I think it's a cool way to consume art. Sometimes we hit it, sometimes we don't. Sometimes people click it. A lot of times they don't. But we kind of do it for art reasons, more than promotional reasons for sure.
Code Orange SLAMS Modern Music Critics
Can you speak to how these new songs that you recently release may or may not be representative of where the band is heading with their music in 2023?
What I was saying about our visual language and the way we present, every move we make interpreting music is hopefully a piece to a bigger puzzle. So I feel like these two songs represented this kind of corrosive, bug infested, heavy, straightforward, meaty kind of sound that I would say is a piece of what we're doing.
How big of a piece I think that'll be is still to come, but it's setting things up for whatever we're gonna to do next and hopefully giving context to things that we've done before. But, make no mistake, we definitely don't fly by the seat of our pants with this stuff. We try to put effort into plotting it out so that if there's people that care enough to follow the band, they're rewarded in cool ways. So yeah, I think these two songs kind of represent something bubbling inside of maybe what's to come that may or may not be very different. We'll see.
Code Orange, "Grooming My Replacement"
Speaking about the new music you were quoted as saying the songs were "from the bug infested subconscious of a band on the run from its past and future." How much is being in the moment important to you as an artist? And how much do you second guess yourself based upon where you feel you've already been or what you feel are the expectations of where people expect you to go?
I definitely second guess myself all the time. I'm a big time, second, third, fourth, fifth, guesser. I have, I feel sometimes two minds and almost every decision that I make in my life. I can see two ways to go and I struggle with that on a daily basis. I think that's something that maybe could be even discussed in future music that we may or may not be coming with.
But it's important to be in the moment. It's important to trust your compass, but have those things figured out. What I do is I just really try to do the work, meaning if I have an idea or there's a vibe or a riff or something I want to explore, I try to write, I try to find photos, I try to watch movies, I try to listen to music, I try to read books and I try to make the most fully foreign version of whatever that idea is. So that at the very least, I can stare it down and decide if it's the right thing to do once I have something that I really like.
So I rarely take an idea to the one yard line or the 10 yard line, though I usually take it pretty far. But no, I struggle with that a lot. I struggle with it, but in the end, when you put in enough work and you put in enough time, time allows things to be as clear as they can be and I'm very proud of everything we've done, but I definitely struggle with a decision and was second guessing though I'm sure most people do.
Code Orange, "The Game"
Jami, the lineup for the band has grown over the years with Max Portnoy coming on board to play drums back in 2021. As you've approached new music of late, how has being free from the drum kit, knowing Max is back there, altered the creative process, if at all, and how has having Max with the band allowed you to grow as a performer?
It definitely has helped in all ways and he's just a machine. He's just a great kid on top of that. That's what I think is so important and that's why I think we really fully embraced him into the band because we were really able to see what his character was. On top of being really skilled, he's just a really good hardworking person and it's been great. He's very collaborative. He has absolutely no ego about anything, which is crazy. He’s the least egotistical person I've ever met. So we're able to collaborate.
He teaches me so much stuff. I teach him. I try to teach him about groove and about the kind of Code Orange push and pull that we like to try to deliver on songs, just coming from the kind of music that we listen to. And he teaches me more about metal and metallic drums and technical things. And so I'm hoping to give him everything. I'll just turn him into the fullest monster that I could never be.
You spoke about your merch earlier and I wanted to touch on the Code Orange logo. It's looking pretty fierce in your latest merch. What are your thoughts on seeing this ferocious feline evolve artistically with the latest music and having this creature serve as the icon and logo for the band over the years?
Yeah, I think, I think it's important, to have something that can stick with people. And I think we're really lucky to have that and to be able to do different versions of it and, have those versions represent what we're doing at the time.
The last record Undearneath was kind of almost like this 3D sculpted block of ice, like a technological plan. This one is flatter, more natural. It's covered with these bugs. They represent what we're doing at that moment, to me at least, I'm sure nobody gives a shit about that at all. But to me that's where the basis of how we choose to evolve is or, in this case we kind of devolved it again. We added an element, but we kind of brought it back to basics a little bit. So, it's just one little piece of the art that I love and I think it's important to have strong, iconic imagery as much as you can.
You’ve had a chance to come up through the ranks playing these rock and metal festivals. What makes for a good festival experience for you and what advice would you have for the acts just starting out in how to deal with the festival experience?
Well we've had a different path than a lot of bands. A lot of bands I see that are playing these festivals, they're really new and these are some of their first shows at times. So they, it could be a good thing and it could be a bad thing. It can be a good thing in the fact that they mold to these big crowds and therefore they can play to big crowds, it can be bad in terms of their own experience. Some things are going wrong and they're not used to playing to nobody, they're not used to having to turn inward and not just rely on whatever the crowd's doing. So I'm grateful for our experience. We still have to at times really grind it out. We started touring in basements, VFW halls, the living room. We did it for years.
We laugh now at what even what bands are charging. We were opening up for bands, you know, 50, 75 bucks now. That's not even a thing that exists at all. So all I have to say, is I think that it was hard to adjust at first, and now there's some of my favorite shows in the world. They're so fun. I mean, especially if they're even a little bit into it, it just feels like a dream when you're up there doing that. So just enjoy it and if you're new and you're fresh and you're young, have respect and understand the opportunity you've been given and just take it, kill it. Go as hard as you humanly can so you can't stand up anymore.
Thank you so much. I wish you the best of luck with all of this touring. Looking forward to hearing more new music and very excited for what's to come for Code Orange. Thanks again for taking the time.
Thank you for always supporting us. Also, I really appreciate you particularly, so thank you very much for the constant support and we will go as hard as possible.
Our thanks to Code Orange's Jami Morgan for the interview. You can pick up "Grooming My Replacement" and "The Game" here. Get the band's latest merch here and catch them on the road this fall, playing Rocklahoma, Riot Fest, Louder Than Life and more, plus they'll be on the 2024 ShipRocked Cruise. You can also keep track of the band on their Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram accounts. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.