Glory In the Gloom
Mar 06, 2017
Photography by Maclay Heriot Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary
Find It At: AMAZON
"If you'd said to me 10 years ago while I was making beats in my bedroom in Sydney, 'In 10 years you're going to be sharing a studio with Andrew Weatherall and Ewan Pearson in London,' I would have said, 'No fucking chance,'" says Jono Ma, the musical epicenter of Australia's Jagwar Ma, as he gives a tour of the studio space he shares in a grim industrial estate in North London.
"This is Andrew's room with decks, these are Andrew's records and books, these are Andrew's boots, this is the old door to his Rotter's Gold Club, this is our tiki bar where we have tea in the morning and talk about music and politics," Ma continues. Weatherall is known for many musical ventures, among them, producing Primal Scream's Screamadelica, a strong influence on Jagwar Ma's music, and christening this area of the city with the term "the glory of gloom."
Jagwar Ma has nice studio set-ups on multiple continents. In addition to London, where the three, including Gabriel Winterfield and Jack Freeman, currently make their home, they have their space in Bondi Beach in Sydney, and a remote space in the Loire Valley in the French countryside. These three places were where they worked on their first album, 2013's Howlin, and 2016's follow-up, Every Now & Then.
Most things about both albums are similar, consciously so: psychedelic indie-dance grooves set at the heart of the Madchester craze. The Happy Mondays-inspired "Loose Ends" on Every Now & Then exemplifies this, serving as a connector between the two albums. "Give Me a Reason" and its rubber-band riffs gives a strong nod to The Stone Roses and the wails of "Ordinary" smack of latter-day Charlatans. Although more structured and less hallucinogenic in nature, Every Now & Then has the intoxicated, feel-good vibes established by Howlin. What's different about Every Now & Then is the input of the sounds of London, namely, the post-dubstep genre of bass music. From Joy Orbison, Four Tet, and Burial to the dub basslines blasting out of cars, Ma says, "Being around it changes your internal rhythm."
Many of the groups Jagwar Ma are likened to either had self-destructive issues with substance abuse or their output wasn't particularly consistent, in terms of quality. Neither is a trap Ma and his cohorts are likely to fall into. "That is people mismanaging anxiety and not coming to terms with depression," he says simply. "You invest so much time, energy and emotion. You have massive highs and lows going from playing to thousands of people to just yourself in a hotel room at 3am. Those ups and downs tear people apart, making them go from constructive to destructive.
"The romance of the drug-addled, struggling artist has never appealed to us," Ma continues. "It's more interesting finding a way to reach those states by the music we're making. In the absence of stimulus, your imagination can go wild. I believe once you've had a drug experience, it's downloaded into you and attainable. If I make a beat, I know it's good if I start to feel a rush like I'm high, because I've been high. I experienced it firsthand playing Glastonbury stone cold sober. 15,000 people singing the chorus of 'The Throw' back to us, that moment was the best feeling in the world. It is the most pure joy from music you could ever possibly have, and it has nothing to do with drugs. It's an exchange of energy creating an environment where you transcend your existence for a moment."
[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue (January/February/March 2017). This is its debut online.]
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