Interview: Iron Monkey
We'll just see what people think when it comes out. At the end if the day it's like if people fucking hate me for it, then great coz we knew that from the fucking start and the bands always had that mindset. All we have to do is put a good record out and instantly people fucking hate us which is brilliant as far as I'm concerned!
Earlier this year, Nottingham’s masters of misanthropic and nihilistic sludge, Iron Monkey announced their return to the shock of some and the delight of many. It’s been eighteen long years since they split originally and in that time, the band’s legend has grown and grown. Following the tragic passing of original vocalist Johnny Morrow, nobody thought they would ever see Iron Monkey again but original members Jim Rushby (guitarist and now vocalist) and bassist Steve Watson have come back with a new drummer in Scott Briggs (formerly of My War and now also in Chaos UK and FUK) and a new album 9-13 (out on the 20th of October through Relapse Records) and it’s safe to say that they mean serious business with their new material. It’s prime Iron Monkey, meaning it’s rich in riffs, noise, doom and hate and it’s great to have them back. Gavin Brown had an entertaining chat with Jim and Steve to hear all about their return, the new album, the band’s early days and what Iron Monkey have planned for the future.
E&D: First of all, and in sure you’re going to get sick of answering this but what led Iron Monkey getting back together?
Jim: There wasn’t really a masterplan or anything, it was, I reckon the end of 2015, I started knocking some riffs together and they sounded like Iron Monkey, just by messing about and I said to Steve “I’ve got some stuff here that sounds like Iron Monkey and what do you reckon, for a laugh, sticking Iron Monkey back together, but not necessarily calling it Iron Monkey, calling it Iron Donkey or something!” It was just kind of a joke really, we just thought, we’ll just fuck around with people and then it got more and more serious until it became this where we are today, but there wasn’t really a massive intention, there was some kind of meaning to it that happened along the way, like taking our band back and a little bit of unfinished business as well. I mean, I’d started writing the third album just before I left the band, I was like five song into it and I left the band for one reason or another and it was, pretty much picking up where, for me, where I left off then. If you listen to, there’s a couple of songs on that Johnny Morrow tribute CD, if you listen to them, there in the same vein as what we’re doing on this album. It’s almost like this is the album that would probably have been written, obviously without Johnny on vocals.
E&D: Those five songs that you mentioned, are they or parts of them on this new album?
Jim: No, no. This is all new stuff, but it’s in the same style. It’s slightly faster, there’s a little bit more hardcore punk, that influence coming out a little bit more, They’re a little bit faster, probably a bit more, I don’t know, rock n roll maybe, heavy metal maybe?
Steve: What did we say? rot n roll?
Jim: Yeah I remember when I was doing that stuff before, we were calling it sludge, but it doesn’t really describe what we’re doing now.
Steve: It’s just uptempo, but not that uptempo, it’s just that if you listen to stoner and sludge bands, it sounds more uptempo when you compare it to that. It’s a crawl, it’s kind of a punk style.
Jim: Yeah, our punk comes out more in it, like say for example, old Buzzov•en. That’s a good kind of example cos obviously most sludge bands are called because they’re slow and stuff, but I wasn’t fucking going to write another fucking album of em like that cos there’s a million bands that do it. A million bands that copy each other and what’s the fucking point of that. I wanna write something that’s fresh you know.
E&D: You’ve got your new album 9-13 coming out very soon. How was the experience of getting back into the studio as Iron Monkey?
Jim: Fucking stressful as fuck! Having to be in a band with these two cunts even though one of them’s not here! I’m not joking either!
Steve: Most of it, well all of it was written by Jim and Scott. I had family stuff I had to deal with so Jim and Scott just got stuck into doing it and just played me songs when they finished them.
Jim: Well, I was writing stuff at home, going in regularly to the room with Scott and just crafting, tweaking them and then performing them. Steve had a lot on his plate, greedy bastard! And he came in and stuck the bass on. There was a lot of stress actually recording it.
Steve: It took a long time because we were having to do it in short periods rather than one long session which is what we were used to, get in and record it almost live because you get a better vibe with that, just because that’s what we were used to so when we were getting it done in five sessions, it was kind of like we couldn’t really see the end.
Jim: We had a lot of problems as well, everything that could’ve gone wrong, did. Loads of fucking problems, constantly, like it didn’t want to get made. The electrics on my guitar broke down seven times for no fucking reason. We had a £500 cymbal crack halfway through the recording, we were like what the fuck. I made us record the album twice cos it weren’t at the right speed which caused a massive fucking, yeah there was a lot of stress and we were all pissed off with each other but it finally came good, well we finally got it done. Just!
E&D: is there any significance to the album’s title?
Jim: Yeah it’s just, I is the ninth letter of the alphabet and M is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet. I.M, that’s all it is. It just means Iron Monkey in numbers. To me, I like the aesthetics of it. Also nine plus one plus three equals thirteen and there’s probably some other stuff I haven’t thought of. We’re just trying to look clever!
E&D: From what I’ve heard of the album, it sounds like it could just fit in after the last Iron Monkey album and the Church Of Misery split, but were you wary of not wanting to go over old ground with this new material?
Jim: If we’re gonna do it, it’s gonna sound like Iron Monkey. We’ve sat there and said, this sounds like the most Iron Monkey record that we’ve done cos there’s no fucking Eyehategod in there. Initially, our influences were very evident in what we were writing before so you could tell there was Eyehategod in there, and other bands like Grief, Floor, but on this one it just sounds like pure Iron Monkey. It sounds really Iron Monkey and anyone who says anything else is a fucking dick. It sounds like Iron Monkey to me and people are obviously going to have their prejudices because Johnny’s not singing, that’s the main one, there’s not a lot anyone can do about that you know what I mean, it’s like what can anyone do. I could’ve tried to sing like Johnny but that’s a fucking stupid thing to do. It was Steve who forced me into singing really because I’m not a singer.
Steve: if we’d have got another singer, they’d just try and outdo Johnny or have their own style either way, it’s like someone singing for Alice In Chains or whatever you know what I mean. They’ll just think that’s not so and so and there’s always gonna be that but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since Iron Monkey split up so there’s kids now who’ll think I actually prefer it to the old stuff coz it’s got more attitude to it rather than bring like Jim said, a straight Eyehategod clone or something. It’s got its own identity.
Jim: Yeah, my intention was not be better or worse, or to to copy anybody or to pay tribute to anybody or anything like that, I didn’t know what we were going to do until we were recording the album, I didn’t even practice my vocals. I went in and just fucking same and that’s what came out, that’s what you’ve got. I think it sounds alright and there weren’t anyone else who was gonna do it. There was nobody else appropriate enough.
E&D: What’s the reaction to your return been like since you announced it?
Jim: Mixed! haha!
Steve: Like I said to Jim, if I weren’t in the band and I was 14, I’d be on the Internet, like it’s shit, fucking hell, but people ain’t heard it and we’ve played it to ex band members and they’ve been generally blown away and that’s amazing. We’re not doing it for money.
Jim: I am!
Steve: We’re not doing it for fame or any of that bullshit, it’s like Jim said, it’s unfinished business and if we can still do it at such a high standard, why not? It’d be foolish not to.
Jim: Yeah, the reaction, its like all the people that we were around the first time, all the bands and the people who liked us the first time round really like it including ex band members and the new people really like it. It’s just all the fucking dicks inthe middle who claim that they were around at the start, I don’t know who these fucking people are, well I do now. There the ones who talk the shit, they want to say something and people want to have their opinion. I can understand people having a little bit of reluctance to it being, oh you’re reforming the band without the singer.
Steve: Bon Scott died, Brian Johnson in, bish, bash, bosh. Ozzy left, Dio came in, fucking ace, you know what I mean and they’re both quality records so this is just my opinion and I’m not being biased.
Jim: Yeah, coz we’re as big as them!
Steve: Yeah we’re as big as Ozzy and AC/DC combined! There’s nothing on it where you think fucking hell, hmmmm. Everything on it is yeah I’ll fucking listen to that. I’m massively proud of it,I’ve done loads of records with loads of bands but with this, I’m really pleased with it.
Jim: We’ll just see what people think when it comes out, at the end if the day it’s like if people fucking hate me for it, then great coz we knew that from the fucking start and the bands always had that mindset. All we have to do is put a good record out and instantly people fucking hate us which is brilliant as far as I’m concerned! In fact, send me some more fucking hate mail coz I haven’t had any for about four days! I like it, I fucking love it!
E&D: How did the deal with Relapse Records come about?
Steve: I emailed them saying we’re getting the band back together and when we’ve got something together I’ll let you know and they said they were definitely excited and then we sent them the demo and that’s it!
Jim: Yeah, we got a reply instantly saying yeah, they were all into it. When we talked about going to a label, it was the first label we wanted and it seemed like an obvious match to me and they’re a great label to be on so far you know what I mean.
Steve: They haven’t interfered, nothing, they’ve just let us get on with it which is bang on.
Jim: They’re all decent people too. I’ve not met any of them, but I’ve written to them!
E&D: Have you got any gigs planned when the albums released?
Jim: We’ll have some at the end of the year, but they’ll literally be gigs here and there. It’ll be 2018 when we start playing properly, we’re doing tweaks and stuff and we’ve got a live guitarist coz I’m not singing and playing guitar, I can’t do that! I want to move around a little bit so we’ve got Wolfgang, he’s playing guitar live. We’ll be playing some secret gigs and some announced shows towards the end of the year, but it’ll be next year when we’re doing stuff properly. You’ll see it on the social media accounts.
E&D: Do you still have fond memories if your original time with Iron Monkey?
Steve: Yes and no, we’ve been talking about it recently actually. At the time it was hilarious coz we were all on the dole and had fuck all to do.
Jim: We were twenty years younger!
Steve: So we were all like woohoo!
Jim: We were like what Steve?
Jim: Like a train!
Steve: But you know, we just used to practice every day just coz we were bored and had nothing to do. We used to use other band’s equipment and they didn’t know, so when we came to record we were really tight anyway, so we did that quick but we didn’t have any money, well Johnny had money coz he had a job.
Jim: Yeah, he was the bank!
Steve: He paid for diesel so we could get to gigs and stuff and rehearsal fees here and there.
Jim: He paid for coal up on that train! What I remember from those early gigs was that at every single fucking gig and everything we did, was fucking retarded as fuck and ended up in a massive load of shit and chaos to be honest with you. When you’ve got no job, it doesn’t even matter. No responsibilities, no job, no fucking anything except the band. We just used to get into trouble all the time and when I say that, I’m not saying it as a pose thing, literally every fucking gig we did, it’d be ridiculous. There’d be some fucking shit kicking off, something’d happen. Just stupid stuff and when you’ve got the people in the band that are pretty intense, diverse kind of people they’re gonna go off on each other hahaha! On Steve’s train! It was mad as fuck and we burnt out pretty quick. I burnt out first, well. I didn’t burn out, I just got fucked off with everybody else in the band. Steve got burnt out first, Steve got sacked by me.
Steve: Yeah. They sacked me because I preferred the taste of a pint over playing. I did, at the time my number one priority was to drink as much booze as possible and the band came second. The band got a bit bigger and my antics obviously..
Jim: Got a bit bigger!
Steve: Yeah got a bit bigger so I had to go. It was a good thing I did.
Jim: Bear in mind, this is a guy getting sacked from fucking Iron Monkey for drinking. I ain’t gonna tell you any stories coz he’s got a family now, but seriously, this guy has changed so much it’s ridiculous.
Steve: Well, you know that’s when you’re young and there was no CCTV!
Jim: Well, you weren’t that young!
Steve: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
Jim: it was intense as fuck and there was a lot if interesting stuff happening in the U.K. To be quite honest with you, in the 90s.
Steve: We played to nobody, I mean we were playing to five or six people.
Jim: Yeah, we never played to many people, I think the most people we played to was at Dynamo, but I don’t think they were particularly there for us. The band is a lot bigger now.
E&D: Since you’ve been away, Iron Monkey has grown into this legendary and influential band. Do you find that weird?
Jim: Yeah, I mean when I left Iron Monkey, Steve left and then I left, the band split up pretty quickly after that. I was that fucked off with the whole thing that I just ignored the band completely. I got rid of all my Iron Monkey shit, I was like I don’t want anything to do with this band, fuck Iron Monkey, that’s all I used to say, so I ignored it. I don’t listen to that type of music to be honest. If I listen to metal, it’s black metal or I’ll listen to hardcore punk or certain industrial stuff. I don’t pay attention to that scene or any of that shit so I wouldn’t know. It was like, I wonder what would happen If we got Iron Monkey back together and it just seems like everybody’s interested.
Steve: It used to be to annoy people.
Jim: It’s been brilliantly entertaining for us, just watching what everyone says.
Steve: I’d be worried if we couldn’t back it up but we can!
Jim: Steve’s going to single handedly back it up in combat onstage every night. As soon as we finish playing he’ll be hanging around outside!
E&D: What does the future hold for Iron Monkey after this album?
Jim: A trip to hospital for Steve!
Steve: Well, Jim’s already started writing the next one.
Jim: The next five albums! Yeah, I’ve got more time than the others so I’m into writing. I’ve got shitloads of stuff on tape, I’ll knock five albums out a year but obviously you can’t do that but me personally, I just want to keep writing fucking records and every one be a bit better than the other ones. Steve, I would imagine, wants to do the same thing.
Jim: Scott I’d imagine wants to do the same thing too.
Steve: This albums gonna be good coz it’s reestablishing ourselves and the next ones almost like your second one again as your starting again. This one’s ace, but I can imagine the next one…
Jim: Will be really rubbish wont it?!
Steve: It’ll be awful, seriously! It’ll have Megadeth covers on it, you name it!
Jim: You like Megadeth though!
Steve: The first two albums!
E&D: Thanks guys, any final words for all the Iron Monkey fans out there?
Jim: Yeah. Fuck off!
Steve: Yeah, fuck off and die!