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Code Orange's Jami Morgan on Grammy Nomination: 'It Feels Right to Me'
Code Orange conquered 2017 the old-fashioned way: by touring the world relentlessly and winning over fans with their chaotic live shows. The Pittsburgh quintet also turned heads this year with their critically acclaimed third record, Forever, which fleshes out their bludgeoning metallic hardcore trademark with electronic flourishes and haunting post-rock. But it’s the furious title track of Forever that earned Code Orange their first Grammy nomination for best metal performance, putting them in the company of metal veterans like Mastodon and Body Count.
It served as validation for the five-piece, who formed in their teens nearly a decade ago under the name Code Orange Kids and have steadily grown their fanbase since then. “We started the band at 14. We’re 24 now, and we’ve grinded every year, eight months a year, in a f---in’ van, just to prove our f---in’ point,” drummer and vocalist Jami Morgan says over the phone as the band barrels toward their next tour stop. “So it feels right to me. I slept easy that night knowing that the world was correct, and that’s it.”
Morgan talks more about the band’s work ethic, musical integrity and what the Grammy nod means for heavy music in general, vowing to make his mark at next month’s awards show even if Code Orange doesn’t snatch the crown. “Watch that shit,” he says with a hint of mischief in his voice. “I’m gonna try to somehow get on that goddamn TV and do something.”
Congrats on the Grammy nomination! That’s huge.
Thank you very much, man. I’m psyched on it.
Where were you when you first heard the news?
We were basically on an overnight drive in our van. So the way our van’s set up, everyone has a little spot in there, but we’re all basically jammed together. So a lot of times, we’ve got to do drives that are super long. It was like a 10-hour drive, so we drove the whole thing overnight. So in the morning, I just woke up and one of them was like yelling, saying something. I was like, “Oh shit, maybe something’s wrong.” So I woke up and I was like, “What’s wrong?” And they were like, “No, dude, we got nominated for a Grammy!” I was like, “Oh shit, that’s pretty insane.”
That’s an interesting dichotomy: doing a grueling overnight drive only to learn the next morning that you got nominated for a Grammy.
I think everybody in the band was very excited, but to me it just feels f---in’ right. It was where I think we should be, and it didn’t shock me or anything. It’s just good. It’s more like, thank God they got that shit f---in’ right. So I feel good about it, and I feel like it’s f---in’ well deserved, and I wanna go f---in’ win that thing.
You’ve gotten fantastic press this year with Forever. Did you feel that album was a step up for the band?
I knew it was a f---in' great album. I knew it was what we wanted to make, and I fully believed in it, and I never put a limit on what I think we can do… At the same time, you can’t control what the f--- other people are gonna do, what press you’re gonna get, whatever. So I can’t control it. I just do my thing. If it happens, cool. If it doesn’t, whatever. But I definitely knew off the bat and was telling all them over there that it definitely could happen, and that I was gonna try to put it in everybody’s faces, trying to make it happen. So I’m glad that it’s still happening, even a year later, and it just continues to roll on, and it continues to get better.
Some bands or fan bases would take issue with a mainstream institution recognizing such a fringe genre of music. How do you feel about it?
It ain’t gonna change anything that we f---in’ do. On our last record, right in the record, it says, “No boxes, no boundaries, no fear.” We’ve been promoting that mentality for a long time, so I think we have been, in a way, kind of subliminally raising our fans to not put a ceiling on any of this shit.
When bands change their approach to be accepted by the mainstream world, I think that’s f---in’ insanely whack. And that’s something that I’ll absolutely never do with a f---in’ gun to my head. But if you’re getting these looks, get these f---in’ looks. F--- all this other stuff that’s in the mainstream anyway. So why not? That’s why way I see it. Why not us?
It’s refreshing to see the Grammys nominate bands who are pushing the boundaries and making critically acclaimed records, not just a bunch of legacy acts. Do you think there’s a reason for that shift lately?
I think that there’s always great records coming out. It’s just, are they gonna pay attention to it or not? But at the same time, I don’t f---in’ lump our shit in with anybody, and I don’t mean that in any kind of arrogant way. But I really do f---in’ believe with my whole soul that in five years, 10 years, we’re gonna see who’s around and who’s really made an impact. I think our band’s gonna make a f---in’ impact, 100 percent. And it ain’t gonna stop at this. This is the first thing, not the last thing, for this band. We’re 24 years old, and we’re just gearing up.
What makes the song “Forever” stand out for you?
That’s the first song that we wrote on the disc. I think in a lot of ways it’s kind of like a mission statement for the record. It’s the first track on the record. It’s heavy. It’s got a lot of strange things going on, and it sets up a lot of things we do later in the album. It’s almost a teaser trailer for the album, in a lot of ways. There’s little bits of weird and heavy and melodic that we delve into later on. That’s kind of how it was designed. And it kind of sets up the record thematically. The opening sample says, “When hands are caught in my brother’s pocket, I’ll burn my gods down.” And I think that kind of sets the stage in a lot of ways for what we’re doing here, that we were gonna come guns-a-blazing, and no matter who the f--- you are, if you take from me, we’re coming to take from you.
What do you have planned for 2018 so far?
We’re gonna open up for Meshuggah and Trivium. We’re gonna do some of our own stuff and just keep hitting every one of these individual worlds. We’re hitting these different corners of the metal world and rock world. We’re stretching our hands into other worlds. We remixed a song by a group called Alt-J, which had zero to do with our shit. They just loved our music and they wore our shirt on Conan O’Brien, and then they hit us up and they said, “You wanna remix this shit?” So we turned it into this f---in’ nightmare.
If you win, how will you celebrate?
I don’t know if we’ll celebrate. We’ll chill. We’ll definitely celebrate amongst ourselves or whatever. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t all ride on that. If that happens, great. If not, all good. I’m glad that we are being able to make some waves here in this kind of world in a way that we haven’t been able to before. The Grammys are a big thing. So we’ll celebrate, but then we’ll put our heads down and go back to working. That’s what we do.