Code Or­ange

Code Or­ange power trio Eric Balderose, Reba Mey­ers and Do­minic Lan­dolina ex­plain the art of sonic war­fare…

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS - Words Amit Sharma Pho­tog­ra­phy Olly Curtis

There’s long been a no­tion that in or­der for a heavy band to achieve wider suc­cess, there has to be an el­e­ment of com­pro­mise in pur­suit of ac­cep­tance. Now we’re won­der­ing if there’s any truth in that any­more be­cause Pitts­burgh quin­tet Code Or­ange have been one of the more un­likely ris­ing stars in the world of heavy mu­sic in re­cent years. They rubbed shoul­ders with the likes of Mastodon, Me­tal­lica and Queens Of The Stone Age at this year’s Gram­mys fol­low­ing their nom­i­na­tion for Best Metal Per­for­mance, while the likes of Kill­switch En­gage, Scott Ian, Corey Tay­lor (who guests on CO’S new

The­hurtwill­goon EP) and Randy Blythe have be­come Code Or­ange con­verts.

For a band pur­su­ing such ab­ject ag­gres­sion – one that delves deep through a smor­gas­bord of hard­core, death metal and in­dus­trial in its church of un­holy noise – it’s mirac­u­lous how Code Or­ange have man­aged to achieve main­stream suc­cess with­out any call for wa­ter­ing down their sound. In fact, that un­com­pro­mis­ing at­ti­tude could very well be the se­cret to their suc­cess. Here gui­tarists Eric 'Shade' Balderose, Reba Mey­ers and Do­minic Lan­dolina ex­plain to TG the chem­istry be­hind last year’s land­mark third al­bum For­ever and the con­trolled chaos at the heart of their ac­claimed live per­for­mances…

The Grammy recog­ni­tion was a pleas­ant sur­prise for such a heavy band…

Eric: “That was re­ally em­pow­er­ing… we felt thank­ful to be there. It was a crazy sit­u­a­tion, be­ing there to rep­re­sent heavy mu­sic and new mu­sic. We want to show peo­ple you don’t have to do what ev­ery­one else does. You can be your­self and still get to the Gram­mys, do­ing your own thing with suc­cess and never hav­ing to com­pro­mise for any­one. The band have al­ways be­lieved in never chang­ing for any­one. We con­tinue evolv­ing in the right way for what our vi­sion is. I don’t want to say it’s all planned out, but the path is set for us to walk the path. We started with just two gui­tars, bass and drums – then we brought Dom into the band and I switched to key­boards as well as gui­tars. That was the third evo­lu­tion. When it all came to­gether, we knew we could show­case the heav­ier sides of the band and the softer things.”

Reba: “We were pretty taken back by the Grammy thing, think­ing, ‘Oh my god, they get it too!’ It was sur­pris­ing. We had been build­ing to­wards that for a very long time, peo­ple had to see us and

no­tice us in or­der to get there. We know we be­long in all those rooms, we de­serve to be recog­nised in that kind of way. We all felt, ‘We did it… they get it now!’ It was very en­cour­ag­ing.”

So what do you think heavy mu­sic is lack­ing right now?

Reba: “For me, there’s a lack of real ag­gres­sion and new nat­u­ral in­flu­ences. Ev­ery band I hear now are a rip-off of this or re­hash­ing of that, and some of that stuff I even like, but for us it was all about dis­cov­er­ing a new sound. It didn’t even hap­pen con­sciously, we didn’t think about it, ev­ery­thing was nat­u­ral. We all grew up to­gether, even be­fore Dom joined, he was our friend back in the day. We’d all share mu­sic to­gether and came up with this mesh of in­flu­ences and how to make it work, bring­ing a new kind of live ag­gres­sion to the world. A lot of bands miss that too – they just stand there and play. When we play, we are dy­ing up there. We are break­ing our backs and putting it all in to get that power. There’s a lack of that pas­sion right now, I think. It feels like it’s been for­ever since a young band took this kind of stance. It’s al­ways the same shit and the same old bands from the last how­ever many years. Some of them are good, I re­spect them and we learn from them, but our mu­sic is all about find­ing a whole new take on it.”

Eric: “The im­por­tant thing with us that other bands miss is en­ergy. When we write mu­sic, we try to en­sure it all feels like mu­sic you would jump out of your skin to and feel some­thing.”

What do you think are the key strengths of your gui­tar dy­namic?

Do­minic: “The parts Eric plays on are specif­i­cally cho­sen to add to our heav­i­ness. Some­times him, me and Reba will all be play­ing the same riff. Three gui­tars can make it so much heav­ier, so we do that on songs like My World and Spy, while songs like Bleedinginthe­blur have Eric play­ing leads, while I stick to rhythm and Reba has her own part too. That en­tire song has this three-gui­tar dy­namic, it makes our sound multi-di­men­sional.” Reba: “We write be­cause of how it feels in the room. Look at how Pan­tera or Sepul­tura were back in the day, they all had this nat­u­ral en­ergy to their songs. It was never about some su­per-techy riff that was hard to play. It could even just be a sound, some­thing that ev­ery­one in the room can’t help but feel. We don’t give a shit about what the typ­i­cal struc­ture should be, it’s about what we feel is right for our sound. We’ll sit there for an hour, more than an hour, even days, won­der­ing why things aren’t work­ing or don’t feel right. I think that’s why our mu­sic sounds so an­gry… it’s not put to­gether the way most bands write. We’ll fuck about, spit­ting things at each other. It’s a lot eas­ier when you’re play­ing around to have some­one there to say, ‘That sounds good!’ That’s how you get more direc­tion – it’s very col­lab­o­ra­tive with us. We know one of us in a room alone wouldn’t be as good, es­pe­cially for all the lay­er­ing. We just yell things out at each other and it al­most doesn’t mat­ter who phys­i­cally is play­ing the in­stru­ment…”

Speak­ing of Sepul­tura, you seem to utilise the two clash­ing notes favoured by An­dreas Kisser to cre­ate ten­sion on your own songs like Real and Killthe­cre­ator…

Reba: “We like to do what­ever sounds nas­ti­est! We ripped those clash­ing notes from the older hard­core bands, though a lot of metal bands like Sepul­tura would in­cor­po­rate those sounds in dif­fer­ent ways too. What­ever sounds hor­ri­ble!”

Bleedinginthe­blur is one of the high­lights of For­ever and has some in­ter­est­ing 90s alt-rock in­flu­ences. Where does that come from?

Reba: “That’s prob­a­bly me and Jami [Mor­gan, drums / vcoals] mainly. We got into that stuff to­gether and ac­tu­ally used to be in a band back in the day that re­ally had that 90s vibe. With Code Or­ange, we wanted to cre­ate a heav­ier ver­sion of it – tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from Nir­vana, Soundgar­den, Alice In Chains and even some shoegazey stuff, which creeps its way in through the amounts of re­verb we use. We’ve al­ways writ­ten songs like that, just never as good or as pow­er­ful. We wanted to make sure it felt

“other bands miss our en­ergy”

Eric balderose

like an an­them rather than just some throw­away ‘dif­fer­ent’ track on the record. Some­times you write songs and want to throw in all these notes and dif­fer­ent chord struc­tures, but you need to find that per­fect bal­ance. It needs that hooky melody, with not too much go­ing on, but also with groove and ag­gres­sion in there. I’m sure we’re go­ing to write more songs like that. Only Oneway, a new song we put out, has that kinda vibe too…”

What ped­als do you use to cre­ate those mas­sive washy swirls in your sound?

Reba: “I use Earthquaker De­vices for a lot of those sounds. The Sea Ma­chine cho­rus has a re­ally cool wavy kind of sound. I also use the TC Elec­tronic Hall Of Fame Re­verb on only one set­ting, but it’s the per­fect one for us. On the record, I used one of the big Moog flanger ped­als, which had this war­bly ef­fect. We used that on the song dream2 to cre­ate this crazy in-and-out kinda sound.”

Do­minic: “I have the Elec­tro-har­monix Epit­ome pedal, which is a re­verb, cho­rus, flanger and oc­tave pedal all in one. That gets used pretty much through­out our set and I change the set­tings for pretty much ev­ery song. I do it all on the fly, when I get my 10 sec­onds to tune and flip some knobs! I like the shim­mer set­ting, it brings a lot more tre­ble and high-end, though I don’t need to use it much be­cause Strats gen­er­ally do that quite well al­ready.”

The tempo shifts seem to hold the key to a lot of your heav­i­ness… how much con­sid­er­a­tion goes into time changes?

Do­minic: “Ev­ery step of the way when we are writ­ing, we’ll be think­ing about tempo. It’s a big thing and an im­por­tant as­pect of our mu­sic. We can use the shifts to make peo­ple feel a cer­tain way, be­fore go­ing into the next part in the most dra­matic way pos­si­ble. It all came through prac­tis­ing hard and know­ing more about how slow­ing down or speed­ing up can af­fect the power of what you are play­ing.”

Reba: “We are all so scat­ter-brained that we al­ways wanted to be con­stantly chang­ing. Since Dom came into the band, we started analysing that as­pect more, which is why it prob­a­bly sounds more in­ten­tional. Af­ter play­ing mu­sic for all these years, we have this feel for mak­ing our songs more en­er­getic – we like cre­at­ing that ten­sion by chang­ing tempo. It’s amaz­ing how lit­tle tweaks can cre­ate more, ‘What the fuck?!’ mo­ments. It’s some­thing a lot of bands don’t re­ally do any­more. I ac­tu­ally hear it more in hip-hop, switch­ing it up through dif­fer­ent beats. We came to re­alise we had more in com­mon with that world than some of the straight metal stuff.”

Eric: “We think about the live show. The last thing we want to do is be up there bang­ing our heads for three straight min­utes. That’s what ev­ery metal band in the world does, it’s de­void of feel, vibe and flow. Our live show sets us apart, so we make our records as close to that as pos­si­ble.”

Fi­nally, what ad­vice do you have for all the other metal mu­si­cians out there hop­ing to make their own mark?

Eric: “Don’t try to copy any­one. You can rein­vent with­out the need for that. Or you can cre­ate some­thing to­tally new that no-one’s ever heard, your friends might think it’s shit – but there could be a ton of peo­ple out there that ab­so­lutely love it. If I didn’t have this band as a plat­form to put out my ideas, no-one would hear them. I’ve learned to trust my­self. Just be­cause I don’t know ev­ery trick in the book, it doesn’t mean that the ones I do use aren’t as good as the next guy’s.”

Reba: “We got a lot of fuckin’ hate early on in this band. Ev­ery­one told us we sucked and peo­ple would walk out while we played and wait for the next band. Well, guess fuckin’ what? We stuck around and those other bands haven’t done shit. And it’s be­cause we be­lieved in what we do. We trusted our in­stincts and worked hard, that’s the only way to get any­where and it’s a rough road. Seek out like-minded peo­ple, stay loyal to them and cre­ate some­thing dif­fer­ent that you feel needs to be there.”

“we got a lot of f****n’ hate early on...”


three­forces (From left clock­wise) Eric Balderose, Do­minic Lan­dolina and Reba Mey­ers

live ‘n’ elec­tric Eric Balderose (left) and Do­minic Lan­dolina per­form­ing live on stage at The Fo­rum in Lon­don, 12 March, 2017

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