Jack is a bassist from North Wales, who has been writing and playing for a number of years. There’s a lot of aspects that people don’t realise about Jack’s music. The songs he has created have generated in his head for years, every word he sings he means. Every riff you hear or every bass line, he will have had that stored in his head to use for a long time. Jack just has this aura about him. Every aspect of him, his personality and his actions are a reflection of his musical passion. Even when I sat down with him today, he occasionally had to pick up the guitar and play something while talking. Nearly every time you talk to Jack, he uses his hand to create drum patterns or bass lines on his leg. Jack’s music is personal to him and you can feel the raw, real and chaotic aspects of his personality pour through every part of his music. His technical rhythms and raw, grungy vocals make his music intriguing. In every single one of his songs, you cannot predict what is about to happen and that’s why I find his music so fascinating. I asked him a few questions today about his favourite bands, his bass playing, his songwriting and recording.
When did you first decide to start playing bass?
I got my first bass on my 13th birthday, which is just over 5 years ago. Before I had a bass, I had my dad’s guitar.
What made you decide to switch to bass? Why was bass a more appealing instrument to you than any other?
I decided to switch to bass after listening to Lounge Act by Nirvana. The bass in the song really stood out to me, I remember thinking the bass had a big impact on the song. I had never listened out for the bass properly before until that moment.
As you know, Rock Project is an organisation in the UK and Ireland, which offers group tuition to children who play electric guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals. You attended Rock Project. Do you feel that this helped to develop your skills as bassist?
Yes definitely, playing with other people helped me progress as a bassist. It was my first time playing with other people, it showed me what it was like to play in a band and inspired me to do this more.
You seem to play many different types of genres. Would you say you have a favourite band or is there a wide range?
I take inspiration from a lot of things, the band that I probably take most inspiration from is Tool. The form of their songs, how they go about writing riffs and how it all fits together. I also really like how each instrument has it’s own individual part, I will always try and have this kind of mentality when I’m writing songs.
Some of the songs you have created, especially for your band Subspecies, are different and the structure is sometimes unpredictable. Are there any other bands that you feel have influenced your playing and your songs?
Well Tool influenced my writing but bands that I have always listened to such as Blink 182 and In flames influence my playing.
Can you see yourself wanting to collaborate with any other musicians or bands?
Yeah I can see myself doing that. I have always liked the idea of being given a piece of music and playing it out with some people. I always like improvising over a piece of music that I am unfamiliar with, I think it helps you to progress and it’s a good way of practising as well.
Your band Moose got quite popular in the metal scene around North Wales, do you imagine yourself playing metal for a long time?
I’m not so sure, it’s something that will always have a place in my heart. I may not always be playing metal but it’s not something that I am just going to stop doing. I can see myself not doing it for a while or going in and out of it.
If you could, could you possibly describe what metal means to you?
Metals place in society is for the people that don’t necessarily not have a place but maybe for people who struggle fitting into the categories society has given us. When you think of metal heads, regardless of what they are, they are the most welcoming people in the world. The music is only a small part of that when it comes to the people. It is literally so a group of people, if they choose to, can fight people in the most cathartic way. However, for me personally I believe it is the complete opposite of aggression like some people suggest. I would say they would be angry if they actually couldn’t do that.
You are going on to study at BIMM in Manchester, what are you studying and how you do you feel this will help your playing ability/you as a musician?
I will be studying Professional Musicianship in Bass BA (Hons). I definitely think I will improve as bassist and the general aspect of how music works, which is purely because of the amount of new people and new types of music I am going to be introduced to. Just like Rock Project really.
Why did you decide to create Subspecies?
Subspecies is a weird one. It is my own personal thing, it is different from Moose but I wanted to stray away from the generic death metal kind of sound. I can just do whatever I want with Subspecies and I like having the freedom to do so. I can write a slow, melancholic alternative song and at the same time come out with a slightly progressive metal song. I like not having any restrictions.
It appears it is more focused on being an internet band which is interesting, can you see the band going on to do a lot of gigs in the future?
I have had this thing going on for quite a few years actually but it is only for the past few months I have been able to record my ideas and release the music. I can see myself getting a repertoire of all the songs, then when I am in Manchester I will be able to find the right people. I can find people who are interested and show them. Then hopefully this is when it will become more of a live band.
You mainly write all of the songs for subspecies, can you give an outline of the process you go through when coming up with a new song? Do you sometimes just come up with the basis of a song in your head or do you feel that it certain riffs or drum patterns develop over time?
It is a combination of completely everything. I think with a few songs I have a thing in my head that will irritate me until I play it, then I will just work on my idea and find different ways to play it. After that, I will have things that I come up with that sound nice with it. If this process works well then I will have a song. Then sometimes I will listen to a band and think I want to do a song like theirs, so I will then take inspiration off them and write a song like that, not rip them of too much though! I sometimes listen back to old songs that I used to like when I was younger and remember the feeling that I had back then that I wanted to do something like that, bands just inspire me.
Do you feel that when you listen back to bands that you used to listen to, that you can now notice different things because you have progressed as a musician?
Yeah, I can always notice and appreciate new and different aspects to the songs that I used to listen to.
Your approach to vocals is unique. On songs such as echo and mandala, the vocal technique has a broad range. The switch between atmospheric vocals and screaming in mandala is particularly interesting, why did you decide to use the two different styles for this song?
I quite like my voice when I sing atmospheric vocals, I know what I want my vocals to sound like with my music, that is why I do stuff like that. The screaming is from my metal background I suppose. I feel that screaming is really empowering to the song and I placed the screaming section at the end of the song because I wanted it to completely lift. Mainly because the rest of the song is quite slow and dirge, so I wanted it to fully go out at the end and that’s why I decided to have screaming vocals in the song.
The jazzy interlude kind of takes you by surprise in this song. Can you explain the techniques you use in this section and why you decided to use this?
The reason it sounds weird is because I wrote the first part of mandala a year or two ago. This was just quite grungy because of what I was into at the time. Then I forgot about it and recently when I went back to it, I still quite liked the idea. Which is strange for me because I usually dislike my old ideas. I recently had come up with just a simple Em to C chord progression. After listening to John Schofield, I liked the slapping guitar technique and decided to write something like this. I came up with a solo over it and thought about different melodies to play around with. I just decided to use this short piece of music that I had wrote because I thought it would give it a different feel and change where the song was going. I guess that shows where I get my Tool inspiration from.
Echo is one of your earlier songs. Can you tell me a bit about this and what this is about? The lyrics that stand out to me a lot are “just understand what I’m trying to explain to you as I question authority and dream immortality, you must think that you’re depressed but shout this to the world and it what you’ll fucking get”, could you explain what you meant by this?
Echo was the first song I had actually properly written. I had written stuff before obviously but not much more than a riff that I thought sounded cool. I can’t really describe what the song is about, from a general side of it I guess it is my negative view of the world as an angsty, 14 year old living in North Wales. Those lyrics are just my way of saying that I was questioning everything around me, just when you are 14 its when you start to be aware of everything around you, before that the world is just a weird happy illusion. I guess the lyrics that you stated also pinpoint on the toxic people around me at that time. Before I was 14, my life just revolved around my PSP. I guess I wrote Echo when I started to mature. It’s not really about anything specifically but more of an outlet of how I was feeling at the time.
With Butcher Pain, you sing with emotion and it feels real. Is this song focused on one issue for you or is it open for interpretation?
I would say it is open for interpretation but I have my own interpretation of it as well. It is about the self harming issue and it is my own personal opinion of it. It’s also got a fictional aspect as well, not everything I have written in this song is what I actually think. It is definitely an exaggerated version of it, but at the same time it can be for anyone who is going through that kind of thing. It can be relatable if anyone needs it to be, or if they choose it to be. Other than that, I think the chorus is catchy and that’s also why I like it.
It seems like your songs come from a bassist point of view because there aren’t many solos and the guitars aren’t really flashy. Did you do this on purpose or do you think this is what has come naturally?
It is a bit of both. It came out naturally really because a few of the songs that I had been recording were some earlier songs that I had written. This meant that my playing wasn’t exactly the best, even if I wanted it to be flashy it wouldn’t have worked out very well but now I am more capable of doing stuff like that. Now I have a few ideas that stand out more technically but I don’t think of it as ‘I should have a flashy solo and people should think wow’, I just really like coming up with ideas that are memorable and just melodies that will stick in my head. I would rather listen to music that makes me feel something, as opposed to ‘wow did you hear that solo?’. I don’t like things to take the attention away from something else in a song. I like the idea of everything equally contributing to a song, not always completely equally but I like listening to a song and hearing a big unison section where all parts of the band are doing something impressive together. I think there is nothing more powerful than that in a band.
I get the sense that your music is very personal to you. Do you feel that music is a way for you to open up?
I’d say so. Coming from someone that isn’t the most sociable person on the planet and I find it quite difficult to talk about certain things and I guess I am quite reserved. However, with my music I never think I shouldn’t do something for this reason, I just do whatever the hell I want! I really like the freedom and I guess that is why it feels so cathartic to be able to do this kind of music.
Are there any issues within society you would like to portray in your songs? Are there any issues that mean more to you or messages you would like to give to people through your music?
I wouldn’t say I am the most political person. I don’t want to subject my music to one thing. I do like bands that do that and I do find it interesting but I do kind of write the music for myself and for me to enjoy it personally. So if anyone else likes it, that’s great!
Jack is currently recording some more songs for his band’s, Subspecies and Moose. Both bands will have some new material out soon!