If you're in Sydney, there's a chance the last time you saw Jack Colwell, it was on stage at Golden Age for the closing night of Vivid Festival. If you're elsewhere, maybe it was when Claudia Karvan drowned him.
Regardless, he has a new single, Beneather, released on Friday, June 23. Produced by Matthew Neighbour, who worked on Colwell's previous single, Seek The Wild and has spent time in the studio with The Avalanches and Matt Corby. Beneather has also been remixed by Jesu, the moniker used by a former member of both Napalm Death and Godflesh for his more mellower output. Both versions can be found below for the first time.
Broadsheet: I imagine casual Jack Colwell listeners – who may have only heard you sing Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting with Ella Hooper or I Touch Myself by the Divinyls – will be kind-of confused by this track.
Jack Colwell: Well, I’d rather be an unpredictable artist but I don’t know if it’s good to be unpredictable in a calculated way. I think you can definitely tell whether an artist is genuinely interested in something or not. Like with Katy Perry’s new record – it appears very forced. And when those sorts of albums are released, it becomes apparent really quickly, and that’s what drives people away. I think if you’re genuinely committed to the music you’re performing then your audience will join you, no matter what it sounds like.
BS: The recording itself sounds quite raw and loose. Why did you and producer Matthew Neighbour decide to record it that way?
JC: Well, the bulk of the track was recorded live. I think recording live is becoming a bit of a lost art these days. I’ve always been a fan of trying to recreate my visions in a live atmosphere. I also wanted to try some studio trickery with the vocals and sound effects, which we added later, such as playing the guitar with a knife, screaming into the piano and singing the words backwards.
BS: Heavy metal is arguably one of contemporary music’s most heteronormative genres, yet you’re an openly queer artist. What is it about heavier music that appeals to you? And have other metal artists inspired you?
JC: I’ve never actually been empowered by watching male performers. It’s pretty common knowledge that every musician I look up to is female, and so for me I’ve never thought of metal music as being a cock-fest because I’ve been lucky to see people like Chelsea Wolfe, Tori Amos and Karina Utomo from High Tension take that genre and push it further. I certainly think hearing a high-pitched scream over a guttural roar produces more punch.
BS: Justin Broadrick (of Jesu, and formerly Napalm Death) has developed a formidable reputation, particularly for his group Godflesh, which many newer bands cite as an influence. Was it intimidating to work with him?
JC: Justin’s been releasing music since before I was born, which was a bit daunting for me to think about. But actually, he is one of the loveliest musicians I’ve ever worked with. He was so friendly and humble and sensitive, and him agreeing to being involved was such a vote of confidence. And his remix is a beautiful shoegaze thing. I love it.
BS: Is this song indicative of your upcoming album?
JC. Yeah, there’s definitely some more guitar-heavy stuff for the album. I’ve got this track called "PTSD" that I’ve started performing live which is very PJ Harvey in tone. But then again my debut album Swandream is largely inspired by the fantasy of Swan Lake and includes some brass instrumentals and even a lullaby. So it’ll be just as weird as everything that’s come before.