ZT goes digging for answers with the Bloodstock-bound trio Swamp Coffin
Paul Castles speaks with Swamp Coffin’s Jon Rhodes about their heavy-hitting debut album Noose Almighty and find out how the Yorkshire sludge hammer crew are preparing for their Bloodstock bow this week.
ZT: Your album Noose Almighty seemed to hit the right spot with a lot of people. Now the dust has settled, how are you feeling about the album now?
A: Put it this way, I’m terrified about writing a follow up to that album. I feel like we really set the bar high for ourselves. We’re still incredibly proud of Noose, both with the songwriting and production but as you say, it just seemed to connect with people. That’s the main thing for me, that even eight and a bit months later people are still discovering the record and telling us how much they love it. That means the world to me. Considering the themes of the album and how personal it is to me specifically, for other people to listen to it and be able to make their own connection feels amazing. The fact it was at the top of the Bandcamp sludge and doom charts at one point is just the icing on the cake.
ZT:Did you manage to create the atmosphere and tone you were seeking?
A: There’s always that thing of trying to recreate the sound in your head and with Noose I think we exceeded what we’d been imagining during the writing and demoing stages. Owen Claxton who recorded the album worked with us on our Flatcap Bastard Features EP so he already knows the sound we’re after before we even set foot in the studio. We needed the record to sound claustrophobic, just relentless from start to finish. I think that feeling marries perfectly with the lyrics and just makes the whole thing feel really nasty. The idea was to get as close to a live, raw sound as possible and then add a bit of spice on top with vocal layers and guitar harmonies. I still think it sounds fucking massive.
ZT:When and where did the actual songwriting take place?
A: We tend to write everything in our tiny rehearsal space in Rotherham. I’ll normally come in with a riff idea I’ve had floating around in my head and then Dave will add drums and we’ll hash it out between the two of us, tweaking structures and tempos until the song is pretty much done and ready for Martyn to come in and add bass.
‘Jagerbombs Away’ and ‘Barbarian Windsor’ were the second and third songs respectively that me and Dave wrote back when we started the band as a duo in 2016. They sounded pretty different back then and we kept them on the backburner until we’d tweaked them and morphed them to a point that they just had to be on the album. ‘Your Problem’ and ‘Welcome To Rot’(see video below) were written in early 2021, we wanted two tracks specifically to bookend the album and both of those came together really quickly, I think ‘Your Problem’ went from being an idea to the finished version that’s on the album in the space of about an hour.
The title track was written a bit differently. I was in Florida in November 2019 just sat around in the hotel waiting to go to Disney World with my family and Bruce Almighty was on TV. The Noose Almighty pun popped straight in to my head and then all day as I was walking around Disney the song was coming together in my mind. Like, I’m waving at Donald Duck with my son and I’ve got this huge riff and these anti-suicide lyrics piecing together. I’d got most of the lyrics, the riffs and the structure done in my head over the course of that day. It was fairly surreal. I grabbed a guitar and my drum machine as soon as we landed at home, chucked a demo together and stuck it in our group chat and that was that. I knew we had something special with that song but because it’s so different to anything else we’d ever done it ended up sat waiting in the wings. It wasn’t until after Shawn had left the band and Martyn came in on bass that we even started playing it in the rehearsal room, it had just existed as my original demo until then, gathering dust. The first time the three of us ran through it properly was a bit of a holy shit moment.
ZT:How did things go in the studio in Sheffield?
A: I don’t think it could have gone any smoother really. We rehearse really intensively before going in which makes life a lot easier, particularly when it’s costing you money. We got the whole album fully recorded in three days and with time to spare to experiment with layers, samples and bits of noise and feedback. I don’t think we’ll ever stop bigging up Owen’s contribution to this band, he’s so much more than an engineer or producer. He really gets us and our work ethic and the four of us worked flat out to get the album sounding the way it does. I think it’s a given that we’ll be working with him again in the future.
ZT:Any mishaps at all?
A: The only real issue with recording was I went so hard on the vocals early on I’d fucked my voice about half way through the session. We just had to work a bit cleverly and let Martyn record some bass parts while I drank loads of tea and ate a packet of lozenges and got my voice back. You’d never know listening to the finished album that I was in agony by the time we’d finished.
ZT:So, you’re playing close to home at Doomlines in Sheffield and then off to Bloodstock – how are you feeling about that?
A: Doomlines was one of the best shows we’ve ever played. It feels like we say that a lot but it always feels like the bar is moving upwards after every gig, the crowds are getting bigger and more familiar with the songs and we’re having the best time playing them. Doomlines and Bloodstock were both shows that were on the fantasy bucket list when we very first started the band, we never really expected to play either. To have been asked to play both, Doomlines for a second time, is a massive honour. We’re understandably quite excited for Bloodstock, we can’t wait to bludgeon everybody in that tent.
ZT:Will this be your first experience of BOA?
A: It will be yeah. It’s definitely something we’ve wanted to rectify for a while as we hear nothing but good things from our mates who have been and played there… It’ll be amazing to experience the festival for the first time as a playing band.
ZT:You’re playing the Jägermeister Stage on the Friday. That’s a smaller platform, will it be able to handle Swamp Coffin?
A: I’ve heard they’re having the stage structurally reinforced to handle our riffs! We love those smaller stages. We’ve played some big rooms and stages supporting massive bands and it’s awesome but you can’t beat being up close and personal, crammed in to a small basement or a tent and just battering a crowd. They’re going to get the full treatment too, we don’t turn the volume down just because the room is smaller. We’ve also patented The Worlds Slowest Wall Of Death which is as ridiculous as it sounds – that will definitely be making an appearance at Bloodstock. We’ve done it a few times now and the Doomlines one was the biggest and most insane yet. Something tells me the Bloodstock crowd can go bigger so we’re laying down the gauntlet. I want that tent to be a smouldering ruin by the time we get off stage.
ZT: Have you had a chance to pick out any bands also playing on the Friday you might try and catch?
A: If you don’t see the three of us pissed up in the pit for Eyehategod something has gone really wrong. That main stage line-up on the Friday looks ace so I’d love to see Gwar, Exodus and Testament, assuming we don’t clash. I really hope I can catch some of Sleep Token and Tumanduumband too.
ZT:Is there much else in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
A: We recently recorded a cover as part of a compilation that a really cool label in the States is putting together. That’s all hush hush at the moment so we’re looking forward to getting that out in the wild. On the gig front we’re playing Fell Foot Wood in September alongside our friends Goblinsmoker and Wallowing. We played there last year and it was such a brilliantly weird experience we can’t wait to get back up there again. Other than that and another show that’s yet to be announced for November the calendar has been left intentionally clear to work on writing the follow up to Noose Almighty. No pressure.
ZT: Since the Chuckle Brothers’ sad demise, are you now the biggest celebrities in Rotherham?
Woah, woah, woah, it’s just the one Chuckle that’s left us. RIP Barry. We’re obviously a big deal but we’re behind Jive Bunny and David Seaman in the queue for a spot on the Rotherham Walk of Fame. We do hold the accolade of being the only sludge metal band to have been featured in the Rotherham Advertiser, full page spread and everything. So there is that!