The New Reality: Code Orange drummer/vocalist discusses band’s Big Tours and Rapid Rise

By Andrew Bansal

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania metallic hardcore group Code Orange had been steadily building up their profile over the past eight years simply through creative musicianship and the willingness to do the hard yards on the road, and then came their third full-length album ‘Forever’, their first on Roadrunner Records. Released in January 2017, the album got critical acclaim as well as mass approval, and has enabled the band to make rapid strides since. Their headline run earlier this year played to sold-out shows in most American cities, and right now Code Orange find themselves opening for Anthrax, Killswitch Engage and The Devil Wears Prada on the ‘Killthrax’ North American tour. Last Thursday April 20th, while on the road, drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan spoke to Metal Assault about the ongoing run, the band’s rapid rise, and much more. Enjoy the conversation below, and if you’re attending a show on the Killthrax tour, arrive extra early to catch Code Orange!

Jami, it’s good to finally have you on Metal Assault. You’re obviously on tour right now with Anthrax and Killswitch Engage. First of all, how’s everything been going for you guys on this run?

It’s going great! I mean, other than the fact that we have to play early as hell, which sucks. It’s horseshit. But, Killswitch Engage are fucking great guys, we’ve been chilling with them a lot, and we chilled with Anthrax a little bit, they seemed real nice too. I wish we were playing a little bit later, but other than that it’s all good.

Right, so, being on this kind of tour is a big deal for any band. When did you find out about this tour and what was your initial reaction?

I had heard that they were interested in us. We had done a couple of shows with Killswitch Engage before, and they treated us great and showed us so much love. Their guitar player wrote a little thing about us in a magazine before. So, I wasn’t surprised in terms of that but just the magnitude of this tour, Anthrax, pretty unbelievable. So, it’s a great opportunity, we’re psyched to do it and it seems like good timing for us, and it’s what we need to be doing right now. So, we feel great about it. We’ve very thankful.

You did say that you’re playing very early, and I’ve been keeping up with the set times you’ve been posting on social media. I know it sucks in one way but on the other side, it’s like nobody expects anything from you, specially the people who’re coming to see the main bands. Does that kind of free you up to just go out there and destroy?

The thing is, I wish I could think about it that way but that’s just not who I am as a person. I want to be in front of as many fucking people as possible, and I feel this band should do great in front of those people, and that aspect of it (playing early) bums me out for sure. I don’t blame anybody. The only thing I wish, the advertisements said the show started when we played. If that was the case, there would be no issues. Right now the adverts say the show starts a little bit later than when we play. So that’s tough, but at the end of the day we’re super grateful to be able to do it, and you’re right, people are not coming to see us, but that’s kind of why I want to be in front of them. That’s the point of it. So, it’s all good, we’re learning from it, and some shows have been really great. We’re very thankful, for sure.

That’s good to hear. You said that you got a chance to hang out with members of Killswitch Engage and a little bit with Anthrax. Have they been watching your set at all?

Of course, Killswitch definitely have, and I think some of the  people in Anthrax have may be caught it a couple of times and will probably catch it more hopefully as we go on. Scott Ian made a really nice post about us on Instagram, which was really kind of him on the first day. The only thing I’m bummed about is we kind of sucked that day so I just wish he had watched us another day. But, Killswitch watches our set and they always give us great advice. They’ve just been fucking awesome. Their singer Jesse always posts the goddamn nicest shit about us on Instagram, and the guitar player told me we’re his favorite band of the past five years. It’s really nice shit they don’t need to say or do. That really means a ton to us and keeps us super fucking motivated and feeling like what we’re doing is the right thing. There’s been shows where a couple of them watched the whole set! They’re great guys, man. I just have a ton of respect for them.

That’s awesome, man. These days things are a little different too. These guys have a lot of followers on their social media, and they are making posts about you. It’s something that wouldn’t have happened even 10 years ago. That must also be an advantage.

Oh yeah, it really is. We’ve been really lucky lately. We’ve had Jesse post about us. Randy from Lamb Of God wrote this fucking long essay about our album and how amazing it is. Dude, it just blows my fucking mind, to just be in the thoughts of any of those dudes. It means that they care about the future of metal and the future of heavy music, because you have to push new things forward to keep this whole thing going, and a lot of bands do that. But these dudes really fucking get that, and they’re great guys. I hope at some point we’re in the position where we can throw the bone to some other bands as well. We’ll see if we ever are, but these guys have taught me that it’s the right thing to do because of how good it made me feel.

Exactly. It’s good that there’s bands like Anthrax, Killswitch and Lamb Of God that want to take out bands like you, because in a lot of cases it’s just pay-to-play. You would normally have to buy on to a tour of this size.

Yeah definitely, that kind of thing does happen a lot. We’ve made it pretty clear in our career that it’s not something we would ever do. Bands have to like us and want to bring us on tour, and if they do, great, we’re psyched! But we’re not going to beg, we’re not going to pay, we’re not doing any of that. We’re a real band, and those bands are real too, that’s why I think they see us that way. And I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of real bands out there right now. They respect that, and I respect the hell out of them for paving the way and for continuing to be the biggest bands in the world. There 100 percent has to be some new bands coming up. It’s been a while since we’ve had new, real bands that have gone past a certain point in heavy music.

You mentioned the new album, ‘Forever’, which came out in January 2017. People have been picking up on you guys throughout your career so far and even the other albums before this did well, but I really think this one has been a turning point in many ways. Did you feel that when the album was being written or recorded, or at any point?

100 percent! I really fucking believed in it. Our last album (‘I Am King’, 2014) was a real turning point for us in terms of the hardcore work, and that’s a small world, but in that world it helped us a lot. So I knew coming into this new one that we needed to do the same thing but on a bigger level. And in order to do that, we really needed to make a fucking great record, and a record I could believe it. And I do believe in every second of the record, we worked our asses off to make something that we thought was cool and different, and has a lot of familiar influences, but there’s a shift, may be something you can’t pinpoint. I’m very fucking proud of it, it’s a very big turning point for this band, and it has helped us in every way. Our shows have gotten so much better and we’re getting these great opportunities. At the end of the day, whatever it is that we do, we made the record that I wanted to make, a record that we all believed it, and whatever happens from that point, it doesn’t really matter, it’s already done. We did the deed. So, I’m very proud of it.

So do you think the new songs have improved the live set, in terms of just giving it more variety?

Oh yeah, I feel the songs on this record are on a completely different level from anything else we’ve ever done. I very much hope that the next time we do a record we feel the same way. But I think right now, at least from our perspective, people agree with that, which is great, because a lot of times, and it breaks my heart, bands really do believe in their record but other people don’t. But I think people really get this record, and it’s been working for us. They get that this is clearly our best material, and that’s fucking awesome. I hope we can continue to do that in the future.

For the songs on the new album, in writing your own parts did you push yourself extra hard this time?

We were just practicing. Any riff that we didn’t really like, we didn’t want to half-ass it and get it through the door. A lot of times as a band you let things slide like that because it’s hard to come up with so many ideas. So, we just tortured us to make every idea the best idea we had, from the newly added layers of electronics, keyboards, noise, to each guitar, and everything. There’s a lot of tracks on this record, hundreds of little tracks, little soundscape things that are buried inside. I wanted it to be a record, but also almost like a record within a record, like a dark soul inside with these hidden gems. So, that took a lot of work as well, but that’s something I want to continue to expand on.

All these different sound effects and layers, is that hard to replicate when you play live?

The only reason it’s hard to replicate is because we don’t have a fucking sound guy because we’re a small band and we can’t even fit one in our van. So hopefully that’ll change and make it easier (laughs), but in the meantime we have figured out how to do it on our own. Our guitar player Eric has almost become our in-house sound guy, as he handles the effects, noise, keyboard and synth parts, and he also plays guitar, and we’ve added another guitar player. So, we are pretty much replicating everything  on the record live.

That’s interesting. But yes, a sound guy is crucial, specially on bigger tours. But on this run, playing all these theatre-sized venues, are you hearing yourself better on stage?

Well, again we’ve been really lucky! When we toured with Gojira, one of their guys helped us out. He liked our band and did sound for us and made us sound amazing. On this run we’ve got the guy who’s doing The Devil Wears Prada’s sound, and he’s toured with bands like Every Time I Die before. He is helping us out this time. So, we’ve been lucky there’s been really great people on these tours that are willing to help us out and make it work for us. But we know what we’re doing, because we’re so used to this shit, having to put up with not having these things. So, we’re pretty hardwired to get it done and make it happen one way or another.

I’m sure! So, after this tour, what’s in the works for you guys? Just continuing on the ‘Forever’ touring cycle?

Well, in June we’re doing shows in Europe with System Of A Down, which is insane (laughs). So, that’s next, and it’s pretty much the craziest thing I’ll ever do in my life, playing arenas. So I have no idea what the fuck’s going to happen, but we’re doing that, then a couple more shows with Gojira in May, we’re playing the ‘This is Hardcore’ festival in Philly in the summer, and hopefully we can do something else in the Fall, and just keep on rolling, you know. So, we’ve got a great schedule, we’re thankful and we’re hungry, and we’re going to continue to just fucking kill everything in sight and try to keep scratching forward until we’re in a place where we’re comfortable, which may be never. So we’re going to keep working.

I think you’re on your way towards an arena tour in the US soon with somebody, I’m sure.

I don’t know, we’ll see (laughs). I never expected to be on any of this shit. So, if we can get it, we’ll take the opportunity 100 percent and we’ll seize it to the best of our abilities. Hopefully that happens, we’ll see.

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Code Orange remaining tour dates with Anthrax, Killswitch Engage and The Devil Wears Prada
04/22/2017 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern **
04/23/2017 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore **
04/25/2017 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox SoDo *
04/26/2017 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre **
04/28/2017 – Denver, CO @ The Fillmore Auditorium *
04/29/2017 – Omaha, NE @ Sokol Auditorium **
04/30/2017 – Kansas City, MO @ Midland Theatre *
05/01/2017 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant **
05/03/2017 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall **
05/05/2017 – Huntington, NY @ Paramount Theatre **
05/06/2017 – Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall *
05/07/2017 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues *
* KsE closes
** Anthrax closes