Jade - Interview
JADE, like the rare ancient Chinese and South-Asian greenstone, went undiscovered (at least for me) until I received the promo materials from Pulverised Records, that decided to reissue band's 2018 demo in a form of an EP and give JADE's debut the recognition it deserves. With only 22-minutes, "Smoking Mirror" is a death/doom manifestation channeling epic and magical sounds of darkness and unknown spiritual powers. To understand the album's message I contacted the members of the band to find out more about the beginnings, "Smoking Mirror" itself and their plans for the future. I also tried to make them disclose their hidden identities behind mysterious letters but they didn't crack. In case you're not familiar with JADE (no excuses now), you can read our full review here and EP's premiere stream can be found in this location.
First of all, can you introduce the current lineup and members of the band?
(J.) Hi, this is J., vocals and bass on this recording, and also responsible of the songs composition, band's name and logo. Let's say that everything began as a solo project. I had very clear ideas regarding the music to develop and how I wanted this project to be spread and grow ahead. After many years writing lyrics and mostly singing for my main bands, JADE came to my mind as an opportunity to explore once again my parcel as music composer.
It is an enriching experience to be deal with a full line up where everyone has a specific role and everything makes the wheel turn stronger, but mine has been for some years too constricted to the networking area, as well as on building the band's concept and aesthetical output. Nothing wrong with that, but at some point I felt I had something to express and needed to find the perfect environment and moment to be done. After writing some demos with no rush, the fact of joining forces with D. was the definitive excuse for taking JADE to a real schedule.
While I'm located in Barcelona, D. lives in Berlin (Germany), which was no problem for rehearsing from distance until the EP recording in Moontower Studios (Teitanblood, Graveyard, Foscor…). D. is behind drums and also responsible of writing the lyrics for a content we conceptually set to be around the magical and symbolic meaning behind the Jade gem, across the times and among so different cultures all over the world.
I sincerely believe we both have so clear what is all about in terms of music, concept and expectations with the band. We both grew up in late 80's and early 90's Death Metal, Doom and Black Metal fields… and are experienced enough for having in JADE the perfect excuse to explore all past and present lessons for the most timeless, atmospheric and obscure music form possible.
At the moment 3 members of the band are J, A, D. The obvious question is where's E? Is there a plan for a 4th member to complete JADE lineup?
(J.) I'm sorry to disappoint you, but there was no intention on gathering those letters behind the line-up, though it's funny you detected that. As said before JADE is made by 2 members, D. and I taking care of all band's foundations. Until the band doesn't jump into a complete Live act we won't think in a 4th member, or even if A. who took care of all the guitars during the EP recording, wants to join the project or not.
A. was a key piece for this recording as a session guitar player. I've been bass player since my early days, and although I compose with guitar, I don't have enough performing skills for reaching what a professional recording requires; same would happens with the Live parcel. So, considering I share with A. friendship and a lot of time in one of our main bands, I asked him to record all the guitars I recorded as demos. He also arranged some of those riffs and solos for what came out as a great job and debut collection of songs.
I would love to work again with him in future recordings, or even in a theoretical Live stage of the band, if it comes. I don't see myself improving my guitar skills enough for recording the lines by my own… and regarding a Live setup, definitely a 4 piece line-up with 2 guitars would be much appreciated. JADE is all about playing with density and different layers on guitar melodies, which would make totally necessary to expand the presence of strings on stage.
But what is sure is that I will keep handling the music composition, and alongside D., building a new chapter for this creature so called JADE as soon as possible.
How did this international collaboration started?
(D.) We met at Roadburn through a mutual friend, got to talking, and you know the rest. It's a special festival, of course. Lots of open-minded people. No surprise that something a bit different and very heavy came out of it!
(J.) The connection with D. came naturally right after meeting him at Roadburn Festival and sharing more time during a Party.San Open Air. The more we knew each other the more I realize I wanted to share important life moments with him. Creative moments are essential to both of us, and as soon as I began to explain him the concept behind Jade, and shared the demos, we both agreed that the band should arrive to a good place together. And so it will continue being.
Since Jade can represent 3 different forms (as far as I know), mineral, Chinese emperor and a flower, what element has the closest connection with the band's philosophy? To me it looks like you represent all 3 of them on your debut. There's Jade stone on a cover and Jade Emperor and Blossom (not sure about this one :)) as title tracks for 2 remaining elements.
(D.) The JADE concept is anything related to this very special and precious stone, the regions where it has traditionally been found, and the cultures in which it plays some role - mainly in East Asia and Mesoamerica. So on the one hand, the lyrical themes of the songs are tied to something very specific, but on the other, this conceptual direction can lead to all kinds of places - alchemy and tyranny in medieval China, Mayan funerary rites, visions of Hell and grandeur… whatever morbid fantasy we pursue, the jade stone is there, cursed and beautiful.
Can you elaborate on the meaning behind the elements of the cover art? What does wolf with wings standing on a toadstool under jade represent? Who came up with that intriguing concept?
(D.) Adam Burke came up with that design entirely independently of us, but when we contacted him about using some of his art, it was pretty clear that this was the right piece for us!
The psychedelic experience has left its touch on each member of the band, and on each of these songs. The mushroom offers great wisdom indeed. Ever drank Ayahuasca from a jade cup?
What made you pick your interest in Chinese culture and philosophies? Is eastern culture superior over western values in your mind?
(D.) We have no interest in cultural superiority of any kind! But it is refreshing to explore themes from the usual metal cocktail of war, witchcraft, and social critique. The world can always use another great orthodox black metal album, sure, but I don't need to write it. But songs with subjects like 'Blossom' or 'Jade Emperor' - I don't know if there had ever been death metal songs like that. It is very freeing to write about a different kind of morbidos!
Since this material was originally released on your demo in 2018 when can we expect new music? Did you start the writing process and if so what can you tell us about the direction of new songs?
(J.) I'm already working on a full length, which should be the natural next step for a project with this unexpected and much appreciated first jump into the pit. Look at the demo tape we self released in 2018, it was spread through friends, bands and press as our introducing card, mouth to mouth as in the old days, and it managed to grow with no rush at that time, but sure walk. No rush now, but the fact of getting an overwhelming response since the very first moment made us be confident that Jade could become a stronger entity and bring us really intense moments.
Pulverised Records is a label some of us have already worked with in the past, and the same happens with some of their international collaborators and distributors. We know how to deal with the music industry and what we can expect from what we can offer. Let's make this beast grow strong with this team. We have been so lucky, so thanks from the bottom of our hearts to Roy & Pulverised Records believing in this project. Being part of Pulverised roster, home of awesome Death Metal acts now and before, is nothing but a huge privilege we want to pay with work and more music. Also thanks to Katia & Nigredo Records (Swe) for being there from the beginning. She was up for releasing the EP before no one else, and we are so glad that remains as part of this team.
What other projects are members of Jade a part of? If there's any work done for those bands can you share some details?
(J.) Once again, I'm afraid we will disappoint you with the answer. It has nothing to do with thinking that "mystery" and playing with the "anonymous" thing might be a promotional tool, but said that, D. and me decided not mentioning where we came from or what we are dealing with in parallel.
We are well aware of the oversaturated music scene out there and how a new point of view on music and concept fields within Death Metal might work. We are convinced that if JADE may get the attention of the audience, that will be because of its music, not because other projects we are involved in.
This is our approach to emotional music from a timeless Death Metal language. Deep, obscure and vibrant… and although we are huge consumers and explorers of all sort of classic and new stuff from the most open minded aim, this is probably the most connected to our roots stuff we are able to deliver, and it's just the beginning.
Since we're running this with a premiere of the EP can you shortly describe the meaning behind each track? Is there a specific message that you want to convey in each song?
(D.) The songs are chapters of a 'horror theatre' into ghoulish otherworlds - a kind of 'Tales from the Jade Crypt'!
'Jade Emperor' tells the story of a medieval emperor for whom dominion over the Middle Kingdom is not enough, and whose pursuit of an elixir of immortality leads him to an early grave. "Master of all" indeed.
'Dead Stone Mask' (yes, the title is a tribute) offers a vision into the funerary rites developed by Mesoamerican cultures such as the Mayans and the Olmecs, and plays with some ideas about old traditions which envision Hell as THE SEA.
'Blossom' explores legends about a sort of twisted chivalry in Aztec warfare, where the idea was to capture your opponent, not to kill them. There is something beautiful about fighting with flowers and feathers as a way of demonstrating your martial prowess - only a weakling would need a sword or a gun! But this was a warlike society. The captured victims were shown no mercy in the end, when they were sacrificed to the gods!
'Smoking Mirror' deals with the Aztec world as well. The name is a rough translation for the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca. He may be compared to Loki in a way - a very powerful trickster deity - but he is really his own thing. The Azteca regarded him as a chief deity, but also recognized him as a betrayer. It's like he sold them out in the end, isn't it?
(J.) Human history has been all filled and might be explained through the different symbols used to connect the real level with the spiritual one. From the shamans to the monotheist religions, humans have tried to explain the unexplainable through symbols. Death, as the ultimate life border pushed all cultures to set through different tools to draw their role in this world. Rituals on collective and individual level played and still are the channel to connect the far beyond with the earthly reality in balance.
The unknown powers of Nature served to deal and deliver the most scaring horrors humanity has ever shown. From Eastern ancient cultures to Mesoamerican ones, Jade got to reach this sort of symbolic meaning within so distant territories and cultures all over the world.
The message has been told in different tongues and times using too different symbols, but at the end it is all about the duality between spirit and body, Life and Death, the hidden and the already known and how to understand and protect ourselves from the eternal and scaring void.
Anything else that you'd like to share with your fans?
(J.) I don't really know if there is much people out there aware of us yet… But to all of those who helped us to walk during the very first steps as a band to the current moment weeks before a proper release, thanks, you are and will be in our hearts forever more. We are humble people, but we know our game and tools.
We grew up musically decades ago, and it's true that we have been focused on different types of music for so long. Thanks to the good health that the Death Metal scene is offering since the last almost 10 years, we felt once again the call. We are grateful to be here recovering our own roots and trying to be part of the massive batch of acts refreshing now with passion what for too long was an echo from the glorious past days. With no more expectations than being honest to the genre foundations, and ourselves, let's take JADE as far as we can.
Beware of the Jade!
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