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Nearly 20 years on from their abrupt dissolution, cult Sludge pioneers Iron Monkey returned from oblivion. Mike talked to guitarist/vocalist Jim about the Monkey resurrection, and life after JPM.

Interview with Iron Monkey.
"Iron Monkey formed in 1994, spat out two vitriolic albums that would go on to become powerful influences in the Sludge/Core world, then disbanded abruptly in 1999 after a period of conflict with their Earache label. When vocalist Johnny Morrow passed away in 2002, that was pretty much the story over. Then, out of the blue in 2017, a new album was announced - '9-13' - from a line-up comprising two of the original band founders (Watson and Rushby) and Chaos U.K. drummer Brigga. Though Iron Monkey moved away from Sludge/Doom after the '97 self-titled debut, they still have fans, followers and bands they inspired, so it seemed a good idea to catch up with Jim Rushby and find out why they returned for 'Phase 2'."

Iron Monkey 2017 recording line-up: Brigga (drums), Jim Rushby (guitars, vocals), Steve Watson (bass).

Welcome back: so, nearly twenty years after the band originally split, what's the general feeling in the Iron Monkey camp today?

A general feeling of absolute victory followed by a mocking death laugh.

What was the actual catalyst to get back together last year? And how did your particular stars align to make it happen?

Fucking around on guitar at my place and some Iron Monkey tunes boiled out of the speaker. I discussed reforming the band with Steve for our own amusement. I contracted Brigga who was currently playing in Chaos UK and FUK at the time and he agreed to join and here we are today, the best band on the planet. Scott had played in My War with Johnny years ago incidentally so shut the fuck up people.

To quote from the recent PR release: "IRON MONKEY do not care about your scene, bands, or opinions... ELECTROCUTION, DOOM, OMEGA OMEGA OMEGA" Doesn't sound so far from your often-quoted original mission brief to "irritate as many people as possible" - has anything much actually changed in Iron Monkey's attitude or direction?

Nothing. We seem to be even more adept at irritating people these days which is sexy as fuck right? Fuck hippies. Nuclear war.

Obviously, with J.P. Morrow's death and other past members moved on, you were never going to be able to re-form the 'classic' line-up: did that cause you any hesitation over resurrecting the Iron Monkey name?

Not really, only sycophants and posers are against us, our original fans are 100% into it as are the new people, just some of the fake cunts in the middle don't like it. Johnny and myself always had an anti-hero worship, anti-rockstar ethos, he thinks our new shit rips I am sure of it. I only needed a thumbs up from one person anyway and I got it.

Original vocalist, the late J.P. Morrow, Rest In Noise 2002.

Are there any complications that come with being not just a 'cult' band, as you were, but having become an influential and often-referenced 'cult' band in the meantime? Does it change any expectations you have for yourselves, or in what others expect from you?

Fuck peoples expectations, this is for our amusement. Whether or not we are a cult band is irrelevant and I couldn't give a shit about any bands we have influenced, only the bands that have influenced us. We are not part of a scene, we have no peers.

The new album, '9-13', is due for release on October 20th. It was recorded this Spring, but where did the material originate - was it all written post-reformation, or does any of it date back to sometime earlier?

I started writing the new album tracks in late 2015 at my place on guitar then took the raw materials into our practice space with Brigga and crushed them into their true forms. All the songs on 9-13 are new material but they are in the vein of the songs I was writing for the third album with the original line up before I left, there was around 5 songs from those sessions. Some of those tracks are featured as live versions on the Johnny tribute CD 'Ruined By Idiots' on Maniac Beast Records. Check the tracks 'Dukes Of Nothing' and 'Charlton Heston's Floor' for a reference for the new material, a faster and more aggressive version of Iron Monkey. Anyone who says the new stuff doesn't sound like Iron Monkey doesn't know what they are talking about and at this point are merely circling themselves out as a turd. Only the vocals are different. Want me to imitate Johnny Morrow? No.

How was the experience of creating it? Did you have a particular process for composing and recording, or was it more of an informal evolution and communal input?

The new material came fast and easy, I have piles of tapes of unused songs and riffs. I spent more time weaponizing them in the practice space with our bestial drummer. The recording process was a gauntlet of inexplicable technical problems, pissing and moaning and everyone thinking I was the worst bastard in existence.

My first impressions were that, despite the cleaner production, stripped-down line-up and different vocals, there's still a very recognisable core of '90s Iron Monkey sound in the music. Would you agree, and was that mix of continuity and difference what you set out to achieve?

It's pure Iron Monkey without the influences evident in the songs, crystallized, distilled but accelerated. We brung out our hardcore punk influences more so, but that was always the intention for the 'next' record before we split up initially. It is important to stay fresh and relevant too and not release another 'Our Problem' or some stagnant yawn ritual. The first two albums are fairly different from each other and this one is just the natural direction for the band and our times.

Iron Monkey - Toadcrucifier - R.I.P.PER (Official):

And are you happy with the results? There's been a lot of Sludge floated down the sewers this millennium - what would you pick out as the strengths and individualities of '9-13' that make it stand out from that?

Yes, it's a prime slab of evil R'n'R filth. I couldn't give a shit about anyone else's bands; we are stylish, violently wealthy and handsome.

Speaking of which, the band started out with roots in hardcore punk and Sabbath-style doom. What other influences did you have back then, and have they changed at all since?

I was listening to whatever was on Slap-a-Ham and Bovine Records at the time as well as the Dark Passages compilation album on Rise Above a lot, other 90's doom, 80's USHC and obviously Eyehategod, Buzzov'en, Floor and Grief.

It's pretty well-documented you never all wanted to sign with Earache, back in the '90s. And it may have kept the band going for a couple of years and a couple of album releases, but it also led to disbanding to get out of the contract. How do you feel about how all that worked out for you?

No comment.

The new album's coming out on Relapse. Does that show a certain mellowing towards the idea of being 'popular', in underground terms, and having major - by comparison - label backing? Or is it just an essential part of the music business these days?

Not sure what you mean, Relapse is a great label. Mellowing? Popularity? Music business? Great band-great record-great label-great balls of fear.

Iron Monkey - Live in the '90s:

Looking at the lyrics of '9-13', they're no less relentlessly hateful, violent and nihilistic than before, perhaps even more so, without J.P.'s abstracted stream-of-consciousness making them sometimes more approachable. Is the world a better or a worse place than it was twenty years ago? Do you still look at it in the same way?

Half of the old Iron Monkey lyrics I wrote with Johnny. We would sit together and just throw sentences at each other then write them down randomly, cut-up style I suppose. My vocal style suits something more direct so I wrote what suited. The lyrics came just before we recorded the album, they all have a vague theme unlike the old Iron Monkey songs... I couldn't give a fuck about anything but this band, nuclear war up your arseholes.

And what about music? Has the ability to record, release and self-distribute via the internet brought it forwards and liberated it, or do you prefer old-school spit'n'sawdust gigs, physical albums and face-to-face contacts?

I couldn't care less to be honest, really. I don't attend shows and I don't care to spend my money on records, I would sooner buy a good steak and a bottle of red.

So, what's in the immediate future? You announced a live guitarist in August: have you got any shows lined up?

Wolfgang from the band Diet Pills is our live guitarist, he doesn't want anyone to talk to him. We have been sharpening his head ready for live attacks. We will play some secret shows soon initially but in 2018 you will be able to smell us properly, stay tuned.

New drummer for 2018, Ze Big.

In the longer term, what's the plan for Iron Monkey's "phase 2 of operations"? Where do you want to end up, further down the line, or are you just going to take things as they come?

Five albums, all our enemies dead.

It's nice to see the "JPM REST IN NOISE" credit sitting in with the band information. Is there anything you'd like to say about his presence here, as a fallen comrade, a part of the band's heart and soul, or simply as a bona fide legendary vocalist?

A brother, wild animal vocal annihilator, destroyer of expensive equipment, iron kick, inhuman dynamo, legend, thinks you suck.

Do you still keep in touch with other members of the old band? Any chance some of them might return to the fold? And what do you reckon to the projects they've been involved with since: Crippled Black Phoenix, for example?

No comment.

So, what's your favourite Iron Monkey moment - either phase one or two? There must be some interesting stories to tell somewhere in that convoluted history...

One thousand tales of absurdist self destruction and fuckheadonism, CHAO AB CHAO... No way I am incriminating myself or anyone else in this interview.

In closing, I hope we've taken you through a fairly comprehensive picture of the band as it is and as it was, but if there is anything you'd like to add, the last words are yours.

Buy our record or fuck off. Thanks.

...Jim Rushby 9-13 FTW

Note: This interview was originally published in print format in FIRE Magazine Issue 7, Autumn 2017.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Iron Monkey bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-02-20 by Mike Liassides.
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