Jordan Whatley on his new EP, illness and influences.
If chat between songs on Tamsin Quin’s live CD commending the local music scene prompted me to an awakening, Saddleback’s Battle of the Bands in February last year opened my eyes and ears to exactly what she was extolling. A decade of parenting undermined my mindfulness of any such scene, yet I was to be inaugurated.
Bowled over by this acoustic assortment and now befriended Jamie, George, Mike, Sally and Jack, Jordan Whatley was one I never did get to greet. A distanced performer, masquerading under the pseudonom The Hound on the Mountain, he lay out on his knees before the panel of judges in a Hendrix screeching guitar moment. If there was an award for showmanship, he’d have owned it.
Keen to catch him again months later, in the group setting of The Compact Pussycat, I felt the shebang somewhat disjointed, the band proficient, Jordan spirited and acute too, but the combination fragmented. Later in the week Jordan and the Compact Pussycat went separate ways. This Melksham prodigy, feeling alienated, opened up about a mental illness to his Facebook followers, but returns to supplement his 2016 solo EP, Cernunnos with new material, and a live album from his recent gig at Bristol’s highly regarded Fleece.
We hope to witness it when he arrives Saturday at the Cellar Bar for our charity-based Devizine Presents debut gig. Time to catch up with this hound methinks, for he is more hound than pussycat, and rap about this progression, dealing with his affliction, and investigate his influences.
Cernunnos is a roller-coaster of gothic ballads, fiery blues-rock psychedelia and indie-come-Britpop elevations. If the opening tune, The Forest astounds in goth traipse, building to an enraged frenzy, Ghosts of Your Past is the hauntingly psychedelic blues of Steppenwolf awash with Lewis Carroll references.
While Porcelain Trees perhaps the most emotionally drafted and executed, a gothic gradient of Bauhaus, Tin Can alleviates with a Britpop danceable anthemic riff. Yet the finale staunch punk into archetypical goth. Through diverse stimuli though it’s unified and uniquely Jordan. The passion to be himself and not deviate an attraction to his art, I was keen to engage him into what we should expect next. “So,” I asked, “you’ve a new EP coming, the years between occupied by working with the Compact Pussycat I take it?”
“Yeah sure thing, dude!” was the reply, “The EP was created in 2016 with Nine-Volt leap, put the project on hold due to the Compact Pussycat and getting back on it now. And yep, the live recording is finished, just editing it. Also, I’m starting new EP production next month.”
But how does Jordan think it differs from Cernunnos?
“This next EP is gonna have a lot more creative process behind it,” he informed. “Beforehand, Cernunnos was made just after me leaving my acoustic scene behind, so was fairly vanilla, using basic structure and minimal instruments. This new album is gonna feature a lot of progressive structures, more electronics and I’m developing a story to run through it. I want this to be my saucer full of secrets; it’s gonna be complex and hopefully be something to show how much I’ve changed, musically and mentally, over the last few years.”
“A tune like Ghosts of your Past has complex narrative relating to Alice in Wonderland, it’d be good to hear a flowing theme right through the EP,” I observed. “Any similar cultural references, could I delve for a hint at a synopsis, or is it secret?!”
“I guess a lot of the psyche behind this is the concept of, almost, wicker man-esque cult themes; the kind of closed-end community’s dealing with their own myths and stuff. Alice in Wonderland will feature again, that’s more about the mental illness-based ideas of it, as someone who has dealt with mental illness it’s kind of weird, since describing it more as a being, prowling over you more than an invisible disease is something I’d like to put into words. To be honest, it’s gonna have a few themes that I’m hoping I can finetune together. Gonna have some other musicians working with me on it too.”
“Yes,” absorbed with his openness about psychological impetuses clearly portrayed in his writings, “you publicly spoke about depression/mental illness on Facebook a few months ago. Do you think it can be part-and-parcel with the creative mind; the bleeding hearts of artists and all that?”
“I wouldn’t say it’s the whole damaged soul thing,” Jordan replied, “I feel it’s more that it just makes you a bit more open to ideas, and sort of a little more comfortable with expressing certain topics.”
I pressed on this, “I often think it’s what separates the true artist from the media whore, just in it for the money. Not mental illness necessarily, but a wilder, crazy side is no bad thing provided it’s channelled into art.”
I thanked Jordan for his time, touching on the, perhaps, incoherent ambience surrounding the final Pussycat gig, despite all being accomplished and talented musicians. “Yeah,” he explained, “I enjoy working on music that I would like to watch live more than something I think will be popular; I’m doing it for me after all!”
In a nutshell that’s what I like about Jordan, I was a window-shopper of goth, something I never popped into purchase, but winked at the cute and curiosity shop-worker garbed in black gown and eyeliner; knowing Robert Smith’s lyrics in school was the difference from getting a snog, or not. Yet, The Hound on the Mountain turns my eclectic taste simply because he is who he is; “never try to be anything other,” I offered.
Previously I’ve mentioned the Doors comparison, as Morrison could hold that audience spellbound; probably easier for him as his audience were all tripping, but still, Jordan has a similar presence. So, who does he cite as influences? Does he describe his music with the “goth” label?
“Yeah,” he tended to agree, “this is showing off more influences, from the kind of Joy Division, Nick Cave, Bauhaus and Portishead side! The kind of Jim Morrison frontman still comes out, but you know I can’t be too ordinary, ha-ha; and yeah kinda, alt-gothic shoe gaze rock!”
Devizine welcomes this Madhatter Hound on the Mountain on Saturday 11th May, at the Cellar Bar Saturday 11th May, at the Cellar Bar with the Roughcut Rebels and Truzzy Boys also gratefully agreeing to contribute their time to raise some pocket money for worthy homeless charity, Devizes Opendoors; please do come along!
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