Like all musicians, Pittsburgh metallic hardcore crew Code Orange draw inspiration from other artists' music — particularly, that of pioneering groups like Pantera and Nine Inch Nails, whom they are not shy about praising — but the band members are also highly influenced by other forms of art, especially film. As such, Code Orange have stepped into new creative territory with today's release of My World, a 20-minute experimental documentary that draws on the members' love of edgy cinema while providing an inside look at the behind-the-scenes goings-on of the enigmatic group.
Shot and edited by the band themselves, with cinematic snuff-film–like snippets and glitchy processed effects added in post-production by Code Orange's guitarist and electronics guru Shade Balderose, the doc takes influence from eclectic sources like Nine Inch Nails' 1997 video album Closure and 1995 cyberpunk anime Ghost in the Shell. The finished piece is unpredictable and entertaining, slowly building intrigue throughout, with memorable segments spiking the disjointed flow of the film, like a brief backstage interview with Gojira's Joe Duplantier and home-movie footage taken from a Halloween house party where the band goof off with a few of their friends. Interspersed throughout, of course, are also live performances of a few of Code Orange's heaviest cuts, expressing the energy and passion of their concerts before flashing back to a tense but abstract torture sequence once more. Watch the documentary for yourself above, and read on to find out more from Shade and drummer-vocalist-bandleader Jami Morgan about why the group created My World, how they pulled it off, and what they wanted to say with it.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE THIS STYLE OF DOCUMENTARY?
JAMI MORGAN We just wanted to make something that kind of showed a little bit of a different side to us, but in our mind still rolled with the vision that we're trying to create through our records. There's a lot of loose band documentaries with a lot of footage that we all really liked watching, like Type O's After Dark or I have Nine Inch Nails' Closure, there's a Pantera one, a great Manson one, a great KMFDM one … there's just been a lot of cool ones over the years. So we thought, actually about two years ago at this point, "Let's just start shooting and see what we can do." Shade is the one who kind of put the whole thing together and added all the visual elements to it, which I think make it really interesting.
So we just wanted to do something to shine light on a different side of what we do, because we haven't really done anything that was, quote-unquote, "behind the scenes" with recording or us talking — we're never done anything like that. It's a little taste of what we thought would be cool for people who like us, or people who don't!
SHADE, DO YOU HAVE A BACKGROUND IN FILMMAKING?
SHADE BALDEROSE No, I just love movies. Movies are one of my biggest inspirations with every aspect of the band. The band takes a lot of inspirations from the visuals, but no, no filmmaking or anything.
WERE THERE ANY FILMS, SPECIFICALLY OUTSIDE OF THE DOCUMENTARIES MENTIONED, THAT HAD AN INFLUENCE ON THE DOC?
BALDEROSE Yeah, there's a few. Like he was saying, those documentaries — it's kind of this special thing. All those clips? Those aren't on anybody's phones. It's kind of something that hard to capture, you know, all those things you're experiencing, so we wanted to replicate that. Then on the more artistic side, I drew some inspiration from the movie 8mm with Nic Cage. It's about a snuff film, so there's a little bit of that. Then there's a little Ghost in the Shell [the 1995 anime], kind of a more anime-cyber-punky kind of stuff. That's kind of my style of digital art.
Throughout the whole movie, there's a shot of someone being tortured and it's run through a video synthesizer, and I really wanted that to put across that 8mm snuff film vibe.
YEAH, THAT PART BECOMES REALLY PROMINENT LATER ON IN THE MOVIE.
MORGAN We kind of wanted the video to build. It's, in our eyes, two movies or whatever you want to call it — two visuals intersecting as it goes on, and it builds and peaks at the very end with all these cut-ins. That's a concept we use in our music. We try to build it thematically and have right turns and left turns, so we were trying to apply that to a 20-minute film that will be more of a regular behind-the-scenes thing then overlay it with all this chaos. We were looking to different chaotic films, like on the snuff side, there's a really controversial but interesting film group who made the August Underground movies. We tried to mix some of that in, but in a more tasteful way. We didn't want to go too far with it because that's not really our style, but just kind of build the chaos, build the tension and intersect more with what we do, musically.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TIME PERIOD OVER WHICH THIS WAS FILMED?
MORGAN Most of the footage was filmed maybe a year, year and a half ago? Maybe even longer at this point. Some of the live footage was really recently, like we filmed some stuff in Mexico live. There were many ideas as we were going about what we were going to do with this, so there was a lot of footage.
We had some setbacks — Shade, at one point, had his stuff stolen when we played a festival. So there's been different things happen, but it boils down to probably six or eight months ago is when we decided what we wanted to do, which was make it shorter, like a punk album length. A lot of it is from last year when we were recording [the single] "Only One Way." Some of it's from when we were on tour with Gojira. Some of it is from Halloween 2017.
SPEAKING OF GOJIRA, JOE HAS A CAMEO IN THE MOVIE WHERE HE SAYS, "CODE ORANGE IS THE FUTURE." HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE TOURING AND PLAYING WITH BANDS OF THAT LEVEL AND GETTING RESPECT LIKE THAT? IS EVERYONE SO WELCOMING?
MORGAN I wouldn't say they all are, but he's become a really good friend of ours. Their whole band has. We kind of clicked with them off the bat, but we've had the opportunity to meet a lot of good people. We always go by the motto of "give respect to get respect." We're always respectful, and if people are respectful to us, we continue that. If they're not, then we don't.
So [Gojira have] been more than welcoming to us, and we're really grateful to them, particularly, along with many other bands, as well. That's why I wanted to include them, personally, because I think that they've broken the mold in a lot of ways. They've been around for a very, very long time and just kept cutting their teeth until they are now hitting a point that's satisfying to them, so I have a lot of respect for them.
SO YOU MENTION IN THE FILM THAT YOU'VE DONE FOUR AMERICAN TOURS FOR YOUR LAST ALBUM, FOREVER — ARE YOU WORKING ON ITS FOLLOW-UP?
MORGAN We're always working on stuff. I would say yes, we're about done and we don't necessarily like to look at it that way completely, but there are opportunities that have been coming up so we'll see. I think we're ready to move on, and we have a lot in store for next year.
We also don't do records to have people pat us on the back and go, "They did a good job." We don't want a little expansion, we don't want to grow five percent. We always try to grow 50 perfect, but it's always a dice roll and I think we'll be very happy with it. We'll see what people think.
THERE'S A BIT IN THE DOCUMENTARY WHERE YOU'RE IN THE STUDIO WITH PRODUCER WILL YIP, MESSING AROUND WITH A KIND OF INDUSTRIAL SOUND. IS THAT INDUSTRIAL INFLUENCE SEEPING INTO YOUR WORK MORE?
MORGAN There's a lot of that on the last record, but we did push it a bit further. I don't in any way want it to be industrial — I mean, we love industrial music, don't get me wrong — but we're trying to figure out a way to use electronics, modern technology, etc., into the kind of music that we make in a hopefully somewhat fresh way that doesn't feel like recanting whatever industrial-metal acts of old. I think we're getting a lot better at that. Along the way we discover new techniques and, Will in the video, he's one of our best friends and we got to discover a lot of cool new stuff with him.
Like Shade said, he's been in his house and on the road building that [filmmaking] skill for a long time now, and I think his skills and all of our skills in all these departments are going to culminate, but we by no means are trying to move in any one direction. We're just expanding each of the little elements that you hear on Forever or on more recent stuff. We're going to take those things farther and farther, and that's what we'll keep doing until it's stretched so far that it breaks.