Job for a cowboy have truly stirred up more extreme opinions than many metal bands out there. From the moment of their inception there was a veritable shit-storm of criticism (mostly from anonymous Muppets on web forums) dismissing anything and everything from the band’s sound to their lyrical content. However, Job for a cowboy responded by gritting their teeth and weathering the storm, and now, on their third full-length album, ‘demonocracy’, they have crafted as furious a statement of intent as you could wish from a top line death metal band. Tours with seminal acts such as Cannibal Corpse and Tryptikon have certainly helped, but the inescapable fact is that the several years (and several members) since the first album have moulded JFAC into a brilliant, politically minded act who have the riffs, the intelligence and the attitude to overcome the mealy mouthed opposition of those who have failed to appreciate their startling development.
Introducing myself to Jonny Davy, lead singer and lyricist of Job For A Cowboy, it becomes clear that the line is terrible – gloriously quiet and dogged by static. As a rather embarrassing result I am reduced to the sort of language and intonation typically employed by English tourists in a foreign restaurant – slow and somewhat monosyllabic. Moreover Jonny’s responses sounded like they were being filtered through the kitchen of an Italian restaurant (with all the noise and clatter you might imagine) so in writing up this interview there are elements which are edited from the original interview as parts were unintelligible. I’d like to apologise for this, but I felt it better to present a shorter version of what was actually said than try to fill in the blanks at the risk of getting it wrong.
Just to warn you, you’re a little muffled so I might be asking you a bunch of ‘what?’
OK – no problem – to start off with then; you’re on your third full length release, and I know it’s a horrible question, but how do you feel Job for a cowboy have developed musically over the releases?
How we’ve developed? Well… I’m actually quite glad that you asked! With every record that we put out… let me backtrack… a lot of bands feel that they find their niche and they get comfortable with what they’re doing and make the same record over and over again, and fine… they get in their comfort zone and they don’t really branch out much after that. With us, I feel that we try to develop – it keeps everything fresh and to keep ourselves interested we like to bring our best.
And the line up, as cliché as it sounds, I really do feel that this is the strongest line up we’ve ever had simply because of the fact that every time we do get new players we simply find better musicians and that brings the best out of everyone – everyone brings their A game and the new record is a much more technically sound record a much more mature record… I hope I got everything!
How does the recording process work for JFAC? Are you a band that like to jam on ideas or do you prefer to work on things separately and then bring them together at a later point?
We’re pretty much the sort of band that works on things separately and then brings them together. We’re kind of forced to work that way because we all live in different places – it’s a bit of a pain in the ass and we were a bit worried about that process going into this record because we used to be a band who would jam out in a practice space and it turned into shooting each other emails back and forth with our ideas and opinions and it actually worked out pretty well. With this record we never sat down and decided what each song was going to sound like, or decide that we were going to do the heaviest record we’d ever done – we pretty much threw our hands in the air and did whatever we wanted and had fun with it, and I feel that kinda shows.
Not to put too much heavy interpretation on it, but one of the things that attracted me to JFAC was the lyrics and ‘ruination’ was quite complex and political and I wanted to ask you how long it takes to develop lyrics for a song and whether it’s a stream of conscious thing that you develop later or if you have a specific theme in mind to work on?
It takes me a few months to write the lyrics – maybe a month and a half and I was working full-time during the writing process for the record so maybe even a bit longer… and what was the second part of the question?
It was how you develop them – do you splurge onto paper or do you have a theme in mind that you want to comment upon in a given song?
Oh – errr no – it’s like you initially said I just write things down and then hash it out later down the road – pretty it up I guess. There’s an extremely political edge that a lot of other bands don’t like to deal with- they want to sing about gore or just be fast and heavy and that’s fine but I was more inspired by and got more out of At the gates or Napalm Death and that more punk rock political attitude and that’s where a lot of my inspiration originally came from.
With regards once more to the lyrics, is there any piece of literature or period of history that influences you when it comes to writing.
Generally not really anything in particular – I tend to be pretty much on topic and modern. With ‘Ruination’ the presidential election in America was coming up and politics for me is probably one of the scariest things in the world and I don’t generally dabble too much into the history of it because there’s so much to write about already.
I don’t know how it is in America, but in the UK there’s this real sense that the younger generations are increasingly ignoring and moving away from political issues and I wondered if that frustration was something that helped to fuel your lyrics?
Um absolutely, I mean everyone should be involved and it’s a very serious thing to talk about even if it’s not the most popular. For example there’s the SOPA/PIPA bill or whatever you want to call it and It’s pretty terrifying – the internet is the last free range of freedom of speech and it’s crazy that people don’t keep themselves informed or active and once the government has control of that – it’s pretty scary I understand that the film industry and the music industry are running around trying to figure out what to do but I don’t think this is the way to block people from downloading – people will always find a way to download for free.
Seeing as you’ve brought up the internet – as a band you formed at a time when the internet was already a widely used resource for fans and downloaders and I was wondering how you felt the prevalence of the internet has been either a help or a hindrance to JFAC?
Obviously it’s been a massive help – I think for any band – you can use it to reach anyone in the entire world and get anything across the world in just a matter of seconds. At the same time it was a bit of a hindrance because you get so much recognition and so much notoriety in a fan base before you’ve even had a chance to write a full-length. A lot of metal fans formed an opinion from ‘Doom’ and yet from ‘Doom’ to ‘demonocracy’ there’s a huge difference. But in the end it’s been a big help for us.
You’ve sort of touched on this already but since you’ve started you’ve risen to a very prominent position for an extreme metal band and I was wondering what sort of pressure that has bought upon you as musicians and artists?
Um there really hasn’t been a feeling of a lot of pressure ever. I feel like we’re just here to make the best music that we can and if, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t work out but that’s kind of our laid back perspective on it I suppose. You know, if we don’t have fun or enjoy doing it, then really, what’s the point? So pressure’s not really there.
Visually you have a really cool perspective – both ‘ruination’ and ‘demonocracy’ have really intense and interesting art work – how much as a band do you get involved in the presentation aspect of our albums?
A lot – I just feel like, especially in a metal band, you have a very saturated, similar artwork in the metal genre and it’s very, very important to stand out. And Elliot White did the covers for the last two albums and he’s one of my favourite artists and it’s funny – because he was originally a Magic the gathering card artist.
You finished recently on the Destroyers of the faith tour – how was the reception for you here in the UK and what do you feel you gained from the experience?
It was awesome! Such a good, amazing line-up to open up for – Tryptikon, Cannibal Corpse… being in a metal band what more could you really ask for? And the reception went over great on top of it all and we had an absolutely great time. We toured with Cannibal Corpse before – they’re really great guys and it was a pleasure.
Is there any country that you particularly look forward to touring?
Honestly Germany is always great, The UK is always amazing even Australia – I don’t know. I never thought in a million years, when I initially started the band, that I’d be able to go outside of the US so anything is very humbling and the fact that we can even do that, people come to see us, and get paid for it is amazing. So many people would drop what they’re doing to do what I do and we can’t complain – we just soak it up wherever we go.
You worked, once again, with Jason Suecof on the new record and you’re obviously very comfortable with his way of working and I was wondering what you feel he brings to the JFAC sound?
He has a very polished, clean sound and we try really hard to make it organic and puts a professional seal on it. He’s one of those guys who, when we go out there, he just feels like a member of the band and makes it comfortable atmosphere out there with him… And we respect the work he’s done in the past with Crotchduster and I can’t really imagine myself recording with anyone else.
You’ve had a good run of success – what ambitions do you have left for JFAC
We’ve done a lot and had a lot of success – it’s hard to pinpoint it but I guess my only ambition is to continue doing what we’re doing, get some sort of money out of it so we could live for free and enjoy it at the same time you now – as long as I’m having fun and I can make a bare-minimum living then I’m totally OK with it.
As a career, are you still balancing the band with a job as well?
It really depends upon how much we tour. If I don’t tour for four or five months, which is rare, then yeah I get a job. But typically we’re out seven or eight months a year which covers just about everything. Trust me it’s not a luxurious living by any means – we’re not buying cars or houses or anything like that. It’s enough to get by and enough to enjoy and keep the band going.
With the new release firmly out there – what’s next in mind for the band?
Surprisingly we’ve already started talking about the next record. We have one more with Metal Blade and we’re definitely going to make it count and put a lot of thought into it. I feel like the puzzle is already being created but outside of that we just want to tour and not stop for a couple of years.
Any final words for the UK fans?
Yeah – check out ‘Demonocracy’, Show your buddies… please spread the word around the UK!