If your brain didn’t suffer concussion from the sheer onslaught that is Code Orange’s third album Forever back in 2017, now may be a good time to rectify that issue – as the new album, Underneath, continues the Pittsburgh natives’ mission.
Bassist Joe Goldman gives it to us straight about how a group of creative arts students became hardcore’s fiercest champions.
“When we were writing up this shit and recording it, I knew we were on to some good stuff,” states the bassist.
“We’ve always put in real effort to put something out there that didn’t exist prior to us; something that no-one has done before. We’re always thinking at the back of our heads, ‘Man, people are going to hear this and they’re not going to know what to make of it. It’s going to blow some heads off!’”
Few of us have lifelong relationships with our instruments, but Goldman and his Backstage four-string might be the exception. When we ask if he remembers his first bass, he doesn’t have to recall a thing – as he still uses the very same one, unsurprising given the band’s unwavering DIY aesthetic.
“Man, I still play it; I play it every day. My dad got it for me when I was in seventh grade and it was this hot pink Fender reissue bass. Everybody would be laughing at me because it was just this weird-looking thing. I eventually got another one, but I held on to it for sentimental value. Then me and my good friend Jason Cook modded it out at his shop, Backstage Guitars, back in Pittsburgh.
“It had a nice body and nice pickups and I liked the feel of it, but we were like, ‘Let’s make this thing into a weapon!’ We put a graphite black neck on it and dressed it in car paint. The pickguard is actually brass that we just dyed black, literally just a sheet of metal. I’ve punched it before and messed my hand up really bad!”
Goldman’s bass tone was sculpted with the help of Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou – how does a human being come up with a sound like that?
He explains: “When I joined Code Orange in 2014, back when the band was called Code Orange Kids, I inherited some nasty-ass bass shit, like this $25 guitar pedal. Literally it was just some knock-off brand – a piece of crap. But it made a gnarly ‘chhhh!’ sound, like a saw or a rusted chisel – I just loved it! I use that on all the Code Orange stuff and was the real kick to my sound.
“When I started playing in punk bands when I was a kid, I learned from just watching my friends. I mean it, I just picked the thing up and played it. I still don’t really have any bass chops, so we worked hard on trying to find a good sound.
“I feel like in a lot of hardcore and metal stuff the bass is always too far back, but I think I learned that it can be more than that, it doesn’t have to just sit there. It has a force – you just have to think about it a little more.
“It’s an art, and art is always about being brutally honest and not being ashamed of who you are. It encourages me to keep pushing and to keep shattering feelings to make fine art.”
- Code Orange's new album, Underneath, is out now via Roadrunner