Listen to a mixtape the band made exclusively for The Fly here
Earlier this year, London trio Mazes released their second LP ‘Ores And Minerals’. A bold leap from the lackadaisical, sunny melodies that made them firm favourites with the lo-fi set, it saw them indulging in progressive arrangements and Kraut-derived rhythms, without losing the foot-tapping immediacy of their earlier work. As the year draws to a close, the increasingly-prolific band are preparing to unleash a brand new mini-LP which continues in the same inventive vein. Put simply, ‘Better Ghosts’ is a refinement of the ideas they’ve previously mapped, with one eye to the future of how the band might continue to develop. The Fly nabbed singer/guitarist Jack Cooper for a few words…
Hello Jack. You said on Facebook that the record was named because ‘Ghostbusters II’ is better than the first one…
Hah! No, I don’t think that at all. My taste in films is pretty broad — I like some interesting things, but I always say Ghostbusters is my favourite film ever. I think it was one of the first films I saw, and I can watch it whenever. Conan [Roberts, Mazes bassist]’s favourite movie ever is Ghostbusters II, which sort of blows me away in lots of ways because I don’t think it’s very good. It basically relies on the fact that it’s got that cast. But Conan was like Ghostbusters II is better”. I asked in what way and he said, “Well, better ghosts for one”. He’s sort of right…
Pfft. There’s nothing to match a hundred foot marsmallow man.
It’s a weird one, isn’t it? In the 80s, sequels would basically be exactly the same. But yeah, we did a secret gig a few month ago where we just wanted to play some new songs, and we were called Better Ghosts.
Fair enough! So does ‘Better Ghosts’ represent a curtain being closed on one era, or are jots being joined to another?
Yeah, I suppose it is. ‘Ores And Minerals’ seems a long time ago. It was very much a studio album — we never recorded in the same room at the same time. There were a lot of guitars on it, and of course when we started playing it live, we had to take it all apart. I guess that being in a band or an artist in general is a work in progress — you’re always striving for an endgame. This mini-album is a little bit further towards where we want to be.
You’ve re-recorded ‘Daniel Higgs Particle’. Was that a favourite song of yours from ‘Ores And Minerals’?
Like everyone else, I got quite caught up in the Large Hadron Collider, and the search for Higgs Boson. I think it really captures the popular imagination. I guess it’s like a perspective thing, from someone who is working or trying to create something.
You’re a hard worker yourself, what with recording other bands, driving them round, and even releasing their records… How important is the DIY aspect to you?
It’s something I feel really strongly about. There came a time in England, and I think American bands realised it a long time before, where there was no point in trying to get signed. That whole thing was obviously there in the 60s and after that came punk and hardcore… it hasn’t ever gone away, to be fair. It got seen as a cool thing maybe three or four years ago — every few years it gets co-opted by the mainstream.
Well, the American DIY scene got swallowed up after Nirvana signed to Geffen.
With Nirvana I imagine it felt like a victory at first, but it doesn’t seem like a victory now. I wonder what would have happened if that band had been able to forge out a long-lasting career. ‘In Utero’ got reissued recently, and that Steve Albini letter came out as ‘everyone has to see this letter about being in a band’. But it was just a promotional tool to sell that record again! I get worked up about how records are sold. It’s overwhelming. One thing I’ve learned over the last four to five years is that if you feel like you’re doing the right thing, if things are sitting right with you, then keep going. You’ve got to try not to worry about everyone else.
What prompted the change in Mazes’ sound with this record and the last one?
Well, I think the direction change was down to having just one guitar [former axemeister Jarin Tabata left following 2011’s debut album ‘A Thousand Heys’]. One of my best friends said he really likes bands with just one guitarist ’cos having two makes you lazy. I’m definitely getting better from playing on my own. I think that was the key to the second album: just stripping down. Neil [Robinson, drummer] used to play in a lot of hardcore bands so he’s very metronomic, so I started thinking more about styles of playing rather than an overall sound.
You’ve also said it was down to being bored with some of the older songs.
Yeah, I think most people in bands get bored of their old songs. I imagine it’s like anything — if you look at things you wrote four or five years ago you’d probably cringe or whatever. We evolve very quickly and it’s very hard to be objective about your own output… but even songs off ‘Ores And Minerals’, now I’m like, ‘Ugh, this one’s awful’.