Jason Stoll is a prolific musician and has featured in many bands including Mugstar, KLÄMP, Sex Swing, Twin Sister and now JAAW.
He also runs the God Unknown Records label who have put out records by a diverse range of artists including Charles Hayward, Bushpilot, Cassels, Sneers, White Hills, Rainbow Grave, BLAHA, Henge and so on. Recently he teamed up with Therapy?’s Andy Cairns in the band JAAW whose debut album I reviewed recently and who I am looking forward to seeing in Salford later this year.
Welcome Jason, you’re something of a familiar face to Shaman regulars. How the devil are you? Has The Netherlands been as unbearably hot as the UK in recent weeks?
I am great thank you Reza. The Netherlands has been roasting. But it’s cooled down right down and it’s more like autumn now.
Let’s start from the beginning, was it a musical household growing up? Who were some of your key musical influences, especially those who motivated you to start creating music.
I didn’t really grow up in a musical household, although my Grandad had an organ in his house and he would play it to the family from time to time. My sister and I would mess around with that making our own songs up. My mum was a big Beatles fan and we always had them playing in the house. Here Comes The Sun is my first musical memory, and still love that song now. I remember we had the red and blue Beatles compilation LPs and my sister and I played them to death.
When I was about 10, I ended up getting into Motörhead, AC/DC, Iron Maiden. When I was invited to parties I’d always take the Ace Of Spades album with me to play, proud of the fact it was the first record I bought with my own money. Not sure it got played very often though.
Metal culture became such a big influence on me at that age that I ripped a bible up and told a teacher I wanted to go to hell – haha. Quite a big statement for a 10/11-year-old. Bizarre when I think about that now. Around this stage I wanted to play the guitar, but the Spanish acoustic guitar we had didn’t really cut it so I had to wait until I was 16 to get my first electric guitar.
Metal culture became such a big influence on me at that age that I ripped a bible up and told a teacher I wanted to go to hell – haha…
Were you involved in any bands pre-Mugstar or was that your first ‘proper’ band, so to speak?
I was 29 when I joined Mugstar and had been in so many bands up to that point. I was 17 when I joined my first band, and only two weeks after buying a bass. Mugstar was the first band that really did something whilst all the rest didn’t get very far and ran out of steam unfortunately. So the first one was Solstice – we described ourselves as ‘Grindcore Thrashers’. We played a few shows around the Liverpool area, the first one was one of the most wildest gigs I ever played where everyone was dancing, stage diving (without a stage), moshing and left wanting more.
Pathogenic – same band as Solstice but we changed our name when we realised there was another Solstice led by Rich Walker of Sore Throat. We became a 5 piece at this point too.
At the same time I joined Devoid – Merseyside Death Metal, featuring later Carcass guitarist Carlos Regados. I was kicked out before the first album was recorded as I was not a technical bass player (and still not – haha). We used to play a death grind version of Summer Loving. Brilliant times.
Around this time, I recorded so much solo guitar stuff at home, mainly lots of Saint Vitus/Melvins style riffs, which I think somehow led to the next band Jeffrey Dahmer’s Fridge – Melvins style slow riffs, we were named after the serial killer who liked to keep heads and other body parts in his fridge. The guitarist Steve has a tape of it somewhere, I’ll remind him again.
Baby Cakes – more of a Dinosaur Jr style thing. We only did a few rehearsals, but it was great fun, shame it didn’t go any further.
Bulah Wigg – Garage rock trio with the original drummer from the Boo Radleys. We had one track featured on a compilation called Mersey Killers.
Luminsense was basically Bulah Wigg with a drum machine and a female singer, but more shoegaze influenced.
Playhouse was the next band. Power trio again, influenced by Superchunk and Sebadoh. John Peel played us a lot and we got some really good NME reviews when that magazine really mattered.
Then loads more in-between like Deep Sea Dumping and more lost to time.
You left Mugstar circa 2017 (or thereabouts) and founded God Unknown Records. Was it a long-held ambition to run a label or one borne out of necessity? Were there any labels who inspired you to go the DIY route when it came to releasing music?
That’s right, I just came to a point when I thought I’d done as much as I could do with Mugstar. It had been an unbelievable experience and we got to do so many amazing things. I wanted to leave it on a high – we had toured America, toured Europe countless times, released our last and, in my opinion, best album and on Mogwai’s Rock Action label. So, it seemed like the best time to leave. I’m glad I did as it has opened up new ways of working and with so many different people.
God Unknown though had started a few years previously in 2014. I had worked with a couple of labels with friends but wanted to do something with my own vision. It’s something I love doing! Sub Pop and their Singles Club was the biggest influence. Then labels like Rocket Recordings and Cardinal Fuzz really influenced and supported God Unknown too.
labels like Rocket Recordings and Cardinal Fuzz really influenced and supported God Unknown…
With respect to God Unknown, you have some fantastic artists on the label including personal favourites Bushpilot. They seemed to fly under the radar during their original run in the 1990s, how and when did you first become aware of them and are there plans to work with Ross and co again in the future?
I got to know Ross through Dan Chandler from Sex Swing, maybe around 2011. We didn’t discuss his previous life with Bushpilot so I didn’t know anything about them until about 2018/19 when Dan played me some of their music. I was totally floored, an absolutely brilliant band and shocked I’d never heard of them. I think their album 23 is a genuine ‘lost classic’. They were just a little out of step with everything else going on in the UK music scene at that point in the mid ‘90s. We have another 7” coming soon and the band have been playing the odd gig here and there so maybe there will be new music. Fingers crossed.
I now have a couple of questions from The Sleeping Shaman head honcho Lee. The first is ‘when can we expect to see new material from Sex Swing and Twin Sister?’.
With Sex Swing we have a new ‘live’ album, a limited 12” via The Quietus and are recording a new album in August. It was a shame the last album Type II kinda got lost in all the chaos of Covid. We have some dates in Europe in October, and will hopefully have a new album out early in 2024.
Twin Sister have also been working on some new stuff. So, album number 2 will be recorded at some point soon. We also have a collaboration album which was recorded with Radar Men From The Moon. It was recorded ‘live’ at Roadburn Festival and will see the light of day soon.
I got an email from him [John McBain] one day and he asked if I’d be interested in releasing a Monster Magnet record. Of course I do John…
Lee’s second question is ‘how did the release of Monster Magnet’s Tab came about?’
I have known John McBain, Monster Magnet’s original guitarist, for many years. He also masters all the God Unknown releases. I got an email from him one day and he asked if I’d be interested in releasing a Monster Magnet record. Of course I do John! The end result was Test Patterns: Vol. 1. The album has the demo version of their legendary psychedelic masterpiece Tab and a 2021 reworking of it by John McBain. It’s brilliant and totally trippy. Watch this space for Vol. 2.
I am also reissuing the debut album by John’s other band Wellwater Conspiracy. This is a band he did in the mid ‘90s with Soundgarden drummer, Matt Cameron, and is very 13th floor Elevators/Syd Barrett influenced.
With regards to KLÄMP, it seems to be the most direct and outright heavy of all your outfits. Am I correct in my assertion and was this intentional? Also is the use of an umlaut in the band’s name a nod to Motörhead?
Well, the band started off a bit more The Stooges sounding than heavy initially, but I think it’s hard not be super heavy with the riffs Greg Wynne writes. The umlaut is indeed a nod to Motörhead and Husker Dü, quite pointless really but you’ve gotta pay homage sometimes.
As intonated by my opening question you are based in The Netherlands, does that make the recording/touring process a challenge? I’m also always curious about music scenes around the world, any recommendations from your neck of the woods that folk should keep their eyes out for?
I like the fluidity of being based in Europe and it has made me more determined to make things happen. It doesn’t make it more challenging TBH as most of the bands I am in don’t live in the same area or country, so it’s quite freeing in that way.
There are lots of great bands in the Netherlands; Dead Neanderthals, Radar Men From The Moon, Paranoid State, Tense Reaction, Terzij de Horde.
I said to Wayne [Adams] that he should record Therapy? in his studio. But Wayne said ‘no, you and I should do a band with Andy’. So, I asked Andy, and he said yes…
You recently teamed up in JAAW with the legendary Andy Cairns from Therapy?. Congratulations on the album by the way, it kicks ass. How did the genesis of that band come about? Were you admirers of each other’s work prior to collaborating?
Thanks Reza. I’m really happy with how the album turned out. Wayne did an amazing job on putting the album together. To begin with, I was a massive fan and very influenced by Therapy?’s first couple of releases. They were ticking all the right boxes for me, Big Black, Sonic Youth, Husker Dü, Black Flag, Black Sabbath etc so I was really happy to eventually chat with Andy years later after he had bought a few God Unknown releases.
Later, Wayne and I got chatting at a London show for KLÄMP and Wasted Death, one of Wayne’s many projects, and I said to Wayne that he should record Therapy? in his studio. But Wayne said ‘no, you and I should do a band with Andy’. So, I asked Andy, and he said yes. We were in the studio recording the album two months later.
Your work ethic seems to come straight from the Buzz Osbourne/Henry Rollins school, what with the amount of projects you are involved with, as well as the amount of music you put out on God Unknown. Is this a product of creative restlessness and what do you do in your downtime? Or is music actually your way of unwinding?
I think my work ethic has just increased over the years as I get even more and more excited about music. It’s quite a cathartic experience for me. I love creating music, being a part of a band and running a label. It’s all part of one big canvas to me. My downtime is family time and music can play a part in that too.
I feel really proud and honoured to have released every bit of music I have ever put out, be it my own output or that on God Unknown…
Out of all the albums you’ve put out, what are the ones you are most proud of and that you would recommend to a newcomer to the world of Jason Stoll. I’m thinking of both the music you’ve recorded yourself as well as those of other artists on God Unknown.
I feel really proud and honoured to have released every bit of music I have ever put out, be it my own output or that on God Unknown. I think for me Opal by Domes, Magnetic Seasons by Mugstar, the debut Sex Swing album and JAAW Supercluster are ones I would recommend if I had to choose, but that’s hard to pick.
For God Unknown, getting to work with people who were in bands I was a fan of like John McBain, Nic Bullen, Johnny Doom, Charles Hayward etc is quite humbling. That aside though, if something is going to be released on God Unknown it needs to be something that I love. I should do a label sampler.
Thank you Jason for taking the time to have a natter with yours truly. Any shoutouts or anything you wish to plug? The stage is all yours.
Thanks for having me Reza. I really appreciate the support The Sleeping Shaman, Lee and yourself have given me, my bands and God Unknown over the years.
Long live The Sleeping Shaman!
God Unknown Records: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram
JAAW: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Twitter | Instagram
Sex Swing: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Twitter | Instagram
Twin Sister: Bandcamp | Spotify
KLÄMP: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram