Captivating, ethereal and majestic, Mammal Hands (saxophonist Jordan Smart, pianist Nick Smart and drummer and percussionist Jesse Barrett) has carved out a refreshingly original sound from a disparate array of influences: drawing on spiritual jazz, north Indian, folk and classical music to create something inimitably their own. Hailing from Norwich, one of Britain’s most isolated and most easterly cities, they have forged their own path away from the musical mainstream and their unique sound grew out of long improvised rehearsals. All three members contribute equally to the writing process: one that favours the creation of a powerful group dynamic over individual solos. Their records are entrancing and beautiful affairs, while their hypnotic live shows have seen them hailed as one of the most exciting bands in Europe as they push their unique line-up to the outer limits of its possibilities.
1: Jacob Rees-Mogg is a wasteman.
2: Trees can communicate with each other through underground fungi networks.
3: We are all going to die.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Jordan: I guess this changes constantly, inspiration for writing and improvising music can come from anywhere, art, important topics, abstract thoughts, or musical responses when someone you’re playing with throws out a really interesting idea and it sparks something off.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
Jordan: I can’t remember the exact age but I started at some point on piano, then got into guitar and singing and some other bits. Me and Nick used to record a lot on an 8 track we had in our teens and wrote things in loads of different styles.
Jesse: Just through playing around as a kid, instead of action man I had a box of chimes and stuff, music was a fun thing and it became more serious as I got older.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Nick: Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda
Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
Radiohead – Kid A
John Martyn – Solid Air
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Jesse: Techno, Bowie, some old friends that live there.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
Jordan: There is a great park near my house in Mousehold Heath, which is surrounded by trees and woodland but is very close to the city. Great place to go and read or get some time and space away from the rush.
Nick: Our local record store, Soundclash Records has loads of really great stuff, I often end up in there if I’m hanging in town.
Jesse: My house.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Jordan: Probably writing.
Nick: Ive always enjoyed photography but have always been a pretty bad at it so maybe get into that!
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Jordan: A 45′ record of Sizzla – Done Nothing For Us.
Jesse: The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – “In The Jungle Babe” LP
Nick: Extrawelt – Schone Neue Extrawelt
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Jesse: To be honest, at the moment, Nick and Jordan.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Jordan: My favourite show ever as spectator was probably either Bonobo on his Black Sands tour, Portishead or Massive Attack.
Nick – Probably seeing Radiohead a few years ago.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Jesse: I’m using my computer quite a lot right now, i’m trying to learn how to use it in an improvisational way, and as a tool for reflecting on drum ideas that I’m developing.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
Jordan: Well, for me and Nick we work together on most of our musical projects, so hopefully feel alright about them.
Jesse: I have a brother and sister, they are very supportive and into the band and what i’m doing, but I think my sister would like to see me more often!
Mammal Hands plays Gondwana Records’ 10th anniversary show on Saturday, 3rd November 2018 at Säälchen.
Photo © Tom Barrett