Code Orange Talk DIY Spirit, Blue-Collar Roots: “Pittsburgh Is in Our Blood”

By Kelsey Chapstick

Photography by Angela Owens

Pittsburgh metallic hardcore band Code Orange recently released a surreal, bloody and eye-opening experimental documentary, My World, taking fans deeper into their lives offstage and their overall vision than ever before. The 20-minute film shows the group working in the studio with producer Will Yip, goofing off at a Halloween party, hanging out with their friends in Gojira backstage, torturing some poor soul in a fictional snuff film, and of course, playing some of their crushingly heavy songs live in venues across the globe. Yet, despite their seemingly endless touring, Code Orange’s five members feel nowhere more at home than in Pittsburgh, a town that has instilled them with their blue-collar work ethic and hard-as-nails attitude. Below, the band’s drummer-vocalist Jami Morgan and guitarist, electronics specialist and resident filmmaker Shade Balderose discuss the influence of their Iron City roots.

THERE’S A BIT ABOUT CLEVELAND VERSUS PITTSBURGH IN THE NEW CODE ORANGE DOC MY WORLD THAT’S PRETTY FUNNY. HOW DOES BEING FROM PITTSBURGH INFLUENCE THE WAY YOU APPROACH MAKING MUSIC AND SUBSEQUENTLY THIS MOVIE?
JAMI MORGAN
Pittsburgh is in our blood, so it’s hard to pinpoint. We’ve been asked before what part of Pittsburgh seeps into us, but I think the main thing we took away growing up is that there wasn’t a ton of stuff to look to from here. There’s been great success and a lot of amazing music, but that “Oh, that band did this and became this, let’s take this path,” we never saw that, which I think really helped us early on. I see a lot of bands who do that, and it’s not their fault at all and bands now see it in our community. But whether it’s hardcore or metal or whatever you want to call it, they see that success path and then they become too focused on that. We’ll get questions from kids like, “How do I get people to take me more seriously?” We never really thought of any of that at all. We just always wanted to make our art.

I think being from here, we were in such a glass box of our own nothingness that we didn’t even think of that until a lot later on. That allowed us the room to grind and work hard and not be so focused on other people’s success. When you get other people’s success in your head, that can really warp the path you choose to go down.

I’m grateful that we’re in a city that had a lot of great music and great art, but didn’t necessarily have a lot of ladder climbers, not a lot of super success. I think that made us create our own path which has taught us how to do these things we do now. When it comes to the documentary, it was obviously influenced by this, that and the other, but at the end of the day, the goal is always, “Let’s make something that, when it’s all put together, looks and feels different.” It’s not a carbon copy, it’s not a cover song of somebody else’s shit. I think that was the big goal in this, just like the record, to try to make our own version of this type of thing that hasn’t necessarily been put together this way before.

SHADE BALDEROSE Being from this town, we know there’s not a lot of music resources around or anything like that on any sort of professional level that’s obtainable for us, so we just had to learn how to do everything ourselves as far as music production, this whole documentary, all the artwork, everything. So everyone’s constantly picking up new skills to try and make it aesthetically cool and make it sound how we want it to sound, and we’re all trying to do this ourselves with as little input from others as possible at first creatively so we can get out what we want, then we bring in whoever we need to help us get the job done.