Modern Nature’s Jack Cooper reveals his top five tracks on How To Live

The former Ultimate Painting member and architect behind Modern Nature and talks us through his favourite excerpts.

Modern Nature walking in wheat field

Image: James Sharp


“I’ve never had any formal training when it comes to the guitar but I’ve developed my own thing… I worry about the early onset of arthritis or carpal tunnel due to weird technique but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I hit on this weird rhythmic style about 10 years ago that was inspired by a couple of songs on the Antelope album that Dischord released. You can hear it on this and the song Nature and countless other songs I’ve played guitar on with Mazes and Ultimate Painting. I guess it’s basically playing a two note inversion of a chord and then having a droning string. At least I think that’s what I’m doing.”


“All of this album is in D or B minor which is basically D if you forgive the simplification… and then most of the chord sequences recur in other songs, sometimes flipped or reversed. I started trying to think of playing chords or stacking chords like McCoy Tyner plays piano. I don’t have the disposition to study anything too much but thinking like that was a good springboard into something of my own. I like trying to come up with chord sequences and moving around the fretboard as little as possible, not because I’m lazy… I am, but you can play the most complicated chord sequence and barely move if you put your mind to it. Most of the album is like that. Aaron played the guitar solo on this… I had something similar but it felt like it needed fresh hands… we rolled off all the treble and that’s the first take.


“Most of this record was recorded live to two-inch tape over a couple of days after some fairly regimented days of rehearsal… We had an organ sound we liked, the drums sounded good and we stuck to that. I play one guitar, through one tremolo pedal, into one amp which I didn’t change the settings on once. I like messing around with guitar effects but I think they can make you a little bit lazy. Gizzard Studios where we recorded have one of everything you need rather endless alternatives and that one thing is something Ed (Deegan) has honed for years. Seance is just the same guitar sound I’ve had since the album began; I’m just playing harder.


“I felt really content with the way this song came out and the guitar on this one particularly. I originally thought of this as being an instrumental when it was in the very early stages but it changed and in the tradition of most Ozzy Osbourne vocal melodies, it’s just the same as the guitar line. This song is nearest to the idea Will and I had when we started talking about Modern Nature as a band… sort of a cross between Brian Eno/Harmonia and Fairport Convention.”


“The solo on this is was just meant to be the same melody as the cello intro and melody of Devotee, but I miscalculated and didn’t realise I had double the bars to fill, so I just carried on playing, sabotaged it and everyone ended up liking it. My favourite guitar part on the record is when the first guitar break is just muted going into the second verse… I would probably have had it fading out over the singing but this is much cooler. If you mute something on pro-tools or whatever it would sound bad but on tape, the tape does so much work for you…. it’s as if something physical (which it is I suppose) disappears and it’s absence has this heaviness.”

How To Live is out now on Bella Union.


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