Tuesday 26 June 2012

Wizard's Beard Interview

Today I am interviewing one of the best UK Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal bands – The fucking mighty Wizard's Beard.

These guys have released two of the nastiest and heaviest releases in recent years for UK Sludge/Stoner/Doom Metal but add the coolness of aggression of legendary Stoner Metallers – SLEEP.

Their 2011 Debut release “Pure Filth” got a great reception from the Sludge/Stoner Scene. Their 2012 follow up was a mighty leap up for this brutal and brilliant band.

Four Tired Undertakers is one of the heaviest releases I have heard this year. And leaves their debut album in the dust. It has got some major praise indeed again as one of the best upcoming Stoner/Sludge Metal bands on the scene.

The guys have kindly granted me an interview. So Thanks To Craig for answering my questions.

Q1 – For people who are unfamiliar with your band, can you tell them little bit about the history of the band? Where you're from, band members, when you formed?

Me & Trav we're in another band together, and we called time on that, but we still wanted to do something, and we both knew how we wanted it to sound. So we started Wizard's Beard. I knew Dan from being out & about at gigs, so he got behind the kit and we started to jam. Once the 3 of us started to gel, I got in touch with Chris. I was a fan of Chris' from his days in Agent of the Morai.

I think we got together in September 2010, and our first album Pure Filth was released in February 2011.

We're all Leeds based, with me & Trav growing up around here and knowing each other for just over 10 years now. Chris & Dan both came to Leeds for uni and decided to stick around, so we all find ourselves here together.

Q2 – How would you describe your sound.

It's dirty, it's nasty and it's very pissed off. That's pretty much all there is to it. We're often told it sounds full of anguish, make of that what you will. Our music is very reactionary, when something really bothers me or I'm feeling particularly pissed off, I write music.....and that's why it comes out like it does.

Q3 – Is The Band a Full Time Project or do you have regular jobs to support Wizard's Beard.

We wish it was a full time project! To be fair it kind of is with the amount of work that goes in to it....however it pays nothing. Seriously, not one of us has ever made a penny from this band; we've certainly spent a fair few on it though! This is something we do because we love it.

When you add in the time it takes me sorting gigs out, doing interviews and other press stuff, processing orders from our website, replying to emails, writing music, jamming it out and bringing it all together in the practice rooms.....it takes up a lot of time!

But we all have our full time jobs (which get in the way more than we'd like). It can feel like a long hard slog sometimes, and the thing with breaking out when you're an underground band is that it's more often about who you know. We're not very good at 'networking'. 

We've met lots of people and made lots of friends doing this, but it's always just been because we've found people we get on with, we don't make friends with people because we think they can do something for us. We just do what we do as well as we can and try let the music and live shows speak for themselves; and that often feels like we're swimming upstream! If only this was our job and we didn't have to balance it out with another 40hr a week job.

Q4 – Are your families supportive of what you do

It's difficult really, because most of them aren't too in to what we do (it is an acquired taste after all!). But they ask how the bands doing and take an interest so that's pretty cool.

To be fair I wouldn't want them coming to a gig or anything when I know they'd hate it.

Having said that there are a few family members who have made their way to the odd show and enjoy what we do......but only a few.

Q5 – I love Pure Filth but your new record is a different beast altogether. Mainly some of the laid back grooves have gone and replaced by a more wicked underlying Doom Decaying Vibe. Was that intentional to turn it up a notch. I think it was a great decision to make.

I wouldn't say it was intentional, it was just.....what it was. Truth is that the music for Four Tired Undertakers was written before we recorded Pure Filth, it just needed working on. A lot of this music has been kicking around with me for a couple of years and I've just been biding my time to do something with it. I think I was just a lot more pissed off when this batch was written!

I think one of the things that did help is we played so many gigs on the back of Pure Filth that we had gelled so much more as a band. So when we were putting everything together in the rehearsal room, it was a lot more natural, which is where I think a lot of the flow of the album comes from. 

I think had we recorded these songs as the first recording instead of the ones we actually went with, they'd sound completely different from what you hear now on Four Tired Undertakers. I think we fell in to our style with songs like Albatross from the first album and that's what brought about the feel to the songs on this album. It wasn't intentional, just worked out that way. Listen out for more of it on upcoming recordings, as this is definitely how we play naturally when we're together.

Q6 – Are you pleased with the reviews Four Tired Undertakers has been getting. And why that cool name for the album.

Ha! The album name is actually taken from Monty Python. It was our good friend Paul Priest (Diascorium & Sloth Hammer) that was watching it and sent me a text saying it would be a good name for an album..... I agreed.

As for reviews....yeah, can't complain. We've had some really really good reviews that went way beyond what we were expecting. Getting featured on the Roadburn website as their album of the day was a massive plus too.

On the flipside, there have been a lot more negative reviews for this album than there were for Pure Filth. This is something I told the lads to expect before we even released it. When we had the songs together, it was clear that this was a much more 'hardcore' doom album. It's definitely not something the casual fan can stick on enjoy straight away. 

With Pure Filth, there was a lot more hook and a lot more groove and the songs we're clearly defined and with the exception of Albatross they weren't as slow.

With this album, it's one continuous track, it might be split into individual tracks if you look at the listing on the back, but listen to the album and there is no break, it just goes from start to finish. So when you combine that with the fact that the pace of the album is much slower, then it was always gonna divide listeners a lot more. 

We knew this and it's not something that bothers us. We put out the album that we're happy with, that's all we give a fuck about.

Q7 – How has the reaction been like to your music overall. At home and abroad.

The reaction has been exactly what we were expecting in terms of a little mixed. A lot of general metal sites find the songs too long or the pace too slow, which we expected. However, the positives have gone beyond what we expected. There have been some amazing reviews and the press has genuinely been really good.

We generally get better press abroad to be honest, especially in America. Europe has also been very kind to us. I guess our homeland just isn't as interested (apart from a few very big exceptions, such as yourself and The Sleeping Shaman.

For us it's still pretty amazing that our music can reach as far as it has. We owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people for that. I still say it was the initial review of Pure Filth from Ed at Doomantia which sparked all the attention we initially got.

Q8 – Do critics reviews bother you as a band or do you just care what the fans think.

We don't make music for them, so no they don't bother us. We read them and we take note, and it is great to read good reviews, but the negative ones don't bother us at all.

To be honest I appreciate some of the negative ones. If it's well written and offers constructive criticism, then I like reading it, it's interesting to see what other people aren't so keen on when it comes to us......doesn't mean we're going to try & appease them though. At the end of the day we're not writing music for them.

Fans are definitely way more important, as these are the people who mean we get to travel to other places and play our music for people we've never met. 

It's thanks to the fans telling other people about us that the fan base grows and we have more people listening to us. Without them we wouldn't be able to do what we do....and we love doing this!

Q9 – What is the song-writing process like in the band. Is there one main songwriter or does everyone contribute to all the songs.

I write all the songs initially. I'll write the riffs and work on structuring the songs at home and then bring it in to the studio and teach to Trav & Dan; at that point they might have some ideas on changing certain bits or something, so we work together. All of the time the finished product ends up being the one that went in to the room; but if they have an idea to improve it we always work on it. 

So it ends up being more collaborative. At the end of the day Trav adds his own touches to the bass lines so they're all his and Dan comes up with the beats to compliment the riff or carry it to a different place. When you listen to Four Tired Undertakers especially, you can tell the drums are often pivotal in progressing the songs from one element to the next, and it's Dan that figures those parts out.

One exception to this was Albatross from Pure Filth. That basically arose from me playing that opening riff in the practice room and the other two just jamming along. I started formulating the variations while we were jamming it out, after the practice I went home and structured it, next week we played it as the music you hear on the album. I think for the next album, as well as the songs I've got written, we'll spend some more time jamming together and see what happens. There was such rapid turnaround between the last two that we want to take a bit more time to enjoy the process this time.

Of course after we're done the lyrics still have to be sorted.....unfortunately that's down to Chris who like to leave it until about 5 secs before he needs to record to vocals to finish writing.....he shall not be getting away with that this time!

Q10 – How is the Metal Scene in your home town or surrounding areas. Are there a lot of places for bands like yours to play at on a regular basis.

It's.....up & down. It can be great here in Leeds but instead it tends to be incredibly frustrating.

There are a lot of venues, to be honest I think there may be too many. I think over saturation here has led to a lot of apathy. Although this is massively obvious with the underground bands, it can at times be seen with bigger touring bands.

Truth be told, we don't play Leeds as much as we used to, and I think we'll be playing round here even less in future.

All that being said, there are some really good venues round here like The Well, The Brudenell, The Packhorse and the Royal Park Cellars. There are some great promoters too, Steve does an excellent job at the Cellars, Ben Corkhill has started putting on some good gigs and the Big Spaceship lads put on some belters too. If only I was 18 again and had the time and money to make it to as many gigs as I used to, I'd barely spend a night at home!

Q11 – Do you tour on a regular basis. What has the reception been like to the band performing live. Have you toured with any famous bands.

Unfortunately not. With us all having full time jobs, it's not the easiest. We do quite a lot of one off out of town gigs. We did a UK & Euro tour with Five Will Die last September were due to head out to Europe for a couple of weeks with our friends Tree of Sores in July, but unfortunately we've had to pull that tour.

We've not toured with any big bands, we've played with some crackers though. Conan and doing incredibly well for themselves and getting a lot of attention these days, and we've played with them a few times. In fact we'll be playing with them & the Slomatics in August in Leeds too.

I think the biggest band we've played with is probably Ufomammut.

The reaction to our live gigs has been pretty damn good. Especially after we finished the European tour last year. We had a load of gigs when we came back too, due to playing that often we were on a roll and playing some of the best shows of our lives. But yeah, we get so many good responses, it's nice to know we're doing something right!

Q12 – Do you have any plans to tour abroad or is too expensive to do at the moment.

 As I just mentioned, we've unfortunately had to cancel our European tour. Basically, a few of the dates got pulled and it was no longer financially viable. Both us & Tree of Sores are independent bands and have to fund our own tours, it started to look it could end up costing too much after those few shows were pulled and therefore we had to cancel it. It was absolutely gutting.

We'd like to do more, but there's no chance of it happening this year with Trav's little one on the way in October.

Hopefully next year we'll get to play a few European festivals. That would be perfect!

Q13 - How do you feel about blogs and websites giving music away for free.

This is a really tough one to be honest. I am a big believer in free music, but it's not always plausible. I saw the damaging effect all the illegal downloads of our first album had for psycheDOOMelic. psycheDOOMelic are not a label with lots of money, it's a label that is in this due to their passion for music.

So the thing is, while personally we do just want as many people to hear as music as possible, and wouldn't have any problem with all these sites putting our music up for download if we were releasing things independently.......it really isn't good for the small labels who bring so many bands to the attention of so many people who otherwise wouldn't get to hear them.

For me that's the main issue, what it does to these labels. When you hear labels like Universal or bands like Metallica complaining about free downloads.....they can fuck right off. I have no time for that shit.

Q14 - What are the most/least rewarding aspects of participating with the band.

The most rewarding things are getting to do what we love to do, and having it be appreciated by people all over the world. One of the other main pluses as well is making so many friends, we have met some very good people on our travels. It's definitely a pleasure.

The downside is undoubtedly the cost that can come from it, and probably the uphill battle of trying to get attention as an underground band. We've been featured in magazines all over the world, yet British magazines like Kerrang, Metal Hammer, Terrorizer and Zero Tolerance have completely ignored us. They were all sent copies of both albums and not one review has appeared in any of them. 

So our eternal gratitude goes to those over-seas publications that have given us the page space! At the end of the day though, seen as we play nearly all our gigs over here, and we are from England, it would've been handy to get some mention in one or two of the above publications. Luckily for us, there's a number of British websites and blogs that have given us the time of the day, so they definitely deserve our gratitude.

Q15 – What are the future plans for Wizard's Beard. You are quick workers releasing an album in 2011 and then in 2012.

Yeah, our second album launch gig was one day short of it being exactly a year since the first album launch. I was looking at a similar turnaround for the next one too, but my attention was to record in October which is no longer possible. So instead, we're gonna take a bit more time with this one, do some more jamming and see if we come up with. 

I've already got the full album written, but you never know what we might come up with when we're in the room just kicking out some riffs on the spot.

So yeah, we do still intend to get another album out next year but it will be a little bit more time between albums than last time.

On top of that, we'd really like to get some festival dates in next year and maybe a few decent support slots too.

I want to Thank You for participating in this interview. As you know we are massive fans of your great band and wish you all the best for the future. And if the British Metal Press can't wake up to this brilliant band well fuck the lot of them!!!

Check this great band below: