Wednesday 4 December 2013

Interview with CLAGG

Today on Sludgelord it's my pleasure to be interviewing Aussie Sludge/Doom Metal Heavyweights CLAGG – who over the course of 11 years and 4 outstanding albums have laid claim to one of the heaviest and loudest bands around.

Their latest release – Gather Your Beasts – has been 4 years in the making and is starting to make waves within the Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal scene with it's constant onslaught of sublime riffs.

I called the album - “If you are a long-time fan of Clagg, you are going to love this album as I did. The band should be proud of this album as I feel it is their best album to date. Just sit back and enjoy the awesome riffs that Clagg have delivered here. Gather Your Beasts is a truly stunning album from Australia’s Premier Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal band.

Clagg have never sounded better than they do on this album. The production is immense through out. Gather Your Beasts is another outstanding album from this truly great band.”

I asked Anthony Viccars would he be up for an interview with us here at Sludgelord. And he  kindly agreed to talk to us at Sludgelord which I am only too happy to do.

So lets gets started with the mighty – CLAGG

Q1 – Hi Anthony, How are things with you today. Thanks for doing this.

No problems at all Steve, we really appreciate the great review and all of the time and love you put into the mighty Sludgelord blog.

Q2 – Can you give a brief history on how the band came about to where it is today.

Sure, we consider ourselves the Napalm Death of Doom in Australia given to the fact we have had so many members in the band over our history. I’m the only original member left after 11 years and we’ve had a countless amount of bass players, a few less drummers and a couple of ex singers & guitarists.

I think part of the evolution of band members has helped to create the sound we have now. Definitely a lot more darker and oppressive than our earlier works – We were kind of like a cross between Fu Manchu and Earth when we started (strange combination of bands which sounds even shitter in real life than conceptually) I feel the sound has definitely been honed now and the current line-up has a lot to do with shaping of the final output of Gather Your Beasts.

Q3 – How would you describe your overall sound. Stoner, Doom or, Sludge or a mixture of everything.

Bogan rock for Stoners.

I dunno to be honest, I generally find it quite funny that the 3 x genres all get lumped in together when really how can you compare a band like Kyuss – to a band like Grief?

Anyway, we sound somewhere in the middle of Kyuss and Grief

Q4 – Congrats on your new album – Gather Your Beasts.. It's a great album you have recorded there. Are you happy with the final version that you have released or would you change some things.

Thanks a lot. Absolutely stoked with the final record, I think it’s by far our best recording to date. The addition of Dav and Dase to the band have added a huge amount of depth to the final recording and they were both absolute wizards in the studio. This is the second recording we’ve done with Jason Fuller at the desk and, just like Lord of the Deep we’re stoked with the work he’s done on these albums.

Q5 – Was it an easy or hard album to record for. And would you change anything about it.

For me personally, this was an impossibly difficult album to record. The actual recording process was a piece of cake, but getting the band to the point we were ready and comfortable to record this album was immensely arduous and stress, which is why it took us so long.

Q6 – It's been 4 long years since your last album. Why the long wait. Or was it case of taking your time with this album.

Yeah generally we had a nice history of releasing an album every 2 or so years. We had the best part of an album ready to be recorded in late 2011 – did the obligatory pre-announcements of the imminent album release through Social Media and all of that jazz. Then unfortunately we had a bit of an internal shake up which resulted in guitarist and the other last remaining original member Tom leaving the band.

We pretty much went on hiatus for the best part of a year and had at many times contemplated ending the band at that point. It was a big impact for all us as Tom was such a critical component to the Clagg sound (pretty much all the riffs on our albums to that point had been written by Tom and I).

It wasn’t really until I was at a local Melbourne show watching extreme brutallers Portal and Absu where Dase; guitarist of the black metal band Encircling Sea who were supporting that night approached me and suggested he’d love to play bass in the band. We then recruited our now 2nd guitarist Dav Byrne from the Melbourne Doom band Agonhymn and started jamming again. The new line-up was, in all honesty, a refreshing kick start for the band. Heaps of energy, new ideas and tonnes of bad jokes and even worse Aussie idioms.

We shelved about half the previous songs we had ready to go, kept a couple, wrote a couple more and head into the studio as soon as we could. We really wanted to re-establish ourselves with this album and prove to the world we are still a force to be reckoned with. I personally feel it is the best album we have done and I’m tremendously proud that we came back from the brink of destruction to produce it.

Q7 – What is the albums overall themes. Or would you like the listeners to find this out for themselves.

Your bet is as good as mine. Our vocalist Scooter writes all the lyrics & song titles and is the mastermind behind the general themes for our albums. They are generally the last thing to be penned down once the basic song structure is pulled together so I like to think he draws inspiration from the riffs and lets the pen scribe thereon after.

He’s a big fan of history, fantasy and HP Lovecraft so if you can imagine a Lovecraftian style orgy involving elves and goblins in a WW2 German Bunker you could get a picture for what Gather Your Beasts is all about! Either that or read his lyrics which are posted on our Facebook page.

Q8 – Who designed the excellent album cover and what are the themes behind it.

We’ve used the same amazing artist for Gather that we did Lord of the Deep. He’s a Melbourne artist by the name of Boyd Synnott and he’s absolutely amazing. We basically gave him a rough overview of the lyrical concepts of the album and let him go away and create whatever he feels is a nice (and of course brutal!) portrayal of the themes. He’s criminally under rated to be honest, I think he’s one of the best artists we have going in Australia. He’s done a handful of bands artwork including the Melbourne Thrash lords King Parrot albums. (he also features on their awesome ‘Shit on the Liver’ video clip, playing the freaky ticket inspector, check it out on Youtube).

Q9 – Where did the name CLAGG come from. Any specific meaning.

The name Clagg derives from an Aussie brand of shitty paste called ‘Clag’ that most kids used in primary school growing up in Australia. Like us it’s sludgy, thick, cheap and doesn’t really work.

Years ago we thought it would be a fun name, I guess the name has just stuck with us now. I think it has a much more sinister meaning in other parts of the world; if the Urban Dictionary descriptions are anything to go by that is! Either way, both descriptions are suitable enough to describe the Clagg experience.

Q10 – Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians.

When starting the band we were tragic Earth fans. Initial jams mainly involved smoking weed, hiring loud guitar amps, turning the lights off and literally droning out for 6 hours straight. Occasionally riffs would form out of the drone which was where our first songs and initial sound was shaped. We started incorporating more riff based / structured songs which were absolutely influenced by the sludge bands we was listening to at the time: Iron Monkey, Eyehategod, The Melvins, Bongzilla etc.. Personally I was also quite influenced by the Melbourne bands I would watch play live at iconic venues like the Tote, the Punters Club etc as a teenager.

Bands like Blood Duster, Pod People & Peeping Tom absolutely blew me away and really was the driving force in starting the band at the time.

Most people in the band have quite eclectic tastes from Death Metal, Stoner Rock, Leo Sayer to albums where every lyric is replaced by the word ‘my dick’. I guess that’s the combined formula you’ll need to write an album which sounds like Gather Your Beasts!

I generally feel there is a consistent sound to both Lord of the Deep and Gather Your Beasts which you could define as the Clagg sound now. It took us a while to get there but when I listen to the 2 albums I can hear a lot of similarities.

Q11 – How big of a help has BandCamp and the Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal community been in getting your music across to fans.

Bandcamp has been fantastic; as a music fan it’s my first port of call to discover new bands so as a frequent user who finds awesome music through the website it’s great to be a part of it – and hopefully people are finding us and enjoying our music. We’re pretty much the last band in Australia to get our music on Bandcamp so it has been quite a revelation since we’ve done so; “You mean people actually will pay for our music instead of downloading it from torrents?” Cool!

I just think it’s a great website for musos. It’s easy to use, no need for advanced HTML coding to get a nice looking website where people can hear your music and get a bit of a feel about what your band is all about.

Q12 – The album is receiving a lot of praise from fans and critics alike. Are you please with the responses so far.

The praise we have received so far has been overwhelming, we’re stoked that people enjoy the album. Particularly since we had been dormant for so long and had some of these songs written years ago it’s great to finally have a strong recording of them for the fans (and critics) to listen to. There’s an amazingly healthy blogging community across the stoner/doom/sludge scene who, like yourselves have a very loyal and sizeable following.

Getting the album out through to this community really is critical in the success of bands gaining any kind of exposure internationally. Living in Australia there’s not a lot of exposure we can get without these types of websites and we’re stoked that the feedback on the album has been positive.

Q13 – What is the songwriting process in the band? Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual.

Varied to be honest. Some songs are formed around the theme of just 1 riff and, once jammed on for hours and hours on end then more structure evolves. We’ll take the songs / riffs home; listening to them; add parts and then continue to jam on them. Alternatively a song can be pretty much written start to finish by 1 member and then we just nut out the more intricate details in rehearsal. Either way, the songs are absolutely 100% crafted by the band collaboratively.

Like a lot of guitarists I speak to; I generally come up with riffs when I’m not ‘thinking’ about writing riffs. I find the more you try and force the writing process, the more difficult it is; and generally the weaker the output you get by it. The frustrating part about this is trying to remember those damn riffs when they just come to you out of the blue! I’ve remembered Scooter calling my voicemail just to whistle a riff to me so he wouldn’t forget it. Made for an interesting re-interpretation experiment converting a whistling voicemail into a sludgy doomfest through the Sunn Model-T

Q14 – You have had an epic career so far. What have been your favourite highlights so far.

Personally for me it’s ALL about playing live. I get a lot more enjoyment out of playing than I do recording, and even jamming. The live show gives you this absolute feeling of pride for the work you’ve put into recording and rehearsing your craft.

So my favourite highlights over the 11 years would all be live experiences. Along with a fellow Doom lover and drummer of the Sydney band – Nathan Millett, we have been running a relatively successful Doom festival in Australia called Doomsday. It’s been going since 2009 and from 2010 onwards we’ve been able to secure international headliners to tour the country alongside of. So being a part of organizing / curating / playing (and financing) a successful running Aussie festival where I get to play alongside bands like Acid King, Cough, Church of Misery and The Atomic Bitchwax has been a great highlight for me in my time in the band.

Other than Doomsday another highlight has been playing the ‘Dark Mofo’ dark arts festival down in the island of Tasmania in the south of Australia in the middle of winter this year. The festival was conceived and curated by the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) museum which in itself is an amazing story: David Walsh, enigmatic mathematical genius who made millions exploiting casinos all around the world pumps $300M into creating a museum build into the ground in Hobart to showcase his elaborate and amazing art selection.

In itself the museum is a huge drawcard for tourism in Tasmania, however in the dead of winter MONA run a 2-3 week long dark arts festival which brings art, music, food and everything in between together which Clagg were fortunate enough to be asked to play at. We played alongside a swag of enigmatic and obscure Australian bands; as well as Japanese legends Boris and Mono. The event was run so professionally, we were actually treated like ‘artists’ which was quite a kick and the whole experience was truly amazing.

Playing a show at my favourite Melbourne pub at the time – The Green Room back in 2005 with Electric Wizard and Dismember was another huge highlight for me.

Q15 – Do you perform many gigs in your home-town or do you have to travel further away to perform live regularly.

We mainly gig in our hometown of Melbourne but we try to get interstate across the rest of the country once a year. As I mentioned earlier the Doomsday festivals are a great opportunity for us to tour interstate to Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide. Touring in Australia is painful because our major cities are so far away for each other and there really is no appetite for Doom in the regional cities. So you’re looking at a 10hour drive or costly airfares to tour interstate which is why we generally keep it down to once a year.

Q16 – Are you all full time musicians or do you all have full time jobs

I must admit when I first read this question I laughed out aloud! Definitely NOT full time musicians and we all have fulltime jobs. Who says Doom doesn’t pay? We do!

I actually reckon even these doom gods we’ve all grown to worship have regular day jobs. I’d imagine Jus Osborn probably holds down some high pressure 7 figure salary senior executive role at a multinational conglomerate, and Al Cisneros probably works at Walmart stacking tube socks or something.

Q17 – In 5 words or less describe the CLAGG live experience.

Drunken, Bogan Tiprat fuelled Obliteration

Q18 – I am a big fan of the Aussie Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal Scene. Lots of more great bands starting to come through which I think your a big part of by influencing a lot of great bands. Have you noticed everything different about it over the last few years. Is it easier to perforrm and release new records. Or has nothing changed much since your last album in 2009.

There’s always a steady flow of simply mind blowing bands to come out of Australia which are all generally criminally under rated & unknown to the extent they should be on a global level.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Europe and the US a handful of times and witness some of the bigger bands in the genre live and; seeing that I can hand-on-my-heart say that Australian bands not only match up, but they blow these international bands out of the water.

The current crop of bands I’m very impressed with in Australia are Sons of the Ionion Sea & TTTDC – amazingly tight 70’s inspired riffers led by the brothers Grammenos. A new bands I’ve seen only recently in support of Kadavar and Blues Pills is a local Melbourne band called ‘Child’ who play more on the psych side of things.

On the heavier side of things, Melbournes crushing Death/Doom band Whitehorse and finally getting the international exposure they deserve after about a billion album releases and countless US tours. They’re playing Maryland Deathfest AND Roadburn in 2014 flying the Aussie flag high. Sydney band Yanomamo are killing it at the moment; Summonus, Looking Glass, Hydromedusa, Agonhymn, Encircling Sea, newer doom bands such as Horsehunter and Dire Fate… I could go on and on.

I think there will always be a steady flow of amazing Australian heavy bands; it’s flattering to think that we may be at the point where we have influenced some of these bands the same way that bands such as Pod People, Christbait, Peeping Tom and .dISEMBOWELMENT influenced us.

Q19 – What are your views of bands using websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund their new album releases. Some people and bands are for it. Some are not. Would you consider doing some thing like that yourselves.

I reckon it’s a great idea – if your fans are willing to throw a few bucks your way to help speed up the funding of an album then I can’t see why anyone would be against it? We haven’t really used it as; after being around for so long you can generally save up enough cash from shows / merch sales to fund your own releases over time (it also helps when you only release an album every four years too!)

I’ve noticed some Aussie bands using these websites to fund international tours lately too, which again I think is a great trend. We’ve had a lot of fans message us asking us to tour internationally to their home town to which we generally respond with – We’d love to! Book us a tour!! Websites like Pozible enable crowdfunding to make these kind of tours possible and allows the Facebook warriors to put their money where their mouth is so to speak to help bring these bands to their city / country. Something we’re very keen to do as international touring is the #1 priority on the Clagg agenda for 2014 / 2015.

Q20 - What are the most and least rewarding aspects of participating with the band? Obviously, the reality of how expensive it is being in a band could be considered as a negative aspect.

The cash thing doesn’t really bother me. I think everyone in the band acknowledges that we’ll make no money out of this thing so establishing that early in the bands infancy avoids it ever being an issue later on down the track. It also helps you to not take it too seriously and do it for the fun of playing heavy music with your mates over a few beers.

I really can’t find anything unrewarding about playing in the band. It’s a huge outlet from the general burdens of day to day life, without something as substantial as Clagg to keep me and my mind occupied I think I’d go insane.

Perhaps dealing with flakes within the industry is one thing I don’t like. The dodgy promoters, mixers, venue operators, bands, labels etc who aren’t true to their word and ARE generally just money hungry can test us at times. But this is a very limited issue and, as you get a bit older you can spot the sharks a mile away and steer clear of them.

Q21 - What pisses you off most in music. Or do you not let the bad things in music stop you from performing and writing songs

Absolutely nothing.

.. Actually… not being any good at drums! I wish I could play Drums!!!

Q22 - If you could provide words to wisdom for people wanting to start a band – What would they be.

Never bitch about not making any money. You sound like a douche

Q23 - Finally do you have anything to say to your fans.

Hi Morgan! How are those Light Ices going down?

Well guys, thanks for doing this. Best of luck with your new album. Don't leave it so long next time. Keep on making brutal awesome riffs.

Thanks a lot, and thanks again for the continued support of Clagg and Australian heavy music!

Gather Your Beasts is available to buy from BandCamp now.

Check the Band from Links Below