Friday 18 April 2014

Interview with He Whose Ox is Gored

It's my pleasure to be interviewing Lisa Mungo and Brian McClelland from Seattle's very own Doomgaze/Post-Hardcore/Post-Metal riffsters – He Whose Ox is Gored, who have been making a name for themselves over the last few years with their critically acclaimed EP's.

Their latest release – Nightshade – is starting to win them a lot of praise within the underground metal community. Their style of Sludge, Doom, Post-Hardcore, Post-Metal and Post-Rock will easily put you in a hypnotic trance.

The band are currently recording their début full length record to be released later this year. Before that I have been given the chance to catch up with this hugely talented genre-defying band and get the low down on their music and forthcoming début album.

So lets see what they have to say to us...

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

LM. Great! Thanks for having us. We're just catching up on some last minute things before hitting the road for tour.

BM. Awesome. Catching up on some Game of Thrones and talking shit on Twitter, haha.

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

BM. Yeah, it's been kind of a journey. Lisa and I met in 2008 after we both moved to here for music. We started the band around 2009 after I had been working on demos for a while, playing some of Seattle's killer dives (Funhouse, Comet Tavern RIP). By 2010, we put out a couple smaller releases independently and started finding some textures we wanted to work with.

LM. We hit the road as much as we could, with a few lineup changes along the way. John O'Connell (drums) played with us on our OP AMPS II EP before joining Brothers of the Sonic Cloth with Tad Doyle for a while. Mike Sparks (bass) joined up about two years ago, but has been playing together with John in their band By Sunlight for years. When we decided to start working on our full-length, we called John up, and he jumped in full time to round out the current lineup.

Q3 – Lets talk about your fantastic band name. He Whose Ox is Gored. Where did that name came from. Any particular meaning to it.

BM. The name was given to us by the Wolfduggler. In another place and time. He came to show us the way.

LM. It's biblical, baby.

Q4 – Your sound is very hard to describe. A brutal blend of Sludge, Doom, Post-Metal and Post-Hardcore. Though your own description of Doomgaze only gives a slight glimpse of your music. How would you best describe your music.

BM. I'd say that's pretty good. We've always loved doomgaze because people understand there's some texture to it. A lot of the time, someone that hears the name without seeing us will assume it's metal, but will usually have some awesome descriptor that we could never come up with after catching us live. More often than not we just tell people it's heavy.

Q5 – Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians. Any particular bands or albums stand out.

LM. King Crimson - In the Wake of Poseidon and ELO - El Dorado. Isis, John Carpenter. You know, jammers.

BM. Yeah, definitely John Carpenter. Lisa got me into the soundtrack stuff way more. Plus, there are a ton of Seattle bands that we've been listening to for years that really shaped what we do. Botch, These Arms are Snakes, Heiress.

Q6 – Your 2011 EP – Nightshade – is a brilliant EP. Loved it. I loved the different styles of music combine to take you on a weird and heavy psychedelic journey. Was that an easy EP to write and record for at the time.

LM. I love this EP for selfish reasons. Up until this point, Brian had a catalog of songs that were already written, but this was the first time we really got to reach out and explore a bit more as a team. We took a few risks with the atmospherics and manipulated vocals. It was subtle, but it definitely got the ball rolling towards where we wanted to go. That, and recording with Chris Common at Red Room, who has made some of our favorite records.

BM. That record was great. At the time, we had Travis Brenden (bass) and Patrick Huerta (drums) in the lineup, and those dudes are both awesome players as well. We definitely had a good vibes as we were writing the songs. We were all kind of living on shoestrings as a band, but that's one of those things that really pushes you as an artist to try new stuff and really go for it. And yeah, Chris Common is an encyclopedia of studio knowledge as well, so he helped us finally get some of the tone we were looking for.

Q7 – It's being released on Vinyl through Caffe Vita Records. How did that come about. Are you Vinyl fans yourselves.

LM. Mike from Caffe Vita has been helping out Seattle bands for years to get their records out, and I was working for him for a while. He'd been putting out bands like The Head & The Heart, Iska Dhaaf, and Tilson XOXO, and when he reached out to us, we were thrilled. Up until then, Nightshade was only available as a digital download.

BM. Yeah, he's been super cool. We got into vinyl and record collecting a while back, and it's been totally fun to go through and design the release and get it in your hands, you know. When we showed Mike what we had in mind, he was totally supportive. I love the whole limited edition collector's vibe of colored vinyl, and he was into the splatter designs and artwork we came up with so it worked out really well.

Q8 – You're currently recording your début full length record. Can you give us more information about the album. When will it be released and what people can expect from it.

BM. Yeah, it's taken a while for us to get the material where we wanted it, but we're super excited with the final product. Some tracks we've had for a long time, and some we wrote as we were in the studio, so there's good deal of variation between songs. There's more depth and texture since we've had some time to look at the structures and pick them through. We try to focus on pushing forward in the right ways instead of banging songs out, which can be frustrating sometimes, but sometimes you go back and think, I can't believe we made this thing, you know? It's great.

LM. Totally. One of the biggest factors has been Mike and John abstracting the rhythm section and really adding new elements to the sound. They're both phenomenal musicians and they have this chemistry from playing together for years that's so much fun to work with. They've really changed the sound in a very exciting way. Once we got the bulk of the ideas down, we started tracking with Robert Cheek (Tera Melos, Chelsea Wolfe) between Red Room and ExEx Audio, his studio. I tracked for a couple days with Randall Dunn (Sunn O)), Earth, Wolves in the Throne Room) over at Avast to get my hands on his collection of killer vintage synths, and then we headed back to Red Room to mix with Matt Bayles. It's been and incredible process. As of now, we're still working on a release date, but we'll have some news coming soon.

Q9 – What is the song-writing process in the band. Is it a group collective or is it down to one individual.

BM. The Wolfduggler writes all of our songs. He came to show us the way.

LM. To show us the way.

Q10 – You're from Seattle which is primarily known for the legendary Grunge Scene. Is it hard for a band like yourselves to perform regular gigs in Seattle or is their a wider rock/metal scene within Seattle for you to perform regular gigs.

BM. Not really. The grunge thing was huge in the mainstream, but people here have continued to make awesome music for years. Luckily, there's no shortage of rad and diverse bands.

LM. Totally. We're very fortunate to be in a scene that promotes experimentation, especially as a heavy band. There are a ton of people that work hard every day to help get the word out. From zines like Seattle/Portland Passive Aggressive, to blogs like Seattle Rock Guy, The Stranger's Lineout, to DIY venues, people are always finding new bands and throwing awesome shows.

Q11 – Though Seattle seems to have a wealth of outstanding Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal bands to check out such as Lesbian, Ancient Warlocks, yourselves, Helms Alee, Princess, Serial Hawk and GIZA to name but a few. Have you toured with any of those bands. Can you recommend any more bands for our readers to check out.

BM. Definitely. Sandrider is a favorite around here, as well as Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Occult SS, Wounded Giant, Breag Naofa, Grenades, Don Peyote, and Mercy Ties. Constant Lovers just put out a killer record called Experience Feelings on Good to Die, that's getting a lot of spins around here. Serial Hawk is like our brother band, too. Those guys do work, son. Keep an eye on them for sure.

Q12 – Do you perform gigs on a regular basis in your home town or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly.

LM. We play when the moon is full and the shred wolves howl.

Q13 – What are you thoughts on the crowd-funding scene where bands and artists ask fans to help fund their latest album, tour or release. Are you fans of this medium. Would yourselves ever go down this route.

BM. If it works for the band, I'm for it. Here's the thing, big labels are dead, small labels are sometimes barely operating, and cloud services are screwing bands after years of free downloads. You know, just today, I did a calculation on Wolfbrigade's Comalive record. They had about a hundred thousand plays on Spotify, and according to the formula that Spotify publishes, those dudes made $630. What is that shit? I'd much rather give my money directly to a band that has a plan. That's the best feeling in the world! I'm not talking about some Amanda Palmer shit, where you make a million fucking dollars on Kickstarter and try to pay your cellist in drink tickets, fuck her for that, but if a band has a dedicated fanbase that wants to help an artist achieve a goal, then fucking right on, man. It didn't work for us when we tried to pay for this record, but hey, you win some you lose some, haha.

Q14 – What is your live set-up when performing on stage. Any advanced rigs or do you have a more straight forward set-up.

BM. Mike and John's rigs are pretty straight. Mike's rocking a V4 that Ben Verellen has brought back from the dead so many times, it could earn him the title of Amp Jesus. John's still working out his rototom setup, but we insisted he keep it after seeing his Rush cover band last weekend. My pedalboard has been lovingly nicknamed the Squirrel Cage from the array of wires extruding and an agitated and seemingly sentient presence in the band. Half of the time, I can't tell if Lisa is plugging in MIDI cables or moonlighting as a police dispatcher, but somehow it all works out.

LM. Yeah, haha. I'm auditioning for Daft Punk next week. Gotta work on my synth pyramid.

BM. Yeah you are.

Q15 – In 5 words or less, what is the live HE WHOSE OX IS GORED experience like.

LM. Our soundtrack to your armageddon.

BM. I was going to say, Terminator 2: Live in Person. That works, right?

LM. That works too, duder.

Q16 - If you could give any advice to people wanting to start a band what would it be.

LM. God luck and good speed.

BM. Have fucking fun, and don't look down. You told me that, girl.

LM. Yeah I did. It seems to work. Sort of, haha.


Q17 - Apart from the new album what else do you have in store over the next 12 months or so.

BM. We're finishing up a 7" called Rumours that'll be out on Bleeding Light Records in the fall. That one's going to be stuff we wrote after the record that's completely separate. We're also releasing a tape comp of our OP AMPS II/Nightshade EPs on Breathe Plastic Records in Europe in the next month or two. Preorders for that are up here.

Other than that, making pizza, getting more bro tatz, and booking more tours. Oh, and writing the next record.

Q18 – And finally, do you have anything to say to your fans.

LM. Yeah. We lost a friend and long-time fan recently. Our buddy Daniel Adam Driskill passed recently after a battle with cancer. He showed us how to live life and have fun in the face of death. He came out to so many shows around Seattle, he loved the scene. We appreciated all of his support over the years, and we wanted to share the joy and excitement for art that he shared with us. Thanks, Dan. You are one of one.

Thanks for doing this. Can't wait to hear your debut album when it's finally unleashed upon to the world.

Once again, thanks to Cat Jones at Southern Cross PR for arranging this interview.

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Written by Steve Howe