Saturday 13 September 2014

Interview with OHHMS

OHHMS is a name you might not know now, but give it a 12 months or so and I guarantee that you will be hearing a lot more of these twisted psychedelic Sludge/Doom/Stoner Rockers.

OHHMS are about to release their stunning debut album 'BLOOM' in October 2014 via Holy Roar Records. Bloom is a violent and noisy offering that is very hard to describe as OHHMS include so many different noises and genres for one pulsating ride.

Here is what I said about the album:

Let me tell you now that BLOOM is an incredible début album.

32 minutes of loud, bombastic and finely tuned sludge/stoner/doom/post-metal/psych-rock/noise carnage that makes you fall in love with music in the first place. How the hell does a band like OHHMS exist? They sound like a weird supergroup rock collective though only if that supergroup consist members of ISIS, Pink Floyd, Torche, Monster Magnet, Mastodon and Baroness.

BLOOM is a brilliant and thrilling début album from a band who are going to be HUGE in the years to come.”

I had to find out more about OHHMS, and Paul (vocals) and Marc (guitar) have kindly agreed to talk us at Sludgelord HQ.

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

Marc: Very well thank you.

Paul: For me I’ve been it’s been another good day. Had a day off work and I’ve been booking shows and I’ve just found out we will be playing a pretty cool festival next year. It’s the first one we’ve ever been asked to play, really excited about it already.

Q2 – Can you tell our readers a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today?

P: Well our old bands had fallen apart and I took a year off of playing music to concentrate on music journalism and I just got the itch back a lot quicker than expected. I was getting heavily into Swans at the time and invited all the guys around my house and asked if anyone wanted to be involved with a similar type of repetitive arty musical project. Thankfully they all said yes.

M: We only had intentions to jam, write some music and maybe do a couple of shows here and there. It has since developed into a completely different beast. It has survived member changes, family deaths and life changing career moves to give birth to the BLOOM record. Having Max come in on drums after a period of inactivity kicked the band into gear and has created what we have today.

Q3 – How would yourselves describe your music as you have a lot of different sounds going on.

P: Who could say? One thing that is for certain is that we don’t force anything, it’s completely natural. Yet three names pop up a lot: Harvey Milk, Pallbearer and Pink Floyd. I can see where each reference comes from but I can also see how each one is nothing like us at all.

M: Without falling into the trap of wallowing in sub-genres, I’d say we were a progressive Doom band. The progression tag is abstract enough to encompass all the elements of OHHMS that aren’t directly linked to Doom. However Doom is used more for ease of explanation of intent more than a direct style. We sound nothing like Candlemass, who in my eyes are a DOOM band in an all-encompassing sense. When people hear that we are DOOM, they will expect to hear big, behemothic (sic) evil riffs, which they will. However, the DOOM will also be interspersed with other styles.

Q4 – Why did you choose the name OHHMS for your band. What does it stand for?

M: There is no real mystery in this one. We needed a name, so we were riffing ideas at practice and as we were packing away I saw the ohm symbol on the back of my guitar head. I thought Ohms would be a cool name for us as it was fairly abstract. It evolved from there because we found a small band on the Internet called ohms, so to avoid people confusing us with them, we added the extra H. Just to be annoying/mysterious we like to sometimes write it in capitals, or occasionally add the brackets that are a blatant Sunn 0))) rip off.

Q5 – Before we get started in talking about your new album – Bloom. Is it true that you sent a recording to Holy Roar Records and they signed you from the strength of that record? Or was it a bit more involved than that.

P: Yeah man, that’s totally how it went down. We have a strong vision of where we want to be and we don’t want to compromise the music or the visual aesthetic so we saved up our pennies so if no labels were interested or if they wanted to be cheap with us then we would put it out ourselves.

Marc and I had mentioned to each other months before we recorded that our dream label would be Holy Roar to put it out. But we just laughed it off as a daydream like you get when you’re in a band, like wouldn’t it be cool to play a show with Conan, wouldn’t it be cool if we got to share a stage with Earth or whatever, small dreams, sure but still a million miles away from our practice room. We both have collected Holy Roar’s records in the past and loved so many of their bands… You know, we just thought they were never gonna be interested so we thought nothing more of it. Plus if you go on the Holy Roar website it explicitly tells you not to send anything in as they’ll bin it or something.

So after we recorded ‘Bloom’ each band member chose a label they either liked or thought would be a good fit and we wrote to them and not once did we think of speaking to Holy Roar. We got a couple of cool replies too with one label promising to “get back to you soon” but being a new band I could see why labels were hesitant to invest their cash in us. To put it into perspective we wrote these letters in late April and we had only played our first shows a couple of weeks before.

But then one day I was listening to my ipod on shuffle. Bastions came on and then Rolo Tomassi and I got to thinking… This label is ace. I then put on the Conan/Bongripper split and by the time it was finished I had written to Alex who runs the label and put a copy of the finished music as an attachment on the email. To give the guy his due he got back within a couple of hours and soon enough we had pretty much bashed out a plan of action for the record. That was a good fucking day.

Q6. Did you have any other record label interest? Or was Holy Roar Records the one place you wanted to be.

P: Yeah a cool German Label contacted us out of the blue with a really good offer but as I explained above, once Holy Roar expressed an interest we were sold.

Q7 – Now let’s talk about BLOOM. What a fantastic album it is. Can you tell our readers what the album is about?

P: Thanks for saying that, it means a lot hearing that from other people, we know we love it as a band but I can see how it might be a tough sell for some people when you hand them over something that is 32 minutes long and contains 2 songs.

M: Paul will divulge more about the lyrical theme. But as far as I understand it, its main theme is about the dangers and repercussions of mankind’s abuse of the natural world. Be that animal cruelty or the mass use of chemicals on crops.

The way the music has ended up being arranged has led to it become a musical journey of sorts. With highs, lows and all the sorts of emotions and passion that all good art has. Alternatively it could be described as just loads of really cool riffs and stuff.

P: That’s true, there is no lyrical concept as such on the record. But thematically we started off with lyrics based on horror movies and witchcraft and other such awesome shit but y’know, it’s been done a million times by a million bands…

So I thought about my personal politics and started writing in the way Crass did or bands like Fugazi would. Most of us come from a hardcore punk background so it was just a logical step. I don’t listen to any other doom or stoner bands that write this way, I’m not saying we are the first or anything but at least it’s a fresh idea to me. Writing about subjects that I am really passionate about allows me as a singer to find that inner something that can make a performance that more intense and real rather than just wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and running around the stage posturing and going through the motions. I see so many bands doing that these days it gives me the grumps.

Q8 – What influenced you when recording the album? I detected a lot of different genres of music when I reviewed it.

P: Musically we are all into different bands, thinking about it seriously though, I think the only band that we all agree on as being totally ace is The Locust. A band that has a million songs that run for under a minute of time. The total opposite of us in fact.

M: I don’t think I consciously try to blend styles. When I write, I am always inspired by the style of one particular band, usually whatever I’m into at the time. Obviously those bands have a wide selection of artists that they are inspired by, so it kind of filters through into the music that I am creating. But my songs always come to practice in half cooked forms, mainly due to laziness on my part and by design. This allows the rest of the band to decided how to connect the dots, and they bring their own style and inspirations. This isn’t ALWAYS the case, for example sometimes you’ll hear bits of Pink Floyd in some of the styles of lead guitar work. That’s intentional, as David Gilmour is a huge influence on my lead guitar style. I can only speak for my writing though.

P: We spent just under a year making sure that the songs were just right before we went into the studio to record and I can hear stoner rock, doom metal, trad metal, classic rock and prog all over ‘Bloom’. I listened to all these genres over that period but musically I didn’t write anything except the drum intro for ‘Rise of the Herbivore’. Luckily it seems that everyone was on the same page as me.

Q9 – Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for?

M: I think like most bands’ first record, it was easy to write as we didn’t really impose any time constraints and had no previous work to live up to. The recordings were really relaxed and creative. The studio process with Ian (Sadler, Emaline Studios) added much of the soundscapes and textures to the songs that we added to the songs.

Q10 – I originally featured you guys back in March 2014 when I thought you were primarily an Instrumental Rock band. Was that the intention to trick me a bit or were Bloom's vocals not recorded yet.

P: That 5 minute piece of music you heard is the middle part of a song called ‘The Anchor’ which will be on our second record; it had no vocals because at the time it was just a cool riff that we loved. The intention was to use it to get gigs and have something for people to listen to on our bandcamp page.

Of course it did that and more. It got played on American radio and was talked about in blogs and someone stuck it on youtube as well. I can’t wait for people to hear it as part of the song with vocals on top. It’s a killer.

Q11 – What is the song-writing dynamic in the band? Is it a group collective or down to one individual?

M: As I touched on previously, when we write songs. One of us will bring the raw version of the song to practice. We then jam through the sections and offer suggestions and changes to the music. It’s not a rigid process as some songs go relatively unchanged whereas some are moulded and sculpted beyond recognition of its original state.

Q12 – Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians? Any particular band or album stand out that influenced you to become a musician?

M: If we were talking strictly about bands that influenced me to BECOME a musician then I’d have to say bands like Pink Floyd, Nirvana and embarrassing teenage love affairs like Slipknot and Green day. They made me WANT to start playing music. I must add that I do like much better music now than when I started playing guitar at thirteen. For the last 6 years, Converge have pretty much fuelled my inspiration.

P: For me, those 70s Kiss records got me into music. I am Australian and growing up there in the 80s was all about Kiss, Kiss, Kiss and some more Kiss. I was a fanatical follower and up to a few years ago would still buy anything of theirs I came across. Today though, Gene has done the job of finally rubbing the shine of the band for me. Each time he opens his vulgar mouth he bangs another nail into that overpriced Kiss coffin. If I was Paul Stanley I would have punched the guy out years ago.

Q13 - What is your musical set-up when playing live or recording your music? Any hints and tips would you like to give to the budding musicians out there.

M: I’ll try not to go on too long about this as I could talk about this shit for hours. But live we go for valve amps and fuzz boxes for all guitars. It’s the only way to get the stoner tone. Me and the other guitarist Dan use Fuzz pedals made by a small company called Nine of Swords, which deserve a shout out too.

We are huge advocates of Orange amplification and speaker cabinets, even if it’s a bit typical for bands of our style. We use a couple of other pedals to simulate the drones and spacey effects you can hear on BLOOM. Live we use the same gear as we did in the studio, so we hope that it is a similar sound live. As unprofessional as it sounds, we like to be ear blisteringly loud. Primarily because we truly believe our set is more immersive at that level of intense volume. Oh and in terms of tips, probably the best tip I could give is get out of your bedroom and play with other people. Start playing live as soon as you are ready as it’s the only way to really improve both you and your bands musicianship.

Q14 – You have just started to play some gigs. And you have a high profile one supporting The Skull at Camden Underworld in October. How did that come about and are you nervous supporting a legendary band of musicians.

P: We sent the promoter a copy of Bloom a while back and then a couple of months later she asked us if we fancied it and we jumped at the chance. Of course we did.

Playing with a band like The Skull who feature 3 original members of Trouble and knowing that they will be playing Trouble songs is pretty fucking awesome, it’s an honour to share the stage with them. As my misses will tell you, I listen to ‘Psalm 9’ a lot.

Also we just got wind that we will be playing a Christmas weekender with The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, another band that I listen to constantly, now I just need to tick off Conan, Candlemass and Black Sabbath and my bucket list will be complete.

Q15 – Do you have a set routine to calm your nerves before performing a gig? Or are you too professional for that?

M: I always get a mixture of mild nerves and excitement before I play. I don’t really have a routine though. I just watch the other bands and get myself hyped up.

Q16 – Bloom is being released on CD and Vinyl via Holy Roar Records. Congrats on that one. How important is a physical product to you as a band. And what is your preferred musical format, MP3/CD/Vinyl?

M: Being a shallow materialistic consumer, I like the idea of having a physical product. It’s exciting to think that people may actually purchase our record in the same way I’ve bought stuff on Holy Roar. Although the Vinyl is going to be an amazing product to have, I’d always choose a CD or Digital download if it was another bands record. This is due to practicalities, as I don’t have the space for a record to be set up at home. I do find myself torn between owning everything physically or digitally. Sometimes I think, man, I should just have everything digitally on my laptop. However sometimes I’ll say to myself, no, you must own physical copies of everything. I think a lot of people suffer from this dilemma!

P: For any fan of music having a physical product in your hand is essential, surely? MP3s and digital files are truly convenient and I probably listen to most of my music that way but to do away with vinyl doesn’t interest me. I want big artwork; I want that nerd experience of opening the cellophane and putting the needle on the record. Even the smell of vinyl gets me feeling all fuzzy inside.

Ohhms 'Bloom' Artwork

Q17 – The album cover for BLOOM has a slight ISIS influence. Was that the intention when designing the album cover? And how much input did you have with the design of the album cover?

P: The artwork and visual aesthetic of OHHMS is hugely important to us so we commissioned Black Sails Design in Italy to do our first three EP covers, well I say EPs but they are as long as a lot of bands full length LPs. Nico there has a very intricate and mathematical way of presenting his work which just seemed like a perfect fit to our music. Anyway the first one thematically involves insects, the second cover is animals and the third is man. We have already seen the cover for the next EP and I must admit it’s thrilling to have our names attached to such a cool piece of artwork.

Any similarities to the artwork of Isis or anyone else for that matter is purely coincidental though.

Q18 – If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a band. What would it be?

M: Eurgh.. Probably the best piece of advice I could give is to just appreciate it for what it is. It’s an opportunity to be creative with friends and to meet other likeminded people. Don’t be a douche bag at a show. Showing off and acting like a rock star will give off the wrong impression to the people who you should be impressing. I’m not saying being super chummy and chat to everyone at a show either. When you are playing, say hi to the other bands, offer to share equipment if anyone needs it and for god’s sake watch the other bands if you can, even if you think they suck. It’s the same in any walk of life, be the best you can at what you do, be supportive of others and enjoy yourself. Create great music and play it with passion. Getting signed isn’t everything. It shouldn’t be your main priority, being a great band should be.

P: One of the guys from Hang The Bastard gave me some great advice as it turns out so I reckon it’s best to pass on his words of wisdom which were to never try and please anybody with the music but yourselves and secondly be tight, don’t go on stage with half-cocked songs.

Q19 – Which artists and albums are currently rocking your world? Any bands you feel our readers should check out?

M: As this is an OHHMS interview, I’ll stick to listing the bands that inspire me to write stuff for the band. Check out…

Old man Gloom
Stone Titan

P: For me, the new Truckfighters, Conan, Floor, Triptykon and Pontiak albums have been solid this year. Also I’m really digging the pay what you like Kings album on Bandcamp at the moment. It’s cosmic stoner rock from Leeds with awesome vocals. I think you can find it on Facebook under Kingsriffs… Probably. As for a local band round my way Cosmic Thoughts blow me away. They have released my album of the year so far. Watching them live was out of this world.

Q20 – The last thing before you go, do you have anything else to say to your fans?

M: We have fans?

P: Why not check us out at one of these smashing shows we are gonna do before the new year.

Sept 27th: ASHFORD - Platform 5
Oct 2nd: CANTERBURY – Lady Luck
Oct 13th: LONDON – Camden Underworld w/The Skull
Oct 24th: MARGATE – The Bracket
Oct 25th: STOURBRIDGE – tbc
Oct 26Th: SHEFFIELD – The Lughole
Dec 16th: CANTERBURY – Cherry Tree w/Gurt
Dec 19th: HASTINGS – The Union Bar w/Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell
Dec 20th: RAMSGATE – Music Hall w/Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

There is a couple more but we are not allowed to mention them yet…

Also if you want to pre-order our record (and of course you do) you can do so here…

Check the Band from Links Below

Written by Steve Howe