Tuesday, 9 December 2014

'Into The Darkness' - An Interview with Truckfighters


When the Truckfighters were plunged into darkness midway through the first date of their UK tour it reverberated the thrilling tale of the band.

You see, while they may have formed with the linear desire to play fuzzed-up stoner rock as heavy, as loud and as raucous as possible, the band have never sat still after that initial momentum was gained. As musicians and as people they have grown their sound the most affected by such an evolution. When the trio unite for jam sessions to work towards putting a new release, they never know where they are going to go. All they know is that they don’t want to traipse the same territory as before and so into darkness, into the electrifying obscurity of spontaneity they plunge.

“The whole room went black for a while,” said Ozo, bassist and vocalist of this
most forward thinking of bands. “Someone had poured beer all over my pedal board, probably not on purpose but the whole backline died,” chimed guitarist Dango.

Off stage he was charming, if not a little restrained, a little inside his shell. On stage, the story couldn’t be any more contrasting. Like a pissed off Bruce Banner, something about stepping onto that stage and cranking his amp transforms him into a monster of which you can’t take your eyes off. But here he is calm; he is the methodical doctor who shows no signs of his perplexing metamorphosis.

“It was very wet,” he adds. “I think it was something to do with the grounding 
and it blew. But it’s working fine today. Wah pedals survive anything.”  

Truckfighters constant tweaking, adapting and re-birthing of their sound is perhaps most dramatic on this year’s release, ‘Universe.’ The fuzz is toned back a little and they’re introducing more and more progressive rock elements to the mix. So, is this something that they’ve done to push themselves musically?

”Yes absolutely,” asserts Ozo. “It’s not something that we’ve done intentionally 
in trying to go in a certain direction. It’s something that happens naturally.”

”We never say ‘hey, lets write a song that sounds like this,’ but if we write a 
song that sounds different and we like it then we’ll continue to do it. We worked 
a lot on the album [Universe], we worked on it for years but never with the goal 
to have a particular sound.”

So how do the guys consider your sound at the moment?

”We’re just progressive hard rock nowadays,” was Ozo’s response before
Dango added more colour to their answer. 

”When we started this band we were really set on playing the stoner sound,
not particularly writing songs in a stoner formula but we had the intention of
having that sound at first. But we didn’t do that for too many years because
it’s not so fun to do the same thing for 15 years. We’ve evolved.”

Says Ozo: ”The key element is to do something different for yourself. It
doesn’t matter if this album sold one million copies – we wouldn’t do the same
again just because it sells well. You have to push yourself to keep it
interesting, otherwise you lose focus. Bands start playing because it’s fun.”

”We still play songs from our early years live, but when it comes to writing
new music it has to be new,” Dango told me. “I think it’s really fun to play
both new and old songs. Some of our older songs are probably a bit catchier 
so people will want to hear one or two of them. I guess in some ways it’s nice
to get the crowd going with older songs before playing the new ones.” 

Reaction to ‘Universe,’ which was released in February of this year, has been overwhelmingly in favour of their progression as an outfit. Ozo was first to acknowledge this.

“I think it’s really nice to see receipt of our work and people saying they like
the record. I think it would affect us a little bit if everyone just said ‘it sucks.’
If you work three years on an album and everyone thought it was really boring
it wouldn’t be nice but we’ve never experienced that. We didn’t know what to
feel about ‘Universe.’ We liked it but we’d been in a bubble writing it for three

“We try not to care that much about reviews because it’s just one person’s
opinion. Of course we prefer them to like the record though” Dango then
stated, adjusting his red woolly hat. “We understood that it was a bit
different to our previous albums, so we were a bit nervous about what people
would think. But it wouldn’t change our musicianship or song writing in that
way. We never write anything to please a certain crowd.    

”We licensed the songs in Scandinavia to Sony and they were a bit hesitant
about it first. The first two songs we sent them were seven and eight minutes
long, so they said ‘can you maybe write a song that’s three or four minutes
long, something we can actually sell?’ But they really loved the long songs too. 
Then we went back to the studio and said ‘are we really gonna do this[write a 
short song to please Sony]…fuck this.’

”But then we listened back to the ideas we already had and there was two or
three songs that were nearly finished which were around four or five minutes.
So we sent them over and they said ‘yeah, let’s do this.’ So in that sense it just
happened that we had songs that they wanted, they just weren’t finished or
mixed. Maybe he thought we wrote the songs just for him.”

As Truckfighters plough on, few can argue that ‘Universe’ is their most original sounding release. Is this definitive Truckfighters sound?

            Dango “We try really hard to get our own sound,” answers Dango, a little more
passion, a hint of The Hulk beginning to bubble in his throat as he spoke. “We
don’t wanna sound like this band or that band. We want people to say ‘that
band sounds like Truckfighters’ rather than people might say we sound like Fu
Manchu or whatever.”

Every band wants to carve out their own niche and ‘Universe’ is a deep wound on the surface of originality. When a band gains a certain stature, their name takes on a meaning of its own: Smashing pumpkins no longer relates to violence against Halloween associated vegetables, just as Truckfighters no longer brings to mind two HGV’s beating the living crap out of each other. 

’Universe’ is one hell of an album and a fascinating chapter in the band’s history. What happens next is anyone’s guess. What we do know is, however, that into darkness they will plunge once more.

Words and interview by:
Phil Weller      

Photographs by: Phil Goddard

You can read our review of ‘Universe’ here