Monday 13 July 2015

"Beyond Good & Evil": An Interview with Jeff Owen from Goya

Goya are a band not needing of an introduction round these parts. The Sludgelord swamp has become their home from home in many ways as we have followed and championed every single one of their booming, Sabbath worshipping steps. So here we stand side by side once more as the Phoenix, Arizona three piece readies the release of their arresting new album, Obelisk. Phil Weller, who once described their sound as being as characteristic and as impossible to ignore as the Bat-Signal blaring into a cold, dead night sky, muses with the Jeff Owen over the new album, Spanish romantic artwork and surprising influences. 

SL). Jeff, you guys release your new record, ‘’Obelisk next month through STB Records. It'll be your first full release with the label so how have they been to work with and help get the Goya sound out to as many people as possible? 

Jeff:  Really great. They have absolutely bent over backwards for us to accommodate all sorts of crazy requests. Haha. Since STB picked up this album, we have seen a lot of new fans take interest. STB always has really nice-looking releases, so its been great getting that treatment. Were really looking forward to seeing how the vinyl looks in October!

SL) 'No Place in the Sky' closes the new record which is a song you used with your split Wounded Giant last year, was that a song written especially for that release?

Jeff: Absolutely. Every song on Obelisk is very directly connected to every other song on Obelisk. Additionally, the version on the split is a little different. It was an early mix, and we ended up retracking some guitar and vocal stuff for the final version, which we are much happier with.

SL) The guitar tones on Obelisk are absolutely killer, what gear are you currently using? 

Jeff: Currently Im running a Sovtek Mig 100 through a 400 watt Orange 412 and a 240 watt Randall 412, and a Marshall DSL100H through an Orange PPC412, though I did not have the Marshall when we recorded Obelisk. On my pedal board, I run through a Magick Fuzz from Magic Pedals, and I feel that that has become an integral part of my tone. I also run through a Cry Baby Wah, a Phase 100, and a Roland Space Echo RE-20, each of which also play a large part in our sound.

SL) You were in a punk band before you formed Goya, does that style of music influence your writing in any way? Tracks like The Sun have a quick tempo to them which, considering the nature of the band comes as a really excellent curve ball for me. 

Jeff: When a fast song comes up, it usually is just what happens. Ive tried to consciously make fast songs before, and they generally end up sounding like garbage if theyre forced. Whatever happens happens. That being said, I grew up listening to punk, and playing in punk bands, and Im sure that will always be an influence on a subconscious level, at the very least. Its refreshing for us to play those faster songs!

SL) The band is named after the Spanish romantic painter Francisco Goya, whose 'Black Paintings' you've previously stated captured your imagination. Looking at those paintings, they have a very dark, almost oppressive feel to them and your music seems to reflect that, is that the idea?

Jeff: It took us quite a few months to settle on the name Goya. That was one I brought to the table because of the painting Saturn Devouring His Son, which wouldnt be a terrible band name, but I think we all wanted something more succinct. All of the Black Paintings are great, as is all of his work. I think the thing that sold us on the name is that it isnt very restrictive. Yes, Goya painted the Black Paintings, and made all of the Caprichos. He did some very dark, unsettling work. But he also did some very beautiful work. Ultimately, it is his diversity as an artist that makes it a fitting name, to me. But, to directly answer your question, there is an atmosphere about Francisco Goyas darker work that we also strive to create, so in that sense, yes, that is the idea.

SL): And on the topic of artwork, the cover for the new album is fantastic. Could you tell me a little bit about its creation and concept please?

Jeff: Laney Oleniczak did all of the artwork for this release, and it was not a short or easy process for her. STB, her, and myself all went all over the place with the cover art. There were a few sketches and a couple of versions. There were a lot of influences for this album (which I will go further into in one of the following questions), and they certainly played a part in the final decision as far as what would actually be on the cover. Originally, the art was going to be a gatefold, so I came up with the idea for the burning obelisk cover. My vision for it was quite a bit different from, and nowhere near as awesome as what Laney came up with. Then, some other ideas came up from the label for a different style of cover (Im not sure how much Im at liberty to discuss that, with vinyl release still months off), so I talked to Laney about going a different direction with it, and using the obelisk for something other than the front cover. Then, insane vinyl delays came up, and we were forced to do some other kind of release to not push the album back another four or five months, so we ended up able to use the original gatefold idea for a CD, and a variation of the art on cassette. Im most excited about the final cover for vinyl, though. It will be great to see that whole package when its done. Laney fucking killed it on that! Its gonna be the sickest shit ever!!!

SL). '300 Eyes' is another standout track on the record for me, it's a slow and moody acoustic song. How did that come about? 

Jeff: At home, I try to have at least one guitar readily accessible at all times, and that guitar usually ends up being an acoustic. One day, I just picked it up and played some around a little before I landed on the opening notes of 300 Eyes. I really liked that, and knew I wanted it to be on this album, so I started working on fleshing it out a little more. As I recall, it took a couple of days to really pull that one together lyrically, during some of which time, I was still writing the music. 300 Eyes is obviously a weird one for us. We dont play it live, and Im not sure we ever will. On the surface, it is one of our least heavy songs, but I consider it to be the darkest track on Obelisk.

SL) Obviously the spirit of Sabbath, Electric Wizard and Sleep is strong on the new record - but not overpowering. Are there any more left-field bands, songs, books or movies etc. that played an influential part in the making of Obelisk that people might not expect? 

Jeff-One of the greatest things I find in music is the ability for it to mean different things to different people. What I mean by that is that a song can sometimes be related to on such a personal level by the listener, even when the song is about an experience personal to the performer. Because of this, I dont want to explain Obelisk too much. Anyone who really sits down with it and picks it apart can start to have a pretty good idea about what the story underneath it is.

That being said, there are definitely a lot of influences on it, and I am absolutely willing to provide a little background. The biggest influence on the album is the comic book From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Reading that book will help to make sense of some themes on Obelisk. The AC/DC album Highway to Hell is an influence, as is Led Zeppelins Stairway to Heaven, though those two are more subtle in their influence. There are a number of people that strongly influenced the content of this album, as well.

SL) What themes lyrically inspire you? 

Jeff-Disappointment with our species and general misanthropy are probably the two biggest lyrical inspirations to me, with Satan, marijuana, and oblivion not too far behind. On Obelisk, however, my biggest lyrical influences were murder, religion, women, and the afterlife.

SL) Thanks for taking the time to speak to The Sludgelord 

Jeff: Thank you!

All the best and congrats on a wicked album, 


Words by: Phil Weller 

‘Obelisk’ will be release on CD/CS via STB and the band on 1 August 2015, with the vinyl due in October

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