Thursday 14 January 2016

"If you wanna write music and perform then just stick with it.": Amped & Doomed with Paul Michael Davies (Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard)

By: Aaron Pickford & Paul Michael Davies

Many records in 2015, struck a chord with me (no pun intended), but perhaps what often resonated with me as a listener the most, was the emergence of new bands, bursting on the scene, with initiative and determination to make their own mark.  Indeed, with a name like Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, perhaps they couldn’t fail to make an impression, yes the name of the band may engender a smirk or even ridicule, which indeed I have observed, however if the band simply did not have the tunes to back up this rather amusing moniker, then perhaps any negativity attributed to them was justified in some way?

Admittedly I called myself Chris much to the astonishment of my parents during a family holiday back in the day, but a name does not convey the mechanics of your personality or illustrate the substance of a bands sound?  Indeed that is not the case with Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard or MWWB for short.   With the self release of the rather epic 30 minute track “Nachthexen” during the early part of 2015, the band began to create quite a buzz and rightly so, the track is truly absorbing, sharing similarities with say, Sleep but retaining individuality with the delicate and angelic vocals of bassist Jessica Ball.  It is a truly brilliant slice of psychedelic doom and for me, alongside bands such as the brilliant Space Witch, MWWB are band that make you take notice.

Due to the buzz surrounding “Nachthexen”, 2015 would not only see a superb cassette only release of the aforementioned track, but the release of their debut album, Noeth Ac Anoeth via New Heavy Sounds on CD and vinyl, which would subsequently see a second pressing and garner accolades worldwide.  One thing is certain, whether you guffaw at their moniker or not, in my eyes MWWB are a shining light in the doom scene and with any luck 2016 with only see their star shine brighter.  Fortunately, with such a massive tone on record, the band were more than delighted to talk us about their sound, how the band came together and a chap called Terry Allen, from Wrexham. 

Today, I’m delighted to say that we’re Amped and Doomed with Paul Michael Davies, guitarist with Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard

SL). Can you give us a brief history of your playing career?

Paul Michael Davies: Was a bedroom guitarist till I met our drummer ‘Carrat’ around 2003 I think. Somebody told me he liked ‘stoner rock’ and had a drum kit. I thought it was rare cos as far as I was concerned I was the only person in Wales who was into stoner rock. Ha. I saw him in the street and said ‘oi. Do you like stoner rock? Wanna jam?’ and he said ‘yeah’. We formed Mother Of Six, released an album, a few EP’s did a couple of tours of “Catalonia then formed MWWB.

SL). Can you remember who or what inspired you to pick up the guitar? Are there any bands, guitarists currently on the scene that continue to inspire you and push you to try new things?

PMD) Me dad bought me “Number Of The Beast” by Iron Maiden on tape when I was a kid and that got me into guitar music. A year later some lad borrowed me a Sabbath Compilation in school and I couldn’t believe that Ozzy Osbourne was in them as I had heard Ozzy and  thought he had  a cool voice and I just thought Sabbath were a load of blokes with big moustaches.

That got me into what would become stoner rock/doom but the band that really got me into playing guitar was early Monster Magnet. I was obsessed with them and just loved the way Dave Wyndorf threw them power chords about. Gonna be boring and say I haven’t got any heroes or guitarists I respect at the moment. Historically though the guitarists that inspired me were Gaz Jennings (Cathedral), Dave Wyndorf (Monster Magnet), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai) and this folk musician from Wrexham called Terry Allen. Me and my mate Colin were in this Pub called the Old Swan in Wrexham and saw this guy do the heaviest acoustic version of “Eleanor Rigby” I have ever heard. It totally blew me away. The pub was rammed and this guy played fuck out of this guitar. He had broken 2 strings but the sound was immense. The way he took the song up and down was the best performance I have ever seen. I texted Carrat half pissed and said ‘Right we are jamming next week mate!!! Lets start playing live!’.

 Terry is also a good friend of mine as well. He won’t be known to readers on this blog but he deffo influenced me.

SL). Whilst we’re on the subject of inspiration or heroes for example, do you have 5 records that stand out as favourites, what influence did they have upon you and what is it about those record that particular resonates amongst others? 

PMD) Cathedral – “Forest Of Equilibrium.  The riffs and guitar tone blew me away from the off set. My favourite album ever.

Monster Magnet – “Spine Of God”. My go-to album for fuzzed out space rock. Huge influence on my guitar playing.

Napalm Death – “Mentally Murdered”. Best Napalm record by a country mile in my opinion. I love the production. The guitars as fat as fuck. The riffs are ace as well.

Sisters Of Mercy – “Floodland”. This album is epic. The production is first class and the songs are ace. I can listen to this all the way through and not get bored.

DJ Shadow – “Endtroducing”. Not really rock or guitar based but I love it. I’m a sucker for drum production and there’s a lot here to work with. And the soundscapes are mint.

SL). Can remember your first electric guitar?  

PMD) My dad bought me this cheap SG copy by ‘Saxon’ or something. I loved that old thing. I had it for years before I could afford an amp. It’s in bits on a landfill now somewhere though.

SL). What guitar(s) are you using today and how did you gravitate towards the guitar you currently use?

PMD) Only Epiphones I’m afraid. I got an SG and a Les Paul. I’ve played and owned Gibsons and expensive guitars but I love my Epiphone Les Paul. I know a lot of doom guys love SG’s but I love the Les Paul sound.  I know there are a lot of guitar snobs out there that hate Epiphones but when you bang it through a decent fuzz they all sound the same. And if you wanna play just buy a cheap guitar and play it well. I can’t justify spending over a grand on a guitar when I’m just gonna use a fuzz with it. I’d rather buy a decent amp of effects. I reckon there aren’t a lot of signed bands that use Epiphones but that’s the way I roll. Ha.

SL). What do you like about the guitars you currently use and has there been any specific modifications to it? 

PMD) I love the sound of the Les Paul. It’s beefy and has got a lot of low end. I always use the bridge pick up cos I use baritone strings and tune to A,  so If I used the neck pick up my guitar would sound like mashed potatoes. I’ve rewired it a few times but it’s a vanilla spec really.

SL) What amps and pedals do you currently use?  Do you use a combination of amps, or a full or half stack? Talk us through your set up both in the studio and in the live environment? 

PMD) We have loads of amps in our rehearsal room. Nearly all of them not working. I Have a Fender twin, a ’73 Laney, a Marshall Triple Super Lead that I need to get fixed. My current live set up is a JCM 900 with a 12 x 4 cab and an Orange CR120 with a 12 x 4 that I use with an ABY splitter. 

My pedal board consists of a TC Electronic Polytune, an Earthquaker devices Hoof, a Morley ABY, a Pro Co Rat, a Meathead Deluxe clone I made, an EHX Small Stone, a Boss Space Echo and a Moog Minitaur Synth. In the Studio I use my pedal board, a Matamp GT, a Sunn Model T and a big fuck off Ampeg Bass amp (which I cant remember the name of). All of these through the biggest cabs available. Last time we were in the studio our drummer tried to stand in the amp room while I played but it was physically impossible for him cos it was so loud.

SL) What one pedal could not live without and why? 

PMD) My Space Echo. These pedals are the dogs bollocks.

SL) What are your amp/ pedal settings?

PMD) For the amps its bass 3 o’clock, Middle at 9 and treble at 12 o clock. For the Fuzzes its fuzz maxed, volume maxed tone 12 o clock. The small Stone rate is set to 12 o’clock and the Space Echo is set to Mind Melt. 

SL) What tunings do you use and why, and as a result is there a specific brand / gauge of string you prefer ?    

PMD) I tune to A. Its low and I used baritone strings (low 72). There are a few issues with this combo of strings and tunings. I had a Cloven Hoof fuzz pedal but cos of the string Gauge it was just too bassy and the tone kept braking up. I also have to watch the treble and bass settings on amps because sometimes it just sounds like mush.

SL). Do you have any advice for up and coming guitars players, bands?

PMD) Yeah. Listen to loads of music. Anytime, anywhere. Whether it be surfing the web, reading or just chilling. You wanna get the music in your brain subliminally so when you start to write you come up with ideas you have heard but can’t remember where. Writing is better this way. Learning riffs on YouTube or tab books is good for technique but wont help you find your style. Also don’t do covers! In all the bands I been in we never did covers even when we were starting out. It’s like a baptism of fire when you start to play and you get to know which of your stuff works live.
SL). Do feel there are deeply help misconceptions about being in a band? 

PMD) Yeah. Like you get money and girls. Ha. Any penny I’ve made in bands has to go straight back into the band. We’ve spent thousands in bands but it’s never been about the money. It’s just about music. If you wanna be in a band for anything other that music then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

SL). Moving on a little then,  what can you tell us about any of your current projects, tours, cds, etc you’re currently promoting, completed and anything else band related we should know about?

PMD) We have just released our Debut album (Noeth Ac Anoeth) on New Heavy Sounds. This is on CD and vinyl. As far as gigs we are doing the Tombstone Alldayer 2016 in Manchester and the Focus Wales Music festival in the spring. We are back in the Studio in April to record our next album and we are really looking forward to that. I’ve had to have a break from writing that to do this interview ha. We are waiting for some other Shows to be confirmed but we will let the fans know via social media.

SL). What springs to mind when you think about the completion of your new/current record and how is the mood in the camp at present?

PMD) After the insane reaction to our debut track on bandcamp and the reviews of our debut album, the MWWB camp is buzzing. We never thought we would get this much attention so now we are getting our heads down to write something really fucking special for the fans. We wanna make an epic album that people can get lost in. We got pianos, cellos and various synths in the arsenal for this fucker.

SL). What are your favourite songs to play live? What is it about them that makes them so good to play live, crowd reaction, etc?  Anything from your catalogue that you wouldn’t play and why? 

PMD) We love playing “Nachthexen”. Its 30 minutes long so it’s good for a half hour set. We like to improvise within the track as well. Every show is different. Myself and the Carrat (Drummer) played as sound carriers for Damo Suzuki at a festival last year. I was on bass so we took the band into space rock doom fuzz orbit! We have got a weird ESP when it comes to jamming so at Mammoth gigs we like to take the songs to different planets then bring them back to earth again. There’s nothing that we don’t play live. We just kinda change the track to work at a live setting.

SL) Who are some your favourite bands you have toured with and what has been your proudest moment and/or performance of your playing career?

PMD) In a previous band (Mother Of Six) we did a tour of Catalonia with 2 bands called Yaro and Goliat. These were the coolest guys we have ever met. The Goliat drummer David is a good friend of ours and we wanna do gigs with Goliat again. They are a two-piece but are fucking fierce. The highlight of my Career up to now was playing out first MWWB show ever in Wrexham. It was 6pm and light outside but there was a big crowd there. The sound was loud and people just went berserk!

SL). What can fans look forward to from you over the next 12 months? How is your schedule shaping up?

PMD) The album is now out so that can keep fans going until we play The Tombstone All Dayer in 2016. We are gonna play London next year and probably do a few festivals but I cant confirm anything as yet.

Finally, do you have any final comments/word of wisdom you’d like to bestow upon us?

PMD) Yeah. Gotta say thanks to the fans. We never thought this band would take off like it has. It’s the fans that keep music alive and we are totally indebted to out fans, friends and supporters from blogs and websites like this. And I would say if you wanna write music and perform then just stick with it. You will be rewarded somehow. Don’t expect money or to play Wembley Stadium, just enjoy and have a laugh. Something will happen, no matter how small and it will make the whole slog worth while. 

‘'Noeth Ac Anoeth'’ is available here

Band info: bandcamp | facebook