Wednesday, 19 April 2017

INTERVIEW: In Conversation with doom legend Karl Simon (Wretch/The Gates of Slumber)

By: Richard Maw

Karl Simon, formerly of The Gates of Slumber is back with Wretch- a street level doom band hell bent on bringing you back to reality with their traditional doom sound. Here we ask him about the band, the album and the upcoming European and UK shows.

Sludgelord: You have European and UK shows coming up, can you tell us what kind of set we can expect in terms of songs and if there are any surprises you might throw in?

Karl Simon: Well, we will be playing the majority of our record and a few TGoS songs that we feel are appropriate to this band.... maybe if people let Chris know they want to hear it we'll play “The Jury”. Which was first written way back when he was first drumming in TGoS on the old Sabbath Witch Demo 

Sludgelord: Is there any new material written for the next record?

KS: Yeah we are working on things as they come. You know it's a process. Write a song chuck it all away but one riff and start over. 

Sludgelord: The Judas Priest cover on your debut is a great choice. “Rocka Rolla” has always suffered a really bad press – certainly here in the UK. I have a lot of time for that album; what made you choose “Winter” to record?

KS: Chris really, really wanted to do it and it totally fit in with the vibe of our early jams, it was a cold and hard winter in 2013. 

Sludgelord: In terms of lyrical themes, the Wretch debut is less sword and sorcery and more down to earth; was this conscious choice?

KS: Yes, and this goes back to TGoS... we did “Suffer No Guilt” and it was something I was very proud of on a lot of levels. The record suffers from our inexperience and lack of budget and connections at the time, but the songs I think were some of the best things we did.  That record opened up doors for us and we got to revisit what we were trying to do with “Conqueror....” also a good record, though I think both were too long!   And if I'm honest too quick back to back and so was “Hymns”, I'm actually stunned at how good the stuff on “Hymns” is when I hear it now - I couldn't imagine playing like that again.  But, lyrically it suffers, badly because we were trying to do "a thing".  Gates could do music very quickly, but I didn't have the words on that one.  “Death Dealer” is pretty much a trope, it's not something I was really proud of lyrically, and I was kicking the edge of my abilities as a guitarist as well.  That was Jason's record on all fronts: better songs, better words... everything.  But I couldn't do the "Conan Crushing Doom" thing anymore.  

When we got Clyde on drums for” The Wretch” I had already been working on much doomier more Vitus-ized riffs and songs and his playing totally brought that crawling doom thing out in us.  Jason still had that bug on his mind lyrically but a lot of stuff was changed in the studio.  In a sense if “Hymns” was his record, “The Wretch” was maybe mine?  I dunno.  That's for other people to decide.  

It felt good to sing things more from my life; and I think the audiences connected with those songs more than with the earlier stuff, more on an "I can relate to that" level.  A song about a giant spider will appeal to some folks, but a song about being in the depths of depression or the desolate feeling of rejection or a relationship falling apart... everyone connects with that.  

With Wretch I wanted to continue to make that kind of music.  Make those kind of songs.   

Sludgelord: Having played with Chris Gordon on the mighty “Suffer No Guilt” opus, was he an obvious choice for Wretch? He has done a great job on the album- grooves and powerful playing.

KS: Chris and I just play very well together I get his drumming and he gets how to play to my guitar stylings. We did right out of the box.  I like to jam, Chris likes to jam.  I mean we fight about every week and I'm sure he's love to shoot me.  But we do work well together.  

Sludgelord: How did you get Bryce Clarke involved with the band?

KS: He was a player I'd seen around and I liked his style a lot. And one day I saw his lady in the bar I work at and I asked what he was up to, he came up and I played him some rough recordings Chris and I had done.  He was interested.  Gave him the demo and he came to the first jam knowing all the stuff. We came up with the coda jam at the end of “RIP” that day. He just took bass solo over the 8th note drone part and Chris and I just played along.  All doubts were gone from my mind then. 

Sludgelord: The power trio is a great band format -there are fewer people to argue with for a start- was it your intention to maintain the format with Wretch, as you had done with TGOS?

KS: Yeah, I mean I know Chris would like a keyboard player and or a second guitarist... and there are times I think it would be cool. And then there are times when I'm like "I fucking hate singing I wish there was a singer out there". But in the end nah. The sound is what we have.  Chris is the drummer, Bryce is the bassist, and I sing and play guitar.  That's the sound and it works. 

Sludgelord: The biggest bands in metal are now getting closer and closer to retirement; do you think that young bands will always come up, or are death, trad, doom and all other sub genres destined for something akin to the modern rockabilly scene - conventions, festivals and nostalgia only?

KS: Probably the latter.  I mean the legends of doom are playing the same clubs a band like us plays. You know? This is a cult thing with a crowd that is also getting older.... and who knows what is going on with this music thing anymore?  

I gave up on worrying about the scene and all that shit years ago.  

Sludgelord: Having read interviews with you in the past, it seems that you have really dedicated your life to doom metal: Is it a high price for a small reward, or have you got out of all this what you wanted?

KS: Well... ... I have gotten what was there to get.  If you think there is money in this. You're wrong.  Over the years people have gleefully hurled the "sell out" thing at me.... and rightly so - I did the same idiot shit; the circle is complete. 

I don't think you can set out to do Doom Metal, it's something you kind of have to have in you, maybe more than any other style of music. 

I've been in a semi depressed state since I was 5 years old.  I remember being that young and realizing on some level how futile and dumb the world is.  And I've not been proved wrong.  The depressions found a home in Ozzy's voice and Geezer's words. And in Wino's voice and Chandler's riffs and words.  The depression found a friend in drugs and booze.  

At this point man I've seen more of Western Europe than almost anyone in my town.  I've met some awesome people.  I've played some great shows.  So what there is to do, I've done

Sludgelord: You are playing Roadburn prior to your UK tour; are there any festivals or places you want to play in Europe or the UK which you haven't done in your career yet?

KS: Oh tons.  Lots of places I'd like to play again

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