October 2004 - YOB
For my taste there's a lack of originality in the doom genre in current times. I miss bands who add something new to the old patterns, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel and its named YOB! They are no real newcomers, because they have released two excellent full-lengths in the past but with the new album "The Illusion Of Motion" they have extended their style. There are still riffs that could have been played by the Melvins or mid-90's Sleep, but YOB have created structures that are more than just a pure repetition of the old stuff. More dissonant and aggressive moments have found their way into the massive monolithic creations of YOB and this outstanding group had left the usual doom limitations behind. Due to this inspiring changes within the YOB sound and the fact that this group belongs to the all-time Cosmic Lava heavy faves it was the right time to do an interview with singer and guitarist Mike about the new album, the new deal with Metal Blade Records, spiritual beliefs, gear snobs and more.
Hello Mike! The new album "The Illusion of Motion" that will be released at October, 19th continues the saga of YOB in an impressive way. But in opposite to the two previous albums, you have integrated a wider range of musical influences, without ignoring the roots of YOB. What's your point of view about it?
We didn't really think too much about it at the time of writing the material for "The Illusion Of Motion". It is known to our friends that we love the entire spectrum of metal and hardcore-whether it be DRI, Iron Maiden, SLEEP, Mental Horror, Akercocke, Cirith Ungol, Satyricon, IMMOLATION, The Saints, etc. Those influences started showing up in our songwriting. We wanted to integrate these influences into our sound but also keep our original foundation as a DOOM metal band.
For my taste, the new album has a much darker and aggressive mood in opposite to the other material you have recorded in the past. Can you agree or what do you think?
I definitely agree. It has our heaviest, most chaotic moments that we have recorded yet IMO. But our new record also has our slowest riffs too. That being said each of YOB's records has it's dark, aggresive moments. But there is something different about the vibe of "The Illusion Of Motion" for sure.
What are the new songs about?
The new songs are about the limitations of human conceived knowledge and the dogma perpetuated by our full belief in our own creations and ideologies. Something like that.
One of YOB's trademarks is the ability to create epic and long winding tracks, without being boring for a second. There's still a very natural feeling to it and so I like to ask you: how do you create such thick monuments?
We're glad you think so! I guess we write DOOM from the perspective of attention deficit disorder. We may have a 26 minute song on our new cd but it is always changing and shifting. We change up styles of playing the same riff, vocal structures, effects and tempos to provide a dynamic quality to the brevity. As much as we can anyway. YOB approaches DOOM like a death metal band would. Lots of twists and changes. But the trick is to not lose the vibe in the song, ever. The riff played in minute 25 of the song has to feel as immediate as the riff in the first minute. Not easy. We do our best.
For me YOB is always surrounded by a very special atmosphere. I would describe this ambience with words like mystical, spiritual or universal. Are you interested in philosophies and eastern mystic, and what kind of literature have impressed you the most?
I am most definitely touched by the mystic traditions of the east. Particularly Zen Buddhism and certain Hindu teachers like Ramana Maharishi and Sri Nisargatta. I also spent a couple of years doing Tibetan Buddhist practices and chanting with a Lama who lives here in Eugene. I definitely am moved by chanting and drone notes as used in Tibetan chanting and try to bring that feeling into some of our music as well. But the mystic view keeps me from fully suscribing to any belief system. Whether I choose to be a Christian, Satanist, Buddhist or believe that Aesop's fables are the gospel, these ideologies are dependent on a reality that allows them all to be. This reality can't be seen, touched, tasted, or heard. Yet everything springs forth from it. To even say that all is one's is conceptualizing this reality. It allows us to do it, but it doesn't need us to do anything in order to be. And yet for us to be we need it completely.
Another fact I fuckin' love about YOB is this psyched-out bluesy vibe you've got interwoven in your massive sound. Do you feel influenced by psychedelic music and old blues or is your main source metal?
Yes on both counts. I love old country blues like Doc Watson and Merle Travis and that style of guitar playing is definitely an influence on me. As for psychedelic music, pretty much Pink Floyd and the Gyotu Monks cover it for me as the main influences.
For the new album, you've signed with Brian Slagel's Metal Blade Records. I guess, it must be more than a compliment for you to be on the roster of one of the most influencal metal labels. How do you feel about it, and how did you get together with Metal Blade? Have you met Brian Slagel?
We didn't send any kind of promo to Metal Blade. When they heard that we had left Abstract Sounds (amiably) Brian e-mailed us and told us he was interested in YOB. He has Catharsis and loves it. We very surprised as we had never considered Metal Blade as an option for us. We were talking to other labels also and continued to do so. We weren't convinced that Metal Blade would be the best place for us. Over a period of a few months Brian convinced us otherwise. We haven't met him personally yet but he has been very gracious to YOB in every way and his entire staff is both professional and fired up as music fans. Now that we are on their roster we are just beginning to realize that the people we are working with have put out some truly classic records. Records that we grew up on in the 80's and 90's. We are very happy to be on Metal Blade.
You've released three albums on three different labels. Why?
It's just how it worked out. Now that we are on Metal Blade we will be with them for three more records, which feels really good. Each label we have worked with did us good in many ways AND starting from scratch each time has been both a blessing and a curse. It's nice to have a home for awhile.
The last YOB album is titled "Catharsis". Have you recorded something like your own catharsis or is it just a good sounding album title?
That album definitely was a cathartic time for me personally and the band. It was an intentional title for sure.
Mostly, the band's sound is associated with groups like Electric Wizard and mid-90's Sleep what's not far away from being accurate, but for my taste the Melvins have also left a big trace in your sound. What do you think about such comparisons or do you give a shit about it?
Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as those bands is overwhelming to us. YOB's members are fans first and foremost. We LOVE music and we hold our favorite bands up high. The bands you mentioned are definitely big influences on YOB, and we have started to steer away from emulating them and trying to iron down our own vibe and sound too.
I think aside of your effective and skillful guitarplaying another trademark of YOB is your outstanding diverse vocal style. When have you discovered your very special ability?
It is my voice-the only one I got. Luckily it seems to work overall. I am influenced as a singer by clean styled vocalists (Rob Halford, Van Morrison, Bruce Dickinson, Chris Cornell, Al Cisneros, etc) but I am also heavily influenced by punk and metal styles. I am interested in singing as an instrument as well as a means for communication of ideas and thoughts. That means changing it up between the different styles to help create melody and tension in our music.
Somewhere I noticed, that you have taken guitar lessons from Zoot Horn Rollo, who joined Captain Beefheart's Magic Band back in 1969. Apart of the fact that I totally dig Captain Beefheart (what about you?) I think, it must be great to have such a teacher. What are your memories about this time?
Bill Harkleroad (aka Zoot Horn Rollo) is an amazing guitarist and teacher. I only took lessons from him for about a year and it permanently changed me as a musician. His style of teaching got through to me (though I am definitely not one of his best students). He is so fucking good on guitar. When Beefheart toured with Zeppelin I bet he made Jimmy Page sweat having to follow him.
Nowadays, a lot of heavy bands are focused on special tube amplifiers, handmade by special small companies. Well, I guess we all know the names...! I won't deny that it is important to have the right gear to play 70's influenced Doom, but isn't it more important to create good and solid songs, instead of gear-worship? What's your point of view about this theme? Are you a gear snob ;-)?
I am open minded to what other musicians use for gear because I've seen enough great players use gear that I wouldn't want to play, and sound incredible using it. I think to a certain degree you have to have both. You need gear that will create the fullness and tone that the style calls for but without a good song what's the point? All I know is that for me I need to feel a Matamp stack rumbling under my feet with a Gibson Les Paul strapped around my neck. So for myself, I am definitely VERY picky.
You've taken the name YOB from an old Looney Tunes cartoon called "Rocket By Baby". Are you interested in comics and what are your faves?
I'm actually not really that interested in comics. I love the old Looney Tunes cartoons, but finding the name there was almost accidental. It was on the list of names and it felt like it had the best vibe for us.
Have you seen the 'Hellboy' movie, and if so, what do you think about it
Yep-I saw it and it was entertaining. Not great, but fun nonetheless.
You've played at the 'Three Days Of Darkness' festival, that was at the beginning of September 2004. I guess, it must have been an impressive event, not just only because of all the excellent bands who have played there. Please, tell us something about it?
We LOVE playing in San Francisco. Great town, great venues,great bands. It's amazing to go there and see so many musicians that have been so influencial on us personally. On our last two trips there we saw Billy Anderson, Matt Pike, Al Cisneros, Lori S from Acid King, Eric and Tina from Lost Goat(their current band is Night After Night), Guy Pinhas from The Obsessed/Acid King/Goatsnake,etc. Overwhelming and killer! The event itself was well planned out (I thought so anyway-I heard some people complaining about it)and well attended. They treated us very well and we had a fantastic time. Plus we have lots of friends down there as well so we get to see people that we don't get to hang out with very often.
As usual, I like to ask you if there are any plans to visit Germany. What can you tell us about your future plans?
We hope to come over to Europe sometime later next year for a couple of weeks as well as doing a full US tour in Spring of 2005. We will also record a new record and do lots of west coast shows in between.
If there's anything you would like to mention at the end of the interview, just feel free to do.....My last words are: thanks a lot for your time and answers!!!
THANK YOU Klaus! YOB is very happy to be playing music and sharing the stage and music venues with people who are just like us: BENT ON THE HEAVY!!! Thank you to everyone who has supported YOB in the past,present, and future and we hope to see you on the road next year! DOOM!!! Mike/YOB