December 2010 - GROAN
Hailing from the UK, GROAN is a young and promising band whose debut album immediately caught my attention. It is packed with great songs that are often naturally saturated with the spirit of very early Black Sabbath. Based on that, it may be a good idea to compare them to San Francisco's Orchid, but with more precise observation, it can be heard that there are also a lot of differences. Despite its closeness to the essence of early Black Sabbath, GROAN also worship the NWOBHM and they have a strong fondness for large grooves and a psychedelic-flavored atmosphere. Despite the doomy mood of their album, these four guys don't take everything too seriously with the exception of their music. It is therefore hardly surprising that some of the lyrics as well as their pseudonyms are pervaded by a sense of tongue-in-cheek irony. All of this and more was reason enough for Cosmic Lava to get in contact with GROAN for a detailed and informative interview. My questions were answered by Mazzereth (vocals), Riff Wizard (guitar), and Forest-Dwelling Fuzz Creature (bass).
For me, your debut album 'The Sleeping Wizard' was an excellent surprise. Hard to believe that GROAN was formed in 2010, because you sound as if you are playing together for years. What have you done before GROAN and what do you think is the reason for the good chemistry within the band?
Mazzereth: I guess we just got lucky with the way things turned out between us. I did not know Dan or Leigh before the band started and I had only met Steve twice before. There is no previous baggage between us and that has helped a lot. Also because we don't have the traditional once a week practice that often brings up tensions due to last minute cancellations etc then there have been no growing frustrations. We are all still pretty "new" to each other and I'm sure in time we will begin to piss each other off, especially when they smell my bad farts every night if we ever go on tour. Overall I think the chemistry is good because we all like the music we are making, we are serious about getting the music sounding right yet we all have a good sense of humour, we can all laugh at ourselves and we all don't take ourselves to seriously.
Do you have played in any other bands before GROAN, if so, what kind of music did you make?
Mazzereth: I sang in a band called BATTLEWITCH that (so we were told) sounded very NWOBHM. I also sang in a 70's rock sounding band called PEACE, we recorded a lot of stuff but did not really leave the local area. I also sang in a short lived power rock band called TREBUCHET. I currently hit the drums and sing in an ultra blues band called RATZ ASS.
In your press info I've read that each member of the band recorded their partsin their own abode, and that your guitarist created your album at home. Does it mean that you never meet each other before the release of your first album? I can imagine that this was a pretty difficult situation...
The Riff Wizard: You'd think it would be a bit awkward, but it just felt quite natural. Leigh and I had met a few years before queueing for an ArnoCorps gig and we got on well already. I had never met Mazz but was a fan of his vocals, and Mazz drafted Steve in. When we all met we just had a really good time playing the tracks and getting high.
What is the situation at present?
Forest-Dwelling Fuzz Creature: We're all still scattered across the UK. We keep in contact regularly through the internet and sometimes Steve will come and visit me in Manchester and we'll drink a load of whisky.
'The Sleeping Wizard' has been released by Doomanoid Records. Are you happy with their support?
Forest-Dwelling Fuzz Creature: Doomanoid have been great to us. Groan would be a one-man project still at the demo stage if it wasn't for them pushing us. The pressing of our album was the biggest CD run they'd ever done. It's those types of gambles that really show when a label has faith in a band.
I think that your debut album has a pretty earthy sound and I like it a lot. It's definitely not overproduced. What's your view?
The Riff Wizard: This is the first album I've ever produced. It could have gone better but the sound has a bit of a charm to it. I tried to model the sound on early Sabbath records. Mainly 'Master of Reality'. Early 70s stuff has a really stripped down vibe to it all and hopefully that comes across on our album.
Tell me about the lyrics from 'Ride of the Antichrist'. I really like the gory and horror-ridden content.
Mazzereth: In my head I pictured a huge army of demons and undesirables being led by the Antichrist and laying waste to the land. The religious aspect of the 2nd verse is influenced by the Viking Raids that occurred in England. I was putting myself in the position of not only the monks but also the average man/woman of the time. It must have horrifying for them to see these Vikings approaching and destroy everything in their path. Then again I suppose it could be about any small community that has been affected by raiding parties during any war. The sense of hopelessness and sheer terror must have been overwhelming.
Another aspect of the song is that I'm trying to document the sense of DOOM that is rippling under the fabric of society in England at the moment. We are currently going through a period of huge financial uncertainty and people of a certain age and who have followed the "dream" are about to have the rug pulled out from under their feet. They have mortgages, 2 kids, 3 cars, nice shiny new material things that they MUST have because lifestyle magazines and TV have told them they should have this stuff. The thought of having to loose some or all of this of this is scaring them shitless. This is what happens when you spend money you don't have, when you become greedy, when you try to IMPRESS people with expensive stuff that in the greater scheme of things does not really matter. Perhaps these people deserve to have rug pulled from under them. Fuck them - ha ha..sorry I'm ranting.
Yeah, that's really a good point and I agree! But let's go back to my last questions. Please name some of your favourite movies.
Mazzereth: Dazed and Confused, Rocky III, Scrooge (1951 version), Blood on Satan's Claw, The Wizard of Oz, Witchfinder General, Zulu, Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, End of the Century, The Story of the Ramones, Spinal Tap, Cromwell, Easy Rider, Beckett, Black Death, Name of the Rose and many more.
Forest-Dwelling Fuzz Creature: Total Recall, Pineapple Express, any b-movies or exploitation. I used to run a website dedicated to the glory of movies that were so bad they were good.
When I take a look at some of your lyrics, I would say that you have no reservations about stereotypes. There are psychedelic demons as well as witchy woman. Why have you chosen this specific topics?
Mazzereth: 'Witchy Woman' is just a fun song. I like ladies with black hair and blue eyes. I think it's the most attractive combination. It can turn an "average" attractive looking lady into a "hot" lady. Like I said it's just a fun song with no hidden meaning. Actually I suppose it may have a hidden meaning in that it makes me come across as a sexist prick. 'Psychedelic Demons' is me just ranting in a kind of idealistic, immature, I'm fucked off and it's Monday morning and I don't want to go to work kind of way.
Sometimes it just feels that you are not only battling with work but also aspect of life outside work that are really mundane. Sadly most of our society embraces the mundane and trying to go against the mundane is a real effort. Yet sometimes you meet someone who thinks like you and that makes life a little easier. I guess I was in mentally bad place when I wrote this. The trouble is the older I get the more often I feel like this. My friend and I often jokingly talk about "dropping out of society" and living in a wigwam and listening to Sir Lord Baltimore and Iron Maiden all day - now that's what I call a life..ha ha.
Are you gear snobs or do you use whatever you can get?
The Riff Wizard: For me, it's whatever I can get. Being a student means there's not a lot of money for me to spend.
Forest-Dwelling Fuzz Creature: For now, I play with gear I've collected over the years. As soon as I'm a rich man I will laugh at anybody whose first set-up wasn't a Rickenbacker and a vintage stack.
It is obvious that early Black Sabbath have an affect on your songs. What fascinates you about about this band and what is your favourite period in their long running career?
Mazzereth: I think what fascinates about Black Sabbath is the overall feel of the first two albums. They sound creepy, they sound sinister, they sound pissed off yet sound like they are having a good time, they sound like they have just happen to stumble across a winning formula. All those elements combined make the first two albums probably two of my most favourite albums by any band ever. As far as the Dio era is concerned I think I'm more of fan of 'Mob Rules' rather than the other two that he did with them. There are some great Heavy Metal rock and roll tracks on that album. I bought 'Born Again' last year as I really wanted to hear it - it has its charms, in a funny way. I read somewhere that Gillan sang some of lines naked so for that reason and that reason alone it has to go down as a classic Black Sabbath Album.
There's a noticeable psychedelic rock influence in some of your songs, and it seems as if you don't want to limit yourselves to only one formula. Can you agree and what is your point of view?
The Riff Wizard: I totally agree. I am a really big fan of The Beatles and even prog bands like King Crimson. In fact on album two there's going to be a fully blown psychedelic prog track with mellotrons, sitars, Hammond organs and spacey synths. All the vocals in that song are spoken word. Keep an ear open for this one.
Are there any other bands/musicians who have influenced you a lot?
Mazzereth: For me I love the OTT aspect of Freddie Mercury and David Lee Roth when they hit the stage. I also love Ozzy's never ending shouts to the crowd and his insane jumping up and down. I must also mention KISS who are quite simply the dog's tits.
Do you already have some songs in the can for the next album and what can we expect from GROAN in 2011? Are there any plans to visit Germany?
The Riff Wizard: Album two is pretty much written. There's a few tweaks here and there. Somebody told me today that it's going to be better than our first album, I hope she's right! Also, I'd love to come to Germany one day.
Thanks for your answers! Any last words?
Mazzereth: I just want to thank you for letting us do this interview. This is not some suck up bullshit this is a genuine thanks. We are just four Rock/Metal nobodies from England who enjoy playing our music and you had no reason to spend your time thinking up these great questions for us other than you genuinely like our music. Also to anyone that is thinking of coming to our shows and expecting us to stand still while dealing out the doom and roll then I must warn you that move about a lot, we SOMETIMES pull shapes, we sometimes get the crowd to lift their arms in the air and REACH FOR THE DOOM. So if want to come and see us don't forget to bring your dancing shoes and leave your serious vibes at the door. After all we not long on this earth so let's kick out some of those tasty jams and stick to the man while we can.