You Terrible Cult: Electric Wizard Interviewed
, November 19th, 2009 11:32
In the latest issue of The Stool Pigeon, Jus Oborne of doom titans Electric Wizard promises new album for 2010. "I want the man in the street to spit at me", he tells John Doran . . .
All pictures by Maria Jefferis/Shot2Bits.net
Later on tonight, a stygian gloom will descend over Kings Heath in Birmingham but for now the sharp Indian summer sunset adds a healthy glow to metallers stood outside the Hare and Hound, drinking golden cider in the burnt umber evening. Everyone looks happy and relaxed.
Everyone bar Electric Wizard that is. And this is exactly as it should be, given that they’re the world’s heaviest band. Locked inside the pitch black, windowless venue, they are ill at ease. Drummer Shaun Rutter paces muttering to himself and scowling. If ever there was a man who should be in a band called Electric Wizard, it is Rutter. With his arched eyebrows, waxed devil’s nib beard and giant coat, he looks like Ming the Merciless as conceived by Dennis Wheatley. Newest recruit, Athenian bassist Tas, actually turns out to be a very friendly and polite cove, which just goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover; especially when the cover is one of full facial tribal tattoos. Chief conspirator, guitarist and one of the coolest women alive Liz Buckingham, despite none-more rock chick attire, looks like she should either be on a spaceship or Egyptian barge – not in the upstairs room of a Brummie pub. And Mr Leccy Wizard himself, Jus Oborne (resplendent in the doom rock uniform of denim bellbottoms, an Ozzy in ’71 haircut and an extravagant shirt) looks like he should be in a high dependency lung disease unit.
“A BWAHURGH HURGH HURGH” he coughs. He takes an empty Russian beer can out of his pocket.
“A BWAAAH CRRK CRRK!” he coughs. He cleans the flat surface full of pin holes at one end of the can with a matchstick and then carefully loads up half the sticky black resin we’ve just given to him on top of it.
“A WOOAAAARGGHHH! HARRG HAAARG!” he coughs. “Sorry. I’ve got a bit of a cough”, he adds redundantly before lighting the mound of drugs and inhaling centilitres of thick smoke. Some of the clenched tension seems to slump out of him.
Oborne formed the group in Dorset in 1993 along with Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening (who both now play in psych metal overlords Rameses) ploughing the (then) deeply unfashionable furrow of valve amp and Sabbath worship forming oppressively heavy anthems about Satanism, the occult, horror movies, psychedelic drugs and biker culture until releasing the low water mark artefact of such things, the album Dopethrone at the turn of the century – arguably the heaviest in this or any other genre. Since then, in relative terms at least, their sound has become cleaner, culminating in Witchcult Today (2007).
Finally gaining control over his spasming lungs he reveals the band are about to release a new album early next year: “Since Taz joined the band about two years ago we’ve just been writing a lot. We’ve got three or four songs about half done. One is about finished. We’re not prolific writers to be honest but the band’s jamming well; it feels good and it feels like the right time to record. You know when you’re ready. We don’t get pressured into it by anyone.”
When asked if the sound will be more disturbed and rupturing like Dopethrone or precise and warm like Witchcult Today he complains that he doesn’t really see too much of a difference himself: “We’re using the same studio as on Witchcult Today. We’re just trying to be more focussed this time; everything was a bit scattered before. We just used to go into the studio and do a lot of drugs and jammed and came up with ideas. I guess things are more focussed now because we know what we want to do. Personally I don’t think the style’s changed that much. It’s the same format really. We’re going to carry on exploring our love with vintage equipment. We’re Electric Wizard not Electronic Wizard.”
He won’t be drawn on the departure of Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening to form Rameses other than to say he is “gutted” to have lost the other two longest serving members of the Wizard but that the line up hasn’t changed that much for a 16 year old touring metal band and adds: “Now that we have Taz, Shaun and Liz, the line-up feels solid. I’d known Liz for ages. She was playing with Sourvein when we did our first tour of the States, so I knew our styles would work. A lot of the effort in getting a line-up to work is understanding the dynamic of the band. The old line-up had two writers and a fucking drummer who came in from the total left field. That created a sound. And it was a matter of trying to create that dynamic again and now we have it. Me and Liz write; Shaun and Taz throw in the leftfield. The dynamics are the same.”
When I tell him that once while DJing in London under the oppressive weight of bad drugs, I dropped ‘The Satanic Rites Of Drugula’ only to look up and see that the barman of the pub had grown bright red horns and was breathing fire, he says says: “I’ve seen some pretty terrible things while playing our music. It would be impossible to put into words. The music is very visual and is based on things I’ve seen while taking LSD and listening to psych bands when I’m on acid. The music and those riffs are possibly an attempt to try and convey the experience of LSD better than words can. Psychedelic means mind altering and we write mind-altering songs. If you’ve only heard Elvis, I guess something like the cartoon psychedelia of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is going to sound pretty fucked up but to our ears it sounds like playground music. To be truly psychedelic the music has to be able to alter your mind so you lose touch with your body.”
Seeing Electric Wizard is not necessarily a joyous or uplifting thing (although it can be) but it certainly is very intense, very spiritual and communal. Is Electric Wizard more than just a group? Is it a way of life?
He reloads his makeshift pipe: “It is a way of life that I’m espousing to people. I feel that this is the way. For us it is a cult. The cult of the riff. The mindless worship of the riff. It’s fucking doom. This is everything. This band is for real. I don’t know what else to say. It’s not an image. People can read it how they want. They can read it in any way that they choose. But they should dig deeper. I’m not going to spell it out for anyone but people who listen to us really can understand what we mean. Most of the time.”
“A HRRK! A HRRRK!” He’s coughing again but he manages to stop himself for long enough to add hoarsely: “Make us look like fucking cunts yeah? I want people to hate us. I want people to fear us. I want the common man to spit at us in the street.”
Outside it is starless and bible black and finally Electric Wizard seem happy.
The latest issue of The Stool Pigeon is out now. Also featuring: Snoop Dogg, The xx, Lightning Bolt, The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend, Julian Casablancas, Kurt Vile and Cold Cave. Click here to find out how where to get the new issue.