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In Extremis

Make It Fight, Make It Feel: Hey Colossus Interviewed
The Quietus , February 5th, 2010 08:37

Ash Dosanjh talks to the monolithic Hey Colossus about men with dapper hats and embracing the future ahead of their free gig at Catch tonight

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Commercial success? Pah! Traditional song-structures? Do us a favour. If there’s one thing you should know about monoliths of sound Hey Colossus they’re anything but vanguards of convention. Living way beyond the fringes of mainstream notoriety, the sonic might and fury of their previous four albums may well have escaped your notice. But if you’re wise you won’t make the same mistake with their latest offering Eurogrumble Vol 1, out on label Riot Season. Joined by the Van Halen Time Capsule, the now six-piece’s new adventures in sound have created a magnum opus wrapped in the warm fuzz of distortion, reverb, a touch of the BBC’s Radiophonic workshop experimentalism and satanic-esque yelps; it’s unpredictable, it’s caustic and above all, it’s shit-your-pants epic.

This is the fifth album in the Hey Colossus arsenal. How did recording and writing for this record differ form your previous offerings?

Joe Thompson [guitar]: The first three albums were created in a traditional fashion. This new album and its predecessor, Happy Birthday, were knocked up in a far more flowing fashion, setting up, recording for hours, editing it down and picking the best bits. A couple of the tunes were brought to the table and moulded but on the whole we’ve gone for a ‘set up and go’ vibe.

You’re only releasing this new album on 12-inch black vinyl. Do Hey Colossus have some beef with modern technology?

JT: We don’t care about modern technology and we don’t fetishise older stuff either. The death of the ‘album as art’ is something that does grind us down though. It’s a miracle if people make it through one tune let alone a whole album nowadays. We’ve made this as an album; it was a conscious decision to create a 40-minute THING, you can have a break halfway, in fact, we recommend it. It’s available as a download if you wish to go down that route, just to prove our gnarled fingers are still on the pulse. In a lot of ways CDs are dead in the water so we’re embracing the future.

Your press release lists Whitehouse as a reference point. They’re a pretty caustic band – is that the kind of visceral sound you were aiming for?

JT: Why not? Them and Hard Skin. That’ll do for influences, make it fight, make it feel.

The record opens up with an unexpected experimental bent – what with the tweaking strings and warm fuzz on track ‘The Quest ion’. In the realm of song crafting is that how the bulk of Hey Colossus songs start out? Has it always been that way?

JT: Let’s not kid ourselves, we ain’t young. We have pretty big ideas garnered from many years of listening to shitty records, splendid records, and albums that are supposed to be influential. Each time we notice our name getting mentioned on certain genre specific internet forums we get the fear. Who in their right minds wants to get stuck playing one sort of thing for seven years and beyond. I don’t think we’ve gone too far away from where started but let’s face it, if you’re not developing and changing there’s no point going beyond your first song. Unless you’re Lungfish or AC/DC of course. We’ve not been shy of “experimenting” to get to the final result and sometimes the moments when you’re fannying about with a new tune can sound better than what you’re ultimately aiming for.

This record seems to be a montage of otherworldly sounds and sequences. Was that the intention when you all got together to write and record this record?

JT: Of course! We get together, have a beer or two and then the guys with the guitars and drums thunder along, the chaps with the boxes of magic twitter away over the top, the voice people sing and shout into microphones then we listen back, edit it down and hey presto! No idea why other bands do it any other way?! I guess, rather pretentiously, we wanted to do a record that has a bit of depth, something that sounds interesting, to us anyway, so there was an element of post production beavering involved.

What’s the cover art all about? What connection does that photo have to do with what you were trying to achieve sonically?

JT: He has a rather dapper hat and she has her boobies out; sonically that is what we sound like in image form. No?

You’re five albums and seven years in so far. Has there ever been a time when you or the others have wanted to call it quits?

JT: Over the years we have had line up changes, never bitter ones (I don’t think), where characters have wanted to move to the seaside or to a university town or form a solo act under the name ‘Poachers Cap’. A couple of us have been in it from the beginning. For me, I do it because it’s better than fishing and more fun than sport.

With the likes of fellow noise-munchers Todd, Sunn O))), Lords, Dethscalator etc making slow but sure progress penetrating the psyche of modern-day music pundits, do you think that this decade will see a rise and rise of bands of your ilk?

JT: Nope, not a chance, and if that fact bothered us we wouldn’t be doing it. Yet Sunny D)))) are massive? Must be the robes.

So what drives you on to continue?

JT: For me, and seeing as I’m the only one answering, I do it because it gives me a brief glimpse at what being in Motley Crue must be like. I’m the wizened guitarist.

If there were one maxim that Hey Colossus would abide by what would that maxim be?

JT: There’s a few maxims. Mainly though it’s to have patience with Bob [Davies, vocals, guitar] whilst he re-learns the three chords to ‘King Come’ during every soundcheck of every gig.

If your sound were a painting, what painting would it be? Why?

JT: Our sound is not a painting, it’s a looped 8mm clip of the Somerset Levels after a particularly heavy downpour. The field near here where the guy lives in the caravan with his horse tied to the caravan’s wheels, where the water laps around the horses legs. That makes a lovely image. That is our sound.

Hey Colossus will be playing this Friday 5th February at Catch in London’s Old Street, alongside the mighty Dethscalator. Kick off starts at about 8pm. Did we mention it’s FREE to get in?