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Escape Velocity

Autopsy Turvy: Oozing Wound Interviewed
Nick Hutchings , November 13th, 2014 15:46

With their second full-length, Earth Suck, out now, Nick Hutchings talks to the Chicago thrash trio possessed of "the desire to slay"

Photo by Sarah Cass

There are not many thrash metal bands you could describe as loveable, but when this band of reprobates from Chicago self-effacingly describe themselves on social media with the tagline "happy to be a cheap imitation of Metallica and Slayer", or "three guys with the desire to slay", it's hard not to hold them in some affection. Despite the fact that it's obvious that singer and guitarist Zack Weil, drummer Kyle Reynolds and bassist Kevin Cribbins have their tongues firmly lodged in their respective cheeks, Oozing Wound are no joke band.

Their perfect storm of precision drumming, otherworldly yelps from the abyss and angular fretwork is clearly tight and full of virtuoso musicality. Not only that, but beyond the obvious Reign In Blood influence, some of the off beat and down-tuned time signatures could be lifted from Kill Rock Stars band Unwound, and the track lead out of song 'Colonel's Kernel' has echoes of Fugazi circa In On The Killtaker.

Debut album Retrash appeared last year, and although that too was a self-deprecating title, these guys do feel like a breath of fresh air, like Metallica while they still had fire in their hearts, hunger in their bellies and amps under their arms.

After a momentous gig in May last year at Chicago's Empty Bottle club supporting Black Pus, Brian Chippendale considered them kindred spirits. Their union of painful but complementary band names was manifested with the Split LP, and it while it was an assault on the eardrums, it was also Oozing Wound's explosive calling card. They edited down four hours of monolithic riffs, primal drumming and unbridled glorious noise into three punch-packing tunes including the totemic 'Ganja Gremlin' and the sludge slugfest of 'All Things Must Pass Out'.

Split LP certainly whetted the appetite for their most realised record yet, their second proper. Titled Earth Suck, its vivid sleeve seems to show innards while the tunes sheathed within teeter on the precipice of an abyss as part imagined by Dante, part inhabited by Donatello the Ninja Turtle. The songs are packed with a mix of cod horror lyrics and banal scenarios that spin into tales of the unexpected, including 'Hippie Speedball' (weed and coffee if you were wondering), but which goes onto describe an addict who can't go do his work as an office drone without getting high.

Oozing Wound are not a cerebral band. They're music literate but they're not intellectuals. The music they peddle is low end, no frills, zero pretension, but one hundred per cent commitment and every bit as entertaining. There are no pro-tools enhancing or compressing this unbridled passion for thrashing, and you can feel every sweat bead fly with each crunching chord and you can sense the fun they've had making Earth Suck. Drawn in by their charms I felt strangely compelled to find out more from the rock star moniker-ed Zack Weil.

Judging by your social media presence you seem so much more fun than your thrash or metal contemporaries - why is this? How much fun are you?

Zack Weil: I can't really speak for what anyone else does, but we don't take such a thing as social media as a very serious forum. We promote our shit, but for the most part it's just another vehicle to spread the ooze. I would say on a fun scale of bummer to jet pack that we are somewhere around squirrel on a jet ski.  

You actually call yourself "happy to be a cheap imitation of Metallica and Slayer" which is refreshingly self-effacing–how much of this is false modesty?

ZW: The New Yorker said that about us. We just find it funny because 1. Why would anyone care what the New Yorker thinks of a band called Oozing Wound, and 2. anyone who thinks that that's what we sound like clearly has no business commenting on us or the genre. I'd say it's the highest profile quote that exists about us, so we're gonna use it. My only qualm is that it wasn't in the print edition, but that's life.  

You guys seem really unpretentious. Is this just a convincing act? What is the most pretentious thing you do?

ZW: We're a fucking rock band. Anyone who believes that it's ever anything more than that is out of their gourd, man. It's not like there isn't a pantheon of fallen idols and fucking douche bags acting like their ability to sing gives them carte blanche to comment on world politics. How could we possibly take being in a rock band seriously when fucking Bono still exists?  

How did you get together and decide to rock?

ZW: The rocking was a given, it was simply choosing the right time. Like turtles summoned to Galápagos, we were drawn together by the almighty riff.  

Tell us about Earth Suck. How did the recording go?

ZW: Actually, it was pretty smooth sailing. We have the songs written and everything when we go in to record. It's mostly about capturing the live energy and not burning out before we've done everything we need to in a day. We record live, which most metal bands don't do, and we don't record to a click so there isn't that mechanical precision, but there is something like the human element in there. The only difficulty is how to judge when to start drinking.  

How has it evolved from Retrash?

ZW: Just a further deconstruction of what we like about heavy music. Closer to our own voice, less focus on sustaining the speed and more on branching out a little more to other kinds of stuff we're into. I think the longer you're in a band there's two paths you can take. You can remake the thing that kind of worked before, or just keep coming up with stuff that makes you feel like maybe you're losing your mind. We like feeling crazy.

What makes the Earth Suck?

ZW: Gravity, I think?  

What have been the most extreme reactions to the name Oozing Wound?

ZW: The Guardian put us in a list of gross band names. I don't think it's really all that bizarre of a band name in a world of Anal Cunts and Butthole Surfers. It most certainly doesn't rival Lumpy and the Dumpers in a pure visceral reaction sense. At least, not for me. For us it has simply been a useful name because it doesn't force us to be like, uh, I dunno, Interpol or something. A name like that is bound to make you boring as fuck.  

What do your parents think of it?

ZW: They've all been super supportive, as they should be. We're finally getting noticed for doing the same shit we've been doing since we were thirteen. Look ma! That $10,000 some odd dollars you threw at this 'hobby' finally has the slightest freaking possibility of maybe making a tenth of that back! Woo! I think they like the bragging rights too. Nothing like telling that dip-shit in the office that your kid is in the New York Times, or something.


How about fetus eating twins and hippie speedballs - how do you broach that at home/with wives/girlfriends/potential girlfriends?

ZW: We are tolerated. For what it's worth, as long as we never delve into misogynistic, homophobic, or racist territory then I think we'll be OK on the freaky deaky spectrum. That should really be a line for all bands, though.  

Three dudes with the desire to slay' - what else do you desire? How do you set about slaying?

ZW: Not much else. Making records is fun, interviews and shit are fun, but the only thing that really matters is rocking the fuck out live. Just fucking play good shit, ain't much harder than that. But what we'd really like is to do Wayne's World for a living. It might happen.  

You guys are like Metallica when they were hungry, if you were both at the same stage at the same time could you beat them up?

ZW: Age and shit not withstanding, like they were fucking teenagers when they started and we're all around 30, I'd still think they'd beat the shit out of us. We hate on Metallica because we love those 80s records so fucking much. It's horrible to realise they've been a shit band for far longer than they were ever a good one.  

Other than the obvious thrash references I can hear Fugazi In On The Killtaker in the mix. What do you think of Fugazi, what other more lateral references do you have?

ZW: I like Minor Threat and Rites Of Spring a lot more than I ever liked Fugazi. Cool politics and stance on their beliefs, but I never got too into the sound. Maybe Kevin [Oozing Wound's bassist player] did? I would say metal probably only makes up to like 10% of our total listening. We're into weirdo noise rock, prog, power pop, 70's hard rock, new wave, early techno, g-funk, p-funk, fucking sad bastard acoustic music. Dude, seriously, we listen to so much shit but we don't exactly have the desire to walk on stage with a zither and two fucking guitars and lull the audience into sleep. I know people want us to be like living and breathing Exodus and uh, I dunno, Demolition Hammer or something, but for every one of those you get a This Heat, or a Richard and Linda Thompson, or fucking Iron Claw. If it's from the 70s we'll eat that shit up.  

What are the subjects you most enjoy writing about?

ZW: I am fairly obsessed with the concept of the sacrifice. What a weird idea. Let's kill a bunch of people so the Gods don't do it to us. Or better yet, let's trick the sky people and burn a goat to death, and then not eat it. I find the notion both laughably sad, and horrifically funny because of the futility of it all. Millions of people have died in the history of the world because someone wanted their corn to grow in the spring. Yum.  

How much is it about taboo busting? It all feels more punky with you guys, less straight-laced and serious –why is that?

ZW: It's fucking rock music. How does anyone take this shit so goddamn seriously? I don't really know what taboo we're busting here. It's not like we dress as mutated leather daddies with KKK masks on, and during a show I rub the Declaration of Independence on my butt while Kevin reads off a list of racial epithets. I barely even say anything on stage, and most of the people listening have absolutely no idea what my lyrics are. So, again, I have no idea what the taboo is.  

Tell us about that fateful night you did the gig with Brian Chippendale that led to the split with Black Pus?

ZW: I really don't like how much focus has been put on this one show, but then again it was part of the press release for the split so I can't really say I don't understand why someone would bring it up. It was a lucky night because the Thrill Jockey folks were there and we happened to be kicking ass. Brian said they really liked it and I sent them the recording of Retrash that we had just finished mixing a day or two before. It was incredibly good timing.   As for the split, it really emerged independently of us. Brian had a Euro tour and wanted us to come and then someone decided we should make a split to promote it. Sadly, the guy in charge of booking us failed fucking miserably so we had to cancel. Still a cool record though and we got to be on a record with our friend and hero.  

How much are you kindred spirits?

ZW: Uh, well, Brian is a tour-de-force artist, musician, and ideas man that has done so much cool shit that even if we were a band for the next twenty years we wouldn't match the amount of awesome Brian's done. But you know, we're all weirdos and shit, so in that sense we're tight. The names of Black Pus and Oozing Wound were really meant to be together, so that seemed fated.  

Black Pus and Oozing Wound as two band names seemed like a match made in hell/heaven, how about a tour with Pissed Jeans? Any other obnoxious band names that would make ideal touring partners?

ZW: We like Pissed Jeans, actually the song 'Ganja Gremlin' from the split was from a band practice where I was like, 'Hey look a Pissed Jeans riff.' We'd kill to play with the original Butthole Surfers line-up too. Literally kill.  

Who was the influence behind 'Ganja Gremlin'?

ZW: The song or the design? There was some list of how to say no to drugs in cool ways. One had something to do with calling someone a ganja gremlin, which I thought was kind of a dick move, actually. This guy is offering you his awesome drugs and you fucking call him out and on top of that insult him by calling some fucking pejorative no one has ever heard of? Awesome. Also see answer for Pissed Jeans question.  

I notice you make a 'Ganja Gremlin' t-shirt - and with a name like Oozing Wound there's loads of merchandise potential - ever thought of branded Band-Aids/bandages?

ZW: It's actually a patch, but we've only recently looked into merch bullshit. I'd be lying if I said we hadn't thought of Band-Aids or whatever. We're just happy we finally have Oozey Koozies and stickers.  

Describe the story behind a typical Oozing Wound gig?

ZW: Practice space meeting, sad realisation of gear breakdown, sad movement of gear to van, gear moved from van to stage, wait around, sound check?, sit in the green room, 'really only 6 drink tickets?', see a friend show up too early, "I thought you said 9!", guest list text, opening band, touring band, awkward stage banter, feedback, songs, head banging, thirsty town, "Thanks Y'all!", yes the record has a download code, sorry out of larges, settle with the staff, pack out.  

Which rock book would you rather read The Dirt or Supernatural Theories For Making A Rock & Roll Band?

ZW: The Dirt is my favourite rock book! It's so fucking cool, they are such horrible people and have no idea! Essential tour van reading, and you know, a great primer for how to get your head stuck up your own ass or how to stick your dick in a burrito. Read it!   Earth Suck is out now on Thrill Jockey