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INTERVIEW: David Terry Of Bong
Toby Cook , August 10th, 2018 06:47

With Bong having recently released their first album in three years, and about to embark on a series of live shows, starting tomorrow in London, we caught up with bassist David Terry to talk “heavy drones, darkness, introspection and melancholy”

Like the deafening galactic hum of an orbiting planet; the eternal echo of shifting tectonic plates; like “being next to a herd of stampeding elephants whilst being given a shoulder massage” – as tQ’s Matt Ridout once put it – accurately describing the tantric, droning doom summoned up by Newcastle’s Bong to the uninitiated is no easy task. But, if you’ve ever spent the night stuck beneath a fallen fridge – trapped under it’s immovable aluminium weight, the ceaseless hum of its motor gnawing into your skull – then you’ll have some idea of what experiencing the trio live is like.

In their decade-plus existence, the group have brought their cosmic excursions to stages everywhere from the main room at Roadburn, to subterranean Bristolian crypts, and uniquely, their colossal yet meditative sonic creations are somehow equally transportive in either setting.

So, with the band having earlier this year returned from what was – by their usual prolific standards – a lengthy recording hiatus, with the spectacular and threateningly minimal Thought And Existence, and a London headline show tomorrow at the Windmill Brixton (alongside Torpor, Iggor Cavalera’s Petbrick and many more), we caught up with Bassist David Terry to talk about the new LP, career ‘highs’ and being ‘socially cool’…

So, Bong are back after a nearly three year hiatus from releasing records – we hear that at one point the band basically split up altogether – what brought you back together; why now?

David Terry: As with pretty much any band we have had highs and lows; get any group of people together for a long time and 'cabin fever' will set in eventually - we have been playing gigs in the meantime and keeping busy; It wasn't a conscious decision to have a break from releasing records, it just seemed like a good time for a new studio album... The stars were right, so to speak.

Gigs are always the highlights, really, especially festivals like Roadburn and Supernormal. Our longest tour to date, three days in Portugal, was also wonderful. Playing at Roadburn is always a pleasure for a band, everything is well planned and the organisers are very familiar with dealing with musicians and their peculiarities! Playing the main stage at Roadburn, though, was probably the most daunting experience I have had in Bong, to begin with... as with any Bong gig, however, after a few seconds of C chords I am no longer cognisant of the immediate surroundings. We could be anywhere at any time.

You’re back as a three piece on the new record – what influenced that decision?

DT: Our Sitar / Shahi Baaja player, Ben, is very busy at the moment and we didn't want to record another album with one of those instruments then have people asking 'Where is the sitar player?' at every gig.

Thought And Existence sounds immense, John at tQ described it to me as sounding “vast and shiny, like it was recorded on the International Space Station” – What was different about the recording/writing process with the record?

DT: It is a very flattering perspective! We were happy with all of the studio work though, it sounds just like we wanted it to. [As far as recording goes] This time was not much different really: We get together with some ideas and tried them out 'in the field', so to speak. We did use a very familiar studio space and took longer than usual so it was a little more relaxed than the usual studio session: Usually we do an album in two days, with one day recording and the other mixing down but we decided to stretch it out over four days this time as it was a local studio. Two extra days meant we could record more versions and could afford to be a little pickier when it came to re-recording and adding overdubs.

Can you tell us a little about the themes of ‘The Golden Fields’? The lyrics actually sound quite positive – how accurate would that be?

DT: ‘The Golden Fields’ is a song about the persistence of the past through memory. There are times in our lives when nothing matters but the present, as though we have spent years climbing and finally reached a summit, times we yearn for the rest of our years. It is a song about time and love; it is both optimistic and full of melancholic longing.

’Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ is titled after a Borges novel, right? Where did the inspiration for that track come from and how are the themes of the book represented in it?

DT: It is indeed named after a story by Borges. I happened to be reading it at the time and it seemed a good mysterious title for a vocal-free and essentially theme-less jam.

The cover art for the new album is great – in the past you’ve used work by Turner and Zdzislaw Beksinski, can you tell us where the art work this time come from? How does it toe into the themes of the record?

DT: We wanted a bit of a break from our usual landscapes as this record is a little different in feel. The stellar aspect fitted the expansive feel of the music; we enjoy a bit of stargazing now and then and it seemed to fit the album title. In general though, Judas Priest summed it up better than I can: "He said in the cosmos is a single sonic sound, that is vibrating constantly, and if we could grip and hold on to the note, we would see our minds we're free, oh we're free..."

With Sleep releasing a new album on April 20th, and thousands smoking weed in Hyde Park in London on the same date, Marijuana seems to be becoming artistically and socially ‘cool’ now – how do Bong feel about that?

DT: It has been socially 'cool' since before we were born but that has no real relevance to us; some people enjoy smoking it, some don't. We do. [If there are negative conceptions] It may cause our band name to put a few people off but that is going to happen with any band name. One can never please everyone.

In the past the live element of Bong has always been paramount – you’ve said before that Bong is essentially a live band – but your shows are few and far between these days; to what extent do you still see yourselves as primarily a live entity?

DT: We have always been quite sporadic, with flurries of activity and long breaks. We are perhaps less active than previously but as you mentioned earlier, the studio work is also less frequent. We have all had some rather turbulent existences recently. But we are looking forward to this summer greatly, it will be good to air some of the new material and we always have a great time down in London. The uninitiated can expect heavy drones, darkness, introspection and melancholy.

Bong’s new album Thought And Existence is out now via Ritual Productions. They play the Windmill Brixton tomorrow