Outside The Exchange, Bristol’s relatively new venue, the building looks dark and almost unwelcoming – if a line-up of Bongripper, Conan, Humanfly and War Wolf were to play anywhere in Bristol, it would be here based on visuals (show reviewed here). However, upstairs enjoying a few cold beers and snacks in an almost misplaced white room, Bongripper are chilling and joking, clearly enjoying themselves. With all my expectations of a group of intimidating nihilists squashed, I spoke to the guys about drug-related packages for albums, White Girl Mob and the internet…
Rich: First of all, would you like to say who you are and what you do in Bongripper?
Nick: I’m Nick, I play guitar.
Ron: Ron, bass.
Dennis: Dennis, I play guitar.
Dan: And Dan, I play the drums.
Rich: Ok, cool! So how’s the UK tour going so far?
Nick: Erm, really well! [A long silence, then everyone laughs]
Dennis: That’s about it!
Rich: The reaction’s been good so far then?
Nick: The reaction’s been really good, it’s been… I dunno, it’s been weird just going to different places, staying in a different country, but everyone’s been making the smaller shows better than we expected; we didn’t expect a lot of people to come out. Obviously we’re ignorant with our geography over here, but… [laughs] we played Basingstoke down, erm…
Dan: Is it an hour south of Liverpool? Yeah, that’s where it was at.
Dennis: An hour south of Liverpool, isn’t that roughly where it’s at?
Rich: Pssh, I don’t even know!
[They all laugh]
Nick: It was a small town and we were playing a real small sorta walk-in coffee shop, and it shared a wall with an Indian restaurant, and they were still in business as the show was going on.
Rich: You were providing the soundtrack?
Nick: Serious, they were fine until Conan started playing and I was like ‘Oh, they’re so fucked…’. But there was only one couple who were finishing up their food there but the owner came over and wanted to talk to the owner of the bar we were playing at and I guess they worked it out. Well, he said the next band would be quieter, which was Bongripper. [Laughs]
Dennis: I think the venue paid for those people’s meal.
Nick: They offered but they wouldn’t take it.
Dennis: Oh they didn’t take it?
Nick: They offered like half or a third off their meal.
Rich: That’s a weird situation, never heard that happen before – there’s a story to put down in your autobiography. Well, you recently did a split with Conan and I was just wondering how did that happen, like how did you come across Conan, get in contact, etc.
Ron: Oh shit, that’s been going on for a while really.
Nick: Yeah, I’ve been in contact with Jon [Conan vocalist and guitarist] just through email and Facebook or whatever, and we’ve been fans of Conan, and they got in contact… We didn’t actually get to hang out with them at Roadburn [Festival] last year. I was able to see a part of their set, but I got there thirty minutes early but it took me like twenty minutes to get through the door. They played like a smaller room and it was just jam-packed, it was awesome. But Jon contacted me enquiring about a US tour he wanted to set up, and after he learned more about the legal fees and how big and long they’d be driving, we kind of put that aside. But he did contact us about coming out here for us to play with them, and we figured why not – they seem like really good dudes, it’s been great so far…
Ron: They are good dudes. [All laugh]
Nick: Let’s not go that far! [Laughs] But yeah, we worked it all with their… they used to have a management company that set up the tour and that’s how we got hooked up with Humanfly. Everyone’s been super amazing, like, nicest dudes to tour with, y’know? Nice and fun; not boring shitheads like us. [Laughs]
Rich: You guys seem alright!
Nick: On the surface!
Rich: You are alright.
Ron: [Laughs] You’ve only been here ten minutes man!
Nick: Yeah, wait ’til we smash that microphone and say ‘fuck this’. [Laughs]
Rich: It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s gotta start somewhere, right? With your past releases, to me, it always seems like there might be a theme on certain albums, like Hate Ashbury, that’s a prison, I think?
Nick: Hate Ashbury isn’t a prison.
Dennis: No, Haight Ashbury is a district in San Francisco, it’s an intersection where all the hippies hung out.
Nick: That was like the central civilisation of the hippies movement when that flower culture happened.
Dennis: It’s play on words because Haight Ashbury, the intersection, is H-A-I-G-H-T, so we changed it to “hate”.
Nick: So it continued that theme of the anti-hippies, of “Hippie Killer”. [Laughs]
Rich: Ahhh, yeah! I think with the other titles then, like Satan Worshipping Doom, Sex Tape/Snuff Film, I was wondering if they had themes? Or just titles picked at random…
Ron: It’s usually a shitty joke.
Rich: Yeah, I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or a theme or…
Ron: It’s generally something we thought of that makes us all laugh a lot.
Dennis: Yeah, it’s all tongue-in-cheek, sarcasm.
Ron: Sarcasm, definitely!
Dan: “Sex Tape” I thought would be hilarious if people had to Google search ‘Bongripper “Sex Tape”‘.
Nick: We were talking about various sex tapes that artists or…
Ron: There’s a Chicago rapper who had a song called “Let’s Make A Movie” and it’s all about making a sex tape. We were talking about it, and it’s like, ‘Oh, sex tape, we got this”. [Laughs]
Nick: Then it was like ‘what else can we do, we’ve got another song, what do we call that one?’, oh, snuff film. [Laughs]
Bongripper @Manchester. Photo by Vivien Varga.
Rich: That’s quite catchy: the Bongripper snuff film.
Ron: Yeah, just to have to Google ‘Bongripper “Sex Tape”‘ makes us all happy.
Nick: I think with Satan Worshipping Doom actually – after we did Hate Ashbury, I think – we were trying to do a new full-length and try to make it a little more focused. Y’know, I like the whole build-up with noise and all the drone and stuff like that, but we wanted to do more of a cohesive album – something that could really stick with ya. I had this name right after recording, Satan Worshipping Doom, and it just sounded fucking ridiculous, kinda like… I feel like when we wrote that album we were keeping the theme and mood like going together and it kind of just churns away, and the song titles are just… dickbagish. [Laughs]
Rich: They’re good though!
Nick: It’s funny because we were sitting around and thinking of a setlist for the night: ‘Oh, what are we playing tonight?’ ‘Oh, “Fisting”, “Satan” and…’ like, what the fuck! [Laughs] “Zero Talent”.
Rich: “Hail” “Satan” “Worship” “Fisting”, that could work?
Nick: Yeah, “Fisting” “Worship”.
Dan: “Fisting” “Master”.
Nick: Oh yeah, the website that posted the song.
Rich: With the Heroin release then [Nick laughs], yeah, you’ve probably been asked this a few times then, but you did a shooting-up kit with it. I was just wondering if that’s ever going to happen again? Or a similar package, or something special… or was that just a one-off?
Ron: That was a one-off. Well actually Dan’s, our drummer, not even on that; he likes to denounce that he even had anything to do with it. [Laughs] But Dennis here, he records us, he’s done all our recordings and he’s got a studio in his house… and one afternoon, Nick and I went up with all our extra guitars and shit and ‘let’s go hang out and record shit at Dennis’ house!’ and that’s where Heroin started. We had a segment that was about 15-minutes of droning…
Nick: Which one…
Ron: Yeah! [Nick laughs] This segment was just about 15-minutes of guitar droning and we’re listening back to it and Nick’s just like ‘man, it sounds like we just did a whole bunch of heroin and fell asleep on our amps’. So that’s where that came from, and then once we had that title, it just made sense to just to release it in the most ridiculous way possible.
Nick: You’d be amazed at what you can buy off Amazon. [All laugh] But we bought materials off Amazon along the lines of like tourniquets and shit.
Rich: Yeah, I was wondering how the hell you got that stuff.
Dennis: Well I think I got the spoons at the Salvation Army, just bent them and burnt them.
Nick: Yeah, I remember we were gonna play a show and I see Dennis and Ron just sitting there bending spoons and burning them. [Laughs]
Ron: I think we had to take the lighters out of the ones we mailed. They were supposed to have a lighter but you can’t ship, so unfortunately, when you’d order one online – all twenty that existed – they had to get their own lighter.
Dennis: But they did get a tourniquet.
Ron: A tourniquet and a burnt spoon, so…
Rich: Yeah, it was a pretty cool package, I wish you guys were still doing it.
Ron: They were funny but…
Nick: We only did twenty-five of them, I think. Yeah, back then it was one of our earlier releases too, and we put them up online and people like bought then within a couple of hours, it was weird.
Rich: I’d love to see one of those in person. You guys are well-known for being an instrumental band – mostly instrumental, I know you’ve had screaming before, and samples – but I was wondering if that was something you guys decided before you started the band or was just something that slipped in.
Ron: Well actually we’d all been playing together for, shit…
Nick: Fourteen years.
Ron: Fourteen – if not more – years, or something like that? ‘Cause we’ve all known each other forever and we were another band before this and then our singer moved away, and kinda just turned into…
Nick: One day we were practising for our really shitty death metal band and Dan’s double-kick pedal broke, just the left foot? So he’s like, ‘Well, I can’t play with only one’. So I turn the amps up and I’m just like, ‘Alright, so let’s play some doom’, and we started playing and that’s how it happened. We went down to record with Dennis and I sent it to a few people of AIM back in the day, like they didn’t have file-sharing shit, and it would take like fucking four hours to send to people, and I sent it to two people and it started popping up on different websites. It started off as a fun thing for us to do, maybe one-time and that would be it, and people liked it, y’know. Now it’s still going.
Ron: Eight years later…
Dennis: Eight years later and we still have to hang out with each other.
Nick: Fucking hurts. [All laugh]
Ron: Sitting here in England!
Rich: Yeah, you’ve really hit rock-bottom.
Ron: Could be worse.
Rich: So yeah, I was wondering on top of that, what is the recording process like for Bongripper?
Dennis: Usually we cut the drums with a bunch of scratch tracks and then we’ll either record guitars at my house or up in our practise venue, and then… yeah, just real simple actually.
Rich: Real D.I.Y. then?
Dennis: Yeah. It’s the mixing that kills us. Although Conan probably has the same issue: our tuning is so low that it’s basically like mixing three bass guitars and having it to be audible but yet heavy; but not too bass-heavy… but not too fizzy. So I think it’s the mixing that usually takes the longest. Usually we record quite quickly.
Nick: For the split stuff, the drums were in a couple of hours at the [Aroma Park United Methodist] Church, and then the guitars were…
Dennis: The next day…
Nick: …just a day, mostly setting up stuff.
Bongripper @Manchester. Photo by Vivien Varga.
Rich: It seems to me that you’d take ages just thinking out every single chord…
Nick: We practise the songs repeatedly before going in there now, we demo stuff just ’cause we try to get our bones of the song laid down and then you listen to it and kinda feel what could make it better, what we could add to it. But the recording process for Satan Worshipping Doom took a little longer ’cause we did a lot – I think we did three guitar tracks apiece.
Dennis: Yeah, I know we did the drums in two days, so…
Ron: I fell asleep recording “Doom”. I pulled an all-nighter, I was out in Michigan the night before and drove straight to his [Dennis] house and studio and started tracking the bass parts, and he left the room while I was recording it. We listened back and there’s one point where I stop playing, I just fell asleep! [All laugh] Needed more caffeine…
Dennis: It’s pretty simple, we practise a lot before we go in there. We might re-edit a bunch of stuff afterwards because some of the parts weren’t a 100% done yet – I think on “Zero Talent” I edited a part after we were done.
Nick: Dennis likes to make our guitar parts sound more boring. [Laughs]
Rich: It’s [recording] pretty simple then?
Dennis: Yeah, it’s pretty painless, minus the mixing. Other than that, it’s pretty simple.
Rich: That’s not what I expected: I listen to your music and think ‘Fuck, how do they do it?’ I just imagine you spend a month in a cave or something, just close to clubbing each other or…
Dennis: Although there are a couple of caves by my house! Maybe we could record drums in the cave… just run 500ft extension cables out there, from a generator.
Nick: Yeah, we’ll have to buy a $1000 generator.
Rich: I just wanted to know what are your biggest influences, in and outside of music, ’cause I know you guys have quite a broad taste in music. I know like one of you was in Consent.
Ron: Both of us [Nick] are. Yeah, that was us. [Laughs]
Rich: I think it was on “Snuff Film”, there’s quite a punky/hardcore part in it. I was just wondering what some of your biggest influences are…
Nick: I dunno, just everything. Yeah, just everything. We don’t just listen to metal or doom; I think all of us really don’t really listen to newer doom stuff… Mostly the only band in recent years I’ve really like sat down and listened to repeatedly – a doom band – is Conan. Other than that, I mostly listen to death metal, grind, noise, power electronics… but on the way here I was listening to jazzy type of bands.
Rich: Yeah, I did spot one of you guys’ Last.fm page and thought ‘Wow, they’re into a lot of different music’.
Nick: Oh, Ron’s all over the place with music.
Ron: Yeah, I’m all over the place… my favourite is St. Vincent. I think she’s the most inventive person making music, I mean, I actually take influence from parts that she does and try to operate the weird, off-kilter melodies into fucking doom! But yet, even bands like Sigur Rós and all that, with just the pure epicness of it and figure out ways to make it heavy, but I listen to lots of weird shit. Hip-hop… if it’s got big drums and bass, I’m just happy. So like, it doesn’t even matter what it is, if its got a big ol’ rhythm section then I’m happy with it.
Nick: I think it’s better to take influences from other places and try to apply them to the genre we’re playing, ’cause that way you’re not just ripping off all the other bands that are doing it right now, ’cause as much as I love Eyehategod, I do not want to hear anyone else play an Eyehategod riff. [Laughs]
Ron: We got to play with them once and it was fucking up there in the heaviest things I’ve ever heard. They’re perfect live; they play everything at half the speed of the album.
Nick: It’s amazing.
Rich: I saw them a few years ago and literally one of the loudest gigs I’ve ever been to, next to Melvins.
Ron: Yeah, they played last night, Melvins?
Rich: Yeah, as Melvins Lite – I’m seeing them [Melvins] on two nights here in a month.
Nick: Oh yeah, they’re doing like six albums or something?
Rich: Yeah, they’re doing Lysol, Bullhead, Stoner Witch…
Nick: They did that in Chicago and I missed it and I’m kicking myself for it.
Rich: Well, you kind of answered this earlier… but aside from Conan, what bands are you guys really digging at the moment? New or old bands…
Ron: New bands? Oh…
Nick: The new Iron Lung album is amazing. Really good, I saw them twice in Chicago two weeks ago and they hands-down destroy any punk bands around, and they’re a two-piece. The Knelt Rote record from last year [Trespass] out on Nuclear War Now! is good… taking like Morbid Angel/Immolation style but making it newer; they kinda came from like a more noise/grind feel in their past albums but this is more straight death metal and I really like that. Besides that, I don’t know.
Ron: I can’t remember the last record I bought.
Dennis: Yeah, neither can I… That’s what the problem with Youtube is: you just start floating from band to band and you’re like ‘Oh, I gotta remember that’ and I don’t remember that now.
Nick: There’s a lot of saturation.
Rich: That is a problem, there’s great and bad.
Nick: Oh it’s amazing, everyone should be allowed to record their own music, it’s great that anyone with Garageband, a few mics and a shitty interface can record a band now.
Ron: Don’t even need a mic. [Laughs]
Nick: But it doesn’t mean… yeah, it’s hard, it’s like wading through a river of shit sometimes. [Laughs] But there is a lot more good stuff out there because of it!
Ron: White Girl Mob. [Laughs]
Nick: Let’s not get into that…
Ron: We had an entirely too long a discussion about the White Girl Mob, the err… the whole white girl rap movement…
Rich: Oh yeah, Kreayshawn…
Ron: Yeah, exactly! [Laughs]
Nick: Yeah, I walked in on him and he’s playing it on his phone and I’m like…
Ron: Speaking of shit that anyone can record, so…
Rich: I don’t know how she’s as big as she is – obviously from the Youtube videos of her walking around but…
Ron: Oh yeah, Youtube videos.
Dennis: Yeah, it’s that Youtube went viral.
Nick: Yeah… [All round sounds of painful sighs]
Ron: I’m trying to think of someone new that I like.
Nick: There’s a lot of good new stuff coming out but trying to pinpoint… a lot of stuff I listen to is my friends stuff in Chicago; they’ve actually been putting out a lot of good stuff lately, like Sick/Tired‘s a really good band. They’re a grind band. They just played Obscene Extreme [Festival] in Mexico, with Napalm Death and stuff. Erm… Sea Of Shit.
Rich: Yeah, they’re good!
Nick: That’s my room-mates band. Erm… there’s a lot of good noise and power electronics with Machismo, they used to be in a band Socially Retarded, a powerviolence band, they did a split with Sea Of Shit. They just do straight power electronics now. The tape they put out this year is one of the most amazingly unlistenable things I’ve ever heard – it’s just so mean and disgusting sounding.
Ron: That wasn’t the one with the mirror was it?
Nick: Oh yeah, they did have a coke mirror, yeah. [Laughs]
Dennis: One of their releases came with a coke mirror. They’d taken the coke mirror…
Ron: They stole our idea! Yeah, we thought of that a long time ago, doing a powerviolence record and calling it cocaine, and then a coke mirror and a credit card with it. The follow-up to Heroin. [Laughs]
Bongripper @Manchester. Photo by Vivien Varga.
Rich: I don’t even know what to say after that! Well, I know you guys have been busy doing a split with Conan and another with Hate, is there anything else we can expect in the near future from Bongripper?
Dennis: A new full-length album.
Rich: Any news with that?
Ron: Two tracks written.
Nick: About 30-35 minutes?
Ron: About half-way done.
Rich: Is that together or seperately?
Dennis: Seperate, yeah.
Ron: They’re about 20 and 15 [each], yeah, somewhere around there.
Nick: We want to try and make a nice, long 30-minute song. So it might be a nice three-track LP. [Laughs]
Ron: We’ve kinda put writing on hiatus with practising for this, but we’ve got two when we get back.
Nick: Those two came together really quickly, but the problem is we got a nice flow of writing and then we had a few shows coming up in Chicago when friends’ bands would come through and then we had to start practising for this tour, so we’ve had to put it on the wait but we recorded some demos of it and my room-mates have listened to it and a few people I’ve sent it off to – who are friends and big supporters – and everyone says it just sounds really heavy depressing… [Laughs]
Dennis: I think Adam described it as a ‘bum-out’ session, a huge bum-out session. [Laughs]
Ron: My friend said it felt like being punished, but he deserved to be? So…
Rich: Yeah, I’m sure it was you guys who posted something about a reaction to new material not long ago?!
Ron: [To Nick] Yeah, you might have posted something, someone’s first initial reaction.
Nick: Oh yeah, and people were like ‘good’. Yeah, our friends are pretty cool with us just being assholes.
Rich: So when do you reckon you’ll get that out?
Dennis: It’s so hard to tell because the pressing plants got so overran for Record Store Day and The Beatles box set. Before we left we looked into when we’d get our stuff done and it’s like a 12-week turnaround, which is three months. So if you send in something to get pressed, it’s not going to be at your house for three months. So if we put in an order in September, we’d have it by December; that means from now up to September, we’d have to write the other song or write how many other songs we have left, record it, mix it, master and then get it all done by September… so hopefully, by the end of the year?
Nick: Realistically, it should be some time in the winter, if everything goes to plan.
Ron: Maybe fall! [Laughs]
Nick: It depends how fast the writing goes and recording and then the record pressing plants – they might be caught up by then.
Ron: We’ve got ideas but nothing set in stone for what the last or following tracks are going to be. A lot of songs will turn out that way, we’ll start out with an idea… well, “Doom” from Satan Worshipping Doom was just an idea, like, ‘alright, we want a track that is just one long consistent build through pretty much the entire record and a big riff at the end’. It’s like, ‘alright, well we’ve got the other three, let’s do that idea’. Just figured out something and had a goal in mind and figured what to play out around the goal, so… we got ideas, let’s just see if any of them pan out.
Nick: They never do. [Laughs]
Ron: Nah, they usually end up way different than the original idea.
Rich: Maybe go back to your death metal roots…
Nick: No, too much of that.
Ron: Playing fast is too hard. And he’s [Dan] the one who has to play fast.
Dan: I loved it when they said they wanted to play really slow. [All laugh] ‘I’m not going to break a sweat in these songs? Amazing!’ But then sometimes I speed stuff up too much and they get pissed at me, but er…
Ron: ‘Play it slower!’
Nick: I think over the years you’ve gone and noticed that… ‘I’m playing it slower than I think I should’.
Dan: I’ll pick my timing and then just go down a little bit.
Nick: After you bust that metronome at like, 40 [bpm]. [All laugh] You’re like, ‘Aw, fuck this’.
Dan: And if you listen to Satan Worshipping Doom, the album, versus the live recording at Roadburn last year, it’s significantly slower with how we played it. Like when I turn on Satan Worshipping Doom, I’m like, ‘We’re playing this way too fast! Is this on the wrong speed? What’s going on here?!’
Nick: ‘Is this a fucking grind record?’
Ron: Did we record that to a click?
Dan: Parts of that I thought you did.
Ron: Do we record anything to a click? [Laughs]
Dan: Well, when we recorded those songs… I didn’t even really know them that great; it’s been how long and played so many times now… it’s so much easier…
Nick: Yeah, we used to really fuck over Dan in the studio, ’cause back in the early albums we’d get an idea in our heads and we’d get a framework on and then just ‘let’s go record!’ And he’s like, ‘I don’t know what the fuck I’m playing!’ [Laughs]
Rich: Just a beat per minute. Well, rounding it up then, is there anything you guys would like to say to your fans?
Nick: Thank you.
Dennis: We met – I forget the guy’s name – we met a guy two nights ago who showed up at our show and…
Ron: He’s coming tonight?
Dennis: Yeah, he’s coming tonight. What show was it at?
Dan: Preston and…
Ron: He’s coming tonight?
Rich: He’s a hardcore fan then!
Dennis: So he shows up in Sheffield, right, with a tote bag full of our record sleeves and he’s having us sign them, and I just started looking at it and I start thinking about… ‘this guy follows us, buys all our merch, waw, this is amazing’. So, not only thank him, but thank everyone who buys stuff and follows us.
Nick: It’s just that being in a band that doesn’t have a label, or anything like that, the only reason we are able to put out vinyl and stuff is because people support us. Without that, we would never…
Ron: We can’t be here!
Nick: Yeah, ’cause we don’t have any money to progress ourselves, it’s got to keep doing it and if people keep supporting us, we’ll keep trying to do it. If not, just throw it up online. [Laughs]
Rich: Then you’ll find yourselves going into the snuff film business.
Rich: Yeah, well that’s pretty much it. It was nice talking to you guys!
Nick: Yeah, thank you very much man!
Dennis: Thank you.
Dan – Drums
Ron – Bass
Dennis – Guitar