OHHMS are one of the most exciting bands in the UK today. Their mixture of doom, progressive, post-metal, stoner, drone and noise is incredibly exciting as shown in their debut Bloom (reviewed here). Speaking to front man Paul Waller, we had a lot to talk about, we discussed the band’s history and influences, supporting The Skull in London (that gig is reviewed here), the band’s lyrical themes and animal rights as well as their upcoming shows and plans for 2015.
Jack: How did OHHMS form?
Paul (Vocals): It was pretty easy really; I quit singing in bands to concentrate on music journalism, which is even less profitable than being in a band as you well know. At one point I partook in three interviews that really fired me back up, they were Steve Ignorant from Crass, Steve Hackett from Genesis and most importantly Michael Gira from Swans. Jesus, they were so inspiring that I found I had to get into a practice room again.
I simply phoned around my friends and said I want to be in a band that sounds like Swans, full of repetitive riffs and lots of arty bits and luckily they all said yes. I showed them a drum beat I wanted to work with which ended up being the intro to ‘Rise of the Herbivore’. Everything else came naturally in the practice room.
Jack: Your sound is a mixture of Post-Metal, Doom, Progressive and Noise. What bands influence the band? Do all the members have similar influences?
Paul: Difficult to say, we all loved Nirvana but when we mentioned that to each other we all agreed that we never listen to them anymore. Conan, Isis, The Locust and Sleep are bands we all agree are ace, the proggy stuff creeps in thanks to Marc (Guitar) and I, the classic rock-isms thanks to Dan (Guitar) and all that weird shit comes from Chainy (Bass) and Max (Drums). To be honest we are just like anyone else, we have multiple personalities and multiple musical tastes that fluctuate.
Jack: You’re signed to Holy Roar Records, a label that has some of the hottest up and coming bands signed to it including Body Hound, Employed to Serve and Slabdragger. How does it feel being on a label seen as a hotbed for up and coming talent?
Paul: Well, it feels like a dream sometimes. I remember Alex who is the head of Holy Roar coming to see us at a gig in London and after we played I couldn’t find him so we thought maybe he scarpered so he didn’t have to tell us how much he hated us. I went downstairs and ordered a beer and there he is berating the barmaid, telling her that she’d just missed this amazing band in the venue up above. The next day we saw he had tweeted during the gig that he was watching the best band in the UK. Not that I necessarily agree with him about that but what an ace thing to say, right?
I have collected records that have come out on Holy Roar since I first heard Rolo Tomassi, I love that they release an eclectic mix of styles and I love that that little baby logo on a slab of vinyl means that I will 90% of the time love the music inside the packaging. I’m proud of us to be a part of their roster and we have had no negative issues with them at all. As I said, it’s like a dream.
Jack: When you tour with bands that are just on Holy Roar, do you feel that you have to represent the label?
Paul: Well, I knew of Black Sabbath, Down, Clutch, Iron Monkey, Candlemass and the bigger doom and stoner rock bands before I bought it but the Conan/Bongripper split plus that debut Slabdragger record that came out on Holy Roar introduced me to the scene as a whole. I discovered these bands thanks to Holy Roar and it’s not word of a lie to say that I really delved into that scene. I listened to nothing else for 6 months straight; I just absorbed it and became obsessed like a junkie does when they get into smack or whatever. It’s definitely rubbed off on the OHHMS sound.
But due to the eclectic roster you would think it would be difficult to please an audience but we found it wasn’t the case. We did a short tour with Body Hound and Employed to Serve recently and people loved the varied line up. ETS were on fire, literally bouncing off the walls, cabinets, tables and what have ya, full of energy and raging hardcore and then the Body Hound guys would just floor people. Their technical brilliance was at times incomprehensible. Throwing us into the mix on top of it all seems a bit of a bummer. “Hi we are OHHMS, this is a really long and slow song about pesticides” How we get away with it, I dunno.
Jack: You had the song ‘Rise of the Herbivore,’ played on Radio 1, how was that arranged?
Paul: Holy Roar just said they asked Daniel P Carter and he liked it and said yes, but also noted that we probably wouldn’t get a whole song played which was understandable.
Jack: Did they play the entire fourteen minutes of the song?
Paul: Yeah, they did. They only chopped off like 5 seconds of drone or something at the beginning. We bumped off Black Sabbath from the playlist too which was cool but I was also sort of looking forward to a headbang sesh to ‘Electric Funeral’. But ya know, swings and roundabouts.
Jack: The album Bloom came out this year to rave reviews, with one review describing you as modern classic music. Are you amazed at how far the album has gone with it receiving coverage in places like Germany?
Paul: Reviews have been great everywhere and of course everyone has an opinion and those opinions are as valid as the next person. You wouldn’t be in a band unless you thought you were killer; why else would you want to do it. Saying that we are a new band, we are only a year old and we have only been playing live since April so I guess the thing that surprises me is that people haven’t been slagging us for not paying our dues or whatever. I was expecting it since we got signed. That’s the one thing that surprised me.
Another band that got picked up by a label quick was H A R K and again I didn’t come across any backlash because they were new and playing all these massive festivals.
I was involved in the hardcore scene for a long time and people tend to get jealous and bitchy when bands don’t appear to have paid their dues. With the more metal and rock scenes, people just seem to dig good music. Everyone we have met and spoken to so far has been genuinely cool to us.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Paul: It was nothing short of magical at points. We recorded at Emeline Studios in Kent purely because our friend Ian Sadler runs it and it is good value. I expected a demo quality end product that we would shop around to venues and promoters to get some gigs. As it came together and began to take shape it sounded better than the source material we gave him for reference. I would recommend Emeline to any guitar based band. Some people have just got a natural talent and Ian is one of those guys.
Jack: Was it a group decision to only make it two tracks long or did it just come about in the writing process?
Paul: It was a totally natural thing. It just worked out that way. The songs ended up quite long. As I said the initial plan was that we wanted an EP-length recording to shop around to promoters for gigs. Thing is, those two tracks are 32 minutes in total and that’s longer than a few albums I own but I’d rather we called it an EP still as we have big plans for our first proper long player.
Jack: The song ‘Bad Seeds’ is about Neonicotinoid Pesticides, what inspired you to write about this subject?
Paul: The damage on the bee population throughout developed countries where this stuff is used is devastating due to the use of Neonicotinoid pesticides, independent scientific studies trickle through but they are routinely ‘debunked’ and mocked by the multinationals. What I find most interesting at the moment is the techniques which big business’ use to shut down these independent studies and attempt to discredit and financially cripple the scientists involved. It’s disgusting. I read a book recently which was just skimming the tip of the iceberg on this called ‘Seeds of Deception’ – sorry I forget the author [ed.: Jeffrey M. Smith] right now but it’s a great starting place if you are interested in finding out about what damage GMOs are doing to us as a human race. It’s really interesting and really upsetting.
Netflix too is full of great documentaries about GMOs (and some really crap ones, full of misinformation) and the internet of course is an essential tool that keeps me up to date on all aspects of what really goes into our food. I’m not one to preach to anyone though, all I would say if you care about yourself and your kids, then look into it.
On a side note I recently interviewed an American band called Pontiak and they went into detail of what the large multinational companies are doing to the local farmers in the area of Virginia where they live, these farmers are their friends and it’s heartbreaking but really interesting once again to find out so much detail from a primary source.
Jack: With track two on the album being called ‘Rise of the Herbivore,’ (which contains the lyric ‘paramount to murder,’) and one of your genres on Facebook being ‘Animal Rights,’ how important is the subject of Animal Rights?
Paul: It’s an odd one that. When the lyrics were completed I handed them to the band and asked them if it was okay to use them as I didn’t want to make any of the other guys feel weird because of the subject matter. Even though those opinions are mine and mine alone but I still represent the band, the other four guys are still going to have to deal with any come back even if it’s just one of them saying “I don’t know, Paul feels strongly about these things so you had better ask him”, which has happened before a show once. For me though it’s essential, I got myself a dog and he is an animal and he changed the way I feel about eating animals, also my wife became a vegan and those two things combined made me see things in a different light. I love the taste of meat so I do miss the flavours but it’s a personal choice that I’ve made alone; the thought of putting animal flesh in my mouth just grosses me out now.
Saying this, I am not here to judge anyone; if you read the lyrics and feel inspired by them then that’s great but if you just want to bang your head to the riffs and couldn’t give two shits about what you eat or how animals are treated then that’s your prerogative and not mine. I’m not going to be a judge. Go bang your head, I’ll join you.
Jack: Would it be safe to assume all the members of the band are vegetarian/vegan/pescetarian?
Paul: Two of OHHMS are meat eaters, three of us are vegetarian. For me, I eat vegan at home (I don’t have a choice because my misses does the shopping and I am lazy) and when I am out I am a vegetarian but just as important for me is to eat organic produce, it pains me to know I am part of this massive machine that is slowly poisoning my body. Luckily there is a local farm that grows and delivers organic veg to our door. I couldn’t be happier with my lot.
Jack: You headlined your first shows a few months ago, how did it feel to headline?
Paul: I found it really odd that enough people gave a shit to come as we had played locally quite a lot at that point. Then, when we went on there were people at the front wearing our T-shirts too. Plus it was our first guarantee show as well which, whilst it wasn’t a large amount it was the first time we had played knowing we were going to get paid. That felt good. The place was heaving inside and out too; this tiny pub in Canterbury, there was 50 inside and about the same outside that couldn’t get in. It does sound impressive until you know that it was a free gig.
We tend to play the same in front of small or large crowds, opening or headlining. We will give you everything until we are spent and then push a little bit more.
Jack: You also supported The Skull at the Underworld, how did it feel to support such a legendary band? Also what was it like meeting the band, are you big fans of Trouble?
Paul: The rest of the guys couldn’t have cared less about being paired up with The Skull, only one of them had even heard of Trouble before we played with them but I listen to the first five Trouble albums quite a bit, I know my doom history. The new Skull album is pretty good too, I’ll give ‘em that. When we were asked to play with them of course I jumped at the opportunity. To be honest though, I was more nervous about meeting and supporting Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell recently. They are a band on fire and on top of their game, I felt The Skull were coasting but then you know they have every right to be. They have been there and done it. Done it all… And then some.
Jack: The band played Psalm 9 (reviewed here) in full; do you think it is an important album in terms of influence?
Paul: Undoubtedly it is, along with the first three Candlemass albums I think for the doom scene at least they were fundamental in keeping the flame burning when Sabbath went off the boil. There was not a great deal of quality doom around, maybe because it was so fresh, although I do wince at a few of the Christian lyrics on those Trouble songs. For me though, those first six Black Sabbath records are the holy grail of metal. I think if you stick to the templates found within those dusty old grooves you won’t go far wrong.
Jack: You also supported Earthmass recently in London, how did that gig go?
Paul: I would say it was the worse show that we have played. That’s the trouble with small bands like us. Cash is limited so you have to borrow and share gear for out of town shows…. I so wish we had a van so we could just use all our own equipment all of the time.
To say we had technical difficulties would be an understatement although the crowd didn’t seem to notice but I know the guys were gutted, a couple of them are real perfectionists and they were pretty bummed about it. Personally I had a great time and the footage that was filmed was ace. Not only that but Wren were cracking and Earthmass were on tip top form too. I spoke to them after and they seemed like cool guys too, I’d love to play a few more shows with them, go out on a weekender or something. For me the only downer of the show was that somebody stole merch at some point as we were missing a few CDs and T-Shirts but you know, shit happens.
Jack: You have played in the past with bands of different ilk such as the metalcore band Near Ruin. Do you find it off-putting playing with bands of different genres?
Paul: I love mixed bills, I like the challenge of winning over a crowd. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t, after that show someone came up to us and said that they were blown away by the power and heaviness and that they had never seen a doom band before and I thought to myself: You still haven’t, not really, but of course I said thanks. (Laughs).
But what I can’t get with is five band bills, I can just about tolerate 4 bands on a bill but how desperate does a promoter have to be? It tends to happen most with the metalcore shows that we sometimes play. Having been a promoter myself you know that it’s going to be a disaster with bands overrunning and having to cut sets and then you get the one band that thinks they should play for an hour. It’s horrible.
Jack: You’re touring in February, what can we expect from this tour? What bands will be joining you on it?
Paul: It’s the final leg of the Bloom shows so we will be playing that record in full and then for the headline shows we are playing a new track as well, it’s the heaviest thing we have done yet.
We are going out on our own; we have been getting offers to play all over the place since we got played on Radio One so I thought why don’t we just squeeze some of these shows together and that’s what we have done. So far confirmed are Kruger from Switzerland and Monomyth from the Netherlands and from the UK we are playing with Cattle, Trojan Horse, Old Man Lizard, Eagleburner, Siege Mentality and a few others I forget, sorry if that’s you. Anyway, I have made a point of listening to each and every band we are playing with and there isn’t one that I am not excited about seeing myself. That can’t be bad, right, I cannot wait?
Jack: You’re supporting Conan in June. How hyped are you to be supporting one of the biggest bands in British doom?
Paul: They are my favourite band; I’ve seen them live just once before at Elektrowerks in London and our drummer Max started a pit during ‘Foehammer’, they commented afterwards in an interview that they’d never had a pit before, typical Max that. I am just stoked that they are coming to our area so I don’t have to travel into London again and see them.
Jack: Conan’s Blood Eagle (reviewed here) was your album of the year, what was so special about it?
Paul: It was a grower for me. I didn’t instantly like it although I loved the video they did for ‘Foehammer’. The problem was I think that I had bought it digitally and it wasn’t affecting me as deeply as their previous stuff had. Maybe it was the artwork that put me off a bit too, it just wasn’t to my taste but I wouldn’t give up with it and so I bought the thing on vinyl as well. I slapped it on the deck and at that point everything changed, it was like falling in love with someone you had just previously been friends with.
Listening to the record and looking at that 12” cover artwork brought the whole thing together for me. The melodies were not so hidden; the pounding of those drums was now crystal clear. It was all so ferocious, easily my album of the year and my favourite work by Conan. I am so glad I bought the vinyl, otherwise who knows, it may have just stayed on my iPod for ever more, every now and again getting the odd track played here and there.
Jack: You’re also playing Hevy Fest. How does it feel to share a line up with bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Monuments and Vales?
Paul: We shall see, I went to Hevy Fest 2012 as a punter and had my best festival experience ever, I just had a blast. I loved watching the punk bands and the metal bands and those odd bands like Blacklisters from Leeds, they were amazing. I didn’t dig Andrew WK too much but you know, I just don’t like to party hard. They have never put on a band quite like us before and good on ‘em for taking us on and I am sure we will go down fine. Also there’s another 50 or so bands to be announced too. I know I will have a great time plus the day after we play we may or may not be heading out on a lengthy tour with one of our favourite UK bands. Exciting times indeed.
Jack: What else can we expect from 2015, new music perhaps?
Paul: Definitely you can. I can reveal that the new 2 tracker EP thingy will be called Cold. We are going into record it in mid January with Ian at Emeline again. Should be out on Holy Roar Records in the Summer, also we have been booked to play an awesome festival which we can’t announce yet. Things are going to hot up for us I hope, plus the songs on this new record, they are just incredible… If I do say so myself.
Jack: You released a T-shirt which has Dawn of the Swarm on it. Is this a preview for an upcoming event or lyrical theme for OHHMS?
Paul: Yeah it is. Dawn of the Swarm is one of the two tracks on ‘Cold’. It’s 15 minutes long and well, I can’t wait for people to hear it.
Jack: Are there any plans to play shows in Europe?
Paul: 2016 yes, 2015 no. We had to turn down a German festival for 2015 because of a work clash that sucked balls. We have a limited amount of dates we can tour each year. In fact, because one of us is a school teacher its pretty much only during school holidays when we can really string a large amount of shows together and that means we can’t do everything we get offered. There were a couple of big shows we couldn’t play this year and I was gutted about that but then what can you do. It’s not like we are raking in thousands of pounds from the band. We need to keep our jobs to survive. Real world bullcrap.
Jack: Finally, I discovered your band when I found Punishment on YouTube, how important is social media and the internet for bands today?
Paul: Well, initially I didn’t want to get involved in it at all. I wanted the band to simply grow organically (pun intended), with no online push, just word of mouth. I remember putting it to the guys and they were all thinking that I was an idiot to put it mildly. So, I relented and we did a Facebook page, I think it was Holy Roar that suggested we do a Twitter and an Instagram so we did that too, I don’t really get Twitter but Facebook has won me over. I love it now. I’ve connected with so many people all over the world. Just yesterday I was chatting to this fella in Brazil about ‘Rise of the Herbivore.’ That’s amazing, right? I am on it all the time now, an addict, speaking to fans, other bands, organising shows, talking about records. You name it, I do it online so If you are reading and want to say hello, don’t be shy.