Art of Burning Water are a really fascinating, unique band. Live they are a hellfire of riffs, screaming and ferocity, but off stage they are really friendly approachable guys. Speaking to drummer Mike and bassist Kunal, we talked about their recent run of shows, their music, their split with Isolation Tank and more in this lengthy, insightful chat.
Jack: How are you guys doing at the moment?
Mike (Drums): At this particular moment, I want to take my shoes off and sit in the sun, so things could be a bit better. As a band, feckin great!
Kunal (Bass): Speaking personally, not bad! Too busy. Time flying by (i.e. not getting enough done). As a band, we have been playing more gigs than usual and writing more stuff. Lots of tiring fun.
Jack: You did a short tour in April, how did that go?
Mike: Really good. Over too quickly!
Kunal: Really great. We don’t get out and about very much so we appreciate it when people offer. Was kind of accidental how it came together – Sonance wanted us to play their release gig and we managed to wangle some gigs around it. Bournemouth was a new one in the band’s history and for me. I mean, I have been to India, but never Bournemouth, what’s that about? We had an ice cream on the beach the next day. Bristol was great, I used to live there and the Cube cinema is an awesome place, although playing to a seated audience was straight up odd. For some reason we are playing Bristol three times in a four month window after having not been there in two and a half years. Been a couple of years since we played Norwich, all very sweaty fun. We also just did another six gigs with Finland’s Baxter Stockman and had a wicked time.
Jack: What show was the most memorable?
Mike: Playing to people sitting down in that maze of a theatre.
Kunal: Out of that four? I don’t know, the Bristol one in the cinema was just odd, but they were all memorable in their own special ways. In fact all our gigs feel different to me, but that might be because I’m close to it. I remember we did four gigs in Belgium and France last year, and they were all awesome, but totally different in vibe. Brussels was in a huge long-running independent venue, Magasin 4, an amazing place. Then Lyon was in a packed out little wine cellar, then Ainu Fest was in a random town and had a kind of Supernormal Fest vibe to it albeit with more punky bands, then Paris was in a dead posh place with Part Chimp and Hey Colossus, so that was a fully UK line-up with a more indie bent to it if you get me. AOBW kind of falls between all these stools, sometimes literally. I like that.
Jack: Did any bands stand out for you on the tour?
Mike: Yakult (aka Jøtnarr ) and that band with the awesome drummer in Kingston with the really aggressive singer?
Kunal: Nervous Mothers – they are from Belgium, I’ve known the guys for years but never met them, so that was nice to make that connection. A great, crazed kind of hardcore meets emoviolence. Cheel Ghar is a Bournemouth band with the amazing drummer from Witch Cult and some guys from Sunshine Republic who I did a record with about a decade ago, seriously. They didn’t play long but I could tell they were doing a real interesting take on doom, with plenty of noise elements coming in. Real apocalyptic. Jøtnarr are always fun, and I’m doing a record with them so I am contractually bound to like them. But yeah, all the bands were great, and really varied, I’m glad we could fit alongside so many of them. The Baxter Stockman tour was great – BS were sweet guys and a sweeter band. Big Fail up in Newcastle had an awesome Drunk In Hell, continuously-bang-out-a-riff kind of vibe going on.
Mike: Very. It’s important because it raises awareness about what is going on in the world and how we are killing animals for fun or furr and if you want to make a difference you have to get amongst it. Nuff respect to the people who put it on and made those wicked cookies and brownies, happy to be playing for such a cause. Would do it again for sure!
Kunal: Respect for all life man, although I’m far from active in that arena (and many others for that matter). Being an urban animal, I am frankly nonplussed by what goes on the countryside anyway. It is a confusing, oxygen-rich place.
Jack: How did you get that gig?
Kunal: I put the feelers out for a weekend gig anywhere as we were playing Bristol on the Friday. Chris Moore from Jøtnarr put us in touch with Aidan in Norwich and for some reason he thought we would pull in an audience.
Jack: Are there any other causes that are important to you that you want to highlight via this interview?
Kunal: Mental health issues are something very close to this band and we were going to contribute a song to a benefit compilation for Mind, but I think we won’t get it done in time. Instead we might chuck it up on Bandcamp on a donation basis and we’ll give the money to Mind or a similar charity. I love the song in question, wasn’t involved in the writing process as I was mad (poor word choice) busy with work, but it’s quite melodic for us and chugs all over the place, and I love a good chug.
Jack: You’ve been a band for more than ten years now, how does it feel to have been around for this long?
Mike: It feels like an amazing journey that has helped me to grow, learn, love and understand more about life and without it, well I can’t really say that can I? It’s something I’m deeply proud of and extremely grateful to be part of. I would never have met the most crazy, interesting people, or would have never gone to the places we have traveled to.
Kunal: Well I have “only” been in the band for about 3 years, and it has flown by for me. The other guys have been at it for much longer and it is quite astounding given how outside of the standard circle of love (aside from when AOBW started out) this band is. It hasn’t always been a constant endeavor with a lot of life stuff getting in the way, but the band has carried on through it all and right now seems comparatively functional. It seems like everyone has seen AOBW, somewhere, usually about a decade ago.
Jack: What’s been the most memorable gig you’ve played?
Mike: Melt Banana show, all the gigs in Lyon recently, Dublin years ago cos we got paid with vegetables then stayed in this empty mansion which was weird.
Kunal: The first one I played with the band was great. I invited a bunch of mates, who weren’t into punk, into a tiny wooden sweatbox that had been built inside a giant warehouse. They were weirded out. Going to Europe for the first time was wonderful. Yellfest was this hardcore fest thing up a mountain in the deep south of France. Fucking amazing, going up these very thing winding roads in my folks’ VW Golf. To be honest, each gig for me is a special experience, and we kind of get to pick and choose. My parents came to see us in Birmingham once, my Dad is quite deaf already luckily.
Jack: You’re one of the only bands I can think of that I can’t pin to a certain genre; there are so many different influences on this release including doom, noise, sludge and hardcore punk. What genre would you say you are if you follow that?
Kunal: Definitely punk, in spirit as well as sound. But yeah, a combo of doom, noise, sludge and hardcore sounds good to me, plus plenty of chin-stroking arty leanings and cock-stroking wanky moments. Specialisation is for insects as R Buckminster Fuller said.
Jack: What bands are your influences?
Mike: Nice Drake, Richie Havens, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Prince.
Kunal: Oh Jesus, how long have you got? Amebix, Keelhaul, Godflesh, Unsane, Voivod, Die Kreuzen, His Hero Is Gone in the rock arena. Mike doesn’t even rock the heavy stuff that often but definitely likes Sepultura. Old soul and 80s pop gets a look-in on the tour stereo too.
Jack: One of your songs on The Humiliation Process is called Extreme Noise Error, are you fans of Extreme Noise Terror?
Mike: Ain’t heard their tunes.
Kunal: I think we are bigger fans of shit puns. When you have as many songs as we do, naming them becomes a problem. But yeah ENT rule although from that era I’m more a Napalm Death Scum fan.
Jack: Your latest release Living Is For Giving, Dying Is For Getting has been out for a few months now. How was the reception been?
Mike: Got some good reviews and some nice things said at gigs
Kunal: Really positive. I wasn’t sure how it would go down as the album before it (This Disgrace) was a more measured affair and the newer one is pretty grindy. Andy at Riot Season did a great job spreading the word. I think I am more proud of the press blurb we wrote for it though.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Mike: Enjoyable. Emotional. Fulfilling. Tough. Rewarding! Working with our west side bredwins so it’s always fun cos we have a good understating of each other. Atmosphere great, loved it.
Kunal: A fucking nightmare as usual. That’s a joke, but I personally am not used to recording (I was pretty old when I started doing band-related things) and I am aware that time is money, so I always thought we would be militantly rehearsed before going in. Of course, life shit gets in the way and we are never prepared, but to be honest that is part of the band’s aesthetic. I mean, we make manic, technical music in a way, but there is that human element that makes it clear that it’s three real people making the music and that it could collapse into chaos at any moment. So we are flexible going in, and kind of hit a peak in terms of knowing the stuff when we hit record. I think we even wrote the intro track there and then. Testament to Geith’s (Vocals/Guitar) riff-generating genius.
Jack: You also released a split with Isolation Tank, why did you release a split with that band?
Mike: Good people innit.
Kunal: They are great guys and seem to be fans of ours, so why not? Their funeral. Sonically I think it’s an interesting match-up. We did a few faster, shorter numbers but with some trademark twists in there which I think is a counterpoint to what they’re doing.
Jack: You have a new release coming out in 2015, what can we expect from the new album?
Mike: Don’t know, what do you expect? We are not a delivery service on demand. Nahh, more riffage and more punkness for sure.
Kunal: Right now I feel it’s 50/50 between pretty straight-up melodic d-beat baiting hardcore punk, and some slower, mathematical, draining chug stuff. I mean, this is album number six! It’s the same noisy shite on a surface level, but clever people will work out that we’re deep and can tell the difference from what went before.
Jack: How will it be different from the band’s previous releases?
Kunal: Maybe it’s a continuation of the previous album which was a bit of a grindy fast number, but there’s some let-ups going on.
Jack: You supported Jøtnarr in April in Colchester for their release show, what do you like about this band?
Mike: I like some of their riffage and Chris is a lovely guy who makes an awesome curry.
Kunal: It’s nasty and harsh stuff but innately melodic, well constructed with plenty of rocking bits. They are great guys as well, that always helps. Also we all left our towels at Chris’ place in Decemeber 2012 so we’re purely there to retrieve those.
Jack: Finally what can we see in the future for Art of Burning Water, any new shows, festival appearances or splits on the horizon?
Mike: Yes, all of the above. Play some places in Europe we haven’t done yet, a trip to the USA hopefully. Write more, record more, meet more bands, evolve our sound and explore.
Kunal: An enormous backlash against our d-beat album probably. But aside from that… more songs, more gigs, more records, more motorway service stations. Why stop the habit of a lifetime? By the middle of the year we will have done the rounds in the UK again, so would be good to get further afield, depends on life shit as you know. Splits are on the cards with Harrowed, Nervous Mothers and Famine too. We don’t get asked to play festivals because we don’t look right. Onwards.