Fresh from the release of their new album(s) I had a chat with, drummer, Santos Montano of Old Man Gloom about music and messing with the press.
The crossover between punk and metal music has been widely documented in the past (think Black Flag and Napalm Death). What is less talked about, and I think far more interesting, is the mix of post-punk/alternative rock and Metal which began to ferment in the mid 90's and led to formation of iconic bands like Converge, Cave In, Botch and, of course Old Man Gloom.
(Debatably) born out of the Massachusetts punk scene, bands began bringing together elements of Emo, Punk, Doom metal, Death metal, Post- rock and Prog to create a cerebral form of heavy music that borrowed as much from the bands on (legendary Mancunian Indie label) Factory as it did bands on Roadrunner.
Old Man Gloom formed as a sort of super group (a term I'm sure the band hate) in order to explore undiluted expression in heaviness away from the various members day jobs. The band features ISIS' Aaron Turner, his long-time friend Santo Montano, Cave In's Caleb Scofield and Converge's Nate Newton. Since their inception the band has cut a single minded path creating some of the heaviest (and smartest) music of the last ten years.
Ahead of the release of their latest effort Ape of God the band released a fake version of the album (actually a double album split across two volumes) to the press to make a point about the leaking of bands material by "jerk" writers. With this in mind it was with a little apprehension that I caught up with Santos.
"Welcome back Santos, can I ask what you guys have been up to since No in 2012?"
It's been a turbulent time in the band since 2012. We haven't ever been a real band, but after NO, we attempted to act more like a real band. Doing things like "touring" and playing "live" weren't things we had to work at, because we just didn't do it. We were like the Harry Nilsson of weird metal. We enjoyed making NO so much though, that we had to give it a go.
"You guys seem to like messing with expectations, I for example am not entirely sure what of the two Ape of God records I've heard , what was the inspiration for this bait and switch technique? (I'd like to state for the record I wasn't one of "those jerks" who leaked the record."
You don't seem like a jerk. But some dickweed did leak it, and it kinda justified the whole prank. The inspiration is a three headed monster. First, there is no reason to do things in any conventional way for us. There are literally no consequences. Even if worst case scenario, every journalist on earth flipped us off and vowed to never write another word about us ever again, leading to not one human knowing about our next record, leading us to never be able to play a show again, that would affect our lives very little. Not saying we don't love the shit out of Old Man Gloom, we do, but we've essentially hit the ceiling. The whole thing, more than anything, was meant to make people who are familiar with our antics laugh. Not a deep belly laugh, but a slight "those silly dicks" kinda laugh. Mission accomplished.
"Was there a lot of new influences brought to the writing, or do you stay very much true to the original ethos (correct me if I'm wrong) or making doomy, experimental hardcore?"
Hmmmmmm..... It's tough to say. The ridiculous reality of Old Man Gloom is there isn't a lot of talk. Everything happens extremely quickly, so what you hear on our records is almost entirely spontaneous. Even if a song writer spends a lot of time conceptualizing a song, the rest of us have almost no time with it before we get to the part where it's on a record.
"How much is Kurt Ballou (Converge guitarist and OMG producer) involved with the writing process?"
None. He has never attended a writing session. He does have carte blanche to say "that fill is stupid" or "that was terrible", or "can we lose the high school double bass?", which are all things said to me during the Ape sessions.
"For those who don't know can you tell us a little about how the band initially came together?"
Aaron and I are childhood friends from Santa Fe. We met in High School. We remained friends, and after Aaron went to art school in Boston, he would come home for summers, so we would do little projects together. The first one was a concept band. The idea was that we'd play one house party, and Aaron would play an acoustic, and it would be all covers that had a theme.
Anyway, the next summer, he had an idea for another concept band, and that was OMG. We wrote the whole thing in one day, and recorded and mixed the entire thing in 12 hours. That was meditations in B. I had no idea that you weren't expected to record and mix in one day until we did the next record. I think I like it better when you have to just get it done in one day...
"I know journalists love to come up with 'scenes' or 'movements', but do you think there is/was something unique about the Massachusetts sound that the band came out of?"
Well, short answer is no. The sound is very much Santa Fe, in my mind. We use a lot of that thematically, as well, the desert, the southwest, etc. Beyond the first record, it gets even murkier, as Caleb is from New Hampshire, and Nate is from Virginia. All of us getting together in Mass, and all the contributing bands obviously play a huge part in why we all know each other, and why we chose who we chose, but honestly, I don't think there's much Converge, Cave In, or Isis in Old Man Gloom. That being said, for me, and all of us I'm sure, that time, and the people who made up that scene were very special. It's definitely the most musically formative time in my life.
"And finally, I know the band don't often play live, are their plans for a tour this album?"
We have some things cooking. We'd love to find a venue in Brussels that only fits one person in it, so we can play just for that one guy. We'd also like to tour Central and South America. Someone make that happen.
Both volumes of Ape of God are out now.
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