Moss: Glen Westall Questions Vocalist Olly As The Bands Performance At Temples Fast Approaches

Moss made a name for themselves in the early 2000’s doom metal subterranea with an unrelenting take on the genre characterised by slowness, slowness, and more slowness. The most recent album, 2012’s Horrible Night, contained songs more heavily influenced by traditional doom metal as well as other heavy blues from the 60’s and 70’s. I’ve been a fan since hearing the Moss / Nadja split in 2003 and was excited to get this chance to ask vocalist Olly questions about the album, the band, and their upcoming appearance at Temples Festival.

Moss - Photo by Ester Segarra

It’s been a fair old while since ‘Sub Templum’. After such a prolific release schedule between the first demo and ‘Sub Templum’, what caused the downtime after that album? Does Dom living in Canada have a big part to play?

It did for a bit at first, but I wouldn’t say it makes any difference. In the last four years we did more gigs than we ever did in the ten years preceding that. We just do it when we want to do it really. When you start out, you really go for it, you try to do as much as possible. I think once you’ve established yourself it’s better to ease things back a bit, so our releases got a lot more spread out. This kind of music can burn you out if you’re doing it every day. It’s doom, it’s supposed to be slow so you’ve gotta create it at the same pace!

‘Horrible Night’ is a noticeable sidestep in terms of sound, adding far more sludgey and traditional doom elements to the band’s initial (extreme/funeral) doom sound. Previous interviews have stated this change is due in part to the band’s own personal music tastes, reflecting a more 60s and 70s feel. Was this always an inevitable evolution for the band?

We were going more in that way, the ‘Tombs’ EP we did between ‘Sub Templum’ and ‘Horrible Night’ kind of set things in that direction, and we started writing ‘Horrible Night’ shortly after that was released. The track ‘Horrible Nights’ has been around since 2009 I think? It hadn’t really changed much at all between that and what got recorded for the album.

It was a collectively conscious shift into something more song-like for the other tracks. I don’t think we strayed too far from our original sound though, it’s still super heavy and slow, but I think there’s more longevity in how we’re working it now. We like songs, it’s what we like to listen to way more than any time-stretching riff vortex or whatever. You can’t beat a nice tune to tap your foot to!

Most of the bands we do listen to are from the 60s and 70s, and there is a very clear lineage between that and doom metal. It’s easy to trace from the Beatles to Blue Cheer to Sabbath & Hawkwind to a pure doom band like Saint Vitus. Vitus were the freaky outcast kids in the 70s with long hair and dirty bellbottoms, taking acid and reading horror comics, just like us. They’re a direct result of all the stuff we love about the 60s and 70s.

What has response to the album been like from others? How does the band feel about ‘Horrible Night’ now, a few months down the line?

There’s always things that you don’t like and wish you could change, but then you know what to do or not next time. We were pretty satisfied with ‘Horrible Night’ though, and the response had been good. We’ve had some reactions from old fans who weren’t so into it. It’s cool, we knew that with this album we might turn off some older fans into the really extreme 2bpm stuff. You don’t want everyone liking what you’re doing though, you need challenges, you need to be able to repulse and turn people off with this music. It’s called doom metal after all. We need those negative reactions, embrace the hatred!

What music have you guys been listening to lately?

German Oak, Osanna ‘Milano Calibro 9’, The Great Witch, Osibisa, Paul Chain, Selda, Axe ‘Music’, Loop, Blitz, Slade, Jacula and Antonius Rex, Curved Air, Free, Hendrix… just off the top of my head last couple days.. always have something playing. Black Sabbath.

Moss - UK Tour 2014

There has never been a Moss music video. Is this something you guys want to do? If so, how would you approach making a visual accompaniment to the band’s music?

We made an attempt several years back for the ‘Tombs’ track. It didn’t work out. We had a storyline, and filmed hours of footage in Epping Forest, but it just wasn’t right. I do think with the right visuals it could be something amazing. Something really dark and psychedelic… our songs are horror films, that’s where we gain a lot of our inspiration, so they would lend themselves very well to a visual accompaniment. But rather than some hokey 70s feel like you’d expect, I think it would need something more, it needs to go into a very obscure space…’Lucifer Rising’ on more drugs maybe… and it would need to be given a lot more thought than I’m willing to give right now! If there’s someone out there who’d be wanting to take this on….

One constant throughout the band’s changing sound has been the Lovecraftian lyrical theme. What is it about the Lovecraft Mythos that makes good lyrics for Moss?

I think I would’ve ended up singing Lovecraft lyrics no matter what band I ended up in. It’s been an obsession since my early teens. Getting stoned, reading Lovecraft. He has has been in my life since a very young age, I think I can thank Metallica for that… songs like ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’. I’d read those lyrics over and over as a kid, then try to find out about where they came from. The things that he hints at, it’s all very cryptic, he’s only giving you fragments of what he really knows and a lot of it is up to the mind of the reader to figure out. A lot of doom is like that, the spaces between the sounds. He has always gone hand in hand with doom metal, it’s a perfect marriage, so many common threads – hopelessness, the unknown, dark forces you shouldn’t mess with, trips across the stars…

The last few years have seen a wave of outstanding UK doom/sludge bands, as outlined in the ninehertz article Doom Britannica. Do you have any thoughts on the current ‘scene’ (for the lack of a better word) as a doom band that’s been around for over a decade but remains active today?

If there is a scene or a wave it’s cool, but things feel more or less the same in regards to that as they did ten years ago, but then I don’t really pay much attention! There’s more bands for sure and more people into it, but then there’s just more people everywhere generally. It’s the oldest and purest of all the styles of heavy metal, but there’s still a lot of folks who can’t handle it and don’t want to. It’s still too slow and too heavy for most, and it’s going to get heavier. I’m sure a band will come along in a few years that’ll put out a record that’ll turn you to stone.

Temples Festival is a pretty significant event for the UK, in some ways a capitulation of the scene as described in the aforementioned ninehertz article. I’ve always wanted to go to Roadburn but never been able to make it due to the distance, and Temples has shaped up to be something similar and perhaps even better (for me at least). What are your views on the festival and being part of the weekend?

I don’t really go to festivals much, but it’s nice that something like this is happening in the UK. It’ll be good to see some of the guys in the other bands we haven’t seen for a while. We’re looking forward to it, and I hope we get a chance to check things out… you never know when you’re “working”. The one thing that is lacking though is that Roadburn has weed. Maybe Temples could fix that for next year!

Moss - Photo by Ester Segarra

How did you guys become involved with Temples? Were you approached by Francis Mace or did you approach him?

They contacted us through our booking agent Mythology a while back. Just finding out who else would be playing was enough for us, seemed like this could be a big deal and it’s cool to see the attention the festival is getting for something in its first year.

I saw Moss play The Underworld back in 2005 supporting Esoteric. It was a pretty intense performance from what I recall, especially as I’d not been to many doom shows at that point in my life. How has the band’s live show changed over the past ten years?

That was a weird gig, we were fucked on ketamine. I don’t remember much. We’re a lot more confident in what we’re doing these days, especially over the last few years – old Moss gigs were very chaotic, playing these massive 25 minute epics and not knowing what was going on, we’d constantly get lost or thrown off. But we have gotten so many shows under our belt the last few years we’ve definitely gotten better onstage. And it’s also a lot louder these days… when you’re starting out soundmen don’t give too much of a shit about making you sound good, especially with music like this. They always hated it!

A quick question specifically for Olly: my friend sent you a CD years ago that he and I made containing lots of noise and bullshit by the name of ‘Final Doom – Cypheiyiyiminos’. Did you ever receive it/listen to it?

Hahah yeah I remember that!! Funny stuff, some of it tickled me.

What’s in the works for Moss? New music? More unique shows like the crypt show last year?

We’re doing a few dates around the UK in May in addition to Temples. Then we’re in the studio at the end of the month to record a couple of tracks that we’re releasing ourselves on 7″, as we thankfully fulfilled our contract with Rise Above Records. This is coming on straight black vinyl, 500 copies. It’ll be on our bandcamp page to download too. We want it to be very available, you shouldn’t have to fork out a week’s wages on a record just because it comes in a cardboard box with a patch, let the music speak for itself instead of trying to sell packaging. Those kinds of things shouldn’t even exist. The “instant collector’s item” culture that our previous record label peddles in is something that we will no longer be a part of for any of our future releases, thank fuck.

The rest of 2014 we’ll spend writing the next album. We are also looking to sign a new deal if the right label happens to be reading this.

Thanks for the opportunity to ask you guys some questions! Any last words you’d like to say?

Steal or download our releases on Rise Above Records. Don’t give them any of your money.

Thanks, we’ll see you out there sometime.

Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp

Interviewed by: Glen Westall
Photo Credit: Ester Segarra