Straight off the back of the fantastic new OHHMS album, Close, I had the honour and the opportunity to shoot some questions to their front man, the one and only Paul Waller. A man of many talents, what this man doesn’t know just isn’t worth knowing…probably… We discussed such hot topics as the struggles in the modern music industry, doing it ‘DIY’, and the importance of giving it your all to reach those goals that you set out to aim for. We cover the Holy Roar and Different Times podcasts, which are undeniably entertaining, horror films, record companies, and the perks of creative control. We even share thoughts of the possibilities of just where Kurt Cobain may have taken his focus if he had survived the 27 club…
For those who aren’t yet aware of OHHMS, or Paul, I would implore you to get YouTube or Spotify searching, check the band, the podcasts, and see for yourselves just how far love for the heavy genre of music can take you, if you are willing to jump on for the ride.
So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you the thoughts of mister Paul Waller, a true metal survivor…
So, the new OHHMS album ‘Close’ has just come out, and given the current music landscape, how do think is now the best way to get your work the exposure it deserves in the 21st century?
If I knew that we would definitely be a part of it. The old model hasn’t been hugely financially viable for years unless you’re dealing with large acts. But for art’s sake I want that physical product in my hand. I used to think, well, maybe that’s because I’m old. I’m 10 years older than Max, the youngest member of OHHMS, but he feels the same.
Some smaller bands have nothing to lose or are willing to lose everything and just go for it and tour, tour, tour. That is still the best way to build your identity and gain a fanbase all over the world I reckon. For most though, with the funding available in the music industry at an all time low, it’s not possible.
Looking at the back catalogue of OHHMS, the new album feels like it has definitely stepped it up a gear, and it feels like the most versatile work you’ve done to date. Do you feel that this is just the next logical step, or did you come together differently to make this album?
I specifically requested shorter songs from the band and we see Close as a transitional album, so it isn’t too far removed from what we’ve done before. The next release will be the real test of our fanbase as I want to make a perfect collection of songs, an album that is still definitely OHHMS but full of these catchy moments, sing-a-long versus, heavy, headbanging riffs and shorter running times.
In all honesty, with Dawn Of The Swarm and The Anchor (from Cold), The Hierophant (from The Fool) and Subjects (from Exist), I feel we’ve achieved all we wanted to with the long format song. I can listen to them now and feel proud that we collected our influences and made them into something which is unmistakably us, and I do not want to ever have us repeat ourselves. Saying that, if it happened organically in the practice room and we wrote another 20 minute song that was as good or better than those, then of course we wouldn’t bin it. Shorter songs though, that really excites me, how can we keep that impact and power using a 4 minute format… ? We shall find out.
Shorter songs though, that really excites me, how can we keep that impact and power using a 4 minute format… ? We shall find out…
OHHMS is very much a ‘DIY’ project, do you feel that this approach has given you the opportunity to be freer with outcomes?
It definitely has, yes. We achieved all our goals on the run of our first EP, Bloom. We signed to Holy Roar Records, we played festivals, we got to hang out as mates all the time and the buzz of seeing our names in print and general band stuff was simply awesome.
Since then our attitude has not been one of we have to keep the buzz going and build upon that initial success, it’s been to follow where our artistic heads take us, if that means we lose members of our fanbase that preferred the early stuff, fine. Hopefully we may pick up new people that dig OHHMS but again, if not, fine. It keeps us fired up to continue to be creative and meet up every week and rock out in that practice room.
It may have cost us that Download spot, or that tour with Sleep or whatever, but I know that when OHHMS is over I’m gonna be looking back at our back catalogue and be dead proud of our work. Who knows maybe at one point the stars will converge and all of a sudden we are in sync with the zeitgeist. If it happens I’m sure our follow up release would kill that momentum.
Is it better to be a bigger band, maybe at the expense of full creative control, or a smaller band, and be in full control of your own destiny? Would you relinquish your small elite for a shot at a wider appeal?
It depends on what you want from your band. My last answer explained how I feel about OHHMS but if I was in a band that desired to be bigger, more popular and hugely successful then I reckon it would be fun working within those parameters. I don’t mind compromise, it works for a ton of bands and some really lucky ones get to exist in both worlds, where you don’t need to compromise and you still get big. But as of now… the landscape is different. We can all see through fake stuff a mile off. My experience with labels, as both a manager and an artist, has always been if a compromise is needed then it’s often for the benefit of the band, not just the label.
How did you come to be with Holy Roar Records, and how did you end up being involved with doing the podcasts for the label?
The same answer for both of these. I simply asked. I told them I was a massive fan, sent over a demo for the music and a pilot for the podcast and they were up for both.
Knowing that you’re more involved in the industry then just being the frontman for OHHMS, and that you also do promotion, and deal with bands directly, how much involvement do you have at the grass roots level with bands?
Oh man, I love it. I fucking love the music industry. I love the way it works, I love the politics behind it all, it’s an intricate web of bullshit that bands have to wade through… When we go out on tour and I spot a band I love and I can see they’re doing a few things not as well as they should, or they haven’t got representation and may miss out on crap because they don’t have the right connections or whatever. I’ll approach them and we can take it from there if everyone is down.
Considering the evolution of the internet, and online services, such as streaming sites, and the reduced revenue that bands now see from it all, do you feel it should be the record labels, and band management’s responsibilities to protect bands more?
A bit of all of the above. There are so few opportunities out there for people that most will grasp for anything, no matter how low the fruit is hanging. As I say, through trial and error with my past 20 years in the music industry I can help you navigate your way through a lot of that crap, but at the moment everything is new. Daily there is a new angle, there is a fresh turd to pick through. It’s a beautiful mess.
Oh man, I love it. I fucking love the music industry. I love the way it works, I love the politics behind it all, it’s an intricate web of bullshit that bands have to wade through…
How do you feel about the recent announcement from Live Nation, regarding their new standpoint on how they are going to operate moving forward?
That’s a really interesting one, and not just with Live Nation. Going forward concerts are this lifeline for the music industry, which is constantly being moved out of reach, so along this path many people from bands, venues, managers, agents etc are dying or going to fizzle out along the way. Throughout my weekly briefings on the subject the common hope is that January 2021 will see a somewhat return to normalcy. Although it doesn’t seem likely.
As a member of OHHMS, we have to go on as if everything will be back to normal or else what? What is left? We become a studio project along with every other band. I like to work with dates and certainty and then if something comes up, I have a thought process on how to attack problems to achieve the best results. As it stands today. There are not any plans in my eyes… just hope. I hope it’s going to be allowed and be safe to play our London celebration show in January. I can’t say much more than that.
As a follower of your Different Times podcast, the thing I find refreshing with the podcasts is that it’s also nice that they aren’t solely about heavy music. Do you worry that your audience might not know some of the references?
Ha! I wish we had it more together on that front. Basically we are asking an audience to simply jump into our world without any real guidance from us, or aim for them, except that we like this music and we hope you do to. OR we hate this music, I hope you hate it too. It’s an excuse for us to get together and chat about bands, gossip and be kids again.
And, when will you pick up the podcasts again?
One thing that the pandemic brought to us was the fact that we could no longer be in the same room. It felt a bit like work doing it over the phone so we just stopped. Listening to all this new music became a little bit of a chore; it was no longer exciting knowing that we would be communicating over the phone about it. So we just put a hold on it. It’ll be back. We stopped last summer as well for no reason. We do it for giggles, not for cash so there is no sponsor to please. We will be back.
Another thing that has been brought to light through the podcasts is your love for 80s music. Is there anything from the 90s, outside of heavy and obscure music, that you enjoy with as much passion as the 80s music?
If you’re talking about pop music, not much to be honest. For me the 90s was all about Kurt and where his bubble of bands he was obsessed about led me to. I was already listening to American 80s punk at the time, but discovering K Records and the USA underground indie scene was it for me. I spent most of my 90s there. Until I discovered those early European screamo bands in the latter part of the 90s and became obsessed.
Is there a song from the 80s which you would love to consider a rework of with OHHMS?
Not particularly, no. So much would work though, we have never been asked and never felt the need in the practice room to go over other people’s work. Never say never.
It’s widely known that you also have a love for horror films, do you remember how this started, and where do you stand on music stars crossing over into films?
Horror movies have been an obsession since I was a kid and it hasn’t changed. In fact during lock down I am making it my goal to watch at least two a day. Which I have yet to slip up on. I think a podcast may well come out of this horror binge period for me as well, which is cool.
As for musicians becoming actors, as a whole it’s often really unsuccessful when it’s a vanity thing. Again it’s all about passion and ability isn’t it. I like Keifer Sutherland, Lady Gaga and Russell Crowe who were both musicians before acting happened. Not so keen on Marylin Manson or Chris Isaac. Just throwing some names out there from the top of my head. That’s a weird question. Stop being weird. Ha
On the subject of your likes, and your influences, who are your favourite bands, and why? I know this isn’t such an easy one to answer, but as a musician, do you take more from other people’s music then it just being a great track, or an interesting noise, or is it something to avoid at all costs when working on OHHMS material?
At the moment Napalm Death are my favourite band and it’s been that way for a few years now. I know if I put them on my stereo I am going to really enjoy it, no matter what the era. I am really excited to hear the new album, you wouldn’t believe it. Sometimes I feel like a kid when a favourite band of mine puts out something new. I get so pumped for it.
As for non metal music, I’m currently repeat spinning the Tame Impala Currents album. I love that to bits. On vinyl it’s a double and the first disc went missing a few years ago. It was just the weirdest thing. A couple of weeks back we were rearranging our house and there it was… covered in dust behind the fridge. THE FUCKING FRIDGE. Cleaned it up and boom. Back in action.
As a musician I am influenced by everything I hear and fall in love with, I think I must mentally break these things down in my head and subliminally borrow them when we record. Whether it be a line of prose or a melody or even an inflection of the way a single word is phrased… I must pick it up from somewhere.
Horror movies have been an obsession since I was a kid and it hasn’t changed. In fact during lock down I am making it my goal to watch at least two a day…
How do you imagine Kurt Cobain would have fared if he hadn’t died? Do you think he would be dragging round the corpse of Nirvana? Do you think maybe Nirvana would have evolved and encompassed the Foo Fighters, or do you think Kurt would have just quit music?
What a great fucking question. In all honesty I think he maybe had one more great record in him, I have often thought about this. Stick with me here.
I was all in at the time those records were originally released. I bought Nevermind the day it came out and was already aware of Bleach but had not discovered it yet. So that’s where I became a Nirvana obsessive. At that exact moment of their career.
With In Utero I was, for a couple of years 100% in, but I remember feeling that Penny Royal Tea and Heart Shaped Box were just using the tired old formula they popularised a couple years before. I think he knew it too, which is why that interview he did, where he said he could see himself going down that REM route, it was like he was looking for a way out of the quiet / loud trap. But it was just one interview and people say stupid shit all the time that they may mean one day and then change their mind the next. I hope he would have followed me in my art rock and weird phase that I went down, but who could say?
I think he would have left the band but he would be back in Nirvana by now for $$$$. That’s what I reckon. The lure of the massive pay day must be delicious. And boy did he have an addictive personality.
Final question…What advice would you give to any young person wanting to get in to a band now, who want to play live and make records?
Hit that practice room. If you love it, even if it means spending all the money you have to do it, then you’re in it for the right reasons. Absolutely go for it. Set your goals, attempt to achieve them and then if you do, awesome. If you don’t then at least you had an ace time trying.
OHHMS current album Close is out now via Holy Roar Records.
Interviewed by: Lee Beamish