Interview with Wo Fat

Wo Fat Header

Wo Fat are a band that know how to write a good tune. Hot off the back of their stunning sixth album, 2016’s Midnight Cometh, they’re already thinking of what comes next for the band.

If you haven’t heard Wo Fat before I urge you to check them out. As far as I’m concerned they’re one of the best bands out there playing stoner/doom rock/metal.

Introduce us to Wo Fat

Wo Fat is a psychedelic blues doom trio from Texas. We have been playing since around 2003 and have released 6 studio albums, a couple of splits and a live album.

What are your influences?

Even though our sound is pretty heavy with lots of heavy riffs, it is very much based on a foundation of the blues, so the blues, especially people like John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough are big influences on us. Our music also takes a good bit of influence from a lot of the heavy 70’s – obviously Sabbath, but also bands like Cactus, Blues Creation, Energy, Free, Master’s Apprentice, Mahogany Rush and Hendrix. We also are inspired by 70’s fusion – Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, etc.. With our music we try take these influences as well as the heaviness of bands like Sleep and Penance and make it all work together. We try to mix a solid structured approach of heavy riffs with more free-wheeling jamminess.

Name five things you’ve listened to recently that you’d recommend

Arrowhead – Desert Cult Ritual
Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire
Orbital Express – Light Years From Home
Vokonis – The Sunken Djinn
Droids Attack – SciFi or Die

Tell us about your latest release – Midnight Cometh

Midnight Cometh is our sixth studio album and I think the best so far. I think it’s maybe the darkest and heaviest of our records in some ways, but also maybe the most diverse in terms of the sound. The title refers to the Doomsday Clock, which is something created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to reflect how close humanity is to self-annihilation. At the time we were writing the songs for Midnight Cometh, the clock was moved up to 3 minutes to midnight, with midnight representing the destruction of humankind. This was done partly because of climate change, but also because of the nuclear threat that we now face. This last January, the clock was moved up to 2 and a half minutes to midnight. I’m sure you can guess why. This is the closest to midnight the clock has been since the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 60’s. This is essentially what the lyrical concept of the album is about, but as we usually do, we use horror and some old blues folklore imagery metaphorically to talk about corporate greed and the propaganda and obfuscation by the fossil fuel industry to keep people confused and in the dark about the severity of climate change. Musically, we continued what we had started on previous albums, like The Black Code and The Conjuring, but I think took things a step further. Heavier riffs at time but also some expansive jamming.

Wo Fat Band

What’s the process you use for writing songs?

I have written most of the songs, but Michael has been contributing a couple songs to each of the last couple albums. Generally I have a partially or mostly formed song idea or ideas that I bring in to rehearsal. We will then jam on the ideas and record them. We’ll listen and see what is working and what needs to be changed. Often times things don’t end up sounding in real life like they do in my head. As we play something and jam on it, it usually transforms a bit as each of us puts our own interpretation on it. Lyrics are usually the last thing written for a song. The riffs come first.

What’s your favourite song on the album and why?

Probably There’s Something Sinister in the Wind. It’s got a driving metal heaviness to it and has some very intense African-influenced rhythmic things going on. There are a number of influences that inspired different parts of this song and it has a lot of the different vibes that I hope to have as part of our music. It’s also a really fun song to play live.

How do you think your music will progress in the future?

We got a new bass player, Zack, last summer and he brings a whole new dimension to our sound. We haven’t actually started writing the new record yet, but I can tell that there will be a new level of jamminess and intensity that I think we will be bringing to the new material.

How did you choose the cover artwork?

The artwork was created for us by David Paul Seymour. I gave him the lyrics as well as mixes of the record and discussed the concepts behind the lyrics and then he did his thing. It’s important to work with an artist that is on the same page so that you can trust them to come up with something that is cool and works with the vibe we’re looking for. We basically let David interpret things and do what the music and lyrics inspired. I think the art came out great.

Wo Fat

How important is good album art to you?

The album art is very important to us. With each album we pick an artist to work with that we respect tremendously and who has an aesthetic that jibes with the conceptual aspects of the record. We work with them and discuss the lyrical ideas and imagery and then we let them come up with their own take on what they visualise that works with what we have in mind. To me, the art is a very important part of the whole package. It puts your mind in the right place and sets the stage for the correct imagery that we hope is in mind when you’re listening to the record. Much like a lot of classic horror filmmakers, like Mario Bava, or like a writer like H.P. Lovecraft, we’re maybe more concerned with the vibe and imagery that is conjured than with the overall message and meaning, despite the fact that a lot of our songs have fairly direct and earnest messages. But this is partly why I like to use horror imagery metaphorically. It creates a vibe, but in a way, I think it also accentuates the seriousness, in a somewhat unusual way, maybe, of the message.

With music becoming increasingly digital in nature, what’s your take on the digital/physical debate and the current state of the music industry?

That is a really hard question to answer. I, honestly, have no idea what to expect from the future of the music industry. The vinyl business is steadily climbing, yet the attitude that music should be free, and art should be free and fuck the artists who invest their time, money and lives to make the art is becoming the norm in society. This is a very disturbing trend to me because it diminishes something that has been an integral part of human society since the beginning. Art is one of the things that makes us human and to essentially make the societal statement that it has no monetary value (other than maybe fractions of a penny) is not a good reflection on where are as a society. At the same time though, like I said, the vinyl market is very strong and within our own genre, we do very well selling vinyl and I think the fans in our genre happily support the artists and the music and do see value in it. But I don’t think that is the attitude with society as a whole, but this kind of support from our fans is one of the things that really makes me happy to be a part of the stoner rock/doom metal world. It really has a very communal feeling. Internationally.

But the thing that many people don’t think about is the fact that the vast majority of musicians and bands in the world are not making a living from their music and they’re not having everything paid for by a huge record label. The days of major record label deals for rock bands is a relic of the past now. Most bands pay for everything themselves and if they’re lucky, they get on a small independent label that will front money for manufacturing costs of product and PR, which they then usually have to pay back. They spend their free time writing and rehearsing, spend money on gear and spend money on recording costs, and then people expect to just listen to their entire catalog on Spotify whenever they feel like it without ever buying the album, and no, the monthly fee to spotify or Apple doesn’t cover the bands’ costs for everything they’ve put into it because for thousands of plays on Spotify, the bands see fractions of a dollar. Our music is on Spotify and I hope people listen to it. But I really would prefer people understood what is involved in the making of music and supported directly and actively. I don’t listen to Spotify and I’m usually not super up-to-date on new releases because I can’t afford to buy everything new that comes out and I also just don’t want to listen to it, other than maybe a little preview, unless I own it. That’s just my own thing because I know the other side of it. The publicity is great for bands like us. But it’s also bands like us that pay for everything themselves. Obviously we’re not in this for the money or we would’ve come up with something much more marketable, but we do need to be able to cover costs or it can’t keep going.

Playing live – essential or pointless?

Ultimately playing live is essential. We’re not a band that play live all that much simply because of other obligations in life that make it hard to do, but I would love to be playing live more and nothing makes a band tighter and more in sync than playing a lot. Plus, even though we have really done most of our work building a fanbase online, the old school method of just getting out there and playing is tried and true.

What are the next steps for Wo Fat?

We plan to start writing the new record this summer. I have lots of ideas in my head about songs right now but we just haven’t been able to really focus on new stuff quite yet, but this summer we’re not playing many shows and we’re going to focus on that. Also, we’re re-releasing our live album, Live Juju, that was recorded at Freak Valley Festival in Germany in 2014, on Ripple Records in the fall and with this release, it will be a double record that includes more live material recorded in December 2016 with our new bass player, Zack. It’s pretty badass and we’re stoked about it.

Any final words?

Check us out on tour if possible. We don’t have the opportunity to be on the road that often so come hang with us when you can.

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