Germany’s Obelyskkh may have one of the oddest monikers in extreme music today, but just as their choice of band name tests all parts of your pronunciation apparatus, so does their music cover all bases in the world of psychedelic, stoner, sludge, doom rock and metal on new record, Hymn to Pan out on Exile on Mainstream Records. They’ve even thrown in a little bit of influence from the likes of Tragedy and From Ashes Rise, with the latter’s Brad Boatright doing the mastering for this, the band’s third album. What follows is an email interview conducted with guitarist/synth player Stuart “The WhizKid” West, which is about as Teutonic sounding a name if there ever was one, eh?
When you first started, it was reported that you were getting all kinds of hassle from the stoner/doom/sludge community for taking three years to release your debut (that the stoner/doom community is giving anyone shit about being late or taking their time is hilariously ironic). Since then, you’ve issued three albums in three years. What has flicked the prolific switch for you?
Well, we are not in a hurry, but we are easily bored. We get bored playing the same shit at every rehearsal. It’s much more fun to create new songs and atmospheres compare to act like a robot and practice the same lame riff over and over and over again. We’ve already finished three new songs for our fourth unnamed album. We have also alot ideas for a EP …. not regular songs more like something connected to Pink Floyds Ummagumma album. Let´s see whats happens in the next few years.
Seriously, could you have picked a more difficult band name to spell or pronounce? For those of us too lazy to look it up (i.e. probably the stoner/doom community), what does the band name refer to? I’m thinking it’s a made up word, but what do I know? Do you find people negatively reacting to it?
First there was the simple idea to call the band Acid Obelisk – yes, this was a very dumb generic idea. Then, we tried to create something “unique” and suddenly there was the name OBELYSKKH born. Sniffin’ glue is the key to the fountain of strange ideas. The name Obelyskkh stands for monolithic hymns; the freedom of creativity. We try create your own microcosmos of heavy tunes. By the way, we don’t give a shit how people reacting to our style, name or ideas. If we like our ideas, then is everything ok. I hope I don’t disappoint all the lovers of anticosmic and occult music too much with my lame stories.
What were you looking to achieve/do different on Hymn to Pan than past albums? Do you feel you achieved your goal? How would you characterise the new album compared to your others?
There is no goal, there is only a flow, and Hymn to Pan has got the flow. If this album would be food, it would taste like a mix between raw, ground meat and whipped cream. The first album, Mount Nysa was full of stoner and retro stereotypes; it was more naive compare to the harsh and heavy White Lightnin’ album. White Lightnin’ was loud – Hymn to Pan is more dynamic. “Less weed more speed” like J.Mascis said.
What, if any, non-musical influences went into the new album’s song writing and/or recording process? Did you find that playing live and touring impacted your song writing in any way?
Woitek, our singer/guitar player, stays a lot at home and read books. He is inspired by Ginsberg, Burroughs, Bukowski and personalities like Manson, Crowley, Albert Hoffmann, Jesco White, Jodorowsky….. Steve, our drummer, is a very neutral person he likes everything and nothing that means totally no inspirations, but he can drum like a machine. Dirty Dave is a loner. He finds his inspiration when he spend weeks alone somewhere in the Franconian mountains in a small cabin. I´m possessed by vintage wrestling and old movies from the seventies. Touring and live situations have totally no influence on our song writing. If you listen to live clips of us, every time we play the ground structure of the song, but all the details are improvised – freedom and chaos. That’s the key to writing songs. We hate scene dogmas.
Was the writing process for the new album any different than the past? If so, were you at all worried about stepping away from a routine and having the result not be up to par? On the same note, if the process was the same as the past, have you ever wanted to shake things up to see what might come out of the band when writing?
Our style to write songs is still the same; one band member comes with a idea/riff and everybody hates this idea – haha! Then, we start to give the riff structure, make it better and zaaaaaaaap there is suddenly a new song born. That’s real witchcraft!!!!
Hymn to Pan has a crustier feel than I remember you having in the past. Do you think that was in any part due to your working with Brad Boatright? Or is it because of your wealth of American influences that you seem to have more of than your peers? What did Brad bring to the new album that you were both expecting and not expecting?
Well, Brad wasn’t the only one involved in this album. He the did the mastering. Our friend Andi Naucke did the mix. The combination Naucke/Boatright is also planned for the future. Both guys understand our sound. We are our own inspiration; we don’t need producers or bullshit like this. All ideas, sounds came from us. We are not copycats, it´s so lame to be a ripoff of some occult/post/whatever beard/hipster bullshit. By the way, the work with Brad/Audiosiege was killer. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
Is the artwork you use directed by you guys or do you give the artist free reign to go nuts and do whatever (s)he wants? What have the reactions been like to the chosen art, especially the new cover and the orgy scene?
The artwork was made by the great and unique Sebastian Feld/Marginal Ink. He is a wizard. His work fit perfectly to our music. We gave him the artwork and only a few buzzwords like “Pan,” “Orgy,” “Wood,” “Decay.” We trust him a lot and this is the second time that we’ve worked with him. He is more like a fifth band member.