Norway’s Barren Womb may have a blue plasticine frog as their mascot, they may have just set themselves up for a lifetime of ribbing by titling their debut album The Sun’s Not Yellow, it’s Chicken and a good number of their promo photos may have the general public wondering how serious they should be taken, but the duo of Timo Silvola and Tony Gonzahl do deliver musically. Said album is a clatter-banging blast of swaggering noisy punk in the vein of Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come. Theirs is a wall of sound that belies the two-man line-up and it doesn’t hurt that there’s the proverbial two tons of rocking fun included in the mix. Why not, we asked ourselves, send them a few email questions and see what sort of ridiculousness we’d get in return? Tony Gonzahl didn’t disappoint.
Can you impart upon us some sort of band history?
Sure. We started playing together as early as 2003 back in Tromsø in a band called The Ghost Of John Holmes. That soon ended, but later we hooked up in Trondheim to form Like Rats From A Sinking Ship. In 2011, that band called it a day as well and we started this racket. The duo format seemed interesting, so we figured we’d give that a try. We started playing shows and releasing records in the spring of 2012 and things have just progressed naturally from there.
My wife works in birth, labour and childbirth education and there’s a chance she probably knows someone who might be offended by your choice in band names. Has the phrase “you’re always going to offend someone, even if you’re not trying” applied to you in this regard?
People always find something to be offended about, but that’s their problem not ours. We get offended by people who get offended by people instead of focusing on more pressing issues. Barren Womb depict our way of seeing the world in general.
Was it always your intent to have the band exist as a two-piece? Are you waiting for the right people to come along or planning on staying this way?
The extreme limitations of being a duo are both challenging and liberating at the same time, so we intend to keep it that way.
I hear a lot of Refused, Beehoover and Melvins in your sound. Agree/disagree? What handfuls of bands can the two of you agree upon?
Refused have been in our mothers milk, for sure. Melvins are cool and Beehover are ok. Since the list of bands we agree on is longer than John Holmes’ schlong, we won’t bore you with it and instead list the ones that have been instrumental in shaping our sound: Converge, Darkthrone, Jabba the Butt, Black Sabbath, Hot Snakes, Fugazi, NomeansNo, Primus.
Norway will always and forever to the rest of the world be known for black metal, even more so than cross country skiing and speed skating. How big a piece of the cultural jigsaw puzzle is black metal at home? How many Norwegian black metal dudes are admitted fans of Barren Womb?
Hard to say, they tend to stay in their caves mostly. In our experience the true Black Metal gnomes usually occupy the backstage, drink all our beer and leave, and new Black Metalers look like indie folks so they’re not easy to spot in a crowd.
How long had you been working on the material for the new album? Was there a particular mindset you were going into its creation as opposed to how you approached your previous EPs and singles?
We started piecing the record together last April from jams we had laying around and recorded in September, so the whole writing session was pretty quick and unforced. Making music is like being a blind man at an orgy, you have to feel things out. The mood and mindset didn’t differ much from previous recordings, we’re still pushing ourselves as hard as we can to create something we deem meaningful.
Tell us about recording it. Stories about hard drive crashes/erasure and spilling coffee on mixing consoles are always welcome.
The whole recording process took us a weekend at our rehearsal space, a.k.a. Better Than Your Fucking Studio Studios. We’re most stoked about using a couch to sound proof the room, ’cause it’s still there. Recording wise, we are dogmatic in our approach: If it doesn’t work after two takes, it won’t work on the third. The next two months were spent learning how to mix since we got the brilliant idea of doing this ourselves.
What’s the story behind the album’s title? What other goofy sayings got turned down before you decided on The Sun’s Not Yellow, it’s Chicken?
Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief, looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief, saying “Tell me great hero, but please make it brief. Is there a hole for me to get sick in?” The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly, saying “Death to all those who would whimper and cry” And dropping a barbell he points to the sky, saying…
You have a fair number of song titles that are entertaining in and of themselves (‘Will you be God’s Art or Satan’s Graffiti,’ ‘Obi-wan Chernobyl’ and ‘Zombies Never Go Out of Style’). How applicable are these titles to the song topics? What sort of business are you generally singing about?
You know how bands have working titles for their songs, then later discard them when they come up with the real titles? Well, we don’t discard ours. Sometimes the lyrics and title sync up perfectly, sometimes the link must be searched for. We’re mostly singing about the end and the mechanics leading towards it.
Tell us about your mascot and cover album super-star, Mr. Frog.
Mr. Frog used to do drugs. He still does, but he used to, too. He was summoned by Tony’s Black Metal skills and given life by Timo’s mushroom tea. Mr. Frog is one of the old ones. He’s the beginning of the end, a race car driver and French people love him.
Once this album is out and available, what’s Barren Womb’s plan? Is there a plan?
A nature documentary with Tony Nittenborough.