The sludge-heavy stoner rock of Hark takes on myriad new dimensions throughout the Welsh quartet’s exapansive, high-octane sophomore full-length Machinations, out later this week via Season of Mist. Decibel recently interrogated guitarist/vocalist Jimbob Issac about the brutal and harrowing personal roots of the album’s thematic content, finding the unlikely inspirational sweet spot between Azeaila Banks, S.O.D., Unsane and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the way playing large, prestigious festivals can expand a band’s sense of what is possible.
Check out the chat below as well as a full stream of Machinations.
There’s some interesting stuff about the lyrics in the accompanying press materials — it seems like you’re trying to address some things more deeply than just cool phrasings.
Ok, so to be frank as I feel necessary here, I experienced a highly significant trauma at the start of the writing process — a violent attack and physical assault. It opened up a floodgate of of deeply subconscious anger which of course got poured into the lyrics. It’s as if the purging in the lyrics has done just that, and helped push me into a new phase in life. Since the recording, my therapy has finally enabled me to let go of my age-old weed dependency — which I now realize somewhat infused with and informed the reasons for my assault — mine, I own it now.
Aside from what personal things went into the lyrics on that deeper plan, more surface level thematic threads in Machinations are based on my view of the complexities in modern living and a commentary on the current socio-political and technological climate. As with our last record, the title is overarching, as an analogy for the cerebral workings of the human condition and the current state of the collective consciousness. All in tandem with the technologically interfacing, digital world that we’re all a part of.
We live in complex times, and Machinations pertains to the internal and external experience of these times. I feel like a lot of science fiction has come true, and we’re really are living in the future in that sense. Philip K. Dick and George Orwell could be considered prophets in my eyes. There is a spiritual deficit and disconnect, we’re encouraged to make our own illusory worlds via the internet, and I’m very interested Descartes’ simulated reality theories as having manifested in the current climate.
The band pretty seamlessly and uniquely melds all these related-by-fairly-divergent styles. Can you tell me what the original vision was for the band and how much it changed as you followed the path to Machinations?
Well, we just write what is instinctive to us. The foundations of Hark will always lie in the UK sludge/stoner/D.I.Y metal scene, and from my sixteen years in Taint, but we all contribute to the writing of Hark songs and we all have a ton of different influences. Collectively, we listen to everything from rock, thrash and black metal to hardcore, hip-hop, jazz, prog, blues, country, pop and electronica. We knew we wanted expand our palette, and having Joe (Harvatt) on second and lead guitar is exactly what we wanted. Our original intention during the formation of Hark was to be a four-piece but it didn’t work out at the time, so Joe finally allowed us to go windscreen as a friend recently coined it. I can’t think of a better person to broaden our vision with, and of course Tom (Shortt) has stepped in marvelously on bass since writing.
There are a few elements that I can’t quite place — are there inspirations, either compositional or simply rooted in vibe, that are perhaps nontraditional or outside the usual metal scope?
It’s great that you can pick up vibes from outside the metal boundaries. I really feel like what we create isn’t always as conscious and definite as some people seem to require their music to be. The happy accidents, creative and energetic friction in the rehearsal room is where the real magic comes from. The unforeseen. Again, we’re simply music fans, across the board.
Who knows? I might’ve picked up some vocal cadence/phrasing subconsciously from my recent obsessions with Die Antwoord and Azeaila Banks or from having been re-visiting The Cult and S.O.D along with some prime-era Metallica and along with my timeless connection with Quicksand’s Slip. Joe’s lead chops come from Stevie Ray Vaughan as much as they do from Dimebag Darrel. [Drummer] Simon [Bonwick]’s on-point drumming comes as much from his Lars and Igor Cavalera worship as it does from his love of Thin Lizzy’s Brian Downey and The Police’s Stewart Copeland. We want as much presence on the bass as I hear in Black Sabbath and as much gnarl as The Jesus Lizard and Unsane. I feel like there are some transcendental moments in the segue that we titled “Comnixant 3.0” which transitions into “The Purge,” that could be referred to with a prog-rock reference point yet conversely could be undefinable in the sense that it is made up from one of the many subconscious moments that we reach for in the rehearsal room.
Talk to me about the lessons learned between the first full-length and Machinations. How did that affect the trajectory of the band and how you got down to the shred this time out?
We toured a lot, and hit Europe and the UK many times with Clutch, Red Fang, Prong and KEN mode. We’ve all grown as individuals and musicians/artists naturally of course, and so this all fed into where we’re at for Machinations. I think we’ve instinctively become more of a family unit since Joe joined, too, and we all feel truly cut from the same or highly similar cloth. Essentially we’re coming from the same place, and have really allowed each other to grow in every respect.
You’ve played some prestigious fests. What was like and did those shows raise the stakes for you as far as what you saw the band capable of accomplishing going into Machinations?
Absolutely! Slots at Roadburn, Hellfest, Bloodstock, Summer Breeze, Sylak and Damnation festivals all really made us aware just how much we can give to the crowd in a festival environment. We never were shy, but the more we’ve tackled the bigger stages, the more our confidence has risen. It’s been hugely rewarding to give that amount of people something to hang their jacket’s on in the festival setting.
The record drops in a couple days. What’s the plan?
We do some album launch shows in Wales and England, then we head straight out to Europe for three weeks with Conan. We’re friends with those guys, so it’s an honor to be asked out for it. It should be a hell of a trip, and we’re hitting places like Poland and Hungary for the first time. Can’t wait to get out there and continue the Purge!