Tuesday, October 23, 2012

... in depth INTERVIEW with Kent Stump from WO FAT !!!

After having reviewed last month this sonic journey full of such outstanding heaviness in groove and spaced-out psychedelic jaming that is "The black Code", I felt like an absolute necessity to interview WO FAT...

With this new album and association with Small Stone rds combined, it looks like WO FAT starts a new 2nd life which could lead them at the firmament of the worldwide Stoner scene; time finally seems to do justice to those Texas riffmasters who have always had a guideline clearly defined, cohesive and authentic.
Check out the album if not done yet, this is really one of the distinctive highlights of the year, watch out for their 1st European tour next spring too... as for now, read what Kent (guit/voc) has to say, this is extremely interesting and helpful to fully enjoy the richness of this awesome band ! Thanx so much man and indeed hope to see and meet you guys next April...


           Hi Kent, thanx for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s an honour to have WO FAT interviewed in T.O.P. !  Well, there’s a great actuality concerning the band with « the black code », could you tell us something about the recording process please ? Did you push further the idea  that you had for the Chupacabra album with « keeping more of a live-band feel to it » ?
    Thank you!  Yes, I hadn’t really thought of it specifically like that, but I do think that “The Black Code” is a continuation of “…Chupacabra”.  I think we had a very similar approach, but maybe tried to take some of those ideas a little further.  As with the Chupacabra album, we wanted the album to feel very live and urgent and I think, in terms of the outcome we achieved that, but also in the execution of it, “The Black Code” is definitely our most live album to date as far as the recording process goes.  I’ve always felt that it’s important to all play together in the studio to get the basic tracks down, even if we end up redoing some things and adding to it later, but it’s important to do that because you get a better vibe and groove when we’re all feeling it together – flowing together and moving together.  With this album, there’s more of that than before and I think it’s also rawer in some ways because we were more concerned about capturing a vibe and a feel than we were about achieving some sort of perfection.   
        I record and mix our albums myself and we produce it all ourselves together, so from a recording standpoint it was very similar to before.  We try and stay as analog as possible and are lucky enough to have access to a great studio with really bad ass gear.   We did get some different sounds though, partly because all three of us are always on a quest for better, heavier, more rockin’ tones and sounds.  Each of us a made some sort of upgrade gearwise between the previous album and this one.  For me on the guitar, it was some new pickups from Lace that are absolutely killing!  They gave me some pickups to try out and I loved them and became an endorsee for them, and they actually are a pretty important part of the guitar sound on this record.   
         « The Black Code » is your 1st album on SSR, of course I think this opens new doors in terms of exposition, tours, distribution… was it also the case for the recording budget ? Do you feel that this deal gives  you some kind of new fresh confidence for the future of WO FAT ?
     This deal definitely gives us a confidence in the future of Wo Fat.  We felt like this was a prime time to make the move to a label like Small Stone.  “Noche del Chupacbra” received a really good reception and we felt like there was a bit of a buzz going because of that and we wanted to use that momentum and step things up to another level, which is why we wanted to get “The Black Code” finished and out fairly quickly.   Even this early on, before physical cd’s or vinyl have even been released yet, we’re already seeing the benefits of having the Small Stone name behind us.   I think more people are taking notice of us and the Roadburn and Desertfest invites are probably partly due to that as well.

        The new album  is centered on a different more sci-fi related motif, how did this mature ? did you compose with that in mind from the beginning or did it came later ?
     I knew early on when first thinking about the lyrics that I wanted to change the vibe up a bit from what we had done before.  On “Chupacabra” we used more swampy, classical horror imagery mixed with some old blues and hoodoo/voodoo ideas.  I  wanted something more sci fi oriented but I still wanted to stick with some of the Lovecraft/Robert E. Howard influences as well so it’s kind of a modern sci fi/digital take on that old school pulp horror/weird tales writing.  The concept comes from thinking about how connected we are these days and the fact that there’s digital data flying all around us all the time that we can’t see, and so the idea is this: what if somehow, some sort of code is discovered that unlocks things that were better left alone.  Doors to other dimensions or realities that let in digital demons that can travel through the cloud and the networks to reach anywhere that’s connected.   It’s not really a story as much as a collection of loosely related short tales or poems about this concept.  It’s mostly about being enslaved and controlled unwittingly by sinister forces through this technology that is so pervasive and that we all use all the time and that seems so harmless.  As the concept took shape over time, I did write lyrically with that in mind.   
     Musically wise, is there anything new and/or special you wanted to achieve with the Black Code that you didn’t or couldn’t with previous albums ?
      Hmm…that’s a tough question.   I don’t know that we were really going for anything specifically new as much as we’re trying to really hone and perfect what we do.  I think the three of us have an attitude of never being completely satisfied – in other words, that we’ve never quite arrived or accomplished what we’ve set out to do and that we can always reach further and push ourselves harder musically.   I’ve mentioned this before, but we have, what I consider to be, a very jazz oriented approach to our music.  Music is about the passage of time and the interaction of different musicians with each other in time and the spontaneous reaction to what each other is doing.  And there are those fleeting moments when everything comes together and the grove is super hard and heavy and it’s those moments of perfection that we search for and strive for.    It’s about more than just robotically playing a riff.  There’s an intangible element, or a number of intangibles really, that make something just totally badass.   I think with each album, while we focus on trying to write songs that we think are heavy and killer, we are also trying more and more to capture some of that more elusive synergistic vibe as well.   I think our approach to the songwriting was very similar to “…Chupacabra” but with the intention of maybe getting a bit heavier in certain ways and taking things a little further.  It’s hard for me to say whether that is noticeable to anyone else, but I think to us it certainly feels like we did that. 
       Our songs, as they have always been to a certain extent, are a balance of heavy riffing and open jamming and I think that, because we’ve been jamming together for a long time and growing together as musicians, we have reached a new level of cohesiveness and communication that works really well with this kind of approach.
     Chupacabra introduced quite many percusions, not always easy to notice though ; did the different general mood of The Black Code still favour their introduction ?
     Yeah, we did have some percussion happening on Chupacabra.  In hindsight, I wish we had made it a bit louder in the mix.  On Chupacabra, on the parts that had percussion, we were using some African and Cuban types of percussion and we were specifically trying to cop kind of an African vibe – along with bit of  a 70’s jazz fusion feel with a hint of Coltrane sprinkled in there.  The Black Code didn’t really have anything that called for that same type of approach, but we did do some other things with percussion.  Mostly on “Hurt at Gone”, which has a funky New Orleans kind of groove to it and we added some stuff to compliment that groove, like a brake drum and a huge     marching bass drum.   There is also a short Afro-Cuban inspired cowbell groove on “Shard of Leng.”   We all have fairly wide ranging musical influences and I dig cool percussion and I like integrating it into our music if it enhances what we’re doing.  I don’t want it to distract and be gimmicky or take away from the heaviness though, so it can some kind of a balancing act figuring out what works and what’s right for the groove.
     Between 2009 and 2012, you have recorded 3 albums which is very productive, do you think you could maintain this rate of composition and production in the future or maybe the fact of touring will « compel » you to need more time to compose and record next album ?
      Yeah, I guess that is fairly productive.  Ideally, I would like to put out an album every year and half or so, but it’s not always that easy to do.   Because of our families and our work commitments at home, we probably won’t be doing a lot of extensive touring unless things really take off big for us.  But until and if that happens we have to continue to make a living and pay our bills and probably do shorter, very strategic tours.  But considering the fact that we take our time when it comes to the songwriting process, I could see it taking us longer to do the next record if things continue to get busier for us.  We like to jam on new songs for a while and let them ferment and organically settle and morph into what they ultimately become, which sometimes takes a while.    We have one song recorded and are currently working on another that will be for a split with Earthride that we have had in the works for a long time that will be coming out on Totem Cat Records hopefully early 2013.  As soon as we finish that we’ll probably start thinking about the next album.   I do want to continue to ride the wave of momentum that we seem to get from each release, so I would hate for it to take us too long to get another album out.

     Did Michael contribute again in the composition and recording process of The Black Code (like he did for a song in the previous album) ?
       Yes, Michael did contribute a song to this album.   He wrote “Hurt at Gone”.  I think I’ve probably said this before, but it’s cool to have Michael adding his voice to the composition side of things.  He has a different take on things from me and it helps to add some more spice to the mix.  “Hurt a Gone” has a bit of a different feel from the other songs, but still fits in nicely on the album.  It is a mean, deep south, funky jam with lots of slide guitar on it and we were drawing some inspiration from bluesman Seasick Steve as well as good ole R.L. Burnside on this one, but taking it a little further south, with a bit of a New Orleans style to it and rockin’ it out a little harder. 
     What did you think about the Broken Beard’s review conclusion telling that « the truth about Kyuss Lives!  is that they caught wind of The Back Code  and decided that continuing with the reunion was completely pointless » ?! (of course it can not be used by respect and humility but it could have been a good tagline !)
      Man, I read that and just laughed!  That was hilarious!  I loved that whole review.  Great use of imagery and words there.  I’m flattered and humbled that he would say that about us and I’m really glad that he dug the album so much.  I saw Kyuss Lives when they came through Dallas and it was an absolutely wicked show!  They just killed.  We strive to rock like they did.  It’s a shame that things took a bad turn legally for everybody. 


Next April you’ll be playing at Roadburn, do you expect it as a probable highlight in WO FAT’s history ?  I guess this logically  implies that there’s a tour in the works for Europe at this period, I’ve heard about  1 or 2 dates in France, do you already have details about that 1st coming in Europe ? Except this very special date, is there any country/city that you’re particularly looking forward to play in ?
     We are so stoked about coming to Europe next spring and I hope this is one of many highlights to come in Wo Fat’s career.   This is a goal that we’ve had since we started playing together, and Roadburn, in particular, is something that I’ve known about for a long time and have wanted to play since I first found out about it.   We are also going to be playing Desertfest London, which I’m really excited about as well, and we’ve got some other things in the works as well.   Like I said earlier, because of our commitments at home, this first trip to Europe is going to be fairly short, but we’re going to try and hit as many places as we can fit in while we’re there.  I’ve never been to Europe, so I’m just excited to see it all.   We’re going to be touring with our Small Stone labelmates Abrahma, which, I think is going to be a really good time.  One thing I would love to do is to get some of the other bands from Europe that I really dig on some of the shows with us.   If everything goes well with this trip, we hope to do a longer, more extensive tour in the not to distant future.
     You work as recording engineer in an important Studio of Dallas, is there any band(s) that has particularly helped you to work with towards the development of WO FAT’s sound throughout the years ?
     I’ve worked as a recording engineer for a long time and have worked on a very wide variety of musical styles with a lot of different types of musicians which has been really cool, and just the different perspectives I’ve gotten on music from the many musicians I’ve recorded has helped me to constantly learn more about recording.  To me, the engineering/mixing side of things is similar to playing music.  It’s something that you can spend your whole life doing and always improve and continually learn new things and hear new things.  And I also feel mixing a song is like a musical performance – I get into a flow and a groove when mixing and when that’s happening, it always turns out better.  It’s yet another dimension of the music, the recorded version, that is.  The mix is an important part in helping to get the essence and aesthetic of the music across to the listener in a dynamic and larger than life (if the mix is done well) way that will grab them emotionally. 
     I recently worked with a couple of my favorite Dallas-Fort Worth bands in the studio, which was a really cool, because they’re both friends and  killer bands that Wo Fat plays with a lot.  One is a band called Mothership, who just signed to Ripple Records, and  I also did an album with a band called Stone Machine Electric.  Both of these albums from these two bands are smokin’ and I highly recommend seeking them out.  I’m not sure if the Stone Machine Electric is available yet.   They’re both heavy and very rockin’ but are each very much there own vibe, which is representative of this really good scene for heavy, stoner, psychedelic, doomy rock that we’ve got brewing in the Dallas area right now. 
      Is there any chance to see  a video released for a song of the new album ? even if nothing is yet planed, I’m sure you already have had various ideas about that ?
    We have talked about that, but we don’t have anything solid planned yet.  We would definitely like to do that, but right now our budget is kind of tight trying to get everything together for going to Europe.  We’ll have to see how things go, but we would like to do that.

     I’ve seen on your FB page that new merchandising is in the works, when can we expect the new Black Code T-shirt to be ready ? Any other new stuff planed ?
      We’ve got a couple of wicked new Black Code t shirt designs waiting and ready to roll.  I’ve been waiting until we have cd’s to put up for sale on our website so I can put the shirts up at the same time.  I expect that to happen in the next week or so.  Certainly by November 13, which is the official release date for the cd’s. 
       We also just launched a kickstarter campaign to help us raise money for our plane tickets to Europe and as rewards for donations we’ve got some other really bitchin’ items, some of which can only be gotten through kickstarter.  We’ve got 2  different t shirt designs created specially for this by 2 bad ass artists named Mike Lawrence and Joshua Foster.   Mike Lawrence will also be making some hand screenprinted Wo Fat posters that are limited edition and numbered by the artist.   And we got Alexander von Wieding, who you will be familiar with as the artist that did the art for “Noche del Chupacabra”, “The Gathering Dark” reissue and “The Black Code”, doing a one of a kind pair of Old Skool Vans slip ons with Wo Fat artwork painted on them.  They should be pretty amazing. 
       Anyway, we’re doing this kickstarter campaign because we are funding this entire Europe trip ourselves, and individually, we just don’t have a lot of money so it’s difficult for us to come up with the up front cash needed for airfare, so any and all help that anyone out there can give us will be tremendously helpful and greatly appreciated.
     Here’s a link to the kickstarter page:
     MERCI beaucoup Kent, anything to add ?
    Thank you!  Those were some great questions.  We’ll hopefully see you when we are in Europe.


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