Monday, October 20, 2008

Ogre interview

Ogre hail from Portland, Maine and play some excellent doom with a influences from a number of clasic 1970's metal bands. I recently got to check in with them and find out more.

MM- Please introduce your band and tell what instrument you play.

ED CUNNINGHAM: Bass/vocals

MM-Tell us a little about the history of your band.

WILL: Ross and I were in a band before OGRE. We decided one day that the artsy stuff we were performing really wasn't us, so we decided to start a new group that would be closer to our hearts. We were both big fans of 70's rock and metal, and that's the kind of stuff that we wanted to play. We put an ad in a local paper, and Ed was the first person to reply. The chemistry was perfect, and we started writing songs. We put our stuff on the Internet, and we were able to generate a buzz. We eventually were signed by Leafhound Records from Japan. We've played lots of great shows all over, including a week long stint in Japan.

MM-Who are your musical influences?

WILL: Speaking for myself, I would say Sabbath, Deep Purple, early Van Halen, AC/DC, Maiden, Priest, Motorhead, and lots of obscure 70's rock and metal.

ROSS: Pretty much what Will said, but I'll add some doom to the list - Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Revelation are the big three for me. Cirith Ungol too. Above all, though, obscure 70s rock is where I'm coming from: Sir Lord Baltimore, Buffalo, Toad, and many many others that I won't bore you with right now.

ED: All of what Will said, some of what Ross said and I was also a huge fan of early Rush…prolly up to about Hemispheres.

ROSS: How could I forget about Rush? One of our biggest influences --- even though Will would like to ignore that fact.

MM-Your latest album “Plague of the planet” is one 37 minute song. Did you go into this knowing you were going to write one long song or did start as something else and just grow from there? What is the concept behind the song?

WILL: We knew going in that we wanted to do it as one song. I felt it was the natural next step for us, as the songs we were writing kept getting longer and longer.

ROSS: Interestingly enough, we started talking seriously about the "Epic" (as it was called long before it had a real title) right after we wrote and recorded a one-minute song for a compilation that a friend put together. We figured that, after writing our shortest song, we should go for our longest song. In my mind, this epic was originally going to be the third song in a trilogy about Colossus, a character in a couple of our songs, but it eventually mutated into a full-blown storyline incorporating not only Colossus but several other recurring characters from the OGRE songbook.

ED: We usually brainstorm and throw a lot of ideas (some incredibly stupid) around and come up with a framework we all like. Then I usually try to fit whatever’s on my mind at that point into the framework. I’d been thinking a lot about cars/driving lately and it was a challenge to meld that with the Ogre mythology.

MM-What was the recording process for the album like? Was it more or less difficult just doing one song?

WILL: I think it went surprisingly well. We played one take of it straight through from start to finish, and then we went back and re-cut the parts and fine tuned them so we were sure to get the best possible performances of each part. Maybe our great engineer Marc who cut it together would disagree, but I thought it was our smoothest recording experience thus far.

ROSS: That said, I would add that it was a bit nerve wracking, because we had to trust that all the different parts would flow seamlessly once we began the mixing process. It was sometimes hard to imagine the final product when we were cutting takes of single sections. Marc's editing expertise was essential here --- he really should be considered a fourth member of the band on this one!

ED: Yeah, Marc’s got it all over George Martin. It’s way cooler to be the 4th ogre than the 5th Beatle…Ha!

MM-So have you played this one live yet? If so then was it difficult to re-create? If not then will you attempt it at some point?

WILL: We've played it out a bunch of times as a whole, and I don't feel that it loses anything in a live setting. We might lose some of the flourishes of the recorded version, but we make up for it in raw rock energy (I think.) A lot of times we are just able to play just a chunk of it due to time constraints, and that's fun too.

ROSS: The very first time we played it live was a bit of a disaster because Ed's bass amp crapped out right in the middle of the song. Typically, that wouldn't be too much of a problem, but when it happens in the middle of a 37-minute track, it sort of ruins the flow! Since then, we've played it a bunch of times, and it's always fun. It certainly takes a lot of energy to sustain through the whole song, but it feels great when we are hitting that final chord. Best live version of "Plague"? Definitely the first night in Tokyo on our Japan tour, when Hideki from Church of Misery joined us on stage, playing synthesizer and percussion. This was one of the live highlights of my musical career!

ED: I think that WAS the highlight of my musical career…so far….


MM-I love the cover. Who drew it? Are any of your comic book fans?

WILL: I drew it, and yes, I'm a big comic fan. Other fans will probably see the influence of my hero Jack "King" Kirby with the cover artwork. Thanks for the complement!

ROSS: Will is too modest to mention this, but he drew 75% of that cover with a broken hand. And I know I'm biased here, but I think Will created one of the greatest album covers of all time with this one.

ED: yeah, you should see what else he can do with a broken hand.

ROSS: Ummm….next question, please.

MM-Do you use any vintage equipment or do anything special in the studio to help give your music an older or more 1970’s style sound?

WILL: This record was the first one in which I used my vintage Ludwig Vistalites from the 70's. I love them!

ROSS: I play a Gibson SG through a Laney amp, but none of it is vintage. I always hear about bands touting all their vintage equipment and analog this and that, but I don't think vintage necessarily translates into authentic. It's got a hell of a lot more to do with the feel of the performances and the songwriting. That said, I love Will's Vistalites too!

ED: 4001 black and white Rickenbacker…just like Geddy

MM-What are you currently working on?

ROSS: Um, not much right now. We haven't quite figured out where to go after "Plague..." but I'm sure we'll hit on something soon.

MM-Do you have any shows coming up soon?

WILL: I think we'll be taking some time off from live shows for a while.

ROSS: There's a chance (fingers crossed) that we could play a big show in 2009, but I don't want to say anything more for fear of jinxing our chances.

MM-What should someone who comes to see you live expect?

WILL: Raw, honest hard rock with lots of guitar solos!

ROSS: One thing I like about our discography is that it's pretty varied....We've got some straight up 70s riff rock, some chugging metal, some heavy doom. So, if we're in a certain mood or on a bill with certain types of bands, we can alter our set list accordingly. At the Doom or Be Doomed festivals, for example, we focused, naturally enough, on the doom side of our sound. In Portland, we tend to play our more up-tempo stuff, which usually gets the audience pretty pumped up. No matter what, though, it's going to be high energy and LOUD.

MM-Where do you get the inspiration for your song topics?

ROSS: I’ll let Ed take this one on.

ED: Well, like I said, it’s kinda what’s on my mind at the moment along with what we all talked about at the last practice. I’d been thinking a lot about cars (while I was driving) and their effect on the world. Then I found this cool story about how if you looked at the earth from space you might conclude that the automobile is the dominant life-form. Highways are like blood vessels and humans are parasites that live in these “iron cells” that flow through the veins…the highway system spreads and grows like cancer. Plus, I’ve been pretty down on religion as one of the major sources of problems in the world and wanted to know what it might be like to watch a mythology evolve. At the same time, I wanted to address the man vs. machine dichotomy and see what happened if they became one species….plus, the idea of giant robots fucking is pretty cool, too!


MM-This band has been around for almost a decade. How do you think that you have grown or progressed during that time?

WILL: Well, the longer you do something, the better you get at it, so I think we're a better band and better players then we were when we set out. I know that I don't have the same youthful energy that I did when we started, which I actually think is a good thing in terms of performing the music.

ROSS: I think our growth most clearly can be seen in two places: the studio and the live setting. I know that, personally, I used to be pretty timid on stage (probably stemming from years of gazing at my shoes in my prior band!), but now I can let loose and, at least, pretend that I'm some sort of rock god on stage (which is an absolutely ridiculous image for those who know me well). Similarly, I used to hate going into the studio and hearing every little mistake played back through headphones. Now, I think we're all a lot looser in the studio. Recording "Plague" was actually pretty fun!

MM-Are there areas where you think the band needs to improve or anything that you have yet do, but hope to accomplish at some point?

WILL: Sure, I'd love to write new music and do more stuff, but honestly, if we decided to break up tomorrow, I would feel completely fulfilled with all we've been able to do. For a band on our level, I'm really proud of our accomplishments. Anything else we do at this point would be gravy.

ROSS: Playing Japan pretty much was tops for me. It's gonna be hard to beat that experience, but as Will said, I would love to keep writing new music and playing gigs. It would be great to make it to Europe sometime in the near future.

ED: If we got the call to go to Europe or back to Japan, I’d drop what I was doing immediately. It was mind blowing over there.


MM-Obviously you like a number of older bands, pioneers in the field. What do you think of the metal/hard rock in general these days? What current bands do you like?

WILL: In terms of some of the newer bands, I like GRAND MAGUS, GATES OF SLUMBER, BIBLE OF THE DEVIL, TOURTURED SPIRIT, HOUR OF 13 and Phil Swanson's other bands. I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch, but those are the ones that immediately came to mind. There are also a bunch of groups in our hometown of Portland, ME that I'm really into: HATCHETFACE AND THE VIPERS, ELDEMUR KRIMM, BIG COFFIN HUNTERS, PIGBOAT, GHOSTHUNTER, OCEAN, CONIFER and a bunch of others. They're all on the Internet, so check 'em out!

ROSS: Ever since we played the first Doom or Be Doomed festival, it has pretty much been about the Maryland/DC/VA scene for me. John Brenner of AGAINST NATURE/REVELATION fame has become a real good friend of mine since then, and he continually inspires me with what he is able to accomplish with those bands and his label Bland Hand Records. Also, bands such as VALKYRIE, EARTHRIDE, and ORODRUIN are producing some of the best heavy music right now. And, of course, there are the two Japanese bands we played with on our tour: CHURCH OF MISERY (pretty much the heaviest band I've ever seen) and ETERNAL ELYSIUM (absolutely fantastic heavy-space-stoner-doom).

ED: This is kinda lame, but I don’t purposefully listen to much music anymore. It’s loud enough in my head. That being said, I’ve heard most of the above and there’s good stuff in all of it.

MM-Pick the band from each of the following pairs that you prefer and tell why you picked them.

Electric Wizard or Witchcraft
WILL: ELECTRIC WIZARD. One of the heaviest bands ever.

ROSS: I'll go with WITCHCRAFT, pretty much on the strength of their debut. I wasn't a fan of the 2nd album, but I've been digging THE ALCHEMIST. EW's first two albums are absolutely killer, but they lost me sometime after SUPERCOVEN. Sometimes, their songs just drone on for too long! (And, yes, I see the irony of that statement coming from someone who just put out a 37-minute song!)

Bang or Sir Lord Baltimore

WILL: SLB all the way! BANG is great, but pretty erratic. Nothing they ever did comes close to SIR LORD BALTIMORE's "Kingdom Come" album.

ROSS: I'm with Will on this one. "Kingdom Come" is one of my favorite albums of all time.

Cirith Ungol or Saint Vitus

WILL: Very tough, but I would have to give the edge to VITUS. They pretty much define doom metal for me.

ROSS: Goddamn you for this one! Still, it's gotta be VITUS, even though I've been on an UNGOL kick lately. VITUS = DOOM.

Black Sabbath or Pentagram

WILL: I love PENTAGRAM, but nothing will ever eclipse the influence that SABBATH has had on my life, so that's what my answer is!

ROSS: I may listen to PENTAGRAM more these days, but that's probably because every note of the entire Ozzy-era SABBATH catalog has been absorbed into each cell of my body. So, to answer your question: SABBATH, of course.

MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about your band or your music?

ROSS: We're pretty proud of what we've been able to accomplish over the past 9 years, and most of it can be credited to those who support the underground metal scene. So, I'd just like to say thanks to all the websites, zines, blogs, radio stations, and fans around the world who have supported OGRE over the years.

WILL: Thanks for the support, Mark!
ED: Ditto, thanks man

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