Interview: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard
This is the end of this phase of the band. I have no plans (as-yet) to write album 4. That's the honest truth. It’s been a pretty intense 3 years. We are just gonna see how this album does.
Wrexham’s Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard wrap up the trilogy they first started with their debut Noeth Ac Anoeth in 2015, then saw themselves nominated for the Welsh Music Prize in 2017 for their sophomore album Y Proffwyd Dwyll, and now with the imminent release of their third and most expansive album yet, Yn Ol l Annwn, on 1st of March on the New Heavy Sounds label, guitarist Paul Davies reveals the ‘three intense years’, how they wanted to ‘evolve the music’, and how this, spells ‘the end of this phase of the band.’ To find out more, read on…..
E&D: Yn Ol I Annwn is the last of the trilogy which started with Noeth Ac Anoeth and Y Proffwyd Dwyll. Would you care to remind us of the themes running through the trio of albums? And how does the thread continue, on the third part of the trilogy?
Paul: There’s a few themes running through the trilogy. The main elements are the life and death of mankind, worship, personal and mental slavery, the death of the individual and the hive mind.
Noeth starts you in the druid underworld. It’s dark and lonely. Profwydd progresses you out of the underworld into the worldly realm. You witness mankind in its infancy, then adolescence. Kinda like the middle ages. You progress further and witness mankind experiencing the enlightenment. Annwn fast forwards you into the future. Mankind at the mid-point of his existence and ultimately his demise. But where Annwn ends Noeth begins. Like a cycle. Existence is a cycle. So, you finish Annwn, then you can listen to Noeth again.
Some believe that when mankind dies off it will probably evolve again at some point. If we say the sun has 5 billion years left before it dies and to get where we are now it took us 4(ish) billion years to get here from fuck all, then there’s loads of time left for mankind to evolve again. Biogeochemists say that you only need carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur together with salt and a few metals to trigger life. So, as long as the earth and moons rotations are the same and the earth has the same resources there’s a chance the whole thing can start again. So, if the earth isn’t totally fucked by the time we are extinct, it’s plausible that humans can evolve again. We would be competing with the evolutionary branches of species that continue to evolve but humans may have another crack. So, in a few billion years somebody else could be doing this interview. It IS theoretically possible.
E&D: There is a considerable leap in sound from this album – moog use gone beyond mere tinkering, more cello, Jessica’s vocals are higher in the mix, plus more lyrics. It is the sound of the band evolving at a considerable rate and of such high quality but without losing your core sound. How did the album’s ideas and sound this time around take shape?
Paul: I always wanted to evolve the music. The time spent writing and recording this album is like an exponential curve. The first album was dark and kinda minimalist. All the band had a lot of shit going on so it kinda shows in the music. We self-funded and had no label support. It was done in 3 days or something. The second album we had great label support but there was still a bit of a gamble for them. So, we did that in a week. After YPD did so well, the label were like ‘fucking hell how long do you want in the studio for album 3??’. I was like cool, we can make the biggest album we can to date. So, with the knowledge that we had enough studio time, I started to write some stuff. We all love movie soundtracks and 70s prog so I wanted to write something to reflect that. Wes was gonna write another track so he had the same plan. I wanted to do some far-out stuff but still have the big fuck off riff tracks too. I think we got the balance right.
E&D: You have merged the sound of doom, space rock, and film soundtracks rather splendidly into the MWWB sound even further this time around. It also sounds like you have all been listening to a lot of Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. Is that a fair comment? Any other wider influences involved?
Paul: I’ve been a fan of Hawkwind since I was 16 and got into Floyd in me 20s. So, a long time, ha. We’ve got years of music listening behind us. I don’t really listen to music anymore and try not to, especially when I’m writing.
E&D: The band contributed to a tribute Pink Floyd album and, also a collaboration with Slomatics. Was the writing for this album being worked on in conjunction with the other projects? And did they both enhance and/or influence the writing, ideas, for Yn Ol l Annwn?
Paul: I only tend to write for a specific project. So, when we’d done the Slomatics split I had a small break. Then when we’d signed the deal for album 3, I thought ‘shit I better write something’. So, then I went to the rehearsal room with our drummer. And started fucking about with ideas. I’m not one of these who plays guitar at home. I can only write with Carrat, our drummer. Dunno if other people are the same? Once we got something I took me guitar home and did some stuff with synths. It was at this point that the album formed its identity.
E&D: There is a sense that the band are naturally pushing the boundaries beyond the confines of any specific (sub)genres. Was this a primary goal on this album?
Paul: We been listening to ‘doom’ for 25 years but the current scene does not interest us. I’m not gonna slag it off or any bands cos it’s a big thing to write and release music so respect to all the guys and girls that get out there and do it. But we don’t listen to any doom bands nowadays. Most bands are pretty similar. It’s not a negative feeling, it’s just that we aren’t really what you would call metal heads. So, too much metal is boring to us. It’s cool if you like lots and lots of doom but yeah, I suppose it kinda spurred us on to do stuff that isn’t your average doom fare, cos I really follow the modern doom template. We tune low and love fuzz but try and do something that excites us more…
E&D: Are there any standout favourites on the album and why these?
Paul: For me my favourite is ‘Fata Morgana’. Wes wrote that and I think its his best work. I think Jess nailed the vocals too. I tend to pick faults with my own songs but that song is really really good IMO. Its creepy and got great atmosphere. I think out of my own songs it’s gotta be ‘5 days in the Abyss.’ It’s a very therapeutic song and again Jess fucking nailed the vocals. I wanted to paint a picture with sounds and I think we got it. Also, I’m pretty pleased with my lead guitar work at the end. Ha.
E&D: Did the familiarity of Chris Fielding as producer help you expand your sound and implement the ideas, rather than someone new coming in and having to get to know each other’s ways and methods?
Paul: Yes. He’s a good friend. We’ve recorded with him 6 or 7 times or something stupid. He’s very open minded so that’s also a good thing when recording MWWB.
E&D: The album’s artwork is a good reflection of what lies inside the sleeve. Can you tell us more about the design etc?
Paul: As I said before, its the pictogram evolving from the 2 previous albums. This album is a kinda retro future vibe to it. There is a symbol in it but it’s kinda obscured by technology and deep space. You can see circuits embedded in the artwork as well, which I like. I think the colours reflect the songs as well, if that doesn’t sound mad.
E&D: This album is the first to feature bassist Stewart Sinclair. How did he join the band?
Paul: He was our driver/tour manager. We needed a bassist for the album so he was the logical choice due to the fact he is really, nice guy. It’s always been difficult for bass players as me, Wes, Jess and Carrat have known each other for years, so anybody coming in on bass is gonna feel a bit of an outsider but Stu fit in fine.
E&D: I suppose, as it marks the end of the trilogy, it begs the somewhat unfair question of where might the journey go next?
Paul: This is the end of this phase of the band. I have no plans (as-yet) to write album 4. That’s the honest truth. It’s been a pretty intense 3 years. We are just gonna see how this album does. IF we do anything in the next 12 months it will be a synth album. Kinda like a soundtrack to an imaginary film but very little or no guitars. In fact, I’ve pretty much 75% of it now.
E&D: Is there a temptation to play the whole album live at the upcoming album launch gig at the Lexington in North London on 22nd March?
Paul: We will play some tracks off it and some oldies. We’ve always had a warm welcome in London, so wanna play stuff people know.
E&D: What have been the band’s favourite achievements/highlights so far?
Paul: I think for me it’s just making the records. It’s all about the music for us. Obviously, the travelling has been great. We all love travelling so doing something that allows you to travel is always gonna be an achievement.
Yn Ol l Annwn is released on limited edition double vinyl on 1st of March through New Heavy Sounds. MWWB also head out and play the Lexington, London on 22nd of March and Womanby Street, Cardiff 26th of May.