The Abominable Iron Sloth are probably one of the heaviest bands you’re likely to hear. We are talking Rik Waller in an Ingmar Bergman film heavy, and he is driving a truck, and the truck is filled with clones of Rosie O Donnell and they are all vomiting because they’ve been eating nothing but pies and ipecac. Very heavy.
I have been a fan since I bought their first album waaaaay back in 2006 and the wait for the record has been more agonising than being stopped mid-wank by your mum. But it’s ok, they’re finally back with an excellent new album The Id Will Overcome, and because I’m a bigshot music journo twat, I greased the wheels of commerce (ie: sent an email) and managed to get an interview. Read on loveydogs…
First things first, mucho thanks for the interview. Is it nice to be back in the spotlight, so to speak?
It’s a very small spotlight, more like a desk lamp, but yeah it’s nice. More than anything I’m just excited to be back on the road and not working for a living. It’s great.
The new album’s been a long time coming. I remember you talking about it way back in 2008. Is it a relief to see it finally out?
Yeah it’s a massive relief. When the first CD came out in 2006, most of those songs were already 1-3 years old so I was ready at that time to write some new material. I was living a pretty chaotic life, getting married to a stranger and drinking myself delusional almost daily so I just wasn’t in a good spot. There were also problems with a label that I’d found to distribute it, and I was unable to find bandmates who took it seriously beyond the weekend warrior level so it was just a huge collision of shit going wrong. I’m glad it’s behind me.
Just before you started working on The Id you announced that the band were to be no more, but then changed your mind scant months later. What prompted you to quit, and then subsequently decide to stick at it after all?
I’d booked a whole UK tour with the intention of having the Will Haven guys there with me, but it was a bit of a clusterfuck with the label we were on deciding they wouldn’t pay for plane tickets and Will Haven deciding to write a new album instead. I tried to carry on the UK dates with a couple of dudes I didn’t know well filling in on drums and bass, and it just went pretty horribly all around. They had never done any sort of touring, and really just didn’t have the capability to handle the stresses that tour provides so I was pretty depressed about it all. At the same time there was still the spark in me that knew that Sloth was what I wanted to do, and I never did extinguish that entirely.
It sounds like you’ve had bad luck on the road (having to sell instruments amongst other things). Was it the first tour you’d been on? Are you better prepared to deal with the kind of shit that the lifestyle throws at you now?
I’d done 3 or 4 tours in the US, but the logistics of touring Europe are so much more complex. I was basically at the mercy of the label and booking agent, and they sent me a budget which made it look entirely possible. It wasn’t until I charged over 2 grand in plane tickets to my credit card that we arrived and realized that the van our label had rented cost about $250 dollars a day (instead of 50), and didn’t even have a seat for my wife, who subsequently rented an apartment for another 2 thousand bucks. It was no biggie to the label, or the pop punk band we had opening for us, but it was a pretty serious reality check for me. I quit drinking a year ago, which has been the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Alcohol fuels the fire of insanity that flows through my veins, and cutting off that source of chaos has made me far more satisfied in life and determined to make this band work.
The Id Will Overcome works much better as a collection of songs than your debut. Did you keep this in mind when writing it, or was it just a happy coincidence?
It was definitely my intention to make this album more fluid. The first album was actually 2 separate EP’s that we recorded a year apart in a garage in 2004 and 2005. When I recorded the first 4 songs, sloth was no sort of real band, it was just me writing some diddlies and being bummed that I couldn’t find anyone to seriously play with me. I played shows with various friends around town under several names including Bloodsocket and Christrape before I eventually settled on being a Sloth band. The Will Haven dudes heard the first EP and were pretty stoked on it, so they started jamming with Cayle and I as we shared a practice space in Sacramento. They joined us in the garage to record 5 more songs and eventually that became known as the first Sloth record. With the new album, I though about all the possibilities for it over the last 4 years and knew pretty well what I wanted it to sound like. Part of the advantage of me writing all the songs and lyrics is that I see it like a story from start to finish, each song has it’s specific place and meaning in a greater overall structure. Nothing I do is by accident.
You’ve a new line-up for the new material. Have you found ‘your guys’ now, or could it change drastically, should you do another record?
It’s always open to change, there have been over 25 people in this band, but playing with Andre and Aubrey has been the most satisfying so far. Both of them have extensive touring experience and I feel like we all know what it is we want to do in this band. There may be some changes or additions to the lineup, but I really hope both of them hang in there.
The Id is drastically different from the self titled, with a much more raw, punk sound. What brought that on?
I think The Id actually demonstrates what we sound like as a band in a live setting. The first CD was very cheaply recorded, but it was mastered by Eric Stenman who just polished the tracks and made it sound pretty huge and impressive for what it was. I like the first CD, but I never really felt that it captured what we sounded like live, which is essentially a doomy punk band. A lot of people who had heard the cd were somewhat surprised when they heard us live, and I didn’t want that to be the case with this album. I think it worked.
One thing I like about you is that you’re ostensibly doomy as hell, but you don’t write songs that go on for 8 million years or something. Though you could probably easily write a big doomy epic, do you sometimes wish certain bands would have the stones to say ‘fuck it lads, let’s leave it at 4 minutes.’?
I love the emotional pull of doom, but I have ADD, and the thought of playing a riff for longer than a minute almost sounds painful to me. I grew up mostly on punk rock, because I loved 2 minute songs that fit everything in they needed to in a neat little pissed off capsule, and I try to stick with that mentality. If that makes me less doom, I’m totally ok with it.
You cover Charles Manson’s ‘Big Iron Door’ albeit in a very sloth way. Is it a song with any particular resonance for you?
I try to write really fuckin heavy pop songs. A lot of my influence is in classic rock and folk songs with the way I pick and strum a guitar, but I just heavy it way out. When I heard that song I though fuck that is heavy, and it’s a minute long, and done with just an acoustic guitar. I thought maybe by covering that song people would understand better the angle that I’m coming from.
There’s something very cathartic and primal about the music you make. Where do you dredge up all the rage from?
I guess I’m a pretty bipolar guy. I’m pretty chill the vast majority of the time, but there is a pretty crazy streak that runs through my subconscious. I’ve gotten much better at keeping it under control, but it’s always there under the surface. It’s good that I don’t drink anymore.
And on a related note, final question… If there was one person in the world you could blow up, who would it be?
If I had terminal cancer or something of the like, I’d probably strap a bomb to myself and shake Glenn Beck’s hand. My life would have some greater positive meaning that way.
The Id Will Overcome is out now on Blackmarket Activities. You should probably get it.