Hey man! First things first; is it Wo Fat or Wofat? And what precisely does it stand for? Sounds voodoo to me.
First of all, thanks for interviewing us for Lords of Metal! And to clarify, it is Wo Fat – two words, rather than one word. The name comes from the 70's TV show 'Hawaii Five-0'. On the show, Wo Fat was an evil communist Chinese super villain who was the nemesis for the lead character of the show, Steve McGarrett, who was a detective in Hawaii. I picked the name partly because it's a somewhat obscure reference to the 70's, which of course is a big influence on us, and also because Hawaii Five-0 just has a cool vibe and Wo Fat, in particular, was this really interesting, mysterious and menacing character.
You mentioned voodoo, the voodoo/hoodoo imagery that we often use was something that kind of developed and became a prevailing vibe over time. Early on, when we were first getting Wo Fat rolling, I was inclined to write songs that were somewhat political, and being a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I used concepts and imagery from his writing, allegorically, to get my political message across in a subtler, less obvious and hopefully more interesting way. Musically, we're very influenced by deep blues, so the voodoo/hoodoo vibe is sort of Lovecraft viewed through the eyes of Southern, Mississippi, hill country blues. Sort of blues-horror, I guess. Lyrically, on the last album, I'm not really trying to get any kind of political message across; I'm more concerned with conjuring a vibe for the listener using certain types of imagery. I'm wanting to stimulate their imagination and take them on a trip and the swampy, cryptic, mysterious, backwoods blues-horror vibe is something I really dig.
Kent, congratulations on 'Noche del Chupacabra'. It's your second album?
Thank you. 'Noche del Chupacabra' is actually our third album, released by Germany's Nasoni Records. Our first album, 'The Gathering Dark' we released ourselves in 2006, and just this last fall, we redesigned the artwork and Nasoni released it on double vinyl and we re-released it on cd with the new artwork ourselves. It includes a previously unreleased song entitled 'Call of Zuvembie' that's a tripped out instrumental improvisational jam. After 'The Gathering Dark' we released our second album, 'Psychedelonaut' on Brainticket Records, which is the label run by John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus, in 2009. I think each album so far has musically been a step forward for us and I think our musical interaction has just gotten better and better.
Wo Fat sound pretty analoge. Tell us something about the recording process.
Yes, I'm glad that comes across. We are big fans of all things analogue. I work as a recording engineer and the studio where I work, which is also where we recorded each of our albums, is loaded with awesome analogue gear. The first two albums were recorded on two inch analogue tape. 'Noche del Chupacabra' was recorded in Pro Tools, digitally, but we mixed it analogue through a classic analogue console (an SSL 4000) using analogue outboard gear. I'm not completely opposed to digital recording, but I think that mixing should be done in the analogue world because it gives the mix more depth and detail. I also believe wholeheartedly in tube amps and I don't think you can get the same sound from a digital modelling amp. I truly believe that sound gains a presence and a weight from the movement of electrons through iron, and magnetic flux on tape, that does not exist in the digital world of ones and zeroes. It's just more real.
The other thing I'd like to mention about the recording process is that we try to make it as live as possible. We play together in the studio, and while we do add overdubs, go back and fix some things and maybe redo some guitar solos, we try to get as much of it as we can all playing together. That just gives you a better vibe and we want our records to feel live, organic and urgent; like your standing in the middle of the band playing. It seems bizarre to me when some bands that I've recorded don't want to play all at the same time, and I think this is a by-product of people recording at home instead of in real studios, but they want to record just drums, then just bass, then one guitar, etc. There's an organic groove and feel that's created from jamming together that I just really dig. Our music kind of requires that approach anyway, because the solo sections are open and improvised, so we cue off of each other as to when to move on.
You seem to be a madman when it comes to seventies rock. You even have a blog on which you review obscure records from the seventies and print and sell t-shirts. Tell us something about Arcanum please?
Yeah, I love heavy 70's rock, or the Old Heavy as I call it. It is obviously a big influence on the music of Wo Fat. I decided to start the Arcanum blog because I had been searching for a lot of obscure 70's “holy grail” albums and I used to find out about a lot of them from the old www.stonerrock.com classic albums forum. The problem was, when people would post something about some obscure band that I'd never heard, they often times wouldn't be specific about what it sounds like. They would just say “this album is badass!” or “this band is so heavy!” or something like that, with no details, description or a comparison of it to something else. Then I'd search it out, only to be disappointed because it didn't turn out sounding anything like what I expected.
A lot of the heavy 70's stuff can be hit or miss – a lot of times only three or four songs on an album are rockin,' but they may be SO rockin' that it makes the whole album worth seeking out, so it's good to know that in advance. I decided to try and give a little more specific information about how some of the albums that I really dig sound and I came up with my own wacky rating system to help define things a bit and maybe get more information across. The idea for a rating system came from Martin Popoff's book, 'The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal, Volume 1: The Seventies', which is a great book with reviews of tons of albums, most of which are very obscure. In it he's got a simple rating system of two numbers, one is the heaviness of the album and the other is how much he likes that particular record. I wanted something a little less vague. Some people consider something heavy just because there's distorted guitars, but to me, the melodic/riff component is more important to the heaviness of something than the guitar sound, so I was hoping to convey that information somehow. Don't get me wrong, I love heavy guitar sounds. Of course, it's all just my opinion and many would disagree with my assessment of heaviness, so dig it or don't. Unfortunately for the blog, I've been really busy and haven't had the chance to write anything new in a long time. I need to get back at it.
Is Wo Fat your only band? It sounds heavy as fuck, but I could imagine you'd like to play more funky '70's stuff like Grand Funk.
Wo Fat is my only band, but it would be cool to do something a little more 70's. Like a Stone Axe kind of trip. I like how they keep it real authentic sonically. But really, Wo Fat, to me, is taking that 70's thing and the blues thing and just really cranking the amps and going all out with it, which is where my heart is.
Your voice sound a lot like Gene Simmons on 'Carnival of Souls'. I personally dig that album very much since I was to young to get the context of them ripping Alice in Chains etc. What do you think of that album?
There is some great stuff on that album and Gene Simmons sounds killer, especially on the first tune, 'Hate' so I'll take that as a compliment. Thank you. The whole singing thing has been a journey for me. I think I've gotten better with each album, but I think, as a singer, you have to figure what you can do and what you can't do with the voice that you have. For example, I've discovered that I cannot sing like Robert Plant or Chris Cornell or Joakim from Graveyard, as much as I'd like to. What I can do, though, is the deeper kind of thing, like Gene Simmons or Zakk Wylde and that works well for Wo Fat.
There are, especially in Europe, many bands that fish in the stoner/groove pond. "It's been done before" Phil Anselmo sings in 'Ghosts Along the Mississippi'. What makes Wo Fat special?
Well it has been done before, but there's nothing wrong with that as long as you make it your own. We are consciously creating music that has some defined limits to it – now those limits aren't necessarily set in stone, but it's sort of a broad vocabulary to build riffs and grooves and sounds from. We're doing that because that's the kind of sounds and riffs we want to play. I think one thing that maybe sets Wo Fat apart a little is our interest in being heavy but also psychedelic and stretching out and jamming and improvising. In some ways, we're trying to bring a jazz mentality to heavy music. I think we also try to have a deep down funk to our music. We want it to groove hard as well as be heavy. That funk, that comes from way back in the roots of the blues, is something that has gotten lost sometimes in metal, but for me is a key component.
Stoner/sludge/doom/whatever seems to have its epicentre in the south of the US. Down, Eyehategod, Soilent Green, are all from New Orleans. You are from Texas. Is it a battle between the cities or is there also cross-contamination? Tell us about the scenes and how they differ or are alike.
New Orleans is actually fairly far away from Dallas, so there's maybe not as interaction as you might think, but I do think rather than being a battle, there is maybe more of a camaraderie. As odd as it seems, that funk that I mentioned earlier, seems to be something that a lot bands from the South have, including the ones you mentioned, but especially Texas and New Orleans. There is a very rich musical history in both places that infuses the vibe of any musician whose paying attention. I don't have first hand knowledge of the scene in New Orleans, but in Texas, there are a growing number of really cool bands. Austin of course is the king, with bands like Tia Carrera, The Sword, Dixie Witch, Honky, etc. But In Dallas, we may not have the notoriety that Austin does, but there are more and more killer bands that are doing some form of stoner/sludge/doom and I think we're building a great little scene here. Stone Machine Electric, Mothership, F.T.W., Orthodox Fuzz, Vaste Burai (who are from Longview, Texas, which isn't too far away), Four Days to Burn, Pothead Goat, Black on High and many more who I'm forgetting at the moment. I feel good about the direction things are going in locally/regionally.
Europe has a vibrant scene as well. Any gigging plans soon?
We are hoping to put together a European tour of some sort in the future. We're still trying to figure out how to afford to get there, but we hear great things about playing in Europe from other bands that have done it, so it is one of our top goals. We're going to being working on a new album this spring and maybe after it's released we'll be able to make the trip over.
Has 'Noche del Chupacabra' been picked up by the underground? In other words; has it started something?
I would like to think so. The response that we've gotten from it has been really good. We're hoping this will help us to move up to the next level with our next album.
How did the deal with Nasoni come together?
When we finished recording our second album, we approached John Perez of Brainticket Records about releasing it on his label, which he did. Being associated with Brainticket and John was a good thing for us. He helped us to reach a wider audience and Nasoni found out about us through John. Nasoni had heard 'Psychedelonaut' and dug it and they contacted us about releasing it on vinyl, because Nasoni is all about vinyl and we had not done vinyl before because we were paying for all the costs ourselves and couldn't afford it, so we were thrilled. At the time we were in the process of making 'Noche del Chupacabra' and since things worked out really well with Nasoni as far as the 'Psychedelonaut' vinyl went, we went ahead and worked out a deal with them to release 'Chupacabra' on vinyl and cd. Nasoni has been super cool to work with and I think they've helped us to reach more people in Europe. Both Nasoni and Brainticket have helped us out a lot, for which we are very thankful.
Will the vinyl version be available in Europe? You should maybe talk to the guys of the Elektrohash label, they've put out vinyls of Sungrazer, Colour Haze, etc.
I think all three albums are available in Europe from www.Kozmik-Artifactz.com in Germany or www.Sugarandspice.fr in France. You can also get all three albums on vinyl directly from Nasoni. I will talk to Elektrohasch. Nothing has been decided for the next album yet, so we'll see what happens.
Right I'm out. Please share stuff you feel you should. AND Thanks for your great album!
Thank you for doing this interview and for all your work with Lords of Metal. I would like to say that we are going to be doing a 7” split with the mighty Earthride that is being released on Totem Cat Records this spring. We are very excited about the opportunity to do a split a killer band like Earthride. It will be a new song that is exclusive to the 7”.