Electric Wizard’s Jus Osborn on Returning to ‘Real’ Rock Roots, Why Genre Labeling Is ‘Killing’ Heavy Music
Electric Wizard are the benchmark band for doom in the 21st century. With two albums behind them, they entered the new millennium with Dopethrone, a dense, resin-caked offering of nihilistic riffing and warped production values that remains the holy grail of modern doom. They've been conscious not to tread the same path, dodging any sheepish attempts at recreating that classic record, instilling a distinct sense of smoke-friendly character with each ensuing release.
The British outfit will drop their ninth studio offering, Wizard Bloody Wizard on Nov. 17. It comes three years removed from the acrid Time to Die, and strips back the band's typically heavy use of effects in favor of returning to the roots of, as mainman Jus Osborn puts it in our interview, "real," rock 'n' roll. Make no mistake, Electric Wizard are still the Iommi-worshipping Riff-finder Generals you love them as, this is just another chapter in their still-growing legacy.
To dive further into what Wizard Bloody Wizard has in store, check out our chat with vocalist / guitarist Jus Osborn below.
The riffing on Wizard Bloody Wizard is less drony and spaced out and more rigid and jarring with an old school rock approach at times. How did this sound come together? Was there any music that you rediscovered to ignite this sound?
I dunno really… every album is a reflection of what we are into at the time. I’m still influenced by music I hear, its an unconscious thing really. These days it always seems music is being pigeonholed into a genre — it’s really killing heavy music. Everything is compartmentalized into genres and then you can only have any success if you serve that niche and churn out good genre product. The idea that a musician is an artist is becoming rarer these days unless it’s some deliberate attempt to create a genre niche for ‘artistic’ music.
So yeah we tried to create a very honest LP less reliant on production techniques. We tried to present ourselves as a ‘real’ rock 'n' roll band. Even though we’re always listening to new stuff we always find ourselves drawn back to a certain era of heavy metal… y’know late '60’s / early '70s. When heavy music was born, when there wasn’t any rules or genres…there weren’t any influences really other than just inspirations from blues and rock 'n' roll. Every band sounded different and every member of the band contributed their own style. I guess we were influenced by this approach more than anything, to not be bound by convention and, yeah, the way we approached this was by getting back to our roots — more about what musicians and artists actually inspired us to pick up an instrument rather than a sound or style. We wanted to just concentrate on those influences and build the sound up from there.
This is the first album with Simon Poole and Clayton Burgess, who joined in 2014. How much of a say did they have in the writing and what excites you most about having both of them in the band?
Well, with a couple of years touring under our belts it felt we had definitley locked in as a unit. I always believe a band is the sum of its parts — everyone has a role to play in the creation of a good song. Liz [Buckingham, guitar] and I have always been looking for a strong, independent rhythm section, not an accompaniment. A real bedrock that we can use to build the guitar work and vocals. It hasn’t been easy in the past because sometimes the chemistry doesn’t happen, but Simon and Clayton have locked in very naturally.
Electric Wizard have always found inspiration outside of music and in horror films and the occult. Did any films in particular spur the ideas behind any of the songs on Wizard Bloody Wizard?
We are never really directly inspired by horror movies etc. — it’s all in our subconscious. I’m always watching movies, reading comics etc. I’m obsessed with the darker side of life… with cults and black magic. The band uses these influences aesthetically to help create a deeper, evil spirituality in our music.
I try to use horror films, horror comic imagery as a metaphor. I mean “Dunwich” for instance was using the Lovecraft story as a metaphor for teenage rebellion and isolation in a small rural town. How being ‘different” was often viewed as being ‘evil’ and the parallels between this and the '80s ‘Satanic panic’ era. Basically it was a witch hunt, something that seems to reoccur in human history over and over again, albeit in different guises.
The songs on this LP use all our metaphorical imagery but I think it is in fact our most autobiographical album. Obviously we take an extreme standpoint but you have to make a point sometimes. It’s usually ‘worst case scenario’ type stuff, it’s not like I want to kill everyone all day, everyday. Just quite often.
The occult sciences are more inspirational metaphysically and influence the band on a much deeper level — how we present the band, the use of symbology, release dates etc.
The band has been playing in the U.S. more often. Are there plans to increase stateside appearances or do you prefer doing select festivals and small tours?
Yeah we are definitely trying to come over more but, yeah, we prefer festivals and small tours. I prefer the short sharp shock. If we are on the road too long I think the shows lose their spark. It's hard to stay focused over more than a few weeks. I would like to come over more than we do because it’s such a great place to play and we have such cool dedicated fans over there, but to be honest the brutal visa restrictions make it very difficult sometimes.
Your last album, Time to Die, and the new one were both released through your own label, Witchfinder Records. Are there plans to expand the roster beyond Electric Wizard in the future?
That would be cool, we have looked into it a few times as I want to support the new music that I like. But it’s a big responsibility and I wouldn’t want to sign bands until I was totally happy that we could serve their interests as well as possible.
I think there are a lot of ways bands can self-release now, so a label's relevance is becoming less important. I think the industry is responsible for pouring the most inane shit onto the public these days as it is easily marketable product and if you are serious about making good music you should probably stay as far away from it as possible.
What’s your favorite Black Sabbath album and is there one Tony Iommi riff you can call your favorite?
LP: Master Of Reality. Favorite riff: "Iron Man." I mean it's the kind of riff that makes you wanna play guitar.
Thanks to Jus Osborn for the interview. Electric Wizard's 'Wizard Bloody Wizard' is out Nov. 17 and pre-orders can be placed at the Spinefarm Records webstore and you can stay up to date with everything the band is doing by following their Facebook page.
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