Lumbering out of the UK on the back of a three-legged woolly mammoth powered by liquid tar and warm English bitters – alcohol enthusiasts feel free to call out my lack of booze knowledge at the next Decibel Metal & Beer Fest – comes Ghold. Slow, noisy and acerbically crushing, their new album, Stoic is set to give ears beyond Old London Towne a serious thunderfucking. What’s unique about the seventh release of the band’s discography is not only the psychedelic swirl and caveman crunch they combine under leaden hoof, but also that the trio has trusted the release of the new album to local heavy metal specialist record shop’s (Crypt of the Wizard) first label release. We’ve included a stream of the track “Ruptured Earth (Head in Sand)” to drone, pummel and skulk around in the background as you dig into an introductory interview with drummer Paul Antony.
Seeing as this is your first time here, can you give a brief history of the band?
The band was started by [bassist] Al [Wilson] and myself in 2011 in Brixton, South London. We had become good mates over the previous couple of years through art school and shared a lot of the same interests in terms visual arts, literature and strange counter-cultures as well as being the only people we knew who fostered an unhealthy obsession with playing and making nasty guitar music. We both had separate musical solo projects going on and. after a crossover period where we briefly played together in a dirty garage rock band called Dalifornia, we decided to join forces and amalgamate our inspirations into one. Ghold started life crammed into the spare bathroom in our old flat – drums around the toilet with the seat as throne, bass amps in the bathtub and only just enough room to both squeeze in. We wrote (and in some cases recorded) the s/t demo, the Judas Ghoat LP and the Galactic Hiss EP in there, the only noise complaints coming from a massage therapist who ran a business next door. We just wanted to crack on making music and ditched the arse-pain of finding other members, settling on bass and drums to hammer out our vision.
At what point was [guitarist] Oliver [Martin] brought into the band as a member and how has that changed the way the band works and creates?
Oliver joined the band two years ago just before the birthing of the PYR LP. The expansion to a three-piece has definitely evolved the sound and encouraged us to take more risks with writing and composing. Sonically, Oliver has a very acute ear – he can play many instruments and is the most technically skilled out of the three of us. That was a big motivator to get him in the band actually – to exploit his technical ability, project it onto ourselves and then take all the glory! I would say it hasn’t affected our process of creation hugely in terms of how we write, but we’re now able to travel down some distinctly noisier hallucinogenic wormholes with the songs. It was also a case of trying to use the guitar as a tool for dissonance and noise as opposed to a riff-emulator. I think it’s allowed us to give songs more “space” believe it or not. We had a tendency to chop songs up a lot more aggressively when we were writing before, to take them in myriad directions at once. Oliver brought a different kind of focus to the band, and it was very refreshing.
What’s the story behind your deciding to go with Ghold as your band name?
We wanted a name which was short and easy – something visual and guttural-sounding. There was a period of obsession with changing regular words with the addition of a silent “H.” It seems like a horrible piss take, the idea of silent letters only appearing when written down, a language phantom! We also liked acronyms, and Ghold provided many…..GO HOME OR LEAVE DEAF….
When putting Ghold together, did you have a particular sound goal or direction in mind in terms of the type of metal you wanted to play or did the sound just happen naturally?
There was no particular sound we were trying to emulate from any musical background really, and none of us are conservative, purist metalheads in the least. We wanted to stay well away from genre-based metal. My background and interests was/is involved in making the most bizarre sounds I can with all sorts of different instrumentation and Al was far more influenced by noise rock and country singers than any metal bands. We just knew it had to be heavy and noisy! Our meeting ground was really loving bands like Harvey Milk, old Melvins, Man Is The Bastard and Slayer. But I don’t think our music sounds like any of these bands though!
How long did it take to write and record Stoic?
The writing probably took around a year, although it’s hard to put an exact figure on that. The recording itself took three days. It was done live with minimal overdubs in Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds by Tom Goodall and Alex Race of Mirrorman Recordings. The building is a 17th Century Unitarian Church with a kindly minister who let us use the space for cheap. We set up drums in front of the altar, bass and guitar on either side of the central aisle, and mixing desk at the far end. We effectively locked ourselves in there for three days and worked late into the night. You can hear that delirium and manic energy throughout the LP, especially on tracks like “Faeder Ure”…
How did what you learned from the live work and touring you’d done since PYR shift your approach to the creation of Stoic? Or did it?
I don’t think these things shifted our approach directly. All the writing was done in our bedrooms, living rooms and practice rooms. We’ve never been directly influenced by one of our own gigs to the point where we want to change our intention just to please anyone. That would be a downfall and a disappointment in my eyes – it would completely undermine our potential to keep evolving and developing at a natural rate. But anything can happen at subconscious level, so perhaps they did!
How would you compare the recording session and output against other studio experiences and PYR and the other items in your discography?
It was completely different to anything we’ve been able to do in the past, given the nature of where and how we recorded Stoic. Being able to record in a space primarily used for religious ceremony and worship definitely felt miles away from what we had done before, but also completely natural and made a lot of sense. It was very comfortable in there. We really enjoyed being in the space and exploiting it for its sonic character as much as anything else. There’s definitely a sense of fluidity and languidness to the music on Stoic and perhaps the church drew these qualities out more so than if we were in a studio. Both Of Ruin and PYR were recorded in a studio by our good friend Dan Miller. Again, the time frame was the same – we always record live over three or four days, potentially doing some overdubs at a later stage. The late-night delirium is an omnipresent factor when we make albums, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Was the twelve-minute long, one-take guitar overdub on “Skhul VI” done at 10am after we’d all been for a nice refreshing morning jog and eaten a lovely little croissant together? Who knows! In terms of output, I struggle comparing it to our other records. I see it as independent from the music we made as a two-piece. It feels like a re-birth in some ways in terms of where we can go from here – the potential to explore sound with this band is huge, and I think Stoic perhaps does a more refined job of demonstrating that than earlier albums.
Is there any particular personal meaning or significance to the album’s title and how does the cover photo relate?
We realised at the point of the albums conception that our personal shit between us all (be it homelessness, joblessness, loneliness, depression) had underpinned the sound, lyrics and general feeling of the record. We hadn’t discussed it really until that point and kept it under wraps. So for us Stoic made sense as a term and monument. Artist Daniel Pickles, who is a good friend of Al’s, made the artwork. Those two have a long history of collaboration. He was given the lyrics and heard the demos as soon as they were finished. Pickles wanted to subvert metal record covers whilst celebrating monoliths, occultism, religion and philosophy, so Al and Pickles went to building this set in an empty warehouse space in Manchester, UK. The finished result is a photo. We like to be as hands on as we can be with artwork, working with friends or producing as much as possible ourselves. This keeps everything “in the family” as it were, and we’re very lucky to have a lot of skilled mates who help us out! Work with your friends.
Tell us about your decision to have Stoic be the first release by a record store that is making its foray into being a label? What were the pros and cons you discussed in making this decision?
It was quite a bold move I think, as I don’t know anyone who’s done anything like this before. We’re definitely at the stranger, more “un-metal” end of the spectrum in terms of what the shop promotes, but the move felt totally natural and wasn’t forced in any way. Everyone involved was on board 110%. We weighed up our options at the time, which were essentially to release the record ourselves and promote completely DIY, or jump into bed with a couple of hairy middle-aged men who were very supportive and had built a fantastic shop and were completely smashing it. Every detail about what we were doing was handled cleanly, simply and efficiently. No 100-page contracts or lawyers! Complete autonomy. We did a small run of vinyl records which look and sound fantastic, a digital release and the one-paragraph contract was signed in blood.
On that note, I’m guessing Crypt of the Wizard must be a pretty awesome shop for you to place your trust and art in. What can you tell us about it and the folks who run it?
Marcus and Charlie are the Don Daddies, very supportive and lovely Wizards who are performing a very valuable service for the metalheads and music lovers of London! The shop is great and we’re often found in there lurking in the corner drinking giant bottles of Peroni, although not buying anything because we’ve no money. It’s a miracle they still let us in there, actually. We’ve been friends with Charlie for years. He hired us a few years ago to perform as his backing band for a spoken-word piece he performed at an art gallery on the south coast. Maybe it was punishment for forcing him to do our merch on tour….?
Now that the album is fully out what’s the plan? And what are your hopes for Ghold going forward?
We’re going to let Stoic embed itself in the collective consciousness and then return in the New Year to sonically batter the fuck out of people again. Tours, gigs, more music, more collaborations, perhaps get over to the good ol’ U.S. of A. again………
Photo by Willie Nash