(Our Russian contributor Comrade Aleks brings us this interview of Scotty Simpson, vocalist/guitarist of Ohio’s Beneath Oblivion.)
It’s time to dig out this piece of doomy sludge! Beneath Oblivion (Ohio, USA) have been in business since 2003. This band isn’t hyperactive, as they have only two full-length records so far – Existence Without Purpose (2006) and From Man to Dust (2011). But Scotty T. Simpson (guitars, vocals) sent me an e-mail with the good news of some new songs that Beneath Oblivion is working on. Do you need some violent, maniacal, and depressive tunes? Scotty has a few ones for you.
Hi Scotty, how are you? What’s the weather in Cincinnati?
Hi Aleks! I’m doing alright as of late; been playing a lot of doom metal lately, and that has a way of pushing all of the negativity out of my system… The weather here is snowy today, and it could be warm tomorrow. Cincinnati is always up and down, never consistent.
Hah, do you always play doom when you feel negative vibrations? And what do you do when you have no chance to play but you really NEED to push this negative stuff out?
Haha. I wish I could play doom metal whenever I feel negative vibrations… but I don’t always have an amp and guitar right next to me. Fortunately, I probably could just scream my head off whenever I feel that way, but people would think I’m totally nuts, which I may well be. What I do is let that build up and go to the stage, studio, or rehearsal space with said energy and put it out that way. If I don’t get to put out that energy, crank up an amp, and scream my head off, I can turn into a real manic depressive asshole. My girlfriend will usually let me know if it get’s to that point and tell me to get the fuck out of the apartment and into the rehearsal space.
Scotty, you told us that Beneath Oblivion plan to release 3 splits with such bands as Fister, Before the Eyewall, and Mouth of the Architect. Can you share more details of these plans?
Yes indeed. There are 3 splits coming soon. The first one is a 7″ split with Fister, a 10″ with BTE, and then a 10″ with MotA before the next full-length LP comes out that we’ve been working on. I wish I had release dates and details to give you other than that, but I don’t have any of that information on hand and I want to have my facts straight if it’s something I’m saying in an interview.
Do you have some labels who would like to release these albums at least?
We’ve been in contact with a few labels. No idea who is releasing the next full-length once it’s recorded because it has to be in the best interest of the band and the integrity of its music, so it has to be a label with ethics that’s willing to bust their ass as much as we will be the next two years. As far as 7”s, 10”s, cassettes, splits, and those kinds of releases, we’ve got some great people to work with. There are tons of awesome small labels and distros that we’ve come across in our years and through the underground. Mylene Sheath have always been good to us, but they have a hefty release schedule over the next year, and we have 3 splits planned plus a full-length to come. For the label it’s just as much work to put out a 7” record as it is a full-length LP, so they unfortunately can’t do everything we’re doing this year, but whether or not they release anything of ours this year, we’ll work together and support each other in the future. They are Family.
I can tell you the Fister split will be released by Pirate Ship Records; which is badass! We’ll have a lot of extra material after we record for the full-length album… Like I said, we’ve been jamming, so I welcome any cool labels that want to get in touch.
Anyway I think that split-albums are a very cool tradition, but it demands some responsibility. You know — both bands have to be from one scene’s segment and it’s better to have some general and common conception for a whole record. How did you work over these songs?
Split releases are definitely something neat to do for ourselves and for the fans of this type of sound… I’m a fan of records myself and it’s purely for the friends, fans, and crazy record collector types. Not the snooty dickheads, but the people who love underground and rarer releases. Honestly, I’d say there isn’t a lot of responsibility. All of the bands we’re doing splits with are friends, and teaming up with us on their own accord. It isn’t the decision of some label or agency, so it’s pretty stress-free. Full-length albums are a whole lot more work because they require more music of course, more money, organizing, coordinating, and a lot of touring in order to do proper justice.
Beneath Oblivion “The Atomic Mother”
Don’t you think that there’s always stress if you want to spread your music as far as you can? I mean that in many situations bands have to do all things DIY because it’s underground! Because most of labels can’t do really everything.
No, there’s not always stress involved with it. Music is cathartic, and honestly I’m glad to still be playing music and have people who want to press it on vinyl, and people who want to buy it, and people who want to come to the shows. I’d still be doing it with or without a label interested in releasing it. In most cases big labels don’t do much for their bands… other than a wider audience and more press. With a big label you often get far less in terms of royalty pay (though the paradox is that you need a big label with a large buyer base if you’re a band planning to sell tons of records), you usually don’t get to keep the rights to your songs, they sometimes control your merch, your website, and your social media just to name a few things… so it’s very important to make sure their ethics and values are similar to your own. A label is like a bank loan because in some way or another you will always end up owing back whatever they took out.
Even handshake deals can get weird depending on how much or how little the release ends up selling vs. what was expected of it. You’ll still end up calling a bunch of people, and having to answer a bunch of emails everyday, and set up shows, make important decisions, harass people to meet deadlines, and have to do lots of uncool things that aren’t fun at all when you’d rather be cranking up your amp instead. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that being on a label is like being on Easy Street. People who think that will likely end up chewed up and spit out, and left without a penny in under 2 years.
I’ve listened to your song from the forthcoming split with Mouth Of Architect — “The Liars Cross” — and you use a speech sample there. From where did you take it? And do you remember when this trend (samples from movies and etc.) appeared in sludge, stoner, or heavy music at all?
I’ll leave that for everyone else to guess. It comes from a film that isn’t anything spectacular, but has a message touching on subjects of utopian turned dystopian society, government, surveillance, Orwellian types of themes, only with lots of war and unrest, and a man-made god put in place to distract everyone from the hidden powers that lies behind everyone’s blind patriotism. I’d say the song is more anti-religious than it is political, but when it comes to totalitarian governments the two are pretty much one in the same and built on fear. It actually amazes me that there are still people who even hold on to organized religion when it’s proven to be completely ineffective, causing divides, and terror on every side. We should be smarter than that as free-thinking humans, but I can’t tell everyone how to think… if I did. I’d be no better than the politicians, the clergy, and the terrorists.
Samples have been used for a while. I think it’s probably something that was borrowed from hip hop. Come to think of it, even Pink Floyd and The Beatles used sound and voice samples in their music, so I don’t know where it came from before that. I do know that Buzzoven was the first sludge band that really grabbed me with their movie samples. Sometimes samples are way overused, and that’s why a band should be selective about it… otherwise it becomes the focal point instead of the music, and that’s no good… it should just be something fun or enhancing.
Does an antipathy to religion, to government, to the System in itself play a big role in your inspiration? Political stuff is understandable, but as I see it from my far shore, religious organizations don’t play a huge role in USA daily life, as if they’re more concentrated on producing hypocrisy, etc. Just as everywhere, I think…
Very much so… It’s not that I’m so much against religion. People can believe in anything they want if it helps them get through the day, but I’ve still got to ask, why do people need this and why do people still feed into this? We’ve got science and history to prove most of it wrong. I really don’t want to know the answer to that question because I don’t want a bunch of people coming up to me talking about religion… so it’s a rhetorical question. What I’m against, and I can only speak for myself, but I think the other guys feel similar, is the system that uses religion to create mindless followers. Just like anywhere else that you see fundamentalism, it’s not about the core beliefs, but roping in people to give money, power, numbers, and fear. It causes division amongst people. It causes people to kill other people because they take their views so seriously that other folks and their beliefs don’t come into consideration. For instance, when the cartoonist in France was killed simply over a cartoon. Those poor Japanese fellows who were captured. The way Russia is oppressing gays and lesbians. It’s all because fundamentalism still writes the laws and passes the checks and mobilizes its numbers. Unfortunately, there are still people feeding into this instead of realizing we think and feel differently but we bleed and shit the same. I’m ashamed of the human race and I just would have thought we’d be doing better than this by now. Just stop breeding everyone, keep your faith to yourself, and we can all live and die in peace. Seriously everyone. Humans have gone too far.
You also shared the song “Savior Nemesis Redeemer” from the split with Fister. What’s this song about?
It’s somewhat akin to what I was just ranting about. There is nothing left to save. Humans are not special, and we are little more than parasites with tanks and bulldozers, yet we feel the need to be wasteful, to ruin everything, and fuck everyone over who isn’t related to us. We wrote it when the Ebola scare was really picking up, and we were talking about how a global pandemic would be horrible, yet there are too many people alive on planet Earth right now, so it’d almost be like the Christ figure/ indiscriminate equalizer that would allow man’s numbers to fall so he can redeem himself and rebuild. Of course, Allen wrote many of the lyrics for that one that ended up sticking, but we’re on the same page and we discussed the theme before we recorded it.
You said that a new full-length album from Beneath Oblivion is on the way. How many tracks do you already have for it?
We have several songs demoed for the next record; enough for a full-length, and then as we’ve been jamming, new riffs just keep pouring out of Allen which blow away anything else I hear by the newer, bigger supposed doom bands which lack feeling and conviction. Keith and myself have some songs as well that have hardly been touched on yet, so there is no shortage of material or things to say here. The new full-length record hasn’t been recorded yet, but I can tell you it has to be outstanding by our standards… and we’re some pretty harsh motherfuckers.
Can you tell if this new stuff strongly differs from your previous album From Man to Dust?
It won’t sound like FMtD, but it’ll be obvious that you’re listening to Beneath Oblivion when you hear it. Slow, super-heavy, emotionally and sonically. Some ugly, some beauty… some fresh sounds, some classic influences, varying vocal styles. Some, it’ll be so slow it’ll make you feel uncomfortable and anxious. Lot’s of experimentation. You’ll know it’s us though.
And some depression as well? Do you agree that Beneath Oblivion have a lot of depressive stuff?
Haha. I’ll agree with that one. Depression and melancholy play a large role in the sound and feel, though it’s not something we shoot for. It just comes out as a natural reaction of playing slow, heavy music and ripping your own heart out to produce something sincere.
How will you promote all these new records? Do you have some tours on your mind?
Lots of touring. More than ever.
Do you already have some dates?
Right now we have a date with Pallbearer in Little Rock on Feb 21st, we have a show in Nashville the day before that, we have a show in our town with Sinister Haze in May, and we have some tour dates in the works for Spring, then more to come beyond that. We hope very much to get overseas in the next year or so. Be on the lookout over in Europe for later in the year. It’s too soon to announce dates.
Man, you have pretty extreme vocals — though normal in itself for sludge. What do you put into it? What are the leading motives in your songs?
I just get into my little zone, get pissed, and let it rip. The point is that it needs to be full of feeling and with little or no effects on the vocals. Dry, raw, and pissed off; pushing out all of that depression, anger, and negativity to create something unique. It’s definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone.
How do you see the social roots of sludge music? And what is it actually nowadays?
That’s a hard question to answer… I’d say in America, sludge is rooted in punk, early crust, hardcore, and a fair bit of blues depending on the band. Though sludge is very apparent in our sound, doom metal is more what we identify with. More atmosphere, more emotion, a whole lot of metal and a lot more European influence… But obviously sludge and doom come from the same root source: Black Sabbath.
Does your origin have an influence on the band’s conception? Is there something from Ohio in your songs?
It influences who we are, how we interact, and our sense of humor… it’s an old rust belt river town in the Midwest, where the north meets the south and the Appalachian foothills die off, turning to the flat heartland of middle America. It very much affects who we are, and our attitudes toward over-commercialized doom and black metal from the east and west coasts, but no, we don’t have a bunch of songs about Ohio or Kentucky.
I do believe that the American sludge scene is a big one, but if we check it then we’ll see that there aren’t too many bands who do records regularly. What do you think about it as the scene’s representative?
It is a fairly big scene that has been watered down with a lot of crappy bands who just started playing this type of music in the last 2 years. Many of which are doing very well for themselves. But that doesn’t mean anything to us because I started this band 12 years ago, and Allen was doing his funeral doom band Thorns of the Carrion back in 1992 or something like that. Haha. We aren’t new to this. Of course, there are some good bands that have popped up, but my opinion overall is that you have to have your bullshit detector on when seeking this kind of music.. luckily I don’t think we sound like anyone else in this country.
Then let us finish this interview with one final question: What makes you do this for 12 years?
I suppose what makes me keep doing this after 12 years is persistence, support from everyone involved, including everyone listening, and a genuine need to release the frustrations, angers, and depressions that build up from life and the environment around us. Plus our stuff keeps getting better and better, so I’m always curious to see what’s next. Thank you Aleks, and thank you to everyone else who has bought our records, gotten real high and laid down in the dark to have a serious listen.. That’s the only way to do it.
great interview! Beneath Oblivion has the most gloriously thick and crushing sound, i love it 🙂