(We have Comrade Aleks to thank for yet another interesting interview, this time with the vocalist/bassist for Scotland’s Aye-aye.)
Cool name, cool art-work, and a bunch of cool songs – what else do you need? Aye-aye are a band from Glasgow, Scotland. I like Scotland, I like animals, I like good doom, so that’s another exciting prize with which I was rewarded after another session of researches in Metal-Archives.
How many bands do you know who have the same name as a weird-looking lemur from Madagaskar?! I bet that this one is first of this kind for most of us! Prepare to get your foot tapping or your head nodding, Iain “Spawn” (vocals, bass) is here right after his nightshift.
Hail Iain! First of all, man, how did you pick out such an unusual name for the band? It’s original and easy to remember!
As I’m a believer in animal conservation (as are Mac and Del), I wanted to draw attention to endangered species and their plights at the hands of humans.
The aye-aye lemur is a prime example. The Malagasy people have killed them, as they believed them to be evil omens. Deforestation of their habitat for farming, along with aye-ayes “stealing” crops, have lead to further conflicts and loss of numbers.
They are very likely to become extinct in the wild, though some protected areas have been set up. They are also very difficult to breed in captivity, though some zoos are trying to achieve this.
I also love the appearance of these strange primates. Some say they are ugly, but we say “Men are Ugly”. They are highly evolved to life in their natural habitat, hence their unusual appearance.
Also, as we’re a Scottish band, “Aye-aye” often crops up in conversation, as it can be interpreted as “Yes-yes”. Fairly easy to remember, as you say.
How did you see the band when you all gathered for the first time? What were your paramount intentions?
I started Aye-aye three years ago with Mac, our guitarist. He had been in a band called Evil Kin Evil until their bassist/ vocalist left for Australia. I loved their music (heavy, slow, and hypnotic) and got on the phone to Mac to see if he wanted to play in a new band with myself. Luckily, he did, and we went into the rehearsal rooms (with a drum machine set usually between 85- 95 bpm) and jammed a few riffs which soon became our first songs.
We just wanted to play the stuff we wanted to, the best and heaviest riffs we could come up with. I also wanted to base the lyrics around our interest in animal conservation where I could, though some social/ political observations also infiltrated. At first, though, I didn’t see myself as becoming the main vocalist.
It was a few weeks or so before a friend introduced us to drummer, Del, at a Prong gig.
How did you get in contact with Adrian Baxter? And how did you describe to him what you expected for your album’s art-work?
We had seen the artwork that Adrian had done for our friends Skeleton Gong and were very impressed. We sort of knew from viewing his other works that he was great at macabre artwork, so we asked him to design an aye-aye in a sort of grotesque rain forest setting. Our album cover is what he came up with.
I saw the sketches and loved his idea. He had the go-ahead to finish his creation. First time he’s ever been asked to draw an aye-aye apparently.
Aye-aye play a sort of distorted stoner / doom metal. What are your main musical influences?
This is one of the most difficult questions, as we’ve all come from different hard rock/ metal backgrounds and we’ve been listening to and playing music for many years (we’re all 43 years old).
I myself have always liked darker music than the mainstream and have been a fan of many genres of rock music over 33 odd years. Bands that I’ve followed since discovering them are Rainbow, The Doors, Warrior Soul, Love/Hate, Jane’s Addiction, Sisters of Mercy, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, VoiVod, Celtic Frost/Triptykon, Prong, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Anathema, Bolt Thrower, Entombed, VAST, Nachtmystium, Zoroaster, 40 Watt Sun, Die So Fluid, and Red Fang.
Obviously we’ve all listened to a lot more bands, such as Sleep, YOB, OM, Kylesa, UFOMammot, Mothership, Stoned Jesus, Sahg, Ghost, Satan’s Satyrs, High on Fire, Uncle Acid, etc., since starting a band which has been labelled with the Doom/ Stoner tag, and caught as many of these bands live as we could.
Mac is from a slightly more “thrash metal” influenced background and is a big Slayer fan, but we share a love for Celtic Frost and Paradise Lost, etc.
Del is from a more “classic rock” background and loves his Sabbath and Dio stuff, which is great too.
I’ve heard only songs that you uploaded on Aye-aye’s web-page, and that was enough to motivate me to do this interview, but let me ask – did you consciously work out such a rough sound?
Yes, we did. We tuned down to B on guitar and bass and put them through overdrive or fuzz pedals. We play mainly fairly slow songs to let the big chords ring out with all their harmonics.
We also make use of phase, flange, and delay pedals, and I use a synth bass pedal occasionally for different sounds to vary from straight dirtiness.
I actually came up with the tag “sewer blues” to describe some of our stuff. It can also get a bit psychedelic.
What are your other general requirements for the Aye-aye sound?
The tunes have to get your foot tapping or your head nodding. They have to have groove and swagger. If they don’t have that element, then we’ll pretty much either discard or rework them.
There are a couple of tunes that seemed pretty good that we jammed in rehearsal but tired of after a couple of weeks. They just seemed a bit flat and lacked that attitude and purpose that the others had. They were discarded.
I love bands like Bolt Thrower that are crushingly heavy but still retain a great groove. You could dance to them!
Aye-aye “Men Are Ugly”
How did the recording session for the Men Are Ugly album go?
We put down the Men are Ugly album in about seven days of recording/ mixing with our friend Chris Gorman of Tornface Studio. There were only the three of us, and I still hoped to get a vocalist at some point to join the band and record the vocals over the instrumental tracks. I was talked into going into the vocal booth and did what I could and it turned out ok. I can’t do growly vocals, but the clean vocal style gave the songs more of a classic doom sound, which we decided we liked.
We had the songs pretty much nailed in rehearsals, so there were very few retakes to do thankfully. All in all, it was a pleasant experience, and we enjoy being in the studio and being able to add things that we can’t yet do live, such as synthed Hammond organ and church organ, Delay Lama sounds, and some samples. Chris also has a great voice and did some higher-pitched backing vocals than I can manage.
We had a laugh.
Indeed, I think that vocals are pretty good on Men Are Ugly and they well-suit the band’s sound. Can you say that you’ve found the best formula for the band and that you will use it for the next record, too?
Pretty much, though we’re always open to experimentation.
I want to add a bit more analogue synth sounds to the songs we’re working on now for the next release. I love the sounds a MOOG or one of these Arturia Minibrutes can make. It just adds a bit more interesting weirdness to the music. Ideally, we’d like to add a full-time synth player for live gigs too, though we’ve yet to find the right person.
What was the most difficult thing for you during your work on the Men Are Ugly album?
The most difficult thing, as always is for us, is getting everyone together. We all work shifts and have families, so can usually manage only a day a week to rehearse for three hours. Also, the money side of it (£125 a day to record, over £100 for mastering, and over £400 to get CDs made) adds up. The album cost about £1500 in all to produce. I know that’s pretty cheap for what we got, but it’s still £500 each from our own pockets. We’re trying to fund the next album from selling the current CD and T-shirts at gigs, but profit margins are virtually non-existent.
Did you think about approaching any labels or distros for promotion of Aye-aye’s music?
Not really. We just wanted to make music we liked and get it recorded and packaged so that we had a product we could sell at gigs or on-line to people who liked it, too.
I don’t really want the headaches or even the disappointments of having to deal with people who want to make money from our music. If people want it, I’ve put it up on Amazon, iTunes, etc., or they can message us directly to buy a CD from us via Facebook.
I believe that if we’re good enough, the people will come to us. It may take longer or never really happen at-all, but c’est la vie. We’re having fun and that’s what matters to us. We have jobs already to pay the bills.
You have the Aye-aye on the album’s art-work, but do you have any songs about this animal?
Yes. The song “Nightshift” particularly is about being an Aye-aye out and about in the forest (they are nocturnal). “Endangered” is also about the Aye-aye specifically. As I’ve said earlier, I do try to incorporate lyrics about the plight of the Earth and its Flora and Fauna at the hand of humans.
Iain, please tell a story of one of your favorite songs from the album.
I love “Nightshift”. Mac recorded it while on a break on his night shift as he had his guitar and Boss Micro recorder at work. It was the whole song, and no further editing or arranging was required. The lyrics came fairly easily, too.
Aye-Aye are from Glasgow, Scotland. Does your origin somehow reflect on your songs or methods of work over it?
Hmmm, I’m not sure if geographics have much of an influence on the music itself, though we do enjoy coming from Glasgow. There are plentiful rehearsal spaces, music venues, and non-pay-to-play promoters. Also some good bands to share bills with and easy access to substances which are illicit if wanted. Many good characters and a fairly healthy “scene”, too, though most of our friends are too broke to attend as many gigs as they’d like to, or have families which take up their time.
It’s healthy, in the way most of us are not just into doom. I’ve met folk who play in doom bands at VNV Nation gigs, death, grind, and black metal gigs, etc…. even a Marina and the Diamonds gig (one of my ’80s retro guilty pleasures lol). We like anything if it’s done well.
Man, the album was released a year ago, what is your news since then?
We’re still doing the same thing. Coming up with new tunes and lyrics, doing occasional live shows and enjoying it for what it is.
We’ve put down a few tunes already with Chris Gorman again and aiming for album number 2 by the end of the year/ beginning of next hopefully. The song-writing’s better, as we’ve had a while to gel and it shows when we do new songs in a live set.
We hope to get Adrian Baxter to do the artwork again too.
Our equipment has improved and now warrants a van to gig, which is the unfortunate side. We can’t just jump on a bus with our gear anymore. There’s just too much along with merch. Mac’s got himself a brilliant Hughes & Kettner valve head which is pretty big, and I usually take my Wharfedale bass head along to gigs too.
I see that Aye-aye do play gigs from time to time. With what kind of bands do you usually share a scene? Do you have some constant partners for gigs?
We are getting slots on more “doom” themed shows and support slots. A lot of our earlier gigs were a bit of a genre mix, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t.
We’re travelling a bit more, too, with gigs in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dunfermline, and Wakefield (England), as well as local Glasgow shows.
We don’t constantly play with one particular band, but we have and will share bills again hopefully with Glasgow’s Skeleton Gong, Pyre Of The Earth, Watcher’s Guard, and Bacchus Baracus, etc., Edinburgh’s In Absence, and Iron Void from Wakefield.
Iain, thank you for your time, man. I’m glad to discover Aye-aye and hope that this interview helps to spread the Word further. Good luck mate!
Thanks very much for asking us for/ reading our story. Now grab a guitar and get the strings as loose as are playable. Get it through a distortion pedal and your amp. Strike a chord and let it ring. Doesn’t that sound good? If not you’ll probably not like us. Cheers.