Saturday 26 September 2015

Interview with WATCHTOWER

Watchtower is a band who have experienced a good year in 2015. They released their acclaimed debut EP – Radiant Moon – on Vinyl through Magnetic Eye Records and will be their full length record through Magnetic Eye Records in the future.

The band contacted me to see if I wanted to interview them and discuss about the rising Aussie Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene that has provided a ton of great bands for us all to check out. I said sure, why not. It's always good finding out about other music scenes in other parts of the world.

So here we go. An epic interview with Aussie Sludge/Stoner Metal riffsters – Watchtower.

Hi guys. How are things with you today. Thanks for doing this interview.

Hi. Things are pretty excellent at the moment. Spring is in full effect and our dickhead prime minister just got sacked.

· For people not in the know can you tell our readers how the band came about and where it is today.

We formed in the latter part of 2012. Nico had just relocated to Melbourne from Holland and joined Ben (bass), Rob (guitar) and Joel (drums) in their effort to form a band by responding to an ad they've put out looking for a vocalist. Their idea was to start a heavy rock & roll band but things got real heavy real quick and a few months in we found ourselves recording a demo and playing our first show.

Now, almost 3 years of smokes, beers and blown up amplifiers later we've played numerous shows both locally and interstate, released a live single on bandcamp and we are eagerly waiting on the vinyl version of our EP Radiant Moon. In the meantime Joel quit the band and we've played a handful of shows with our new drummer Tim, laying a solid foundation of what Watchtower is going to be from here on out.

· How would you describe your music in 5 words or less.

Heavy Metal.

· You had a great start to the year with your debut EP – Radiant Moon – being released. Did it surprise you the responses it’s received from fans and critics alike.

It's always a surprise and very flattering if your efforts get positive feedback and recognised across the globe! We could not be more stoked about the response. Especially when there's positive write ups from acclaimed blogs and channels that we ourselves like to read. Not to mention the love we get from random headbangers worldwide. It's awesome.

· You signed to Magnetic Eye Records to release the EP on vinyl. How did you hook up with Mike at Magnetic Eye Records. Awesome dude doing a fantastic job.

Our mates in Horsehunter signed with MER not long before we got in contact with Mike and started talking about releasing stuff. The initial contact was like any other band shopping for a label and we were pretty stoked with the quality of his splatter vinyl! He seemed pretty keen on the idea to work with us and vice versa and that was that.

· Did you have any other offers from different labels.

MER was actually one of the first labels we contacted. The ball started rolling relatively quick so we did not have to worry about different labels. It's been about six months now since we announced it and dropped the songs on the internet. There has been some interest shown by other labels, but we're already looked after so that is irrelevant at this point.

· Nico – people may not know but you were originally part of Dutch Sludge/Stoner Metal mob – Herder before you moved to Australia. Was being part of a band part of your plans when you moved to Australia. And did you have to overcome any difficulties or do things different when you were with Herder.

Doing a band was definitely on the agenda. I love playing music way too much not to do it. I had no idea in what shape or form that would be before I stumbled upon these guys . I felt a really good connection from the get go and the band sort of naturally became what it is.
Playing in Herder was very different. There was a concept before the band was even formed, and there were songs recorded before we even had jammed together. Herder operates in a very efficient way, and always has done that.

Every member was, and is very experienced and has done the hard yards with other bands like tons of shows, touring, recording etc etc. Herder was the band that collectively took all that experience and utilised it to hit the ground running. In saying that, the intention was to just put out one 7' and play one show at some stage. It's a collective of friends, and fun is priority obviously but just a more mature approach of 'being a band' is what makes the difference.

Starting Watchtower was starting a band that had to find it's feet and do the hard yards again, but this time I got a little bit more under my belt than the rest of the band. Some of which we used in our advantage I guess, but still it was very green at the start. Things come together very naturally with us and absolutely nothing is contrived and everything is 100% democratic.

I'm very stoked with that. To be honest, not the most efficient way to go about things but on the other hand we don't raise the bar too high. Everything we achieve is a bonus and we have so much fun every time we get together and do fun shit, or accomplish some goals we've set for ourselves.

· So what are the future plans with Watchtower. New album or full length record in the works. Will that be released on Magnetic Eye Records as well.

We are currently busy writing our follow up record on MER. It's a full length and we cannot say much else about it at this point. We are aiming to have it done early next year so we can gear up for recordings.

· OK time to talk about the Aussie Sludge/Doom/Stoner Scene. A scene that I’m a huge fan of and one that is getting a great reputation overseas. Have you guys noticed the respect the Aussie scene is currently getting overseas.

We see a lot of love going around for Australian bands from overseas for sure! It's awesome to witness cool shit like that and luckily a handful of bands got picked up by labels from the states and Europe We only see it through social media but still I think we have a pretty good idea what's going on and we often forget that we are a part of it.

· There are tons of great bands from Australia. Adrift For Days, Space Bong, Drowning Horse, AVER, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Mammoth Mammoth and many more that I’ve forgot to mention. How is the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal perceived by Australian music fans in general. Is there a big scene for you guys to perform regular.

We have definitely seen some change in that part of the scene in the time we've been around. There seem to be more bands, more gigs, more festivals, more promoters and more punters coming out to shows and more bands getting signed by labels overseas, probably the most important reason why there's a good rep. This is just talking about the up and coming and younger bands obviously. Take bands like Whitehorse or Hydromedusa for example. They have been bringing it internationally for years now.

The doom/stoner/sludge scene is not huge I feel, although those styles of music are continuing to gain popularity I think. It's becoming more 'normal' and easier to access perhaps rather than being just niche genres. I wish the people that come out to see the bigger international touring bands would also put some effort into checking out local bands so we had more people to perform to!

We are also lucky in Melbourne we have a few gems of venues with a lot street cred and never shy of hosting a doomy night which helps a lot! We can play on a regular basis, but there's only so many places you can play, and so many bands to play with on a local level so there's a challenge there to keep it interesting. It's harder to tour Australia, even for Australian bands than it is to tour Europe and the states for example.

· Why do yourselves think labels (RidingEasy, Magnetic Eye Records) are taking a keen interest in signing Aussie bands.

I think we are caught in the eye of some sort of storm? I couldn't say. Obviously there is, and always been a lot of talent in Australia and there's always been various underground and heavy bands signed internationally. Maybe the current wave of Australian doom is actually looking to work with international labels?

· It’s also good that a lot of internationally renowned Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal bands such as YOB, Torche and Neurosis have toured Australia recently and praised very highly about their experiences when on tour there. Which bands would yourselves like to see tour Australia.

I would like to see Sunn 0))) play here. But more importantly I would like to see smaller bands that are less established as the ones mentioned above, but do have record deals and do have the drive and the courage to tour overseas but maybe just not the help and the resources they need to be able to tour Australia, as it is not really accommodating for that. I think touring companies could easily get those bands over to tour, it just requires some a little bit of heart and a good healthy DIY ethic. It's not all about making money.

· Do you think the Aussie Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal scene has hit its peak or is there still a ton of great bands waiting to be discovered.

I think the ball has not stopped rolling yet. Hopefully things will only get better. There's plenty bands that don't get the credit they deserve and there's enough bands still working hard to get themselves out there. Bands like Sumeru from Sydney, who have been going at it for a couple of years now and Grim Rhythm who have been quite obscure and have been flying under the radar for a long time. Hobo Magic from Brisbane, little grommets fresh out of high school who can play like they have been a band for 20 years and YLVA, who have just released a recoding on bandcamp and are about to play their fist show from Melbourne for example. So much good stuff.

· If you could change anything about the Aussie Hard Rock/Metal scene what would it be and the reasons why.

More mixed bills. More people should be aware of what's going on around them in music scenes parallel to theirs. They cross over and they need to in real life to keep this music thing interesting and evolving.

· I’ve interviewed other Australian bands in the past and they’ve told me the distance between different towns and cities performing gigs can be a major issue when playing gigs. Have you suffered from that fate yourselves travelling to extremely long distances. Or is it part of the course being a band based down under.

Like mentioned before, it is very hard and expensive to tour Australia. The shows we've played interstate were a long way from home. In the future we are trying to play more shows in rural areas, because there's headbangers in every town, there might just not be enough people to pack out a venue for a good show. But let that not be reason enough for a gig not to happen. Plus, it's fun to go places you never been before and perform. Even when there is not many people watching.

· Well guys thanks for doing this interview. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans.

Thanks for paying interest and thanks for the love/hate. We need it to keep on going.

Words by Steve Howe and Nico Guijt