Monday 1 August 2016

Interview with OXEN

OXEN is the loud outfit from Holyoke, Massachusetts. If you’re looking for fresh and new music based on stoner, hard rock and sludge, then you know that do. The fresh and heavy sound of OXEN is a charged and powerful substance which works well as a generator of highly intensive energy.

The band worked as a quartet till now, and every member not only performed his direct duties but also sang, so vocals styles of their first full length “The Vanishing” varies from song to song. Hans Dalhaus (drums, vocals) is here to tell about latest news from the band.

Hello Hans! How are you? What's going on in OXEN lair?

Hey Alex! I am doing well. Oxen is amping up for the release of a split we are doing with our CT buddies Warm. We also are getting excited for August to play RPM Fest in Greenfield MA. It’s a whole camping weekend of Metal and Rock with an awesome line up of bands. Good times!!

What’s lineup will make your company on RPM Fest?

It’s a 3 day event. We are smack dab in the middle of the opening night. The order is Godeater, Problem with Dragons, Oxen, Barishi, and Lich King. Check out for details. The weekend just continues to be amazing after that.

How did you form the band? What was your primal motive when you formed OXEN?

Oxen was originally a collaborative idea between me and Ben Reigle. We lived on the same street at the time and would hang out quite a bit. I think we were both going through struggles in our personal relationships and needed an outlet. We both had so much in common with our musical interests we decided we should form a band. Hence the birth of Oxen. Our personal lives eventually sorted themselves out but the band remained.

Recently Ben left the band to focus on his plans to open a tattoo shop called “Great Spirits”. He was a huge driving force behind Oxen’s original sound. It was hard seeing him go. The remaining members; Myself (drums/vox), Chris Danielle (guitar/vox) and Eric Racicot (bass/vox) pondered breaking Oxen up but decided not to. We are currently playing as a power trio which has been amazing. This new form has pushed each of us more in our individual abilities to write songs. I’m very excited as for what you’ll be hearing in the future from Oxen.

OXEN - Transmission

Hans, you have mentioned split with Warm, how many songs do you have for it?

We have 3 songs.

Does this material differ from the one you have on “The Vanishing”?

If you’ve listened to the album I would say these songs are a continuation of the sounds from “Colour out of Space”, “Waxwing”, and honestly if you go back to our EP, “Pollution”. That song was always a favorite.

You released the debut full-length "The Vanishing" one year ago, what's your progress with writing the material for next full-length album?

The Vanishing“ took a while to get out but the material itself we wrote rather quickly. We currently have a roster of songs ideas that we have prioritized and are going through. There is definitely a sound on parts of that album we want continue to hold true to as the sound of Oxen. You will hear that consistency in the upcoming split we will be releasing. (Release date to be determined) I feel we are taking our time more with writing this time around. When writing “the Vanishing” we were just so excited about the stuff we were coming up with we wanted to get it out as fast as we could and share it with the masses. I feel we are a little more restrained this time and each member is less afraid to speak up if they approve or disapprove of an idea. It’s a real collaborative effort. It’s very fulfilling as a musician.

Do I get it right that the album exists only in digital format? Didn't you search for labels to release it?

We have CD’s of “the Vanishing”. You can buy them through our website or at shows. We didn’t really push for label support. We talked about it but it didn’t really fit our lifestyles. We all have careers and music is our outlet. If a label was to come along and show an interest we would definitely ponder it but currently it’s the creating that’s the driving force. We play about 5-6 shows a year and they are always a blast. Some bands are road dogs and play constantly and I give them all props. That’s just not where we are at.

How much money do you spend on the band? Isn’t it expensive?

The other great thing about our band is we have Chris Danielle. Not only a great guitarist, Chris is an amazing sound engineer and owner of Yucky Studios. He also is a savvy videographer and photographer. He has made it possible for Oxen to record and put out our music without breaking the bank. He made it possible for us to shoot all the videos we have as well. Yes there are other expenses but we figure it out. It’s worth it.

You labored your sound for two years and finally it turned to be the blend of hard rocking stoner with tiny pieces of doom and sludge here and there. Can you say that you have reached the ultimate sound on "The Vanishing"?

I personally feel we just scratched the surface with “the Vanishing” as to where our sound is going. Our first EP “Glass Coffin” was originally instrumental and then I introduced some vocal ideas I had and everybody dug them. When we started “The Vanishing” we still were not sure what direction we were going in. We were still kind of an instrumental band but we knew there was now option for vocals. As song ideas were introduced I just started grabbing onto them and writing vocal parts and telling stories.

Chris as well started bringing his vocal ideas and all the songs came together. Eric joined the band right before we were to record and even though he brought his stylings to the album his parts were already written. His input on the newer stuff has been huge. After Ben’s guitar playing left the picture it was discovered that not only does Eric tear up the bass he is a shredding guitarist. You may find him wearing both hats in the future.

OXEN – Pollution

On which elements would you like to focus working over on the material for the second album?

I think now that we’ve realized we are a band that can be instrumental and have vocals its now finding the balance between the two. One thing we’ve been doing differently this time around is just showing up to our space and riffing as a band and seeing where our playing takes us. Before Ben or Chris would come in with a song idea and we would just learn it. We ‘d add a few things here and there but basically it was complete. I think now we are writing more as a group. A good example of our group effort from “the Vanishing” would be “Colour out of Space” and “Matchstick”. I feel those two were a real collaborative effort. They both started as riffs and took form in the practice space. We all have ideas and it’s the blend of all of them that defines Oxen’s sound. Also it makes for a truly satisfying process.

Which song would you choose from this album to demonstrate the essence of OXEN?

That’s a tough one. If you’re asking more of the sound you will be hearing in the future I would say “Colour out of Space”, “Wax Wing”, and “Cursed Sand”.

I see that all four of OXEN lineup are listed as vocalists, who's the main dude in the band who sings general parts of the songs?

All the lead clean parts are me and all the Gruff parts are Chris. Ben sang lead on Matchstick as well.

What kind of lyrics do you prefer to use in OXEN? Do you have any conception for it?

I wrote the lyrics for a majority of the album. Chris wrote lyrics as well for a couple of the songs he’s lead on. Our song lyrics fall in the Sci fi/ fantasy realm. When I write I like telling stories. I always loved Mastodons telling of Moby Dick on “Leviathan”. It was epic. That’s my song style.

Hans the band is located in Holyoke, Massachusetts; how does your surroundings influence upon you?

Winters are long here. It makes for some good time for writing!

What's about local scene? Where and with which bands do you usually play?

This area of Western Massachusetts has a huge folk and bluegrass scene and that is what most of the venues are catering to. It is honestly getting harder and harder to find a decent rock club to play at. In the past 6 months 3 great heavy music venues shut down for stupid reasons. Its truly frustrating. That being said we have a thriving metal/Rock scene here. We’ve played a lot of shows with local acts such as; Problem with Dragons, Neon Fauna, Black Pyramid, Warm, Moontooth (NY), Dead Empires (NY). There is so many great unsigned bands around this area. And the community of metal heads is solid. As I mentioned before we are getting ready to play RPM Fest which is a metal/camp fest with 3 days of music. Its in its 3rd year and each year it keeps getting better thanks to Promoterhead. They are a local metal promotion company. Very cool!

Then I wish you good luck with playing on RPM Fest and finishing all deals with the split record.

Thanks for showing interest in our band and giving us the opportunity to share our story. Good luck with the website and Blog!

Words by Aleks Evdokimov and Hans Dalhaus