Saturday 18 March 2017

No Fooling Around - An Interview with Paul Waller from OHHMS

OHHMS have become one of my fave bands from the UK scene since their inception in 2014. OHHMS blend elements of Noise, Post-Rock, Doom, Drone, Sludge and Stoner sound and create something original. Since then they have released two acclaimed EP's with Bloom and Cold.

OHHMS have became one of the must see acts on the live arena with their uncompromising performances that's earned then plaudits from fans and critics alike.

OHHMS are about to release their epic new album – The Fool. A politically charged and emotionally involving album that sees OHHMS at their most creative and most passionate. I caught up with lead vocalist – Paul – recently to discuss the making of the album.

Hi Paul. Thanks for doing this interview. How things with you. Congrats on the new album.

It's one of those things that everyone has spoken to us about the album has been really positive. We haven't had any negatives. Apart from the initial findings from our management. Journalists and fans have been very excited about it. The management were the first people that said - “We've haven't heard it yet but someone said it's very underwhelming”.

That was just when Radio 1 put out the “The World”. A promoter in Leeds said it was very underwhelming. That was our very first bit of feedback. We were thinking “SHIT”.

The album is getting a lot of buzz from the Doom Community. Have you heard this yourselves.

Yeah we've heard. It's the first time we have interest from places like America and a few different promoters and magazines asking about it. I don't know if that's down to ourselves stepping up the promotion or people are genuinely interested in the album. We just don't know.

The sound and tone of the album varies from song to song..As it's quite different to your previous EP's.

We started to go off on a tangent at the song “Dawn Of The Swarm” that was on COLD. Flip-side to The Anchor. We loved doing that. We loved performing that. We went mad in the studio. So many overdubs and soon we started playing again in the rehearsal room. It sounded shit compared what we released on record. We decided to continue this sort of thing but so we can perform this stuff live. That was the trick.

You're quite right. If you hadn't listened to those EP's or seen us perform live. This will be a shock as two of the tracks are around the 20 minute mark. The lengthy stuff is not like the forefront now. We did write our longest ever song but it's a world apart from our earlier sounds on Anchor And Bloom which are firmly in the Doom Metal camp.

Was that the intention to do something different for for this album. Did you have a plan of some kind.

It's never the intention to do something different or to go into recording something with a plan. We stockpile riffs up and we go through them. Some of them we love and others we just bin. We go into the studio work on those ideas and insert the riffs into the right songs. I know other bands from our genre write the same way. What I found interesting that it was completely natural as we wrote The Magician. We wrote that song before we wrote Dawn Of The Swarm that appears on Cold.

That song was always there but we were always concerned about it. On one of the tours we had Jon from CONAN driving us around. He played “Reveangence” before it came out with the demos. Of course that album is not quite blast based riffs but actually thunderous beats. We played our song “The Magician” and we've been playing that 6 months by then. We just thought then “Fuck's Sake”

So yeah, it's that old but at the same time we've written newer songs on this album. The songs are Doom/Stoner-ish sounds and so much more as well. I hate that Post-Metal tag even though we have similar sounds to bands from that genre.

It's strange. I don't know what people will make of it. I hope they don't think it's too much of a leap. It will take a few listens. If you stream a track here and there I don't know if you will get it right away. You will need to listen to the album to appreciate it more. Give it a few listens.

The Hanged Man can be very bleak and political at times. What influenced you when writing that track.

The songwriting came first with that track. It was really strange as it's an angry track but I wasn't angry when writing the song. I was at work and I walked past a copy of one of the British Daily Newspapers. and I read the headline. I know these newspapers can be shit and god-damn awful. Though I never knew how awful and shit they actually are. They're very sneaky with this horrible headline. It was scaremongering about Immigration and Borders.

So I read through this article and I researched further. This wasn't the only newspaper doing this and I was amazed that this was legal the stuff they were printing. I got furious with this newspaper headline and people buy this stuff day in and day out. It shocked me that people read and believe this stuff.

That night there was a Documentary on TV that night about the Hillsborough Tragedy. Again it showed the headlines that The Sun came out with at the time. It was shocking and disturbing yet again. I thought that's it. That's what the song was going to be about. I made a phone call to the guys, arranged a quick rehearsal the next day. That was it. It was done.

It was really exciting as that was the first time I've written when I was angry. It all worked out on the end and it sounded great.

It was also the first time that Max (Drums) brought in some electronic weirdness. He manipulated bass and drums sounds electronically. He sampled other things as well. It was a true collaborative effort from everyone.

One of my favourite parts of that song is when the mood becomes quiet and you perform very loud pissed off vocals.

When they wrote that in the studio it was one of those moments when you say – WOW. You get so excited and it's one of those moments that opened upto a world for me that challenges me. I know where to ROAR and where to sing. The band make my life so easy.

You spent a hell of a long time recording this album. Over a year and a half I believe. How did it take that long. Did you every think it would ever get finished.

No not at all. We had the plan from the start. The album took 18 months to record. The artwork we've been working on for two years.. Those Tarot Cards we were getting one a month. That was the plan to begin with. We are basing the album around the Tarot. We had 22 song titles to choose from.

The reason why it took so long to record was because of finances. We didn't have the money and we knew it would cost a few grand.. Holy Roar isn't the type of label that will upfront money to record the album. The way they work is totally DIY. We get paid from the records and merch we sell at shows. We don't lose any money which is great.

Every time we written two songs we would go back into the studio and record. We would then do the same for the next two songs until the album was fully recorded. It also allows us to revisit what we record six months down the line and we can say – Lets Change That. Even on the last day of recording – we had to overdub some vocals. We changed the way I sing a line on The Magician as Max said I sounded like Bruce Dickinson.

You've gone a too bit “IRON MAIDEN” - Paul. So I overdubbed half of a line that I recorded six months earlier. So it didn't' warble like Bruce Dickinson like he does. I did it in one take and Max said – Done. That's it.

It had bugged him for that amount of time and he didn't tell me. It's a mad way to do it but I think it works. It was a big long project. It's a weird way to run a band with everyone having all these plans. It's the way we work.

Your vocals very different on this album. More mature and more confident if you don't mind me saying. How did you prepare for your vocals for this album.

This is so embarrassing. I had to take vocal lessons. I found it excruciating singing in front of an old lady on a piano. I was fine touring for four days but on the fifth day I was struggling and by the sixth day I was wrecked. I needed to learn control. By learning to control my voice I can hear notes that I couldn't hear before.

During this process I also learned to harmonize. I never even thought about that. Now it comes naturally. Not many other bands are doing. Thanks for pointing that out and noticing as I've put a lot of hard work and effort into this. Funny story is I now do vocal warm-ups and the only chance I get to do it is in the van. The guys hate it. I'm doing my vocal exercises for a good fifteen minutes but the whole band are begging me to stop.

As a vocalist. It's good fun. It's exciting as I'm learning some pretty cool and exciting techniques.

We have to talk about the song that will surprise people the most on the album. The Lovers. Who is the superb female vocalist that appears on it.

I written a song from an article I read in the article in The Independent. It was the most twisted and fucked up love story. I don't know about love. It was all about arranged marriage in Africa. This woman was meant to marry this gentlemen. He was quite controlling and she wasn't in love with him. So it was always going to end badly. The reason why it ended up in the newspaper is because the gentlemen's brother was the lady's confidante and close friend. They weren't in love or anything. Just good friends.

This made the husband very jealous. He went to see the village elders and convinced them she was a witch. Long story cut short – She got stoned to death. It was such a freaky story and the husband admitted afterwards it was all down to jealousy.

Daniel had this little loop that was originally going to be the intro to Dawn Of The Swarm. He binned it as we had a better intro to it.

The vocalist is called Sienna Holihan. She's a folk artist and I first heard her supporting some band at an indie gig. I was blown away and I asked Sienna after the gig would she be interested and she was.

When Sienna was in the studio, she sang it in a different way that I envisioned it. Turns out I was singing it on the off and Sienna was singing it properly. It works.

You're going on tour soon in with HARK and BOSSK separately. You looking forward to that tour. What can people expect.

We've been trying to do some shows with HARK for a very long time. I'm a big fan of TAINT. His voice and his roaring is incredible. That was a no-brainer. We try to arrange a European Tour but it didn't' work out. Finally Jimbob came up and said we have 4 days that the guys can get off work. Do you want in.

We immediately say YES.

The same thing happened with BOSSK. Even though they've done a few shows here and there. They don't tour very often. They've done one proper tour since they reformed in two years. We still feel we're the new kids on the block. Both of these tours are built at joint headline tours. It's weird as we don't think deserve this as we don't have an album out yet. HARK and BOSSK have great albums out. It's nice to be asked in that context.

I know people come upto us after gigs and chat to us. Though people do that with every band. It's a weird and good feeling at the same time.

Well Paul thanks for doing this interview. All the best with the new album. It's a killer record.

Cheers and Thank You.

Words by Steve Howe and Paul Waller

Thanks to Claire at Purple Sage PR for arranging this interview. Thanks to Paul from OHHMS for doing this interview. The Fool will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via Holy Roar Records from March 31st 2017.