Saturday, 24 March 2018

An Interview With Mike Vest From BONG

UK Doom/Drone Collective – BONG – have going a band for around 13 years now and they are about to release their excellent new album -Thought And Existence – in May 2018 through Ritual Productions. 

This is BONG’s 1st album in 3 years and it’s a beautifully heavy collection of BONG’s trademark Drone/Doom distorted Psychedelic sounds.

I’ve seen BONG numerous times over the years as they live in my home-town of Newcastle upon Tyne. So I’ve had ample opportunity to see this legendary band in action and they never disappoint.

I was given the chance to catch up with Mike Vest (Guitarist) from BONG and see what influenced BONG in making this album.

Hi Mike. Thanks for doing this interview. What can people expect from the record.

Two epic tracks of modded fuzz, layered vocals and expansive percussion. We spent a lot more time on the production and layering on this album than previous. It’s generally a lot more focused.

What is the main theme of the record.

The main theme is the inward expansive nature of the mind and our senses. The brain is actually part of the external world, it is only through our senses that we can truly see or feel the mind. Methodological Solipsism is always a constant theme with all our albums, but is more prominent on this record.

What influenced you when writing and recording the record.

Life, sorrow, heartbreak, inevitability, the nature of people of actions, disappointments. All this was channelled into a melancholic output. Resulting in euphoric drones and a some what uplifting feel, whilst still remaining sonically crushing and real. Musically, however all three of us listen to vast array of music.

Our influences generally stay the same.

Parson Sounds, Arvo Part, Niblock, Holy Angels, Ashra Temple, Agitation Free. There is just too many to list.

Was recording the album an easy or hard experience compared to your other albums.

When we record we try and limit ourselves to only a couple of days studio time. There is so much space to improvise within our tracks, that sometimes too much time can be wasted. Ending up with endless versions of the same song that can be hard to distinguish between takes.

This album we decided to spend more time on the production and the mixing. Deciding early on takes and spending more time on adding bowed cymbals, octave guitar harmonies and layered vocals. Trying to remain focused whilst listening to our final mixes can be a channelling. I wouldn’t say its hard, more like a great confusion.

What is the song-writing method in the band. Is it a group collective or down to one individual.

Riffs and ideas are brought in individually, but then formed as a group. We play and play the tracks and the dynamics are formed over time.

The band has been fairly quiet over the last three years and that’s quite different for you. Why the long silence. Did you need a break or just too busy with other projects.

Our last album was released in May 2015.

Since then we have still been playing shows and festivals.

How active a band is perceptional, we haven’t played festivals like Roadburn, Supersonic, Supernormal, Fat Out etc for a while, but we have still have played in London, Belgium, Portugal, Norway, Newcastle and Leeds last year.

I guess depending on how big the festival or show is, depends on how much exposure you get.

Will you be touring this record heavily. Or just the usual rare gigs and festival appearances.

We are currently booking shows for Europe and UK right now, so get in touch with us, we want to play more shows this year for sure. We are playing London at the end of June. More are being confirmed – Stay Tuned..

Do you have an advanced setup or basic setup when performing live and recording in the studio.

Performing live and recording is generally the same set up.

We have used a gong in the studio, but never live.

Drummer Mike S removes his hi-hat from the drum kit and uses 30-32 inch rides and crash cymbals instead. So the tempo can be slowed, using the ring from the crash as a parameter.

If you could have been a member of any band (regardless of genre). Which band would you be a part of and the reasons why.

Parson Sounds. A community of musicians creating their own reality through sound and art.

Freely out in the forests of Sweden in the 70s.
Masters of tempo and expansive rock music. 

Mike – You’re also apart of BLOWN OUT and that band is also quite prolific. Where do you find the time to participate in both bands and is it a hard juggling act. (Apologies for not remembering that Mike is part of some other great bands. Just forgot about them).

I play in a lot of bands. 11PARANOIAS, BLOWN OUT, MELTING HAND. I work hard at it all the time, sometimes too much.

But what can better than creating music/art everyday? 

A lot of musicians play in more than one band these days, if not, they should. The one thing that cannot be duplicated by machines and tech is the sound power of 3+ people playing in unison. It’s helped me play better and progress in my craft.

BLOWN OUT has just released a split album with Aussie Psych/Stoner Rock Band – Comacozer. How did that collaboration come about and did you know much about the band before you released the album with them.

I was approached by Riot Season about doing a split LP. I hadn’t heard of them at the time. I like split LPs and wanted to be part of this In Search Of Highs Split series that Riot Season was starting. All the pieces fell into place.

BONG has been going as band for thirteen years now. Did you think that it would ever last this long.

You don’t think like that at the time of formation.

It's only once time has gone by that you reflect on how long that time was. But truly, no we didn’t. We can’t believe the responses we get when we play shows and release records. Taking this time to thank everyone who has even picked up a tape, LP, CD, shirt or came to one of your shows. Without that, we wouldn’t be around.

Looking back would you change anything about your time with the band.

Not a thing

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go do you have anything to say to your fans. Best of luck with the new album.

Thank you for your support and kind words. Bong’s music demands a dedicated listener so if you are a fan we thank you for your dedication. ‘Thought and Existence’ is out on May 4th on Ritual Productions – save this date as there will be very limited hand silk screened LPs and CDs available then!!

Words by Steve Howe and Mike Vest

Thanks to Cris at Ritual Productions for arranging this interview. Thanks to Mike for doing the interview. promo. Thought And Existence will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via Ritual Productions from May 04th 2018.