Thursday 1 November 2018

An Interview With Tim Harbour From MAD GOD

Mad God are perhaps my first true exposure to the South African Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal scene and that’s mainly down to their excellent new album Grotesque and Inexorable, which is released tomorrow.

This is actually the band’s second full length album. Mad God did release their debut album back in 2017 which completely passed me by. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I recently reviewed Grotesque and Inexorable and it’s a gloomy and heavy atmospheric album inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Though the music is inspired by bands such as Electric Wizard, CONAN and Church Of Misery.

I managed to catch up with Tim Harbour (Guitar/Vox) from MAD GOD, where we discussed the making of the album, the evolution of the band’s sound and the South African Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene as well.

Read on for more info…..

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

Lekker. All great thanks, nice to be chatting with you from sunny South Africa while we await the end of days.

Before we discuss your new album. Can you give a brief overview of how the band formed and where it is today.

The band formed around 2015 with the sole aim of bringing doom metal to the local, Joburg, community. There was a band around by the name of Corax who played a darker blend of doom and black metal and also the instrumental STRAGE in Durban but we were the first local band to put together a more traditional, stoner doom outfit. Stoner doom has been one of my favourite music styles of all time so creating Mad God was the only logical thing to do.

The music was received well in the local and international communities and gave us the energy to keep doing it. Next month see’s the release of our second full-length album, Grotesque and Inexorable. When the band formed I never imagined us getting to this point. We feel as a band, we have progressed and grown our sound somewhat with this new album and we are really excited to release it.

How would you describe your overall sound. As you have included quite a few different elements for a seedy and heavy sound. Especially on your excellent new album.

When Mad God started the aim was never to be super unique, but just to have fun playing some sick riffs, really loud and really slow with lo-fi recording. Our first EP was pretty much run of the mill, stoner doom, but we still enjoyed performing it live and were happy with the EP we produced. When Tales of The Sightless City came out I started to blend more traditional metal into the album and tried to move the sound away from just being another doom clone band,

I introduced elements, very slight elements, of sludge into the sound which can be heard particularly with songs such as Entity of Smoke and Blood but we more or less stuck to the stoner doom aesthetic with only hints of these other sounds nestled within. With the newer album, although we have stuck to the stoner doom model, I have tried to include a much wider variety of sounds and styles, including death metal, black metal, 70s prog and rock as well as both stoner doom, sludge and traditional metal sounds.

I still wanted to keep Mad God true to its roots, which is just to play simple riffs that people can headbang too, but also tried this time to take our audience on more of a journey with both our songs and our album. I hope this is something we achieved and hopefully it adds to our sound. Though we have tried to keep the recordings sounding live and lofi we do feel the fidelity of our recordings has gotten better with each release and are super happy with the tones and presence of the new album.

You’re about to release your superb album – Grotesque and Inexorable. What can people expect from the album.

As mentioned above people can expect a wider variety of influences on this album but also a far more progressive approach to song writing than we have taken before. Also if you love horror samples and Charles Manson quotes this album is definitely for you. Content and lyric wise the songs have taken an even darker turn this album. I attempted to write lyrics that even I found disturbing. I really wanted the lyrics to give the listener a sense of horror and gore and set an atmosphere that is both dark and oppressive.

Most of the lyrics off this album are either short horror stories or comments on events or people that catch my interest. One such event was the gruesome murder that took place in South Africa a few years ago in De Zalze Estate. I am a huge fan of horror stories, real and imagined, and I use such things as sources of inspiration for both current and future content. I also love video games so you can expect some lyrics based on the world of Bloodborne.

What is the main theme of the album and why did you call the album Grotesque and Inexorable.

The main theme of this album is horror. The album title was an attempt to describe the mood I wished the album to set, one of terror and a fear that cannot be understood or described. As has been stated by the band previously, we are huge fans of the works of H.P Lovecraft and horror in general. I wanted the title to read like a horror story title and drew from Lovecraft’s own traditions of using poetic yet dark and descriptive words.

Grotesque is a favourite word of Lovecraft’s and I felt it also fitted well to describe this album and our intentions. Inexorable is another Lovecraftian type word and together the two words can be explained as “disgusting and cannot be stopped”. This is both a great way to describe both our music and our lyrical themes as well as the mood the album is supposed to set. Our previous album title was supposed to read like a collection of horror stories (Tales of a Sightless City), I wanted to do the same this time round, initially using the working title, Recollections from the Void, but when the idea to call the album Grotesque and Inexorable came around I decided it fitted the album better and was a punchier title.

Who is releasing the album and what formats is the album being released upon.

We are releasing the album ourselves primarily, though we do have Red Hand Records who are going to be printing and distributing for us in the US and we also have a contact in Russia (Narcoleptica Productions) who will be doing some prints for Europe but it is too soon to mention details on that. Though we are working with these various distributors and labels we still operate as an independent band.

As we always have done, the album will be available to buy in both digital and CD formats on our Bandcamp page, we still want to do vinyl prints of all our previous releases but due to being an independent band we have not managed to put together the funds for vinyl yet. We hope that is something we can address soon. CD’s ordered through our Bandcamp are packed and sent off by the band and should take no more than a month to get to their destination but hopefully with RHR and Narcoleptica we will provide quicker and easier delivery to our overseas fans.

What influenced you when writing and recording the album. 

That is hard to say, but probably weed. Ha ha. We just love playing heavy music and writing and recording our music is the most rewarding experience for any band. We know that some projects cannot exist forever so the more material we can record the better. We really enjoy playing new music and adding more songs to the set to allow us to play more interesting live shows. Our eventual aim is to take our music overseas and for that to happen we feel we need to have a good backlog of material to share. Also did I say weed? Maybe some murder, sex, serial killer documentaries and some horror movies on the side.

Was recording the album an easy or hard experience.

The album was extremely easy to record. The guitar and drums were recorded live in one session of about 17 hours. We did minimal editing to that recording and what you hear on the album is basically exactly how we played it live. We would have also recorded the bass at the same time but our bassist was quite new and we didn’t want to complicate the recording process. He took the live recordings and laid the bass on them over the next few days.

The tracks then came back to me to do the vocals and finally add the samples. Our bassist also mixed the album and I mastered it so all in all the album took about two weeks to complete from scratch, besides writing the music. Our drummer Pat and I had been practising hard to prepare to record live so we did put in a lot of leg work before the recordings began. If none of us had to work full time jobs the album could have been completed in a week or less.

We are hoping to streamline this process for future recordings so we spend more time in the jam room and less time in the studio.

The album cover is quite dark and very gloomy. Who designed the album cover and how much input did you have with the final designed

Our art is done by the amazing Lyle Van’Dango, who also did our previous album. I told Lyle I wanted this art to reflect the new music and be more brooding and foreboding than the previous cover. I told him my idea was some sort of haunted forest that claims the lives of warriors and travellers alike. Those souls go on to haunt the forest till the end of time. From that description Lyle put together the amazing work you see before you. Me and Lyle are good friends and are generally on the same wave length so from concept to final version I gave very little changes and just suggested some small additions and all in all the art was completed in no time at all. If anyone needs album art done I cannot recommend anyone better than Lyle.

You’re from South Africa. Which isn’t exactly known for Doom/Stoner Metal music. How would you describe the underground Doom/Stoner Metal scene over in South Africa.

Our doom/stoner “scene” was pretty much non-existent and in some ways still is. As mentioned earlier Corax had been playing their own brand of doom at many a metal show but they were always the odd band out. Slow was not something many South African fans got when it came to metal. STRAGE also were doing their part in Durban, a more post-metal influenced and also instrumental band.

At the same time Mad God formed, Ruff Majik had also formed in Pretoria and were playing their brand of stoner rock influenced tunes, though their sound has evolved to be much heavier in their later releases. All these bands didn’t really know each other and would take whatever gigs they could and there were never any doom-only gigs to be found at this time.

When Mad God formed another stoner doom band, called Goat Throne, started at the same time and together we put on a collection of shows we dubbed, The Temple of Doom. These shows attempted to be the first full-on, live doom shows that South Africa had seen. This event was very well received and we had about 5 or 6 of them before people from the bands became a bit busy and organisation started to slack. We are wanting to revive these shows and aim to do so over the coming year.

Other than Temple of Doom shows the doom bands here just take the shows that they can get. Mad God has found a home at many a punk, metal and hardcore show in JHB and occasionally when we put on our own shows we will invite our small family of doom and stoner bands to the table.

Is there a scene for you to perform many gigs. Or do you perform when you can.

There are tonnes of gigs going on in South Africa though as mentioned not that many doom bands or doom focused shows. We generally just perform where we can, punk, metal and variety shows are the norm with the occasional festival. Generally we prefer putting on our own events at venues or just do DIY shows. Speaking of DIY our upcoming album launch is going to be in an industrial park middle November. What is more metal than playing doom in an industrial warehouse?

Can you recommend any other Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal bands from South Africa that people should check out. 

Most definitely. My best suggestion would be to check out Doomed and Stoned in South Africa ( which we put together with the help of the amazing Billy Goate. Ruff Majik, Corax, Goat Throne, STRAGE, DOOMORGY to name but a few of the heavier ones but check out the rest on the link above. Some awesome stuff coming out of SA right now.

Would you change anything at all that you’ve been through with the band.

This question could be asked about many things in life. Though I could say I could wish to go back and change some of the recordings of our previous releases, or spent more time on certain aspects of the recordings. I could even think about writing the songs in a different way, I could also go back and wish some personal relationships within the band had been resolved differently but with all that said I think we are where we are today because of what has come before us. It is better to make a mistake and try again than to never make a mistake at all. I am happy and proud of each step this band has taken and I wouldn’t change anything.

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

I do most of the primary song writing myself, as in I bring the riffs to the band and ideas for structure and grooves and bass lines etc. But from there the band puts the rest together. I often have a strong vision of where I want to take the songs and the band is happy to work with me so I produce the tracks to a degree but I also try to let the players invent their own parts within those structures.

On the last album my drummer Pat helped me with some riffs in the song Green Guardian and on the newer album the song The Hunt is mostly all his doing and it’s awesome to have that extra input. He also helped me put together No Prayers, No Fires and the last half of the song are mostly riffs from him. I put together all the lyrics generally. In the future I would love the band to come with more riffs and song ideas. I don’t take the writing on myself because I don’t want anyone else to write but more just that I have more time to write for the band than most and when I get into a writing zone I churn out quite a bit of material.

Are there any plans for you to come over to Europe in the near future.

We would love to visit Europe soon and it is something we have been discussing. It is on the cards but still nothing solid to speak of. Watch this space.

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

Thanks to you guys for asking us to do the interview, we really appreciate it. To our fans thanks so much for supporting us this far, the support we have seen up to now has been part of the reason we keep doing it and it is humbling to see people listening to and enjoying out music.

Mad God has always just been a bunch of mates who love making music, metal or otherwise, who just want to get together and do something awesome, while having fun playing live. Whether it be our love of horror, video games, music, weed or metal that keeps us together, we don’t know but we will continue to make Lovecraftian inspired metal till we die. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'naglfhtagn to you all. We pray that he eats us first. 

Words by Steve Howe and Tim Harbour

Thanks to Warren at Plug Music Agency for arranging this interview. Thanks to Tim for taking the time out in doing this interview.

Grotesque and Inexorable will be available to buy on CD/DD from November 2nd 2018.


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