Interview by Food Desert Recordings
This is an interview between Kirk from Food Desert Recordings and Bog Wizard who appears on a recent compilation. Food Desert Recordings is a non-profit record label with the singular goal of supporting charities that uplift and empower maligned communities. In 2022 they have raised a significant amount for trans and queer youths suffering in Texas using compilations full of outstanding queer and queer friendly artists.
Ben – Vocals/ Guitar
Harlen – Drums/ Backup Vocals/ Producer/ Dungeon Master
Colby – Bass
*Who were some of your favorite bands/artists growing up?
Ben – I can’t pinpoint anything specific early on, though I grew up on classic rock. My first introduction to metal was Metallica‘s black album, and they quickly became a favorite. Bands like Tool, Opeth, Slipknot, Godsmack, Static-X, and System of a Down quickly followed, and some of those are still favorites today.
Harlen – Early on I got a lot of hard rock/ heavier music influences from my dad. Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, NIN, Tool, Rage Against the Machine. In high school I got more into punk music with bands like Dead Kennedys, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Anti-Flag, Rancid. Eventually in late-highschool into college I moved into heavier stuff with the nu-metal gateway bands so many had, Slipknot, Static X, System of a Down. Eventually finding my way into the faster/ much more technical stuff like Necrophagist, The Faceless, Obscura, Animals as Leaders. I think I burned myself out with tech metal and pushed into the opposite direction with doom/ stoner metal. I needed to chill.
Colby – I wasn’t really that interested in music in my middle school years. One thing that really helped me expand my listening in my teens was that the public library had a diverse selection of music that was available to check out. That really opened my ears up to a lot of things. But I remember very clearly the first time I heard Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”. Woah! What was this? It was like being hit with a lightning bolt. I had never heard music so powerful and intense. My life would never be the same. In high school my listening started shifting to darker and heavier music. My brother and a good friend of ours were always buying and sharing new music.
*What inspired you to start making music?
Ben – I’d always sort of had a fantasy of playing in a band even from when I was pretty young, but never had the discipline to really do anything with it. It wasn’t until I got to college that I met Harlen and a few others and we started trying to make something resembling music happen.
Harlen – Early on in elementary school I joined band class and asked to play violin. Turns out that wasn’t an instrument played in the typical school marching band (who knew!) so I asked to do drums/ percussion. They told me I had to have a year of piano lessons before I could do that, as they wanted their percussion players to know how to read rhythm notation when joining. As that was off the table, I had them spitball a few instruments and I ended up picking up a horn that I quit a year later. Many, many years later in college I picked up a really expensive guitar thinking it would help me want to play it more (it didn’t), and bought a buddy a really really cheap Toys R Us special drum kit so we could Start A Band like all the cool kids. Ben was playing bass at the time. Theoretical drummer friend never got into drumming much, but I took a liking to it much more than my expensive guitar and stuck with it. We ended up slamming the hell out of those instruments and creating a lot of noise, just having fun jamming out with friends. I think the connection you develop playing music with people is just something on a different level. I do still wonder how much better of a drummer I’d be if they let me play percussion back in elementary school, though!
Colby – My mother was a piano teacher and had forced some lessons on me when I was younger, but I really wasn’t interested. But the fact that I didn’t take piano seriously at a young age is one of my biggest regrets as an adult. In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I was at a friend’s house one day and a neighbor of his had an electric guitar. He let me try it out, and I was blown away by the whammy bar, and what cool sounds you could make with it. I went to a music store the next day and bought my first electric guitar and amp. That was the beginning of the end, ha.
*What bands/artists inspire you the most?
Ben – Hard to pick and choose. Black Sabbath, The Wounded Kings, Conan, YOB, Sleep, All Them Witches, Om, and Nine Inch Nails are just a few. I’ve also been going back and listening to some earlier bands I was into and realized I do take a bit of drumming influence from some of the punk bands I was into, and my funkier stuff from Rage Against the Machine.
Harlen – I’m very inspired by a lot of the current doom bands going like Windhand, YOB, Conan, Monolord, Sleep. Then of course looking back on the early Black Sabbath albums is great, hearing what must have been so jarring for its time. We occasionally do a cover live of the song Black Sabbath, which I’ve always felt is a good way to connect what we’re doing with the history of the genre, it really puts it into perspective for those newer to the ideas. I’ve also always enjoyed the more chaotic/ dynamic song writing structures of bands like Mastodon, Opeth, and System of a Down.
Colby – I don’t just listen to darker metal though. One thing that really appeals to me in other styles of music is bands that have excellent drum and bass players that interact with each other, beyond just standard musicianship. Bill Ward and Geezer Butler of Sabbath have such a deep groove when they play together. Those early Sabbath songs just aren’t the same when they are played by other musicians.
Brad Wilk and Timmy C. of Rage Against the Machine are another fine example of a deep groove. Chad Smith and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers also have that groove. Harlen and I have been playing together a few years now and I think we are heading in that direction ourselves. Personally, I don’t really care that much about vocals, lyrics, guitar solos. A band that has that deep groove does it for me every time.
*Of those bands/artists, which (if any) of their influences do you feel are reflected in your music?
Ben – Easier to answer which ones aren’t, haha, I don’t tend to pull much from All Them Witches or Nine Inch Nails, for example.
Harlen – For drumming, I definitely look a lot to Windhand, YOB, Conan, Sleep, and of course Black Sabbath. Then I try to mix in a slight touch of Opeth and Gojira, oddly enough, despite the stylistic differences. I think just about everything I’ve been into has some sort of influence on how I play, I’m always looking out for new ways to play and ideas for song structures. I really enjoy tracks in 6/8 which is a big thing we picked up from Opeth, it has this back and forth sort of pulsing waves feel to it that I think fits what we’re trying to do with Bog Wizard. Gojira and Black Sabbath are definitely influential on my affinity towards triplets, haha.
Colby – Geezer Butler remains one of my main influences as a bassist. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some Sabbath songs that I have played over a thousand times. Sometimes when we are working on a new Bog Wizard song and I am stuck finding a bassline that fits properly, I think to myself “what would Geezer do here?” Another song that really hit me forcefully was Iron Maiden’s Wrathchild. I still play that song whenever I am testing out new bass guitars. Steve Harris is another of my favorite bass players, but for Bog Wizard his influence isn’t as apparent. Metallica’s Ride the Lightning album is another game changer for me. Cliff Burton is another strong influence in my bass playing and I can see quite a bit of influence from him in some of Bog Wizards songs.
*You’ve built a massive amount of lore in a short period of time; just how deep does it go? And how hard is it to use that lore in your music (solos and splits alike)?
Harlen – Our band is based around Dungeons & Dragons/ Table Top Role Playing Games, which is not just in lyrical themes but how we approach writing our music. I call myself the bands Dungeon Master because, much like when playing a TTRPG game, I can have an overall concept or story in mind and start us off in a certain place, but the “players”, in this case, the whole band (myself included), guide where that story goes. The whole process has a very organic flow to it. It massively helps for coming up with concepts for songs, we’ll often have a riff or two we want to put together in a song, and we think about how it makes us feel, we describe the imagery it conjures which will give us a general song title/ theme that we build the story around. With a lot of songs, we take influence from games or characters we’ve played and directly write them into tracks, often with a touch of our current broader, non-fiction mindset. We’ve got many years of lore and concepts we can tap as needed when we are writing. The lore about the Bog Wizard himself tends to fill in as we go, we have a strong feel for who he is, much like a character or villain we would put together, and we keep that mindset going as we write. We know who he is and what he’s all about, so often we’ll just think of a situation he would be in and how he would respond to it. For example, the Froglord split came together as we thought about how the two would interact with each other. How would the Bog Wizard feel about discovering the frog god entering his territory? Well, he’d be pretty pissed off and go investigate, eventually leading to the confrontation and ultimate conclusion. The track The Frog Lord is just a direct retelling of this whole process, in acts. I initially had these talks with the guy behind Froglord, and it came together between us just like we write our non-split work within the band.
Honestly it feels like most of our lore writes itself, we just need to start with the initial concept and be the massive nerds we are and “play” it to its natural conclusion. I can’t imagine being in a band without writing this way.