In our latest Band Spotlight, we chat to Welsh doom metal titans, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard.
You released your latest album Yn Ol l Annwn in March, this album seemed to incorporate more of a spacey vibe to it than your other records, I wondered if/how the song writing process differed when writing this album compared to your others?
Jessica Ball (Vocals): Basically, it’s not something we planned to do, and it happened quite naturally. We’ve all been into that kind of music already and it’s just whatever we’re feeling at the time.
Paul Davies (Guitarist): We knew we had a lot more time in the studio so we could play around with different stuff and I had more time to write. It was a case of we were all maturing as writers and musicians, we were given more time and ultimately more cash.
Jess: Yeah, we made sure we used it all!
What have you made of the reception to your latest record? I haven’t seen a bad review yet.
Jess: Yeah, it’s been great. I personally realise this album has been a bit different to our last two, so you never know which way it’s going to go but it’s really gratifying to have a great response especially when you write without having the purpose to sort of please your listeners.
Probably have been asked this many time but how did you come up with your name?
Jess: Well, when we started, we didn’t really think we would make something out of it, so we were just jamming and wanted to come up with the doomiest band name ever basically for a bit of a laugh. I remember coming to band practice and the guys were saying what’re we going to call it, and we said Mammoth Weed Wizard and Carat our drummer said ah just put Bastard on the end, so I was like yeah whatever let’s do it haha.
How old were you all when you started up then?
Paul: It was officially five years ago, so I was late thirties, Jess early twenties, our drummer early forties and our other guitarist was late twenties, so quite an age range.
So how did you guys come about meeting up?
Jess: In our little town, Wrexham, it’s got a really good music scene for what it is, and we’ve all had our own various bands so naturally you’re all coming together and start playing together and we’ve always supported each other through gigs and stuff so it was quite a natural thing for us to get together as a band.
Growing up in Wrexham, I wondered what the music scene was like and what type of music you all grew up listening to?
Jess: I grew up in South Africa, I was born in Wales, but I only just came back about eight years ago but these guys grew up around a big indie scene.
Paul: Our previous band before this was more of a stoner band but we kind of the heaviest, there was a couple of death metal bands in the early 80’s and 90’s but there wasn’t a specific metal scene.
James ‘Carat’ Carrington (Drummer): There was a lot of indie music, but we thought ‘fuck this’, we’ll do something different ourselves and make them listen to our shit.
So, there was a decent metal scene in Wrexham when you were growing up?
Carat: Yeah there’s always been a big music scene in Wrexham. There was the rap time through the 80s then in the 90s everyone wanted to be The fucking Stone Roses. But strangely enough, a lot of touring bands like some popular death metal bands for some reason when they toured the UK they would come and play in Wrexham, it was weird. The band Sleep came once and played in some working men’s club. There was no real death metal scene in Wrexham but for some reason all these bands from The States would come over and play in this little club which was pretty cool.
I wondered how you felt as a band being put into the genre of stoner metal?
Paul: It’s ok, it happens you’re always going to fall into some genre I guess no matter what band you’re in. In some interviews we’ve said it’s doom but in others we’ve said stoner, on the internet you’re always going to get someone saying, “well actually you said in one interview you said that you’re doom, so you should be calling yourselves doom metal.”
I’d say we’re doom/space rock/stoner whatever, we keep getting called shoegaze, because we’ve not got the typical doom characteristics with Jess, and you have a lot of people saying ah this is not doom this is not metal but it’s kind of worked in our favour. A lot of doom people don’t class us as metal because we don’t sound like Sleep.
One of the stand out features of the band is Jess’ vocals, as they’re not what you’d call a typical doom style, when you first started out, were you worried at all about how people would take to them?
Jess: I guess not really because I’ve always been into heavy psych music and I was also doing acoustic stuff around town. It wasn’t an intention to do the singing because I started out as the bassist and we were just going to be instrumental but on our first record, Nachthexen, I done some vocals on that and everyone said I should do it more, so it was a bit of an accident really. I think it’s worked in our favour though really because it’s nice to have something different.
Paul: We just put the vocals in at the start as an instrument and then when a label tells us if you give us more of that then you can record another album, so we thought well, we’d make it a permanent feature.
I read before that Paul said Jess never shows the rest of the band the final lyrics and that was after you released your third project, I wondered if it was any different for your most recent album, did you share the lyrics this time?
Paul: No, she never.
Jess: Haha! I don’t mean to hide them, but it’s like they’re personal to what is going on in my life.
Paul: She just doesn’t want us to laugh at her, but still it’s very important for people to have their own interpretations because it then makes it more personal for them. If we published all of the lyrics now you could see someone going oh my god, it’s not my song, blah blah blah.
Talking of lyrics how do you go about writing them and what were some of the main themes going into this latest album?
Jess: Well, there was a bit of storytelling going on. Mysteries and Druids and stuff like that and that’s part of why it’s nice to hold the lyrics close to me with that mysterious element, which is a lot of what the Druid and Celtic people were about, and we really love stuff like that.
What places, or people inspire you outside of music?
Jess: Naturally being in Wales, lots of valleys and castles which we’re surrounded by.
Paul: When it comes to people, I would say people like film directors or authors because if I write a song it might be something to do with a book or a feeling I got from a certain film.
We don’t make a point to make our influences come from a stand out source but it’s good because stuff like that, that inspires me, means that I will always have things to write about and different feelings going into writing songs.
What motivates you all as a band?
Jess: Each other
Paul: We’re not necessarily happy with the doom scene, not as if there’s anything wrong with it, but because we’ve got our own influences and maybe we don’t feel like they’re in the public domain and it’s nice we push influences we like.
Jess: Especially in Wales there’s a lot of indie music. What motivates me, is to be recognised on a national level in Wales as a heavier act because sometimes we’re the only heavy act on some bills but to get that recognition really keeps you going.
Paul: I like writing music and enjoy doing it with Jess because she does the lyrics and I write most of the music, and I’m still not bored of that process.
Am I right in saying this last album is the last piece to the trilogy? If this is the last piece to the trilogy? What is next for the band?
Paul: It’s not clear just yet, but for me I’d like to do a concept album like War of the Worlds with a story or graphic novel to it.
Jess: I want to make it absolutely humongous.
Paul: Maybe do like a modern-day War of the Worlds or Black Mirror meets War of the Worlds and spend ages thinking about a kick-ass story which could be a film, or we’ll just pretend it’s a film. I want it to have different scenes and different characters. We’ll have to chat to the label anyway and say please and beg them. But yeah, we’ve done the trilogy and that was cool but that’s the long-term goal and now we want to do a rock opera.
You guys released a collab album last year with Slomatics I wondered if you all had a dream band you’d like to collab on an album with?
Paul: My dream band was Slomatics, but I think Jess might say someone else.
Jess: I love Mogwai, I mean I think they’re a bit out of our league but that would be my dream, I think we’d get on quite well!
Paul: Can I put them down as well? They’re a bit above our pay grade but to work on a film soundtrack with them would be amazing. I’d stick a fork in my hand to have that happen.
Lastly, for yourselves what are your goals and what would you like to achieve in music?
Jess: Well obviously the rock opera is our number goal.
Paul: Firstly, we all come from unsigned bands and we thought it’d be nice to get a record deal, then we got an album deal and then a publishing deal. We were playing at some cool gigs as well and we thought yeah let’s just keep doing this. Then Robert Smith from The Cure sent us an email saying can you play at my festival and it was like, ‘I don’t know Rob can you give us a couple of micro seconds to think about that’. So, knowing where we’ve got to now, it feels like we’ve reached a goal in a way.
Jess: As far as goals goes it’s pretty much go with the flow, there’s obviously the massive album we want to do and then whatever comes after that.
Carat: At the end of the day we’re really proud and humble of where we are, and we all know that not a lot of bands get to the stage we’re at. Now we’ve got a fan base we should keep pushing as far as it goes, we didn’t think this before, but music does mean something to people and its quite a heavy burden. So, all we want to do is keep people happy also maintaining integrity and actually liking the stuff we’re doing so if the fans are happy then we’re happy and I’d say that’s the main goal.
Words:Liam Thomas Michael Carroll