Moss | Interview
There is something sinister and timeless lurking beneath the streets of Southampton. Its plague has been slowly spreading out, infecting those souls foolish enough to attempt to channel its darkness. Three ancient occultists have spent the last ten years harnessing its evil miasma and have given it a face, a name, a sound. Moss!
It creeps on the old dead trees, engulfs forgotten graveyards and long after your stinking corpse has been left to the rats it will swallow you too. Olly Pearson offers a glimpse into the heart of filth and darkness…
So Olly, how did this hideous beast come about?
I’d like to think that we came together through boredom, that was definitely a factor… there’s fuck all to do around here apart from getting stoned or being in a soul crushing job… so doing a band is probably the best thing for your sanity, otherwise we would’ve just rotted away.
As for motivation, we only had to look outside our window, Southampton is a big ugly juxtaposition of the industrial and the medieval…it’s a closed in, insular and hostile place, a small town mentality in a big city. Which is I’m sure partly thanks to the mostly still standing huge castle-like walls that have protected the town since the middle ages. People aren’t friendly here.
We’d all been in bands before, to varying degrees of non-success… Dom and I were listening to a lot of Winter, Eyehategod, bands like that. So we thought we’d do something slow also, influenced by our direct surroundings and the things that we were into.
We initially just wanted to make music that we could get stoned to – the first few rehearsals were just Dom and myself on vocals and guitar and a lot of feedback and noise and looping stuff, weird experiments… it wasn’t until Chris joined a few months later that we actually became a proper band, as opposed to more or less a fuck around.
Moss has been around for over ten years at this stage but apart from one or two forays into noise territory your sound has remained very true to your earliest releases. What possesses you to make such anti-social and hideous music?
Weed! I think we would’ve all quit if it wasn’t for the weed. Or we would’ve become a fucking pop band or something. But yeah, our surroundings too… and a healthy interest in the occult will also make you feel pretty detached from what’s happening out there in the rest of the world.
We’re pretty cut off out here…apart from us and Electric Wizard, there’s absolutely no other bands playing slow heavy music from the south of England.
Up until the release of the Eternal Return EP your lyrics have remained unpublished. Why have you chosen to keep them from the public and why did you choose to print those particular lyrics? Will we ever get to read the older lyrics and can we expect to see more words printed in future?
The lyrics for ‘Tombs’ are also in the digipak version of the CD, we made them a bit hard to read though. There was no real reason for printing the lyrics for ‘Eternal Return’, I just thought why the hell not… ‘cos as I fan, I like to read that stuff from my favourite bands.
I wish I wasn’t so guarded with the earlier lyrics. I think the lyrics to ‘Cthonic Rites’ have been lost in a few moves, but the ‘Sub Templum’ lyrics are still around. If it warrants a rerelease in future I might get them included.
In more recent times I have noticed a stylistic shift in content from your earlier Lovecraft- inspired madness to an almost kitsch obsession with horror films. What do you get from these movies that you feel you need to share and what do they mean to you on a personal level, if anything?
We’ve always had a huge interest in horror cinema and literature since our youths… we take much more influence from films or books than anything else. To try to create the atmosphere of a horror story or film in musical form is what we’ve been doing since our earliest rehearsals… all through the recording of Sub Templum and Tombs we watched a large number of films between tracking. I think we spent more time in front of the TV than in the studio!
I grew up with horror… Hammer Horror films on ITV every Saturday night in the 80’s, staying up with my dad to watch those. There were always weird horror anthology series on the TV, reports of witchcraft in the Sunday papers, and the whole “video nasties” thing.
There was this awesome British horror comic called Scream! that I can barely remember and have been trying to find again since, and loads other UK horror comics. And all that amazing stuff from the 60’s and 70’s was only just getting repeated on TV or released on video when I was growing up, the first half of the 80’s was still pretty much the same as the 70’s when it came to entertainment.
It’s pretty much shaped who I am and what I’m into… I think I saw Motorhead on the Young Ones about the same time I saw my first Dracula film, so it’s all related.
When Cthonic Rites came out a few years ago you hit on a sound which was really unique and exciting, taking the slowest imaginable riffs and hammering them home with an absolutely bloody-minded intensity.
You never really drifted into drone or ambient territory, which seemed to be all the rage for a while, but rather your sound maintained an ugly violence. For a sound so grotesque and swampy it, conversely, displayed a real clarity and purity. Was that down to sheer focus and intent or simple fortuity?
I could put it down to focus… ‘cos there were moments when we could’ve gone either way, we could’ve ended up as a drone band at one or two points early on. We already had built up a bit of a discography before our first album, so when it came to writing for Cthonic Rites we definitely decided on making it just 100% pure extreme doom, no other influences or styles.
It’s a very single-minded record as a result, I’m not sure if it suffers or not because of that… it’s an album you really have to be in the mood for, but it’s totally what we intended to do. We had complete control over it, and it being our first time in a proper studio too… We were probably quite lucky in that respect with hearing some horror stories about other bands debut albums.
The material on the Tombs of the Blind Drugged and Eternal Return EP have moved your familiar sound into new and even more exciting realms.
While it remains ultimately gutter-bound, slow and obscure there have been a few tweaks; the subtle addition of church organ and, most dramatically, the forging of some of the catchiest riffs ever to appear on a Moss recording.
Jesus, some of the riffs are actually majestic, a noun I would never before have expected to use to describe anything to do with Moss. It is a genius development and betrays an understanding and appreciation of the more traditional side of Heavy Metal & Doom. Can we expect more of the same on your next record or will it be back to the mire?
Yeah, and probably more different than that… the stuff we’re working on now is in the same kind of direction as the ‘Tombs’ material, more song-like I guess. It’s not all super slow either. We did a new song on tour with Electric Wizard, and I’m singing on most of it as opposed to using harsh vocals, so I think that’s the way I’m gonna go with some of the other new material….but it’ll still be nasty and heavy as fuck, of course.
The new track we did was called ‘Horrible Nights’ and it’s already my favourite song we’ve done…I think it showcases the old and new pretty well. We’ve been making music for over 10 years now, and we don’t have it in us to do three, or four records that all sound exactly the same. We couldn’t spend our whole lives making Cthonic Rites part 17 or whatever… It’s been a natural, but slow, progression for us.
You recently released the Never Say Live: Live in Soho tape. I generally don’t care for live releases but this one is most certainly the exception. The sound is powerful, grotty yet clear and utterly bulldozing.
The guitar in particular sounds like a steam-roller covered in nails and spikes steadily grinding its way across a field of bones. How did this release come about? Tell us about the previously unreleased track, The Adept; its lyrical themes and inspirations.
I had a copy of our Borderline set and was looking to release it myself on my resurrected record “label”. Around the same time a friend mentioned he was starting a tape label (Witch Sermon), so I asked him if he’d be interested in co-releasing it… so we did 200 copies for the Wizard tour, and 200 for mail order with a different cover.
It sold out very fast, so there will be a small repress soon… very proud of this release, it’s been 100% DIY as opposed to having our regular label involved and I was very pleased at how smooth it went.
I hadn’t released anything in many years, not since our ‘Live Burial’ set and it’s not as bad as I remember it so I might do some more… Buried & Forgotten is the name of the label.
‘The Adept’ was something that we had in mind for the next album, but this probably won’t happen now and it’ll remain exclusive to this tape… the song is in two parts, ‘Crimson Sabbath’ describes a strange scene one night in a graveyard, ‘Lords of the End’ concerns time.
I think the song owes a lot more to earlier Moss tracks, like something off one of our demos even. I believe that was the inspiration.
Your own personal musical taste seems to have moved into more obscure and antiquated realms. Who do you currently find inspirational and what do you feel the teachings of the likes of Death SS, Paul Chain, Antonius Rex etc. can offer to the development of Moss?
All those bands are great, but they don’t really influence our sounds so much, but more likely our spirit and atmospheres. We try to not take much inspiration or influence from other bands… Antonius Rex did inspire me to use the organ on our last two recordings, but that’s as far as it goes. Paul Chain is an interesting character if you’re a fan of his stuff or not, and Death SS are just pretty much my favourite band… I’ve spent a stupid amount on them over the years.
There has always been an undercurrent of matters of the occult in your work. What do these teaching offer you personally and in what way does it affect your own writing?
I consider myself an observer rather than a practitioner so it hasn’t really had any personal effect on me, apart from feeding a curiosity I’ve always had. I haven’t had involvement in any rituals or magical workings, but of course I’m interested in them.
I’m in it for the knowledge I guess… Of course, lyrically I take a lot from what I read, which is 95% horror stories and occult reference books. It all goes back to the Hammer Horrors and heavy metals I grew up with, an interest in the dark side of things.
You mentioned in a previous interview that your lyrics are basically short stories. Have you ever considered actually writing them down in a book, or getting them narrated and releasing them in that format?
It’s not something I’ve really considered… some of them might lend themselves quite well to it. I wouldn’t mind doing a comic or a short story with cool illustrations. A few years ago our drummer intended to do a short story called “The Moss”, which he still might be working on… a “Tombs of the Blind Drugged” comic would be pretty cool really, I’ve got pretty much a fucking screenplay for that story!
It’s all about how the templar knights become involved with a sect of Hashshasheen and adopt their rituals, which they carry with them beyond the grave. There’re some vampire women in it too, naturally.
We did shoot a video for ‘Tombs’ about a year or more back, it’s still unfinished. The plot doesn’t really follow the song apart from a few bits here and there, so we had to come to some compromises due to budget and what we’re actually capable of doing, but it’s still very much Moss… very old school quality, raw, dirty as fuck… I think people who know what kind of stuff we’re into should know what to expect. We’ll be looking to finish it off in the coming year, have it as an extra on the next LP perhaps.
Moss rarely performs live. Do you enjoy playing gigs or do you prefer the recording experience? What does the one offer that the other can’t?
I can’t say I like any over the other…I think I’m a bit more into playing gigs, presenting the songs as finished pieces. That’s when they come alive for me. The other two would probably prefer studio work. I think the stuff we’re coming up with now is a lot more enjoyable to play live… the recent tour with Electric Wizard was a lot of fun, and we’re not supposed to enjoy gigs! But I think in the future we know what to do to make the shows less laborious for us.
If you could do a split release with any band/artist who would it be and why?
Antonius Rex, but only if they went back to their old style. I think “Neque Semper Arcum Tendit Rex” sounds kind of like a Moss album if we were around in the early 70’s.
Thanks for your time, Olly. To finish off please give us a heads up on any future plans and releases.
Hopefully, 2011 will be spent writing and recording our next album… we do have one or two split records that we’re talking about with the respective bands but the next album takes priority. I think it’s going to be a very important record for us.
- Interview by Andy Cunningham ::: 25/2/11