I can not pass by sludgy swamps of Grimpen Mire as Adam Robinson of Khthon named that band amidst ones which keep true spirit of England. And what do we have? Grimpen Mire is a trio from Erdington, they’ve took a start in 2007 and just a year later self-titled Ep reveals, it was a good start, the band has done the best to attract attention of underground citizens. The band confirmed their seriousness with next conceptual Ep with great name (and great crushing tunes) “Death On The Moor” (2009). But first full-length album was recorded only three years later - CD “A Plague Upon Your Houses” was completed few months ago and Jim Goad (guitars, vocals) with Paul van Linden (bass, vocals) are here to tell us their methods of writing, recording and playing deadly sludge doom riffs from dangerous bogs of Great Britain.
J.G.: Writing, writing, writing. Lots of new ideas and new songs being worked on at the moment. We're feeling quite creative recently so it’s good to go with it while ideas are flowing.
P.v.L.: Things are good at the moment. We were getting a bit stressed over the last 12 months and over-thinking everything. I think because we have had such a positive reception since we started, we felt some self-imposed pressure to behave like a professional band. We now realise we were happier when we started ‘cause we didn’t give a fuck. So we’ve decided to not give a fuck again.
I see that you new album “A Plague Upon Your Houses” was released by At War With False Noise. How does it feel to work with label after two self-released Eps?
J.G.: Hmm. I think we're happier self releasing to be honest. Things get more complicated when more people outside the band get involved & we are more comfortable when things are kept simple. A label release can help to get the music out to more people so there are advantages but we can spread the word ourselves via the internet these days. I think there's less pressure when things are kept within the band.P.v.L.: It’s been a long-winded and ultimately very frustrating process as the album has still not been officially released despite them possessing the recording for over six months now. We’re sick and tired of being unable to give anybody a definite answer as to when it’s actually coming out – and we’ve been asked quite a lot.I guess that At War With False Noise have some reasons to delay release of CD, but anyway they live not so far away from you – you can get in touch and kick some asses, though it’s not my business. Look anyway Ed has already reviewed your album for doommantia.com (HERE). Did you send him CD by yourself? I guess that you’re right that you’re able to -do a good promo by yourself, though all things which connected with distro things are difficult as it seems and need a lot of time.J.G.: Maybe it's money issues. Maybe something else. I really don't know. We just want to move forward & get the material out there.
P.v.L.: I’m probably sounding like a moaning bastard in my previous answer but there’s no hard feelings about the delay, we’re all laid back people I think, so it will happen when it happens. At the end of the day we’re always grateful if someone shows an interest.
Man, Adam of Khthon recommended Grimpen Mire as true English band; you have astonishing band’s name, your Ep and full-length have bloody dark art-works but do you feel yourself as real band with spirit of that foggy Albion?
P.v.L.: Yes, definitely. We take influence from sludge, but do not wish to sound American.
J.G.: Yes. A lot of sludge influenced bands take inspiration from the US scene & end up sounding that way. Southern Sludge seems out of place in England to me. We always wanted to avoid that & stay rooted in a more British sound. It's what feels natural really. The name is from a Sherlock Holmes book - The Hound of the Baskervilles. It's the name of an ancient, boggy marsh that sucks people & animals to their death. It just seemed to fit & it’s always good to have 'Grim' in a band name.For what kind of reasons you don’t want to sound American? I have a conjecture but well… Where do you see differences between American and other sludge music?J.G.: I love a lot of US sludge & doom. Sleep, Eyehategod, Weedeater etc are great bands that I do take influence from. I just couldn't write music like theirs. There's a lot of American culture distilled into their sound & lyrics that we just don't share in the UK. I couldn't play that way with conviction.
These art-works look very mysterious and dark, yet your music is very straight and aggressive, didn’t you think to add some atmospheric elements in your songs to strengthen songs’ conception?
P.v.L.: I think that there’s a certain degree of atmosphere in the lead guitar parts, with the use of effects and dissonance and so forth. But we are more interested in going for the throat generally. J.G.: I think the material on the album is quite straight ahead & aggressive. It's just the way we were writing at the time. It was a bit of an uphill struggle to get some of the tracks finished & maybe the tension shows. We're not just about that though. The new songs we're doing now have more variation & hark back to how we sounded a few years ago. They're not as frantic and there is more atmospheric space. It's a more natural feel I suppose.Can you share more details about forthcoming songs? And do you plan to collaborate with another label in a future?J.G.: There is more variation in the new songs. Each one has its own character whereas some older songs had everything crammed into one song. It's easy to throw everything possible at one track but we're trying hold back a bit & let the riffs breathe. I wouldn't be against collaboration with labels or other bands but I don't want anything to hold us back.Original Grimpen Mire locates in Devonshire as you live in Erdington which is placed in another part of England. Don’t you want to do a pilgrimage to Mire? And what’s about your city? Do you have such sludgy and picturesque landscapes in close vicinity?J.G.: I've never really thought about it. The real place name is Fox Tor Mire & we haven't actually been there. Me & Paul will be in the area this September & might get time to go and have a look. Just need to watch where we step - Don't want to get pulled down into the mire! We live in a fairly urban area but not too far from Cannock Chase - a large area of woodland. Personally I sometimes get uncomfortable in big cities… Too much noise & rush.P.v.L.: I have wanted to visit the actual Grimpen Mire since we started the band, but haven’t got around to it yet. We should really do a photo shoot there. Where we live is not especially picturesque, the landscapes are urban and industrial, but this is more in accord with the creation of metal music. If we lived out in the English countryside, we’d probably be a mellow acoustic project.
Hah, Jim, don’t you see a contradiction here? You don’t like city’s noise but bring a chaos with your guitar and throat? I see that all of you are big guys so doesn’t your wish of playing extreme music became weaker with years?
J.G. :Ha! I see your point. It's more the crowds and claustrophobia that I dislike. I need my space. As the years pass, more pressure builds up on life. The music actually becomes more important than ever. I play Guitar more now than when I was a teenager.P.v.l: I had not played in any kind of band since my mid twenties, let alone an extreme one. I’m forty one years of age and we’ve been going for about five years now, so in many ways it’s still a new thing for me, certainly not something that I am in any danger of growing tired of.
Conception of your EP “The Death on the Moor” was based onto the story about Hound of Baskervilles, what’s about new lyrics which you sing in “A Plague Upon Your Houses”?
P.v.L.: The album title comes from Shakespeare and is a line from a song on the album – ‘As Above, So Below’ – which is written from the point of view of an outcast magus who intends to take magical revenge upon the village which has banished him. Other songs deal with political intrigue, anti-fascism, shamanic journeys, madness and death.
J.G.: There's not a single concept that binds the whole record really. Themes of torment & mental strife, disillusion. It's not all pure misery though. There needs to be hope & a sense of empowerment. Do you really see a threat of fascism nowadays? I guess that our capitalistic society does a job of fascism well in its own way.J.G.: There's always a threat. Oppression takes many forms & those in power financially or politically will seek to control as many people as possible.P.v.L- I agree, however I would not wish us to be perceived as a political band as our lyrics are not rooted in “Reality”. The song which I describe as anti-fascist is ‘Black Mass Hallucination’ and it is an anti-fascist statement in spirit and essence but more specifically the lyrics metaphorically describe the Third Reich of Nazi Germany as an evil occult power and the efforts of witches and magicians in England to prevent its progress across the channel and usher in its downfall.
:-) P.v.L.: None of us has dogs. Some of us have cats, because we’re big softies and I have a 16 month-old daughter, who has made me an even bigger softie.
J.G.: Yeah, a huge black one that glows in the dark ;-) No. I'm not allowed pets where I live, just spiders and moths for company.Paul, did you start to listen less music at home after birth of your daughter?P.v.L.: I did, yes and I still do listen to less music but when I do, (which is most days anyhow) it feels and sounds a hundred times better. You can have too much of a good thing!
How has the band changed from your point of view after release of “The Death on the Moor”? Do you see your grow as a composer?
J.G.: We've certainly grown as musicians. We started to over complicate things when writing some songs and maybe tried to force our musical direction too much. I think we've matured enough now to be able to get back to why we started this band in the first place. Vent our ideas and not over scrutinise things. Maybe we need to regress to progress again.
P.v.L.: With Death On The Moor, we hit our stride in terms of song writing and establishing our sound. I think our compositional skills are improving all the time. We tend to learn from what we perceive as our mistakes. For example, A Plague Upon Your Houses in retrospect now feels a little bit technical (for us) and new stuff we are putting together is a conscious return to the directness of earlier material.
Is there any difference for you which songs to play – more techical ones or more simple?
J.G.: Simplicity works better when playing live. It just comes across more strongly. There will always be a progressive side to what we do because we would lose interest otherwise. None of us would want to be writing the same kind of song again and again and again…..
How much time did you spend recording “A Plague Upon Your Houses”? Are a record-sessions and rehearsals a kind of game for you or do you see a process of composing and playing your songs as a kind of ritual?
J.G.: We spent a long time writing but recording only took 2 or 3 days. When it comes to recording, we don't like to have to do too many takes. I feel that there's more energy and spontaneous musicality in the first couple of takes. There's no point going over and over again to get a "perfect" take because it will end up sounding stale.The best compositions are the ones that just happen. When we throw a few ideas around & just play it without thinking, straight from the heart. Disengage the mental process & just do it. It sounds like a cliché but sometimes that's how it is. I think David Gilmour said "The best riffs just fall out of your fingers." I totally agree.
P.v.L.: We pretty much recorded the album in two weekends. We tend to regard band activities as a fun experience rather than serious work with any ritualistic pretentions. However, playing our songs serves as a release of tension and a celebration of power. So you could say that there is a spiritual element in what we do, if you were so inclined.
J.G.: I don't like to listen to our own songs much. Listening to our material is always hard for me because I just hear the stuff I'm not 100% happy with & don't hear it in an objective way. I like to focus my energy on playing it rather than hearing it back. I certainly get a positive feel from what we do.
P.v.L.: I usually feel uncomfortable listening to our stuff because I don’t like the sound of my voice and it’s hard to be objective about your own material, so I tend not to. I think ultimately it is dark and positive, which is a key aspect of metal as a whole.
I saw that Grimpen Mire shared a stage with Conan, Pagan Altar, Serpent Venom and other well-known bands but do you have any sludge-fests in England? Do you need them at all?
P.v.L.: We do have sludge-fests in England and doom-fests also and we have played a fair few.
J.G.: We've played all day fests & weekend festivals too. They are a good way of playing to new people & for us to hear new bands. We've met people who have become good friends over the last few years. There's a strong scene in the UK at the moment which is great for fans and bands too with some amazing gig line-ups. There aren't any festivals here that can compete with Roadburn in Holland though.Do you see Grimpen Mire as professional regular band or is it only hobby for you guys?J.G.: There's no way we could quit our day jobs & go totally pro right now. Very few bands can afford to do that. I see it as much more than a hobby though. I really have to play. It's something I couldn't live without. This creative outlet keeps me sane.
P.v.L.: We see it as a hobby really because we’ve all got jobs and families and not enough time to commit to any professional level of activity. But we like to do things on our terms, so it suits us this way.
Thank you guys for this interview, I find it quiet interesting. I wish you and the band all the best, hope that release of “A Plague Upon Your Houses” will be successfully completed at an early date. Please add few words for our readers and let’s finish this interview. Good luck!
J.G.: Thank you and thanks to everyone who's shown us support. Grimpen Mire has become more than I expected when we started & that can't happen without people checking us out.
Interview By Aleks
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