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Three albums assets and an escalation of skill for the U.S. band Wo Fat, they are with us today to share thoughts, allow us to know them better and introduce the latest release, "La Noche Del Chupacabra".
Welcome to Aristocrazia Webzine, how does it feel to have achieved what for many is the goal of maturity, the third album?
Kent: We're thrilled that we've been able to put out three albums that we're proud of. Each one has been a milestone of sorts for us and we feel like with each successive album, we've kind of stepped things up a level each time. I do feel, also, that we have reached a level of maturity in our playing and songwriting that is beyond where we were before.
Would you like to tell some of your history as a band to our readers? How did the Wo Fat adventure born and who are the three musicians who are part of? We give the opportunity for those who do not know you, to have a general framework.
Wo Fat consists of myself, Kent Stump – guitar and vocals; Tim Wilson – bass; and Michael Walter – drums and percussion. We started jamming together around 2002, I think. My original concept was to take the darker, hypnotic blues vibe of people like R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough and crank up the distortion, heavy it up and rock it out. It sort of immediately expanded beyond that conception with the influence of lots of other bands and musicians that I was listening to creeping into the music, but that was the initial approach. The foundational structure that we started with back then and continue to use now, whatever the other influences, is melodically blues/pentatonic based. We jammed fairly sporadically at first, but as we started getting more songs together and started working on "The Gathering Dark" material, things became more regular and serious. Early on we were actually a four piece band. We had a second guitar player named Matt Watkins, who plays on 4 songs on "The Gathering Dark," which was released in 2006. Matt is an awesome guitar player who influenced my own playing tremendously, but the problem was that he lived 500 miles away from us in Missouri, so it just wasn't possible to continue like that. There is talk of us doing a side project with Matt sometime in the near future. We released "Psychedelonaut" in 2009. With "Psychedelonaut" our mindset was to make a very live sounding record and we wanted to focus even more on the improvisational/jamming side of things. "Noche Del Chupacabra" takes that, and really everything that we've done before a step further, I think.
I had the pleasure to cross the music of Wo Fat with the second work "Psychedelonaut", from there I discovered and loved "The Gathering Dark" and now I can only stand open-mouthed for yet another leap forward made by "The Noche Del Chupacabra". How long have you played together? You realized to have in your hands material that showed a steady growth, both in composition than in feeling transmission?
We, as a band, certainly feel like we've gone through steady growth and a forward moving progression. It's nice to know that listeners see that too. We're playing and communicating musically now better than ever and our focus on improvisation and grooving together has opened up new levels and places for us to take the music. In our songs, we have both structure and openness, and with the more open sections, because of our confidence and familiarity with each others' playing, we're able to be more daring and push ourselves further. I mentioned that we wanted "Psychedelonaut" to feel more "live." Well, with "Noche Del Chupacabra" we wanted even more of that. We wanted almost a jazz approach to playing heavy rock and roll. Compositionally, I think we have matured and kind of found our voice as well. The balance between structure and openness is something we were exploring more on "Noche Del Chupacabra." The title track is a good example of that. It has an overarching structure and form, but within it are sections that were open ended jams that had basic grooves to them, but they weren't fully realized until we recorded the song.
It has undergone some change in the way you came into the rehearsal room or the one you are working on to create a song? Who takes care of the lyrics?
I think, in general the songwriting process for me is the same as it was in the past. One thing that is different is that we are just trying some new types of things. Again, the title track, "Noche Del Chupacabra," is a good example of that where we were trying to incorporate some African rhythmic ideas into the music, among other things. Another difference on this album is the fact that Michael, our drummer, wrote the song Common Ground. In the past, I did all of the songwriting. It was nice this time around to add a new dimension with Michael's contribution. Lyrically, I've written all of the lyrics except for "Common Ground," which were written by Michael.
At times it seems that the compositional scheme becomes a component that goes into the background, the songs are circumstances where it is a kind of jam-session attitude. How important is keeping alive the instincts and be guided by it in shaping the notes?
Yeah, you're right. I think instincts, awareness and communication are extremely important. This goes back to the jazz mentality that I mentioned. It's about improvising and reacting in the moment to what's happening as it's happening. Listening to each other; building on on another's vibes, etc. It's like catching a wave and feeling where that wave is headed and reacting to it's movements.
In a genre as Stoner to convey strong emotions are not enough distortion and dense riffing, but must learn to channel their inspirations in an appropriate manner. What are the emotions, events, thoughts that push you to create songs?
"The Gathering Dark" lyrically was a reaction to what was happening politically in America at the time. I used H.P. Lovecraft and horror movie-inspired imagery to get some of those political ideas across. "Psychedelonaut" had some of the same types of things going on, but was a little more inwardly focused and maybe not as dark lyrically. There's the idea of the Psychedelonaut, who is a psychedelic explorer and there's also a motif in some of the songs that is about the importance of history and where things came from, which is a reaction against a very common attitude in the culture today that seems to disregard the past and things that are not brand new. You know, the idea that "newer is better," which is often not the case at all. "Noche Del Chupacabra" is much more of an atmospheric record. The lyrics aren't as much about a specific message as they are about creating a vibe that conjures images in your imagination. I saw an documentary on the filmmaker Mario Bava where they said that he was more concerned with setting the right mood in his films than with the story. We're approaching it the same way. Lyrically it's mostly dealing with the idea of fear, real and/or imagined.
How did the choice of the title of the last record born? It's a concept? The legend of "Chupacabra" is not particularly known in European territory, you could enlighten us on why bring up this figure?
We didn't originally set out to make it a concept album, but it ended up kind of loosely becoming one. The Chupacabra idea came from the fact that the lyrics generally are talking about fears that may or may not be real, which made me think of cryptazoids, or cryptids – which are terms for beings whose existence is suggested, but not proven. They may be real, or they may be mythical, like bigfoot/sasquatch, the yeti and the chupacabra. The chupacabra is a blood-sucking, winged creature that people claim exists in Mexico, Central America and the southern US, among other places. The chupacabra seemed an appropriate image to use because we're from Texas and we like the Mexican aura that surrounds it and also it's a little more obscure than some other legendary creatures.
I compared the platter to a "musical drunkenness", there is in blues, some noisy passage, much psychedelia as well as contribution of solid and classic Stoner/Doom style, what are the artists with whom you grew up and that made you think, "this is what I want to play"?
I like your term "musical drunkenness". That sort of implies a sense of reckless abandon and living on the edge, which I think was a vibe we were trying to have about the record. We weren't trying to do anything safely. As for influential artists, there are so many. Jimi Hendrix, early ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, Johnny Winter, Howlin Wolf and John Lee Hooker have all been long time influences on me. When I came across Fu Manchu in the late '90's, that opened up a whole new world of music for me. The whole stoner/doom thing was something that I had been unknowingly searching for for a long time, but didn't know it existed until then. Since that discovery, bands like Sleep, Orange Goblin, Acid King, Blood Farmers, Penance, Earthride, Nebula, Trouble, Spirit Caravan and Church of Misery have become favorites of mine. And also lots more 70's stuff – Cactus, Tommy Bolin, Buffalo, Mountain, Leafhound, Budgie, etc. I dig 70's fusion as well. All of the 70's Miles Davis is great. Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi Band period, which consists of the albums Mwandishi, Crossings and Sextant are awesome. Billy Cobham's Stratus album, Eddie Henderson, Donald Byrd's Ethiopian Knights album. I could go on and on.
There is a song, of all those that you wrote, to which you are particularly fond of? If yes, why?
I think my favorite song on the new record is Phantasmagoria. I don't necessarily know why. I think it just really came across the way I was hoping it would – it's this backwoodsy lumbering swamp monster of a song that is kind of hypnotic and just grooves hard throughout. I'm happy with the entire album though.
I repeat it from long time and the facts seem to me right: the Stoner scene, both rock and metal, is among the most prolific and high quality. What makes of a movement so beautiful and followed (though often forgotten by the channels that matter) an inexhaustible source of band with balls? It's a source of eternal youth?
That's a good question. I think this genre is really about the music and about jamming and about everyone just trying to do their part to rock. It's not about making money or following trends or trying to make a radio hit. It's about the never ending search for the Sublime Riff.
Five discs in your opinion essential for those wishing to approach at the genre that you play?
This is a very difficult question. I could give you five discs essential to someone approaching Stoner Rock, but those would probably be the obvious choices that come to everyone's mind first, so let me be more specific and give you five that i think are maybe part of the essence of what Wo Fat is about.
- Sleep – "Holy Mountain"
- Church Of Misery – "The Early Recordings"
- Jimi Hendrix – "Live At Woodstock"
- Junior Kimbrough – "Most Things Haven't Worked Out"
- Fu Manchu – "In Search Of"
Probably if you asked me another day I'd give you five different answers, but these albums contain many of the ingredients that we draw from.
You have the possibility of organizing a mega event, the headliner Wo Fat are thus able to choose ten bands, old school five and five of the new generation, to tackle this funny day on stage. Who would you invite and why? No matter the genre played.
Wow, another tough question. Okay, old school bands first:
- Black Sabbath (but they would need to be transported through time from 1971 – I wouldn't want modern day Black Sabbath)
- Tommy Bolin with the 1972 Energy band.
- Luis Gasca with the "For Those Who Chant" band(Luis Gasca's "For Those Who Chant" is an amazing obscure fusion album from '71 or '72 that had most of the Santana band (including Carlos himself) as the rhythm section along with Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drums)
- Betty Davis
- R. L. Burnside
- Samsara Blues Experiment
Again, probably if you asked me the same question on a different day, I'd give you different answers, but I think this lineup represents many different aspects of music that I really dig and would love to see in a show: heavy riffs, heavy groove, deep blues, hardcore jamming, and a nice dose of psychedelia.
What are the components of a your ideal hypothetical line-up? Create one.
If you mean the ideal lineup for a band, I would say I'm pretty happy with the lineup of Wo Fat. I like the power trio formula, which allows for a good bit of freedom, and I think we have a great chemistry between us. Our personalities work well together; we're focused on making music that we dig and we're not focused on things that destroy the music, like trying to make a hit or trying to please everybody. Like I said, we're just trying make music that we dig.
Define with few words to the following terms: Fu Manchu, John Garcia, desert, Dallas, psychedelia, beer, concerts.
Fu Manchu: to me and probably a lot of people, they were the gateway to the world of Stoner Rock which in turn led me to Doom. I think their first five or six records are pure greatness. John Garcia: the undisputed voice of Desert Rock. I hope to see him live someday. Desert: Kyuss Dallas: sounds good on paper, but maybe not as cool in real life. Dallas does not support original live music very well. Psychedelia: this should refer to something, music or otherwise, that takes you on a journey through the mind, imagination and emotions. Often the definition too narrowly refers to a very specific sounding type of music. Beer: we love good beers, especially of the darker variety. Concerts: your chance to see and support the bands you dig. Buy their merchandise.
Texas has always been one state that has strong ties with the metal world, bands like Pantera, Devastation, Rigor Mortis, Necrovore have left an indelible mark in the history of this music, have you esteem relationships and collaboration with formation of purely metal mold ? Have you ever sharing the stage with them or the two scenes are completely broken up?
We do play with metal bands frequently. The scenes definitely overlap and we play the same clubs that the local metal bands play. We played a great show a few months ago with Rotting Corpse, Divine Eve and Solitude Aeturnus, which was a cool mix of different types of metal.
How was the transition from the Brainticket at Nasoni occurred? How did you get in touch with the German label and she supporting the release properly? "Psychedelonaut" could have received more attention from this point of view or am I wrong?
We actually got hooked with Nasoni through Brainticket. John Perez, who runs Brainticket is old friends with Nasoni and he had sent them a copy of "Psychedelonaut." At the time there were no plans on releasing "Psychedelonaut" on vinyl through Brainticket and Nasoni approached us about doing a vinyl release of it through them. We loved the idea and started a great relationship with them. When we were finishing up "Noche Del Chupacabra" Nasoni expressed interest in releasing both the vinyl and cd this time and we felt like it was a good fit fur us. We were hoping for a little more European presence and we also thought that our psychedelic leanings fit in well with Nasoni's vibe. We are completely thankful to John Perez for helping us to reach a wider audience than we had before and for hooking us up with Nasoni. We do wish "Psychedelonaut" had gotten a bit more recognition, but it was still a step up from where we were before and the new album is proving to be even a step above that. We're just hoping to continue the upward progression.
What was the first concert you attended? And what is a concert you would like to attend?
I'm not sure what the first concert I went to was, but there were a lot of shows with great bands at underground and punk clubs here in Dallas in the mid to late 80's and the music scene of the late 80's and early 90's that was happening in Denton, Texas(north of Dallas, where I went college) that were hugely influential on me and opened my mind up to lots of different perspectives and possibilities.
Now we move on to your live. How do you behave on stage? What would you like to see by your caregiver to your concert?
As Matt Pike say in a video interview once, we do our best to slay every night. We try and play a hard rockin' show that's about the music and not theatrics. What would we like to see? Free beer, maybe?
There is a possibility that we can see you in Italy (we would very happy to drink some beers together, after the gig, ahahah)?
We are hoping to find a way to make it over to Europe someday. At the moment, it's a matter of finances, but doing a European tour of some sort is one of our biggest goals.