Coming off the back of their critically successful release, The Fool, OHHMS took to the Sophie Lancaster Stage on the Saturday night of Bloodstock Festival. Just after their set, we got the chance to speak to vocalist Paul Waller about how a band who write songs as epic as OHHMS are able to begin climbing the ranks of the music scene, even if it was almost by accident.
How does it feel to be playing such a high slot on the Sophie Lancaster Stage?
Paul: Yeah it’s cool, we were proper excited cause we were gonna get to play with a band called MANTAR, so we were side by side with them but then they cancelled cause it was a double booking or something and they’re one of our favourites. It got replaced by XENTRIX which is still cool I guess.
Did you always know you were going to be so high up on the bill?
Paul: We got the offer a couple weeks ago, so maybe they had a fall out or some one pulled out at the last minute. But we said yes right away.
How do you pick and choose what songs to play when having such a short set?
Paul: We’ve had loads of discussions about it and we’re just like what the hell are we meant to do? When we first started, our festival sets contained like one and a half songs, it was really hard to do it. The new album [The Fool] has a couple of shorter songs on it, like eight minutes long, still ridiculously long. It all works out fine though, the songs all have troughs and peaks and stuff like that, so it’s like each one of our long songs is like four short ones anyway.
Is playing the songs live at the forefront of your mind when writing new music?
Paul: Yeah not at all. When we write we think of how it’ll sound in the studio, we worry about the live show afterwards, it’s like an afterthought.
Where do you even begin when writing songs the length of The Hierophant from the end of The Fool?
Paul: For me, I’ve got like books full of prose and, I wouldn’t call it poetry, cause if you read it without music it’s abysmal. The guys come to me and say like ‘we’ve got this song that’s 20 minutes long’ and I’ll try and shave some minutes off, but pretty much if it goes with a subject I’ve written and it has the dynamics that’ll fit with my lyrics we’re all go. We’ve thrown away hours worth of stuff cause it didn’t fit with what we’re writing about.
Does it make the writing process quite a drawn out affair?
Paul: Yeah, yeah it can. Although saying that, we practise once or twice a week, and you wouldn’t think that’s a lot but because now management has gotten involved, instead of doing all these once offs, like we used to do five or six one offs a month, now we tour, break, tour, break, and we just write and write and we’ve almost finished a new album and we’ve already started recording! It’s just like we’re pumped for to do the next thing now.
Are there big plans for OHHMS that warrants so much?
Paul: Regardless of the goals, I just think that if we weren’t doing it, I don’t know its difficult to explain, like you know if you’re into whatever, you love that thing because you’re passionate about it, it’s in your blood. Even if we weren’t playing shows, the original plan was just to play Hevy Fest, y’know, the one that got shut down, that was the local fest to us. That was the original goal, we wanted to put an EP out on Holy Roar Records, which was the dream like we’d never do that, but because knew someone who ran Hevy Fest, lets try that, and then it just stemmed from there.
With that being OHHMS’ original goal then, do you ever look back and think ‘holy shit now we’re here’?
Paul: Everyday. Like, if I was to tell you what was coming up in the next year you’d tell me to fuck off. The thing is, you wouldn’t believe, fuck the stuff we’re playing, the stuff we’ve turned down, it makes me cry! We had a call from a festival that I’m not allowed to say, and I was in the bathtub when I got the email saying ‘they’ve not offered you enough money…’, and I’m just like I’ll do it for free! Management have said I will not do it for free though, and it’s that sorta thing where it’s like all my favourite bands are playing it but it’s one of those things, if you’re a band and you’ve taken that next step and no matter how small it is you can’t sell yourself out for that.
Do you go to shows yourself when you’re not playing them?
Paul: Yeah yeah, constantly. It’s funny though, we didn’t have tickets for Bloodstock Festival because we had an inkling we might play, but we also do Download or one big festival a year where we’re not playing y’know, and we got as just three or four members of the band and it’s fucking so much fun. I think if you’re a band and you’re separate, you don’t hang out together, it’s gonna shine through in the music.
The Fool feels like it’s separated into different chapters, with each song sounding individual amongst the rest, was this the intention?
Paul: The day we signed to Holy Roar Records was the day I said to them ‘this is the plan we’ve got!’ They were so like what the fuck are you doing! So they signed us, and we played a venue called The Blackheart in London, and he said he’d sign us if we were good live, and we passed his little test, and then fucking hell we’re on Holy Roar. So that day I said to him, I said we were gonna do a couple of EPs then we were gonna do an album all about the tarot. He okayed it and a lady called Justine, who is now high up in Holy Roar, was absolutely fine with it. On our first tour I was speaking to Justine about getting these tarot cards with all the art on it, and this was two years before it came out. It was a long con.
How did the idea to base it on tarot cards come about and how did you choose which cards to use?
Paul: It was just a vague interest, I’m not even that passionate about it! It was just a cool idea and the artwork, we’ve got an artist we use whose a guy out in Italy, his name’s Nicola, and that always makes me chuckle! Nicola said that he can do it for us and he gave us a nice rate. I’m a big fan of his artwork and when I’d get them through, one a month because I couldn’t afford anymore cause we were a tiny band playing a few shows a month. Every month we would get a new card and it was fucking amazing to see the artwork, it was stunning. That’s what it was all about, the art. Bands like GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR, bands of that ilk are all about art mixing with their music, and that’s how I feel we should go.
So you mentioned that OHHMS’ new album was almost finished…
Paul: Half finished, yeah…
Are the ideas just as big on that one as well?
Paul: It’s weird, this one is all about animal rights, like all of it, from the artwork to the lyrics, from the music videos to the photo shoots. All this bullshit that you had to go through, who knew! It’s not gonna come out for another year but that’s where we’re at now.
OHHMS has a very epic sound to go with these grand themes, how was that made?
Paul: Accident. I had this beat on Garageband, I think it was Garageband, like you could download it on this little app. Yeah, it was Garageband! Anyway, I had this beat that I made, and it turned into Rise of The Herbivore off the first EP, but I sent it off and was like ‘I want it kinda like SWANS and bit like the length of old GENESIS’, so like eight minutes long. Anyway, they turned out to be 15 and 18 minutes long and now we’re here!
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