INTERVIEW: Tony Reed – Mos Generator

MOS GENERATOR have been a top class band for over sixteen years, bring forward a collective sound that encompasses stoner, doom and classic metal. Here, in the wake of their lastest album release, Abysinnia (read our review here), we interviewed vocalist, guitarist and all round talent that is Tony Reed about the comparisons to Ozzy Osbourne, the orchestration of their sound, and the themes that drive the band.

You’ve definitely got that Stoner/Doom feel to your music, but it’s also very groovy and almost Bluesy in places. How do you find that balance between all the different areas of interest within the music?

Tony: I consider myself a lover of music and that means music of all kinds. It has been a real challenge over the years to place all of the things I love about music into the sound of one band. Each one of our albums add a different element from the different styles of music I enjoy. On Abyssinia I tried not to filter what I thought would work within the confines of our core sound and I embraced strange ideas. This is just the beginning of a lot of exploration for the band. Over the years I have learned how to filter our sound to add new concepts without damaging the core sound. I hope I can successfully continue with that.

It took you a little while to become MOS GENERATOR, having all been in different bands previous to this set up over around a decade. How has that experience of being well established in other bands helped before properly forming?

Tony: MOS GENERATOR formed in 2000 and the original rhythm section were guys I had been playing with in other bands for 10 years before that. We decided that we wanted to go back to our roots and play a heavy rock NWOBHM style like the music we played in our first bands as teenagers. We had all done touring in other bands during the 90s but none of us were well established. We just saw ourselves as good friends from a small town in Washington State that wanted to play rock music.

Your sound is also very infectious, powerful, especially on this latest album. With this latest tour, are you enjoying that element of showing off that on the new tracks?

Tony: We have been playing a lot of songs from the new album on this tour and some are a real challenge to play in a live setting. Energy levels get high and the songs get played very fast. As long as we can keep a hold of them then the fast tempo is fine and sometimes brings the energy of the room up as well.

What’s the best thing you enjoy about being out on the road?

Tony: There are two things. The 40 minutes that I am on stage and connecting with the audience. We give our all every night and sometimes to 12 people. If we get back from the audience what we give to them then that is considered an excellent show no matter how many people are in the room.

MOS GENERATOR have a very high energy band and as a three piece, you make a lot of noise. How do you maintain such a full bodied performance on stage?

Tony: Orchestrating different parts for the guitar and bass is a big part of the sound. In a three-piece band there has to be more attention to that. In our case in mean that the bass doesn’t strictly follow the guitar all of the time. I’m a big fan of players like Geddy Lee and Chris Squire where they play almost a rhythm guitar role along with keeping a solid foundation with the drums. I also use a lot of unconventional guitar chords and phrasings along with the always effective power chord. It makes for a larger and more interesting sound.

You’ve been together for a long while now, however. Has the relationships between you changed over the years?

Tony: The current rhythm section have only been in the band for around two years. The original band was together for 14 years but they couldn’t do the kind of touring that was necessary to move the band to the next level. It was a very hard decision for me and took me a long time to feel good about the choice I made but after many months of tour and recording with the new band I am very happy with how things are going. Sean (Bass) and Jono (Drums) have a lot of respect for the original members and their contribution to the band and play the old songs with attention to all of the details created by the players that they replaced. I couldn’t ask for more.

In terms of this latest album, did you have any material already to go or was this a more “start from scratch” sort of record?

Tony: I write and record at a steady pace. I always have extra songs laying around that may sit for years before they find a place on a record. For instance, the last three songs on Abyssinia where recorded in 2008 for an album that never got finished. The time felt right to release them and that is good because I really like the direction and they are a blast to play live. To answer your question, this was definitely not a “start from scratch” album. Most of the songs were already in place before the new rhythm section was even brought in. The hard part was trying to make the flow of the album work from songs that existed. It wasn’t easy and the stress of finalising the record took a toll on my health and sanity.

You’ve a solid back catalogue behind you too, do you think that has helped you to achieve what you wanted on this latest record?

Tony: I definitely think it has helped. You grow with every release. I can look back and see what my mistakes and strength were along the way.

You are often compared to having similar vocals to Ozzy Osborne. Does that comparison every irk you, or you do find it a compliment?

Tony: I get compared to Ozzy and Paul Stanley more than any other singers and that is totally fine with me. I think they were both brilliant melody writers and vocalists and both were a huge influence on me when I first started playing music.

Speaking of SABBATH, as they are obviously a big influence on you, what do you think about BLACK SABBATH coming around for a final tour?

Tony: I’m not really bothered by it. Although I have followed SABBATH over the years I think their best output is long over. I respect Tony and Geezer for still playing their instruments with the fire and skill of when they were young and that is a real inspiration to me but if they choose to cease making music as BLACK SABBATH I wouldn’t be upset by that.

In a similar vein, your sound often feels like you’ve stripped back to the heart of what Rock music truly is, removing the frills. Would you say that’s fair?

Tony: I just write music that is honest to my soul and rings true to me. I think my age (47) helps with the honest stripped down feeling for a few reasons. I’ve gone through most of the really diverse musical exploring I am going going to do and I’ve come to grips with what I really like about music and how to make the kind I enjoy. I also grew up in a different time in music and I feel like I am more in touch with the roots of the scene that we move in. It feels goods to be kind of an elder. I must say that I am still inspired by some of the younger bands though.

It’s been two years since your last record, Electric Mountain Majesty, how has the band progressed in that time?

Tony: As I stated earlier I brought in a new rhythm section which has changed the overall feel of the band. It is much more aggressive and direct now, the dynamics are still there but when we are in full force it’s very bombastic. It seems were moving in into more of a progressive rock sound as well pulling in some influences like KING CRINSON and VOIVOD. Those of always been there but now they’re becoming more apparent.

Abyssinia is your sixth full length record how does the record compare to your back catalogue?

Tony: Abyssinia is much more diverse than our other albums. I have always written with a lot of dynamics but on this record they seem to be even more apparent within the songs. I have always been a fan of melody and hooks as well so that will always be part of the sound of the band but now I think I’m taking that to even up higher level.

Can you describe the writing/recording process for Abyssinia?

Tony: Abyssinia was recorded over the course of a few years with some sessions dating back as far as 2008. Many of the songs are actually demos that were worked into being able to sound good enough to end up on the album and many of the songs were recorded before the new lineup was in place. I had Sean re do all of the bass tracks but there ended up being three different drummers on the record. It took me a long time to get all the songs recorded at different times and different sessions to flow together nicely. Trying to get them to blend sonically was a real challenge.

Abyssinia is slang for “I’ll be seeing you”. Can you describe what the album title is trying to explain?

Tony: By Abyssinia or “I’ll be seeing ya” I’m trying to say farewell to the original band and some of the elements of the original sound which allows me to move on to a new chapter in the band and in the sound. It also has to do with how I felt my brain was taking things at that point. I feel like I was losing it like I was saying “I’ll be seeing ya” to my mind during the editing and mixing process of this album.

What themes are present on Abyssinia?

Tony: There was a lot of self loathing and shame intertwined in the lyrics of this album. A lot of personal topics and also of the usual science-fiction style writings that I have and a lot of references to time and how it creeps up on you quicker than you think it’s going to. This seems to be my most personal album as far as the lyrics go.

We will close by offering you the floor, do you have anything to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?

Tony: All I can say is that if you pick up the album we hope you enjoy it please take the time to soak it and we think it might be one of those albums it takes a while to get to you.

Abyssinia is out now via Listenable Records.

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