Welsh quartet Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are unleashing their astral doomscapes across the UK as they hit the road this month, building on the momentum gained following the release of last year’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll. Richard Holmes caught up with guitarist Paul Davies to talk 70s space rock, 90s stoner… and ‘MTV doom’.
The UK’s doom scene has exploded in recent years, with a slew of acts going slow and low, taking their rumbling riffs far and wide. An underground movement, yes, but the success of bands like Conan illustrates an appetite for Brit doom that extends well beyond the country’s borders.
And one of the most exciting – and visionary – outfits to emerge from the throng has been North Wales’ Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, whose music drifts deep into the cosmic void, accompanied by the soaring, ethereal vocals of singer Jessica Bell.
It’s no surprise, then, that the band have made waves – or that latest album, 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll, found its way onto many a ‘best of’ list last year.
“It’s very lean,” says guitarist Paul Davies of Y Proffwyd Dwyll (translated as ‘false prophet’). “We always try to trim off the fat when we write and record. If I’m not feeling something or I think it sounds shit I just bomb it off. But the whole band agree that we never expected people to like (the album) that much. The label had to do a vinyl repress because it sold out online in a week and a bit. I think the website we use has like only one left now or something of the repress. It’s just mad.”
Why the demand? Perhaps, as Davies suggests, it’s because Y Proffwyd Dwyll has a more ‘accessible’ feel than its predecessor, Noeth Ac Anoeth. He recalls: “We recorded Noeth in two days so we had more time with Y Proffwyd Dwyll. I probably wrote more around Jess on Y Proffwyd Dwyll. Noeth was slightly darker. Some kid on YouTube called Y Proffwyd Dwyll ‘MTV doom’. I think he was taking the piss but we love that term. It’s now on our Facebook bio.”
Yet their 2016 opus – recorded with doom producer extraordinaire Chris Fielding – is no flimsy, throwaway collection of easily digestible ditties: it delves into space rock and hazy psych, drawing from a rich tapestry of musical history.
The likes of Hawkwind and Amon Duul II are cited by Davies as major influences on his writing.
“I love early Hawkwind and krautrock bands like Amon Duul II and Popol Vuh,” he reveals. “I got into Hawkwind and Amon Duul II in the early 90s. When I was 16 I jumped the train to Manchester with a mate to see Hawkwind and slept in the station when the gig finished after the trains stopped.”
What else do Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard tap into during the writing process? “Musically it’s everything – films, the radio, my girlfriend’s records she puts on when doing the pots, weird YouTube clips that Carrat (drummer) sends me or music I know well. I don’t limit myself to doom. God knows where Jess’s lyrics come from…we never ask.”
Davies reveals that Y Proffwyd Dwyll’s follow-up will take a darker turn, completing the trilogy which began with 2015’s Nachthexen with “the heaviest thing” they have ever done. They’ll experiment with different recording techniques, try new approaches.
The fact that the Wrexham quartet are striding forth in their own direction – and making it a success – is not lost on Davies, who believes that the doom/stoner scene is becoming saturated… to its detriment. “There is a lot of crap out there In my opinion,” he asserts. “A hell of a lot. It seems to be all about playing loud with a wall of vintage amps. It’s boring. Bands trying to out-volume each other. It’s getting stupid. Bands trying to be louder than Sunn O))) in a back room of a little pub. Tinnitus rock.”
Davies continues: “Doom was supposed to be about riffs but all these ultra heavy bands just play chords now. It’s getting insane, it’s like the bands are good because of what amps they use… but people love it, So that’s fair enough. We try to be loud and heavy as fuck but we like riffs. We love bands that do their own thing, like Slomatics. Slomatics are the best doom/sludge band around, I would say.
“People say our name is like a blatant generic doom name or a piss-take but they are fans of bands that recycle actual riffs from Sleep or Electric Wizard. Isn’t it about music? There are bands that sound exactly like Sleep or Electric Wizard. But nobody says anything. Maybe because as Sleep or Electric Wizard are like gods to most people it’s fine to sound like them. So if you rob Sleep or Electric Wizard, you are going to be liked in the doom scene.
“We try to do our own thing – if nobody likes it, so what? I saw Sleep in 1993 and thought they were great. I’d never say they have any influence on our music though. And I’ve never rated Electric Wizard. All their stuff sounds like it was recorded in a metal bath.”
Davies is not short of confidence in his band. To him, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ability to question scene norms, to reach a wider audience, is something to be proud of. Some doom ‘scenesters’, he suggests, have dismissed the four-piece as not being a ‘real doom’. He pays them scant attention: “It’s 2017 and we have got no time for fascism in music. Some people want music to all sound the same so it doesn’t challenge their brains. We like to experiment. So yeah, it may appeal to people without long hair, baseball caps, two foot-beards and denim cut-offs. And that’s good.”
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are currently on tour with Ohmms. Y Proffwyd Dwyll is out now on New Heavy Sounds.