Sometimes I just stumble upon a band that I know I just I have to know more about. That was the case with WO FAT. A band name that sounds like a Chinese martial art actor. Anders Ekdahl ©2016
What pressure is there in releasing an album compared to a demo? Do you feel that there is a sort of pressure to succeed when you release and album, that it sorta is for real now?
-Well Midnight Cometh is our sixth album, so it’s been a while since we’ve released a demo, but I have to say, with each of the last few records, I’ve felt a bit more pressure each time. It can be hard to think about what people expect from us since we’ve gotten some wider recognition in the scene, but we really try not to let that get in the way or influence the writing and recording process. We really just focus on making what we think is a great record.
When you release a record of any sort what kind of expectations do you have on it? Do you set up goals for it?
-I don’t know that we have specific goals or expectations. We definitely hope that the record will be well received, but ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, we try to make the music that we think rocks. As a songwriter, if you get caught up in trying to meet peoples’ expectations, it can really corrupt the process and lead to a derivative or contrived feel. We have had musical ideas and concepts that we’ve talked about and tried out with varying degrees of success that we revisited and reworked and, I think took a little further with this record than we had previously. One example on this last record is some of the Afro Cuban influences that we’ve always had and touched on a bit in the past but we tried to incorporate some of those rhythmic ideas in the music in a more hardcore way this time. In some ways, I think our records are a process of further refining our sound a voice within the paradigm that we’ve established for ourselves.
When you release an album and you go out and play live and people know your songs, how weird is that? That people know what you have written on your own?
-It is a strange but awesome and humbling feeling to go halfway around the world and play for people who know who you are.
Do you feel that you have to follow in the footsteps of the last album for a new when it comes to lyrics and art work for everything so that those that bought the previous record will recognize your sound?
-I do feel that musically we need to remain somewhat loyal to the sound we have established over the years, and from the beginning of Wo Fat, we placed certain limitations musically on what we wanted to do and we have stayed pretty true to that all along. We have occasionally gotten criticized for not changing our sound that much from album to album, but the progression in our music is definitely there within the larger aesthetic that we have created as our identity. It’s more subtle. Generally I don’t really want bands that I like a lot to change their sound. I listen to them because I like their sound.
When it comes to lyrics and art, a large concept and loose story idea has materialized, starting with The Black Code, that has to do with apocalypse and Armageddon that we continue to develop and move forward with. Midnight Cometh is the most focused on this narrative that talks about the end of mankind and civilization. The artwork is always related to the lyrical concept. When we work with an artist we discuss the lyrics and let the artist realize his vision and interpretation of those ideas.
Do you feel like you are a part of a greater community because you play in a band?
-most definitely feel like we’re part of a larger community. Thanks to the internet, this genre has a very solid international community. I now have friends in many different countries and have gotten to know fans of the music as well as other bands from all over the world. It’s amazing. I feel honored to be a part of such a cool thing.
How hard/easy is it to come up with new songs that that still are you but doesn’t sound like anything you’ve already written?
-I do try not to rewrite the same songs over and over. I’ve seen this happen to other bands and it is disappointing. There’s a fine line to walk between being derivative of yourself and staying true to your sound, and we have a relatively limited, self-imposed paradigm stylistically for our music. For me the key is listening to lots of music and being open to inspiration from everything I listen to and dig. New inspiration and musical influences, even if they are completely different stylistically from what we do, give new perspective and ideas that can be applied to our music.
What influences/inspires you today? Where do you draw inspiration from? Is it important to have some sort of message?
-I don’t know that it is important to have a message, necessarily. I am passionate about a number of things politically and spiritually that I write about but we also have songs that don’t really have deep messages. To me, it’s more important to create a vibe and imagery that puts the listener in a certain place mentally. The fact that there is usually a deeper message with our music is because a lot of these things we talk about weigh heavily on my mind and I think are very important.
When it comes to influences, we’ve always been inspired by a lot of different kinds of music. I definitely am inspired by a lot of the current bands in the scene – Elder, Maligno, Witch Mountain, Earthless, Duel, Crypt Trip, Rifflord, Mos Generator, Maneaters of Tsavo and Geezer are few that come to mind immediately. We’ve always had some 70’s fusion, as well as 70’s heavy rock as a key ingredient in our sound, but I’ve especially been into the Mahavishnu Orchestra records with John McLaughlin lately. The first Toad album has been in regular rotation for me lately as well. Lots of old blues and gospel. John Lee Hooker and Howlin Wolf are always influences as well as early Staple Singers. I’ve been revisiting some classic stoner/doom records that I haven’t listened to in a while too. The stuff that originally got me into this music – Nebula, Penance, Blood Farmers. The list could go on and on, really. So much good music out there.
We hear about what state the record industry is in. Then we hear that cd sales are increasing. As a band that releases records do you notice the state the industry is in?
-Most definitely. The industry is in a very strange place right now. The old major label model of big budgets, big advances and pushing songs for FM radio has collapsed and is a thing of the past. The internet has completely changed the dynamic and has made it possible for bands to get their music out there themselves or through a smaller label and retain more control and ownership of their music and their future. This has been a good thing for our genre, especially, because it has helped the scene to grow tremendously. It’s easier to get solid distribution now. Lots of smaller labels have good US and European distribution and band can also get it themselves through things like CD Baby. So in a lot of ways the playing field has been somewhat leveled and bands at all levels have more power. There are some downsides to this though. The market can become saturated and there can be a rise in mediocrity. Also the value of music has been greatly devalued thanks to downloading and things like Spotify and iTunes music. A lot of people no longer feel the need to actually buy music anymore. It’s just becoming subscription based or flat out free, which is bad for the artists. People don’t seem to understand that it costs money to make the albums/songs that you are streaming.
What is your opinion on digital verses physical?
-I grew up with vinyl, then CDs, so I see a lot of value in owning the physical product. I remember listening to records and looking at the cover art the whole time. We put a lot of thought into the artwork and it’s a shame that it doesn’t all get seen when it’s bought or listened to in a digital form. The artwork is part of the piece as a whole and helps to set a tone and vibe for the listener. Personally, I hate digital. The convenience of it is nice, but as I touched on in the previous question, it devalues music and musicians. It replaces music ownership with a subscription mentality, which, in turn means less of a commitment to the music. People aren’t listening to albums as much anymore and it’s more about listening to individual songs. I don’t think this is as true of the Stoner Rock/Doom or even Metal in a larger sense, where I believe fans buy more physical product. Also, streaming and downloads from things like itunes (which probably won’t even allow downloads soon enough and will be streaming only) is such an inferior quality sonically than CDs and certainly vinyl. The prevailing culture now is about convenience over quality and planned obsolescence. We are an ephemeral and disposable culture. All that being said, it’s the way of the world and I’m still happy to have people listen to us on Spotify or buy our music from itunes. I’m more concerned with getting our music out there and that people are digging it and digital is one of the main avenues to do that.
I do like bandcamp, which allows bands to sell physical merch, downloads of files that are CD quality if you want, bands get paid fairly, and, for those that want to, you can stream it.
What lies in the future?
-For us, we are just now starting the writing process for our next album. We have a new bass player now, Zack Busby, who has a strong musical presence which I’m sure will have some influence on the sound of things. We’ll see where things go beyond that.