Bong Interview

Impossible that too much to ask? Well not from the UK's very own Bong. These weedians throw down the doom gauntlet.

After forming in late 2005, Bong got right to the jams... but it wasn't until recently that any of these mammoth riffs were available to us mere mortals. Luckily the unholy riffwizards have descended from the skies with a slew of new records, so it seems a perfect time to talk with guitarist Mike Vest about the evolution of the Bong, the savagery of sitars, and why he can't smoke bongs anymore.

HSJ:Ok, let’s get right to it. Bong starts in 2005, right? What was the origin of you guys coming together? Had you been in other bands before?

BONG:Yeah, it was about late 2005 when we first started talking about starting up a new band. I was playing in a band called Ultrashitinferno, for a few years on and off, we were playing shows and we released a couple of self released 7inches. This was around 2002 maybe, can’t remember exact dates. However, Thundarr was still in Trollmann Av Ildtoppberg, up to this point Trollmann had done quite a few releases, not many shows, but Trollmann was never about playing live, more of a general feeling of a particular time period, recording drones in maximum solitude. But, I lived near Thundarr, we were both jobless at the time with quite a lot of time on our hands. I can’t recall exactly how it got started, but it began around this time.

HSJ:Like the best band names, Bong is simple and really tells you all you need to know. Did you kick around any other names? I actually like the myspace page name too (Landbong).

BONG:We joked around about names before settling on BONG, I remember when we were trying to find a drummer and no one wanted to play in a band called BONG. No one could see the simplistic idea of it. I just still can’t believe there isn’t another band called BONG somewhere else in the world of music.

HSJ:There's a ton of doom bands going right now. What is it that you feel sets you apart from the others? Or does that even matter to you?

BONG:Doesn’t really affect us, if you asked anyone in BONG, like, who is the best “new” doom band around at the minute, I don’t think we could say. I listened to a lot of heavy doom when I was younger, but I don’t follow that style of music as much as I used to, not at all. I guess its still there in my head, as I still crank Come my fanatics, Towers, Thorr’s Hammer and shit. I don’t know, there so much of it and a lot of it I don’t like. It also depends on what you mean as doom, a lot of bands just because they knock out fucking huge riffs and slow them right down get classed as doom. So its confusing, I still listen to heavy music, but just a different kind of heavy I guess, like GURU GURU or old Skullflower and Total Records. So, fuck it, nah we don’t care.

HSJ:I remember finding the old website you guys had a few years back and couldn't believe how much music you guys had without even having a release at the time. Was that the plan...and if not, why do think there's so much interest in the band all of a sudden?

BONG:We used to practice a lot, because it was fucking great, the sounds we were playing were exactly what we were wanting to do at the time, everything was great, getting drunk and very high and doing what we love. I used to organize shows in Newcastle, free shows, kinda the only way we used to get to play live. Nobody would put us on, unless they were our friends. But after a while we started getting asked to play, so it came around, just depends who listening at the time.

The reason why we had so much recorded was due to the fact we recorded all our practice sessions, listened back and many stood out as tracks. After a practice we would go relax and listen for hours, smoke out and meditate on what was created. There is so many different jam-outs of our “songs”, every time we played them, they sounded different. All our music is improvised, but has a theme or a riff that is followed and made reference to through out. With regards to people being into the band, I don’t know where our popularity comes from. I doesn’t affect us, but we are very grateful for the support and cool people digging our music. It’s really fucking great! Thanks to all BONG mothers!

HSJ:So the LP is old stuff right? Everything else is new? Also, will we ever see other Bong "classics" released, like Weed Queen or the Slow of Limb?

BONG:The LP, the split 12” and the split 7” are all old jams, taken from one particular recording session done in, 2006, I think, or maybe early 2007. Nah, it was 2006, anyway….We were all really into the recordings and it was around this time when Benn joined the band on Sitar and Shaji Bajja. We recorded about 6 songs in a day, all first takes. We had been playing them quite a lot live and jamming them out at times when we could. I wanted to wait for the opportunity to release records and not so much cds, bit of a vinyl junkie.I suppose it didn’t help things when the LP took like 2 years to sort out, some of us aren’t the most productive people in the world, if you get my meaning. We do things at quite a leisurely pace. However, the company that was printing the record, were, shall we say“fussy”.As for old songs, they may appear in some form, but I could not say at this time.

HSJ:I just have to ask this....what the hell gear are you guys using to get so fucking low? And did I really hear a sitar on that last record?

BONG:The same gear we always use, I use an old Carlsbro Stingray, sometimes slaved to another, but not always. On this recording I did.Always preferred combos, nice sound and this baby packs a serious fucking punch. Then, just either RATT or BIG MUFF turned all the way up, with wah and delay. Nothing too major, but I do rely on the amps for that vintage tone.As for Dave, he used and still uses a 700 watt Peavey Bass Head, cabinet size vary, for this recording he used a 2x15 and a 4x10, I think.

Yeah, Benn is playing his Sitar with a contact mic that’s being played through a Marshall stack, now that’s fucking rock music!. Im not too keen on Marshall, however the gain seems to work well with the frequencies from the sitar, we had to push the amp against a corner in the studio, facing away from everyone, so it was clean from all other sounds. Live is another story, Christ. A lesson for all, don’t get drunk and try and play Sitar live though loads of amp, I still hear the feedback in my ears to this day! Savage!

HSJ:There seems to be a ton of heaviness in the UK right now. I think we all know Electric Wizard and Moss. Who else should we be checking out?

BONG:Gruel, a band from Leeds/Bradford have just released a new album, double LP, good mates and we’ve played together in the past. There great, heavy, just fucking bone crunching riffs, played fucking a lot and loud. Great!

Jazzfinger, they have a great LP out (there first whole LP after years and years of rocking out) Mole and The Morning Dew, fucking great!Once again, it depends what you mean by heavy, I watched the A Band at the last Curmudgeon Festival in Leeds last year, a band I really love and they fucking blew me away, heavy as fuck, poping bass cabs, setting themselves on fire, fuck. I thought I had been spiked with shit loads of acid, blamm!

Drunk in Hell, these guys are the fucking dudes, playing voided fucked up punk, like Kilslug, brainbombs, Stick me with ray guns, all that good stuff. These guy fucking rock, Snotnosed on drums. Man o man, great band, lovely blokes. Check out one of there songs called “Chick Flick”, you know exactly what i mean, everyone needs this band on their stereo, give us some records!!!!! They should have toured with The Stooges in 1969!!!

HSJ:You have to tell me about that "Evening with Bong" or whatever it was. Did you guys really play all night? Also, what would be the most memorable gig you've played so far?

BONG:Nah, we didn’t play all night, we did play for a while though. The main reason behind it was, due to the fact that loads of shows before this were shit, as we were given no time to play, setup or get high etc…. we don’t play very well when were rushed and stressed, it totally affects the way we play.So out of frustration playing with hardcore bands, getting setup, then the promoter comes over and goes….”right, 15minutes lads” these guys have no idea what going on. So I sorted out a show, with a good mate of mine who owns a restaurant, he agreed to let us play, but on our terms, there was places to sit and we had long intervals so everyone could get stoned. Pretty text book if you ask me, a lot of promoters could learn from this method. We played 3 sets one was 50 minutes, another 40 minutes and the last was 30minutes. So not all night, but we got to air out new songs and have fun. I remember at the end of the night, I could barely stand to lift my guitar, BONG have no memory of the last set.

The best show we played………I can’t speak for everyone of course but I would say in Leeds as part of the Curmudgeon Festival, with A Band, Astral Social Cub, Unicorn Love etc…We got there a like 3pm, we didn’t play till midnight, then just as I played the first cord to start, the police burst in, I was so fucking high I was riffing my mind out with loads of police just in the other room, trying to close the place down. However, they left and then we played for like 2 hours straight, great. Once I looked up to see who was there I saw like 8 people lying on the floor and Benn was one of them. The shit!

HSJ:Favorite Sabbath song?

BONG:Anything off Vol 4.Really I should be saying Sweet Leaf; I could give you a top 5…Fucking hard question.Here it goes...
1. Wheels of Confusion/ The Straightener
2. Sleeping Village
3. A National Acrobat
4. Lord of this World
5. Under the sun

If you ask me that question in a couple of days, it will change.

HSJ:So,I'll bet at least one of you guys went to see the reformed Sleep play recently. Were they up to the task? Hopefully the hipster invasion didn't ruin it.Ha! Also, the eternal debate...Holy Mountain Sleep or Jerusalem/Dopesmoker Sleep? (I think I may know the answer to this one)

BONG:Both Me and Dave went to watch Sleep. They were amazing, really good. Heavy as hell and they were tight. Great, We were both tripping balls when they played, smoked all day! All day!!!!Yeah the festival was a bit week, there was some bands playing that i really wasn’t into. I was there mainly for Sleep, Wizard, Harvey milk, Jesus Lizard and Lydia Lunch. I checked out some other bands but failed to see the point. Dave spent most of his time getting high in the apartment we stayed in. Came out for Sleep and Wizard, he didn’t enjoy wizard though; its funny because me and Dave are sometimes at polar opposites when it comes to certain types of music, keeps it fresh…sometimes. We were just born in different times and ages. Sleep didn’t play the whole of Dopesmoker, they were playing like, segments.

I would say I and mostly the whole band would say we enjoy Dopesmoker rather than Jerusalem or Holy Mountain. I assume you mean, if you had the records around you, which would you play first, as they're all fucking masterpieces!

HSJ:Agreed!So,when I was younger I had a favorite bong, but now, on the rare occasion that I light up, it's smokin' a joint.Do you guys have a favorite ceremonial bong ?I keep thinking you guys know some awesome glassblower who could make a "Bong" bong. That shit would be hilarious.

BONG:Neither me nor Dave can smoke bongs anymore, our lungs can’t take it. We generally stick to spliffs or pure weed cones. A nice gentle smoke! Ha.When we were first jamming, we used to take a bong with us and just have it packed in the middle of the room, so you could hit it when you liked, mid song etc… But you can’t smoke that much at practice rooms anymore, what with the smoking ban, well you can, but not bongs, too much smoke. So we stopped. We should design a bong!

HSJ:Okay,tell us about the future for Bong. You guys are on a roll,so there's no sense in stopping now right?
BONG:Were going to record BONG II in the summer, which hopefully will be a joint release on At War with False Noise and Ex Flat Earth’s new label. Double LP!!.We have 4 songs in mind to record, which will fit on 2 records, just!Aquarius Records will be releasing a live BONG CD and Turgid Animal are re issuing the BONG boxset “In and Around Newcastle” which should be available soon. There’s pre-orders for it now.…..and in the mean time, continue to do what we do, play shows, keep it heavy and get high.Mike Vest (2009)

1 comment:

N. said...

Just as a common message, since that isn't possible.

You schould really check out the project called Vindensång. You can find some tracks on his myspace:

Great blog by the way. I'm following it!