By Andrew Wilhelm (Denver)
Yob reigned supreme over metal in 2011. The Eugene, Ore., trio has always been a cult favorite amongst doom-inclined metalheads, and in the past year, they've ascended to new levels. I put Atma, their most recent effort, as the No. 1 record of 2011, and for good reason. Yob got rawer on that record, which made them heavier even without some of the psychedelic touches that dominated their earlier albums. The songwriting, never a weak point, has tightened into a colossal force. From heavy-on-heavy bangers like the title track and "Prepare the Ground," to an expansive journey like "Before We Dreamed Of Two," there's no challenge the band can't take on. Yob have been tagged a doom metal band, but if things go the way they do, they'll become authorities in all of heavy metal. Someone was paying attention -- Yob have recently confirmed an East Coast tour with Tool. If 2011 was the band's best year, 2012 might be even better.
I spoke with Yob's guitarist, vocalist and leader, Mike Scheidt, on the vibe of the record, the meaning behind "Prepare the Ground," and how the band has gotten better since they reformed.
Crustcake: You've been using some cool guitars lately. What can you tell me about them?
Mike Scheidt, guitars and vocals: They're made by Brent Monson, and he is in Chico, California. He's built some guitars for Nate [Hall] from U.S. Christmas, Nathan [Weaver] of Wolves in the Throne Room, Will [Lindsay], formerly of Wolves, [currently of] Indian, and Nachtmystium, and also a couple for Scott Kelly. So he has some really good company, people that are like-minded. Basically, I picked some of my friends' brains about that guy's company, I called Brent up myself, and we discussed couple guitars for me that I just absolutely loved. Brent's a fabulous builder, fabulous person whose heart is in the right place and he just builds a fabulous guitar. I can't say enough good things about him.
Crustcake: What was the making of Atma like?
Scheidt: Kind of like ... the process of every album, which is I hone in on a vibe first. I threw around a lot of riffs and ideas, but I'm really looking for a feel and a particular flavor that will be a record, as in I can write individual songs around that particular feel. That's not to say the songs are all going to sound the same, but I want there to be a cohesion. I have to find that vibe first -- riffs aren't enough in my opinion, you've got to have a vibe. It'd be enough to pound out riffs and string them together and make a song and then string those songs together and make a record, but I would prefer to have something more cohesive than that on every level. That's my goal, anyway. I'm not saying that I achieve it, but that's my goal and when I start finding that vibe, then it becomes an avalanche and just everything starts coming together.
Crustcake: What vibe do you think the record has?
Scheidt: I don't know if it's something you can put into words exactly. It's the flavor of the album. I would say this album is definitely riffier than some of our last records. There's some more esoteric stuff going on in lyrics. My vocal style I really pushed hard on this album to feel a lot of different varieties of singing and change it up a lot. We changed up the normal Yob way that we put songs together in sequence for a record -- we end the album on more of an upbeat [song], which normally we end the album on an epic. So there are just more things that are different. There's different parts of the record that are quite a bit darker, but there's also parts of the records that are more evolved as far as how we've been putting rhythms together and time signatures. Subtle, but different.
Crustcake: Do the songs have any sort of common thread running through them?
Scheidt: It's kind of the same thread I always write about, which is people trying to find a meaning outside of themselves and outside of their place of origin, outside of what they've been taught, and not being puritanical or dogmatic about it, and not having it be a hard religious view, but rather trying to find one's way in the world and do it with some amount of grace, but also understanding that people screw up and make mistakes. That it doesn't matter, it's kind of moving on and continuing to try to grow and be better. This kind of music has been the medium for me to write about that sort of thing and that's what I feel like writing about for Yob, that's how it's always been. That's the continuing theme that people have come to know and maybe even expect from our records. Whether they expect it for not, that's where I'm coming from.
"Prepare the Ground"
Crustcake: The opening song, "Prepare the Ground" - how did that song come into what it is now?
Scheidt: That song was probably the first one I wrote for the album, and it was just kind of like the "statement of intent" song where it's gonna be [an] opening high-energy, pounding track to begin the album with. I like the idea of writing about what they call the Ngöndro, you might have to Google it, but it's a Tibetan practice that prepares practitioners for Ma Budra practice which is the highest practice in Tibetan Buddhism. They do 100,000 repetitions of a number of different practices to prepare the ground for their Ma Budra practice. I like the idea of preparing the ground as just a general life theme.
Crustcake: You said the album ends on an upbeat. Was that the last song you wrote for the record?
Scheidt: Kind of. It was mostly written for a long time, and then - I don't really believe in working on songs too hard. I think I work on them while I have inspiration and if I bang my head into the wall with the arrangements, I just walk away from it and either let it simmer indefinitely forever or one day kinda finish it. It was finished probably close to a month before we went into the studio, something like that.
Crustcake: Would you say the the record a raw-er feel than some of the other records?
Scheidt: A rawer feel? Absolutely. For me, what that was about was - I've been listening to a lot of early Sleep, early Cathedral, early High on Fire, and [Neurosis'] Through Sliver in Blood. These are all just very visceral recordings. Arguably, not the best productions from any of these bands, and yet, those are the albums that their history is based on. I just had this feeling for production of wanting something that was just rawer and more kind of messed up sounding. For all I know, our next record will be the most produced thing we've ever done, I don't know.
Crustcake: Not having a polished productions works well for some metal bands. It gets that feeling that's necessary for a metal band.
Scheidt: Absolutely. I've seen some of my favorite bands, and I won't name them, but each record that goes by they get bigger and bigger and bigger production, and somehow lose something in the process. I'm not against big production, some bands get an amazing result of out of that, it's just this time around we just took a different approach.
Crustcake: Would you say the band has gotten into a better groove since y'all reformed?
Scheidt: Yeah, in a lot of ways, I would say that. Just from years of being together and having a very clear statement of intent that's been around for well over a decade, and being able to make connections with a lot of our peers and our heroes and being able to play the shows of our dreams, yeah, I think that undeniably we're in a better place and a better groove as a band than we've ever been. We don't take it for granted and we're very grateful for it. It's not something that we feel really responsible for, other people, all together, made that decision for us. We just do what we knew, and got a lot of opportunities, and feelings within the band have just gotten better and better and better. So it's undeniably true.
"Adrift in the Ocean"
Crustcake: Does being from the Pacific Northwest influence in any way?
Scheidt: Oh, I'm sure it does. I mean, the Northwest has its own style of living and there are a lot of really amazing bands from the Northwest, like lots and lots and lots. We definitely, I'm sure, all positively influence each other, and there's a very tight-knit community from Seattle to Portland to Eugene where I'm from.
Crustcake: Have you been listening to anything cool lately that you want to recommend to our readers?
Scheidt: As far as new music goes, Ulcerate's Destroyers of All, is absolutely amazing. The new Inquisition is incredible. Man, it's kind of endless. The new Dark Castle, of course, that's a massive album. Been listening to early Cathedral, and always spinning lots of different metal, doom metal, pretty every walk of it, punk rock, been listening of a lot of weird stuff on the road. It's funny because I always have a million different CDs I'm listening to, and when I'm asked that question, it all goes right out the window. It's like walking into a record store and thinking about all the things you want to look for, and you can't remember any of them when you're there. The new Autopsy I liked a lot, just picked up the re-issue of Mental Funeral, and that's amazing. Picked up the last Abscess, love that a lot. The new Black Witchery is incredible. Heard a little bit of the new Royal Thunder, that's sounds like that's gonna be a stunning new album. There's just so much music that's out there that is amazing, it's kind of endless.
Yob tour dates:
Jan 20 @ The Shredder in Boise, ID
Jan 21 @ Burt’s Tiki Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 22 @ Larimer Lounge, Denver, CO
Jan 23 @ Bourbon Theater, Lincoln, NE
Jan 25 @ The Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
Jan 26 @ Ravari Room in Columbus, OH
Jan 28 @ TD Garden - Boston, MA*
Jan 29 @ Susquehanna Bank Center - Camden, NJ*
Jan 31 @ Mohegan Sun Arena - Uncasville, CT*
Feb 01 @ Izod Center - East Rutherford, NJ*
Feb 03 @ Hampton Coliseum - Hampton, VA*
Feb 04 @ Bojangles' Coliseum - Charlotte, NC*
Feb 06 @ Bank Atlantic Center - Sunrise, FL*
Feb 07 @ UCF Arena - Orlando, FL*
Feb 08 @ Gwinnett Center Arena - Duluth, GA*
* - w/ Tool