Gatefold LP artwork
Olly Pearson is a man of few words. He spares his breath for harsh vocals in a band that never intended to rise this far. Moss‘ art is far from accessible. For Pearson and friends, the band is a private avenue of expression. Although Pearson admits Moss’ lack of openness, his tone and words are far from pretension. Since 2005’s Cthonic Rites and 2008’s Sub Templum (reviewed here), the band has attracted attention for its loyalty to the macabre. But Pearson is shocked that people even respond to Moss. Of course, that shock comes in short, precise responses.
Interview by Jess Blumensheid
The artwork is very different for Tombs of the Blind Drugged (reviewed here) compared to your other covers. Who did it?
That was by this tattooist from where Lovecraft was born, Providence. He’s Andrew Labanaris. He’s done a piece for Electric Wizard, and he’s done a couple pieces for Unearthly Trance, which their record company didn’t want to use because they were “too metal,” apparently. He’s a really talented guy. I gave him the lyrics for the song, and he just came up with something. We’re really pleased with it.
This EP is very different compared to your previous work. Where did its sound come from?
I’d say it’s more of a progression from [previous releases]. Sub Templum was the progression from Cthonic Rites. It’s pushing forward more structure and song-like traits. The second [proper] track on Sub Templum, “Dragged to the Roots” — that’s probably more like the stuff on the EP.
Why are you more content with settling for structured songs?
I guess we sort of feel that we’ve done everything that you can do with massive fucking time-stretching doom epics and all that. We’ve been doing this band now for 10 years. We’re getting old. It’s about time that we kind of acted more like a real band [laughs]. I guess it’s [the] progression in becoming a band, really. It’s just locking down and trimming the fat off a lot of things. The new stuff feels heavier to me because it’s more to the point than droning on for ages and ages.
But your music will never pick up pace, so to speak. It still very much requires patient ears.
Oh yeah. We’re not going to totally give up the huge, long songs and all that. That’s totally us. That’s the thing we’ve made our own. Adding more structure and sort of making things more “riffy” — it’s good. It gives it more variety. To be honest, I don’t really listen to bands like Khanate or Corrupted or anything like that. I don’t really listen to extreme doom bands.
You mentioned in Decibel that you were pretty much only listening to the Stones. Is that still the case?
Yeah. I listen to a lot of ’60s and ’70s hard rock, blues rock, and psychedelic stuff. That’s what I love, really. I can’t really see any of that having much influence in Moss, but that’s what I listen to. I love doom, absolutely. But I can’t listen to that all the time, no way [laughs].
Moss doesn’t often reference musical influences. Other than what you’ve mentioned, what would you say influences Moss?
Well, I guess it’s weed and drugs. As far as musical influences, I can’t really think of any other bands. When we formed, we liked Burning Witch and Eyehategod. We don’t really listen to those kinds of bands anymore. I feel that we get more influence from other things, films and whatnot. It feels more unique to us. I think getting influence from a film is pretty special because if you gain influence from a band, you’re kind of cribbing some of the band’s ideas. If you take it from some non-musical things, it’s more unique and genuine.
What can you say about a particular track from this EP?
I’ll talk about “Tombs of the Blind Drugged.” There is a series of films by this Spanish director called Amando de Ossorio about the Tombs of the Blind Dead. They’re about these knights that have risen from the grave who terrorize this town. I [learned] about this Islamic sect called the Hashashins who apparently smoked marijuana before going to battle. So the Hashashins, which is where the word “assassins” came from, they existed at the same time as Templars. Then I started thinking, “Oh yeah, what if the Templars started to adopt their rites and rituals and whatnot?” I wrote this little horror story in my head and sort of put it down into words.
When and how did you get into the occult?
Probably when I was 13. I’m 29, so a long time ago. I got into H.P. Lovecraft and Rob E. Howard. It just really struck me. I grew up seeing a bunch of horror films and Doctor Who and stuff like that on TV all the time during the ’80s. Getting that in my teens has come along to a point. I’ve always been interested in the dark side.
Why does occult literature appeal to you?
It’s quite psychedelic, I suppose. I used to smoke weed and read Lovecraft at two in the morning and completely freak myself out. That’s sort of how it all sunk in. I guess the whole thing about being a teenager and being a metalhead, you feel kind of alienated. Lovecraft brings out the [theme of] man being so insignificant in the whole grand scheme of things. I guess in a way [I could] connect to that.
Lovecraft has a very distinct way of looking at the human race. How much do you say you have similar vision?
In terms of man being pretty insignificant, well, yeah totally [laughs]. It connects to what this band is all about, really: the future of mankind and hopelessness. That’s what Lovecraft evokes. Man, he’s nothing compared to huge, cosmic gods and whatnot.
On what level do Moss and Lovecraft communicate best?
A lot of what [Lovecraft] talks about in his stories, he’s only hinting at things that he’s explaining about. He always kind of lets on that he knows sort of more than what he’s really giving away. What I feel what we’re doing and what we’re showing with our kind of music is we’re showing those things that he’s only hinting at — you know, the horrors and the beasts. We’re actually personifying them, in a way.
To those who don’t read or understand the occult, then, how accessible is Moss?
I don’t think we’re too accessible. I’ve always thought this music isn’t for everyone. If we get a bad review, it’s never been something that I’ve been bothered by. I’ve never been like, “Oh, why the fuck have they written this?” I totally understand when people say this music is “boring” or they say nothing much is happening. It’s really not written for everyone. People seem to like it. We [have] got people really into our stuff, which still totally weirds me out.
Why does it weird you out?
When we’re at a gig, and someone comes up and says they really liked the album, it’s still totally bizarre to me that people actually like this music and go out and buy it and spend money on it. It’s not something I can really put my finger on. I guess me being a really big fan of music myself, it’s strange
having someone [else] buying your stuff and really liking it.
You only play a couple shows a year, and Moss is very particular about the ideal atmosphere for a performance. Why is that?
The last couple of shows we’ve done, the atmosphere hasn’t been right. They’ve been in big venues, so it’s been a bit weird for us. I think we are our best in a really closed room of sorts, you know, a strange space, somewhere unconventional. We’d love to play in factories or churches or caves or the forest or anywhere like that.
Why did you cover “Maimed and Slaughtered” by Discharge?
We just love Discharge. They’ve always been a big influence on us. A lot of older Moss songs, I think, are really slowed-down Discharge songs. If you really sped them up, you’d probably be able to recognize some riffs.
You once mentioned in an interview how Moss emphasizes people’s emotions of pain and suffering. How does that further the artistic value of Moss?
I think that was in response to someone asking us if doing this music was cathartic in any way, if we’re expelling demons by doing Moss. I feel that when we rehearse, we come out of the rehearsal feeling more pissed off and fucking angry with each other than when we did before we went in. For us, playing the music creates a certain level of tension and frustration that we didn’t have before we started playing. We’ve gotten into fights before. When we rehearse and when we do gigs, we won’t talk to each other for days afterwards, sometimes. I guess that’s what works for us. I think when that happens, really, we know that we’ve done something right [laughs].
Does your participation in Moss make you happy?
Um, yeah. Of course, it does cause a whole ton of shit, like things we have to deal with. This EP was just one whole stressful thing. Getting it released and getting it out, there was a whole load of trouble behind the scenes that I don’t even want to get into. That was kind of frustrating in itself. I guess we are happy doing this music. I mean, we do have our problems with each other. We’ve been good friends for fucking years now. We’re like a family. We’ll have our days where we fucking hate the piss out of each other. I think it’s all conducive to the music, really. It all means good at the end of the day [laughs]. It’s totally what works for us. We fucking love doing this band. We love the music that we play. But we also fucking hate it, as well. It’s totally healthy, I think.