Oozing Wound Keeps on Oozing: Zack Weil Talks “High Anxiety” + New Music Video
“I’m so sick of rock-'n'-roll!” screams lead singer/guitarist Zack Weil on the new single “Tween Shitbag” from Chicago’s indefinably noisy Oozing Wound. The song ends with Weil howling: “Ta da! You live a lie!” as if he’s lifting the curtain to reveal the music industry for what it really is: a conglomeration of shit that sells.
“Tween Shitbag” is only three-and-a-half minutes of Oozing Wound’s re-exploration of their noise rock roots on their upcoming full-length record High Anxiety, set to be released on March 15th via Thrill Jockey Records. A brand-new music video for the song can be viewed below -- the black-and-white performance varies greatly from Oozing Wound's past music videos: it’s animated and it doesn’t contain an obvious homage to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” video or include various people shotgunning PBRs shot in slow motion.
Oozing Wound -- a weed-friendly outfit made up of Weil, Kevin Cribbin credited with “Bass and Digital Bleeps,” and Kyle Reynolds on “Drums and Piano Thuds” -- sound on High Anxiety a lot like the classic thrash we’re used to especially from their second full-length Earth Suck (2014). But, there’s a new proggy element including the incorporation of brass and woodwind instruments. The record starts with a whole lot of feedback and distortion followed by long guitar solos, critical references to flat-earthers, notions of obliteration, and how it’s easy to get into heaven. This record honors Chicago’s anti-music scene; not surprising considering the album was recorded at Albini’s Electrical Audio Studio.
Amidst the mixed reviews of their last album Whatever Forever (2016), one Pitchfork reviewer asked the band to “open up a bit more.” Considering a two-and-a-half minute guitar solo appears on one new song -- alongside various beautiful sonic explosions set to annihilate eardrums but proselytize new listeners -- I’d say they have.
We had the chance to talk with Weil about High Anxiety, Chicago’s amnesiac music scene, and how strange it is to actually consider what makes up the creative process.
-- Samuel Argyle
Did Joe Martinez Jr., who directed your past music videos, direct your new music video for "Tween Shitbag"?
Actually, no. We've been trying to work with Joe but our schedules haven't been lining up. This is actually going to be directed by Sam Nigrosh, the guy who pretty much does all of our art, like all of the covers. It's going to be his attempt at creating an animated video. I have total faith in the guy, but it's his first try at making this thing so I'm hoping it's fucking sick.
I feel like an animated video is perfect for your guys's music.
There's some rotoscope stuff featuring the frog man who is on the cover, possibly a continuation of the frog people who went into space in the Whatever, Forever comic. I'm not entirely sure. I know Sam has an internal logic going on there.
What made you all decide to title your new record High Anxiety?
There was a huge list of names we were going through and they were either too stupid or it would kind of change the focus of what we were going to talk about. The big leader for a long time was "I Know It's Only Rock and Roll but I'm Tired of it." But then we figured that that would be just what we're talking about every single time.
I write stuff down all the time that just becomes this list of either things I use to make lyrics or song titles or whatever and High Anxiety was on there. It was the only one we all didn't hate and it has a funny double-meaning. Then we told Bettina [Richards] from Thrill Jockey and she was like, "You mean the Mel Brooks movie?" which we had never thought of. So I guess there's that third element there.
You all recorded the album at Albini's Electrical Audio Studio. How was that?
We sure did. So the first album that we did, Retrash, was recorded there. But we only had a day to do everything. This time we got four days, which was kind of a negotiation still. No matter how many days you have, it's still not enough. It was great. We worked with Greg Yeche and recorded in Studio B this time, which is a much taller, stranger, industrial looking room so it gets this big cavernous sound.
The other three albums we've ever recorded, we did with our friend Matty Russell but this time we just felt that it would make sense to try something outside of our comfort zone. When we recorded the last album we didn't think that we were going to be doing this again with Kyle, at least. He had quit for like a year. I think this one is really good. I have a feeling that most people that liked Earth Suck will like this one.
Are you fans of Big Black, Shellac, and other projects touched by Albini?
Oh, God yea. My early dream growing up was to be on Touch and Go [Records] and then that all collapsed before I was ever really an adult. I love Big Black and Jesus Lizard and the whole Chicago anti-music scene, which I feel has just really gone nowhere. There are so few bands left here that really go for that aesthetic anymore, it's bizarre. Sometimes it feels like [Oozing Wound] are on an island. There are a lot of noisy rock bands there are just not many bands that do the metal twinge stuff too.
I’m not sure if it’s the vocals or what, but the first track on your new album, "Surrounded by Fucking Idiots," reminds me a little of Big Black or Shellac.
The bridge of that song is the very first riff we wrote for the album. It's like three years old. Right after Kyle quit we tried testing out other drummers with that riff. So it's cool that there's that Big Black/Shellac aesthetic in it because it definitely morphed into something more thrashy.
How long did writing this record take?
It goes in fits and spurts, honestly. That's a weird question for me to answer. We wrote two of them with Casey who was the drummer we had during the year that Kyle quit. "Riding the Universe" and "Filth Chisel" were the two that were finished. And then Casey quit, we got Kyle back and that changed gears as to what we were doing. The other five songs came together pretty quickly, I would say within seven months. Most of the time I've been working on this other song that's not out yet that's like a prog-rock nightmare that has gone through a million changes and half of the songs on the album were me releasing frustration that I couldn't finish anything.
What were you listening to while writing and recording High Anxiety?
The first Cherubs record, Heroin Man. There was a lot of Karp. The idea was definitely to go back to our noise rock roots because we play metal, but I honestly have not put on a metal record in years. I went through a pretty extensive phase of it; thrash in particular, which is what I wanted to make. But I really don't like anything new and once you've mined everything that you like… every so often you find some special little thing, but yea, for the most part it's just been noise rock. And then a bunch of stuff that wouldn't make any sense to anybody but us like the Beach Boys or Yes's Relayer or I'm sure for Kevin he's gonna say Zappa, even though I still don't really like Zappa.
There's a background aesthetic thing that I think we're honing in on and trying to articulate. I feel like we're always circling it and don't really know how to explain it. People think we're ironic or something but it's really just... there are so many things that are good but it's really just about what we're good at doing and then channeling that energy into what we do. I'll listen to Abba for like six hours and then I'll come out with something like "Tween Shitbag." To me there's a connection, but most people would probably think that I'm fucking with them.
I feel like a lot of people who have written about you guys say that you're ironic or nihilistic. And I feel like there's another layer that they're missing.
Yea, I mean they also say that we sound like Slayer so... what does that tell you? Yea, we're complicated and really bad at explaining ourselves. The more that we do the more we create an image that's not real.
Something that's new on the record is you all incorporate a flute and a sax on a couple of the songs.
Yea, we always talk about doing that. There have been plans on every record to do stuff like this but all of a sudden it's the last day of the recording and we never talked to anyone about doing it. So this time we tried to plan ahead a little bit. I wrote out some horn parts, or at least had some ideas. On Earth Suck our friend Whitney played viola but it's kind of mixed in a way that you can't hear it. Most of the stuff on the new album, I feel like we mixed it in such a way that unless you knew to listen for it, it might just fly over your head, which is good. It's hard when it's not an essential part of the band -- that you're not writing from the ground up with that instrument in mind. There's a lot of listening to King Crimson and their song "Starless" and being like, "We wanna do something like that! But we don't have the sonic palette for it." So we create our own language.
Were there any books or movies or TV shows that were influential on this record?
This is the first one that I haven't written any lyrics about Star Trek. I'm always watching that kind of shit. Tried to steer away from Rambo this time [laughs]. I feel like I absorb a lot of stuff but I don't know if it necessarily makes it into the record. I can watch The Great British Baking Show but I don't know if I'm necessarily going to write a song about Mary Berry or Prue or Paul Hollywood. It's weird to think about it that way. My old roommate was watching a lot of Buffy and I think I pulled some lines from that. It's so weird, man, the entire creative process is just a weird smorgasbord of everything that makes me, me. I can relate the music stuff, but TV and shit like that… I'm just a lazy stoner most of the time watching some crappy TV or just playing a game on PS4.
Are you all planning on touring after this?
Yeah, we have a small European tour and then we're doing an East Coast one around May or June. The problem is that we all just have jobs so we can't leave for very long and we don't have any money and everything is super expensive. I would love to tour more often.
What do you all do?
Kyle works at a Trader Joe's, he's a manager there. Kevin is a bike courier. He's fucking nuts, he does like twelve hour days in the snow. I work at a venue called The Empty Bottle.
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