If you long for times that passed, if you like both good hard rocking riffs and sci-fi stories, if you dig into such blends as combination of traditional doom metal and retro hard rock then come and stand under banner of Ogre! Ogre was born in the year of 1999 in Raymond, Maine. The band had two breaks and just called it’s day, but something gathers them back again and again in rehearsal room to record new songs… Four great full length albums and tour in Japan aren’t bad result, yet it seems that Ogre got another hiatus and that’s why I feel this urge to shed some light on band’s current existence. Will Broadbent (drums) and Ross Markonish (guitars) were kind enough to spend some time answering these questions.
Ogre is about 16 years on stage, how do you see your creature now? Does it still have power in it’s limbs?
Will: Ogre has always been a slow moving animal, and it only seems to get slower with age. Right now, the beast has gone back to its cave, but on the slim chance that it arises again, you can bet its strength would be as strong as before, if not stronger!
Your latest album “The Last Neanderthal” was released by Italian label Minotauro Records on February 2014. How would you sum up band’s activity for this period? Has Ogre made a step further with this record?
Will: I think the step forward for us was huge, in terms of songwriting, and the performances we were able to capture. It all came together very naturally. The songs just flowed and we had a lot of fun writing them.
“The Last Neanderthal” has a pretty clean production as well as your previous works. It even seems strange now when a lot of bands put huge amount of fuzz in their music. So what are your requirements for your sound?
Will: We do like to keep things in line with what our heroes in the 70’s accomplished. Things were very raw, but you could still hear what was happening on those records very easily. A lot of modern records are so overdriven, I find it easy to get lost and not know exactly what you are listening to. We tried to stay clear of that. I wasn’t really thrilled with how our first couple albums came out sounding, but with “Plague of the Planet” and “The Last Neanderthal” I think the sound we were finally able to get in the studio sounded more like “us.” A good portion of that credit should go to engineer Marc Bartholomew, who worked with us on those two albums. He has a great ear and has worked with a lot of cool heavy bands in our area, and knew what we were looking for.
Song writing is another strong side of the album as you have really catchy tunes, and your skills even seem to be improved after “Plague of the Planet” album. How do you “measure” your personal development as songs writer and performer?
Ross: That idea of being “catchy” while still being heavy is really important to me. Whether it’s a riff or a vocal line, it’s important to make the song a memorable one for the listener. All the bands that we worship, from Rush to AC/DC to Sabbath, were masters at this. Unfortunately, a lot of modern heavy bands tend to write songs that blur together in a morass of downtuned sludge. Being “heavier than thou” should not be an end in and of itself.
“Plague of the Planet” is an album that consists of one huge track, why did you decide to record it as a whole solid composition?
Will: Here’s the way I remember it… After our “Seven Hells” disc came out, we did a special concert where we performed two sets. The closing set was all of our standard material, but the opening set was comprised of RUSH songs from their first three albums. I do enjoy some early RUSH, but Ross and Ed are fanatical about them. As a straight up metal and rock guy, I never gravitated to the overly fancy stuff, and that’s what RUSH epitomizes to me. Anyway, that concert went fairly well and those two started talking about how they maybe wanted to try the 2112 suite in it’s entirety. Well, that idea didn’t appeal to me at all, so I thought “what can I do to get these guys off this big RUSH kick?” So I suggested at practice that we maybe try to come up with something similar that was our own thing. I think I pitched it to them as “what if BLACK SABBATH ever recorded something like 2112.” Everyone liked the idea, and the riffs and different parts started coming together really quickly. Ed had already been referencing different recurring characters he had created throughout multiple songs, and wanted to bring them all together in our epic science fiction concept album, and that’s how it all came together! We went back and forth on whether or not to release it as one track, or if we should spilt the separate parts up but I was pretty adamant about having it as one track. It kind of forces people to experience it as a whole, and I think that’s what makes it unique, and something we’re very proud of!
Will, you also do art-works for Ogre albums, can you tell about your background as an artist?
Will: I’ve always been into drawing and artwork, probably even longer than I’ve been into music. I graduated from the Maine College of Art in 1999. Since then, my work has appeared in comic books, on t-shirts, album covers, posters, you name it. For a couple years I was the political cartoonist for a local newspaper, the York Weekly. I even won an award from the Maine Press Association for my work there. I’m very proud of a lot of what I’ve been able to do as an artist, and am always trying to improve!
I have two standard questions – first of all please tell a story of one song from latest album.
Ross: Well, all our songs have stories but I guess the one that stands out most is the final track, “The Hermit”, which tells the true story of a guy up here in Maine who dropped out of society in the mid-1980s, hiding out in the Maine woods for 27 years and surviving with the help of frequent raids of nearby camps. The “North Woods Hermit” became a bit of a local legend, and no one really knew who he was, until he finally was discovered and arrested right around the time that we were working on The Last Neanderthal. We already were working on the riffs, so Ed came up with some awesome lyrics that imagined the perspective of the hermit, and before we knew it, we had another OGRE epic on our hands.
And second one is about literature. What was your favourite and most important book for you in school?
Ross: I’m not sure if this is necessarily the “most important” book for me in school, but I do remember William Golding’s Lord of the Flies really messing with my mind. That whole scene where the boys slaughter the pig and put its head on a stick is the stuff of nightmares….and we were reading it in school! That book, along with works by Poe, Lovecraft, and Stephen King, really were my gateway drugs, so to speak, into the world of horror literature.
Do you already have some sketches for next album?
Will: Nothing is in the works. But I have learned to never say never in life!
Ogre was disbanded for some period, how did it happen and why did you reunite again?
Ross: We had been together for around 10 years and were in the process of planning a big 10th anniversary show when we came to the mutual decision to make this gig our “farewell” show. At that point, all three of us had a lot of stuff going on in our lives outside the band, and we thought it might be better to have a big last hurrah, rather than letting the band fizzle out as so many bands do. The gig was a blast, and after that, we went in separate directions for a bit (well, somewhat separate directions, as Will and I played in heavy psych band Dementia Five for a period after OGRE disbanded). The reunion happened pretty organically, starting with a few casual jam sessions, but before we knew it, we had new material written and realized that there was life in the old Beast. A few gigs and some more rehearsals later, and we had a new album on our hands!
You did play about two years with Blood Farmers. What did make you join and later leave this band?
Will: I was never really a member of the BLOOD FARMERS. They had some shows booked and needed a drummer. Ross is the cousin of Dave Depraved, so I kind of knew those two guys so that’s where the connection came from. I really loved their albums, specifically the “Permanent Brain Damage” Leafhound release. The almost Keith Moon playing style of drummer Erik Jakob, and how it meshed with the unorthodox bass playing of the great Dr. Phibes, are what set it apart for me. For the shows I was involved with, I think Dave thought he was pretty out of practice at that point, as he hadn’t really played guitar in a while, so he had Ross do those shows as well kind of as back up. Not sure if Ross was really needed, as Dave’s guitar playing was ferocious as ever, but I had a blast playing with those two doomed axe masters! Their drummer now is really good, and their comeback album “Headless Eyes” is an absolute monster and holds up fantastically to everything else they’ve done. I doubt I could’ve done a better job on it. Looking back, I’m proud to be a minor footnote in the band’s history!
Ross: I think Will is probably right when he says that BLOOD FARMERS didn’t necessarily need my help, but I have to say that it was a blast to play with the band, if only briefly. In particular, I will always remember the initial reunion show at the Doom or Be Doomed festival in Baltimore, when I shared the stage with both my cousin and my brother for the first and only time. Lots of great memories and strong emotions around that weekend.
Correct me if I’m wrong but Ogre also played in Japan in same period. How did you organize this trip? What were your impressions of it?
Will: Our former record label, Leafhound, was based in Japan. Leafhound was run by a guy over there named Toreno. In addition to having the label, Toreno organized tours for a lot of heavy bands of this genre, including big names like ELECTRIC WIZARD and WITCHCRAFT. We got to go over with the BLOOD FARMERS, and it was a dream come true! All of the shows were packed, and I think we were pretty well received. Some of our shows were pretty sloppy given the whirlwind we were on, but the first night in Tokyo, where we played “Plague of the Planet” in its entirety, was one of the greatest memories I’ve ever had in music. The Japanese culture was impossible to get used to. It’s like a totally different world over there. I wish I could have been over there a lot longer, but it will always be an experience and a memory I will treasure!
Ross: Just to echo what Will said, that trip to Japan was one of the highlights of my life. Toreno treated us like rock stars, and it was just an absolute blast to play to audiences who really cared about and listened to what was happening on stage. Everyone from Church of Misery and Eternal Elysium (both of whom shared the stage with us at most gigs) was awesome to hang out with, and having Hideki from Church of Misery play synths with us for our performance of “Plague” in Tokyo was a definite highlight. I also just loved the Japanese culture and food (probably a bit more than Will did!), so as much of a whirlwind as that trip was, it was cool to see that side of the globe. I really hope to make it back some day.
How often do Ogre play gigs? Do you have some places where you play regularly?
Ross: When we were consistently active, our home base was GENO’s Rock Club, affectionately known as Portland’s greatest dive bar. Though Geno’s eventually moved locations from its original basement location to a more prominent and larger space, it still has mostly retained its warped charm, and it’s always a pleasure to play there. In a sense, OGRE was born and bred in Geno’s, particularly in those early days down in the original Brown St. location.
It’s well known fact that you’re all dedicated fans of old school science fiction. Can you name three most influential writers from your point of view?
Will: HG Wells is essential. So many classic themes we take for granted were started by that dude, and he predicted a lot of stuff that came true, too! Edgar Rice Burroughs was another huge innovator and is still constantly being borrowed from. For third place it’s a tie for me. Robert A. Heinlein wrote some classics that hold up very well. If you only know “Starship Troopers” from the dumb movies, you should do yourself a favor and check out the original story! Way different, and way better! I also love Alfred Bester’s work. I always related to the isolation of Gully Foyle in “The Stars My Destination.” I could go on forever about this stuff, so I better stop now!
Ross: I’m definitely more of a fan of sci-fi writers who don’t stray too far from the world in which we live, guys like JB Ballard, Philip K. Dick, and Harlan Ellison whose best work casts a satirical light on various messed up aspects of our society. Robert Silverberg is another recent favorite of mine.
Films’ directors try to so some efforts now and shot sci-fi movies – “The Martian”, “Gravity” and probably “Interstellar”. Have you seen some good ones that really inspire you?
Will: I do try to stay up with the modern stuff. Computer effects have gotten really great to the point of that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not! In terms of newer stuff, I’ve enjoyed Neill Blomkamp’s movies to varying degrees so far. “Moon” and “Source Code” were really good sci fi movies that were actually directed by David Bowie’s son! And of course, being the huge fan of comics I am, I have enjoyed the Marvel Studios pictures immensely. If you told me when I was twelve that there was going to be a blockbuster movie that was pretty good starting Ant-Man, I would have thought you were out of your mind! But for the most part, I do tend to stick with the old stuff. Put on an old Star Trek or Outer Limits episode, or George Pal’s “War of the Worlds” film, and I’m in heaven.
Ross: I’m not gonna lie…I cannot wait for the new Star Wars movie!
Interview made by Aleksey Evdokimov/2016
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