For the past five-odd (emphasis on odd) years, Germany’s BONGBONGBEERWIZARDS have been making use of ancient sonic alchemical techniques to conjure riffs moving at the speed of slow, drone hymns and cautionary tales. Lord Randall takes the magic carpet ride to the Ampire…
STRAIGHT OUTTA DORTMUND
Interview with Bong Travolta in the human form of Jan S. [Guitars/Synth/Saxophone]
Interview by Lord Randall
Rebel Extravaganza: When the band first began, did you already have a solid idea of what you wanted the sound to be, or would you say it’s naturally developed over time?
Bong Travolta: After changing the lineup back in 2019, the sound of the band got more professional, and we started to develop the sound we have today.
RX: Germany’s been a home for a pretty solid but small group of doom bands – I’m thinking of AHAB, EMERIT, HEXEN, CONFUSION MASTER here.
BT: We have to play more shows to get a solid place in the German doom scene. We just like to play loud music for ourselves and have fun, and if that reaches an audience that is digging our stuff, that’s cool. I think all the bands you mentioned sound quite different compared to our sound. It’s all doom but in different styles.
RX: Based on the membership I’ve found Golden Boy [drums] was replaced by Chill Collins on Ampire. Was there a SPINAL TAP-style drummer tragedy, or was he simply reincarnated as a higher rhythm life form?
BT: He was killed due to a cabinet accident in our rehearsal space. We tried to get rid of the body but accidentally buried him in a haunted cemetery. So he was reborn and came back with a bigger drum set and as a new person. So we gave him the new name ‘cause now he’s a bit like our personal Frankenstein’s monster.
RX: With some of the members being in other bands that are “sort of” the same sound, why not just keep to those bands. Was it simply time for BBBW to unleash its green smoke fury upon the world?
BT: As we started as a fun time project, all of the band members already had their bands they were playing in. Over the time, BBBW became the main project for every one of us because we all flow quite great together. During the quarantine, we had the most fun writing on our material and digging the idea behind the band and its sound, so it just happened.
RX: In December of last year you did the Robust Split Series, Season 1 with the mighty BOMG from Ukraine. So heartbreaking seeing what’s going on over there that began just a short time later. Have you been in touch with the band, is everyone safe (as can be) that you know of?
BT: Yes, it’s a total nightmare! In January, we got invited to play a show in Kyiv at the split series release party, but then Pootin started to invade Ukraine, and all plans were gone. We’ve been in contact with Robustfellow from time to time, but unfortunately, we are not pretty good at holding contact. But we do see the things they post on social media and what’s on the news, so our minds are with them and all the people in Ukraine! We look forward to meeting BOMG and the Robust Fellow Crew when this nonsense war is over, hopefully, sooner than later.
RX: The cover image for Albong is fantastic. How did that come about, and what mood were you trying to evoke?
BT: The whole artwork and esthetic concept, made by Natalie Plaskura, a director and filmmaker we are good friends with. We just gave her an idea that was pretty unspecial and had no details, and she created this masterpiece out of nothing. We are happy to know someone like her who has this very unique style and always comes up with a great idea for our stuff. You should check out her stuff, immediately!
RX: What was the recording setup like for Ampire? What guitars/amps? Also, what makes the difference (if there is any to you) between a good guitar for the studio and a good guitar for live shows?
BT: We haven’t been recording in a studio and probably never will. It’s too sterile for us; we need to get the feel of our rehearsal space.
We recorded both albums live in the “Maschinerie” which is a party location mainly known for techno parties in a former granary in the harbour of Dortmund. It’s a pretty big room with a lot of space and echoes. You can see it in our music videos for ‘Melothrone’ and ‘Slumber’ which we also recorded there.
Ampire has been recorded with five guitar amps, each with its own cabinet. For guitar, we use a Sunn beta lead and a concert slave for a 4×12 and a 2×15 cabinet, a seventies Matamp GT120 and a Matamp slave for another 4×12 and a 2×15, plus a Fender 1200 power amp and a Sunn SA 21 with some rack EQs for dry signal only into a 6×12 cabinet. Two different wet signal chains and one dry signal runs out of the guitar’s pedalboard, so it’s crucial to use so many amps; otherwise, everything would sound muddy, and a lot of sound and power would get lost.
All cabinets are Cosmic Terror Cabs which is my company, and that is also the reason we have so much stuff.
The guitar I am using is a custom aluminum guitar built by Tides guitars from Luxembourg; it has a super clean sound, two P90, and addable humbucker and simply the best sounding guitar we have ever used. There is no need to switch it against another guitar.
The bass of Reib Asnah is a pimped five-string from the local music shop. For the bass sound, we used a Sunn 1200 into a 4×15 cosmic terror, one Hartke Kilo into an 8×10 and an EQ plus a Fender power amp into another 2×15 and 4×10.
For Drums, we use a Ludwig kit with a 26“ bass drum and huge hand-hammered Sabian cymbals. We are grateful for our sound engineer Alex Pojda from Holodeck Studio, who is crazy enough to record with us on such high volume. He knows every detail about how to mic up the whole room, how to delete frequency issues and all that stuff we still have no clue about. From recording over mixing to mastering, he’s truly the wizard behind the sound of our records.
RX: Plans for the remainder of the year? Have things pretty much opened back up for shows? Tours upcoming? As far as your experience in Europe, do you find that most bands stick with smaller, regional tours, maybe just the surrounding countries until the Summer festival season?
BT: We only got a few shows planned yet. We will play one show with the WRIGHT VALLEY TRIO in October and the Nekropolis festival in Munich together with CULT OF OCCULT, EREMIT and some other bands.