Exclusive interview for hellfest.fr: WO FAT [Kent Stump (guitar & vocals), Michael Walter (drums) & Ryan Lee (bass)]
“Hopefully we can use this as a part of a steady climb and do more stuff like this” – Kent Stump – Friday 17 June 2016
So how are you guys?
Kent: Good! Tired but good!
Ryan: Couldn’t be better!
How does it feel to play the biggest show of your life at 1 PM?
Kent: It was weird.
Michael: They wouldn’t even serve us beer! It was too early!
I know you’ve done DesertFest and Freak Valley but have you done anything like this before?
Kent: We did Sylak last year but that was nothing like this.
How are you going to process this?
Michael: By hanging out for a few days.
Kent: Hopefully we can use this as a part of a steady climb and do more stuff like this.
In the past few years you’ve kind of become the kings of stoner jam rock, was that a goal from the outset?
Kent: I wouldn’t say it was a goal but the whole jam aspect of the movement has always been a part of what we do. It’s starting to get recognized which is cool. We’ve got some riffs and structure too, but party of what we are doing it is more of a jazz conceptual thing.
What do you mean by that?
Kent: Just approaching it from a jazz frame of mine. We have sections that are improvised that are based between us communicating between each other on stage. Michael and I went to the University of North Texas and that’s where we met. We got into jazz a little more there. However I grew up playing jazz. With Wo Fat we aren’t playing jazz but we take that mindset. We’re not doing chord changes and we use blues structures but those ideas are there.
So at this exact time a year ago I interviewed Samsara Blues Experiment here. There’s obviously a lot of bands doing stoner jam rock right now, why is that, and what is your place in the scene?
Kent: A lot of people are looking back at 70s rock and realizing what made it so great. If you look at early 70s hard rock with stuff like Cactus people see that it’s pretty similar to us. With the whole mainstream metal thing that gets lost a little bit. It doesn’t have that grooviness and that original essence. It’s a reawakening of where it came from.
Don’t you worry about becoming derivative?
Kent: I don’t. The way I look at songwriting and what we are doing we are very blues based structurally and melodically. That’s the vocabulary we use. Going further back from 70s rock to the blues all those guys borrowed from each other and made it their own. It was a defined paradigm but they made their own thing out of it. They would borrow ideas and rework their own thing. We are using vocabulary to establish it. That’s the way I look at it.
Do you identify as a new generation of blues?
Kent: Yes. In the same way Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath are.
To circle back to the jazz oriented roots – how do you Ryan fit in?
Ryan: I didn’t go to school for jazz but I have that sensibility. I listen to all of their influences as far as the 70s music goes. As far as bass playing Berk Shelley from Budgie was a huge influence as was Geezer Butler. They all took from the blues-jazz stuff.
Are you guys vinyl collectors?
Ryan: Yeah. I work in a record store. It’s a huge part of my life.
Kent: I’ve been buying records since I was a kid. That’s all there was! I still have records I bought in 8th grade.
What are the gems of your collections?
Ryan: My favorite album that I own is Frumpy II by Frumpy. German Krautrock – it’s one of my favorite bands.
Kent: It’s such a tough call. There are records you stumble across that you don’t know anything about and just buy because the covers are cool. I get that with Latin jazz and 70’s stuff. I like how you can find amazing stuff like that. It’s cool to stumble upon that.
For me, Wo Fat is at its best when its freest. But you are very much a band who needs to be on vinyl, but that format is limiting. Do you ever feel limited by that format and do you ever consider leaving it behind?
Kent: We don’t want to leave it behind but we definitely have to keep that in mind. Live it’s like one long jam and ideally the album would be like that, but it would be difficult in terms of sequencing. We did a live album from Freak Valley and would love to do more, but it’s a question of getting good sounding records.
What do you love so much about music?
Ryan: That’s a huge question.
Kent: It’s like when you fall in love with a girl and your friends ask you why. Yet you don’t know. I can’ tell you why.
Ryan: It’s the deepest possible form of self-expression that I can think of. It’s cool to see what comes out of myself and everyone else when I get together with people.
Michael: It’s an ephemeral thing. Whenever we are playing we are chasing that golden moment where it all comes together. It doesn’t happen all the time. That’s why you keep doing it. It’s transcendent.
Interview: Matt Bacon.