Greetings fellow NZRock hominids! How lucky are we to be on the receiving end of two crushingly heavy sludge doom bands this April! That’s right, MERCHANT and WATCHTOWER from Melbourne are heading across the ditch for a three show tour of Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington.
We figured why not interview both bands? So first up it’s MERCHANT. If you haven’t heard them yet then check out their four track psych drenched sludge epic ‘Suzerain’ below. Bassist Wilson is here to get us up to speed with the rest of the MERCHANT story…
NZR: Your debut album ‘Suzerain’ sounds huge. How pleased were you with the result and what (if any) challenges did you face translating your live sound to a recording?
Wilson: We were stoked on how Suzerain came out. It definitely conveys the infinitely crushing tones that we try to achieve in a live setting. Jason Fuller of Goatsound is a gun, and he’s used to capturing big sounds from extreme bands so we didn’t really have any issues pulling the heavy tone of the album.
NZR: The title track is a 20-minute stoner doom epic. Where do you go mentally when you’re up on stage playing a song that’s almost half an album long?
Wilson: It’s a fairly big trip to play that song live, I will say. Mentally, we all stay pretty focused on creating a consuming delivery and performance of that song. Given that it’s one of our slowest, we pay a lot of attention to making sure every note hits harder than the last.
NZR: What are the key ingredients of the MERCHANT song writing process… does one person come up with all the riffs or are all your songs all born through live jamming in a smoke filled rehearsal room? All of the above?
Wilson: Our writing process is pretty collaborative but it usually starts with one of us bringing a riff to the table and taking it from there. We usually try it with a lot of different drumming and vocal patterns before starting to tear the riff apart and adding new, rhythmically or tonally challenging parts to the existing structure. We then have a look at what other riffs might fit with what we’ve created, and the process keeps rolling.
NZR: You’re on an independent US label Snake Charmer Coalition and it looks like you’re the only Australian band. How’d you get picked up by them?
Wilson: We’d been looking around for a label for a bit and Snake Charmer (now defunct unfortunately) was just one I had happened to contact. Brendan, who plays in the excellent WASTED THEORY, was quick to get on board and support.
NZR: You guys are going to release a new recording soon. Does it continue on from where ‘Suzerain’ left off? Where did you record this time? and what else can you tell us about it?
Wilson: We’ve just gotten the masters back for our new EP titled ‘Beneath’. It is definitely a continuation of the work we started with Suzerain but is a bit more extreme in ways and also more progressive. We recorded with Mike Deslandes (YLVA, HIGH TENSION) at the Black Lodge and got a bit of a different sound to our first one, it’s a bit more open. We’ve got a new label on board for this one and all will be revealed soon.
NZR: Australia has some great doom bands at the moment like MERCHANT and WATCHTOWER… HORSEHUNTER etc. Is there a bit of a doom renaissance going on over there at the moment?
Wilson: For sure, Melbourne in itself has plenty of other killer doom/sludge bands like HOLY SERPENT and BOG who are really making headway. There’s a pretty healthy community of heavy bands over here in every capital city, which is unreal to see.
NZR: Have you ever blown up any equipment playing your music and if so what was the most spectacular destruction you witnessed?
Wilson: Amplifiers have definitely been destroyed in our path. There’s been a fair few pops followed by the distinct smell of burning at rehearsal but the most epic destruction was when I managed to blow every speaker in a bass cab about 3 minutes into a live set. No cone was left unsmoked.
NZR: What’s the slowest, heaviest, dirtiest stoner track you’ve heard in recent times? You can be cheeky and pick one of your own if you like!
Wilson: I’m all about a UK band called MOLOCH as of late. Check the track ‘Holding the hand of someone dying’. Heavy as fuck, grim as fuck.
NZR: After you’ve done the tour what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Wilson: We’ve already started writing for whatever release will come next but we have plenty of stuff booked around Australia with a big focus on getting to place where we haven’t been before.
NZR: Anything parting words for us Kiwis ahead of your tour?
Wilson: Looking forward to drilling a few Steinlager Pures with the cuzzins. Chur!
NZR: Cheers for doing the interview and see you in April!
Wilson: Thanks for hitting us with the questions, we’re thoroughly looking forward to leveling your fine venues with WATCHTOWER.
MERCHANT & WATCHTOWER NZ TOUR
Interview By Dave Borgioli-Jones