Leading up to the release of Yob’s seventh full-length release, Clearing The Path to Ascend (2014 - Neurot Recordings), we have declared this Yob Week. This has included live footage from Yob’s most recent performance at Hoverfest in Portland, a review and full stream of the new album, and now our interview with the band’s founder and frontman, Mike Scheidt.
YOB is right on the cusp of releasing their seventh full length album, ‘Clearing The Path To Ascend’ (2014 – Neurot Recordings). When you contemplate that number seven, which is so significant just in terms of what it represents, how does it feel to you to have seven full-length records to the band’s credit?
When we started out, it wasn’t even going to be one! It was just going to be three songs – not even a demo, just something for me. Fast forward sixteen years, a number of albums, we’ve done a lot of touring, and that wasn’t all in the plan before. With each record, things were just left wide open, like the band will move forward as it made sense. We never had any sort of forward thinking, futuristic goals or ambitions. It’s just a trip.
Sounds like it! What was the urge inside you to get a group together and make music?
I’ve played in a lot of bands before Yob, mostly bass or drums. I’ve never played guitar in a band before Yob. At the time I was playing drums in a local punk band. I had been working on these guitar riffs for quite a while. I tried to get some people to join. But no one in Eugene in the mid-90s at the time was very familiar with doom. Finding people who’d even be interesting in playing the albums I liked was very hard pressing. Also, at the time I had young twins, they were one or two at the time. So I wasn’t thinking to form a band and go out and do tours or anything like that, I just loved metal and I had these songs and I really wanted to record them. And that was basically it.
When I couldn’t find anyone, I’d call up an old friend from high school, a metal drummer named Greg Ocon and he wasn’t really into doom metal either, but he was really into trying, so we spent about three weeks practicing then we went out and recorded the demo which eventually came out on Ravens Eye Records. We sent in the demo and it got a really great response.
Some of the people that turned down the chance to play with me were saying, “Huh, so that’s what you’re doing? Okay, we totally wanna do that now!” So suddenly there’s a lineup. And from there, we just recorded some songs and played a ton of basement shows. We went to Portland and met up with Nate Carson, who I’m still very good friends with, and we worked with his booking agency. He got us our very first Portland show and next thing you know, we’re opening for a lot of the big doom shows that were coming through in the early 2000’s. It was either us or Witch Mountain opening for the doom shows. But it just kept moving from there. It’s just an interesting evolution.
You have a real passion for punk and hardcore, evidenced by your involvement with projects like VHÖL and others tracing all the way back to high school. I’m just wondering, what do those sub-genres mean to you personally and why the switch from hardcore to doom?
Well I think the best punk bands are hardcore. One thing that really attracted me to punk/hardcore is the passion. There was a soul to it, a rebellious spirit. It didn’t fly if it wasn’t authentic, it didn’t fly if the band didn’t have its own identity, and it was unique—digging dirt and throwing it all out there. Whether recording or playing shows, it was there for its own sake and to say something. Sometimes it was there just to tear down the walls of the club and have people freak out and have release.
Doom metal, to me, has a lot of the same spirit to it in the sense that, especially in the beginning days, it existed for itself and for the handful of people that were into it, whether it was the bands or the fans who pursued us, which wasn’t a large number of people. Everyone was just into it all the way. The only way it could work is if it’s authentic and your soul is into it all the way – especially with those slower tempos, because you can have a kick-ass drummer and cover up some so-so riffing, but with doom at that speed the riffs have to be total, otherwise it just strikes false. The style only existed for the people that were really into it. It never expected or even hoped to have things like exposure. Those ideas of “success” didn’t really exist for it.
So to me, doom and hardcore had a lot in common. You can see that today with sludge, which is sometimes considered punk and played in punk circles a lot more, and I think that’s a continuation from where it began.
Let’s talk for a minute about your new record, ‘Clearing The Path to Ascend’ (2014). What’s the significance of that title?
Oh it’s personal. I’ve gotten into it a little bit in some other interviews, but I fear I’ve said too much. But it has to do with personal path, personal direction in life, and as a writer in my own life it has to do with the doors closed, what I’m writing for my own therapy and my own evolution – and for the band’s evolution as well. Nothing goes written on a piece of paper or on a tape without all of us completely in agreement about it. But, it basically has to do with working through things that no longer work to make room for things that do, in the sense of responsibility and health and awareness, encapsulated in a kick-ass, loud, heavy doom format. That’s always been a great marriage to me, and I still feel it. I still feel like it works.
Absolutely. So, for this album you and the band opted to record locally, right here in Eugene, right?
Yeah, we always have.
And you worked with Billy Barnett of Gung Ho Studios. What did you like about working with him and the recording process this time around?
It was special because we recorded everything at the studio called Dogwood Studio with our good friend Jeff Olsen. Our first demo was recorded there. We’ve had a long history there. For The Illusion Of Motion (2004 – Metal Blade Records) that was the first time we’ve worked with Billy Barnett. We recorded it at Dogwood and mixed it at Gung Ho. And for The Unreal Never Lived (2005 – Metal Blade Records), we did the same thing. So those two, The Great Cessation (2009 – Profound Lore Records) and Atma (2011 – Profound Lore Records) were all mastered at Gung Ho. So we’ve had a long history working with Billy Barnett, just never tracking.
When Dogwood went out of business about a few years ago, that was the fearful moment. Our safety button had been burst. Where are we gonna record? We had tossed around quite a few different ideas, like going out of state and hiring producers. Then it just hit me that we can work with the guy we did back in 2005. He’s right here in Eugene, he knows what we sound like and we’re not reinventing the wheel with this person at all.
Now Billy, his studio is world class. He’s been recording bands for over 40 years. He’s been collecting gear since the 60’s and the 70’s, you know, the best gear in the world. So we had the opportunity to be able to track on gear that we’ve never been able to track on before. Billy isn’t a metal guy at all, but he understands big, huge sounds. He also records full symphony orchestras, as well as rock ‘n’ roll, punk, metal – he does it all. So when it comes to something like Yob with 18-20 minute long songs, he’s not put off by it. He totally gets the bigness of it and wraps his brain around it. He has really great ears, so he pushes us hard. He always has great ideas and great observations. We learned a lot from him.
Yeah, I noticed the length of the songs. They’ve always been big, but I think this time around the symphony analogy really works well with this kind of music. So Brad Boatright did the mastering. For those of us who aren’t really familiar with the technical side of things, what does this involve and can you give us any hints as to where we can find Brad’s fingerprints on the record, in terms of quality and sound?
The mastering is the last touch. It’s the last set of ears that go on the recording. They’re the people that will put up the music’s volume, although we ask for them to have the volume be lower. With most modern music industry standards, a lot of times the compression and the frequency that fill in the gaps maybe you’re not privy to hearing, because you don’t hear the mix before it’s mastered – you just hear the final cut. Now, pre-mastering the album is usually quieter and needs a little something to fill in the gaps – maybe compression or some EQ, volume boosts, you know, things like that. Brad basically tied everything together.
For a person who didn’t hear the music ahead of time, it’s really hard to describe it in a way that you’ll understand because you didn’t hear it before, but you just gotta take my word for it that it got thicker and the song spectrum came together and it all made more sense. We did get a volume push, but not too much because we want people to be able to turn it up and not have it mush out. We tried to do an older school kind of mastering. Brad was amazing to work with and he just wanted it right and he wanted us happy, so he worked really hard and we all share this great experience.
Awesome! So the band is getting ready to embark on a six-week tour with Pallbearer, is that correct?
That is correct.
Just glancing at the schedule, it looks pretty grueling. Will you be adding North American dates in November and December?
We won’t be. We’ll be getting back in mid-October, and because of our situations, we’re not all professional musicians. I don’t work, but it’s also because I do solo material. I have other irons in the fire that allow me to do it. But for the rest of us, with kids and jobs, we’re just trying to juggle these things and make it work. So we take tons of time off work to go on tour and when we get home, we basically have to pay those favors back. By the time we’re going to be able to do that, it’s gonna be winter, and we’re not really interested in hitting the Midwest and the East Coast in the dead of winter, so we’re gonna wait a little while. When early spring comes is when we’re gonna do US dates. We are gonna do some special shows in between, looking at some pretty cool fly-outs on the East Coast – so we’re gonna try to do some things in between and be supportive of the new album and see some people. We’ll do an extensive tour of the US come next year, for sure.
Excellent! By the way, what’s I’ve always wondered—do you bring your own equipment on the plane when you travel internationally? How does that whole trip work?
I think in most cases, unless you’re truly a bigger band, you don’t fly with your amps. You fly with your guitars, maybe your snare and cymbals, your pedal board, then you rent gear. If you’re in rock star status, then you bring your own stuff. But we’re happy to rent gear, because to bring that stuff along is a big risk! You know, handing it to the gorillas at the airport or sending it over and it getting held up in customs or something like that, then you’re in trouble. We rent from a company over there called Nomad Productions and they do everything: back line rental, vans, drivers, printing, you name it. So we try to do as many things with one company. That way we’re not sleeping sitting up, like a lot other bands that tour! So hopefully that’ll help us a lot.
Mike, thank you so much for taking time to visit with Doomed & Stoned and our audience! We’re so grateful for your words and work.
Hey, thanks a lot Billy.
Yob’s new album ‘Clearing The Path to Ascend’ releases on Neurot Recordings, September 1st in the UK and Europe, and on Labor Day in the US. Relapse Records will be issuing the album on vinyl, with preorders taking place now.