How would you describe your sound?
Scott Simpson: I would describe our sound as a cross-section of a whole bunch of different heavy (not just 'heavy' in the metal sense) influences that come from inside and out.. The ugly things in life as well and the parts which are quite beautiful always find ways to transpose themselves into the art.. We've never tried to go for any certain kind of sound and I think it shows when I watch a lot of bands who play it safe by doing something which easily fits into a certain niche or genre, or even worse, when I hear a band clone themselves after another band's sound that was achieved 5, 10, or 20 years ago.. I've never been into it for that reason, because I'd rather we pave our own way and be known for that than to be the fun band everyone wants to see because they are good at ripping off Electric Wizard, Sleep, or Kyuss and drawing big crowds because of it.
How did you get into doom and who are some of your influences?
SS: I'd say our influences are anything heavy, aggressive (unless it's immature or overly machismo aggression, I can't much relate to that anymore), and almost anything that can make a man cry.. I feel as though I take more influence from literature, cinema, art, NPR and the everyday world around me than I do from other bands when it comes to Beneath Oblivion. When it comes to musical influence I have all of my old metal, punk, rock n roll, country, rhythm & blues favorites I listen to, and I stay fairly privy to the new releases that come out, though I rarely hear anything that inspires me, but it does happen.. and of course when on tour I encounter all kinds of incredible bands through the underground that barely anybody knows about.. Those bands tend to be the real deal.
How did I get into doom? I suppose it started with Black Sabbath when I was a kid because they were so much darker, depressive, and downtuned than anything else I'd ever heard, and then I heard Cathedral and it went from there.. I was into all kinds of European doom, American sludge, slowed down crust, hardcore, and death metal.. I realized I was always listening to Morbid Angel because they were slower and smarter than their peers, and so I caught the 'doom bug' in a big way.. getting into the Euro bands like My Dying Bride, Anathema, Candlemass led to gothy doom, then to funeral doom bands like Skepticism, Esoteric, and Thergothon, and then I started listening to more American bands and discovered the 'crust-core' as they used to call it (i.e. Grief, Eyehategod, Buzzov-en) and I kept finding more drone, noise, minimalist sub-genres and other kinds of avant-garde sounds which made me wonder why on earth everyone is trying to copy someone else when the possibilities are endless as far as I can see them.
How long has Beneath Oblivion been around? Have you had a pretty stable lineup over the years?
SS: I started jamming with one of my best friends I met at the University of Cincinnati as soon as I moved to Cincy in 2000. I was way into Type O Negative, but I didn't know about Moonspell, Tiamat, or Katatonia, and I certainly wasn't aware of Thergothon yet, or any of the raw-trance one man black metal bands. I started learning about more 'stoner' bands that sounded like descendants of Black Sabbath, and I was hooked. This was when I started to go down the rabbit hole and find out about new sub genres of metal and hardcore I'd never heard of, but what grabbed me most was the slow and heavy, emotional music I kept finding out about.. mostly it was the depressing doom and gloom bands from Finland. I decided if I was going to jam with anybody I might as well be making music to record and send out for tape trades with other bands and zines in the underground.. It wasn't until 2003 that the name Beneath Oblivion came along. Neal Hunter (Mollusk/ex-Sabre/ex-Highgate) joined in on bass for a while, left the band, and then came back a couple of times, but ultimately wanted to start his own band, so he left for good. My friend Jon "Animal" Martin did the smart thing and left the band to concentrate on his degree, but I wanted to keep it going and so I recorded the Melancholy demo with my friend Jared on drums and myself playing the guitars, bass, and vocals.. This demo was burnt to CDR and passed out to everyone who would take it, and mailed all over the world to different bands, publications, and underground enthusiasts. At the time it didn't seem like it was making much of a difference, but years later I started hearing back from a whole bunch of people who dug it. Jay Waller who played in Highgate, Lysera, Hentai Lacerater, Mard, John Bender, Elusive Travel and tons of other bands around Dayton/Cincy joined on bass around this time. Allen later joined on drums for a while, but it didn't quite work out as our lives were fairly turbulent in those times and none of us owned a drum kit; Animal came back to the band and we recorded Existence Without Purpose, but Animal really didn't have time to be in a band. Then Nate Bidwell joined the band at the suggestion of Greg from Highgate in 2006; which is when Beneath Oblivion finally had a fairly stable band lineup.. So there's a long winded answer to your question. Fast forward a few years, a few releases, a couple of tours, etc to 2010 and that's when Allen Scott (Thorns of the Carrion) joined the band on second guitar to bring in a whole other level of heaviness. Beneath Oblivion and Jay Waller parted ways for a whole host of unfortunate reasons, and Keith Messerle (Bog) joined the band.. Thus having the Beneath Oblivion line-up we all now know. Cash Nickle has been the roadie, mascot, and all around whipping boy since the band started playing in clubs around 2005.
How many albums do you have out now and how have those been received?
SS: Existence Without Purpose (2006) and From Man to Dust (2011) are the only releases which qualify as full-length albums, but we also have a few split releases on 10" and 7" records, we have a couple EPs, and a cassette release out there somewhere. I couldn't tell you how people have received them, because frankly I don't care... We'd still be doing this all the same. Some people love it, some people hate it; some people love the music but hate the vocals, some people love the vocals but hate the music, some people just love the samples, and some people say they'd love it if the music wasn't so long; but clearly those people just don't get it or they are lazy reviewers.. I mean, who listens to doom metal while they are in a hurry? Get real high, turn up the music real loud, turn out the lights, lay down and get lost in it. You'll know what it’s all about.
How extensive is your touring background? Do you have any ridiculous tour stories?
SS: We tour whenever we are able to. Usually only a couple or few weeks every year, and lots of little weekend jaunts around the Midwest. None of us does this for a living because it's very hard to play extreme music for money. I'm sure I don't need to explain much further than that because if it was all about money I'd do something else. As far as ridiculous stories one of my favorites was in Salt Lake Shitty when we stayed at some skuzzy hotel with hookers and junkies all over the place. Keith and Allen were propositioned by a prostitute named Jojo, but instead of telling her to go away, they continued talking about classical literature. They asked her if she'd ever read any Herman Hesse and she said she'd never made it past 8th grade. She got frustrated and walked away. That's the first story that comes to mind.
What is your gear setup looking like these days? Has that changed much over the years?
SS: I use a Laney GH-100L for amplification and a full-stack of old 5150 4x12 cabinets.. when playing in town somewhere big I tend to bring the full rig which also includes an a/b-y switched Peavey 2x15 w/ a 200 watt SWR bass amp for an extra layer of sludge and low end to my side of the stage. My gear has changed a bit over time, by getting more massive, but now I can't even fit everything in the van so I can only use everything when it's local. I've been using the same Les Paul for at least 6 years now, and occasionally I use a Fender Tele.. I think next I'd like to add a 4x10 or even an 8x10 cab to my rig if space wasn't an issue. Louder is better than good.
How does the Beneath Oblivion songwriting process generally work?
SS: We all write the songs. Sometimes together, and sometimes on our own, most of the time it's two of us working the riffs, and then it's all 4 of us working it into a song with patterns and changes. Either way they always change very much over the first month or two of the song's life cycle.
Do you have any writing/recording or touring plans lined up?
SS: We have a whole bunch of new material ready to record and we have a whole bunch of half written songs lying around. However it will be a little while before there is another full-length record.. We can make another record that will crush everything on From Man to Dust, but we're happy writing songs and putting them out on 7" and 10" records, cassettes and EPs right now.. A full-length album is imminent, but it's got to be something massive that holds its own and makes all of the other metal albums look weak. Because we figure there's no point in putting out something lackluster. We've got tour stuff in the works but it's far too soon to announce yet. Within the next year we have plans to play overseas, but that too is not ready to be posted either.
Anything else you'd like to add?
SS: I'd like to say thanks for your patience and correspondence, Joe. We've been super busy trying to get all of the new songs down. We have a couple of local shows coming up, mostly we tend to play in Columbus it would seem, from the last year's track record, but now there's one at Southgate House Revival on June 22 with Agalloch and there's a show on July 21st at the Drinkery with Inter Arma.