Heavy metal, tube amps, the natural world and occult philosophy…
With their debut EP, A Treatise on Resurrection and The Afterlife, released in late November, Phillip Gallagher, guitarist for fuzz-drenched blackened doom Californian outfit Bog Oak took time out to speak to MR’s Jason Guest about the band’s origins, the EP, and the their musical and spiritual influences…
Hi Phillip. Thanks for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on A Treatise on Resurrection and The Afterlife (reviewed here).
Salutations, Jason. No problem at all. Huge Thanks for the interest.
To begin, can you tell us about how Bog Oak formed and what it was that drew you together to make music?
I started Bog Oak originally as a solo recording project just for fun. After recording a bunch of things in my living room, a few songs started to take shape; it got me excited to start a band. I looked around on Craigslist and met Matt Wilhoit. He and I wrote and recorded a few songs. We found Julie on Craigslist shortly thereafter. I then recruited my old bandmate Steve Campbell to play drums. Matt left the band right after that, and so I recruited my old bandmate Jared Marill to play bass. Bog Oak formed from a love of heavy metal, tube amps, the natural world and occult philosophy.
How does the band write? Do you all contribute or do you jam ideas out in rehearsal?
I come up with the riffs and rough arrangements, then Steve and I jam on them and work out the kinks. When we are happy with it, he and I go to the studio and record it. If I have any vocal or lyrical ideas I’ll record those too. I’ll then give a rough mix of the song to Julie and Jared to play along with and write to. After they have written their parts and learned the songs, they go to the studio and add their parts to the recording. After that, we start rehearsing everything together.
When writing for the EP, did you have an idea of how you wanted it to sound or did each of the tracks and the whole thing take shape as it was being developed?
We wanted it to be heavy, ultimately, but the songs were written just picking out riffs that sounded cool to us.
Can you tell us about the album title and how it relates to the album’s lyrics and music?
The title was inspired by Al-Ghazali’s book “The Remembrance Of Death And The Afterlife”. Lyrically, the songs are about death, the afterlife, the essence of the time, light, reality, the souls of animals, and the precession of the equinoxes.
The promo material identifies the metaphysics of Mulla Sadra, Suhrawardi’s philosophy of illumination and the alchemy of Al-Ghazali as influences. What is it about their works that drew you to them?
“This world is an abode that shall be extinguished. How many of its pretentious and confident men are now rotted away? How many more of its contented residents shall pass? Therefore, Let death occupy your thoughts. This voyage is urging you onward, and you are not even aware of yourself. It may well be you are close to your resting place and have covered the distance. You should never be in this position without having seized an advantage from every breath for which you have been granted respite.”
“The mightiest state is the state of death, by which the managing light sheds the darknesses. Since it has no remnant of attachment, it will emerge into the world of light.”
How do their ideas manifest in your music?
Only in the lyrics of this EP. It is kind of an imaginary dialogue between Al-Ghazali and David Myatt, or maybe an imaginary dialogue between Hamza Yusuf and Robert DeGrimston. I can’t say they will manifest in our future lyrics, but they did for the songs on this EP.
The artwork for the album is very striking. Can you tell us about the design and what it represents?
We gave the artist a rough idea of what we wanted; something oaken, earthen, astronomical, mystical, etc. To me, it is a tribute to the natural world and to ancient times.
Who’s the artist? And why did you choose to work with him/her?
The artist is Sean Schock. He has worked with a few bands we are fans of. We really liked his previous work, so we asked him for a design.
Amongst your influences, you cite such bands such as Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, Celtic Frost, etc. as well as the soundtracks of John Carpenter, Goblin, Fred Myrow, and other horror movies. What do you find in them to be so inspirational?
Mood and tone.
Metal and Horror go hand in hand. Why do you think this is?
They both tend to induce a state of fear, distress, shock, and/or total disgust.
On your Bandcamp site, there is your version of the theme from Don Coscarelli’s 1979 film Phantasm. What is it about that particular film that drew you to it?
The theme from Phantasm has been a favorite of mine for many years. A very spooky tune I’ve wanted to cover for a long time.
How did you come to work with Svart Records? Do you plan to stay with them for future releases?
They contacted us on Facebook asking if we wanted a label. With Svart, we will be doing this EP and a full length in 2015. If they are interested in working with us beyond that, we would be up for it.
What does the future hold for Bog Oak? Is there more music in the pipeline? Any gigs planned? Will you be coming to England any time soon?
There is a lot of new music being prepared right now, After this, and before our full length, we are releasing another EP, ourselves. It will be 4 songs and feature artwork by Christophe Szpajdel. Two out-takes and two older songs on limited cassette tape. Everything is pretty much ready to go with that. We’ll also release the Phantasm theme along with another cover song on a 7’’. We have a couple of shows coming up in Dec. and Jan. Nothing in England yet. Maybe in the future.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Thank you, Jason. It’s been an honor to be able to present my perspective before you all.