Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Interview with guitarist Wade Norris of Our Last Enemy by Dave Wolff

Interview with guitarist Wade Norris of Our Last Enemy by Dave Wolff

Your latest release is a cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ “The End is the Beginning is the End” which appeared on the soundtrack of “Batman & Robin” (1997). What about its dystopian theme inspired you, and how does your version compare with the original?
"The End is the Beginning Is the End" was one of those songs that we all played on repeat in our teenage years (all of us are Smashing Pumpkins fans). For me, it opened my eyes to a world of loud guitars combining with synths creating huge walls of sounds and I couldn't get enough.
I feel like your teenage years are when the smallest things in life are amplified and feel catastrophic. So, a song like "The End Is the Beginning Is the End" was a great soundtrack to that angst! Fast forward years later and the world is facing a pandemic, is locked down, isolated and the news continues to list how many people are sick and dying. So the song once again felt like a suitable soundtrack to the real world we all face.
Our cover pays homage to the original but amplifies everything to 11. With our own music we try to create a wall of guitars, bass, drums and synth that just hits you in the face while still having enough melody to get stuck in your head, so we followed the same approach. It was an honour to cover the song that turned me on to looking beyond heavy guitars to create heavy music.

Being an industrial metal band, how much would you say an alternative rock band like Smashing Pumpkins inspired you to naturally progress and expand your horizons? Did other alternative bands or bands in other genres have similar inspirations?
Bands like Smashing Pumpkins are known for a big wall of guitar fuzz, which in ways is similar to industrial metal’s big wall of guitar and synths. In ways we have always been influenced by alternative bands, but in saying that we all have varied music tastes in OLE and bring those together in our original music.

How did "The End is the Beginning is the End" speak to you and Our Last Enemy, and how did you reinterpret it to make it more personal? As a result of your appearance on the soundtrack, how much attention did the band receive aboveground?
The song has always been a favourite of the band so we aimed to combine everything that is OLE while not changing what about the original song that made us love it in the first place!

Do you still hear the angst of Smashing Pumpkins’ song in today’s popular music, or has it diminished somewhat these days?
I can definitely hear the angst of Smashing Pumpkins influencing today’s artists. Songs like “Zero” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” are timeless classics and that is only scratching the surface. I even know a guy who fronts Death Metal bands whose favourite all-time band is the Smashing Pumpkins! I feel as a musician I try to listen to more than one style of music and instead just listen to good songs. Life is too short to listen to only one style of music. We as a band have influences that range from Ice Cube to Morbid Angel, Faith No More to Einstürzende Neubauten, Jethro Tull to Lamb of God (you get the picture!).

I myself listen to many musical genres, from Cradle of Filth to old Prince to Ministry to Loreena McKennitt, depending on my mood. Is it easy for you to tell natural from forced progressions in other bands?
I always find the music I gravitate towards is the type of music that makes you feel something inside. It doesn't have to be heavy or loud, but it has to least have something to say. You can hear when someone is forcing it to create a catchy yet forgettable little ditty for pop radio and chewing gum commercials.

Loud and heavy are not requirements, and bands can be nuanced without preaching or oversimplifying the matter. The new releases by Sigh and KMFDM are good examples. Smashing Pumpkins’ “Machina/The Machines of God” is another, far better than pop or the formulaic hard rock of the late 80s. What other examples can you think of?
We are generally drawn to music that makes us at least feel something. One of my favourite albums in the world is “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull which is 70's folk inspired rock! A Perfect Circle is a great example of a band that isn't heavy but still rocks. As a band I think the only genre none of us like is the overly autotuned pop tunes that are played on the radio (does anyone still listen to the mainstream radio anymore?). In saying that sometimes there are times where the only album you need is “The Great Southern Trendkill” by Pantera and can just play that on repeat.

How much more potential does underground metal have to continue growing at the rate it has since the 90s? There are more subgenres appearing since those days. Is there anything that hasn’t been thought of yet?
Underground music in general is in a strange place. While it's now possible to make your music available worldwide at a push of a button... absolutely anyone can do that. Over 60,000 songs are added to Spotify every single day so I am sure any musical idea you have ever imagined is out there somewhere. It's just a question of how to find it!

With so many songs uploaded to Spotify each day, how much more difficult is it for people to find material they really want to listen to? What are the chances of tracking down something original and inventive?
I think it can work well if you use the "radio" stations of bands you do like to find bands you may not have heard of that fit into the same genre but there is also so much there that I am sure there are bands that have been uploaded that no one has ever even listened to that could be the wildest most inventive bands ever! We are back to the stage where putting it online is no longer enough because everyone can do it (which is a blessing and a curse really!).

Did your inclusion in the “Batman and Robin” soundtrack lead the band to receive offers to appear in other soundtracks?
Unfortunately that wasn't us but the song we covered by the Smashing Pumpkins was on that soundtrack... We have just had two songs included on soundtracks. We have the songs “The Holy Ones” on the soundtrack for “My Bloody Banjo Directors Cut” which is about to drop on Blu-ray and “Never Coming Back” is featured on the “Eating Miss Campbell” Soundtrack. “Eating Miss Campbell” is a Troma film which has just had its release at London Frightfest! I can't wait to get to see it!

How did the band manage to land soundtrack additions on “My Bloody Banjo” and “Eating Miss Campbell”? Can you fill us in on the storylines of those movies? How familiar are you with Troma Entertainment?
Liam Regan approached us about using the songs for both movies after hearing Never Coming Back and with us being fans of Horror we were honoured! My introduction to Troma was being about 10 years old at a friend’s slumber party whose mother thought “The Toxic Avenger” was just the live action version of the kids cartoon... “The Toxic Crusaders”. It blew our young minds!

Since you appeared on those soundtracks has the band increased their listenership among horror fans? Do you see a need for the sort of gore soaked and comedic movies Troma produces?
The movies are still on the festival movie circuit at this stage so it's hard to tell, but we have always had the sort of fanbase that love horror movies, violent video games and heavy music. I think the important thing about the sort of ridiculous movies that Troma produces is that they stand for artistic freedom. They are so tasteless that it can't be taken seriously and is just a bit of fun really. I don't think anyone should get to censor anyone else's art.

Which Troma films would you most like to contribute to, soundtrack wise? Horror movies, violent video games and heavy music have gone hand in hand for many years. Why do you think they’ve been associated for so long?
I would love to contribute music to a Toxic Avenger movie. Toxie is that one Troma character that was able to break out into the mainstream (even if it was decades ago!). Video games and, horror and heavy metal?? That answer could take a long time to answer - let’s just say fun times stick together.

Are there other bands whose songs you would like the band to cover? How would you arrange those sons to make them unique to the band while keeping to the originals?
There are lots of songs I would love the band to cover, but at the same time I much prefer to write something new. But in saying that covers are a fun way of trying out new gear, new synths or new recording techniques. I would love to do a cover of a rap song. I always loved that cover of “Fuck the Police” by Dope! It’s just a lot of fun! As far as the arrangement I tend to prefer covers that keep what is great about the original song and don't change the melody too much most of the time but every so often there is a cover that pretty much turns it into a whole new song!

Since Our Last Enemy formed, how many albums and/or EPs have you released, and how would you describe the evolution of your sound as a whole?
So far we have one full length album, two EPs and a remix album! We have tried to keep evolving our sound by having an approach where no idea is off limits where we all come up with ideas and throw them in a blender to make something uniquely Our Last Enemy.

Of all your collective influences, what most makes Our Last Enemy unique alongside other bands of your genre and underground music in general?
We are one of those bands that are always trying to reinvent ourselves and try new things. This last release is probably both the most melodic and the heaviest the band has ever been at the same time. It's hard to stand out but the people who are into what we do are really into what we do.

In what ways does your full length, EPs and album of remixes mark OLE’s evolution as a band? How many new ideas have you explored with each release?
If you go back and listen to the releases in order you can hear the band evolve and try new things. The first release really laid a foundation that the rest have built on. Our last EP release “As Above So Below” has songs that smack you in the face with distorted guitars and synths preparing you to headbang wherever you are and then have you singing and dancing along on the next song. Music is meant to move you and make you feed that hunger inside for the rollercoaster of life, and we just try to provide the soundtrack for that.

How did you arrange for the guitars and synths to complement each other while writing and recording “As Above So Below”? In what ways are the lyrics arranged to fit your songwriting?
It can be really tricky to balance so many sounds, but the biggest advice I can give anyone is to not focus on what each part sounds like on its own and then try to make it fit but to instead work on vocals, guitar, bass, drum and synth parts together. They are all important pieces of the puzzle, and the way for them to work well together is to not let one be an afterthought. Lyrics tend to come last but the musical arrangement needs to have the space left for those lyrics to be the pieces that complete the puzzle.

How much spontaneity does composing songs on the spot allow for the band? Does it account for the variety in moods on the EP?
We are a band that tends to write on our own and bring our ideas together to allow them to evolve until the song is finished. We tend to use the rehearsal room to rehearse the songs after they are finished. That way we just reinterpret them for the stage but try not to think about "how will we do this live" in the writing process. Plus it is best to write when you are inspired instead of just forcing a song out because you have to, because you are at the rehearsal studio!

How often does inspiration come when you are composing or rehearsing a song? Can you hear the difference between a song that develops naturally and one that is forced?
I used to try to force inspiration but I don't anymore. If I can't come up with something naturally I move onto doing something else. But one thing I try not to limit myself to is one particular instrument at a time. So even if I am aiming to record guitars for a song but a synth part comes to my head I will put down the guitar and try to capture that lightning before it is gone so it is not forever forgotten. We have a lot of song “ideas” recorded that may only be two guitar riffs and a drumbeat, and if the inspiration to write something new going back to something that was started can spark something and give new ideas.

Once the composing is completed, how are the lyrics usually arranged to fit the music? Is the subject matter standalone or inspired by the songwriting?
Our singer Olver Fogwell uses a variety of methods. Sometimes they come to him in the jam room and other times he works on tones and phrasing then attributes lyrics and meanings later. Sometimes we give him a working title for the song that encapsulates the vibe we are going for musically and that puts him on the path thematically for the lyrics.

When the band gives him a working title, does he come up with the lyrics on the spot or take time to write something? What form do the lyrics usually take?
It can go both ways, sometimes a line from a song inspires the working title. Sometimes the working title can just be something dumb that sounds like a riff in one of the songs. The lyrics are generally a joint effort between Oliver and Matt Heywood (bass/backing vocals).

What do Oliver and Matt draw influence from when writing lyrics? Do they write about personal experiences or anything happening in the world around them?
The guys write from everywhere. Some songs are based on true events or people they know or themselves. I know they have also written songs about historic events.

Indicate the historical events and true events Oliver and Matt based lyrics on. How closely do you see the songs fitting said events?
Wolves of Perigord was written about the historical story of a pack of wolves that killed 18 people in France in 1766. There are others I know that relate to personal events to Oliver and Matt but they do prefer to leave their lyrics open to interpretation to allow our fans to be able to relate the lyrics to their own lives!

Does Oliver have any techniques to train his voice to fit the background music without damaging his vocal cords?
Oliver definitely makes sure he always warms up before having to sing with the band with a bunch of vocal exercises. It's too easy to damage your voice if you don't look after it to not warm up and you won't be a singer long if you don't!

Tell the readers about your two full lengths “Fallen Empires” (2011) and “Pariah (Eclipse)” (2014) and your EP “Wolves of Perigord”. How much distribution did they receive and how do they represent the band’s growth?
“Fallen Empires” and the “Wolves of Perigord” EP were released through Riot! Entertainment in Australia and “Pariah” was a compilation of some of the tracks on those two records through Eclipse for the worldwide market. So in a way we have already had a greatest hits! I think if I look at what we do now compared to the band back then, the biggest difference is the electronic element of the band has headed in a much more industrial direction. Much more sequencing synths and samples instead of playing them on a keyboard. One of my biggest electronic influences is film and film trailers. Those sounds that just shake a theatre so we have been throwing those into the OLE Blender. We have also really inspired by experimenting with vocal effects like you can hear on parts of “As Above So Below” and the Smashing Pumpkins cover. We have some ideas to expand the band’s sound again soon too but that is still a secret!

Talk about the other releases you have out, including your promotional videos and the album “Engineering the Enemy” on which several artists guested recording remixes of your songs.
Right now our most recent EP "As Above So Below" is available on streaming services everywhere as well as on CD through
“Never Coming Back” and “Long Time Coming” are latest big videos who were directed by Her Name Is Murder Productions who have worked with Sepultura, Red Hook and lots of other great bands! We have the videos for “The End is The Beginning Is The End” and “The Holy Ones” which we shot and edited while Australia still had on and off again lockdowns.
We also have a visual for the other two tracks from the EP which are on our YouTube channel ( as well as all the music videos the band has ever done. The remix album was something we did after making a lot of connections with various bands and artists around the world, from high-profile names to the friends we hang out with here. We found
we have a good crossover with the industrial/dance/electronic scenes so this was also a good way to tap into that. Our singer was the big driving force behind that record as he is also a DJ and is really into that stuff as well.

How closely did Her Name Is Murder Productions capture the vision you had for your videos? Would you work with them again?
HNIMP has so far done every Our Last Enemy main single video (We have done some ourselves) and every time the band has worked with them it's like getting old friends together working towards a common goal. We have worked again with them already and have a new video out next year!

How many ideas does the band have saved away to elaborate on when the inspiration comes?
In all honesty I have a lot of half-finished songs stored away that I just couldn't find the right way to finish or progress at the time and even more small ideas that could just be a riff or two or a drum beat idea or a chord progression on a synth. I know the other guys in the band have ideas saved too!

What methods have you been discovering to compose with synthesizers and samples since you started working with them? What new ideas have you come up with?
As far as working with Synths and Samples is, the rules are there are no rules. For the majority of our songs we aim to use synths to fill out the soundscape and add an extra layer to the songs instead of "being" the song. Almost all of the songs do work without the synths being present but the synths just add that special sauce to our music and just adds either an extra layer of melody or chaotic noise to really turn things up to 11.

Would you say the ideas you and the rest of the band have are compatible? How do you intend to make them fit together when you start working on new material?
As a whole they are definitely compatible but like all band's compromises have to be made but as a whole I can't think of any compromises that have been made that weren't for the better even if I disagreed at the time! What can I say... Guitar players sometimes overcook the guitar parts!

Will you be seeking additional platforms to stream and sell through besides those you hooked up with? How much publicity are you hoping to generate with new releases?
Right now we are on all streaming services as well as Bandcamp if you prefer to buy digital music on a platform that gives more money directly to the artist. Our goal is to always get our music into as many ears as possible of course.

What kind of an impact do you want the band to have on your field of music and on music in general?
I would love our music to reach people who want to listen to it over and over again. Some of our songs are quite layered and you won't notice certain noises or synths or effects on the first listen. I want to get to a point where we can tour the world and have people enjoying the music as much as we have enjoyed making it!

-Dave Wolff

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