Introducing: Boss Keloid
“The power of the riff compels me!”
Riffs, groove, cohesion. Wigan noise peddlers Boss Keloid are “four dudes focussed on keeping it heavy and interesting,” and make up an important part of the North West’s truly excellent underground scene. These parts of Ol’ Britannia play host to hordes of honest sludge, stoner and doom bands specifically whose filthy noise comes from the heart, but always played with a stark intelligence and few do this as potently and vigorously as this Wigan based quartet.
They build on wrecking ball, thick-as-pig-shit grooves with perfectly bellowed vocals. Sticksman Ste Arands perennially going hell for leather on his kit. It’s the kind of music that manages to sound unhinged, loose and wild all the while being deftly constructed and executed with a grotesque expertise.
“We all have different influences and backgrounds and it’s important to us to bring all that to the fore, without it feeling contrived,” guitarist Paul Swarbrick explains. “We have no desire to fit into a scene or style of music, but to play heavy ass music that keeps us on our toes.”
Formed in 2010 by Paul and shouter front man Alex Hurst, Arands later joined the fold ahead of their debut release, the excellently titled Calming Influence Of Teeth. As far as opening statements go, this was bang on the money, wrapping Down/Crowbar styled riffs and grooves into a Melvins type weirdness, with elements of Clutch, Orange Goblin and beyond scattered around for good measure. Paul’s namesake Adam Swarbrick joined on bass last year during the writing process for their second release, Herb Your Enthusiasm – which is another great title. This is a band with a sense of humour that, alongside the music which they take seriously and bash out with a diehard integrity, works brilliantly. It adds an extra humane and relatable element. It helps you fall in love with these fuckers.
“In terms of developing our sound, it’s been an organic and fluid process rather than following a preconceived idea. We aspire to keep trying new ideas and push ourselves to sound heavier and more interesting with each release. The Calming Influence of Teeth had a lot of ideas crammed into it, and in hindsight possibly too many. With the new album we’ve slowed things down and worked more melody into the songs, which has actually made the songs sound heavier and more cohesive. We’ve focused more on tone and giving the riffs more space to breathe.”
One description Of this band that I love is from a Metalmouth’s review of …Teeth: "Think Captain Beef Heart tearing Neil Fallon apart in a maths lesson," and lyrically at least writer, Coop nails their odd uniqueness when it comes to themes and ideas. So where does that inspiration come from?
“The lyrical themes we delve into range from life experiences, everyday occurrences, frustrations with society and the media, bad trips, good trips, insatiable ladies of the night, cuddling amputees, liquorice fanatics, to name but a few. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. Humour is very important in this band. We try to have fun with our song titles which are often not related to the content of the song at all.”
So how about the overall band chemistry? With my own band, Prognosis, where I am one of two brothers in the band, it can be a rollercoaster – that eternal love/hate brotherly aesthetic sometimes grating on the band but more often than not lifting us onto another level almost, such is the closeness of our bond. So I know how it can be, but Paul’s response looks at things a little differently.
“Without sounding trite, it’s like having four brothers in the band. We’re all very close and the dynamic works great. There is a bit of bickering and challenging of ideas but this makes for stronger results musically. At the end of the day we all have a lot of fun in this band and ultimately that’s what it’s about. Myself and Adam are Swarbrick in namesake only, but we are brothers of the sonic (soiled) cloth!”
A band who have been going for quite a while now, and album number three on the way, how would the Boss Keloid of today compare themselves with the one that first started writing songs in 2010? Do they feel you've grown as both musicians and people at all?
“Depending on how you look at it, Herb Your Enthusiasm will be our second album proper. We see our first release Angular Beef Lesson as an EP that was written and recorded with haste and not representative of where we are today. We have definitely grown as both musicians and people, without a doubt. The collective ethos hasn’t changed but the music and vibe definitely has. We want each album to be a level above the previous one. We are very critical of ourselves and the music we’ve previously created. In the eyes of this band, if you can’t better your previous work on a production and song writing level then you have failed. We had a full album’s worth of material which we scraped a year ago as we weren’t comfortable with the music. It was a wise move as the new material is a big step forward from our point of view.
The new record is being recorded at Skyhammer studios with big name producer Chris Fielding.
“We’re really excited to be involved with Chris and Jon at Skyhammer,” Paul enthuses. “We’re confident they can help us achieve the sound we are after and really do these new songs justice. Getting the right tone and clarity of production is going to be crucial and we know what Chris has delivered with other bands, so the new album is in good hands. Production values are of high concern to us and we’re very critical of what we have recorded before. We know which areas we need to work on with this new recording.
“The new songs have a slower, heavier, sludgier but more ‘melodic’ feel to them compared to those on The Calming Influence of Teeth, which have a more technical, chaotic and mathy vibe. The new songs still have unconventional time signatures and odd phrasing that is apparent in our previous work. This is something that comes fairly naturally anyway through our playing and writing styles. The collective guitar and bass tone on the new album is far superior, much more balls and warmth, and hopefully we’ll capture this at Skyhammer.
“We all have a wide range of musical inspirations which we naturally draw from. Alex is a massive reggae fan as well as liking the heavier side of music but also loves the works of Mike Patton, which I think comes through in his vocals and use of effects and phrasing. Ste listens to a lot of prog, jazz and blues, bands like Genesis and Snarky Puppy, which influence his approach to writing and playing drums. My personal inspirations are bands such as Keelhaul, Melvins, Neurosis, Kyuss, Botch, Om, Sleep and The Carpenters to name but a few. Adam enjoys a wide range of music but his main worshipping temples are Bongzilla, Weedeater and Dopethrone which has influenced his horribly heavy but beautiful bass tone.”
I know, dear reader that at this point your imagination is going ape-shit, trying to concoct sounds in your brain from the collage, the amalgamation of those varied and innovative influences. The thing with Boss Keloid which you have to admire is their ambition. They’re strict on themselves to be better with every step, and for every one of those steps to be going forwards in direction, pulling inspiration from everywhere they can, from a plethora of mind sets and twisted thought patterns. The new album promises to push the band many more paces that way and they deserve everything positive that comes their way. They really do.
“We begin recording Herb Your Enthusiasm at Skyhammer in August for an early 2016 release,” Paul concludes. “We may release a single or a split release late 2015 too. We’ll be playing Riff Fest 2015 at the Alma in Bolton at the end of August, which promises to be a cracking day with a very high calibre of bands such as Raging Speedhorn, Trippy Wicked, Slabdragger, Ten Foot Wizard and The Hicks. Cleopatra Records in California will soon be releasing a boxset called ‘Stoner-Box’ and have kindly asked us to contribute a song to it which is pretty exciting. We have a number of things going on in the pipeline which we’ll hopefully be able to announce in due course. 2016 could be an interesting year for us all going to plan.”
Words: Phil Weller