Saturday, March 23, 2019

an interview with Oshiego

Singapore's Oshiego have made regular appearances on this blog, being one of the few bands in the region who play death metal the way I like it - brutal and blast-centric. Since their fourth album The Book of Wisdom is about to be released by Horror Pain Gore Death, it seemed like an interview was long-overdue. The band (vocalist Umar Khan, guitarist Bryan Gan, and new drummer Jared Moran) took turns answering my questions.

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce Oshiego - who are you and where are you based? What is the origin of your name?

Umar: Umar (عمر) means the one who brings prosperity in Arabic and is also the name of one of the 4 caliphs after the Prophet (Peace be upon him). And Khan means supreme ruler or warlord. Bryan was named after Bryan Adams.

Jared: My name means Jar of Ed

[...I meant the band name, but that was kind of funny. - DoC]

DoC: If you would, please give a brief history of your band - when did you form, and what did you set out to accomplish?

Umar: We were formed in 2004 and we covered stuff from Kreator and Amon Amarth but I always wanted to play my own stuff. So we moved away from that. We’ve had so many line-up changes but the motto was always ‘Thrash and Destroy’. We just wanna write good Death Metal music.

Bryan: I wanted to play some guitar in some heavy band. Job done.

DoC: How would you describe the music you make? If you had to list 5 albums that were influential on your music, what would they be?

Umar: It’s hard to pin point what influences my song writing. Bands and stuff from the back of my head are Grave, Vomitory, Nile, Behemoth’s Zos Kia Cultus and Demigod only, Melechesh, Bad Religion, etc. Our music is Death Metal with tons of Thrash and Punk Rock influence. We’ve got a lot of Middle Eastern motifs in our songs, and I guess we like things groovy and brutal.

Bryan: We are pretty much a straight up death metal band, with a lot of thrash metal influences (not in the songwriting, but in the execution). The 5 albums that inform my playing are probably Night of the Stormrider, Coma of Souls, Tomb of the Mutilated, Those Once Loyal, and Rising Force (I lie, I can never play like this).

Jared: My influences aren't as prevalent on this album. I tend to change up my drumming style to what the overall sound is going for. But overall as a musician mine would be Gorguts: Obscura, Portal: Seepia, Incantation: Onwards Towards Golgotha, Immolation: Failures of Gods, Ehnarhe: Man Closing Up

DoC: You have a new album coming out in a few weeks called The Book Of Wonders. Where was it recorded? What was the writing process like? How would you compare it to your previous album?

Umar: I write the stuff, then teach em to Bryan. He’ll then Improvise and we record scratch tracks for Jared. We’ll google drive the stuff to him and when he’s done he’ll google drive his parts back. And we just record stuff over.

Bryan: It’s more dynamic in terms of dual guitar parts (we’re mostly a studio band nowadays so we went to town on the harmonies, layers, and counterpoints), and we’ve a new drummer in Jared, and his playing is quite different from what we’re used to (our conception of death metal drumming is more clinical and polished, while his performance was a lot more bestial and intense). There are some parts on the album where he’ll break off into a double-time bomb blast while the guitars slow down into. Half-time groove, which is interesting. For my part, the guitar solos laid down are probably the most ambitious I’ve ever put on record, compared to the previous albums where I was more concerned about being totally on point instead of being a bit more self-indulgent (which all great solos should have some degree of).

Umar: All vocals, guitars and bass are recorded in my bed room, and Jared got the drums done in his garage. We did the whole album on our own.

Jared: Well it's not a garage, but a dedicated recording space that I rent. But yea, I pretty much just waited for them to piecemeal drop me songs and I usually spent about a week on writing and tracking, and send it back for them to review or see if they wanted anything changed up. Quite happily they enjoyed what I put out first takes each time so it was extremely easy. My main goal was to try to help push the intensity further with each change in how I would see a good climax.

DoC: What can you tell me about the lyrical themes behind The Book of Wonders? Is there an underlying concept behind the album and through the songs?

Umar: The songs are based on a 14th Century Arabic Manuscript called Kitab Al Bulhan (which translates to ‘The Book of Wonders’). It has Illustrations on astronomy, astrology, geomancy, depictions of djinn, zodiacs, folklore, etc. Very interesting stuff. Try googling it.

DoC: The Book of Wonders will be your third album for Horror Pain Gore Death. How did you get involved with them? What are the benefits of having a foreign record company releasing and distributing your music?

Bryan: Mike Juliano approached us in the past for the first album, everything went on time and was professional. We don’t do this professionally, playing music, so in terms of having all the necessary get done without us spending to much time or effort on it, he was great, so we stuck with it.

Jared: First time working having anything released on Horror Pain Gore Death and I'm quite happy. I didn't do any of the dealings but I'm happy with how everything came out.

DoC: Jared Moran plays drums on this album. How did you meet him, and what led to him joining Oshiego?

Bryan: I knew Jared from the Encyclopedia Metallum forums, and when we wanted a new drummer, Dropbox and Google Drive let you play with anybody in the world, so I decided it’d be cool if we did something together. He had done the artwork for the Crossing the Bridge of Siraat (which my girlfriend had drawn on a napkin in a coffee house for him to reference) too.

Jared: Yea it was quite awesome, it was a bit out of Crossing came out and Bryan hit me up asking if I would like to drum on the next album. I jumped at the chance - I had been wanting to work with Bryan for quite awhile and this was a perfect opportunity.

DoC: How often do you get to play live, and are there plans to do any shows overseas?

Bryan: We last played locally a couple of years ago. The scene is not so great for local bands, especially in terms of platforms and reimbursement, so we’ve not played in a while. That last show was great though, we were paid (and in cash, not exposure!) and sold a bunch of merchandise, some of the foreign acts thought we were great and bought CDs, the sound and performances were on point, and we even started on time (holy shit).

DoC: The metal scene in Singapore is one of the best in Asia - not just in terms of great Singaporean metal bands, but also for the number of high(er) profile acts that play there on a regular basis. How would you describe your scene? Are the number of foreign acts that play there good or bad for the local bands? What do you wish more people knew about Singapore and its metal scene?

Bryan: Well let’s be modest, ‘best’ is not a term I’d use to describe it. There are many great bands coming here, I myself am going to see Cult Leader and Cryptopsy soon. But a number of acts have been banned because of outcry from crazy religious twats (Inquisition, Cradle of Filth, and Watain), and Slayer themselves have said they’re never coming back because of the ridiculous restrictions placed on their setlist. The scene and society is pretty okay in their outlook to foreign bands, it’s just that the government is spineless when receiving these kinds of protests from people who believe they’ll see their pets in heaven.

As for what people should know about the scene, I honestly do not care that much because I am pretty far removed from it nowadays but there are good, hardworking, quality bands that surface every now and then and I wish they would get paid for gigs.

DoC: What's next for Oshiego?
Bryan: Most of the recent show offers do not include monetary compensation, so those are out of the window. Studio recording is free (because it’s in Umar’s dirty bedroom) so we’ll still put stuff out occasionally. Most people listen to Spotify rather than going to shows nowadays, so it’s still the better target market in terms of ROI anyway (I work in marketing so I am allowed to speak like this and still be kvlt).

Oshiego on Facebook

The Book Of Wonders (through HPGD Bandcamp)

Singapore It On:

Mixtape 41:
Mixtape 42:
Mixtape 64: