DATE OF INTERVIEW:
12th March 2009
Largely unheard of within the scene until signing with Metal Blade Records, Bison B.C. (formerly just 'Bison') released their debut album, 'Quiet Earth', for said label last year, a retro-contemporary slab of stoner thrash, chock-full of heavy, hard-hitting riffs. Mid-way through a lengthy European tour with Burst and label-mates The Ocean, I took the opportunity of meeting up with the Canadian band's frontman James Farwell prior to their show in Sheffield to quiz him about the essence of the riff; touring; the media's perpetual Mastodon comparisons; and Bison beer! Introduced to James by the band's tour manager, he looks ever so slightly hungover from what is described as a lively, alcohol fuelled party after the previous night's gig in London. We wander to a quiet backstage room and commence the interview...
METAL DISCOVERY: I gather this is the bandís first time in Europe - how has the experience been for you so far, and what countryís had the craziest audience?
JAMES FARWELL: Europe has been really amazing. The reception weíve been getting is really excellent - the way the tour is; the promoters have been really awesome. Itís just a little bit different than, say, touring the States. Weíve just been treated really well and the crowds have been really great. Iíve noticed with the European crowds though, theyíre a little bit more reserved which, at first, I was kinda like a little weirded out but it doesnít reflect how much they like the show, itís just thatís how they are.
(James Farwell on his allegorical bison warrior aliens)
"Iím not the fantasy guy. Iím actually hopelessly steeped in morose reality, so itís a metaphor. I mean, our planet is dying...Maybe if aliens came and helped us - thatís how fucked we are."
James backstage at the Corporation, Sheffield, 12th March 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: Yeah, itís more standing there admiring the music and then coming up at the end rather than freaking out during.
JF: Yeah, they come up at the end and chat with us. London has been the best show actually. Something in the universe came together that night. All the bands played fantastic sets and the crowd was really, really great.
MD: Was it sold out in the Underworld?
JF: Very full and, yeah, it was good.
MD: Are you already, or have you become, a fan of any of the other bands on this tour?
JF: Before the tour Iíd not listened to any of the bands [laughs].
MD: Youíre label mates with The Ocean though.
JF: Yeah, label mates with The Ocean but, I have to say, I donít listen to a lot of current music, you know, for whatever reason. But yeah, itís always different when you become more intimate with a band and you get to see them perform live, and then you know them as people. So yeah, Iím absolutely a fan of Medeia, Burst and The Ocean now.
MD: Quite a diverse lineup as well for the tour.
JF: And thatís great for a tour package because when I go and see a tour package I donít want to see the same band four times, you know what I mean?
MD: Exactly, yeah.
JF: Itís like it gets a littleÖ
JF: Yeah, samey, exactly. Itís good diversity with Medeia and then us andÖyeah, itís good.
MD: Definitely. How do you generally feel at the end of a tour? Is it a matter of job done, back home for some rest, or is there a bit of sadness when tours come to an end?
JF: Oh, I get brutal depression, man. Ah yeah, I hate it.
MD: Itís like coming off the high of being on tour.
JF: Ah yeah, man, itís tough. Itís really tough, so I usually will just like try to stay drunk for as long as it takes! [laughs] And then I climb out of the depression and then kinda like letís do something.
MD: Another tour!
JF: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: The new albumís generally received rave reviews in the press - have you been surprised by how much the band has taken off since signing to Metal Blade and releasing ĎQuiet Earthí, and by all the positive reactions to your music?
JF: Well, it is surprising. Iím very proud of that album; I think we did a good job, and I think the songs are good. You know, but itís always surprising when you put it out into the world and see what people think of it, and it was surprising; Metal Bladeís interest in us was surprising.
MD: Youíre quite a different band on Metal Bladeís roster.
JF: Yeah, but Iíve sort of been thinking about it and like all the years Metal Blade have pioneered something. When I was a kid in Winnipeg I was listening to the bands that were on Metal Blade like Death Angel and things like that. Thatís what they were into then, like thrash, and then death metal, and then this super extreme metal that theyíve been doing. So I think theyíre just trying to reach out again and kind of broaden it.
MD: Yeah, they seem to have diversified in the last five years, like signing Primordial, for example, and bands like that.
JF: Right, yeah, exactly.
MD: Thereís a fairly jam-like vibe to a lot of the songs on the album - is everything fully written, structured, and rehearsed before you record an album, or do you jam some elements of the songs in the studio?
JF: Structured and rehearsed. Absolutely. I think the way that we play together, itís not stiff. Itís very human, like I want it to be human. You know, I want it to be exciting and not rigid. I want room for somebody to make a mistake, and especially in our live show. I want the live show to be exciting so I donít want to sit there and be like practising my sweeps in front of an audience. I wanna jump around like an idiot and be exciting, and I want people to see that I enjoy it.
MD: Yeah, yeah, just have fun and reciprocate with the audience.
JF: And thatís worth missing a note to me.
MD: Definitely. Iíve read in a recent interview that you write about bison warriors from another planet in some of the songs. I think I heard you describe ĎEarthboundí as their plan of attack on our planet and ĎQuiet Earthí as the declaration of war - will the next album be all-out war with perhaps heavier music to reflect that?
JF: Oh god, itís gonna be heavier for sure. You know, itís a metaphor, right. Iím not really intoÖIím not the fantasy guy. Iím actually hopelessly steeped in morose reality, so itís a metaphor. I mean, our planet is dying; weíre on our way out; thereís no hope. Maybe if aliens came and helped us - thatís how fucked we are.
MD: Or bison warriors!
JF: Or bison warrior aliens!
MD: So itís a metaphor for somebody needs to come and kick us up the arse.
JF: Yeah, exactly who that isÖitís not Al Gore anymore; I donít know who itís gonna be. Maybe Obama? I donít think so.
MD: What do you think of Barack Obama?
JF: Hey man, you couldÖfuck, anybody would be better than Bush so you know! [laughs]
MD: That seems to be the general global consensus! Are there any plans to re-release your first album, ĎEarthboundí, to CD as I gather itís already been made available on iTunes?
JF: Well, itís been re-done by Forest Records, the label, they re-pressed it. Weíre actually waiting for a vinyl of that, so we have some for sale tonight.
MD: Bison B.C. get compared a lot to MastodonÖ
MD: I think that must be by people who donít really listen to much music so itís like lazy journalism to me. Do you ever tire of such comparisons or do you not really give a fuck?
JF: [laughs] Iím gonna start getting my manager to go through the questions and have a black marker, and be likeÖMastodonÖ
MD: Iím not comparing you to Mastodon!
JF: No, I know youíre not. Itís funny though becauseÖďyeah man, like fucking listen to my band and then listen to Mastodon! Youíve gotta be joking me.Ē No, itís flatteringÖMastodonís a good band but, in truth, I canít fucking play guitar like that! Youíve gotta be joking me! Thatís retarded! [laughs]
MD: Itís probably by eighteen year olds who have just got into metal and donít listen to much metal.
JF: Exactly man. And itís an easy comparison, right, Mastodonís a big band right now.
MD: At the same time, it probably gets you a bit more publicity, you know, Mastodon have such a big following that people will check out Bison B.C. because youíre compared so much.
JF: Itís great. Iíd rather be compared to Mastodon thanÖ.well, I donít wanna diss anyone, but you know.
MD: Before I ask this next question, do you get a name change question every interview?
JF: Yeah, that too, but I donít care!
MD: Youíre not disappointed then! You obviously added B.C. to your band name to differentiate yourselves from other bands called Bison to avoid any future hassles - was that a suggestion or condition of Metal Bladeís when you signed with them?
JF: It wasnít a condition by any means; it was a suggestion. We thought long and hard, and at first I was kinda bummed but, you know, first off the B.C. doesnít stand for anything. It doesnít stand for British Colombia; thatís something that I really wanna make sure.
MD: It does on Wikipedia!
JF: I donít have this provincial pride that Iím from British Colombia, you know. Itís a nice place but, whatever. Itís actually silent. You call my band Bison, thatís fine. And yeah, there had been a band that signed to Metal Blade and they had some legal problems, and it kinda screwed them. So yeah, just making sure! [laughs] You know, because thatís not cool! [laughs]
MD: Youíve kind of answered this but the B.C. is sort of ambiguous because youíre never committal that it stands for this or that, but Iíve heard you say in an interview Bison Bacon Cheeseburger.
JF: [laughs] Yeah!
MD: Bison Balls & Cock is something I kinda thought could be good.
JF: Oh, there we go, thatís good!
MD: Thatíd be an interesting album cover!
JF: Yeah! [laughs]