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12th March 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: Were there any alternative names you contemplated before adding the B.C. on the end?
JAMES FARWELL: It was one of those things where we were like, oh god, what are we gonna do, and then forgot about it, and then the deadline came for what are we doing - are we keeping it or putting it on or…?…“Er, yeah, just put B.C. on, whatever”. It was seriously like that.
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(James Farwell on future aims and aspirations)
"I just want a guitar shaped pool, so once I get that I’m fucking quitting!"
James backstage at the Corporation, Sheffield, 12th March 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Official Bison B.C. MySpace:
Earthbound (2007)
Quiet Earth (2008)
Metal Blade Records Website:
A big cheers to James Farwell for his time in being interviewed.
Massive thanks to Andy Turner at Metal Blade UK for arranging the interview.
Thanks to Hannah Sylvester for recording the interview.
MD: A very laid-back attitude.
JF: Yeah, very laid-back.
MD: Why did you settle with Bison as a band name in the first place - does that have any significance relative to the music?
JF: Well, I think the music’s kinda heavy, and large, and, you know…but a bison in Canada is a very powerful and stoic symbol, you know, very strong…it’s everywhere. I grew up with bison statues and on our provincial flag back home there’s a bison, so it’s always been in my life. And it’s large and could kill you if it wanted to but it probably won’t.
MD: I heard you ended up with your very own beer last year by Phillips Brewing Company - how did this come about and did you drink much Bison beer yourselves?
JF: [laughs] All of the Bison beer! How it came about…we were asked to play this thing called Transmission Festival which was kind of like an industry thing, and no disrespect to Transmission or the people that do them but I just don’t really like that kinda stuff. It’s really exclusive and I don’t feel like I fit into that kinda world or whatever. But they were really interested in supporting the band; they really wanted to work with us so like, “okay, we’ll think about it”. To sweeten the deal they said “well, we’ll make you Bison beer”, and we’re like “done!”. And it turned out to be really good. It’s this really weird industry showcase but all the other performers were like singer/songwriters, like really mellow and then we…
MD: …hit ‘em!
JF: Well, yeah! It was just like I was thinking - what are we doing? Why do they want us to play this? It was so weird, but it turned out to be really fun.
MD: That kind of leads me on to my next question bizarrely enough - what’s been your most surreal experience as a band in your career to date? Obviously that must’ve been quite surreal!
JF: Oh, that was quite surreal, but I think the most surreal thus far has been opening for Sisters of Mercy in Buffalo, New York. We were on tour and we have friends in Buffalo so we had just planned to be in Buffalo and just have an extra day or whatever. So on our way to Buffalo our manager calls us and says “we have another show, and you’re not gonna believe what the show is; it’s after your Buffalo show”, and I’m like “oh yeah, where is it?”, “oh, it’s in Buffalo”, “what do you mean?”, “it’s at this huge place in Buffalo, opening for The Sisters of Mercy!” [laughs]
MD: How the fuck did your music go down with that crowd?!
JF: Well, you see, this is the weird thing. They were on tour with a band and, for some reason, the band couldn’t make that show. And what they want, apparently, is they don’t want another like Goth/industrial band to open up for them. They like metal bands so they actually heard the first album and they’re like “yeah, yeah, if they can do it then bring them in and do it”. They were really nice. They were really nice dudes and the crowd fucking loved it!
MD: Seriously?!
JF: Yeah, it was really weird, and then they had…you’re gonna see a lot of smoke tonight as The Ocean has this smoke machine…but Sisters of Mercy, man, and this is a big place, and you basically couldn’t see anything! You know when it’s frustrating when you try to take photos of a band when it’s just smoke? I have pictures of Sisters of Mercy that’s just like smoke!
MD: Smoke and silhouettes as they’re always quite back-lit as well I think! Under the influences section on your MySpace page you talk about the “important love of the riff”…
JF: Yes!
MD: What would you name as your top five metal riffs of all time? You can include your own if you want!
JF: I’m just gonna say my own! That’s weird, this question’s come up a couple of times just recently!
MD: You have such a nice text about “the riff” on there so maybe it provokes that kind of question.
JF: Metal riffs…
MD: …or any riffs.
JF: Any riffs, okay, that’s better. ‘Hole in the Sky’ - Black Sabbath; ‘Bread fan’ - Budgie…
MD: Brilliant, yeah. Metallica’s version - you like that?
JF: Oh yeah. I was talking to a kid yesterday - I was doing an interview and this question came up, and I was like, you know, ‘Breadfan’ by Budgie and he’s like “I’ve never heard of Budgie”.
MD: What?!
JF: I’m like, if you listen to any early Metallica records, then those records wouldn’t exist without Budgie.
MD: Exactly.
JF: And Diamond Head and stuff. Erm…ah, man…’Next To You’ by The Police, that’s a heavy riff. And that’s the thing, right, like when I’m…it’s like that can be as heavy as ‘Angel of Death’. You know what I mean? It’s not because it’s a metal man doing it. You know what I mean?
MD: Yeah, for me, real heaviness comes in the writing of the riff, not how much distortion you’re using or whatever.
JF: Absolutely man, and I think the current state of metal now has sort of lost that. And I’m not saying by any means that I’m this sort of advanced idea of songwriter. I don’t want to come across like that but I think that it’s become too…it’s like a machine pumping some shit out.
MD: Yeah, too precise and incisive. I hate the term organic but Bison B.C. are more organic in your riffage than, say, Lamb of God.
JF: Well, yeah, these are human beings playing this so I want to see that.
MD: Bison B.C. seem to be harking back to more where metal came from like Sabbath and that kind of thing, but taking it further at the same time.
JF: Yeah, that’s what I’m like. There we go.
MD: What five words would you choose to describe your band as to why people should go and check out your music, for people that maybe haven’t heard anything by you before?…or more words than five.
JF: Brutal; loud; drunk; and dumber is gooder man…I don’t know, that’s our motto!
MD: That’s cool! Finally, what are your aims for the band, and what’s next for Bison B.C. when this tour is over?
JF: I just want a guitar shaped pool, so once I get that I’m fucking quitting! More touring - we just wanna live on the road. That’s the best part about being in a band - it’s the travelling; meeting people. I’m thirty six years old and I’d never been to Europe before. This band brought me to Europe, so that’s fucking cool. You know, that’s what it’s all about, so I just wanna see as much of this world as possible and meet cool people.
MD: Well, I’m thirty five and never been to Canada, so I need to get in a bigger band…and sign to Metal Blade!
JF: Yeah! [laughs] Yeah, that’s it, and just make more albums and keep it on.
MD: That’s cool. Thank you very much for your time.
JF: Yeah, man, no problem.
MD: Thank you.
JF: That was good, yeah, definitely.