Figures emerge: Interview with Jeff Owens of Goya

We have talked about Goya on Abusement Park a few times, but this time we invited Jeff Owens vocalist/guitarist of Goya into the inner sanctum for a chat about the new full length Harvester of Bongloads.

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How is it going Jeff? Thanks for doing this. Why don’t you just go ahead and tell us a little bit about Goya and how this band got started, as well as why you play this kind of music.

Jeff: It’s going alright. Just trucking along, dealing with the ups and downs life throws my way. I like to refer to Goya as a 3-piece metal band, though we tend to get pigeonholed as stoner metal or doom metal, which is fair, since we fit into those genres for the most part. I started Goya back in 2011 after a revelation that I had been playing in other people’s bands my whole life, and had never really done what I wanted to do. I was in a punk band and an Iron Maiden/Thin Lizzy-esque Nintendo cover band at the time. I enjoyed both of them, but didn’t feel like I was able to fully express myself, so I started writing riffs and lyrics for what would become Goya. I found a couple of guys who were on the same page, and we went from there. As far as why this kind of music, I suppose it’s just what comes naturally to me.

Alright so tell us about this new full length Harvester of Bongloads. Is this the Metallica reference we all think it is? You had a fairly busy year last year with the ep’s, how long have these songs been in the works? I believe you mentioned before that this is a concept album. Do you care to go into any details on that?

Jeff: It is absolutely a Metallica reference. Credit where credit is due, a while back The Atlas Moth put out a record titled “Master Of Blunt Hits”. When I saw that, the title for this album just sort of popped into my head, and I knew it had to be the name of something. For a while, we were calling Omen by that name, but it soon became evident that it had to be the album title. These songs have been worked on in various stages for quite some time. I have early demos of Omen that date back to some time in 2012, and I believe the other tracks began to surface some time in 2015. Germination, Misanthropy, and Disease took concrete form much sooner than Omen. We have been performing the second half of the album for close to a year now. We were honestly still sort of writing Omen when we got into the studio. In fact, I recorded vocals for it, went home that night and rewrote the second verse, and then rerecorded some parts the next day. Harvester of Bongloads is, more or less, the second and third act of a story, with the first act being Rites of Hashage (From 777). The concept of the album may or may not be easily decipherable, but I do have a very clear story in mind that I feel is represented well once you know it. There is this dude who gets strange psychic powers when he smokes weed. He realizes that his powers can potentially have a positive effect on the earth. Coinciding with this revelation, Satanic aliens come down from outer space and give him the power to grow crops that can turn people into his followers. As planned before he had a weed cult, he tries to use these newfound powers to make the world a better place. Very quickly, he realizes that the powers that be and the majority of humankind in general not only make that difficult for him, but flat out don’t want the world to be a different or better place. As a result of this knowledge, he decides to use his army of weed demons to destroy the world, and that’s where the second half of the album comes in. The second half is mostly an expression of his hatred and the destruction caused as a result of it.

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I love it! So this is not your first attempt at a concept album?

Jeff: It’s not, no. 777 is not a concept album, despite the opening track tying in with Harvester, but Obelisk definitely is.

The story of Obelisk is not told in a linear fashion, as I felt that made sense with the material. It is a sort of twisted romance, and can be summed up relatively easily, though I’m a little more guarded about all of the details than I am with Harvester. A soul escapes from Hell, and three demons (one greater, two lesser) attempt to retrieve it by possessing the bodies of various murderers throughout history. Somewhere in there, the greater demon returns to Hell for an extended period and leaves the lesser demons to do the work, at which point they say fuck the job, and decide to do whatever they desire. When the greater demon returns, it sees what they have done, and absorbs them into it, ultimately finding the escaped soul and returning to Hell with it. There’s some more to the story, but I prefer to leave the rest to interpretation.

Okay so for Harvester, I have heard people say they think it’s a more stripped down approach, and I myself said it sounded like an extremely cohesive Goya album. What do you think about that and what was the approach to writing and recording this one?

Jeff: One big difference between this album and our first two is the length. When we were making this album, I was adamant that each side be right around 20 minutes. I looked at all of the albums I love from the seventies, and they were very much made for vinyl (particularly Sabbath records), so we followed that model. I really like that approach, and I think it’s the one we will be taking from here on out, though anything can happen, of course. Another difference is that we recorded our first two LPs in our rehearsal space, which was a medium-sized warehouse at the time. This album was recorded in the studio at Switchblade Sound, so things sound a little bit tighter, I think. Other than that, the recording approach was very similar. Joe has been working with us from day one whether it be as a member of the band, or recording us, so he knows what we’re going for. We tracked bass, drums, and one guitar live, then I doubled the guitar and added vocals. I will say that we didn’t add quite as much on top as we did on Obelisk. There are only one or two separate lead tracks on this album, I believe, and the weird noise stuff at the beginning and end of Omen. For the most part, we tried to be pretty faithful to how we play the songs live, which is what we have done in the past. I think the fact that it is a 40-minute album makes things a little more precise and refined, despite the fact that it is only 4 tracks. We were very conscious of how many times we repeated certain riffs, and even the speed at which we played them.

Speaking of recording I noticed you have credit as producer. Do you have a lot of experience with that type of thing? Also I thought your solos on this were outstanding especially the ones in Omen. What’s your approach to soloing?

Jeff: I only really have experience with producing when it comes to Goya records. Again, Joe knows what we’re after, so he and I tend to spend a lot of time working together and figuring out all of the little details of the album.

When I started Goya, a lot of my solos were just sort of by the seat of my pants type stuff. As it’s gone on, I prefer to specifically write out solos. What that process usually looks like is me recording a small section I solo over, and just playing that section on loop for hours, getting parts of the solo down here and there, until it finally all comes together. That gives me a foundation to work on from that time until we hit the studio. Sometimes, I still don’t have things hammered out when I hit the studio. I also will usually pick a single album I love to listen to a ton in the weeks before recording. With this session, it was Black Sabbath s/t, which is I feel is fairly evident in the solos on Omen.

Also speaking of vinyl I believe you’re releasing this one yourself through your label Opoponax Records. What made you start that? You also released the debut Toke album. Are you planning on putting out any other releases from bands that are not Goya?

Jeff: Opoponax was initially started out of necessity. I wanted 777 to be out on vinyl and I didn’t have any connections, so I looked into pressing records and that was that. At the beginning of 2016, I decided to take it a little more seriously and took out a loan and started an LLC. I always wanted to run a record label as a kid, so it’s been great bringing that dream to life. No regrets, so far!  I do have another non-Goya release coming out. Gray Gallows‘ “Underlord” will be out by the summer. Other than that, no current plans for any non-Goya releases. I get a lot of bands messaging and emailing me, of course, but the only bands I put out aside from my own are my friends’ bands, bands I’ve seen live and thought were amazing, or both. Maybe next year I’ll have more money to throw at releases, but at the moment, 2017 is pretty much booked for Opoponax.

One thing I have to ask about is the album art for Harvester of Bongloads. Especially since there is such an obvious tie to art with the band name which I assume is a reference to Francisco Goya and not the food company. I think it looks amazing. How did you end up having Hunter Hancock do it and how close did you work with him on it?

Jeff:  Hunter worked with us back on 777, and he did a killer job on that, so it only made sense to have him do another album cover for us. I’ve been friends with Hunter for a years, and he’s always been a really gifted artist. With this release, I honestly didn’t give him much direction. I just gave him demos and lyrics as they became available, told him the concept, and asked him to do whatever he thought made sense. I’m a huge fan of Aubrey Beardsley, and I think Hunter really channeled some of his style with this artwork, so I couldn’t be happier.

You guys covered Nirvana and Marilyn Manson. How big is 90’s music an influence for you guys?

Jeff: I don’t know whether or not it comes across in the music, but the answer is: huge. Kurt Cobain is the sole reason I was interested in playing guitar. I turned 12 in 1990, so my teenage years were mostly filled with 90s music. Nirvana, Soundgarden, NIN, Alice In Chains, Marilyn Manson, and Pearl Jam were found in my Discman throughout the majority of my high school years, and I still like all of those bands. My tastes have continued to grow and evolve over the couple of decades since high school, but that stuff still resonates very strongly with me.

And for the final question: Goya stars in a sitcom where you live next to grumpy old man who is played by Willem Dafoe. What do you do to drive him crazy? Bonus points if you come up with a title for the show.

Jeff: Plot twist! The grumpy old man Dafoe plays is HIMSELF! We taunt him by acting like various characters he has played, dressing up like Green Goblin or Nosferatu (the deadliest foe!), throwing pumpkin bombs at him and sucking his daughters’ blood. He has catchphrases such as, “You blasted scalawags,” and, “How many times do I have to tell you lousy scamps? Stop eating all of my mayonnaise!” In the last episode, we all take scissors to our genitals and he has to clean up the blood we get all over his carpet. It ends like every episode does: the four of us have a good smile and laugh about our antics together.

The show is called “Dafoe and Dafriends”.

Upcoming Tour dates with Aneurysm

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 Harvester of Bongloads drops March 3rd. Pre-order the digital album and Stream new Track “Disease” here

 Pick up some rad merch at Opoponax as well.

 

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Figures emerge: Interview with Jeff Owens of Goya

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