Interview: zhOra – “Everyone wants to be Metallica privately – that won’t happen”

Tell us about your latest release: the main concept; what fans should expect; what were/are your goals with it:

So this song actually started a little bit tongue in cheek. We decided after writing our last album, which was a long process, to take the writing less seriously. While we love “Ethos, Pathos, Logos” it got hard to pull it all together towards the end. Whatever was written next would have to be more enjoyable.

The idea originally was to make the song go through three or four different sub-genres and try and write the most stock riff for the different sections – more as something fun to do, rather than a legitimate song. Pretty soon, it became clear that there was an idea worth putting a bit of focus behind, but the song was pretty much writing itself at that stage. Keeping it constrained to the few sub-genres definitely helped too. I think you can pick out the transitions it goes through fairly noticeably – Thrash, Doom, Deathcore, Death & Black and then back to the start.

It’s a fun song. Great to play live, always gets a great reaction from any crowd. We got a great video recorded too by David Dockery, love the energy he captured during the shoot.

Did you have a specific sound in mind when you formed the band, or did that grow and evolve as you played together?

Nothing specific at all, even now we don’t really have too much of a roadmap for where we might go sonically. I think our own individual tastes in music dictate what’s the sound we hear as the ideal sound or direction for a song, but that has changed along with the songwriting. The guitar tone has definitely moved towards a more chainsaw/modern sound from the original fuzzed-out way it was before, but the vocals have definitely changed the most.

None of us really had any great experience screaming until we started this band, so as we released and played live, we learned more. I think Ruthless Bastards is the moment we can all point to and say ‘Yeah, I think there’s a fair chance we know what we’re doing.’

How does your writing process normally work out?

The four of us listen to very different things, so there’s a lot of different sensibilities ready to pounce when working on a song together. Saying that, we’ve got much better at not stepping on each others toes, just because we want to put our own stamp on something.

Like most bands, someone will have either a full riff or pieces, then we’ll jam it out and see where it goes. We’ll generally record these sessions, take them apart at home, and see if changing the position of sections creates new ideas or a concrete part.

Sometimes, the idea for something will have a more abstract start like an imaginary scene for a movie. When we wrote our last album, we had a very detailed concept almost like a screenplay, which meant the songs were sometimes written to fulfill a part of the story. That was interesting, but it did add a strange pressure to the process sometimes. We’ll try it again in the future, but for now it seems to be finding the part of a song that feels fun to play and pursuing that.

What are your ambitions and how far do you want to push your band?

Everyone wants to be Metallica privately – that won’t happen, but if you keep the drive nothing too bad will come from it. I don’t think we’ll release a country song or go after people stealing our music. Lars Ulrich was right by the way.

All I’ve ever wanted was to have an actual, functional career that is some way financially stable. We like having full production with us where possible, so to have the dependability to tour, have that consistently and come away with something for everyone afterwards, that’s “making it” as far as I’m concerned.

I think someone good to aspire towards would be The Ocean. They’re able to tour the world reliably and still have lives apart from the band. It’s a goal that’s achievable with a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work.

We won a battle of the bands to play at Wacken in 2016. It was amazing to play, but we were a little bit green to take full advantage. If we can get back there on our own hard work, that’d be a real dream come true.

What are your influences/musical references and the impact those same influences had in your sound?

Ruthless Bastards is really a great mix of fairly prominent influences, it encapsulates a lot of what we’d listen to and the way we’d write too. I think you can hear a bit of Sepultura, Decapitated, Yob, Gojira and Mastodon through the whole song. The same goes for all of our music really, we never really run out of ideas on where to go next when we’re writing.

A lot of the time, we have to drop ideas and commit to one direction. We’ve reused parts for old songs that might not have worked previously quite a lot. With a bit of fiddling – they’ll fit eventually. Having the wide pool of influences means everyone can have a widely differing sense of where a song needs to go, so we do a lot of chopping and changing. The main thing we keep in mind is that any idea is worth at least trying, so having a big pool of suggestions helps us make songs that we can all agree on.

What’s next for you?

We’ve a new album coming next year, no release date as of yet. The songs are much more direct like Ruthless Bastards, which is why we wanted to release that stand-alone first – we had some of the songs on the go when we wrote it, but we thought it’d be better to release a stopgap to keep people interested.

We’re booking for 2020 festivals and shows and getting our release schedule together for the new album. We’re going back to the UK this year a couple of times, and also have some Irish shows before the year is out.

Oct 19th | Badgerfest | Manchester
Oct 24th | Voodoo | Belfast
Oct 25th | Sin É | Dublin
Oct 26th | Fred Zepplin’s | Cork
Oct 27th | Siege of Limerick | Limerick