A couple days ago, I sent Birds of Prey vocalist Ben Hogg (also of Beaten Back to Pure and the even more extreme Plague the Suffering) an email, asking him if he would kindly write up a feature on his experience making The Hellpreacher, the third BOP album, due out in April via Relapse. His response was a reassuring, “I’m down. Gimme a few days,” and I knew then the right choice had been made.
True to his word, a couple days later, Ben sent the following report on the origins of the band and the coming together of The Hellpreacher. After the jump, bear witness to the one and only Ben Hogg.
Birds of Prey
From the Inside Looking Out
by Ben Hogg
Back in 2003, [Erik] Larson [guitar; Hail!Hornet, ex-Alabama Thunderpussy] approached some other dudes and me as he was told to do by Dan from Dental Records (subsidiary of Threeman) in the hopes of accumulating “stoner rock” guys to do some sort of death metal project. When he came up to me I remember being excited about the idea. He told me that Bo [Leslie, guitar], who had just left Throttlerod was going to be his guitar partner (guitartner) and that [Dave] Witte had committed to doing the drumming. I didn’t realize at the time that that was because Dave simply can not tell anyone “no.” He’s never said so much, but looking at his history that appears to be the case. The other component was purported to be Danny Nick from Suplecs/Eyehategod fame on the bass and I was into that idea too. Then Hurricane Katrina ran all the Suplecs boys to Arizona and ran Danny effectively out of the project, at which point Erik mentioned Summer Welch from Georgia upstarts, Baroness, to which I replied, “Who?” Hindsight being what it is and watching Baroness‘ meteoric rise into non-obscurity, I think we lucked the fuck out. Summer may or may not agree.
Having said all that, my only goal was to explain to you, gentle reader, how this cooperation came about and I only wish that you would heap any blame that may be levied onto Larson if there is any handed out. This is his fucking puppy and he won’t let us forget it! He writes the riffs and introduces them to Bo over the course of some homoerotic riff romping weekend in either Richmond or Bo‘s hometown of Greenville, or Greensboro, or some shit. It’s in South Carolina. Then Dave gets the notes and the tape of the session to flesh some damn drum order to the madness.
Speaking of which, on the first two albums I was handed a tape with no drums on it and instructed to, “Start thinking about lyric patterns,” or whatever. THERE’S NO FUCKING DRUMS. It’s as useless as your father’s titties. I realize Erik can play all the different instruments and probably sees a fully-formed vision in his mind’s eye, but to me it just sounds like a mess. In short, I don’t want the damn tape anymore. It serves no purpose. Larson logic at its finest.
All this is my way of coming around to BOP album number three: The Hellpreacher. It’s a concept album. Not my idea. Not by a long shot. The boys all got together in Moyock, NC in August at Sniper Studio and jammed out the music to the 10 or 11 songs that you will find on the new joint, then it was handed over to yours truly and I was told make it a concept album and given all sorts of different potential scenarios to aid in the cause, but I fought the idea every step of the way. I knew it was a pain in the balls that was being laid at my feet.
They pitched topics like taking a variety of players from songs on the previous two albums and having their lives intersect, ? la Frankenstein meets Dracula or Godzilla meets King Kong. I had to remind Sir Erik that I was not Stephen King and that I had no desire to perform the difficult task of coming up with all this shit in 10 or so chapters in a flowing lyrical direction. To which he replied, “You can do it man.” Not encouragingly, just matter of fact, as if to say, “Quit whining and be King Diamond.” I’m thinking of asking him to construct progressive songs for album number four, sort of like Yes meets Dream Theater. Surely that’s within his skill set.
So I did it. I wrote the first couple of songs and sort of saw the storyline taking shape. It’s a linear, from birth to death, story of the main character in the song “Lice Halo” from Sulfur and Semen. The “cult leader,” I guess. I would write a couple tunes and record them. I was halfway into the album with no ending when I realized that I was going to have to keep the story advancing but also wrap it up. It was tricky. I didn’t want it to be flowing along and suddenly slam it shut because I was out of music, so it took whatever cunning I have to try to make it come across fluid but concise and descriptive.?I hate Larson for thinking this was a good idea. I think I did a pretty good job, but I don’t work well with stress and this did not help my life situation for the period of time it was being put together. All in all, I think The Hellpreacher is our strongest album to date with a couple of our best songs ever on it. I like the crust riffs that Erik developed due to his involvement with his crusty/thrash band Parasytic. We should do more of that next time — I think that style suits us.
Anyway, BOP was another month’s worth of pain in my ass with no tangible reward except for the thrill I get whenever I get a new record onto the streets. Until the shitty reviews roll in. I’m just a fanboy at heart and it’s not lost on me how cool it is to get records out and especially out on Relapse because you can find your shit in stores and all that is pretty fucking keen. This is all I truly wanted ever since I was 13 years old… but I wouldn’t hate it if a couple of bucks got floated my way. Ah, who am I kidding? Hope y’all dig it. Peace.
Tags: Alabama Thunderpussy, Bands Dave Witte is in, Baroness, Beaten Back to Pure, Birds of Prey, Relapse, Throttlerod