Hour of 13 Interview with Ben Hogg: “Who the fuck gets their big break at age 39 in rock and roll?”

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Even today, that’s proven to be the case, as it was announced Hour of 13 will join Kylesa for a week-long tour of the Southern US at the end of May into June, and in our interview, Ben Hogg leaked some info about more road time to come in July. Hour of 13, apparently, are about to become a full-on touring act, and as Hogg says several times over, that suits him just fine.

We spoke on opening day of baseball season (March 31) as the Cardinals were in extra innings, but Hogg was nonetheless forthcoming about how he came to be involved with Hour of 13, the nervousness he felt before making his debut with the band at the Cake Shop, the trials of owning your own wedge monitor, the band’s plans writing, touring, and much, much more. There were some phone-line issues, but I got everything transcribed the best I could, and the ensuing conversation was over 4,100 words, so there should be plenty to work with.

On a personal note, before I turn it over to the interview proper, I want to underscore my previous congratulations to Ben Hogg on landing this vocalist spot. The dude’s a lifer if there ever was one, and in this scene, that’s not easy. We’ve been in touch periodically over the years and he’s never been anything but cool to me and if the excitement he shows here is any indication, he’s genuinely glad to be a part of Hour of 13, and I wish both him and the band all the best going forward. Can’t wait to hear how it all comes together on the next record.

Complete Q&A with Ben Hogg is after the jump. Please enjoy.

Tell me about taking the vocal role in Hour of 13.

The manager, Scott Harrington. I had just moved from Virginia Beach to Asheville, North Carolina, and I was really in the process of trying to get together some new members, maybe start something new. That sounded miserable, like a fuckin’ pain in the ass, and out of the blue – I guess I posted about it on Facebook or somewhere – and the manager, Scott Harrington, I guess he was on my Facebook, or whatever. He knew I existed on some level, Birds of Prey or Beaten Back and all that, and he knew I was now in North Carolina, so I get this message out of the blue, and this guy’s talking, and he mentioned Hour of 13 and all that was going on with them. My only fear was I thought they lived somewhere further away in the state, and I was like, “Fuck it, I don’t really want to move to Raleigh-Durham,” but I found out they lived in Hickory, and that was only an hour, hour-ten away from my house, so for the first month and a half, I just commuted every day. A good month and a half, just to make it work, to see if I was gonna make the band. Because I didn’t move to Asheville, North Carolina, in order to live in Hickory. Hickory is whatever it is, but it’s not as progressive or whatever as Asheville. But I started coming out here, and it’s cool, it’s not too bad, and started getting to know the guys and the songs and the material, and it was all pretty good, and the guitar player, Brandon, he had a house next door that was available to rent for $400 a month, and you get what you pay for, but it’s still not a bad little house for $400. For $400, you figure it’d be a lean-to, but it’s two-bedrooms, so that’s cool. I’m laying there with my girl at 2AM, and my phone makes the Facebook sound, and it was a message from Scott, being real descriptive of what was going on, and I was like, “Shit, that’s all pretty interesting stuff.” That’s how I started, and as I started going to practices, it became clear pretty early that I thought I could do the job, and then probably three weeks later, they offered me the position, I jumped at it. That’s why I’d been driving back and forth. If I didn’t want it, or wasn’t into the music, or if the possibility of doing something big, then I wouldn’t have put all those miles on the car. That’s pretty much how it’s came to pass, and that’s where I’m at today, sitting on my new $40 Goodwill couch that I just picked up, in my new crib here in Hickory.

What prompted your initial move to Asheville?

My daughter lives in Asheville, and it’s just a much cooler town than where I was at in Virginia. Not to slag that area, but I was a little… the local music scene left a lot to be desired. Every tour skipped that region, and Asheville was a lot like Richmond, which I enjoyed. Richmond was an hour and a half inland from where I was living, but Asheville was a lot like Richmond, without all the ghetto bullshit. It’s a clean city, real progressive. Hippies everywhere, and it got a little annoying in that regard, but I can live with that. It was just a cool environment. Better location, my daughter was there, and it wasn’t like Beaten Back was tearing up the road. It was just, “We’re hardly doing anything, I’m out of here. I can come back up and record the record when it’s time.” And the other band that I was in, Plague the Suffering, we weren’t doing much. It felt kind of dead in the water for some reason. By me moving, they got a new singer, and I think it’s lit a fire under their ass, so that’ll be probably good, get them up and running full effect. Hopefully it works for everybody across the board. But yeah, with Beaten Back, I still have every intention of doing that fourth record. I figure I’ll cross these bridges as they come up.

I remember you were in Asheville for the Planet Caravan fest in 2009.

That was actually the first time I spent an appreciable amount of time there. I’d driven through, spent an afternoon here and there, and said, “Oh this is nice. Good looking city, it looks like it could be fun.” I had a good time at Planet Caravan, and that planted the seed, definitely. That was September of ’09. And it took about a year and change before I made the jump, but that was the initially jetting off point, I’d say. Asheville is cool. Hickory’s not Asheville. It’s not awful either. There’s cool bars in town. I can make the most out of any situation, I think. Hickory isn’t bad, and everybody I meet here is into – maybe it’s just a matter of who I’ve met – everyone I’ve met is through Hour of 13. So everybody’s a metalhead, and it seems like per capita, there’s a lot of that going on down here. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it seems like everybody’s onto something radical that I’ve met. That’s all cool. My house to Asheville’s probably an hour and 15 minutes right now, so it’s not the end of the world, I can still go to shows up there, but you’ve got to want to to do it. I went from my house, back and forth to practice every day, and that commute was handy, because I’d just listen to the albums again and again and again and work on stuff while doing that. For me, that first month and whatever I was in the band, was real handy. It actually was a great, reflective time. Before practice, I’d have one last runthrough of the setlist, and on the way back, everything new we were working on I could listen to. So it was cool.

So you’re driving down, singing along in the car?

Just listening to it, inflections and shit like that that I might need to utilize or revise the phrasing. I’m not necessarily singing along like a dickhead. Well, there was probably some of that too. Just knowing the material, inside and out. Listening can be helpful, as long as I’m paying attention. Listening, I’m usually drunk, and it can fade away or go somewhere else in your head. If you’re really focused on what you’re listening to, there’s something to gain during that span of drive-time. But that’s how the Hour of 13 thing all came about, and it’s a combination of all that. You know, some times in life require a little bit of want-to and a little bit of just going for it. I had streamlined my life down to a point where I didn’t have any material possessions to speak of, outside of my record collection. It was good in one way, because it wasn’t holding me back, but now I’ve got a place and I didn’t have a couch any longer or any of that. That was the only downside to the move, I guess.

Well, now you’ve got the new couch, so that worked out.

Yeah, it did! It’s a fucking comfortable, big-ass couch, too. $40, man. I talked him down off of

450, but still, I felt like I had a real victory today.

Set the scene for me of the New York show. Was there some announcement before you came on stage? How’d it go down?

We had talked of any of that or all of that, and we did soundcheck before the show. In theory, we probably could have done it, but we just started like a normal set. I had to check the mic and all that. I guess there was nothing that grand about it, but it served the purpose of getting the damn news out there, and that was all I really wanted to do. I was worried about that monkey on my back, having to be mysterious and whatever. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, and not being able to tell people I want to when they ask, and be all secretive. “You’re being a dick, just tell me what’s happening.” I told a few people, sure, and that’s how the news starts getting out, and I’m like, I wonder who leaked it. It doesn’t matter, long term. There was no, “Ladies and gentlemen, the new vocalist of Hour of 13, Ben Hogg!” Nothing like that. There was a few people, I remember backstage, changing clothes or whatever, and this guy from the band Natur came in, and he was like, “Oh hey, you’re the new singer,” and he was a young guy and he goes, “I saw these guys last time they were in New York, they were fucking great.” I was like, “Yup, cool.” I don’t know, we just had a long, uncomfortable pause. It’s like, “Hope you’re good. Last fucking guy was great.”

What was the vibe like for you at the show, doing the set? Everything I heard about it said it went off really well.

It was nerve-wracking. Our first thing we do, we get there, we soundcheck, and I said something about the monitors to the sound guy, and he was like, “Yeah, these aren’t working right now.” Sure enough, we soundcheck, the damn things don’t work. I guess they had 50 beers spilled on ‘em or whatever, and it’s like, “Ah, fuck.” I can’t hear myself, so I’ve got to just wing it and hope. So that’s what I did. It was a good vibe. It was real nerve-wracking, though. That’s the best description I can give. The opening bands, I wanted to watch, I just wasn’t in the headspace to watch them knowing there was work to be done in a little bit. What I heard of Pilgrim, they were fucking excellent, and When the Deadbolt Breaks, they’re killer. I like those guys. Natur were fucking killing it too, and I was like, “Jesus Christ.” I was hoping there’d be somebody shitty out of the three, make my life a little easier, but nope. Everybody was killing it. I hear the Pilgrim guy and he’s a fucking great singer, and I’m like, “Shit. He’s good. Son of a bitch.” We were talking and he was like, “Yeah, I couldn’t hear anything,” and I said, “I guess that’s what I’ll have to do too.” So after that day, I went out and got my own wedge monitor, because I don’t want to go through that anymore. Although, the tweeters are kind of blown, or the woofers or whatever, so all you hear is this tin-can-sounding version of what you’re doing, and that of course, you’re hoping, you know, and you singing hard, because you’re trying to hear yourself, and that’s not conducive to be doing anything that you’re trying to do properly. But I had a good time. End of the rainbow there, it felt like it went pretty good, and no regrets. That’s pretty much how that went. First thing, everybody goes through is, “How’s he compare to Phil Swanson?” and I’m like, until I record something, it’s apples and oranges. If you’re just hearing me at the Cake Shop versus Union Pool, where the sound system is a far cry better at Union Pool, it’s just comparing apples to oranges. I’m not him. When we get a 7” out or a real recording, I think we’ll have a better grip of what we’re doing, compared to the previous stuff. Hopefully people like it. That’s ultimately what you hope every time, I suppose.

How was it for you adapting to the different vocal style?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always – well, I won’t say “always” – after 10 days out with Beaten Back or whoever, screaming your throat out every night, that gets a little laborious. This is different. This is more skilled. You can’t necessarily take the stage shitty drunk and expect to pull off greatness, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, something I’ve always had the suspicion that I would be able to do if the time arose, and shit, now I’m here. I think I can at least do it good enough to keep the ship afloat. I’ll say that. I’m anxious to hear something recorded with it as well, outside of the rehearsal room, and I think that’ll be the tale that tells the… tale? or whatever. That’ll be the real story there.

Do you guys have any plans for recording? Would you even go in and lay down vocals on old material, just to hear how it sounds before you do something new, or is it all new stuff from here on out?

All new stuff. I don’t see any benefit to doing that, really. Chad has a recording operation at his house, so in theory, those songs are done and they’ll always be played live, but I don’t see any necessity to go back and re-record anything old. I don’t even know how good that an idea that’d be, but we hear each other in the room. The band room is loud as fuck, but the vocals are pretty loud in the mix. I think we all have a pretty good idea of what’s going on exactly. If I was fucking out of key and not singing well at all, I don’t feel I’d have been offered the job in the first place. They had enough confidence in me to let me go on stage and sing along with them, so I think they probably have enough to let me get in the recording room. I’m anxious to do that. I haven’t written anything yet with them, and we’re kind of at that point where it feels like there’s starting to be some more writing happening. We’ve got some tours that are coming up too, so it would be nice to get something recorded before we go out in July, but I’m not sure. We might do something before July too, as far as touring, or mini-touring, or something to that effect.

What are you doing in July?

Most of the month, we’re busy. Three and a half weeks or something like that. The first half is with Sourvein. Second half, I believe, is with Vital Remains. There’s a few days in between where Nachtmystium is on the bill, so that’ll be cool. Most of July is busy. I think New York’s back in the mix too, but it’s Northeast through Midwest. I don’t know where it lets us out at. I’ve seen a general routing, but nothing’s firm enough to tell. It officially kicks off on the sixth of July in Philadelphia. That I know. Kung Fu Necktie, July 6, Sourvein and Hour of 13. And then from there it’s bouncing around New York, Boston, Rochester, Connecticut, something like that. I believe Pittsburgh, back inland. So some things are afoot. There’s talk of other stuff, too. There’s things we’re pushing for, and the word Europe keeps coming up, so that’s pretty exciting. The most etched in stone thing we have is December, we’ve got the Rites of Darkness Festival. That’s about the furthest point we could have away from us, but it feels like we’re going to be busy up till then. We’ll start writing sooner than later. It looks to be good things are afoot.

That’s got to be cool for you. Birds of Prey never really did shows. Beaten Back’s kind of been on the shelf.

We’ve been dormant for a while, for sure. Absolutely it’s cool. Who the fuck gets their big break at age 39 in rock and roll? That just doesn’t happen. I’d almost consigned myself to, “If I can put something together in Asheville, fine, if not, I can live okay without it, I guess.” I almost consigned myself to that point. Then I get this message, and talking to Harrington, who gets their big break at 39? That’s fucking ridiculous. That’s why I fucking firmly believe I live some sort of charmed life. It’s an unusual set of circumstances, for sure.

That’s doom. Go figure.

Yeah (laughs). I told Chad Davis, the guitar player, the main guy in the band – he’s also 39, the other guys are younger – nothing crazy, just a couple dudes in their late 20s or 30s – I was like, “Shit, at 39, there’s not much left I’m allowed to do in metal besides doom.” It seems like everybody graduates to doom. I think it’s for a lot of people’s ears suddenly, and ultra heavy, but at the same time, Davis does all the black metal shit and he has all these little projects going on all the time. That’s dude’s a driven guy, for sure. But yeah, doom feels like the right place and the right time, for sure. That’s what I’m feeling about it. And I’ve always been a doom fan. I liked Trouble and fuckin’ Vitus and Candlemass back in the mid-‘80s. ’86, ’87. I was a 15-year-old kid listening to Vitus, so yeah. Doom’s the right place and the right time, and I finally get a chance to do some singing. That’s exciting for me. As opposed to just yelling. I was always trying to squeeze a little of that singing shit into Beaten Back records. For better or for worse. It was more of a counter to the other sounds, all of a sudden, the nice that went with the ugly. It wasn’t as important to nail the keys and shit like that. This, this is different. This is exciting. The biggest word I can use is exciting. That’s the most accurate description of what’s going on.

When do you think you guys will start really writing?

Chad’s the songwriter. He’s got a big pile of riffs. He was playing a bunch of them for us at practice yesterday. He has a sort of process he goes through, and we’ll just have to let it run its course. He is in a writing stage, and he’s got a bunch of riffs, but he just hasn’t felt inspired or whatever to connect them and make it all flow. It seems like there’s a bunch of half-songs out there. He’s got to either connect them or finish them, one or the other. We’re working on his schedule in that regard.

In the meantime, it sounds like you’ve got a full plate of shows to keep you busy.

Yeah, exactly. We’re not stagnant by any stretch. The Ritualist just got re-released, so if we had to, we’re close enough on a couple of those parts. He played me a 13-minute epic he had written, almost in full at this point, and it’s like, “Shit, that’s cool.” He had it recorded and everything. It’s not like we’re completely without new ideas. Things are afoot. We’ll get there when we’ll get there. I’m sure Earache would like to have a record next week, but things being what they are, the lineup shakeups and shit like that, I don’t want to give a timeline on when a new record will be. Really, it’s got to come organically. Hopefully we’ll get to do a split 7” or something like that as an introductory thing. That we could have together pretty quickly, I’m sure.

Well, right on, dude. I’ll tell you, when I heard those demos and Scott told me it was you singing, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see the name. Congratulations, really.

It’s different, it’s interesting, and it’s a good break for me. I feel like they found the right guy. Who else in western North Carolina could they have gotten who can pretty much do the job, first and foremost, and secondly, wasn’t attached, doesn’t have babies, is able to tour? Fuck, I ain’t even working, so I’m ready to go. It’ll be nice to make some extra dough, get out on the road. It was a perfect storm of coincidences, really. And I’d just moved there two months prior. If it had been done six months ago, no one would have thought of each other. They were doing it with Chad singing, and Chad was cool with that, and it even looked like New York, he might still do the show even when I was in the band, but I was able to pick up on the material quickly enough. It was originally going to be, “Well, you come up and we’ll make the introduction,” until finally, I guess three weeks before the show or something, “Oh yeah, you’re doing the whole show now.” It was good, man. They put their trust in me each and every step. I appreciated the vote of confidence and I’ll try to do it. Absolutely I recognize that I’m not a household name in doom, but I’ve been around long enough, it’s more of a function of floating around the periphery of music that I went from bands of not great reputation, but some notoriety, and then, with Hour of 13, I feel like I caught with a band that’s on the way up. Right on time. Just got the cool record deal. They’ve wanted to tour for a long time, so they’ve fucking got the itch to get out of Hickory, North Carolina. Most of them have day jobs, but no one loves their work, so yeah, getting out of town is exciting for everybody. I’m stoked, for sure. I’d be a fool not to be. Whenever I was coming to try out, I was like, “You know what? These guys, they’re not gonna beat me up if they don’t like me. It’ll play out and they’ll hire me or they won’t hire me. I’m gonna go in there and fucking try it.” I remember watching in Richmond, when Johnny Weils joined Alabama Thunderpussy. I think they did a week out on the road before they did a Richmond show. I remember Johnny when they were playing Richmond, and here’s the replacement Johnny, and they packed out the venue, and all eyes were on him, and I was thinking, “Man, that’s a shitty, pressure-packed position.” I’d tried out for the band and Johnny Weils beat me out. I guess I didn’t give it 100 percent effort, either. I didn’t go whole-hog trying out. But Hour of 13, we don’t have such a reputation as a touring band that everybody in the world has seen us twice and now they’re gonna have to see them with me and compare. They’d only played three shows in New York City and Dublin, Ireland, so unless you lived in those two cities, you wouldn’t know how it compares. The New Yorkers, they’re the ones who can really judge somewhat the two situations. Hopefully when we get up there in July, they’re like, “Alright, this guy’s on a steady improve.” And if we do the Cake Shop again – which is fine, that’s a cool little venue – I’m gonna have my wedge monitor, and I’m not gonna live shit like that up to chance anymore. Get sick of that. For the venue we played in Charlotte a couple weeks later, it was a better monitor situation for sure, still not ideal, but there probably was no room at that point to use my wedge, but specifically the Cake Shop, it would have came in really handy. That was the impetus behind picking up my own personal monitor.

Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it. You’re set.

Yeah. Of course, now if there’s spilled beer in my monitor, I’ll actually care. But whatever. Maybe I should put some plastic over it. I don’t know how to protect it. A thin coat of plastic.

A little saran wrap all around it.

(Laughs) Make a big wall in front of it so anybody on the other side in the crowd, they have to intentionally go over top of it and pour the damn drink in it. You wouldn’t just get bumped into and spill, you know? So here’s to hoping that it works out and doesn’t get fucked up right away.

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5 Responses to “Hour of 13 Interview with Ben Hogg: “Who the fuck gets their big break at age 39 in rock and roll?””

  1. Davey Jones says:

    I will absolutely be at that Pburgh show! I would have never thought to cross these two streams, but I can only imagine how awesome it turned out to be. Hails, Ben, Chad, and the 13s!!!

  2. Metal Dave says:

    Congrats Ben, you rule. I hope you mugs can work in an Arkansas date at some point; maybe on the way home from them Kylesa dates on the way back from Tulsa? We’re on I-40..

  3. Mr Red says:

    Good to hear that you’re still keeping on Ben.

  4. Kaz says:

    Glad to hear Ben is expanding his horizons. I would have preferred him for Alabama Thunderpussy (loved the music on Fulton Hill but not Weils vocals/presence). And as a Birds of Prey fan goes without saying I enjoy Ben’s vocals.

    I look forward to hearing Ben with Hour of 13. Congrats. Thanks for the interview.

  5. ben hogg says:

    Real cool man. I thought we talked for a while. I guess i was right. Good job transcribing man. i know i mumble some and shit like that. And for the record, beer was spilled in the monitor first show it was used at. C’est la vie.

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