Here’s a band you should definitely be listening to right now. It’s okay if you’re not familiar, not everyone knows Hell. From what is accessible on the internet, finding the band is like finding a rare diamond. The project has endured a decade of non-stop work mainly handled by the sole composer and mastermind M.S.W. from Salem, Oregon, and while its success has reached countries outside of american soil, he still tries to keep it underground. The discography is vastly recognized by the famous trilogy released in the span of the first four years of the project. Last year, M.S.W. released the first full-length album in three years! A self-titled composed of 7 tracks and 50 minutes of bloody, bludgeoning and soul-crushing doom metal. Unlike past releases that have been known for his wide focus on static drone, and almost panoramic views of hellish sounds, this album is more riff-centred. It’s catchy and proper for anyone from cult elites to mainstream listeners.
After learning upon their presence at Roadburn, two years after joining the dutch festival’s roster, we already knew that their gig at the Het Patronaat would be of monstrous proportions. Looking back on it, no wonder why it was by far, one of our favorite shows of this year’s edition. Fortunately, we had the chance to meet up with M.S.W. a couple of days before his show, and we took the time to talk about the process of being a one-man project, his D.I.Y. ethics and the meaning behind Hell over these last few years. Read down below!
Have you been around since the first day of Roadburn? Anything special that caught your eyes so far?
M.S.W. - Yeah. We flew over on wednesday morning, and last time we were here, we weren’t able to see all the bands. I was having anxiety attacks all the time, so I just kind of hung out around the van. This time I was able to see the main stage and a couple of performances so far. It’s a great experience.
Regarding the album, it seems a bit more accessible to the ear than previous releases, but why such a long time off to record?
Writing music takes time, sometimes. I went through this guy from Oakland, and he put it on iTunes and stuff like that. I wasn’t into that shit back in the day, I like to keep it underground, but now that it is where it is, you know, it’s been like nine years. Working with Sentient Ruin has really helped Hell in that sense.
Being the sole member of Hell, is the aspect of playing live with a particular line-up ever challenging? Especially at this year’s Roadburn, since you’ll be playing a 50-minute album in its entirety. How early on did the live members begin working on this?
Ten months ago. We’ve been working on this for 10 months. I’m playing drums for Mizmor too, and Mizmor is also 10 months. We started at the same time learning, since it’s his album I’m playing drums for, and then he’s playing drums in my album. He’s been playing drums for Hell the whole time pretty much, so we’ve been working our asses off trying to get it nailed down, but it’s only a day a week, for about ten months.
Feeling comfortable with it? (laughs)
Yeah (laughs). Yeah, we’re pretty good. We played a practice show in Salem, in our hometown before we left, and it was a good show. We did a good job, I fucked up and nobody could probably tell, like I switched the blast beat on the hi-hat (laughs) when I was supposed to be on the ride, like nobody is gonna be able to tell (laughs).
Seeing that we live pretty much in the future when it comes to recording, how do you prefer to find your sound? Experiment with computerized effects or analogue all the way?
No computers. Analogue! Yeah, I use this 16-track digital recorder but it sounds analogue, like when you mix it down, you don’t just mix it on the computer, hit a button and the computer does it’s thing. As I mix every track down, I’m fading things out and adding effects by hand and if I fuck up, I have to go back and do it again, almost like analogue. So it has the analogue feel, the fadeouts and stuff, I prefer that. It’s harder, but it sounds more natural. I like warm sounding music, so it keeps the tone nice and warm. It’s not that I prefer analogue, it’s just the way I’ve been doing it, I’ve always done it like that. It works and It’s free! (laughs). Who wants to pay a fucking guy 2000 dollars to do it? (laughs) It doesn’t sound quite as good, but it works.
In 2016, you managed to book a tour for HELL right after Roadburn. Seeing it is an exclusive european show, are there any possibilities of coming back any time soon?
Not now, last time we toured I remembered we played festivals in general, because the band’s not that big. Doom Metal, not everybody’s into that. I think black metal and death metal is a bigger thing right now. If we were to be touring with a band like that, I would do it, but if it was just Hell as the headliner every night, just playing random shows, like we did in 2016, it didn’t work out that well. It worked out in the U.S. pretty well for some reason, I don’t know why, but yeah, we’ll do it again. It just depends on the circumstances, there needs to be a right band to tour with, rather than just us touring by ourselves. Like my buddy Paul, he played guitar in Hell in the beginning but he’s in these bands Blood Incantation and Spectral Voice, If we were to tour over here, I’d prefer to tour with him, he’s blown up so much.
Looking at all the album covers, one could say Dante’s Inferno is a clear influence on you. Besides that masterpiece, what other pieces of literature and/or cinema have shaped your vision of the project?
Well I mean, the bible for sure. Have you read the bible? It’s fucked up man. I grew up religious, you know? Like a lot of people did, I suppose, mostly that, I guess. Movies? None. It’s mostly just kind of how I just grew up, the pains I went through when my dad died, all my grandparents died, my aunt died, dog died, my best friend died, it all happened in three years. So I just came up from it, and then have the aftermaths you know? So it’s more like a ten year thing. There’s not much literature, movies or nothing, it was mostly just kind of personal life experience and heartache that came from the music.
Last question, name a band or two, debut or not, you’d kill to see here at Roadburn next year. You can fantasize about any album set.
Shit! Roadburn, next year? Hey man, we’ve played with Yob before, but I’d love to see Yob all the time, I’ve always loved seeing them live. I love those guys, dude. They’re like some of my favorite, and they live like an hour away from me, right down the road. I’d like to see Yob, and I’d like to, and I know it’s probably some cliché bullshit, but I’d like to see Sleep’s new album.