Oozing Wound like their venues the same way they like their music: no frills, dark, and unclean. They’re shown here playing the Windmill in London on Dec. 3, 2016. Photo by Kevin Gras
Claiming to be “Tipper Gore’s worst fears incarnate,” Oozing Wound isn’t exactly a serious act. Check out their videos: They murder posers, trample lion cubs to death, and pay tribute to recreational activities like shot-gunning beer and ripping bong hits. Their song titles include “Call Your Guy” and “Everything Sucks, and My Life Is a Lie.” Irreverence is more than a byword for them—it’s a core value.
The Chicago-based thrash trio spew juicy sarcasm on albums like Retrash, Earth Suck, and now Whatever Forever—nothing’s sacred and to hell with convention. Their music is fast and raucous—as thrash metal should be—and dripping in fuzz. And their sound, as you’d expect, is an exercise in excess. “I can always figure out how to sound properly gross in the mix—getting the grossness just right,” bassist Kevin Cribbin says. Oozing Wound is gross, and that’s the point. But they do it with a certain finesse that’s more than meets the eye.Cribbin, for his part, is armed with a bevy of ZVEX fuzz pedals. He works the band’s bottom end and keeps things gnarly. But despite his penchant for nasty, his formidable chops enable him to maintain the music’s intensity with clarity and definition.
It’s an aesthetic Cribbin shares with guitarist Zack Weil, although Weil keeps a stomp-free signal chain. “I’m not huge on pedals,” he says. “Every pedal I ever bought, I was like, ‘Okay, it makes this one sound. Cool. I can do that in part of one song.’ And then you’re just carrying this pedal around.”
After further examination, Oozing Wound’s shtick turns out to be much more than fuzz overload and cultivated bad taste. Their musical depth is rooted in disparate influences.“Everything I listen to is from the ’70s,” Weil says. “That’s where my mind is always at, then every so often I come up for air.” They’re as happy listening to bands like the Beach Boys, Yes, and Frank Zappa as they are listening to Lightning Bolt and fellow Midwestern heroes, the Platinum Boys. That diversity is part of what keeps the band’s music fresh and multidimensional. Inside jokes and faux bravado aside, they’re also sophisticated songwriters, with a keen ear for melody and a daredevil approach to odd meters, feedback, and noise.
“We want to be serious at making it as good as we can on the craft level,” Cribbin says. And they do that while raising a middle finger at decorum. Weil and Cribbin discuss their tonal formulas, go-to gear, and organic songwriting approach, plus Weil confesses his fear of changing guitar strings onstage.
Who are your musical influences?
Weil: I’ve been listening to a lot of Beach Boys—they’re my favorite band—I’m always listening to them. Five or six years ago I was probably only listening to metal, which is right around when I started Oozing Wound, but the Beach Boys have been a constant for so much longer. It’s just something I always go back to. I can’t write music like that, so it’s fascinating to me in a way that Metallica or Kreator is not as amazing—I hear what they’re doing, I get how they’re doing it. Whereas there is a real mystery behind what the Beach Boys do or Yes—probably being my second favorite band that I’m always listening to. I’m listening to a lot of ABBA lately, too. People never believe me about this stuff, but that’s what I listen to. It’s pop music. I get a lot of ideas from that, way more than I ever do from metal.
Cribbin: The obvious answer is that I was really into Les Claypool. But my mom and my uncles were all heads in the ’70s, so I was exposed to a lot of Devo, Frank Zappa, the Police, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and all those bands. Bass was an interesting component to all those records—their presence. Everyone in Oozing Wound is into strange, non-metal music. We listen to different genres that don’t resemble what we produce. We like the Beach Boys and shit like that.
How does listening to pop music influence your metal writing?
Weil: We do breakdowns, go against rhythms, and do things that a band trying to play to a style would probably never think to do or would never want to do. We try to keep things interesting or catchy or at least bizarre. Playing off Kevin helps because I write way more straight than he does. I come up with two parts that I think will go good back and forth and it’s usually rhythmically strict. He’ll come in and put something over the top of that. You couldn’t transcribe what Kevin does, but it’s pedals and noises and he plays with his fingers in a way that makes most people, if they start watching him, go dead in the face staring at his hands. I would say the combination of the two of us writing against one another is how we come up with these weird things. If we were only listening to metal, I don’t think we would do it the same way.
To create a huge wall of guitar sound on Whatever Forever, guitarist Zack Weil recorded one track of guitars on the neck pickup of his Flying V, and a second guitar part on the bridge pickup. Weil also uses two or three amps, then doubles them, so the effect is like hearing six guitars.
When writing songs, do you bring in riffs or do you do a lot of jamming at rehearsals?
Weil: I’ve structured out songs before and I was like, “Here’s the four parts. Here’s how we’re going to do it.” And it never turns out the way I think it will. That used to bum me out. But now that’s the magic of it all. It’s always a collaboration, no matter how much I’m doing. If I write 90 percent of it, the other 10 percent is really important. Kevin’s brought in a couple riffs, but for the most part it’s me wanting to move onto the next thing and he’s good at making what I do weirder and more interesting. It’s a real partnership.
Cribbin: Zack comes up with these really weird riffs, so, do I play what he’s doing? Do I emphasize certain notes? Do I treat it rhythmically? Do I play his riff backwards over it and make it sound weird? Anything goes. A lot of that stuff is organically trying to make things interesting on a personal level.
Zack, your rhythm playing is intricate and pretty difficult. Do you have different techniques you use either for playing that way, for practice, or to maintain consistency?
Weil: Not really [laughs]. I never used to play metal—that was a discovery in my mid-20s that I could even do it. For example, for some people palm muting is impossible and they get caught up on that. You build up these small little things that eventually you can combine. There were skills I picked up when I was a teenager. I listened to some proggier, mathier stuff when I was in my early 20s and that all fed into it. I was playing with a bunch of different people in bands and you hear this thing and you’re like, “I can do that rhythm.” Then you play it and everyone is like, “Wow, that’s difficult.” And you’re like, “I guess so?” To me, I never feel like I’m pushing my ability too hard, but sometimes listening back I’m kind of shocked at the stuff I hear. But there’s no real technique or thing I’m practicing or anything like that. I’ve gotten better at speed picking—it doesn’t hurt my arm anymore.
Weil: When I first started, I had to change how I held the pick. But a few little changes and suddenly everything was super simple.