Oregon’s Yob has been crushing it on the road ever since the release of their monolithic mountain of doom metal, Clearing the Path to Ascend, last September. Now currently in-between touring Europe and beginning a full run of the US, guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt is at home on the west coast and doing a few sporadic solo shows. I got a chance to speak with Mike on the phone on February 18th about what he’s expecting out of their upcoming tour, never anticipating acclaim, how important it is to protect their art, and more.
Kit: You just wrapped up doing some acoustic shows doing stuff with Scott Kelly and Karma to Burn. Is that something you want to do more of? How was the audience’s reaction to your solo stuff?
Mike: I love doing it. I’ve been over your way [North Carolina] doing solo music with Nate Hall in 2012, I do believe. We did an east coast tour, and I’ve toured the West Coast with Scott [Kelly] before too. I’ve done a medium amount of touring for the solo music and it’s something that…the people that do it well blow my mind. Scott and The Road Home is certainly one of those scenarios. Or seeing Michael Gira do music. He’s a mind-boggler. And then I’m a giant fan of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark and any number of songwriters. I’m pretty intrigued by Daniel Higgs; he’s another one I love. I don’t think I’m as good as any of those people by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoy doing it and it certainly makes me think outside of what I normally do. It’s helped me become a better guitarist and better singer.
I think that definitely shows, the vocals on the last record are the most varied. I also saw that you’re coming up on a tour with Enslaved, which are two pretty different sounding bands that somehow make sense together. Do you have any sort of expectations about it? Have you ever played with Enslaved before?
Mike: We’ve played with them at Roadburn and I think that’s when we first got introduced to each other. They asked us if we wanted to be main support for this tour and we were surprised. We didn’t know that they liked us or anything like that, so it was a welcomed surprise! They obviously started out as a pretty old-school Norwegian black metal band, and then through the years, they’ve reinvented themselves over and over again and are a very unique band. They’re not genre-specific at all, and I don’t think Yob is genre-specific exactly. I can see where it’s kind of an eclectic combination of both bands. That would also be true of the other band that’s opening, Ecstatic Vision. They’re also a pretty weird and unique band too. So it should make for some interesting shows.
Yeah, I’d rather see a show like that where it’s not three of the same bands over and over again. I saw that you’re also coming around the east coast without Enslaved. Was that planned along with the tour, or did those dates just get added on later?
Mike: Basically, Enslaved starts here on the west coast and then they wrap up on the east coast, and then they’re going home. But we’re from the other side of the country, and we hadn’t done a US tour to support our new record yet. It just made sense, because we’d have to do shows to get back home anyways, so let’s go ahead and focus on putting more shows together. That’s when Witch Mountain joined in and it got put together. They play like two or three of the Enslaved shows and then join us for the rest of the trip.
For that, do you plan on focusing on the entire new record since you’re supporting it here for the first time? Or do you think it will be more all over the place?
Mike: On the Enslaved tour we don’t really get enough of a set to do the whole record, but I think we’ll do most of it. For the shows where we’re the headliner, it’ll be all over the place. We’ll probably play ¾’s of the new record and then put in some older songs too to mix it up. It’ll probably change up here and there.
After that, are you trying to fill up your year with a lot of touring, or is your mind more focused on creating music now?
Mike: It’s hard to say. We have a couple of other shows and fests and things planned. We’re going to do Maryland Death Fest in Baltimore, we’re going to do Stump Fest in Portland, we’re looking at going to Australia in August, and then there’s another festival in Portland at the tail-end of August. I think at that point, we’ll have done a full European tour and a full US and a bunch of festival shows all in an 8 to 10 month chunk of time. For us, we get a lot of possibilities of tours that come our way and we try to keep a balance in how much we’re out there in the world playing music and how much we can be at home and balance out our family lives, our kids, day jobs and stuff like that. It’s trying to have a balance there. In the future, who knows? We could end up becoming a full-time touring band, but I tend to kind of feel like my concern is that I don’t want our art to suffer. When you’re on the road nonstop and you’re trying to write songs on stage when you’re doing soundchecks. There are some bands that make that work, and some that even do it well. We just don’t want to hurt our music, the band, or our lives by just being our there nonstop.
Is that something that you would ever want to do, touring full time? Or at this point is that not something that really even appeals to you?
Mike: It’s not an easy life, especially nowadays when I think you can grow and potentially bring in more money but then you start having to dance with the devil if you really want to grow and get to bigger audiences. Just the very nature of what we do, we don’t want to get too much in the business, the “business business” of music. We’re protecting our creation and letting it remain special for us. It’s something that we still look forward to doing. We’re not putting brands or stamps on it.
Even though you’re not constantly putting yourselves out there, I still feel like every time you put out a new album the recognition does grow, and I think a wider group of people is starting to understand that. I remember seeing you guys on Rolling Stone last year, even. Did you ever expect anything like that?
Mike: No! Fuck no, man. We’re growing in spite of ourselves. I really feel like we don’t take credit for it. We never show off and say “oh, look at what we’ve accomplished!” We put out albums and play shows like 20,000 other bands do, but we’ve just slowly gotten more and more recognition and more people tuned in, and we’re honored and surprised. We don’t take it for granted at all, and we’re very privileged. We appreciate everything that’s good about it, and we also have a bigger picture perspective of not knowing how long this sort of thing will last. We just make sure that whatever we do, we feel 100% about it. That way we can protect the band and make sure that we’re just completely stoked to keep doing it.
You seem like you’re pretty excited about getting out there now. Do you think you’re going to keep writing with Yob after this, or do you want to go and focus more on solo material like you’d done before?
Mike: I’ll do all of it. I’m sure there will be some more Yob further down the line and I’ll do another solo record and just recorded new material. That’s being mixed right now, and I have a couple of other projects in the fire. So I’m pretty busy with music right now.
One last question: if someone doesn’t know about the style of music you guys play, whether you call it doom, sludge, whatever, what would be a handful of records that you might introduce someone to?
Mike: Well, it depends on if they know the genre or not. If they don’t know the genre, I’d say “well, you’ve heard of Black Sabbath. You’ve heard of King Crimson and Led Zeppelin. You’ve probably heard of Pink Floyd too. So you take all that, you make it more metal, and then you play it on 33 instead of 45.” That’s kind of getting in the ballpark. I wouldn’t say that we’re a progressive rock band, but we do have some of those elements, and King Crimson is definitely a big influence on us.
I would definitely say the spacier side of Pink Floyd, too.
Yeah, the spaciness of Pink Floyd, but with the bludgeoning heaviness of Sabbath, only slower! But then make it more metal, infuse new age music into it, and somehow you’ve got us. Most people can kind of understand what I’m saying at that point. It’s not for everybody.
Check out Yob on their full US in March and April! Dates are listed here.