Interview – Major Kong
“We know what we want now; and it has to be absolutely pure… The purest quality available!”
Today we meet up with Dominik Stachyra, bassist for the Polish doom metal Moloch that is Major Kong! The band started out back in 2010 when the three instrumentalists from Fifty Foot Woman realized their vocalist wasn’t as invested in music as much as they were themselves. So they tried their hand on an instrumental track and were pleasantly surprised when the three of them all liked the hell out of it. Recorded in one day, mixed the day after and sent out into the world on the third. Signaling the end of Fifty Foot Woman and heralding the beginning of the Major Kong age. Orogenesis, as it was called, features prominently on their first EP. The response was good; but more importantly the frustration from the Fifty Foot Woman sessions was gone and the fun returned. A follow-up album called Doom For The Black Sun was soon recorded and explored every facet of the heavy rock and metal genre’s they all liked. Effectively producing a record everyone would dig; but nobody would probably fall in love with… Although a lot did anyway; judging by the fact it at least ended up on the Number 20 position of the Stoner HiVe top 20 countdown of 2012. And this year they return once again with a new record: Doom Machine. A definite step up and a true proclamation: the guys know what they are doing and they are doing it slow, completely fuzzed-out and with massive style…
Dominik: “You know, the heavy rock scene has a tight grip on everything I hold dear about music. I think it has to do with the moment you first grab an instrument. You hold it in your hands and your mind begins to race. You somehow become a master of reality. Haha. And I still look at music that way. The hermeneutic way. When I listen to Black Sabbath; I somehow become that teenager that lived back in 1970 and first heard the tri-tone chord coming out of the speakers. Effectively hearing something so loud, evil and distorted; something that he never heard before. It is the same with Slayer for me. When I listen to Slayer I am that eighties kid that hears something one step forward in speed and heaviness. Something that would make every music teacher die of a heart attack. It means freedom to me. And good rock ’n roll has that aspect all the time!”
So what’s your first musical memory?
Dominik: “Listening to my older brother's cassette-tapes. I was six years old when he was thirteen and became a metal head, so I was properly educated in my childhood. I remember I had to get home a bit earlier from kindergarten once a week, so I could turn on the recording for my brother, because there were complete metal albums broadcasted on the radio on Tuesdays. It was back in 1989 and it was the only way for us to get that stuff. Cause our parents would never spend any of their salary on music. And definitely not that kind of music.”
Can you pinpoint the exact moment that you wanted to become a musician yourself?
Dominik: “Damn right I can! I was watching Iron Maiden's "Maiden England" video and I thought that Steve Harris was the greatest man in the world. I was a flying-guitar-Steve-Harris wannabe for many years, hahaha.”
So you did not end up playing bass because you and a couple of friends wanted to start a band and nobody played the bass?
Dominik: “Well in part. I always wanted to have a guitar growing up but my parents were against it. I think they feared I would get bored with it after two weeks. But when I was around sixteen a classmate of mine gave me some chord lessons and gave me one of his old guitars to practice on. I made some progress on my own and seeing my devotion my parents decided to buy one for my own. If I promised to become less rebellious. Which I ofcourse did. Soon after, me and my schoolmates formed a band and that was the right time to grab a bass. Since there was nobody else who played it and I still loved Steve Harris. So here I am.”
And here’s the new album Doom Machine by Major Kong. More structured and less jam-like in comparison to its predecessor Doom For The Black Sun. You must be pleased with the result?
Dominik: “Yes I am. I'm extremely happy with the album. The result is better than we could have hoped. The sound is fuzzy and "robotic" - it's something we didn't expect. We wanted to make a short, concise, sharp and edgy album. On ‘DFTBS’ there was something for everyone. A bit of doom, a bit of psych, a bit of stoner, etc. And I guess we realized that doing something for everyone is a bit like doing it for nobody. There is so much underground music nowadays and listeners won’t bother at all when the stuff doesn’t meet their expectations one hundred percent. So instead of trying to cater a big banquet we wanted to serve a hefty main course. And if you don’t like the ingredients you’d better go somewhere else. We don’t abandon psychedelic jams all together and maybe we’ll do something chillin and un-metal in the future. But we know what we want now; and it has to be absolutely pure… The purest quality available. Like Walter White’s product! Hahaha!”
Pure! Exactly. In the review I wrote about the music being a centrifuge. Pulling apart the riffs and pushing out everything that isn’t necessary; making it more magnetic, mesmerizing and pure.
Dominik: “That was exactly what we were aiming for. The essence of the riff. The essence of the heaviness. We entered the studio with five written tracks and the concept of a heavy and short album. But we didn’t have an exact concept for the sound. Szymon Swoboda, the sound engineer from Vintage Records had some ideas. He was fully involved in creating a new level and new quality for us. We kept turning the fuzz knobs up and he kept shouting: ‘more more!’ and I was thinking there was no music left and there was nothing left to save and feared it would turn out to be a disaster. But Szymon kept edging us on and convincing us it would turn out great. You know, most of the Polish engineers are really conservative and usually think: ‘less is better’. But not Szymon, he’s always going for the absolute maximum.”
It sounds live and like you guys had an absolute smashing time during the recording session. How long did you take and what was the most euphoric moment?
Dominik: “Ooh man, we had a blast. The Vintage Records Studio is situated in the laundry room of a little palace in a wooded area outside Porażyn. So there aren’t too many distractions, the vibe is great and the acoustics are amazing. Superb conditions to record everything live in. It’s the only way we do it. We were there for five days. And we recorded ‘Voidwagon’ on the fourth day. It was our youngest track and we hadn’t really had enough time to practice it properly. So we played it horribly. But we kept repeating it. Constantly, for a couple of hours, without getting anything decent out of it. So just imagine three guys already tired and weary from tracking for four days and doing one track over and over, slowly getting more and more tired and more and more angry at each other. And just when we were about to throw in the towel for this track we decided to do it one more time. And that’s when the right shit happens: the perfect take. Man, that was uplifting and that was the moment that I realized that it was going to be a good album.”
I guess the fun shines through. Cause the album sounds like three guys playing because they absolutely love playing and playing the music they absolutely love themselves. Do you still listen to the album at home?
Dominik: “I must have heard the tracks at least a thousand times by now. I’ve only recently turned my attention to other bands again. But once the cd’s arrive, I’m surely going to be listening to our own stuff. It’s the Doom Machine man. I am hooked. And it is obvious. We’ve built an anti-polyphonic, anti-overdub and anti-metronome riff temple and there is one simple commandment: you shall not have any other gods before the god of riffs! Haha!”
So is the title once again a reference to Kyuss as well?
Dominik: “Apparently it isn’t all too obvious or perhaps our countrymen have a different take on names cause with our first album we usually got remarks like: ‘why did you call it Doom For The Black Sun? Don’t you know there is a Kyuss album with a similar title?’ Grin. ”
Let’s just for once state the obvious: we dig the album and also think the order of the track list is expertly chosen.
Dominik: “Thanks man, we dig the HiVe as well. There’s always good stuff to be found. And I think there was only one way to go for us on this album. We started with the title track. An opener that doesn’t tell you everything that will happen later on. It’s heavy in its vision and imagination but not too heavy. Quite Melvins influenced. After which we continue with Tractor Beam. A track that makes Misiek shine as a guitarist. I mean he has tons of ideas and licks; but at the same time none of us are really technical. We are all autodidact and I reckon we only have something like ten percent of real musician skills in our arsenal. The same goes for his solos. They can come across quite retarded; but he knows exactly how to make it primal and furious. There is no way a teacher can learn you that. It is probably the reason Major Kong sounds like Major Kong. If we could actually seriously play; we would end up sounding like some other band. Which would probably destroy our third track Planets & Suns Consumed. It is the heaviest and slowest track we ever made. It is the moment you will realize that we’re too weak for the entire album. But if you by some strange and mystical way find the strength to handle it, you will be rewarded with the final two tracks. I mean Voidwagon is the kicker. It makes you go apeshit. Although there were moments when we weren’t sure we should play it or record it if we were going to call ourselves a doom metal band. But on the other hand Candlemass and Saint Vitus had faster songs as well. I guess it’s my personal tribute to the vibes from New Jersey in the late nineties. Solace and Bitchwax...”
And then you end with the crushing: Skull Of The Titan…
Dominik: “Yeah, it’s the culminating point of the album and ends with a total deconstruction. It’s what the rest was leading up to. Probably the final song of every gig till the end of our existence. You know. With the option of repeating that end cycle over and over. Like a zombie that gets shot over and over and gets up time and time again, but ever more slowly. And even though he moves slower and slower he will get you… And devour you whole...”
Ooh and who’s responsible for the cover art?
Dominik: “The cover art is made by Marek Kêpiñski – a great guy who makes all our art. It depicts a robo-ape, haha. You can call it kongonator or konkminator. It's our doom machine.”
So what’s next for Major Kong?
Dominik: “Well, we don’t have any big plans. We are not hear to conquer the world or something. We just want to continue making the music we love. Playing gigs. It would be cool to play some different venues across the border though. And we are definitely going to release Doom Machine on vinyl. We have no choice. The Machine demands it.”
There are quite a few great bands from Poland nowadays? Maybe you could team up and tour Europe?
Dominik: “That would be cool. But you know. The situation in Poland in regards to heavy music is quite specific. There were glorious times when death metal was big. But stoner/doom etc. was something very exotic for a horribly long time. Bands that tried to sound like stoner bands were copying their sound from what they heard Pantera or Black Label Society do and it was nothing worth hearing. There were and are a lot of crappy bands. For me, Fifty Foot Woman was also a crappy band. Luckily there are some good bands slowly rearing their heads. And those bands are getting good feedback from across the world. It is a breakthrough. And it does motivate other bands to try harder and do their best. But there is also a dark side to that phenomenon. Cause we do not have a scene in Poland. It’s just a couple of good bands playing good music and elbowing their way to the top. There is no collaboration. A lot of Polish fans are real malcontents who prefer to show a lack of support. It seems to be cooler to not like a band than to proclaim your love for a band or album. There is unfortunately a lot of hating going on; and it’s all based on the fact that there are bands who think or want to be the number one. And everybody else should get the fuck out of their way…”
Well; here’s us hoping to see you guys live one day.
Dominik: “Well, we’re playing Vienna on 27-03 and Linz on 28-03 in Austria and we’ll also head on over to Slovakia. But it seems we are not really attractive enough for booking agencies. Haha.”
Maybe if all of you grew a beard?
Dominik: “Aah, you also think it’s the beardless drummer’s curse? Hmm, this might call for drastic measures. Haha.”
(Written by JK)