(Photo credit: Andrew Benge)
“Absolute nightmare. Absolute nightmare.”
It’s Friday afternoon at ArcTanGent and Mat Haigh, guitarist and vocalist in Wot Gorilla?, is putting on a brave face. Having just performed earlier that afternoon, an enjoyable post-set comedown is off the cards, thanks to the presence of a few on stage “gremlins” that infiltrated their set. Grinning back at me across the table as we both work our way through cans of shitty beer in the bustling backstage area, he tells me all about the palava the other two members of the band have been subjected to this afternoon.
“Maybe the gremlins were there in the car, taking ‘em the wrong way…”
Right before their set, bass player Jonny Hey and drummer Jason Howard ended up taking a wrong road and wound up getting their motor stuck in a field. A stressed out Mat considered playing a stripped back acoustic set with friend Ryan, but admits it wasn’t likely to work. Ryan had his own issues to deal with after all, having to scrap a late set appearance to play guitar with the trio on older tracks ‘Fear Of Flying’ and ‘Is’, due to further gremlins.
“I Had a few more tinnies than I probably should’ve done. I guess when we played it was a bit of a nightmare, but I look out, everyone seems to be enjoying it. I think we got away with it, pretty much.” Smiles Mat. “There were some bobbing of heads and that’ll do me.”
Regular readers will likely have heard of (or even been in attendance at) ArcTanGent Festival, and will therefore know all about the type of crowd it gathers. As well as the bobbing of heads, there were a fair few folk within the packed out tent belting back the words here and there.
“I felt a little bit better when I saw that.” Nods Mat. “…But it didn’t make up for my poor playing. It was shocking… I don’t usually drink as much as I did today. You know when you’re stressing out? It happens sometimes, dunnit. It was probably a bad idea.” He laughs.
Mat himself admits that the frustrations with onstage gremlins (and most likely, the big bag of cans he’d consumed just prior to playing) forced him to scream through the majority of the set, rather than sing. Ever screamed into a pillow? Like that, but into a microphone. In front of a huge audience.
Having recently taken vocal coach lessons to assist with his screaming (to avoid losing his voice), not destroying his vocal chords was one highlight he was able to take away from the weekend.
“In that sense I enjoyed it.” He says with a laugh.
He does admit, however, that there were a few omissions from the setlist due to some anxiety over losing his voice from screaming. One song in particular, ‘Kikuna’, was notable in its absence. Besides being a head-fuck delight for its duration, the brutal opener from their brand new EP ‘Angel Numbers’ is a total throat shredder in parts. Can’t blame the guy. Reception for the new EP has seemingly blown the trio away. Following on from April 2016’s ‘...and then there were three...’, we didn’t hear from the band until May of this year.
“I guess the single last year was just to keep things ticking over.” Admits Mat. “I guess since 2012, not a lot’s been going on. I’m surprised that there’s any kind of interest whatsoever.” He adds with a laugh.
“So I’m very pleased there’s this interest and we got asked to play this year, even though we haven’t done too much. Really, we have wanted to play ArcTanGent – we felt like we should’ve been playing it years ago!”
Writing about Angel Numbers back in July, we commented on the darker tone that we’d heard glimpses of back around the time of ...and then there were three…, particularly how crushing it is in parts. It’s not gone unnoticed either, with Mat agreeing that fans have been taken by the heavier side of Wot Gorilla? that seems to have developed. A glimpse into their future? In a word, no.
“…I kind of miss the old days.” Admits Mat, noting that Wot Gorilla? have become a four-piece once again, with a view to bring keyboards and samples into the mix in the near future. Whilst he’s the first to admit that it doesn’t feel like their time as a three-piece has gone the distance, he’s already content to move on past being a trio.
“I feel like I’ve been there and done it. It was great, but I miss that other element of someone else playing with us.” He continues. “We’ll go down a completely different direction, but hopefully it won’t take us as long to release something. I’d like to release an album. The riff-bank is full pretty much. It’s overflowing. I reckon next year, release an album and do it properly (hopefully).”
With that, there’s some hesitation as he adds with a laugh.
“Nothing goes to plan in this band – ever…”
Whilst he apologies for appearing negative throughout, there are numerous talking points that have Mat joyous. Aside from having his baby daughter and missus on site (“She’s a massive positive”), the recording of the EP itself bought a lot of joy to the band, thanks to an eventful few weeks at The Grand in Clitheroe.
Having previously worked with producers Roni Szpakowski (Forever Cult) and James Kenosha (Grammatics, Pulled Apart By Horses), earlier releases perfectly captured a certain point in the lives of Wot Gorilla? (“Even though we didn’t sound anything remotely like Grammatics.”) For their new EP though, the band turned to Tom Peters – Guitarist in Alpha Male Tea Party and on-the-rise producer.
“…Tom obviously has a background in this whole scene, he understands. He’s an impeccable guitarist and I just knew, for me personally, I just wanted someone who knew what to do with a guitar.” Says Mat. “Not that the other guys didn’t, but I just wanted a change. We always kind of fancy a change after recording with someone, because it’s been two or three years in between.” He laughs.
“But working with Tom was amazing, he’s so relaxed. He knows what he’s doing. He’s got that fucking pedal board that’s out of this world. It inspired me to buy a few more pedals. I imagine we’ll work with him again for the next stuff, just because we felt comfortable with him. He’s just a nice guy and he knows what he’s doing.”
With confirmation that the “riff-bank is full”, it sounds like we’re mere months away from another new Wot Gorilla? release. But as is often the case, these things take time.
“I would imagine it’ll be a couple of years, because of how things go. Life just gets in the way… But, it will be an album.” Says Mat. “I’m not doing another EP, I’m not doing a single. I want an album and to do it properly.”
Read our review of Angel Numbers here!
“I guess it’s down to us. I’m excited about working with someone new, ‘cus this guy is great. Other than being a great musician, he’s got a great vibe about him that’s gonna bring a bit of positivity – which you need when you’re around me, ‘cus I’m like the most negative person ever, even when things are going great.” He laughs.
With the return to a four-piece bringing a level of excitement to the band, Mat reckons Wot Gorilla? want to get out on the road and gig as much as they can (“…as much as our wives and partners enable us.”), though admits touring will likely be difficult once life gets in the way. ArcTanGent was the shining light on the horizon (“This was it… this was the big gig!”), so hopefully we’ll hear from them before the year is out.
“I can’t even say what it’s gonna sound like.” Says Mat. “I can’t even imagine, but I imagine the heaviness might subside slightly, because… I don’t know, it was where I was a year ago now; now I’m somewhere else. The band is two steps behind where I am, because everything takes so long. Who knows.”
Putting down his can, he chuckles.
“That sounded fucking… I’m trying to be positive. I’m trying…”
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