Hits From the Bong
CoC interviews Newfoundland's Bongwater
by: Adrian Bromley
They may be from the small town of Bay Roberts, Newfoundland (Canada), but indie band Bongwater has got a ball-busting sound that'll spin your head faster than you can say, 'Turn It Down!' The band's six-song debut demo tape _Pissed Off and... FUZZED OUT!!!_ is ultra-heavy, with its thick-riffed, Kyuss/Fu Manchu/Black Sabbath sludge sound that just pours from every seam. The demo blew my mind, regardless of the shabby recording of the material. Every time, it kicks my ass. The quartet - guitarist Nedal Ayad, vocalist Fred French, drummer Michael Badcock and bassist Brad Spencer - have worked hard over the last little while trying to get exposure out in Eastern Canada. Things are starting to happen as people are starting to notice and get hooked on the fuzzy and deafening sounds of the band. By e-mail, guitarist Ayad took time from school and work to inform us about what makes Bongwater tick, and his love for heavy music.

CoC: How would you describe your music?

NA: I was hoping you wouldn't ask that. Lo-fi, sludgy, groove-rock or something.

CoC: Do you think it is hard for young Canadian bands to get noticed? What are you doing to get noticed?

NA: Oh yeah. The only airplay new bands get around here is on the University radio station (CHMR FM). They're really good about playing new bands, especially if they're Canadian. The commercial stations do their best to ignore anyone that doesn't have a deal. I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I've heard an indie band on the 'main' FM stations. The CBC doesn't seem to be too bad. I don't know 'cause I hardly ever listen to it. Actually, now that I think about it the heavier bands have the most trouble. I guess that goes without saying, though. I mean, look at Much Music (Canada's answer to MTV), they have the 'indie video spotlight', but all they play are horrible 'alternative' bands and these loser solo artists. The closest thing I've to a heavy band I've ever seen on it was about a year and a half ago when they played Tone a couple of times. I think that they might have played a Kittens video too. Or look at the time slot that "Loud" (show for heavy rock/metal band videos) is on. One o'clock in the fucking morning here with a repeat at five or something. Even then they don't play much Canadian stuff. Actually, we didn't do that much to get noticed. I passed out a few tapes around the radio station (CHMR). I DJ there when I'm in school and I know most of the DJs that play heavy music. I sold some at a local record store. We made some posters and stuff. The best thing that I did was send some out to 'zines. I've gotten a lot of letters from people that read our review here or in other 'zines. The 'net is pretty good, too. There's a place called Demon's Disks that lets you advertise your demo for free.

CoC: How is the indie scene over there on the East Coast? Is it supportive?

NA: The scene here in Newfoundland is pretty good. There are a lot of good bands. The shows are usually pretty good, too, 'cause you get a good mix of music. At one show you can see a death band, playing with a punk band, playing with a blues band, opening for a straight ahead metal band. The categorizations aren't really strict. There is a bit of elitism in the scene, the 'top' bands for the most part look down on everyone else. There's some bullshit. Although on an individual level most of the people are great. Ren from Sheavy has been really supportive, from playing our tape to putting us in touch with 'zines and stuff. As far as I know, After Forever, Sheavy, Oberon, and us make up the heavier side of the musical spectrum on this side of the island.

CoC: Do you think in order for bands to be successful nowadays they have to be marketed a certain way?

NA: Marilyn Manson, I Mother Earth, Age of Electric, Pantera, Korn... do I have to go on? They're all image based. Everything now is marketing. Everywhere you look there's somebody telling you how to look, what to watch, how to act, what you like. Unfortunately most people are morons and they buy into that shit. Look at all these shitty techno bands that are following all the shitty alterna/punk bands, that followed all the shitty hair bands, that followed the shitty new wave bands, that followed... The music industry seems to work like this... a good band comes out with and original look and sound, right away the media gives it a name: grunge, black metal, or whatever. Then the record companies fall all over themselves to sign any band that remotely sounds like the first band, no matter how homogenized and shitty they are. Witness Nirvana replaced with Bush. Look at all those 'arrrrghh' bands like Korn and the Deftones. Alice In Chains? Alternative Section? What a joke. They're about as metal as you can get. Just listen to them.

CoC: Where do you draw your song ideas or visions from? Does it get hard to create music? Any remedies to combat stale writing sessions?

NA: I get ideas from all over the place. Books, friends, movies, music, a whole bunch of places. The music itself is usually the easy part. We get a riff and everything else sort of falls into place. The lyrics are the hard part for me. Fred usually just sings whatever's in his head when we're jamming to get a melody. Then he goes home and writes some lyrics. Most of the time, I don't know what the Hell he's singing about. I only write when I'm in a bad mood. "Heroin Girl" came out of something that I had written about women being like drugs. You feel empty so you go out and try to get laid but it doesn't really help, you just want more affection or something. My lyrics were a lot darker. Fred just took a line "Heroin Girl, come and fuck my pain away" and changed it to "Heroin Girl come and take my pain away", then he rewrote the rest of the song around that. I think that it really is about drugs now. "Anything" is a composite of two things I had written. The verses are from a thing I wrote when I was sick of everything. I didn't feel like playing, writing, talking to anyone, or doing anything. The chorus came from something I wrote about religious fundamentalists and their blind faith. The two pieces fit together pretty well. I can't really say anything about the other songs, the lyrics are Fred's and I'm not going to try and interpret them. The only other song that I can talk about is the instrumental piece. I wrote that while I was overdubbing some stuff on "Leave Me Alone", it's just a tribute to a friend of ours that died in a motorcycle accident several years ago. It was totally jammed out in about 20 minutes.

CoC: What keeps you doing this - y'know, being a musician? What got you into this profession?

NA: I do it because I like it. I don't consider it a profession, I don't even consider myself a musician (wow, that was pretentious). I'm just someone who likes to make noise and annoy people. I don't really know what got me into it. It just kind of happened. I played piano for a while when I was a kid and I hated every second of it. I had a guitar lying around the house but I didn't bother with it. One day when I was around 13 I was in a music store with my mom. Out of nowhere she asked me if I wanted to take guitar lessons. I said, 'Sure. Why not?' The guy that ended up teaching me is named Roger Howse. He's an amazing blues player and he showed me that you could focus anything through the guitar. He's a great teacher and a really cool guy. He turned me on to a lot of cool stuff. He showed me some blues tunes (which I've forgotten) and helped me stumble my way through "Sweet Leaf". That was it.

CoC: Future plans the band? How do you see the band changing in the next few months or year or so? New ideas being brought to the music, etc...

NA: We're kind of on hold for now. Brad and Fred are in Toronto working. I think they're also jamming with some guys up there. I'm going to school here for the summer. Mike's working and getting ready to go to school. Right now, Bongwater is something we do when everyone is around. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to record some more stuff near the end of the summer. I'm constantly writing stuff with Mike. We've got about five songs now that will probably end up as Bongwater songs. The stuff is constantly changing, I've been listening to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds lately. That might creep into it, although probably not. Basically, the way it works is that I keep most of the groovy-sludge stuff for Bongwater, almost everything else I write goes to Groundwire (his other band) which is noisier and even more raw. Every time Brad, Fred, Mike and I get together it sounds different, but the basis is in that down-tuned mid-tempo vibe, although Brad and Fred are pushing for faster songs. We'll see what happens.

CoC: How do you think the Internet can help musicians? Do you use it quite often or rely on the postal service and word of mouth to help out? (seeing that you heard about us - I assume - via the Internet?)

NA: Actually I saw your ad in Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles (a hard rock music magazine found at all HMV stores in Canada). Then I was surfing around in the 'zine section of Mega's metal page and saw the link. I checked it out and sent you guys a tape. I think that the Internet is a great tool if you can get around all the bullshit floating around. E-mail is great, it saves a lot of time when you're trying to contact someone - like this interview for example. Some of the mailing lists are good. Home pages are a great way to help expose your band. The web is a great source of information. Personally I use both the Internet and mail to get the word around. Locally, they're aren't a whole lot of people online so you have to use mail, posters, the phone, and word of mouth to get people to check out your band. Nationally and internationally, the 'net is an awesome means of communication. We're getting played on a station in Mexico, 'cause I answered a post on a mailing list. So yeah, the 'net is pretty useful.

(article submitted 7/6/1997)

3/14/1999 A Bromley 5 Bongwater - 0000000002
4/9/1997 A Bromley 4 Bongwater - Pissed Off and... Fuzzed Out
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