Electric Wizard - Bringing Back the Fear

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

 The clock strikes 13. An owl hoots in the dark and twisted woods nearby. I'm standing in a lonely, moonlit field and I'm nervously waiting for my contact to arrive. Nearby lurk the rocky monoliths known as the Rollright Stones. This haunted part of England has been the site of many mysterious and evil deeds over the centuries.

It's a fit place to meet the man behind what many call the darkest band in Britain...the true inheritors of the crown of Black Sabbath...Electric Wizard. He is Jus Osborn, whose warped vision had guided the thunderous fuzztones of the Wizard since its origin many years ago. It's Jus who kept the Wizard alive when all save himself fled the band, forcing him to rebuild from scratch.

I let out an involuntary yelp as a hand touches my shoulder. It's Jus, his features obscured by the hood over his head and the pungent smoke escaping from what the British call a "fag". Where did he come from? In any event, he's right on time.

I'm going to delve deeply into Electric Wizard's world of drugs, Satan and fear tonight and into the psyche of the man behind the curtain of the Electric Wizard. But unlike a certain other Wizard, this one is just as fearsome behind the curtain as he is in front of it. Check out the new EW disc "Witchcult Today" if you doubt me.

I hit the "record" button and away we go, as the owl hoots and the Rollright Stones brood...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: "Witchcult Today" has been out for a while now. Has the response to it met your expectations?

JUS OSBORN: Yeah, definitely! I hoped it would be well received. We've been working on it for quite a while. I felt good about it, that it was a good album. If people hadn't liked it, I would have been kinda pissed!(chuckles)

WC: Was the purpose of the record to reclaim the name of Electric Wizard?

JO: Yeah, definitely. I think we had kind of wandered all over the place and we needed to rein in what we were all about. It was a focused album. The lineup was really strong and everybody was working together good.

WC: On the previous album "We Live", everybody was still feeling each other out, right?

JO: Yeah. It was a demo in some ways. Liz (Buckingham, guitarist) joined the band just two days before we started recording!

WC: That's a real trial by fire! (chuckling). I notice that Electric Wizard has about as much Satanic imagery as any band around. Is that done just for atmosphere or does that represent your philosophy?

JO: It's a mixture of both! We're interested in the occult but we're interested in shock tactics as well. We use the sleazy, exploitative elements of that religion to our advantage.

WC: It seems to me that you are attracted to the occult the way it was perceived in the late 60's, early 70's.

JO: Yeah, at that point, people still feared it. They still felt it was something dark and sinister. That's gotten diluted over the years maybe, but I think maybe people need to remember that fear! I think they enjoyed that fear at one point! (chuckles)

WC: Over-exposure has killed a lot of things. Everybody's bombarded with every kind of image you can think of.

JO: It's to the point of overkill!

WC: If you go to Youtube and type in the word "occult", you'll probably get a couple of million videos! (laughter) I've actually found some pretty cool Electric Wizard stuff on there that was NOT done by the band!

JO: Like what?

WC: One guy did a video for the tune "I, Witchfinder". I don't know where he got the images he put along with that song, but they were just perfect!

JO: Yeah, I think I saw that one. It's got a lot of B-movie stuff in it...there was some wicked shit in that one!

WC: Is there any specific ideology the band is pushing or is it just strictly entertainment?

JO: It's hard to say.(chuckles). I want to remember what people feared about heavy metal, back in the mid-70's, early 80's. I want to harness that. People feared the metalheads, they feared the long-haired, freaky kids. They didn't know exactly what they were into, except it was witchy shit. I just want to bring back that fear to people, I want them to be uncertain about stoner fuckin' doom fans. Make 'em worry. We smoke a little weed, but maybe we're thinking about killing you! (laughs)Maybe we'll sacrifice your fuckin' daughter!

WC: Well, they say it's better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven...

JO: Exactly!!!

WC: Would you say that statement is maybe a guiding principle of Electric Wizard?

JO: Yeah, that's an Electric Wizard principle, definitely.

WC: You're also quite a fan of the old "Weird Tales" magazine and H.P. Lovecraft. When did you develop your interest in that?

JO: That goes back to childhood, actually. I wasn't a sports kind of kid, as you probably guessed.(laughter) I was skippin' sports and ended up in the library. And there was some weird stuff in our library. There were some Lovecraft collections and Robert E. Howard stuff. It really, really got to me...the Conan stories especially. At the age I was reading that, I was pretty impressionable, you know.

WC: It took me a while before I got into Lovecraft. But I always read horror comics. The Conan comics led me into the actual books. And then I discovered other Howard stuff, like Solomon Kane.

JO: It all leads back to the old "Weird Tales" scene. It was such a great group of writers and in some ways comparable to the doom metal scene in some way. They all traded stories and ideas with each other.

WC: They were all outcasts...

JO: Definitely, they were all freaks!(chuckles)

WC: It's hard to believe but Robert E. Howard was dead by age 30 and Lovecraft never made a penny in his lifetime.

JO: I think Robert E. Howard might be a Columbine type character nowadays! That wouldn't surprise me.

WC: Do you have any particularly favorite Lovecraft story?

JO: Particular favorite...I like "Dreams In the Witch-House".

WC: Old Brown Jenkin up to no good...

JO: Yeah, yeah! It's got a slightly different flavor than some of his other stuff.

WC: I think my favorite is "The Color Out of Space".

JO: Oh yeah! As a piece of writing, it's all around perfection.

WC: When I read that one, it has a feeling of horrible dread to it.

JO: It's unrelenting. From beginning to end, it's intense and the climax...fuck!!!(laughs)

WC: They tried to make a movie out of it...

JO: (grunts) How can you?!

WC: You can't show something that the author himself doesn't really describe. Now another author from that milieu who hasn't gotten his due is Clark Ashton Smith.

JO: Oh, he's awesome! He's very druggy as well!(laughs) I read him when I was on acid and it was very evocative.

WC: I think he had the best imagination of all of them. He came up with other dimensional landscapes that you almost had to be on something to properly envision them.

JO: Yeah, he grew a lot of hallucinogens and all sorts of drugs. He was a keen gardener and horticulturist. I've read about his life.

WC: On the new album, you have a song "The Satanic Rites of Drugula" and that comes from the good old Hammer horror films. What are some of the movies that have shaped your music?

JO: I generally gravitate to the exploitation horrors from t.he late 60's and early 70's, mostly British and European. Culturally, there's something we can associate with's always been a big interest of the band, from a purely recreational viewpoint. All these influences filter into the music. A song like "Satanic Rites of Drugula" IS inspired by "Satanic Rites of Dracula" and also a few old Italian drug comics I've got as well. It's a twisted mixture of all the kind of shit we're into.(chuckles). We're watching "Horror Hospital" and Jess Franco movies...

WC: There's a great movie from that period I'm betting you've seen that would be the perfect fodder for an Electric Wizard song. It was "The Blood on Satan's Claw". That's a very atmospheric movie.

JO: Oh yeah! We grew up watching that movie. Even with the old line-up, we were into that movie. It's where I was brought up.(chuckles). Maybe not quite as medieval, but it's very similar to where I come from. I come from a very rural area.

WC: It was very evocative of the time of Cromwell.It reminded me of "Witchfinder General".

JO: Yeah, they totally had the same vibe. They were good companion movies, I think.

WC: Is it pretty fair to say modern society...films and something you have a lot of contempt for?

JO: It's something I don't really have any interest in. It's not really contempt. I can feel contempt, but what's the point? It ain't gonna fuckin' change. I don't like the way things are done anymore.

WC: The modern horror movie looks like a video game and there's absolutely no mystique involved in downloading music.

JO: Yeah, yeah! (laughs)

WC: Do you guys resent being considered the "druggy" band? It seems like its hard for Electric Wizard to be mentioned without drugs being mentioned as well.

JO: Yeah...I don't give a fuck! (laughs) We are a drug band, so we have nothing to fear from it.

WC: You don't care one way or the other?

JO: Nah! We smoke a lot of do a lot of people. I've done a lot more shitty know, fuck it. A lot of people write to the group who are into smoking pot and they also dig Electric Wizard. I can dig that!

WC: Do you get disturbed if the band gets linked with stuff that's a lot more heavy duty than pot?

JO: Well, I believe people can do whatever the fuck they want. If you want to shoot up, smoke crack, take pills and listen to Electric Wizard, then I hope you're having a good fuckin' time!(laughs) Because our purpose is to make you feel like shit!

WC: It's almost like a form of masochism...

JO: Yeah, definitely. I think that's what it is. I used to do it myself. You get wasted on acid, watch a sick movie, listen to sick music. I used to enjoy bad trips! They're more fun. Who wants a good trip, with bunny rabbits, rainbows and shit?(laughs)I want Stukas bombing graveyards and shit...

WC: The bad trips really inspired a lot of Electric Wizard lyrics.

JO: For sure! I try to recreate the madness you feel on one of those trips.

WC: What would you say is the enduring appeal of doom metal? It's an elite crowd but its a diehard crowd too.

JO: Well, the elite thing is new to me, but it's definitely a die hard crowd! It's a kind of cultural music. The people who are into doom tend to be the same kind of people with the same kind of personality. They are people who are exalted by the heaviness and the melancholic aspects of the music. I don't seem doom fans as being depressive types, myself. That's more of a Goth thing...

WC: You're a subculture within a subculture. The greater pool of metal fans don't really fit in, we're all misfits. And then the doom metal people are misfits among the misfits.(laughter)

JO: We're the real fuckin' oddballs. I've met some of the fans and I can tell you that's pretty true.

WC: How do you see Electric Wizard developing from this point forward?

JO: More of it, I guess. Just...more. On some levels, we're really nothing, we're just a small metal band. But in the doom metal scene, we're pretty big. I dunno, I'd like to be as big as Black Sabbath one day.

WC: I believe you are the most natural heirs to Black Sabbath. Not only Sabbath, but also Saint Vitus, Pentagram...

JO: From reading about Sabbath and actually meeting Vitus, I can see similarities in how our bands came together, the way our ideas and aspirations developed. Black Sabbath didn't come from an affluent background at all. Nor did we! We started this band to make a fuckin' noise!(laughter) We just wanted people to fuckin' notice us. "We're here, we're alive!"

WC: The Midlands was the forge where metal was made. Judas Priest was the same way. It was either music or work in the steel factories.

JO: Yeah! And I think that frustration is something you can feel in the music. I can feel it for sure in our music...all the things that inspired me to do this shit. That's what it's about, you know. I want people in a similar situation to us to take strength from what we've done. To go out there and fuck the world!

WC: It's like inspiration out of despair.

JO: Yeah, I hope so.

WC: Have you guys got any plans to come over to the States and do anything?

JO: Plans! There's no plans...there's maybe ideas! (chuckles)

WC: Are there any bands you'd like to come over on a package tour with?

JO: Off the top of my head, I can't really think of anything. I know the fans would like a lot of different things to happen.

WC: I don't know about the logistics of it, but with you both being on the same label now, I think a package of Electric Wizard and Obituary would be great.

JO: Yeah, it would! That could happen. I know Trevor (Peres, Obituary guitarist) so the opening is there.That's fucked up, because I was kinda saying that a tour with Obituary would be good a month ago.

WC: What was the last CD you picked up because you wanted to get it?

JO: Shit, you mean one I paid for?(laughs) I was in Japan and got some prog stuff. It'll all come back to me in a minute.

WC: I do hear an influence from a lot of the weird prog rock that was around in the 70's in your music.

JO: Well, there was plenty of weird shit. Some of the Italian stuff was pretty wild. Oh, now I remember...I got the Jacula CD! They were an Italian prog band.

WC: It sounds like it could be a porn horror movie.(laughs)

JO: Yeah, I think Jacula was an Italian horror porn comic as well. The music was supposed to be a soundtrack to the comic and it carried on from there. It sounds like the soundtrack to a seriously fucked up necrophilia movie. It's creepy and very doomy. Some of the German shit was pretty wild,too. Necronomicon, etc.

WC: What was the last band you saw just because you wanted to?

JO: I think that was Jet.

WC: How'd that go?

JO: Pretty cool, actually!

WC: Are there any Spinal Tap moments from the history of Electric Wizard you'd like to share with us?

JO: (laughs) There's been more,more, more Spinal Tap moments than I have ever deserved. I wouldn't want to share half of them. One that is specifically Spinal Tap happened when we went through Wales once. You can score a lot of valium there.Lot of fuckin' Valium. You can buy kits with 50 pieces in the street. We wound up buying a couple of hundred and taking them through the rest of the tour. By the time we got to London, we didn't even remember what the fuck is going on any more.(laughs)There was a big backstage area in London and we couldn't find the stage. It was funny at first and then it wasn't so funny!

WC: You can laugh at it now but at the time, it wasn't amusing.

JO: No fucking way!(laughs) I went up and down the stairs about 50 fuckin' times! There were two sets of stairs that were parallel but went to different floors. It was stupid.

WC: Did you play the gig?

JO: We got there in the end. We were 20 minutes late on stage. This chick was freaking out! We were so fucked up on the valium, we wound up playing "Supercoven" for a half hour!(laughs) We were all staring at our feet like a shoegazing band. That's bad!

WC: According to some reports, the American tour you had a few years back was one big Spinal Tap moment.

JO: Oh yeah, tell me about it! From beginning to end...

WC: Any last words or messages for the faithful out there?

JO: Your time has fuckin' come, this is it! Electric Wizard is here and everybody else should beware!

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