Bossk 2005-2008

author EW date 06/11/08

Far away from the pressures of commercial music, where success is measured by the number of records sold (or as I like to think, the number of people conned), exists realms of music where the bases for success may be considerably more convoluted but infinitely more meaningful. In whichever direction one looks for meaningful music that is sought outside the budget of the major labels you are doing a service to the music industry, and as one of those people I say well done to you. One such corner where 'experimentalism' is as de rigueur as soul-destroying mundanity in the pop charts is the world of ambient/doom/post-rock/sludge/post-metal; its looseness defined by the mere fact no strict genre tag has yet been assigned to it.

One light that fizzled brightly in this business marketer's nightmare of a genre was Bossk. A group that played by their own rules throughout, Bossk coalesced Neurosis/Cult of Luna-driven 'post metal' at their most rampant with sounds as soothing as a Brian Eno record of days gone by in distinctly uncommercial songs usually topping 15 minutes. Hailing from Kent, England, and with still much greatness lying ahead of them, Bossk recently choose to split whilst at the peak of their creative powers, in severe contrast to the huge number of reformed acts doing the rounds at a disservice to their collective back catalogues. Their final, outstanding, gig was recently reviewed here describing a band running at full stride till the very end. Prior to the gig, bassist Tom Begley kindly answered every detail we could throw at the band, which below, accompanies an analysis of the bands three releases: EPs ".1" and ".2" and the ".3" DVD.

.1

Less than a year after formation ".1" was released, and while it might be over-exaggerating it a little to say it turned the music world on it's head in the process, Bossk released a record (well, an EP) that stood them out from the crowd of other underground British bands on the circuit. Being perfectly produced for their requirements and brilliantly atmospheric, ".1" is a journey of music spread across two tracks that feels devoid of any pressure or expectations, where adequate time is given to every section to add it's worth. Where two minutes of reflective bass-lead riffery is required, then two minutes it will be. To do so without any thought of time wastage is testament to the hypnotic brilliance of tracks "I." and "II.".

The free spirit is summed up by the hoarse screams of vocalist Sam Marsh eventually appearing in the 28th minute of the EP's 36. And as screams go, they are pretty awe-inspiring, seemingly containing so much more feeling than any other that I don't know how he does it. Picking a favourite track of the two is difficult; "I" is a mesmeric sounding call to all those in the world who take interest in such relaxed music. Its plaintive contentness captures the excellent songsmanship at work as numerous passages are explored, segueing effortlessly in one another with not so much as a slip-up in it's 16 minutes. "II." after an anaemic, proggy, Cult of Luna influenced opening five minutes, turns increasingly ill-natured, with angular riffing interspersed by spells of somber reflection, and eventually Marsh's harsh vocals topping off the song before it fades out in a wall of atmosphere and feedback, back to the woods on the front cover from whence it came.

.2

Again featuring just the 2 songs though this time totalling only 23 minutes, opener "Define" melds styles as diverse as the country/ambient weirdness of recent Earth and the crystalline solitude of Massive Attack, alongside the more expected Neurosis and Cult of Luna to release their heaviest and most 'rocking' (oh how I hate that word) moments. The stomp of early on soon turns to the floaty dreaminess of spaced out droning guitar, clearly concocted under the influence of some serious smoking, before the infectious groove of the song's early minutes catches you off-guard to end the song on a high.

Let there be no doubt about it, "Truth" is all about the atmosphere, man. The converging echoed riffs work by their minimalist nature, joining the party momentarily before disappearing back into the ether and returning in adjusted and captivating ways. The vocals which arrive after 6 minutes appear from the depths of nowhere are just scintillating, sitting in comfortably as they do with the stoner groove of the following riffarama and the bands only clean-vocal moments, never taking over from the screams but adding their worth sparingly. Included are the strongest ‘stoner’ moments of Bossk's four songs, and while you've got to be quick to pick up on these vibes of Kyuss their inclusion merely adds to the depth of "Truth". ".2" closes before you know it, all 23 minutes disappearing into the distance of what was ultimately Bossk's final musical chapter.

.3

".3", released as a final memory to the band features, as a main, a full live set from Bossk's supporting tour of Cult Of Luna in January 2008, a tour video-documentary, a previously unreleased track and live footage from the Underworld. Featuring another striking cover image in keeping with ".1" and ".2", ".3" succinctly sums up the existence of the band through being very down-to-earth and unshowmanlike, and while not being the greatest music DVD ever released, it's low-budget nature does no harm to Bossk's name and will serve as a nice addition, especially to those who never caught their engaging live shows. The main live performance doesn't have much in the way of crowd participation, which is actually fine as it thus allows you, the viewer, to concentrate on their performance, watching the band work their way through 3 tunes before disappearing into the darkness backstage. A nice commemorative ending...

The Interview

How and why did the band form?
The line-up that we've got now is different to the line-up we originally started with - we had a guitarist and our drummer leave in February this year. The original line-up all met at school pretty much. I mean I've known Nick and Rob a long long time in bands before. Cos it's such a small town [Ashford, Kent] we've got to know the musicians that are around. We've only been going 3 1/2 years but I've known Nick 10 years now and even the new members had come on tour with us before so we all knew each other before.

What were the influences and factors that made you form the band?
I dunno really. Me, Alex and Sam were in a metal band before we were in Bossk but we never went on tour, just did local shows. We were really young, around 16,17, just a local shitty band, before Nick and Rob's band and then our band split up. Shortly after Nick and Rob just came to us and said "we're looking at doing another project and we're need another guitarist and bass player, would you be interested in listening to what we've written?"

When we wrote the first couple of tunes we were all really excited about doing something totally different, especially in comparison to our previous band.

Yeh I was gonna say, what influenced the kind of sound you developed?
A whole bunch of stuff - when you hear 4 out of the 5 songs we've written with the original line-up we've only written 1 or 2 new tracks since with the new members. And in terms of what influenced us as a band, it was more a sense of what influenced us individually and then we brought that all together when we were writing songs.

What kind of bands did you bring to the table? I mean there's some obvious ones like Tool, Isis...
Yeh we get compared to bands like Isis, Cult of Luna, Neurosis, Red Sparowes and that sort of stuff, but I mean yeh I love all those bands...

Your 'style' resides in a free area I'd say, where as opposed to say death or black metal where the rules are so rigid, but here it's so loose you've got room to manoeuvre.
Yeh we always wanted to be a band that weren't restricted by anything so we could play whatever really. I mean we've played and toured with some bands that you wouldn't normally expect a band like us to have toured or played with, like the Ephel Duath/ Negura Bunget tour, Cult of Luna and Baroness which are more our target audience but we also did some shows in Europe with Textures. But I mean we've always been compared to bands that we all like but have really been influenced by musically. Obviously everybody listens to all shit and takes influence from different bands but we always wanted to be something that wouldn't fit into any particular hole.

It's good to be like that, that's certainly what got my interest initially...
Yeh it gives you more freedom. I mean some people say "ahhh why are you touring with X band or why did you play with Bring Me The Horizon or why did you play with metal or hardcore or punk or doom or death metal bands" but we're like "Whats the difference? It doesnt make any difference". Its good to have crossover in different genres as we never wanted to be 'just' a stoner band or an ambient post-rock band. We never wanted to be any particular thing, we just wanted to...

For me it was bands like yourselves that got me into Cult of Luna and Neurosis and the like...
We get that. For me personally to be held in the same levels as bands like that is an awesome achievement as they're some of my favourite bands. Having toured with the likes of Cult of Luna more than any other is a dream come true.

So why did Bossk develop into writing long songs then?
I dunno!

Did it just come naturally to you?
In the songwriting process we all used to just sit around and jam, playing riffs and ideas and join them all together. We wanted our sets to always seem like one continuous song and that's what kinda made us in the end write long songs. It was a sense of the in the end we wanted to write a 'set' than 5 or 6 songs.

Why have Bossk only released EPs so far? How come an album has never been released?
Well, we originally started writing the tunes we had 2 songs written and then we wrote which is probably a good 35 minutes. We always wanted to write an EP rather than rush straight into writing an album. And when we came up with the idea of doing ".1" we wrote a couple more songs and thought yeh lets just do it again and ".2". Before long we had the idea of the "Trilogy", the DVD, to make it tell the story of the band.

Does the "Trilogy" contain any new music?
The DVD has got a remix of one of the songs, which was done by Reuben Gotto of Johnny Truant. We've had that remix for about a year but waited to use it for something. There's a new song we wrote which was gonna be the beginning part of a new song to be written by Alex, a layered guitar piece, as we wanted to put something on the DVD which was new and fresh. We've demo recordings of a couple of others that we wrote but no plans to release them as of yet.

I myself get different feelings from the 2 EP's, and certainly the artwork from the two. Could you describe the two?
Some of the themes are to do with the vocals and the lyrics. The first CD is a lot more organic sounding whereas the second CD is more industrial, a lot more human and I think the lyrics reflect that. The first is a bit more 'post-rocky' while the second is more direct.

Do you prefer either?
All the songs we've written I'm happy with so I don't have any favourite songs!

I find it surprising the status Bossk have earned through the release of just 4 songs which is quite incredible really!
Some people would say we've written only 4 songs but at the end of the day we've written an hour and a half's worth of set which is more than some bands do. You get bands that write, say, a 12-track album and then play 4 from it live but ours were more written for the live set.

Its nice in this day and age when so many people only download and listen to individual songs, living without the patience for a 15-minute song, that a band like Bossk can still be appreciated.
Our shortest song is about 9 minutes yet our intention was always to keep things relevant and have songs that flow and were structured, like journeys.

What do the songs mean to you?
We've written the 2 EPs, which really tell the story of how our plan was scripted, but we didn't want to be a solely instrumental band; we've got a singer who we use like a guitar, or a guitar effect like a vocal. The songs mean everything to me, they're something to be creative and the vocals have been used where we felt something was needed.

What kind of reaction have you had from you live shows? I mean when I previously saw you I thought it was one half-hour song; do people get a bit mystified?
Yeh! Well we kinda wanted that, as playing anywhere on a bill there are so many bands in the over-saturated UK, we wanted to stand out visually and make a conscious effort to put as much thought and time and thinking into our live shows to make it stand out, to have people enjoy the mood, the tone, the tempo. To be honest it worked really well as it's really made all the shows a lot easier to play, made them very atmospheric, it's really what we were after.

Do you prefer having your music come through the live experience over record?
Yeh - any band can write an amazing album [I beg to differ - EW!] but at the end of the day it is all about playing live for us.

You mentioned the visuals a minute ago - I got the gatefold vinyl the other day and the cover of that with the CDs are so eye-catching and thought-provoking. Was that something a lot of thought went into?
All of the artwork on all of our stuff has been done by the same guy, a guy called Seldon Hunt. He is internationally renowned but we didn't want his stereotypical works. His normal traditional pieces are very detailed and not photography based at all but we decided we wanted to use photography only - no text, very minimalist but something that would stand out.

It really does...
There’s a lot who do over-the-top, complicated artwork and you sometimes wonder whats the point y'know? All of its natural photography, no Photoshop, scanned in to be organic and natural.

Despite the old saying, you can judge a band/album by it's cover...
Totally, that’s what its about. Everybody picks a CD out in magazines, I'm a music nerd and love collecting bands, I love having an awesome CD collection, I'm that sort of person so I wanted to put as much of that kind of stuff into our music as possible.

So, to the end of the Bossk, why the end now?
Pfft, I've been asked this question about probably 500 times in the last couple of months! To be honest the band has broken up because....some of it's personal, some of it's....you're probably the worst person to be asking that question because at the end of the band's break up wasn't my decision. If it was my way it would be continuing doing an album, doing the next tour but it wasn't to be. Other people in the band weren't into it as much and in order for it to be what it is everybody had to be on board; we couldn't just replace any more members. After replacing the drummer and guitarist it wasn't the same and to that any more would just lose the feeling for it and start to be a whole different thing.

It can't have been an easy decision?
No it wasn't an easy decision. I did think about possibly getting new members in again but I thought you know what, I don't wana cheapen the band and end with what we've already done and achieved. Theres nothing worse than trying hard and putting everything into it and it not working! For me Bossk has achieved more than I ever thought possible and I wanted to end it on a good note.

How would you like the band to be remembered?
By the DVD. The DVD is pretty much filmed by ourselves and been put together by us and it basically just tells the story of the band. We've had so much support from friends and made so many good friends over the last couple of years and if we could remembered anyway it would be these last two shows [Leeds the night before] as well as the DVD. That's how we wanted to do it - we wanted to do 2 final shows with friends' bands, cheap entry, everyone come down for one last time.

Whats been your proudest moment with Bossk?
Headlining the Underworld on our last ever show! That is a huge achievement for me.

What are your intentions after the band, any projects lined up?
I think Alex and John have already started practicing with Tortuga. A couple are going back to college, me personally I'm not really sure as got a lot of decisions to make. I'll keep you posted!

So, what final words have you got about the band, to your fans, about the future...?
We are so proud of what we've achieved in such a short space of time and we never really thought we'd get any of it done. I just really want to take the time to say thank you to anyone who's bought our records, come see us play, told your friends about the band, and to end up where we can play here, playing in Europe with our favourite bands...It's been an epic adventure for us, we never really knew what we were getting ourselves into and its been awesome, we've had a great time. I don't regret any part of doing it and we just wana be remembered as a band that did give a shit.

The DVD sums it all up. We're going to be releasing all three together as a 'Trilogy' boxset that you'll be able to get from now till hopefully the end of time so our back catalogue will always be available. We will be doing some new stuff in similar lines so we just want to say thank you to everybody that has supported us over the last 3 years.

Check out how Bossk sounds like on their Myspace page.

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