February 20, 2015 Interview – Mike Scheidt of Yob
Mike Scheidt has been making music his own way for a long time. Forming Yob in 1996, Scheidt created a non-typical Metal band with Doom influence, jamming a lot of music into very few songs. Releasing four albums between 2002 and 2005, it was announced shortly after the release of The Unreal Never Lived that Yob would reportedly disband. While the promise of Sheidt’s powerful voice would have appeared to be silenced, he went onto form Middian before resurrecting Yob in 2008. Interestingly enough in their absence their mythology had spread, and upon the release of 2009’s The Great Cessation, the band was bigger than ever. Since then the band has been going strong, receiving their most critically acclaimed release with 2011’s Atma and carrying over that mojo into their 2014 effort, Clearing the Path to Ascend. Scheidt and Yob’s journey has seen many transformations. Each embodiment stronger and more focused than the last. Staying true to their artistic vision Yob’s music takes listeners to many places, it may even take them to a different plan of existence altogether. Recently we sat down with Scheidt to talk music, the digital age, record collecting, turmoil, success, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You began Yob almost two decades ago now. The band has seen its share of ups and downs, including a two year hiatus. Tell us what has the journey been like for you ?
Mike Scheidt – It is a labor of love. It is kind of weird to think that that much time has passed, but you know, it started with just a passion for the music, the style of music, and the bands that we loved who were doing it. Over all the years, we have been very careful to make sure that that has been our motivating factor as well, that its music that we love and that we are engaged in it as players, as well as fans, and that we stay true to that.
CrypticRock.com – That is very important. Seeing that you have sustained many changes in the band, do you feel that the lineup of Aaron and Travis prove to be the strongest chemistry in the bands tenure?
Mike Scheidt – You know, I think so. Although every line up was spot on for where we were at, and could have continued. Things change, people come and go, and things like that happen. At the time when we reformed, Isamu just wasn’t interested in being busy in a band. Aaron and Travis have been playing music together a while. I think Aaron started playing music with Travis when he was 11 yrs old, so they are old friends. When Aaron came down to practice to try out, it was just so instantaneously awesome, like they really knew each other. Aaron had seen us many times as well, so he was really familiar with what we did. His other band Norska was cut from the same cloth, so it couldn’t have been better, and since then we have just grown stronger and stronger, and the chemistry, I would say is the best we’ve ever had for sure.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. It is sometimes tough to keep a band together with all the different personalities and changes like you said.
Mike Scheidt – For sure, I mean you have all of these different nervous systems in one room, and sometimes your record collections agree and sometimes they disagree. Sometimes life ambitions agree and disagree and there’s all sorts of complications in a band, even when it’s going well there are complications. You just have to have a lot in common and a shared credo and that can carry you.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, it seemed as if 2011’s Atma really saw a boost in the band’s popularity. What do you think sparked that interest in a broader range of listeners?
Mike Scheidt – When Yob disbanded, there is a little confusion out there in the world about this, we disbanded right before 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived. Then we started playing together again in late 2008. In between that time I did a band called Middian for about a year and a half. When that band was going under is exactly when Yob came back. I had a little bit of a connection out there in the world touring with Middian. There were some people that appreciated Yob and what we had done, and were sad to see us go. People were stoked on Middian, some people anyway, but it wasn’t until we announced that Yob was going to record a new record with 2009’s The Great Cessation, that it became apparent that we had grown in our absence, that more and more people had been listening to the music and trading it around. In the three years that we had been away, almost four, all of the sudden we had more of a crowd than we ever did when we were playing. It was a combination of the music being passed around and also just the style of music itself starting to kind of come on line with the worldwide Metal community, and more and more people were listening to it. So, people that were new to the genre, or starting to kind of figure out that they liked it, started digging into the bands that had been out there for a while, and we were one of those bands.
We kind of got a benefit from some of those things, neither of which really had anything to do with us. We have tried really hard to make sure that everything that we do is really from the heart and we feel it all the way. It’s medicine for us first, in our rehearsal space and in our lives. Then we can go into the studio to record and put that out there into the world, but only if its really doing its work on us as a band. Then the fact that there is more people out there paying attention was, and still is, just a surprise and shocking, because we never really ever saw that coming. This wasn’t a style of music that you did to be seen or heard exactly other than by the handful of people that were into it, it has really grown a lot since that time.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and that is a blessing for sure. To do what you love and then have people start to pay attention more. It seems like your earlier work with Yob never really went away even if the band did for almost four years.
Mike Scheidt – No, and we continue to play lots of that older music and it still works really well. The people that are into us seem to be often really familiar with our body of work and that’s an honor.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of success following the return of the band. Yob’s success has seemed to carried over into 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend, which received massive praise from fans and critics. What was the writing process like for that record?
Mike Scheidt – We have kind of done it the same way for along time. We play, do shows, and various things, but I don’t get into songwriter mode until I start to feel like this kinda inner nudge. When I start to feel that kind of feeling, it is a kind of hard to put into words, but that is when I’ll start writing. Sometimes I’ll feel that right away after doing a record and sometimes it takes a while. I’ll always pick up my guitar and play a lot, but until I really feel that kind of drive, that inner something, at that point it’s just kind of riffs. If the riffs aren’t necessarily cohesive, and I can’t force it. I just kind of have to wait for it. Then when it comes, if it comes. I mean at this point all these years later I don’t know how many more records we have in us and I’m not going to force it. I’m not going to put something out there that isn’t completely in keeping with what we are about. It’s just a waiting game.
In that regard, once that all comes together, then I am just spending a lot of time in my bedroom. I write all of Yob’s music on this little piece of shit fifty dollar amplifier, I don’t write on my good gear. I find that if I am by myself on piece of shit headphones, on a piece of shit amp, and I am completely stoked on what I am writing, then when I go to the rehearsal space and show Aaron and Travis on the nice gear, then it really sounds great. If I just write on my nice gear, sometimes nice gear lies, it makes you think it’s good but it’s just the gear that sounds good, the amp sounds good. I can get distracted that way, so when I am working on arrangements, if it sounds good on my crap amp, it’s going to probably sound good in practice. That is when I’ll bring the arrangements that I work on, I don’t bring riffs because riffs are just riffs, it’s just a Lego, it doesn’t create a picture. I need to bring the picture, then the three of us play, really, the three of us all together, Aaron, Travis and myself, we decide what’s moving us. There might be something at home that just felt great but the three of us don’t connect to it and if we don’t connect to it, it doesn’t become a song. At that point, once we found the pieces of music that we really connect to, then we’re really working on them, arranging them, and figuring them all out. Then at that point, once we are pretty close to there, we don’t walk into the studio 100% but we’ll walk in 90%. I like to leave 10% in there for happy accidents, to be able to be creative in the studio, and not have everything be too rigidly figured out, but it is mostly figured out.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds like a great process for creating. One thing seems to be certain, Yob has never been motivated by commercial success. Would you agree with that?
Mike Scheidt – Well, the style of music that we play, that was never on the table to begin with. I mean in the era of rock stars where you put out an album ever year so you could keep working, still be in the business, while you are signed to a gazillion album deal, and people are basically telling you what to do. That just has never been there for us, partially, because I think that that part of the industry has changed a lot, plus we write three to five song records that are an hour plus long.The only way you can market it is is to the people that appreciate it and dig it, you are not going to market it to somebody who is not going to be able to sit through a twenty minute song. So the artistic freedom has been total from day one, as well as not having an audience for the longest time. Though, we never expected that, it was never about that. So the fact that it’s seen and that there is a larger group of people that seem to be really connecting to this style of music, and a lot of new people that are coming to it, is mind blowing and we are stoked on it.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. Being as you have been involved in music as long as you have one can imagine you have seen a lot of changes in the industry. What are you feelings about the current state of music industry ? Do you feel as if the digital age has devalued music ?
Mike Scheidt – That’s tricky. I don’t know. I grew up in a different age. I grew up in an age where you would pretty much never meet the people that played the music that you loved, or you would meet them ultra briefly, if at all. You bought that music, maybe you got a cassette tape that was given to you or you got a mix tape with a bunch of different bands on it. For most of us, if we really loved a band, like Black Flag, we had to go get the vinyl, we had to go get the cassette, we had to own it. Essentially, you had to have a collection, the material, the lyrics, all of that was important. In exchange for that I didn’t feel like I owned Black Flag, I didn’t feel like I had any say in what they did, or what they didn’t do. If i didn’t like their next record, I didn’t like it, I would sell it or give it away and listen to what I liked.
Also, if they came close to me, within a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles, I would figure out a way to go. I didn’t feel entitled to them, I felt enriched by them. They gave me something that even thirty years later, I am still listening to Candlemass records and Trouble records, and any number of great things. I think in the modern age, people were brought into a different world, where it used to be really difficult to find out about new music, now it’s taps away, and that’s amazing. I enjoy that, I get to go on Facebook and go to various label websites that I enjoy, and when they put out new bands, and new streams and new things to check out, I’m super into that, I’m also into the fact that bands are able to connect with the people that like them much easier and much quicker. Also touring in the GPS age rather than the payphone age; does someone have a dime? I need to call the club and get directions (Laughs).
There are a lot of things that are different. I’m not negative about the digital age, I’m not negative about illegal downloads, or people not buying our stuff, or whatever. A person can get worked up about that stuff, but you have no say in it. You know, why do we play music to begin with? We play music because we love it, we have to do it and if there comes a time where there is less and less money available to help us make records and go on tour, then that’s gonna be the fallout, then we won’t be able make as good of records, we wont be able to tour as much, because people aren’t supporting it. Ff that’s what happens that will be the fallout from it, but right now we aren’t experiencing that at all, in fact, with the vinyl resurgence, more and more people coming out to the shows. It has enabled us to do more and more than ever before, so for the few things that I can look at in the digital age that could be considered negative or a downer, the pluses really outweigh it. We are gonna write music either way. I still have that fourteen year old heart that beats in me. When I hear a band that I really love, I go and buy their record, I want the t-shirt, I want to go see the band, I want the vinyl, I still want the lyric sheets, I still want all that stuff. My iPod makes it so I don’t have to have a backpack filled with cds and cassettes like I used to do, but that isn’t my collection. My iPod isn’t my collection, my hard drive is not my collection. I have a collection. That’s important to me.
CrypticRock.com – Totally agreed there. There really is something special about the physical format, but you are right about the digital age making the bands more accessible. Speaking of touring, Yob is about to go on tour in March with Enslaved , Ecstatic Vision, and Witch Mountain. How excited are you to be part of this touring package?
Mike Scheidt – Oh, very much so. Witch Mountain will be on the last two or three shows. It will be Enslaved and Ecstatic Vision which is this fabulous band from Philadelphia, and Witch Mountain is going to join us on the last two or maybe three Enslaved shows on the east coast and then we are going to tour as Yob and Witch Mountain for the rest of the trip back to the west coast. The first show we ever played in Portland was with Witch Mountain. Rob, the guitarist from Witch Mountain, used to be the moderator for Stonerrock.com and we sent our three song demo to them in either ’99 or 2000. He posted it on their website right away, in some ways they were the first people to allow other people to hear what we were doing. I think the first show we played with them was in 2000, so all these years later to be able to go on tour together is gonna be great, and we played lots of shows together and we’re old friends, so it’s going to be fun.
CrypticRock.com – That is a pretty cool story and it certainty is going to be an excellent touring bill. You often mention how big of an influence the Death Metal band Immolation has been on Yob’s riffs. Tell us more about these influences as well as others.
Mike Scheidt – When I tell people that I am super influenced by them, there’s only a handful of people that really get it. It’s just the angular kind of fucked up ness of some of their weird ass tri-tone chords and harmonic disharmony that they do so well. Immolation’s 1996 Here in after album and 2000’s Close to a World Below are probably the most important records to me by them, however I own them all. Every album I find something that I really can get behind, that Close to a world below album, in particular, just really blew me away when it came out. That kind of real hash quality that they did, particularly in their slower music too, they just had some really messed up riffs that. In our messed up riffs, to me, some of have almost been like Immolation on 33 LP or something. It is really kind of fucked up, letting chords hang that extra moment and things like that.
I was a mega Speed Metal, Death Metal, Grindcore, Hardcore fan before I started playing slower. I listened to Sabbath all growing up and Trouble and Candlemass, The Obsessed, The Metal Massacre 6 Compilation (1986), we used to skate to that all the time and when “Concrete Cancer” would come on we’d all be like, yeah, this is awesome, but I didn’t start actually playing that stuff until I saw Cathedral with Napalm Death. That really blew my brain and I started playing slower at that point which was probably about ’92. So my roots are actually in faster, more technical, all over the place music.I don’t think we are a true Doom band in any way, I think we are Doom influenced. Doom certainly was one of the major driving factors, but we put a lot of different influences into what we do, and Immolation remains an influence.
CrypticRock.com – It is important to have a variety of influences, and it seems as if you do. Seeing as Yob is certainly the type of band that translates well for a live performance, what exactly is going through your head prior to starting a show?
Mike Scheidt – I do vocal warm ups and that kind of gets me in the mode. For all the kind of varieties of vocals I do, if I don’t do warm ups, I end up struggling on something at some point in the set. I think it is partially just as I’ve gotten more and more ambitious in the kind of vocal dynamics that I try to do. Also, I am getting older, I’m gonna be forty-five and so some of the shit that I do I’ve been doing for a long time, some of it’s gotten easier and some of it’s gotten harder. The vocal warm ups get me warmed up but they also gets me really connected to my body, because I really have to open up and relax. Then when I climb on stage I am able to take that and then kind of expand that out into the room, and whoever is there. Root, tune in, and turn up.
CrypticRock.com – That is quite interesting to hear. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and horror films. Are you a fan of horror films, and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Mike Scheidt – Fuck yeah! (laughs) Oh man, well mine are kind of all over the place. I loved all the old good vs. evil movies like, The Omen (1976), The Exorcist (1973, and The Exorcist III is one of my favorites. H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond (1986) is one of favorites. Man there are so many, American Werewolf in London (1981), The Devil Rides Out (1968), the old Hammer Horror films, some of those are really super fantastic. The original House on Haunted Hill (1959), Poltergeist (1982), House by the Cemetery (1981), Gates of Hell (1980), Fulci, it’s endless. George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) as well. The Shining (1980), that’s one that I can return to over and over and over again and I’ll pick up on new stuff and the atmosphere of that movie is so crazy, The same with Argento’s Suspiria (1977), the atmosphere of that movie is like you could cut it with a knife it’s so thick. I loved The Cabin in The Woods (2012), that was a great newer movie. I actually really enjoyed Horns (2013), which surprised me I kind of went into it not expecting anything. It was a little all over the place, but what was good about it was really good. So yes, I’m always on the lookout for a new favorite Horror movie.