For a while Bong were releasing an album a year, but there was a big gap in between We Are and Thought and Existence. This change in pace, was it intentional and did it allow you to bring in any changes when writing the new album?
Lots of reflection really – we felt it was time to take stock of what we had produced musically. Trying to progress with our sonics and dynamics. Also at the time Dave (Bass/Vocals) was starting a family and Mike S (Drums) and myself were playing in other bands and collaborations. It was worth taking a step back.
Clear our heads and to come back freshly inspired again.
Bong albums are often related to fiction books. It’s clear you guys read a lot. What qualities do you look for and what sets a book apart for it to be used as inspiration for a Bong album? Please discuss how Borges writings have influenced Thought and Existence?
Impossibly descriptive landscapes, forgotten times and ancient myths. These things can only be imagined and perceived rather than seen. Our music is an inward trip and can be heard in different ways. Perception is everything. Drawing from Borges just fits so well. An exhausting tale of no reality where all time has expired. Insane mesmerising systems. Totalitarianism. A lot if not all our songs are inspired by short stories and literature. Pulling influence from the theme and the descriptions. In the past most of our songs came from grand tales of expansive lands, but with this new album it seems right to make our comment on the world today. Oppression through confusing amendments to policies designed to eliminate any free thinkers and non conformists. An idealistic society. They don’t seek out the truth, just the outstanding as it were. Tragic.
Bong’s production values and quality seem to increase with every release and is especially noticeable on Thought and Existence. How have Bong developed in the studio over the years?
Only after Beyond Ancient Space did we have the opportunity to be in a studio. We would record all our albums on tascam 8 tracks using SM57-58 in warehouses and practice spaces. Live albums CDRs would be recorded through the air using tape decks with built in condenser mics. Music for us at the time, still is to some extent, was not based on production values or the perfect sound. I still listen to lots of what people would consider to be ‘lo-fi’ music. I don’t think production value should be a major factor of whether an album is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
Ritual Productions gave us the opportunity to go into a studio with an engineer, enabling us to look at our music under a microscope as it were. Over the years, understanding production techniques and certain tricks has been really beneficial. Now we are not afraid to experiment and improvise a lot more in the studio with guitars, vocals, bass, gongs, bowed cymbals, shruti boxes etc. We spent three months mixing/mastering/editing after spending four days in the studio for this record. Bong is not easy to mix, it can be a beautiful confusion.
How would you compare the Bong ‘on record’ with the Bong ‘live’ experiences? For you, what are the pros and cons of each?
We spent years just playing live and releasing very little. A few live CDRs and the odd tape. Live we push everything to maximum, longer drone intermissions between tracks, stretched out intros, increased glacial tempos. All our music is improvised around a central minimal structure. This leaves so much space to experiment and explore octaval harmonies and sonic textures. On record we have to condense the dynamics of each track so it fits on an LP. We prefer the freedom of playing live, no restrictions and the ability to experiment further with no fear of wasting time. It also helps our tracks grow, the more we play them live the greater they become. The best comparison I could make is that, fans say they read and meditate to our albums, yet I’ve never seen anyone read at a Bong show. I have seen a lot of people passed out over PA speakers at the end of the set, though…
When you first got together did you have anything in particular the band wanted to achieve? What about today?
It’s always been about what we can achieve musically more than anything. Adulation and exposure doesn’t concern us, trends etc.
We never thought we would have as many fans as we do. We would like to take this opportunity to thank anyone who picked up a tape/cd/lp or came to a show or just digs Bong. It can be a bit overwhelming at shows…and just how far we have come really.
Thank you for premiering the video for The Golden Fields with us! What can you share about this track and the visuals that accompany it?
Visuals were created and edited by Sergio Angot and directed by Cristiane Richardson. “The Golden Fields” is the first track from our new album “Thought and Existence” that comes out on Ritual Productions on 4th May. The video features some live footage of us playing in Norway last year at Blitz and some tripped out space visuals of ancient star maps and solar flares.