High Hopes: introducing Texan noise lords Wo Fat

Wo Fat, band photo

“We’re trying to reach another level, mentally and emotionally,” explains Kent Stump, singer/guitarist with Texan noise lords Wo Fat. “And we want to bring the listener along with us on that journey. Sometimes it’s ephemeral, but you’re always trying to find that moment where everything comes together perfectly. That’s why we keep playing, I guess.”

An immersive experience in which stoner grooves and metal riffs jostle for air in a churning tide of psychedelic juju, Wo Fat’s music invokes the primal assault of Kyuss or Orange Goblin. That the band do it with such abandon, their open-ended jams anchored by a sure foundation in the blues, only makes it more appealing.

“Stoner rock or heavy metal or rock’n’roll all came from the blues originally,” Stump offers. “The blues is all about a groove and funkiness, and I think that gets lost in a lot of heavier stuff. But we try to keep that as an integral element of what we’re doing.”

Stump had an exacting vision when he formed Wo Fat in Dallas in 2003: “I always thought that Black Sabbath were a blues band to start with, then they basically heavied it up, as did Led Zeppelin. My thought was to do the same thing but with more trancey, Mississippi hillside stuff, like RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough; to just make it super-heavy.”

Since then the band (named after a TV villain in the original series of Hawaii Five-O) have released five studio albums of increasingly expansive riff-rock, with Stump and drummer Michael Walter at the core. They’re currently on the lookout for a permanent bassist, after the recent departure of Tim Wilson.

Originally from Colorado, Stump wound up in the Lone Star State when he went to study jazz at the University of North Texas. It was there that he met Walter, transplanted from Oklahoma. Wilson is from New York, but the racket they made as a trio carried the distinct imprint of their newfound home. “Texas has such an incredibly rich musical history,” says Stump. “I guess being here made me more aware of how much stuff has come from Texas and permeated through Wo Fat. So much blues stuff, especially. It’s just part of the fabric.”

The band’s base is Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, where Stump has been an engineer for the past two decades. This year they managed to block off a week to record their latest album, Midnight Cometh. An intense meditation on the looming spectre of apocalypse, its message is as heavy as the music.

“The album refers to the Doomsday Clock, which was started by an atomic science organisation in the 1940s as an indicator of how close we are to self-destruction,” Stump explains. “They moved it up to three minutes to midnight last year. Pretty much all the songs, in some way, are referencing the potential end of mankind. We’ve created these monster corporations and these psychopathic beings that we can no longer control.”

FOR FANS OF: Holy Mountain by Sleep

“All of us in the band love Sleep’s Holy Mountain album,” says Wo Fat singer/guitarist Kent Stump, just because it has most of the key elements that we’re trying to bring to Wo Fat. It’s really bluesy and packed full of riffs. And there are a lot of changes going on within the songs. It’s just so heavy.”

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