Chicago's Oozing Wound Is Not a Thrash Band

Nov 7, 2013 at 4:00 am
Zombies are OK, though.
Zombies are OK, though. Joe Martinez

Oozing Wound isn't a cassette-tape splatter-grindcore death-metal band from Peoria, Illinois. And despite sounding like a mildly stoned but angrier version of '80s metal masters Overkill, Oozing Wound is not a thrash band, either. While songs like "Everyone I Hate Should Be Killed" and "New York Bands" are undeniably rooted in the speed-metal genre, the Chicago trio brings a quirky, caustic groove that catches you off guard by lingering on riffs just a little too long for comfort. The result is a brow-raising blend of rhythmic noise and staccato riffing that's familiar enough to draw in meatheads and acid-nerds alike.

Oddly, the label attempting to nudge heavy metal forward isn't an established presence in the genre. Thrill Jockey, based in Chicago and known for its work with artists such as David Byrne, the Sea and Cake, and Tortoise, has more recently taken an interest in metal bands. As a result of this unlikely alliance, Oozing Wound has recently graced the websites of Pitchfork, the New York Times and BrooklynVegan.

To gain better insight into the confusing success of Oozing Wound, we spoke to guitarist and vocalist Zack Weil about oogles, Grand Funk Railroad and being a poseur whose band has been compared to a ham sandwich.

When I was doing some research on your band, one of the things I found was a writeup of a show announcement in the Chicago Reader. Half of the comments were complaining about Oozing Wound and your old band, Cacaw, and saying that the Reader was trying to be cool by writing about you guys.

That whole situation was really weird. The Reader in general — no other articles have 55 comments on them. The comments just exploded one day. We only played one show, and then it became this argument that the Reader was, number one, always writing about the same bands, and that, number two, the only reason they cared about us was not because we were a good band, but because of the pedigree of our previous bands. One guy in particular — I have maybe six or seven e-mails just from that guy freaking out about us in general. It became a huge fight. He actually inadvertently named the record Retrash after he was bashing us so badly, saying we were "retrash" — a rehash/thrash band that really sucked. We thought, "Ha, that's funny."

There was a guy who compared your band to a ham sandwich.

I think we're more like a burger, but if he wants to call us a ham sandwich, that's fine. Not everybody is going to like it. People in the metal scene in particular are probably not going to like it.

Some of the bands on your drummer's label, Rotted Tooth Recordings, are coming from a more artistic side of punk. Oozing Wound seems to be coming from that community while playing a style of metal which is normally reserved for die-hard bands chugging beer in a basement and smashing empties on their heads. Do you guys feel like you're coming from more of that scene, or are you a bunch of metalheads who got distracted by tie-dye shirts?

Oh man, Kyle [Reynolds, drums] would hate you if you said we were a tie-dye-shirt band. He would die. [Laughs] Oozing Wound is one of many bands that we've all played in, and it's been a natural progression towards it. Cacaw was way weirder. Kyle and I were in many more bands before that which always had these weird streaks or some genre we wanted to explore. I like a lot of metal, and I own tons of metal records and shit. It's one of my favorite things to listen to. But I'm not a metal — well, I am a metalhead, but I don't fit in the scene. I don't wear leather jackets or try to come off that way. And if I did, I would feel like a poseur. I feel like the worst possible thing you can do with metal is be false, so I'm not going to pretend I'm some sort of metalhead dude. I'm just going to be me. I've been in another metal band for a while, and it pisses our drummer off to no end that I wear Gumby shirts instead of wearing a black-metal shirt like Darkthrone or something.

A what shirt?

Like, a Gumby shirt! I have a shirt with Gumby on it, and I don't fucking care. Because I like Gumby. And it's not metal. I really don't give a shit.

Gumbi the Fargo band? Or the character?

No, no, I'm talking about Gumby the fucking claymation dude. Love that guy.

That's pretty cool.

That's what I mean! I don't want to be like all the other metal bands that have existed. I didn't grow up in that scene. I didn't live in the '80s. It means something totally different to me than it does to them. And if that pisses them off that we don't want to pretend we're something we're not, it's not going to keep me up at night. But in terms of the music we're making, I just wanted to play fast stuff. I was in a metal band at the time and some of the stuff I was coming up with didn't really work, and it also didn't work in Cacaw because that band didn't have that kind of skill set, so I made Oozing Wound to specifically explore the in-between thing. And from the input of Kyle and Kevin [Cribbin, bass], it's turned into what it has. I feel like the more people accuse us of being a thrash or crossover band, the more we're going to steer away from it, though.

When I first listened to the record, I'll be honest, I thought, "Oh great, this is the next Municipal Waste — I'm going to have to see Oozing Wound patches on oogle kids hats."

Oh, no! No! We don't want the oogles!

Right! But then I listened to it and I noticed you guys were doing some weird, repetitious shit that I hadn't heard in a lot of thrash before. Is that why Thrill Jockey picked it up and people care about it, because it's a little different?

Us getting on Thrill Jockey was just total luck and placement. All those dudes were at the show we played with Black Pus, and from what I got from Bettina [Richards], who runs the label, is that we exemplified some kind of balls-out rock thing without any pretense. I think it really appealed to her. If not musically, aesthetically we get a lot of comparisons to Motörhead now, which is awesome. Lemmy never talks about Motörhead as a metal band — it's a rock band. We just rock really fucking hard. Did you ever listen to old Grand Funk stuff before they tacked "Railroad" on their name and they really started sucking? There's this song called "Into the Sun," and it's one chord on guitar and just this insanely repetitive bassline, like, ten minutes long. It's the coolest fucking song, and that's where I get the idea from that you can make a really heavy, metal-ish kind of music that doesn't have to do all these changes, but it doesn't also have to be a groove-metal thing. You can just really fucking rock out. And that's what people want, I think. That's what I want.

Oozing Wound is appearing on sites like Pitchfork and showing up on the New York Times site next to Danny Brown. How is this happening?

I have no idea. Because we have an amazing fucking team behind us at Thrill Jockey? That's the main difference now between any other band we've had before. Or maybe my perception is wrong and this band is truly a lot better. They've just been good about pushing it, and for some reason this record speaks to a lot of people. It's funny: We didn't expect this thing to come out on such a massive scale because we hadn't finished it when we gave it to Thrill Jockey. I wanted capitalize on them being interested in the band as fast as possible. We did it in a day because we had a free day at Electrical Audio. We recorded six songs, trashed one and used two from a different session with the same guy, where we recorded four songs in a night over six hours. There wasn't a whole lot of time to refine it or polish it in any way — it kind of worked to our advantage.