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COUGH Days of doom


It’s been a long time between riffs for doom metal outfit Cough. Though their first half-decade was marked by a flurry of releases, the last few years have were comparatively sparse, aside from a 2013 split with Windhand. Last year’s Still They Pray followed on from the punishment of 2010’s Ritual Abuse. Though firmly rooted in the same suffocating, misanthropic sonic territory of their back catalogue, Still They Pray offers a surprising amount of breathing room, energised with melodic blues solos, psychedelic freakouts and meditative incantations largely absent from the band’s first 10 years of recorded material. Ahead of their show at Badlands Bar in Perth this Saturday April 8 alongside labelmates Windhand (plus locals Skullcave and The Pissedcolas), MATTHEW TOMICH spoke with Cough guitarist/vocalist David Cisco about what changed and what’s next.

You guys are a few months removed from your last stint on the road with Elder in Europe – are you itching to tour again?

Well yeah, we’ve got these dates in Australia. We don’t really have a lot going on in the Spring. We’re working on the start of our next record so we’ve been getting together recently getting new material together for that. We’ve got plans to do a couple weeks in Europe for the fall. But no, we’re taking the spring and the summer to focus on the new record.

Is that a fairly quick turnaround for you guys? Considering there were quite a few years between last year’s Still They Pray and 2010’s Ritual Abuse

Yeah, that’s the reason. A lot of things happened in that period that, reasons that were good to step away from it. We may have spent a little longer away than we wanted to. This time around, we’re really trying to keep the wheels in motion.

Are there some ideas leftover from those writing and recording sessions from Still They Pray that you’re revisiting for this future record?

Yeah, there are some parts we’ve been working on – some parts that really didn’t flesh out, you know what I mean, that we’re trying some other ideas for. We revisited a couple things that we’d spent some time on. We have a lot of new material too that we’ve been working on.

Is Cough the kind of band that will road test some of your material before putting it to record, or would you rather wait till it’s out before you give it the live treatment?

I think with this record, we were really trying to just kind of hold off until the record’s out before playing it this material out. I think as a fan, I’d much rather hear music I’m familiar with. I’ve seen so many bands who played new material that I wasn’t familiar with and I just wanted to hear the songs I was familiar with. I think it’s better to let people get a taste for it and have a chance to listen to it before taking it to the live setting.

The thing that strikes me about the kind of doom you guys play and how it differs from a lot of other bands working in that realm, is that there’s so much attention and emotional energy required to listen to it, which must make it even more exhausting to play, especially considering the length of some of the tracks. Does it take a psychological toll when you’re on the tour grind playing that kind of music, and how does it affect the way you approach a live show and the way you build a setlist?

That’s a really good question. I wouldn’t say it takes a very emotional toll on me. I think the writing and the recording probably took more of a toll on me more than playing it out live. I think playing it out live is just more of a release, because the writing tends to be the more anguishing part of it all.

Was Still They Pray quite a taxing album to write and record?

I think so, yeah. It took quite a while. We had I don’t know how many songs for that record. It was kind of good and bad because we had so much material that we were able to dig through it all and pick the ones that we were really satisfied with, the ones we thought would pull the record together. We spent a lot of time and a lot of energy creating that record. A lot of throwaways, but it’s kind of necessary sometimes to try to get to the best, the core, the root parts that really make it what it is.

When you’re writing these songs that are so long and have so many different movements and sections, I imagine a lot must get left on the cutting room floor.

Yeah. We have so many songs that we’ve gotten 10 minutes into and then we can’t finish it [laughs]. It can be pretty frustrating. But we have songs that we just write in a night. It all differs.

I wanted to ask you about Still They Pray – where does that title come from?

There’s really no source for that. The title track – the very last song on the album – was written before we started writing the record and it became the design for the entire record. The themes of that song, we kind of took that and expanded out from that song itself. It became the concept of the record, sort of a microcosm of the whole thing, really. Still They Pray – it’s just the chorus of the song. We took that, expanded it and made it the whole theme for the entire record.

Did that contribute to the fact that it did take a lot longer to put this record out compared to Ritual Abuse?

With Ritual Abuse – I think we came at it from a lot of different angles. If you compared Ritual Abuse with Still They Pray, I think Still They Pray is much more thematically focused. It sounds like the whole thing’s pointed in the same direction now. Ritual Abuse might be just a little more jarring at times. With Still They Pray, we were really trying to just write a record that was thematically compact, you know – basically, you could listen to the very last song of that record and it’s like a teaser for the whole thing.

You worked with Jus from Electric Wizard on Still They Pray – what was his process like as a producer?

He took a pretty laid-back, hands-off approach. We did everything very casually. The whole idea for recording Still They Pray was pretty out there. I didn’t think we were going to pull it off. I asked him if he wanted to come record in a barn in the middle of our drummer’s backyard. It was crazy. We basically built a studio out of this completely raw space and that’s where we did all the tracking for that record and it turned out fantastic I think, for basically just starting something completely from scratch. And doing it in sort of a built-in studio type environment.

Was this his idea or your idea?

That was our idea. He was on-board for it, man. We were all about just coming over. He’s from the country as well in England – he’s used to that sort of environment, just away from civilization. He just took a pretty laid-back approach and just hung out. We’d track the songs, he’d offer some suggestions at certain times and try different things with him. We all worked really well together I think, just as a group. I wouldn’t say he commandeered the writing or anything but he was sort of there to throw his opinion in at certain times.

Are you likely to work with him again on this next record?

It’s an option but it hasn’t been decided. We’ve just started writing and getting some parts together for a new release but it’s too early to tell. But it’s an option. We haven’t written it off.

And do you think it’s also an option that you take the barn-in-your-drummer’s-backyard approach again?

[Laughs] I don’t know. We may try something completely different. We have been working on that space – that space is kind of becoming our headquarters, so to speak. It’s where we practice and everything now. So possibly – or we may try to do something kind of far out as well, maybe. Who knows. We were flirting with the idea of flying out to England before we decided to do it in our drummer’s backyard. And our first two records we recorded in Chicago, which isn’t anywhere near where we’re from, so I don’t know. We may go out on a limb again.

Do you think writing and recording in a more rural, open space, contributes or is a benefit for the kind of music that you make, as opposed to a metropolis like Chicago?

Where we live is actually kind of a mix of both. Richmond is the capitol city of Virginia so we live in an urban environment. My house is in an urban environment; Joey’s is not. But we’re only like 20 minutes away from each other, so you can kind of get a sense of both, where we’re from, depending on the day. You can have that experience of that claustrophobia of the city, and then have a relaxed experience just half an hour outside of town. I think just getting slightly outside of town and doing it in more of a rural space was good for us. I don’t know if it really came through on the record. I think our style is pretty claustrophobic naturally and that probably has more to do with maybe coming from a city environment. I think it did come through a lot more when we were in Chicago, because Chicago is just like this metropolis – you can’t get away from another person. There’s a lot of tension there, you know what I mean.

I was looking through some of your recent tour history and I couldn’t find that many legs where you guys are playing with Windhand – will this be the first time in a while that Parker [Chandler, who plays bass in both bands] is going to be doing double duty?

Yeah. It’s going to be insane. I don’t know if he realizes it.

I imagine he’s going to be fucking spent by the end of night three.

I couldn’t imagine. I’m spent just playing one set for an hour. I couldn’t imagine it.

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