Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Interview With Wes Jackson (The End of the Ocean, Northern Widows, Maranatha)

I first met Wes maybe 5 or 6 years ago when I was booking a show for my friends in the post-rock greats Sunlight Ascending. As I was working on the bill the Sunlight kids mentioned they had some friends from Columbus in a band called The End of the Ocean who had a similar vibe and might be a good fit for the bill. I was stoked that they were recommended, because not only were they a great fit for that show but were a super solid band in general and seemed like great people to boot. 

Somehow the person I connected with from the band was their drummer Wes, and so maybe a year later when I was trying to throw together a weekend run for my band Great Reversals I hit him up about the possibility of coming through Columbus. He hooked us up with a rad basement show and his other band Northern Widows played. While his work in Ocean is a little more subdued due to the style of music, his drumming in NW was absolutely savage and explosive, I was totally floored. 

Since then we've kept in touch about drum gear nerd stuff a little bit, and Great Rev had our ears blown off by Northern Widows again last Spring on another little weekend run we did. 

I can honestly say that Wes is one of the coolest, most chill, and incredibly talented people I've met over the last several years doing music. Considering that Ocean and Widows both have new records about to drop, I figured now was the time to pick his brain and learn a little more about him. 

Oh yeah, he also plays in a band called Maranatha who drop seismic fucking riffs. Anyway, read on.  

Tell me about coming up as a kid. Are you a Columbus native or did you wind up there later?

I actually am not. I grew up in a small town called Greenfield in Southern Ohio, it was about a mile long by a mile wide in a heavily ran farming area. Growing up as a punker/skateboard kid I didn’t really belong in that environment and made the decision early on that I wanted to leave. Around 2011-2012 I made my way to Columbus and haven’t really looked back since.

What role (if any) did music and art have in your household as a kid?

So growing up I came from a very strong country and rock n' roll influenced household. My mother’s side of the family is where most of my musical ability and love comes from. They all are/were very talented musicians and singers. My grandfather was a pretty well-known outlaw country singer called Johnny Paycheck, he along with my great uncles were also George Jones' band “The Jones Boys”.....

I think what sparked my love and desire to be a musician was when everyone would be at family get-togethers where there would be a few acoustic guitars and family members sitting around singing. I’d sneak a couple of string plucks when nobody was looking, of course!

Damn that's wild! Did you ever get to tag along for gigs or was it more hearing stories and having the music around at family functions?

It was mostly just family functions and hearing the stories about their old touring days. Speaking of which, Mike Judge the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head made a show in the last year or so called "Tales From The Tour Bus"; the first episode was about Paycheck. He flew my uncles out to interview them and let them tell wild tour stories and then came up with animations to go along with it! It was pretty wild to see them as cartoons, haha.

Hahaha that is fucking incredible. So what specifically drew you to Columbus?  School, friends, or just sort of "it was the closest big city" kind of thing?

I think what drew me to Columbus is that I was never a big fan of Cincinnati or Dayton (sorry friends who live there!) and the town I’m from is essentially in the middle of all three. A few friends I grew up with moved to Columbus before I did so I would drive up to stay with them and go to shows/events/food spots/etc.

So you messed around with guitars a bit as a kid...how did you get into percussion and drumming?

Yeah, I originally really wanted to play guitar. I can play a little but not enough to play in a band. I was impatient with it because I couldn’t shred like Stevie Ray Vaughan as soon as I picked it up, haha.

I had a Mickey Mouse kids drum kit when I was super young and just decided I wanted to play drums after being frustrated with guitar.

Did you ever take any kind of lessons at all or just jump behind a kit and start going for it?

I never took lessons but I really wish I would have. I taught myself to play by ear so I never actually learned to read music or what time signatures were for the longest time. I would just play what felt right.

The funny thing about me “learning” to keep time/play is, my dad is a truck driver, and at some point he was hauling these cardboard barrels of cat litter. Of course we ended up with some and once we went through them I’d use them to store my sports gear in them...

One day I decided to flip one over on its side and hit it with some sticks. So I turn the radio on to whatever rock station and would hit the the bottom of the barrel for a lower bass drum sound, and the topside of the barrel for a higher pitched “snare” sound. That’s ultimately how I learned to keep time and shortly after my parents bought me a CB drum kit from the local music shop.

At what point did you start feeling good enough about your skills where you were ready to start playing in a band and what were those first experiences like? Timeline wise, where does this musical discovery fit in with when you started skating, listen to punk, etc.?

It all kind of happened at once. Around 6th grade I felt myself shift and start to become who I wanted to be. Most of my friends then also got into skating and music around the same time. I think we started our first band when we were around 14-15 years old. We started playing punk/pop punk music and then it somehow evolved into a screamo/metal-core idea? Sign of the times I guess, haha. We were pretty decent for what we were doing...

We would play a theater in the next town over every month or so and would make a decent amount of money and sell a bit of merch for some kids playing that kind of stuff.

Aside from music, i know you are big into motorcycles, and I think work in the industry. How did that passion emerge and what's it like having your work revolve around something that you're genuinely stoked on?

I am very big into motorcycles. My parents have always been big in the Harley scene so I grew up around bikers and those types of events. I rode motocross for a long time and started riding on the street as soon as I was old enough. 

I’ve built a lot of motorcycles over the years and have won some awards and had write-ups in magazines like Easyriders and The Horse Backstreet Choppers. I have worked for the Harley-Davidson dealership in Columbus for the last six years or so. It’s a pretty sweet gig.

Alright so I met you through The End of the Ocean and I know that's your current musical project that you've had going the longest. Talk a little bit about how the 5 of you came together, the original vision of the band, and how that has evolved over time.

So I met TEOTO shortly after I decided to move to Columbus through a mutual friend that I had known and played music with for years. I joined the band a little late in the game. If I recall the story correctly, Bryan and Kevin started the band as an ambient project and later decided to add more people to form a full band. Tara came in to play keys and then a few years later I showed up. I wasn’t super familiar with a lot of the post rock that influenced them when I first joined, so it was a new experience for me. 

If you listened to the older albums you can sort of tell where I joined because the music picked up a little bit of pace, intensity, and heaviness. I blame that on having played heavy music for so long, haha. I’d say we have definitely evolved since the beginning and even more so after I joined up. We have all grown and changed as people since then as well so our influences, feelings, and overall drive to write has changed.

Our upcoming record definitely has some darker vibes to it but we still try to balance out the sound to keep it sounding like, us. We are all very proud and very excited for this next release!

Speaking of the new release, you obviously announced a couple weeks ago that you've signed with EVR. Had you been in contact with them for a while....how did things come together with them?

Yeah! That in itself has been pretty wild. EVR has had crazy rosters forever and we have definitely been influenced by many of their bands individually. We linked up with them through a friend of ours Cory who owns/runs BravoArtist here in Columbus. He has helped us out a great deal and got us pointed in the right direction; we could not be more thankful to have someone like him in our corner.

EVR is certainly a pretty big label at this point....are you guys (and gals) looking at quitting the day jobs and being on the road 9 months outta the year now or is it more like you're gonna take opportunities as they come?

Of course we would all love to quit our day jobs but I’m not sure that will happen just yet, but fingers crossed that maybe someday it can happen! We haven’t really discussed any tours yet and are really waiting to finalize everything for the new record before we start planning. We love playing eclectic shows so hopefully we can land a tour with someone that we differ from drastically but also mesh well with, if that makes sense at all.

Definitely taking it one day at a time and planning things with strategy so we can make this last as long as we can. Not necessarily in a financial way but in a way that we can keep loving what we do and get to travel with some of our friends old and new playing sweet shows and living our best lives.

You talked a little bit about the new record in terms of vibe, but what can you say about the writing and recording process as opposed to past efforts? I'm guessing you may have had a good bit more studio time this go around....what did that allow you to do that you perhaps haven't been able to do previously?

Our writing process has always been the same, essentially we get together when we can and also share stuff through phone recordings sometimes because Trish lives in the Detroit area. This time we actually went to a studio here in Columbus called Revelator Sound that our friend Jeremy (ex-Wolves At The Gate) owns to demo out the new songs before we went in to record the new full-length.

For the full-length we went to VuDu Studios to work with Mike Watts and his crew. It was an awesome experience. Not only did we have much more time to work than we previously have had but the experience overall was amazing. We got to explore and try new tones along with other gear choices. Mike has worked with a ton of great bands over the years so it was very exciting to get to work with him and I think the finished product shows that it was a great choice for us this time around!

Maaaan, super stoked to hear it. So beyond Ocean, you also play in Maranatha and Northern Widows, two bands that while quite different from each other, are certainly both on the much heavier end of the spectrum.  What's Maranatha have going presently, it's been a while since "Filth" dropped.

Maranatha has recruited Darrell on second guitar who also plays in Northern Widows with me. We have been working on a new full-length that’s basically finished and we are just tweaking things to get it where we would like to be. It’s heavy.

I know at least on the first Maranatha effort there were definitely some fairly heavy spiritual/Christian  overtones going on. Is that element still present lyrically/conceptually, and if so, are those elements you embrace or not as much?

I can’t speak for Jack or Collin personally on lyrical matter but I think that a lot of the content is of lost faith and trials & tribulations each face in their personal lives.

I personally am not of faith. I grew up going to church regularly but at some point fell away from it in my teens.

Northern Widows has been teasing new stuff for quite a while now, what can you tell us about what y'all have up your sleeves?

Northern Widows also have a new full-length set to release in June via Head2Wall Records. It will be our first LP and we are very excited to get it out there. It’s blistering, raw, heavy, with some other sounds thrown in. We’ve been taking our time in hopes to put out a great record and I think we finally have it. Look for it near the end of June!!

So as someone who has multiple bands/schedules to work with, how do you maintain a sense of balance with everything else going on in your life?

Sometimes a sense of balance is whatever you can make work. My life pretty much revolves around music so whenever I can fit anything else in that I like to do it’s nice. Some days when I’m completely free I feel lost because I’m not busy working on something.

It's awesome to see all your hard work starting to pay off, especially with Ocean. What words of advice would you give to people who are grinding it out, trying to be creative and throw their lives into music?

Thank you so much! I guess my advice would be don’t stop. Even when you think it’s not worth it anymore. If it’s something you love like music, motorcycles, or anything for that matter, make it work for you. There have been many times when I’ve asked myself “Is it worth it? Should I give it up?” And I haven’t yet and it’s finally beginning to start looking up for me with my music career, even if I’ve been trying for over a decade. I wouldn’t change anything.

Parting thoughts?

If you're in the central Ohio area come check out Maranatha and The End of the Ocean at Ace of Cups on May 27th with Harvester and Norma Jean!

Other than that, everyone go check out Great Reversals. Support them. Support your friends. Do what you love. Be yourself. Never stop!! 🖤

The End of the Ocean Jams: https://theendoftheocean.bandcamp.com/
Live Ocean:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJPOXn4ocB0
Northern Widows Jams: https://northernwidows.bandcamp.com/
Live Widows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEWd89jiOlU
Maranatha Jams: https://maranathaisheavy.bandcamp.com/
Live 'Natha: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLuD8KK8r9I

1 comment:

  1. All I CAN SAY IS WOW.... Such an awesome interview from the beginning to the end.....So much in depth of your personal life as you have grown from a toddler to a young man....you will always be my little boy but I am so proud of the young man you have become....keep up with the desire in your heart and your love for music....the love of music is not about the money you make but the happiness it gives you within.... and this interview has shown the person you truly are....loving, caring, and honest..... your Dad and I support you to the moon and back and love you with all our hearts "YOU MAKE US PROUD"