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Interview with OGRE

by Vpower

The Band: Ogre

Country: United States

Answers: Ross Markonish (guitars)

Photos: Dave Gagne

https://www.facebook.com/Rockogre

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On “Thrice as Strong”, their 5th album, OGRE deliver a time-honored display of old-school doom with ’70s rock elements that scale epic heights and heavy lows. We could say that their albums are counted by victories, no fail, no false steps, they will always win you with their true heart and style. Moreover, the band’s embrace of all things Maine has carried them through their existence, all the while helping them forge a path as a doom outfit unwilling to bend to convention.

 Hello Ross, 20 years of history and 5 albums later, how do you feel as a band?

We feel great. It’s certainly been a long haul as a band, with plenty of ups and downs, but we are so glad that we are still going strong, with a great new album to promote and lots of cool ideas for the future. Here’s to another 20!

You were born as a trio and you stayed loyal to each other after two decades, not easy on this age of easy come, easy go…

From the very start of the band, we have always said that OGRE will always be a trio and we are proud to say that we have never broken that rule. The three of us have a dynamic like no other, so adding another member or changing the line-up in any way just doesn’t work for us. If it’s not Ross, Ed, and Will, it’s not OGRE.

You are from Maine (Portland), how has that helped to forge your music?

Even though Portland is a small city in a remote corner of the US, there is a cool little music scene here that has supported us from the very start. When winter starts coming on strong, there’s nothing better than trudging through the snow to go out to a club and hear some loud music to warm you up. Plus, there’s a lot of cool (and weird) history in this state that we have used as inspiration for some of our songs over the years. Maine is a fantastic place to live and to make music. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Maine and Stephen King seem united for many years, is Ogre the third party of that mystic story?

Well, I don’t think we’re at that level quite yet, but it certainly would be an honor to be seen as a symbol of Maine in the same way that Stephen King is! As you know, our new album has a song that is a tribute to King – we are all huge fans of his writing, so we thought it was only appropriate to write about him. We can only hope that he’ll find out about the song and take notice!

Who knows he even might write a book about it! Thrice As Strong is your 5th album, and your first with Cruz Del Sur Music, a change for better?

Absolutely! Enrico (with the help of Tom Phillips of While Heaven Wept fame) is releasing so much cool stuff right now, and we love so many of the bands on the label…Argus, Orodruin, Slough Feg, Apostle of Solitude, the list goes on. Many of these bands are ones that we have played with in the past at such festivals as Doom or Be Doomed and Born Too Late, so it’s great to have a “reunion” of sorts through the label. To be honest, we’ve really been lucky over the years with our labels – Leafhound Records, Minotauro Records, and Pariah Child/Yoshiwara all treated us extremely well – so we’re excited to continue that trend with Cruz.

Your albums have always shown charismatic art covers, with I would say have a point of epic and an artistic approach. This time you have gone for something different…

If by “different” you mean that this is the first album to feature our faces on the front cover then, sure, this one is different. That said, I think that this album cover fits in with the band’s ethos in much the same way that “Dawn of the Proto-Man” or “Plague of the Planet” or, really, any of our album art work has. We’ve always been inspired by art from old pulp sci-fi and horror novels as well as comic books, and the cover of “Thrice as Strong” is no different. Here, we were trying to recreate the look of vintage “die-cut” paperback novels of the 70s and 80s – once you see the full gatefold artwork, you’ll know what I mean. Our original concept was to have an actual die-cut cover with holes and everything (think of the original cover for Stephen King’s “Night Shift” as a point of reference), but it was much too expensive, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Anyway, I think Will (our drummer) did an amazing job with the artwork for this album, and I can’t wait for everyone to see the full gatefold – it’s pretty wild!

How long have you worked on Thrice As Strong and how as the composition process?

I would say we’ve been working on the material for Thrice as Strong for the last couple of years. Some songs like “Hive Mind” have been around for awhile – we started working on that one not long after we released our last album, “The Last Neanderthal”, back in 2014. Others, like “Cyber-Czar”, are very recent compositions that came together only months before we began recording last spring. As has been the case with most of our albums, the process often starts off slow, but once we get in the groove, the music and arrangements really come together and the final steps happen quite quickly.

Ogre continues to blend the old-school doom with rock elements

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Our biggest influences are old school doom (Vitus, Pentagram, etc.) and old school 70s rock (Sabbath, Rush, Budgie, Dust, Buffalo, etc.), so it’s only natural that those sounds would infiltrate our own songs. We’re not a full-fledged doom band and we’re not a straight-up retro rock band, and while that sometimes makes us hard to categorize, I think it’s also what makes us a bit unique in both of those scenes.

What are the lyrics about and what connection do they have with your music?

In the past, we’ve always tended to either look at the distant past or the far future for inspiration for our lyrics. Ed, who writes most of our lyrics, is a huge history buff, so he’s often exploring little dark corners of history to write about. At the same time, we all love old sci-fi books and movies, and I’m a huge horror movie/book fan, so those themes have also crept into our lyrics over the years. Some of the lyrics on “Thrice as Strong” follow that same pattern – “Cyber-Czar”, for example, continues our trend of writing about cyborgs and robots and what-not – but, at the same time, we also have included more lyrics that tackle current events this time around. There’s plenty of horrible stuff going on today and I guess we were all getting fed up with the way that the powers-that-be are screwing up our world, so those themes found their way into our lyrics on this album.

The themes you touch always give for a good reflection, nowadays people think about it or just listen to music and sing along as a robot. Are lyrics overrated by the bands or whoever?

I think lyrics are an important part of the music, and we spend a lot of time thinking about them. The problem is that good lyrics are REALLY hard to write, which is probably why so many bands treat them as less important or toss them off. However, the bands that we love – take Rush as the most famous example – are those who focus on lyrics just as much as they do the music. To me, great lyrics should take the listener on as much of a journey as the music does. I hope we succeed in doing that on this album!

This 5th album can be considered as the most inspired moment in your career?

While I’ll always look back fondly on our third album “Plague of the Planet” as an ideal example of “inspiration-become-reality”, I certainly think that “Thrice as Strong” is a perfect continuation and extension of all that we have done as a band over the years. It adds some new styles and sounds to our catalog, but it still fits in well with the other albums.

Terror and science fiction are recurring themes in your songs. Reality could give you more ideas than any book…?

As I explained above, I agree wholeheartedly. While I still prefer writing about fictional worlds of sci-fi and horror, I can’t deny that there’s plenty of “inspiration” happening in the world today… I wish it weren’t the case, but reality is often more frightening than anything you read in books.

We can say that in Thrice As Strong the rock weight is more present than ever before in your music?

Well, when we first started working on the album, our original idea was to keep the song lengths on the shorter side, so that likely is what caused us to lean towards more rock-oriented songs. That said, the last couple of songs we wrote for the album – “Blood of Winter” and “Cyber-Czar” – lean more towards the doom side of things, so I would say there’s a pretty good balance of styles on this record.

You consider yourself a band ready to adapt to any changes or you are more kind of classical and standstill band, unaware of whatever happens around in the musical world?

While we certainly are aware of what’s happening in the current musical world, we are firmly rooted in the past – “born too late”, as the great Saint Vitus so eloquently put it. I don’t think we’ll be making any moves towards “modernizing” our sound in the near future…

Any favorite in the new album?

I think that all three of us really like how “Cyber-Czar” came out, but I also dig “Judgement Day”. Initially, I wasn’t sure about that song, but I think it came out great, as it really covers a lot of ground – some Metallica-styled chugging in the verses, a more Pentagram-inspired riff in the chorus, and then the heavy breakdown in the middle. It’s a fun one to play and it’s gone over well in a live setting.

Will you go far from Maine to present this fifth album?

We hope so! Over the years, we have been lucky enough to play in places as far abroad as Japan and Russia, but we really would love to make it over to the UK and/or mainland Europe sometime soon. That’s really the next item on the band’s “bucket list”, so if there are any European bands, promoters, festival organizers, etc. out there who would like to help us get over there, please contact us!

Thanks for your time, Ross, if you wish to add somethhing…

Thanks for helping to spread the word!!

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