Oaf's Dom Lawson: "Modern metal - there's far more to be excited about than to be irritated by."

The bass-playing Metal Hammer journo takes us on a trip through 2012 as seen through his eyes...



What-ho, Mr. Lawson - it's a pleasure to have you aboard! But enough of the pleasantries, we've got too much stuff to get done here. First question - what was the best new album you heard in 2012? "I’d have to go with the new Swans album, The Seer. Such an important band for me over the years and although I liked the last one - My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky -  it didn't quite hit the spot like the best of their old stuff. The Seer is simply monumental. I have to mention the new Ihsahn album, Eremita, the new Scott Walker album, Bish Bosch, and Anneke Van Giersbergen’s latest solo album Everything Is Changing too. Swans edged it for me this year, though."

A thorough round up - thanks for that. And what about old stuff – did any reissues grab your attention this year? "You can’t really argue with the sheer quality of the ongoing King Crimson reissues…the massive Larks’ Tongues In Aspic box set is just phenomenal. My favourite era of that band for sure, and basically everything that that particular incarnation did, including all the live shows. Mind-blowing. Love the Jethro Tull Thick As A Brick box set too (and not just because I did some of the liner notes!). Metal-wise, I’ve been drooling over the Iron Maiden picture disc reissues and the expanded Rainbow albums.

(Makes note on where Christmas money is going then returns to interview). Er, right. Sorry about that. Got sidetracked. Now- what was your non-musical highlight of the last twelve months? "I’ve had a pretty shitty year, to be honest, so probably just the realisation that I made it to my 40th birthday without going bald or becoming a jaded old prick. That’ll do for now!"

The scourge of baldness - never far from a man's mind. Or indeed the skin on top of a man's mind. Anyway, do you think the music scene – and our sort of music in particular – is in good shape at the minute? "Yeah, I do. People are very quick to moan about new trends in heavy music and the commercialisation of the scene blah blah blah…but the truth is that there is a vast amount of fantastic music being made and in all manner of genres and subgenres. There are certain types of modern metal that don’t really do it for me, but there is far more to be excited about than to be irritated by. The ongoing lack of bands with potential to become really huge is a worry, at least in terms of future festival headliners, but the music world is evolving and we all must adapt to how things are, rather than bitch about how everything was better in the old days. Fuck all that bollocks, frankly. I’m having an awesome time and there aren’t enough hours in the day to listen to all the great albums being released."

I'm finding that myself, actually - I'm perpetually knee deep in new music that needs listening to! Did anything disappoint you musically in 2012? "Nothing springs to mind! All the bands you’d expect to deliver the goods have done just that…I suppose the only thing that consistently annoys me is how the rock/metal press tend to hype up young bands that plainly aren’t the finished article yet. So much of the metalcore and post-metalcore (apologies for the stupid category names!) scene relies on lazy formulae and cliché, rather than finely-honed songwriting. It also winds me up when people say “They’re amazing live!” and what they really mean is that a band jumps about a lot as a substitute for stage presence and charisma. We could certainly do with more bands with a distinctive personality, too. The best music has atmosphere and a unique vibe to it. Too many new bands seem content to emulate their peers without adding anything new to that sound. Moan, grumble, whinge etc."

Nothing wrong with holding strident opinions. On a more personal note, what with your being a wielder of the four-string motherfucker an' all, Which practitioners of your own musical role impressed you most this year? "Oh, the usual suspects…Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, Rob Wright, Shane Embury…in terms of punk rock, I really like Stuart Gili-Ross from Gallows and I absolutely LOVE Janne Ylikorpi from Finnish prog monsters Moonwagon. Amazing bass player."

Some ringing (in a bottom-ended sense, of course) endorsements there. What about the best live act you’ve seen this year? "It’s a close race between Gojira, the Devin Townsend Project and My Dying Bride. I saw Nomeansno on my 40th birthday in London and they were as amazing as ever. Machine Head, Black Sabbath and the mighty Orange Goblin also deserve a mention."

That's a pretty good festival lineup you've listed right there. To the near future now -what does the next twelve months hold in prospect for you? "The second Oaf album should be out early in the new year. I’ve been a bit slack getting the artwork finished but we’re nearly there…can’t wait to get it out there and see what everyone thinks of it. I’m really proud of it, so I don’t actually care if we sell 5 copies or 500, but I’m excited by releasing it into the wild at last! It’s called Birth School Oaf Death and it’s not very pleasant. I’m also looking forward to playing live as much as possible in 2013. We’re playing at Hammerfest in March for the third year running. That should be funny. I’m also excited about the new Ginger Wildheart Mutation album(s) coming out…I played bass on a few songs on the first one of the two. I also did backing vocals on the debut album by a killer UK thrash metal band called Shrapnel and that should be out sometime in 2013. I’ve got a few more musical projects on the horizon and I’ve already started writing the third Oaf album, so I’ll be busy! Not to mention my actual job…plenty of stuff to write for Metal Hammer and Prog, as ever."

Well it's good to keep busy, isn't it? Keeps the brain supple apparently. Away from your plans, which band, if any, do you think is primed to break out into the wider consciousness in 2013? "Firstly, I think Gojira are set to become much bigger over the next 12 months. You only have to see the reaction they get at their shows to realise that something exciting is happening there. I also think Devin Townsend is on the brink of some genuine mainstream success. No one who writes so many brilliant songs can languish in obscurity forever, surely? Finally, the UK’s very own Hacktivist are going to make a major impact in 2013, in the UK at least. Massive crossover potential there and they’re doing something really new and exciting. I hope they become massive, frankly."

We'll keep an eye out for them. Lifestyle issues now: We’re fast approaching the festive season - best night for a party – Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? "Christmas Eve. I’m not waiting around until December 31st to get drunk. Fuck that. And fuck New Year generally. I’m not a fan."

Amazing how many people feel this way. Apart from pub owners, obviously. Now, the old man with the scythe has beaten us again, time to wind things up - anything else you like the readers of Metal as Fuck to know? "The first Oaf album is still available! Haha! Go to oaf.bigcartel.com and buy one. You know it makes sense. We have lovely t-shirts too. And follow us on Twitter - @Oaf_twits – and “like” us (or whatever it is) on Facebook – www.facebook.com/themightyoaf - and you’ll probably go to Heaven. Or get hit by a bus. Haven’t quite worked that one out yet. Finally, don’t forget that life really is too short to listen to shit music. So listen to my radio show on TotalRock.com (soon to become Bloodstock Radio, by the way!)…once a month, Saturday 6-9pm. I’ll keep you entertained, I promise. Now fuck off and leave me alone. Cheers."