In the days of “amp worship” and bands with better gear than songwriting ability, Bask is a rare animal in the metal world. Nearly impossible to place in one genre, Bask is all about embracing the weird. Sections of their debut record, 2014‘s American Hollow, rival Isis in their post-metal atmospheric sound. On the other end of the spectrum there is an acoustic folk song and almost Morricone-esque sections of clean tremolo guitar that drip with singer Zeb Wright’s southern drawl. Ray Worth’s guitar brings some serious heat with riffs that would even make Bask’s most recent tour mate Matt Pike (High on Fire) jealous. Jesse van Note provides an audial slab of concrete with bass swells and punches. In the middle of all of that is a hurricane of flailing arms and sticks, the one and only Scott Middleton. Watching Scott play drums is like watching and hearing a third world war right in front of you. Comparisons to John Bonham and Keith Moon come to mind but while the orange Vistalite kit doesn’t hurt, Middleton deserves that praise. In a genre of conventions that have been worn out since Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4 where every band has “witch,” “bong,” or “weed” in the name, and full Sunn stacks with more logo bearing merchandise than actual songs; Middleton and the rest of Bask cuts through all of that immediately.
Fresh off of their month long European tour with stalwarts High on Fire, I caught up with Scott on the phone to hear his best stories of being a hungry American citizen in Europe and to hear what Bask had planned for 2016. He had a lot to say (some of our conversation is best unpublished for all involved), but we started with the basics.
Scott explained that Bask got heard by the right people and the right people liked the record who passed it along to the High on Fire camp. Previously expressing interest in a European tour, Bask was just waiting for the right offer. Getting an offer for a month long tour with the guitarist of Sleep’s “other band” seemed like a pretty damn good opportunity. Middleton said that the European crowds were nothing but hospitable and friendly. He said, “Here in the states, in Asheville, if we play to 100 people we’re lucky, but over there we played to 200-500 people every night. That was crazy.”
We also discussed pacing yourself and reigning in your emotions every night. “Playing at 110% every night is exhausting, and I learned quickly that I needed to control how hard I was going to be able to keep up for the whole tour.” Scott said that watching High on Fire in and out every night taught the Bask crew a new level of professionalism, and set the standard for masterful performances every night. Scott proclaimed that watching Matt Pike every night and even listening to him soundcheck with crazy jokes and funny songs was unreal. Imagine touring with one of the innovators of the genre your band is a part of…
Of course, the highlights of tours aren’t always all positive experiences. The morning of the last show for the tour package, Bask’s driver woke them up in the hotel to say that someone had robbed the equipment trailer and taken nearly everything. Disappointed, emotional, and violated, Bask had to decide quickly what the next step was. After reporting every missing piece of drum gear, guitars and pedals to the Swedish police (imagine watching a Swedish police officer translate “Big Muff” for the report) the Bask boys reasoned that there was no way to play their last show, and defeatedly headed home. “I think we were more upset that we got robbed of our big hoo-rah, our last goodbye to the European audience and to the High on Fire fellas and their crew that we had just spent a month cutting our teeth with. We were more upset about that than the gear, we all placed insurance on our equipment before we left, but didn’t get a proper last show in Europe” Scott said of the robbery.
He gladly reported that most everyone in the band has rebuilt their rig to Bask standards and the volume and experience of the live show suffers no longer. Insurance helped replace the missing gear and the band still stays in touch with Pike and the High on Fire crew, so the European run can be chalked up to an overall success.
As far as moving forward, Scott said they are doing a quick tour with Black Tusk and Royal Thunder, and then hunkering down to finish writing the follow up to their largely popular and well received debut, American Hollow. Middleton reports that the band has several songs that are finished and will be a part of their live set on this upcoming tour, and a few that are still receiving finishing touches. With much of a future ahead of them, Scott and the boys are excited to see where Bask takes them, using bands like High on Fire as inspiration. “Watching them interact and still be great friends with each other after playing music together for nearly 20 years, it was inspiration for us to keep doing our thing.”
Here’s hoping that Bask has plenty of years and plenty of records ahead of them, as they are a treat to the North Carolina music community.
Bask has a three week run planned with Black Tusk and Royal Thunder, which they are leaving for after a kickoff show at The Rabbit Hole (1801 Commonwealth Avenue) with the bands Green Fiend, Of Sinking Ships and TURD/CUTTER on Thursday, January 21st. The show costs $7 and starts at 8:00 pm.