Interview: Bison B.C. Frontman James Farwell Talks New Album, 'Lovelessness,' Gear and More

by Andrew Bansal
Posted Nov 20, 2012 at 11:47am

Canadian heavy metal quartet Bison B.C. released their fourth studio album, Lovelessness, October 22 via Metal Blade Records.

Musically as well as lyrically, the six-track effort is more intense than the band's previous efforts and presents yet another facet of their creativity.

A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with guitarist/vocalist James Farwell to discuss the making of the album, gear setup and lots more. Read our conversation below, and visit the band's Facebook page for more info.

GUITAR WORLD: Upon listening to your new album, Lovelessness, I feel the music is darker than what you did on your previous three albums. Would you agree?

It seemed to come out that way. Some pretty dark s--- happened to me over the past year. I’ve become a quite depressive, melancholic, a------ 40-year-old, so this is what we get in the end, an album of truths.

There's a great level of intensity in the album’s title and lyrical theme. Is it more of a "personal" record in that sense?

Yes, it comes from the heart. It is far more about my life than anything I've done. I wanted to use music for some true therapy for once, not just ambiguous jabs at some vague political or emotional scraps.

When I listen to tunes such as "An Old Friend," "Anxiety Puke," "Blood Music" and "Finally Asleep," there seems to be a lot of emphasis on twin guitar melodies more than anything else. Was that a deliberate change in your songwriting approach this time?

I really wanted to find interesting melodies without relying on guitar harmonies. I consciously omitted the use of harmonies unless I felt they really belonged and made the music move a bit more, especially if they were more discordant, which always pleases me. Interesting that it jumped out at you; I think we wanted to bring some texture to the guitar parts, not just pummel people. We wanted to separate the guitars in places making them their own. So yeah, I think that evolved into a deliberate part of this album.

bisonbc1.jpg

Can you describe the gear setup you used for recording this album?

Well we recorded in Chicago and brought none of our own guitar amps. We only brought our main guitars. So Dan brought his First Act guitar and I brought my Gibson Explorer. We ended up using two main amps. I played through a Deizel VH4, which would not normally be my choice, but Sanford said "Trust me." Because we trusted him and wanted to experiment, we tried it. It really came through recorded, it’s a dirty-sounding amp man, I could have sat there for a week f---ing with the sound though, too many knobs [laughs]. Dan played through a Wizard, pretty Orange-sounding amp, but with more guts, not as thin as I find Orange amps. For overdub and texturing etc., we used an Emery Sound amp. Great little low-gain amp where you can swap out tubes for different characteristics.

Is it the same as what you’ve been using on stage and on previous recordings, or have you changed a few things here and there?

Completely different. Stage sound I think needs to be a bit more punchy, which is achieved with what we tour with.

Sanford Parker produced the new album for you, and he has a history of working with some great bands. How did you come to the decision of using him?

Well, he’s a ruthless prick, but he understands music. I think he wants to make something that sounds unique the way we did. He was a great host and was honest about the material. It was great working with someone who was new and unfamiliar, it helped keep us on edge a bit, and again adding to a certain tension I wanted with these tunes. We also wanted to be in a different environment, a little uncomfortable. We wanted to get to our tour vibe; sleeping on floors, hung over, staying up late, getting up early. It really added to the tension and dirt that comes across on the recording, I think.

Did you get to use any additional gear other than your own at his studios while you were working on the album?

Sanford had a great selection of pedals and outboard gear for noise and coloring guitar sounds. He was great with experimenting on different sounds. Lots of echo-type effects and moog pedals. In particular I remember a spring reverb pedal where we would drag a knife across the springs.

This is your drummer Matt Wood’s first studio album with Bison B.C. How well has he fit into the scheme of things?

He was a great addition. He really has a sense of the music, he understands the direction and the journey. He allows the riffs to breathe and exist. He doesn’t strangle them in complex patterns or overbearing self indulgent playing. He knows when to lay back and he knows when to come crashing in. He knows what should be in front and when, and ultimately, the drummer is in charge [laughs].

In this day and age, metal bands really have to tour a lot to promote their music, and you’re no exception. Your gear must be taking a lot of beating, stacked up in vans and buses during the relentless hours of traveling. How do you prevent it from damages?

Just luck and tight packing. We don’t use road cases for amps or even drums, so it’s just dumb luck nothing has been destroyed. I have a workhorse of an amp (a Mesa F-100 long head) that’s fallen and been dropped more times than I care to recall. It has never broken more than a toggle switch in the 12 years I've had it.

What plans do you have for the near future, in terms of touring?

We are figuring out a north American and European tour now, to happen next year. Very excited to get on the road and play this album live. Keep yer ears peeled!

Andrew Bansal is a writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, news, reviews and pictures on his website -- with the help of a small group of people. Up till February 2012 he was based in Los Angeles. After that, he had to move to India, but is still carrying on his heavy metal endeavors with the same intensity.