Pombagira “Drums of Voodoo – Charms of Doom” [Interview]

by Aleks Evdokimov (12/19/12)

Pombagira is British psychedelic doom project run by Peter and Carolyn Hamilton-Giles. The
band was born in 2006 and it’s known for its crushing, deadly heaviness and dense, slow riffs in
the vein of Sleep or Electric Wizard. I see it in your eyes… You’re asking about band’s name,
right? Pomba Gira is a goddess from the voodoo pantheon and the sacred rites of Afro-Caribbean
cults form the main subjects of Peter’s lyrics. The band has four full-length albums steeped
in occult significance and psychedelia in equal parts, blending traditional Doom stylings with
bellowed hymns in a name of Baron Samedi. With a fifth album on its way, we’re soon to see a
coming of “Maleficia Lamiah”—beware and heed the call of Pombagira’s voodoo rhythms!

I’ve heard of some news about Pombagira’s forthcoming album so if you don’t mind, we’ll
start with that. How did Pombagira spend 2012 besides working in studio?

Already we have had such a lot of interest with regards to the new album and the continental PR
campaign started less than a week ago. Incredible! So yes, as you have already heard we are back
with a new album titled “Maleficia Lamiah.” The vinyl version will be five songs; three long
songs which take up a side each and then—would you believe it—two short three-minute songs.
I know—finally we managed to get below ten minutes with a song! One of these is a cover of
a song by this incredible, although not well-known, freakbeat outfit from the 60s called The
Longboatmen. The track is called “Take Her Anytime,” probably not the most politically correct
title for a song nowadays, but the track rocks and it has been one of my favorite 60s tracks for a
very long time. With regards to the CD version we decided to make only two of the five songs
available since this takes it up to a normal album length.

I know some people will find similarities with “Black Axis Abraxas” because that was only two
songs long; this one however is an altogether different “kettle of fish,” as we say here in the
UK. Reasons for the difference in format between five songs and two also came down to the
fact that we really wanted to make the vinyl edition something truly special. I mean, this album
has cost us a lot of money to put together, with recording costs, mastering, PR and of course the
involvement of Vic Singh who did the cover for Pink Floyd’s “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” and
worked with the Beatles on film and in photos. So yeah, it’s been something of a whirlwind ride
for us this year!

The album sounding the way it does has also been down to us not playing live in the last year. A
year ago, I was feeling pretty disillusioned with playing live. There was always an expectation
that we would bring a large backline, which was always partially at the request of the promoter,
only to find that the PA couldn’t handle it, people who had promised to help move equipment
made themselves scarce as soon as help was required, and the stage was just too small to fit us
and the gear on. So I began to feel like we should turn our attention to writing rather than playing
live and this time I think banishing ourselves into the wilderness has really paid off.

Do you plan to return to playing live in 2013? Your story about touring sounds sad--do you
have any good memories of playing live? I know that you’ve shared the stage with a lot of
great bands.

Absolutely we do. We are talking already about heading out and doing a full European tour in
2013. In fact, the break has done us good because we now feel re-energized about playing live.
The only problem we have is that we have no plans to compromise on how we do it. If people

want us to play, well that’s great, but we’ve passed the point where we will play for a bag of cold
chips, a vocal PA, and a stage where I am constantly walking back into the drum kit, or where
there is some volume restriction. First and foremost we are a live band, but as mentioned before
we just reached a point where we needed to walk away from making any live commitments.
If the right offer came along tomorrow we would jump at the chance, but everything we have
been asked to do this year, at least, just didn’t seem right. And of course we have some amazing
memories from playing with bands such as Switchblade, Toner Low, Lesbian and Weedeater.
But as our musical style has expanded, so has our desire to play with bands that think alike, that
think outside the box, who don’t comply with the norm; consequently, playing with Doom or
Stoner bands doesn’t really excite us, with the exception of the bands mentioned above.

A year ago, you mentioned that you had three songs for fifth album (its working name was
“Summon”), but I see that there’s another number of tracks in your new forthcoming full-
length and also you have changed the album’s title onto “Maleficia Lamiah”. Does it mean
that its concept has changed too?

Aahhh yes, I think you were one of the few people I mentioned this to at the time. So yes, we
did intend to record “Summon” and a couple of other songs for the next album, but the principle
problem with that was that they sounded like old Pombagira. We still have that material and we
will eventually record a version of those songs but with our new vibe attached. We were thinking
that sometime in the middle of the year we may record a 45rpm 12” that would contain these
songs. So we will see. As it stands, “Maleficia Lamiah” is a totally new entity to what we had
in mind before. Of course the subject matter is not so far removed to make it unrecognizable.
And as mentioned before, the vinyl version of “Maleficia” actually has five songs, three sides on
33rpm and the last side being a 45rpm.

Your previous album “Iconoclast Dream” was one long song. Your love of long
compositions is obvious. What kind of responses did you hear from listeners about track
durations? Sometimes it’s really hard to find enough time to listen deeply to such a huge
track without breaks.

I do understand the problem that people have with the length of our songs. Unfortunately for us,
our music emphasizes the difficulty people have with setting aside enough time to really get into
the groove. But I am not certain we should pander to other lifestyles. When I was a teenager in
the late 70s early 80s, I used to love nothing more than sitting in my bedroom and getting into
the music over a well-rolled joint. I would stare at the artwork and let the music wash over me,
allowing my mind to wonder while at the same inviting the music to expand my experiential
horizons. These are qualities in life I hope others can still appreciate, that there should be times
where we are able sit down and absorb music without interruption.

There is also another important aspect to our writing style which is that we believe a song has
a life of its own, and therefore we have to give it the space to evolve. I have already seen that a
couple of reviews have mentioned the two tracks as being psychotic! Personally I don’t see that
but it sure does indicate a similar vibe to Pink Floyd’s early material. At the same time, we aren’t
trying to copy another person’s craft; we’ve taken it as our inspiration to write in a new and
unconventional way. It’s certainly not going to be to everyone’s taste but we have to stick with
what we believe.

What is a concept behind the “Iconoclast Dream” album? This album has a pretty
intriguing title yet I can’t connect it with its cover art.

Yeah I see what you mean with regards to the title and the cover. There was a lot going on with
the album artwork and you are probably right that it didn’t work as well as we would have liked.
The whole Baron image on the front was meant to represent the iconoclastic experience of dying,
loosing form and mind, being enveloped by the Governor of the crossroads. At the same time I
really liked the idea of doing a film poster style cover which we achieved. Also, the creole that
surrounds the painting is actually a Haitian invocation to the lwa [spirits] and the opening of
the crossroads. So it has many different levels. The dream aspect to the title was driven by the
idea of sacrificing your own identity in life to experience something more, to step beyond the
crossroads and start a new journey beyond the limited form of our corporeal lives.

I see that a tendency towards increasing psychedelic influences in your music from album
to album, and I guess that “Iconoclast Dream” was a kind of culmination of this evolution.
How does the new music from Pombagira sound?

You would be absolutely right. “Iconoclast Dream” set the template for us because we came to
realize, through playing and during recording that album, that there was so much more potential
to be found by experimenting with the psychedelic aspects of our music. “Maleficia Lamiah”
marks the culmination of our endeavors so far. I would say the new recording isn’t all about
being heavy or aggressive anymore; now the overdriven and clean reverb delayed parts are
positioned in equal proportion to the driving, heavy parts. Also, with the new album we are
definitely playing more up-tempo songs than on previous releases. I think in a way we reached
a natural conclusion with “Iconoclast Dream.” We couldn’t realistically carry on doing the same
thing over and over again. It was time to change things up and we began with “Iconoclast” to
understand how we might do that. A key difference in the new album is the vocal since this
differs radically to what we have done before. But again, “Iconoclast” allowed us to feel like we
had reached fruition--that it was time to change--in order to set ourselves new challenges and
new goals. I think with the new album we have managed to do that, and that is partially due to us
having recorded “Iconoclast Dream.”

How did your manner of singing change in new album? And do you continue to use some
cultural features of voodoo in your music?

The critical issue about changing vocal style came from a belief that the vocals should be an
instrument that enhances the music. Bringing harmonies that a two piece couldn’t otherwise
achieve has allowed for us to place the vocals center stage. I can’t even imagine how the music
would sound if I was once again just roaring the vocals over the music. Also, with some careful
placement the lyrics now can be heard, to the point that if you wanted you could actually sing
along. I kind of like the idea that by us being able to include this extra harmonizing dimension,
we can make the music more accessible. Of course the vocal style won’t be too everyone’s taste,
but again as the creators of what we do, we needed—to the exclusion of public opinion--to forge
ahead and do something truly different.

With regards to the incorporation of Vodou cultural features, they are always there, and people
who understand that, recognizing those swift shift changes, will see that as much as this may be
a progressive musical formula, at the heart of what we do there rests an ongoing fascination with
creating portals and opening gateways through the introduction of new textures and slight key
variations. Throughout “Maleficia Lamiah” we’ve attempted to replicate the course of Vodou
ceremonies with the different moods in position and place enhancing trance like states one
experience’s when being ridden by the lwa. Therefore, it would be erroneous to simply conclude
that all we do is play music; there are deeper and far more fascinating aspects to the way our
compositions are created. This album is therefore a manifestation of our contact with Otherness,
and brings a spiritual dimension for the listener which openly admonishes the stock occult
Doom, “Hammer House of Horror” fiction used by so many bands.

Did your collection of instruments change over the last year? Have you discovered any new
equipment during the recording of “Maleficia Lamiah”?

I have to say there really hasn’t been much going on with regards to new acquisitions for the
Pombagira backline. We have bought in the last year two Ampeg SVT 8x10s because the old
Marshall 8x10 bass cab just couldn’t cut it when it came to those low end bass notes. Perhaps
just as shocking is that these two 8x10s are modern cabs. Again, the decision was taken that for
most live shows in the future we require cabs that can really handle the wear and tear that touring
takes out on old equipment. I mean, I love our 1960s Ampeg fridge 8x10 cab but the last time
we were on tour it really let us down. I did pick up this 100 watt Elgin amp which was used by
bands such as Humble Pie back in the day. Only made for a very short period of time, it is an
amazing amp and really adds some very dynamic mid-range when used together with our other
amps. Perhaps equally exciting is that we have now managed to find a way to get even more
wattage out of our Sunn Model Ts. We changed them to run on European mains, thereby getting
rid of the step down transformers. This increased the voltage which had the knock-on effect of
us needing to upgrade capacitors; along with this we found that if we mis-loaded the ohmage we
could get them to produce in excess of 200 watts each clean. By mis-loading, I mean if you have
two 16 ohm cabs you would normally set the amp at 8 ohms however on the Sunn Model Ts, if
you keep it at 16 ohms on the amp, the amp’s output increases without damaging the amp. The
result of this is that it produces a more dynamic and tighter sound and sounds incredible when
playing clean as well as dirty.

Did the process of recording “Maleficia Lamiah” differ from your previous recording
sessions? I’m curious how you feel when working on your songs, because each album has
its own face, yet all of them follow some unified, leading motive that’s really interesting.
How does it feel to create new stuff?

With “Maleficia Lamiah,” we had more scope to experiment because of the room we were
afforded to set up at Foel Studios in Wales. They have a pretty substantial live room which is
meant for overdriven guitars and we used an Orange OR120, Elgin 100watt, West Fillmore
200watt, Laney Klipp 100. For the clean, we used slightly different amps--we swapped the
Fillmore for a Simms Watts and changed the Elgin for a Selmer 100 SV. And so it was with the
heavy guitars, although these didn’t turn out great at Foel, so we had to go back to Earthworks
where we recorded “Iconoclast Dream” to record the heavy guitars again. This time we used the
Laney Klipp, two Laney LA100BLs (the precursor to the Laney Supergroup), one red knob Sunn
Model T and the West Fillmore. So you can see with every aspect of the sound, we were able to
call upon an arsenal of decent vintage equipment. Then for bass we used a 1970 Ampeg Blueline
SVT and our Ampeg V9. So all in all we used something like 14 different amps across the course
of the recording. Consequently, I am not sure anyone would dare suggest this sounds similar to
anything else they have ever heard. But if influences were to be cited then rather than draw from
the usual culprits in the Doom scene I would say the guitar and the way it was played was more
akin to something between The Byrds and My Bloody Valentine. Because we really wanted to
capture the West Coast psych jangle from playing all the strings, and indeed on the heavy parts it
makes it sound like we are a full band, but we also wanted it to be dirtier and noisier than before,
like a super heavy, acid-drenched version of Wooden Shjips. Because of all these different
qualities, the actual creation of the recording was the most enjoyable and yet at times the most
frustrating experience we have ever had to date.

You had plans to release a few split albums with some well-known Doom bands, but I
remember that you delayed most of them for different reasons. Are you now refusing such

Again, these collaborations were mentioned and indeed scheduled at a time when we were still
developing as a band. At the time the possibility of doing a split with Coffins, The Wounded
Kings or Windhand was right. However in the last year and a half, these three collaborations
seemed less and less necessary or appropriate. As our sound changed and our attention to detail
became more refined, we felt our music didn’t sit well with these bands. I love the Wounded
Kings; I just reached the decision that our love for the band and Steve Mills in particular,
someone who has supported the band more than anyone else, required us to walk away from
having anything to do with their scene. I suppose I felt we didn’t any longer belong, and if we
had then proceeded with these releases, it would have signaled a desire to continue our affiliation
with the scene. Moreover, I know these releases wouldn’t have added anything to us as a band or
as people caught in the creative maelstrom of making forward-thinking music. Yes, it may have
gotten us greater exposure but at what expense to our sense of integrity?

Have you continued your spiritual practices during the last two years or is music your sole
form of worship and development?

Actually, this is something I am more involved in than ever before. I am currently in discussion
with an American occult press with regards to doing two or three books on sorcery. Also, I am
working on an academic book using a philosophical analysis to understand how the witch has
been imagined within a historical and traditional context. So I suppose this is my current outlet
for spiritual enterprises. I have some very cool and unique ideas on how to practice the arte
magical which will be appearing in a grimoire in the forthcoming couple of years. Even I have to
first get my head around some of the conceptual ideas.

That’s intriguing news! Not so long ago I discovered Paul Roland’s music and
books for myself, and I see that he’s not the only one who can join great music composing
with occult book writing. Please share a bit more info your books’ contents.

So it would be slightly premature to discuss exactly what’s going on with regards to publishing
deals etc. But I will be writing a complementary book to accompany the publication of “the
Draconian Grimoire,” also known as the “Essex Dragon Book,” written by the late Andrew
Chumbley. I was actually the person who formed the Dragon’s Column and along with Andrew
colluded to make the most impressive grimoire to have even been written. This as well as the
complementary book by me will be eventually published through Xoanon.

I am also in discussion with Three Hands Press on a number of possible publications, the nature
of which I can’t yet divulge.

As mentioned before though I am currently working on a full working grimoire of my own
entitled “the Baron Citadel.” It is expansive in its application and takes the art of working as a
magician down to the level of self-awareness and the making of idols into sorcerous templates
of recognition so as to enflesh the interface, the Baron Citadel. This facilitates the creation of
a space where one can communicate openly with spirits, entities, gods and such like that dwell
on the other side of the mirror, at the very heart of the crossroads. I also have plans, and am
currently doing extensive research on how the witch from the early modern period to now has
been imagined as an instrument for authenticating claims about the ownership of the lifeworld.
Although time has brought about enormous social and economic changes, the prevalence of the
witch as a subjective icon, swinging from depictions as the bringer of harm to the embodiment
of a hidden gnosis implying there exists a long traditional pagan thread to the past, requires
examination. Ronald Hutton did a fine job with “Triumph of the Moon” but I am not sure he
went far enough, because so many questions emerge once you apply a phenomenological and
hermeneutic approach that need to be answered so as to truly grasp the making of the witch.
At present though I am pretty set on keeping the music and the occult/academic interests
distinctly separate.

There is always a cheesy aspect when musicians start to talk about being occultists etc. and I
don’t feel comfortable with this kind of cross-pollination because of the negative connotations
associated with so much music, where everything is diluted to some cheap rhetorical stunt to
self-aggrandize the image of the musician; that just isn’t me.

Thank you very much for great interview Peter! I’m sure that “Maleficia Lamiah” is an
album which is worth for waiting for, and I bet that our readers will enjoy it too. Good
luck man!

Well thanks for taking the time to catch up on the world of Pombagira. Although we
don’t run it you can join us on our Facebook page and make sure you visit our record
website www.blackaxisrec.co.uk for updates. Pre-sales should be available for the vinyl in

Embrace the Opposer and become the Light Bringer!
Thanks to Lauren Barley for organization of the interview.

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