An Interview with Kent Stump of Wo Fat

By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

Image courtesy of Wo Fat Facebook (official)

Recently, I caught up with Kent Stump of veteran doom outfit, Wo Fat. Among other things, we touch on Wo Fat’s most recent record, The Singularity, Kent’s musical origins, his thoughts on the industry, what’s next, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Wo Fat, the link to the band’s webpage is here. Once you’ve done that, check out this interview with Kent. Cheers.

Andrew:
Kent, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?

Kent:
It’s been a strange couple of years getting through the pandemic. Our drummer Michael and I run a recording studio together, so we’ve been working on trying to keep that going through the pandemic, and building business back up as things start getting back to some kind of normalcy. As you know, we finally finished up the long-awaited new record, which I was very happy about.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on music?

Kent:
I grew up in a musical family. Both of my parents are classical musicians, and my first vivid musical memory is my dad playing a record of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” My dad was a fan of big band jazz too, so I heard that from a very young age, which led me to listen to quite a bit of various styles of jazz when I was young. My brother is a musician as well, and it just was kind of an unavoidable thing, and I never thought of really doing anything else.

Andrew:
Who were some of your early influences?

Kent:
When I was a teenager, I had a music teacher that played a huge role in shaping who I was and the direction my life went in. Each week, I would go to have a music lesson with him, and he would give me a stack of records to take home and listen to. We would talk about the music the next week after I had listened to it, and he would give me another stack of records to check out. He instilled in me a curiosity, and an interest in history and where things came from. These were mostly jazz records but around the same time, I also discovered the blues, which is something that has always spoken to me, as well as classic bands like Zeppelin, ZZ Top, and Hendrix. My journey to heavy music is kind of backward from most people. It began with my interest in jazz, especially the very intense music of musicians like John Coltrane and Miles Davis. When I was exposed to punk and metal by friends in college, the intensity of it drew me in. I think listening to Black Sabbath and discovering bands like Fu Manchu and Sleep in the 90s really focused my musical interests, as far as the kind of music I wanted to play, towards the stoner rock and doom metal direction, because its music with very bluesy foundation, and is aware of its roots. It has the heaviness I really dig and also allows for freedom in many ways, including spontaneity and jamminess much like jazz.

Image courtesy of Wo Fat Facebook (official)

Andrew:
Let’s talk about recent events. Tell us about your new album, The Singularity.

Kent:
The Singularity is our seventh studio album and has been long overdue. To my mind, it is the most, maybe, different and varied of our albums, going to some melodic and stylistic places that we haven’t really done with Wo Fat before. Generally, when I’m in the writing mode for an album, I get inspired by the other music that I’m listening to a lot at the time. I was listening to a lot of heavy psychedelic-ish and instrumental bands like Monkey3, as well as bands like Elder that melodically are doing some different kinds of things, and also a good amount of 70s jazz fusion. All of this played into the vibe of the new songs quite a bit. The heavy, swampy bluesy stuff is still there but with these other things sprinkled in as well.

Andrew:
What themes are you exploring with your new music? How has your background brought you to this point in your musical journey?

Kent:
Lyrically, it’s very much influenced by and about some of the dark things that are happening to the world, like the impending climate crisis and the dangerous road that disinformation and propaganda are taking us down – especially here in the US. We’re using a lot of more sci-fi types of stories, and imagery with the lyrics to talk about these things.

I think, regarding your question about my background, I would say that my widely varied musical interests, and my interest in finding out where things come from and what its roots are musically have brought this album to where it is with its, to my mind anyway, fairly unique sound that is made of those many influences.

Andrew:
How about the production side of things? Do you self-produce, or do you bring in outside voices?

Kent:
We self-produce and always have. As I mentioned before, Michael and I co-own a recording studio and my day job is as a recording engineer. I’ve recorded and mixed all of the stuff Wo Fat has done. I usually have a pretty strong vision of what I want the albums to be and I don’t know that I can give up that control with someone else producing or even just engineering.

Image credit: Sally Townsend

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? What are a few of your favorite albums and why?

Kent:
Definitely into vinyl. I started buying records when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s. Not only do I love how vinyl sounds, I think that the whole package with the cover art and liner notes is part of the experience. I remember just staring at the artwork for albums while I listened to them and reading all of the liner notes. We always try to have cool artwork done that will kind of be a way to set the vibe for the listener and help start the journey. I still have boxes of cassettes of stuff I recorded from friends in the 80s and 90s as well. And of course, I still have CDs, but my favorite is vinyl.

Hmm, favorite albums…that’s a tough one. There’re so many great records. A couple of albums that have been longtime favorites of mine would be Sleep’s Holy Mountain – it’s got insanely killer bluesy riffs, it’s super heavy, and the lyrics are awesome.

Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Between Nothingness and Eternity – this album is insane. It’s a live album that captures this band of amazing musicians just ripping through some intricate and crazy music, and it feels very much like they’re just going for it so hard that it’s just right there on the edge of the whole thing going off the rails and blowing up.

ZZ Top’s – Tres Hombres. Perfection and timeless.

And a couple more recent albums that I love are Maligno’s Funeral Domine, Elder’s Lore, Church of Misery’s Thy Kingdom Scum, Monkey3’s Sphere, and Samsara Blues Experiment’s One With the Universe.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Kent:
As I mentioned my day gig is as a recording engineer, which is something I really love doing. I work with a really wide variety of musicians working on a lot of different styles of music from rock to jazz to country to gospel. Just spending my days working on all of these different musical styles and seeing so many different musical perspectives give me new and interesting ways to approach and think about my own music.

Image courtesy of Wo Fat Facebook (official)

Andrew:
In your opinion, what is the state of the music business these days? Should artists be hopeful? Scared? Both?

Kent:
A bit of both really. I think the internet in many ways has given smaller independent artists access that they never had and has definitely benefitted bands like Wo Fat, but at the same time, things like Spotify and the dramatic shift everything has taken towards streaming have devalued music and musicians. I also think that the big mainstream music is really at an all-time low in terms of quality. Good songwriting and original music that isn’t essentially a manipulative self-parody, like the pop world has become, is more and more becoming niche and underground. There is definitely a ton of really good music being made. It’s just not happening with the major labels and big budgets and getting played on the radio like it was in the 70s.

Andrew:
Last one. What’s next on your docket, Kent?

Kent:
We’ve got a European tour in the works for summer 2022 that I’m pretty excited about. We haven’t played a show since pre-pandemic, so I am looking forward to things getting back to a more normal state for sure. I’ve also got some ideas for a side project that I may start working on. We’ll see.

Image credit: Jasper Bolerdik

Interested in learning more about Wo Fat? Hit the link below:

Be sure to check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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