The new guy in North Carolinian doom outfit Hour Of 13 is anything but. As the longtime frontman of Beaten Back To Pure and Birds Of Prey, Ben Hogg has been a one-man Southern metal massacre for well over a decade, and as he takes the singer role in Hour Of 13 vacated by Phil Swanson (Seamount, Vestal Claret, etc.) earlier this year and rises to the challenge of exclusive melodic singing for the first time in his career, there’s very little about that that seems to be changing. He still kills it.
Hogg made his live debut with the band at the Cake Shop in NYC early on in March, and Hour Of 13’s second album, The Ritualist, was recently reissued by Earache. The band will tour the south with Kylesa later this month into June, and reports are they’re headed north again in July, so definitely keep an eye out. For cult American doom, there’s few out there who do it as well as Hour Of 13.
Tell me about taking the vocal role in Hour Of 13.
The manager, Scott Harrington. I had just moved from Virginia Beach to Asheville, North Carolina, and I was really in the process of trying to get together some new members, maybe start something new. That sounded miserable, like a fuckin’ pain in the ass, and out of the blue—I guess I posted about it on Facebook or somewhere—and the manager, Scott Harrington, I guess he was on my Facebook, or whatever. He knew I existed on some level, Birds of Prey or Beaten Back and all that, and he knew I was now in North Carolina, so I get this message out of the blue, and this guy’s talking, and he mentioned Hour Of 13 and all that was going on with them.
My only fear was I thought they lived somewhere further away in the state, and I was like, “Fuck it, I don’t really want to move to Raleigh-Durham,” but I found out they lived in Hickory, and that was only an hour, hour-ten away from my house, so for the first month and a half, I just commuted every day. A good month and a half, just to make it work, to see if I was gonna make the band.
Because I didn’t move to Asheville, North Carolina, in order to live in Hickory. Hickory is whatever it is, but it’s not as progressive or whatever as Asheville. But I started coming out here, and it’s cool, it’s not too bad, and started getting to know the guys and the songs and the material, and it was all pretty good, and the guitar player, Brandon, he had a house next door that was available to rent for $400 a month, and you get what you pay for, but it’s still not a bad little house for $400.
For $400, you figure it’d be a lean-to, but it’s two-bedrooms, so that’s cool. I’m laying there with my girl at 2 a.m., and my phone makes the Facebook sound, and it was a message from Scott, being real descriptive of what was going on, and I was like, “Shit, that’s all pretty interesting stuff.”
That’s how I started, and as I started going to practices, it became clear pretty early that I thought I could do the job, and then probably three weeks later, they offered me the position, I jumped at it. That’s why I’d been driving back and forth. If I didn’t want it, or wasn’t into the music, or if the possibility of doing something big, then I wouldn’t have put all those miles on the car.
Set the scene for me of the New York show. Was there some announcement before you came on stage? How’d it go down?
We had talked of any of that or all of that, and we did soundcheck before the show. In theory, we probably could have done it, but we just started like a normal set. I had to check the mic and all that. I guess there was nothing that grand about it, but it served the purpose of getting the damn news out there, and that was all I really wanted to do. I was worried about that monkey on my back, having to be mysterious and whatever.
I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, and not being able to tell people I want to when they ask, and be all secretive. “You’re being a dick, just tell me what’s happening.” I told a few people, sure, and that’s how the news starts getting out, and I’m like, I wonder who leaked it. It doesn’t matter, long term. There was no, “Ladies and gentlemen, the new vocalist of Hour Of 13, Ben Hogg!” Nothing like that. There was a few people, I remember backstage, changing clothes or whatever, and this guy from the band Natur came in, and he was like, “Oh hey, you’re the new singer,” and he was a young guy and he goes, “I saw these guys last time they were in New York, they were fucking great.” I was like, “Yup, cool.” I don’t know, we just had a long, uncomfortable pause. It’s like, “Hope you’re good. Last fucking guy was great.”
How was it for you adapting to the different vocal style?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always—well, I won’t say “always”—after 10 days out with Beaten Back or whoever, screaming your throat out every night, that gets a little laborious. This is different. This is more skilled. You can’t necessarily take the stage shitty drunk and expect to pull off greatness, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, something I’ve always had the suspicion that I would be able to do if the time arose, and shit, now I’m here.
I think I can at least do it good enough to keep the ship afloat. I’ll say that. I’m anxious to hear something recorded with it as well, outside of the rehearsal room, and I think that’ll be the tale that tells the… tale? Or whatever. That’ll be the real story there.
Do you guys have any plans for recording? Would you even go in and lay down vocals on old material, just to hear how it sounds before you do something new, or is it all new stuff from here on out?
All new stuff. I don’t see any benefit to doing that, really. Chad [Davis, guitar] has a recording operation at his house, so in theory, those songs are done and they’ll always be played live, but I don’t see any necessity to go back and re-record anything old.
I don’t even know how good an idea that’d be, but we hear each other in the room. The band room is loud as fuck, but the vocals are pretty loud in the mix. I think we all have a pretty good idea of what’s going on exactly. If I was fucking out of key and not singing well at all, I don’t feel I’d have been offered the job in the first place. They had enough confidence in me to let me go on stage and sing along with them, so I think they probably have enough to let me get in the recording room. I’m anxious to do that.
I haven’t written anything yet with them, and we’re kind of at that point where it feels like there’s starting to be some more writing happening. We’ve got some tours that are coming up too, so it would be nice to get something recorded before we go out in July, but I’m not sure. We might do something before July too, as far as touring, or mini-touring, or something to that effect.
When do you think you guys will start really writing?
Chad’s the songwriter. He’s got a big pile of riffs. He was playing a bunch of them for us at practice yesterday. He has a sort of process he goes through, and we’ll just have to let it run its course. He is in a writing stage, and he’s got a bunch of riffs, but he just hasn’t felt inspired or whatever to connect them and make it all flow. It seems like there’s a bunch of half-songs out there. He’s got to either connect them or finish them, one or the other. We’re working on his schedule in that regard.
Hour Of 13’s The Ritualist is available now via Earache Records. More info at Hour Of 13’s Facebook page or myspace.com/hourof13doom.
JJ Koczan hopes they don’t take too long to put out their next record. firstname.lastname@example.org.