By Justin Penney
VANCOUVER — I’ve just pulled up in front of Bully’s, the long-established New Westminster recording and practice studio that Black Wizard have called home since their inception in 2009. There’s no doubt that the goofy dudes having a smoke by the front door are the band I’ve come to interview. The guys in Black Wizard not only look like they’re in a band, but that they’re in a band that is a ton of fun. Long hair and big beards barely hide mischievous grins and a knowing look that they’re all in on some kind of joke, eagerly anticipating the punchline.
Frontman Adam Grant doesn’t take long to bring up the band’s underlying sense of humour. “Black Wizard is a fuckin’ joke dumb name!” he exclaims with a laugh. “We don’t write about demons and wizards and that typical metal stuff. You gotta take the piss out of yourself, you know? Remember you’re just a dumb idiot playing guitar with your buddies.”
Before embarking on a tour of Bully’s, which is co-owned by Black Wiz drummer Eugene Parkomenko, Grant hands me a Carlsberg from the fridge. The beer isn’t even in my hands before the rest of the band tears into their leader for his decidedly bourgeois choice of beverage. “I swear,” he protests. “It was on sale…the cheapest thing at the liquor store!” They all have a laugh before pausing the movie they were watching (Adam Sandler’s triumphant Happy Gilmore) to crack a fresh one from their own budget six packs.
Parkomenko stays back in the office, minding the front desk in case any other bands want to come in and jam on this quiet Monday night. The four-piece band is rounded out by bass player Evan Joel, who is absent this evening, and lead guitarist Danny Stokes, who joins Grant to show me around Bully’s. Stokes is energetic and in a great mood for a lead guitarist with a broken hand. He tells me the story of how he injured himself doing some “non-sanctioned Irish street boxing on Boxing Day” and how the nurse used black fibreglass to wrap the cast—without asking his colour preference. “I guess he just knew,” he says with a grin.
As we walk around the many rooms at Bully’s, the band’s long tenure there is obvious as they seem to have an anecdote about every rehearsal room in the building. The space with the most history is the large live room on the main floor, where the band played a show for 50 or 60 shirtless, sweaty people that was immortalized on their 2015 Live at Bully’s Tape. That recording was engineered and produced by Mike Kraushaar, whom the band refers to as “the 5th Wiz” since he has been their engineer from the beginning.
Kraushaar was back behind the boards for New Waste, the band’s third and most recent LP set for release this month. New Waste is decidedly more upbeat than the band’s earlier material, and the change in tone is no accident. “We were listening to lots of Judas Priest and The Scorpions,” confirms Grant. “And we definitely wanted to go for a sound that’s faster, that gets people going.” New Waste is upbeat, but it bears all the hallmarks of the sound that Black Wizard fans have come to expect. The twin-guitar harmonies are prominently panned left and right. The riffs are still catchy as hell, but there’s an obvious party vibe that cuts through the weed smoke of the band’s earlier releases like a neon lightning bolt.
“We’re just a rock ‘n’ roll band. We want to make people feel like they’re part of the party,” explains Grant when asked to classify Black Wizard’s music. They’ve been described as doom, stoner rock, heavy metal, and have been tagged with plenty of other sub-genre labels that have a tendency to clutter heavy music reviews. The band’s refusal to adhere to any specific genre description is another reminder that, despite their success, they don’t take themselves too seriously.
New Waste is available this month on Listenable Records and Black Wizard is playing a release show at The Rickshaw on Feb. 27 with Anciients, Waingro, and Mos Generator.BC, Black Wizard, British Columbia, Rickshaw Theatre