Electric Wizard: Weird Tales from the Wizard in Black

Photo: Sam Scott-Hunter

Rising from resin-black pools of acid-tinged darkness, Electric Wizard are the royalty of filth and debauchery. As if peering through a cloud of audible weed smoke, their riffs crunch and fizzle with an irrepressible groove, creating an unstoppable impulse to bang your head, gyrate your hips or just take another hit. Jus Oborn and crew seem to be possessed by the very ghost of proto metal, preaching mad, apocalyptic visions of mass murder and social decay. You cannot stop the Wizard—you can only obey.

One of the greatest idiosyncrasies of Oborn—Electric Wizard’s guitarist, vocalist and master of ceremonies—is his genial attitude and good humor. For a guy who has spent most of the last 20 years delving into aphotic caverns of sonic misery, he’s surprisingly quick with a joke and a laugh. “I always want to push people’s extremities and what is acceptable and unacceptable within people’s viewpoints,” he says. “Most people would accept that people have freedom of religion and freedom of pleasure, so why shouldn’t we sacrifice babies and take heroin? You know, to take it to the next level.”

Oborn’s first forays into the realm of serious music-writing came with Lord of Putrefaction, a product of his budding interest in death metal and doom. “As a teenager, it was pretty exciting to get into death metal and black metal as it was growing,” he says. “We thought we were part of the scene at the time. There were really no aspirations for anything more than to make that kind of music and be accepted by our peers.” As the band’s roster continued to morph and change, the band’s name kept pace—moving from Thy Grief Eternal to Eternal to, finally, Electric Wizard. “I think it was after that—when Electric Wizard started—when we started coming up with something a little more original,” says Oborn.

Electric Wizard’s first, self-titled album was equal parts space rock and Pentagram-influenced doom, sounding almost light and cheerful considering the band’s later material. “We were very much just into jamming, and I’d just cropped a whole bunch of weed, so we were smoking tons of weed all summer,” says Oborn. “Between that album and Come My Fanatics…, we lost the house. We ended up living in the city, which was kind of shitty. I ended up doing a lot more harder drugs—acid and stuff— and everything started to get a bit more frightening and weird, so we wanted to bring that into the music.”

Oborn’s fascination with the dark side of life began long before this bummer trip, even before his interest in heavy music. “I remember being very attracted to horror stories at a very early age, reading Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft when I was quite young,” he says. “Music came later. It was an easier way for me to express myself than writing a book or making a film.” Oborn’s interest in cosmic horror and science fiction has always run its way through the lyrical themes of Electric Wizard, appearing in songs like “Weird Tales” and “Barbarian” off Dopethrone and “Dunwich” from Witchcult Today.

However, one of Oborn’s darker visions also emerges on virtually every album—the end of the world as we know it. Bleak processions of faceless undead stalk the lyrics of “Funeralopolis,” while hidden cults of satanic murderers take up their knives in “The Chosen Few.” Oborn doesn’t explicitly advocate violence personally, but his fixation on the end of human civilization is more than mere fantasy. “It is kind of a negative message, but it’s our true belief in where we’re heading,” he says. “I don’t think the human race is acting very sensibly. I think we’re heading to at least some kind of environmental disaster, and if we don’t, we’re heading towards civil war and self-fucking-destruction!” His laugh is eerily ominous, echoing the stark truth of his observation. He says, “I know it sounds like shit, but look at the news and you know I’m not fucking joking.”

Despite his bleak outlook on the future of humankind, Oborn looks forward to a successful North American tour this spring. Even now, he’s bringing in more permanent members, seeking the right musicians to spread the hate-filled message of Electric Wizard. Clayton Burgess of Satan’s Satyrs, the band accompanying Electric Wizard on their tour, has just recently joined the fold, bringing his old-school bass sensibilities to bear. “He’s a solid musician, which is pretty hard to find in a bass player nowadays,” says Oborn. “I feel like the bass has been kind of lost as an instrument through some of the death metal and black metal … It’s hard to find a good bassist who can bring bass back as a melodious instrument.”

As for the future beyond tour, Oborn’s ambitions know no limit. “We’ve got a simple plan,” he says. “It’s just world domination, really.” With North America in his sights, he plans to set up a tour through South America and elsewhere in the world, bringing the black magic of Electric Wizard across the globe.

On April 11, head down to the Urban Lounge for an aural trip through the acheronian soundscapes of Electric Wizard and the unrestrained rock n’ roll revel of Satan’s Satyrs. “Stay heavy,” says Oborn to his SLC fans. “I look forward to seeing you at the show. It’s going to be sonic fucking devastation.”