ORE interview – Sam Underwood
by Ross Cotton
Sam Underwood is a familiar face to the Supersonic stage, after performing in various guises including the manic-acid-circuit-bending Glatze, and the more delicate, electro/acoustic Mr Underwood. This year sees Sam returning to Supersonic as one-third of drone doom tuba band Ore. Along with Ben Waddington and Stuart Estell, the trio have developed a heavy metal sound, featuring tubas at its core.
“Ore was an idea that me and Ben had in a pub, quite some time ago now”, says Sam. “It was one of those ideas that could have gone nowhere. We spotted the potential and we wanted to take the bass end, very heavy slow riffs. But when it involves two out of three of you learning to play tubas from scratch, that’s quite an epic task”, says Sam.
“Basically Stuart Estell is the only person who’s an accomplished tuba player at the moment. He’s also heavily into doom metal, which was key. It really required someone open-minded enough to embrace the concept. He’s writing the pieces as I’m learning how to play”.
Sam also played the tuba at last year’s Supersonic with Lash Frenzy. “That was the first time I did the tuba stuff live. It serves as a proof of concept!”, he says. “It was an improvised noise gig, and I was playing it through some effects pedals and a massive bass amp. I couldn’t play, but I could make some interesting noises. My decision was to learn an instrument seriously during my year long sabbatical. And because I liked tuba, and because we had an idea for a band, I decided to do that”.
The whole idea of Ore seems to reflect the industrial past of Birmingham magnificently, something that the trio had in mind from the start. “It has it’s influences in all of that”, says Sam. “Obviously (the tuba) is a massive great lump of metal for one thing, and that’s part of it, they’re a very physical thing to play”.
While this subverted-stereotype of brass instruments will certainly act as a surprise to many who clasp eyes, and ears, on Ore. “We aim to create epic experiences, where people come along and are wowed by the scale, the sound and the sense of witnessing something totally new”, he says. “It’s a luscious, heavy epic vibe, a different vibe to a lot of other stuff going on. But that’s what Supersonic is all about. It’s the blend of acts put on that’s pretty unique”.
Make sure you don’t miss Ore and their blend of heavy doom tubas as part of this year’s line-up. Sam Underwood recommends you check out: “Secret Chiefs 3 (I really like the mix of influences they bring to bear), ZU93, Fire! With Oren Ambarchi, Tony Conrad, Pekko Kappi and Alva Noto”.