What happened when we went off the grid with Electric Wizard
Classic Rock goes off the grid to track down Electric Wizard, who tell us about swapping doom for Detroit, geese attacks, utopian nightmares and the weirdness of Wimborne
If you’re off to see the Wizard, you’d better take a bloody good map. Despite marking a quarter of a century as the UK’s premier doom-metal band in 2018 – and releasing a ninth album, Wizard Bloody Wizard, which escapes the genre altogether to revel in classic Detroit sounds – Electric Wizard remain off the grid, underground.
The woman in the ticket office at Barnstaple station is knitting when CR’s train concludes its journey through autumnal Devon woodland and waterlogged fields. It’s the sort of place Holmes and Watson used to pull into, part of the “smiling and beautiful English countryside” Conan Doyle feared for its hidden, blood-red deeds. Then it’s a drive to the edge of a publess village, where the hedgerows close in as we rattle down a winding, rutted lane to a dead end. This is where Electric Wizard live.
All is still for a minute, under suddenly leaden skies. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre West Country remake vibe is both dispelled and enhanced when Justin Oborn opens his front door.
Oborn and Liz Buckingham, his American co-guitarist bandmate and wife since 2003, are both dressed in black (him in T-shirt with a flaking Dracula decal, her in a turtleneck and a silver amulet), with bell‑bottoms that suit the emporium of sleaze, horror, rock and erotica their rented farmhouse has become. They moved here from a similarly isolated, black-painted house where they made the grimly depressing, grinding 2014 album Time To Die. That record’s sampled satanic scare stories, although typical of straight-baiting Wizard antics such as 2012’s Legalise Drugs And Murder EP, sounded queasily believable for once. But this new HQ belongs to collectors, not a coven.
“She’ll blow your mind. She’s the girl with the power to turn you on! To turn you off!” a poster for The Virgin Witch promises in an upstairs hallway, while in the bathroom, Sexual Witchcraft’s poster has a woman spread-legged before a phallic black mass candle. Similar posters of stylishly and luridly nude women, from decadent Victorian Aubrey Beardsley illustrations to the 70s golden age of Euro exploitation cinema, fill the farmhouse walls, testament to Buckingham’s taste for the era’s shame-free erotica. An East Coast outsider with an English singer dad and dancer mum, she’s “liked weird stuff since I was a child”.
Oborn’s collections merge with hers, in cabinets full of LPs, DVDs, rock and film biographies, the Marquis de Sade and the Necronomicon. Stuffed black crows pose in flight, a carved monkey grins, a grandmother clock ticks, and a human skull sits on crossed human leg bones, on which former Wizard drummer Shaun Rutter once beat out tribal rhythms. The kitchen favours belladonna, hemlock and cyanide cellars over salt and pepper. But an exercise bike hints at just how normally, tastefully appointed the Wizard house is beneath its vintage veneer of flesh and bones.