YOB – Heartwork
July 10, 2018, a year ago
The backstory around doom monoliths Yob's eighth album, the mighty Our Raw Heart, is as massive and overwhelming as the band's spiritual sludge anthems. It's one of those stories where you almost don't want to go into all the details for fear of overshadowing the incredible music found on the album and also just to give the guy a break, but in a nutshell, guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt had medical problems climax while grocery shopping one day and acute diverticulitis, which is as painful as it sounds, took Scheidt on a journey that saw him facing his own mortality down, going through very serious surgery, and emerging victorious, Our Raw Heart serving as not just documentation but as celebration.
“Right there in the grocery store, in the deli section, holding on to a cart,” Scheidt recalls of when things got bad. “Trying to hold on to it for stability but at the same time trying to control it so that it didn't go sliding out from under me if I went down.”
During one of his surgeries, while Scheidt was under, someone in the operating room put on Yob; it could sound hokey if it was a band whose material carried less heft, but when you consider the average Yob listening experience is pretty heavy, this is actually a pretty powerful tale.
“I didn't know about them doing that until a couple months after the first surgery,” says Scheidt. “The surgery went quite a bit longer than it was supposed to. According to the surgeon, when they opened me up, it was quite a bit worse in there than they thought... Not to overshare, but, according to them, it was just a mess. It was described to me that this surgery is in the same league as open heart surgery; it's a big surgery and a lot of things could go wrong. Sure, they could have been sitting there whistling, having a martini, going, 'Hey, let's check out his band!' I guess that's possible, but my feeling is that they were playing that in the surgery room for me. That math makes more sense. I've never had that conversation with the surgeon about that, but knowing what I know of her, that adds up.”
After going through a lengthy and involved recovery period, Scheidt and Yob got down to the business of recording Our Raw Heart, definitely one of the band's most powerful, moving, and intense albums. It's easy to think that's because of what Scheidt has been through (“It wasn't just me who survived,” he adds. “We survived; the band survived; our friendships survived and it deepened in the process.”) but he says the lyrical themes here are, more or less, along the same lines of what he's always sung about. But he admits that coming out the victor against such an intense medical situation has made him look at things a bit differently.
“It's not like I'm writing about anything much differently than I've ever written,” he says. “This band has always been a symptom of my passion for Eastern mysticism and wisdom traditions in my own kind of schlepping-along way, but I think that having gone through what I went through, it did clarify some things, and my perspective changed and in some ways deepened; and, also, it was incredibly humbling, to say the least. So I feel like while the illness was a catalyst for some of that, it's only part of it, really. The things it shone light on were things that were already there but now they're just clearer and more focused, and I have a clearer sense of how I want to proceed than maybe I ever have.”
And looking back at his experience, particularly how he felt to find out they had played his band for him in the operating room, Scheidt is almost speechless, but when he finds his words, he admits that they come with societal baggage.
“It made me grateful,” he says. “'Grateful' is such a co-opted word. It's such a bummer we live in such jaded times. Things seem so trite when you say them. It's like Hallmark ruined everything, almost. But for myself anyway, I'm just taking those fucking words back. They mean something to me.”
(Photos by: James Rexroad)