Acid Mammoth was the first band I saw on this sunny last day at Desertfest London 2023. Shortly after their show in a packed Underworld, I had the opportunity to share thoughts with the Greek doom phenomenon‘s frontman Chris Babalis Jr. From filiation matters to their touring experience and love for all things Gibson SG, Chris and I spent a wonderful time, which you can dive in below.
To kick off this discussion, I need to know one thing about your band name. Acid Mammoth. Were you figuring a Mammoth on acid or an acid pill that is soooo big that it is mammoth-sized?
Chris (lead vocals and rhythm guitar): It’s all about the mammoth you know. Ever since we started the band, we wanted a name that reflected our sound in every shape or form. I really like to think that every guitar riff, every drum beat is the footprint of a giant mammoth or a herd of mammoths marching toward you. That’s how the name came. As for the acid part, it’s rather based on the actual biological acid… Imagine a primitive world with acid lakes and mammoths and zombie ape-men and bats. Pretty much like the show Primal.
I want to also talk about your recent 20+ show European tour, isn’t it the longest you’ve ever done? How did it feel?
Chris: It’s always surreal. Ever since we were 12 years old and started to listen to Black Sabbath and bands like that, our main dream was to create a band, start to play tunes together and do shows. It’s like a dream of ours that suddenly came to reality. As for doing shows all across Europe, it’s totally crazy, I still don’t believe it. We played so many times in France, Italy and Germany or even Croatia, it’s surreal. The whole experience was just amazing.
“Ever since we were 12 and started to listen to Black Sabbath, our main dream was to create a band, start to play tunes together and do shows. It’s like a dream come true. “ – Chris Babalis Jr
Acid Mammoth benefited from an incredible push during the pandemic. Just as everyone started to talk about your band, the whole pandemic thing kicked in, so once this was all behind us, everyone was ready and waiting to see you play. And we’ve seen that today, no one expected to see The Underworld so crowded early in the afternoon.
Chris: The pandemic time was crazy because we had just signed with Heavy Psych Sounds to release our second album. And it came out in January 2020, just a few months before… Can I swear?
This is a French webzine, you can swear all day if you want.
Chris: …Just before the entire world turned to shit. The very moment we started to plan shows, suddenly the whole world got stuck behind four walls for an indefinite amount of time. Right when we were the hungriest to play shows: “the end”. It was quite a bummer but it might have been for the best, because we kept this fire burning inside of us and as soon as the world opened and we could do our first show abroad, we flew to Desertfest Belgium. It was the best day of my life!
I was there! What a show that was!
Chris: Thanks. This whole situation, it just made us even hungrier to do shows. From both tours, I have nothing but positive memories. Of course, everyone that goes on tour knows that we lack hours of sleep. But it doesn’t matter.
Do you feel that this touring experience will change anything in the band? Does it change the dynamics or songwriting?
Chris: Of course, even in the songwriting, there is a big difference between jamming the four of us in the studio and recording, compared to playing in front of people and seeing what they like and react to. That’s why we’ve been playing a new song every night for the entire tour, just to see their reactions. Luckily it was quite positive. Playing one show every day, we play better. Our chemistry got tighter.
Tell me more about the songwriting. Do your songs usually come out of jams or does one of you come up with a series of riffs to start from?
Chris: Usually, the latter. The vast majority of songs come to life this way. But there are other times when we are just chilling and jamming and something comes out of it, but there’s always an initial blueprint we bring from home. What has worked for us is to use our time spent together. Because we work six days a week, the time we get to really hang out together, maybe watch a movie or such becomes very important. And we’d get a vibe from that movie and just grab our instruments at home and start from there. It’s an all around kind of thing. When the idea comes, we just work on it. We give super extra attention to the fact that every single riff means something to us. We will never put a filler riff inside a song because we need two more minutes of music, for example.
I said I would not do it, but I will. What’s with the Gibson SG obsession?
Chris: My father grew up in Canada listening to Black Sabbath in the 70s, and Iommi was his god. So he introduced me to heavy music, he had this classic Cherry-colored SG and ever since I was a teenager, this guitar was in my house and we both played on it. When I started playing guitar, I did not feel comfortable on any other brand. I tried Flying V, this and that, it never worked. As soon as I touch an SG, it feels comfortable. Maybe because I was exposed to SGs since I was a kid or they just work better for me. Nowadays, I have a Gothic model but it’s still an SG, it’s my favorite guitar, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“No one fitted better for the lead guitar spot than my dad. There was not even a conversation. It was like “hey dad, you’re in a band.” “What band?” “Doom metal band, just like Sabbath.” “Oh sure, I’m in.” That was it.” – Chris Babalis Jr
You touched on a topic that I have to bring up: your relationship with your father. It’s such a feel-good moment when I see you guys on stage. It’s like you have your father, your childhood friends… Everything you need is there.
Chris: Exactly, we all grew up together, we know each other from school days. And my father… well, he’s my father. He’s the biggest Sabbath maniac ever since the ’70s and introduced me to them with “Sabotage”. The moment we started to write with Dimos (bass player) I was showing my dad the riffs like “hey, we got this riff, do you like it? Should we do something with it?”. No one fitted better for the lead guitar spot than my dad. There was not even a conversation. It was like “Hey dad, you’re in a band.” “What band?” “Doom metal band, just like Sabbath.” “Oh sure, I’m in.” That was it. We’ve always been very close, we live very close to each other too, we jam all the time. We have this ease between us. Of course, there are times when he does not see me as his bandmate but only as his son, which leads to funny situations. Like he might tell me “No, you’re not going to be spending five dollars on coffee” on tour. He’s both my father and bandmate, that’s a funny dynamic. At the same time, I’m overprotective of him, if anything happens to him I’m always there to help him, I don’t let him lift anything or such for example
Every time I see you on stage, you really seem to have the time of your life! Even with smaller crowds.
Chris: That’s the whole point. We have made a promise to ourselves to never lose our enthusiasm. That’s what gets us going. It does not matter if it’s 50 or 100 people, we’re having fun. We’re playing in Toulouse or wherever: we’re from Athens, there’s no way we won’t be excited to play somewhere else!
Is there a band that you plan to see at Desertfest today?
Chris: Uncle Acid is probably my favorite band at the moment. I also want to see Nebula and Boris. I will miss Weedpecker and I’m bummed about it. I’ll go see Mars Red Sky. If I could see everyone, I would. But Uncle Acid takes the spot because I’m such a fanboy, I’ll start crying the moment they go on stage.
You had your own stardom moment earlier today after your show. Everyone wanted to take pictures with you and such, it’s something we don’t see this much anymore.
Chris: It’s surreal. I’m always happy to meet everyone, learn everyone’s name and it’s the same for the rest of the band. We feel very blessed. We are quite lucky to be able to do this. If it wasn’t for our label, we would not be here (throwing some love for our label here). We’re happy to talk to people. Picture this: someone from elsewhere in the world comes to see you and they know you and want to meet you. Of course, we want to know who they are, where they come from, etc!
Last question, what’s next for Acid Mammoth?
Chris : A new album for which we have finished recording the guitars. And a little secret: we are re-recording our debut album and we will reissue it. Just expect some really heavy riffs that sound like mammoths marching toward you. And of course: shows, shows, shows! Anytime we have the ability to fly outside of Greece and do shows, it will happen for sure.
You’re quite prolific!
Chris: Covid helped because after “Under Acid Hoof” and our split with 1782, we planned to tour but Covid hit so we decided to record another album. “Caravan” was a whole different experience to record. For “Under Acid Hoof”, we had all the time in the world. For “Caravan”, we started the recording when the world had just opened from the first lockdowns and at the very moment we were going to mix it, a second wave of lockdowns kicked in. This was a nightmare but it turned out great, we love the final result.
We love it too! Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us!
Last modified: 16 August 2023