Thanks to Herr TJ for this tip.
SODA PRESSED / BIG DEAD THING
The new issue of Soda Pressed is out now. It?s a special issue split with Big Dead Thing zine, a new a weird art and scrawl venture. It?s 96 pages long and features interviews with Stephen O Malley (Sunn0))) / Khanate), Sam McPheeters (Born Against, MRP, Wrangler Brutes), Lightning Bolt, Allan Macdonell (longest running editor of Hustler magazine) Tom Hazelmyer of Amphetamine Reptile Records, Will Munro and Load Records. It also features drawings and articles by Al Murphy, Kapreles, Tado, Kevin Rutmanis, Jeffery Lewis, Rob Ryan, Raphael Lopez, Gary Taxali, Jody Barton, Showchicken, Josh Taylor (Friends Forever), Lucy Canter, Jon Owen, John Biddle, Mick Marston and Zeel.
Copies can be ordered by cheque, paypal, or well concealed cash. It's $5.00 to the US and £2.00 within England (each includes P&P). Will send copies anywhere, send an email to ask. Please post stuff to Soda Pressed, 42 High Street, Edlesborough, Dunstable Beds, LU6 2HS, England. The paypal account to pay into is; email@example.com.
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Under the Influence
SUNNO)))’s Stephen O’Malley interviews Earth’s Dylan Carlson
No need for a blood test to determine SUNNO)))’s paternity. Recalcitrant doom frequency seekers Stephen O’Malley (Khanate, Burning Witch) and Greg Anderson (Goatsnake) have freely acknowledged Earth’s daddyhood from the getgo—to the extent of giving a track on The Grimmrobe Sessions once and future Terran Dylan Carlson’s name. Recently issued via Anderson’s Southern Lord label, the Los Angeles-based duo’s new LP, Black One, displays unbridled fealty to the rumble-buttressed spirit of Carlson’s vision without hewing too close to its letter. They’d have been fools to do otherwise. Dronecraft advanced ridiculously fast in the years following the engine of their inspiration’s 1991 debut: Extra-Capsular Extractions, spurred largely by progress in effects pedal tech and cannabis cultivation. O’ Malley and Anderson had—and have—access to timbres unimagined by their progenitor, who after taking much of the ‘90s off, returned to eventually eschew drone and doom alike in favor of sinister melodiousness and cinematic nuance—e.g., likely eventual (soundtrack money. Also on Southern Lord, Earth’s newly-released Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method finds Carlson and drummer Adrienne Davies fashioning a heavily populated post-apocalyptic ghost town out of vibrating air molecules and bad intentions without so much as alluding to the guitarist’s original m.o. Decibel thought it only fitting that O’Malley put Carlson to the question regarding the contents of his new bag, especially given that SUNNO))) might borrow its contents it at any moment. As always, we telepathically asked each of our correspondents to conduct the interview naked and oiled without mentioning his to the other.
I’ve listened to the new record quite a bit. I really like the way you’ve developed your guitar playing over the past few years. I enjoy that it’s sort of like trance—the circular pattern thing is really prominent there but there’s this other different sense of melody and harmony going on in your new music. How you think you’re playing has changed in the past few years, just from a technical standpoint?
On a purely technical standpoint, I think the harmonies are more intricate. I mean not that they’re easier or anything, they’re just different. Before I used to use a lot of root octaves and now, I still do the octave things for the drones but I used a lot of fourth and sixth intervals and I like to combine closed and open strings. I really like open voicings for chords now, which leaves a lot of room between the notes.
Sort of like spreading out the idea of the tones.
Yeah, instead of all being within one octave, the chord is spread out over two or three octaves if possible. I think the source material, with any kind of music that uses circular riffs, the riffs or the melodies need to be memorable. And I just think that maybe the source material changed. Whereas before the source material was more identified with heavy metal, now the source material, I view it more as part of the continuum of American music. That would be the major difference. At the core it will always be about repetition and length.
One of the biggest things about your playing that influenced my own playing was the long form chord structure. You can create a much bigger object through that structure but it can stay memorable and again also be complex and intricate, but I not really overly technical.
The complexity develops organically out of the music, not out of arrangement. It’s not arranged complexity; it’s the harmonic structure of the music that creates the complexity rather than the contrived structure of parts or anything.
And I also really respect the power of the resonance with the instrument and the strength that creates—how it can hold a particular resonance once you get it going, too; it starts creating its own detail.
I can’t remember the song now but in one of the older Earth songs there was this one part where you could here the intervals kind of vibrating against each other so I would count like five of those vibrations so the structure was coming out of the notes being used rather than the arbitrary…
How do you feel about being the conduit for your music? I think the music on your new album is just human as it’s ever been before. The human element also comes from what you were saying about being with the American tradition of music. Or maybe some of the more drone stuff was influenced by something a little bit older or, more archaic, what do you think?
I definitely think with the American thing, it’s just closer to a narrative tradition as opposed to a mythic tradition. I think you guys really work in kind of a mythic tradition. I mean, the whole vibe of SUNNO))) is like a, not Neanderthal, but like the druid and all that, is like an archaic, mythic kind of stage. And Earth now is working in more—it’s a mythic space as well—but it’s more narrative. It’s a more recent myth kind of thing. I think we’re both working with similar terrain in a weird way even though what we do is different from one another. We’re all kind of on the same page with different footnotes.
It seems like you’ve really developed as a player in the past five years.
Yeah, before I never bent notes, I never used finger vibrato, on a purely technical level my playing has changed in that respect. I think I’m better able to get what I want out of the guitar. Whereas before a lot of it was like almost accidental. I’d sit down with the guitar and it was more happenstance where I think now I can kind of structure the song or whatever, I think I’m better able to put it together.
Do you think there was a point where you discovered that you became more of a songwriter than a guitar player?
I think I always have. From the day I first started playing guitar I was writing songs rather than learning other people’s songs and I’ve always thought that the guitar serves rather than the song be a display of technique or anything like that. A lot of the guitarists I respect were more almost session guys who aren’t necessarily flashy. They just played what was necessary. They didn’t show off. It was more about what’s necessary. I definitely think what I play is like that.
It’s like more of a craftsman style of playing instead of entertainment or whatever.
I think that’s one reason why I gravitated toward the telecaster. It’s rudimentary. It’s kind of like you have to work within its parameters in a lot of respects. A lot of guitars are easily malleable so do whatever you want. Whereas the tele sort of has its own voice. Like when people say, “Oh, he’s a tele player.” It’s like saying to someone. “Oh, he’s a catholic.” It’s like the tele and the tele player.
Was there a point where you were like, “I’ve got to get a telecaster for what I’m doing”?
Yeah, before I wanted lots of overdrive, which is cool. I mean I still love that. I will always be a big fan of saturation and whatnot. I also really like the sound of a really just pure electric guitar tone, you know just the pure clean, but still with power. I love being able to hear like the wood and the metal, with the tele they have this like “clank” to it. And that cuts through any effects you try.
So do you get sick of people asking you about Earth Two? I mean, really? You know this record is going to come out and people are going to be like, like any review is going to mention it.
I try not to, but I mean obviously whenever you’re a musician there’s your grumpy days where you’re like, “stop bringing up the past.” That’s one of the things about being a musician—a lot of times you don’t determine your greatest moment, which if you’re a control freak can be frustrating. You may be saying “this is my best album,” or “that was my best show.” So I kind of try to be gracious, grateful and accept, “hey, this is an album that people love.” And I consider myself fortunate to have created something that people respond to that much or love that much. I don’t want to be ungrateful for being unhappy about it. It would be arrogant. This person has obviously been moved by something that I’ve done.
It’s pretty awesome that you can make something that becomes its own presence.
It’s almost like having a child, in that, I mean I haven’t had any yet, but I mean watching your child go out into the world and be successful. You don’t wish it anything bad. And it’s cool to because it kind of helps kick my butt into gear, because it sets a bar. I may have thought that was a good album, but it didn’t resonate the way that one did so what can I do now.
Did you find that you were more focused the recording sessions for Hex than on previous Earth recording sessions?
Definitely, yeah, I mean it was all around the most focused I’d been. There was still a lot of creativity in the studio—like arranging and the overdubbed tracks. You know, I’d role tape and pick up the baritone and play to it, but, yeah, it was definitely the most focused. I was very lucky to have the money and time to do it right. We were given the resources to totally do it. When stuff came up and we were like, “Well, should we do this to save money?” it was like “Eh, fuck it, let’s do it right.”
The album really comes across as being really focused and confident, very calm and collected. It’s not about tempo anymore or being slow, it doesn’t have anything to do with that.
It’s just how I play. You’ve played slow for a long time, you know when you see someone who just does it and they’re trying—it’s like it’s something that. I mean, a lot of times it’s weird, where there was like speed metal, it became, instead of being about the music it became like an athletic event. Like who can play faster, the music didn’t matter anymore. It was just about who’s fastest. And then the opposite, some of the slow bands, “Oh who’s slower? Who’s down lower?” And then like, it’s like no, that’s athletic. To me, you can be heavy and neither incredibly slow or fast.
It’s interesting what the concept of being heavy is. It’s really objective of course, but it’s also like the more abrasive or overpowering something is, just on the surface level, that like qualifies as heavy I just think that the heaviest stuff is always melodic in a way, not like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or anything, but you know there’s always the line there. That there’s information that remains to be seen. Whether it’s a one note, melody or not.
Rough edit, to appear in Decibel Magazine, edited by Albert Mudrian. Photos courtesy of Plotkin.
UM, GUYS? IT'S REALLY DARK IN HERE...
To me its the most elegant music devoid of schmaltz, and in many ways perfect.
In an attempt to glean some wisdom an guidance in this endeavor as a music critic, an to stave off the boring stretches o powerlessness during the hurricane, I have bee obsessively reading the latter Lester Bang anthology “Main Lines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste” and goddamn, he is suc a great writer, even if he writes about the same dam,n thing all the time. I he’d gotten a nickel every time Iggy Pop or Lou Reed were mentioned, h could’ve paid that landlady always banging on his door in the background But anyway, the wisdom. The subtext of Lester’s writing is the increasin dehumanization of us all, and rock stars were about all we had left keepin us from gleefully getting the chips implanted and shuffling off to get ou cafeteria trays filled with pablum. He did not buy into any infallibility of thei actions, or cut them any moral slack like lovers of writers do (I mean, ho can William Burroughs be a sanctioned thing when in practice, there is stron evidence that he was a child molester that shot his wife?) but he did allo for a new breed of rock star worship, one that looks to these innocen minions of dark forces to show us the way. Its like how in “Operation Manua for Spaceship Earth” Buckminster Fuller went into great detail explaining tha the pirates were the last actualized men that controlled their sphere. Fo Lester, the insect distance in Lou Reed and the animal havoc of Iggy Po were models for how to survive when the hammer comes down. For me, it the artists that create their own thing outside of the light. Make their ow music how they want, start their own label, develop their own myths that ar my models. To me Robin Hood would’ve been so much more successful ha he not been such a glory hound
My rock star worship has a wandering eye, and in the past couple years it has zeroed in on the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Julian Cope, Steve Albini, Lee Scratch Perry, all denizens of the alchemists lab, crafting magic off the radar (OK maybe not Tweedy, he’s a big camera ho, but I love him anyway) and now my Cupid’s arrow is aimed at the heart of Stephen O’Malley. Graphic designer by trade, his Southern Lord label which deals in the blackest of metal and reissues of lost classics is one of the best put-together outfits going. The album designs, especially the logos (a crucial part of metal) are impeccable, showing reverence to the classics of 80’s logohood with a calligrapher’s touch. His own band, Sunn O))), derived from the Sunn amps logo, even has such a typographically brilliant name that the logo actually appears in print. The image of them in the robes as druidic monks perfecting their own breed of sub-darkness through extreme means (which I’ll get to in a moment) is awesome. And on top of all that floss and packaging and stuff I normally hate, the band kicks ass.
On Black One, the band pulls forms a wrecking crew of pulsar grade sub harmonics, where the guitar and bass and keyboards and whatever other eye of newt thrown in is reduced to a thick inky broth, flowing from your headphones like lava (I suggest headphones for the best Sunn O))) listening experience, unless you have some seriously good woofers on your hi-fi) engulfing your brain. The majority of the album is without percussion, just undulating pulses of bass distortion, interjected by a cast of Black Metal crooners giving their finest retching incantations. The first track “Sin Narvana” follows the live practice of Black Metal acts, of having an airy spooky instrumental track before kicking into the ritual killing, and this is a fine example of that sub-sub-genre, with its backward banshees spinning about what sound like the biggest didgeridoo in hell (and that is where all those didgeridoo players wind up). Where you might expect a 1-2-3-4 at the end of it, it opens up the funeral dirge of “It Took The Night To Believe” with locust-violin-guitars forming the elemental base while Wrest, throat scraper for Lurker of Chalice and Leviathan, bellows his cosmic dismay against the thunder. In fact, the climatology description become even more apparent in the nearly ambient “Cursed Realms (of the Winterdemons)” where the vocals are forced to strain against the winter and Gabriel’s horn signalling the end. I might suggest a horn section on the next Sunn O))) outing, should they be looking for my input.
The album continues on this glacial tack, with a more obvious guitar riff (albeit slowed down to hypothermia levels) on “Orthodox Caveman” and a weirdly pretty piano echo running through “Cry For the Weeper” as a stampede of fuzz and power and vibration coming from the center of the universe. Here is the magic of Sunn O))) for me: They manage to combine effectively the rockstar egregiousness pushed to the logical conclusion that is inherent to Black Metal with an undeniable distillation of the sheer physicality of metal to its basest recognizable form. To me its the most elegant music devoid of schmaltz, and in many ways perfect.
The capper on this black iceberg is the 16 minute “Bathory Erzsebet” which contains upturns the BM tradition of the sadistic publicity stunt and photo shoot into reality. They took Malefic, the creative force behind my favorite BM studio project Xasthur, ensconced him in the robes, and then locked him in an actual coffin, set with microphone in the back of a rented hearse, and let the tape roll, giving some of the more chilling sonics available once Malefic’s resolve starts to break down and begins (I’m assuming) losing his shit because he’s locked in a coffin. The low hum provided by the group and the distortion on the vocals makes it hard to tell what is theatrical and what is real, and that is the shit. That’s where the rock n roll rubber meets the conceptual road, pushing the tradition of Iggy rolling in glass and Jim Morrison wagging his weener at Miami onto the next, more dangerous stage of development. Once can assume that Malefic was in no actual harm here, but the harsh reality of it is nonetheless very real, despite what filters it is passing through. And therein lies the brilliance of this band and the reason for my idol worship of Stephen O’Malley and I bid you adieu as I let the final minutes of this CD joyously emulsify my soul into nothingness. See you in hell.
Alex V. Cook, Music Editor
18 - Leeds @ Josephs Well (w/ Melt Banana)
19 - Glasgow @ ABC 2
20 - Belfast @ The Bunker
21 - Dublin @ Whelans
22 - Newcastle @ The Cluny
23 - Birmingham @ The Medicine Bar
24 - Manchester @ The Roadhouse
25 - Bristol @ The Croft
26 - London @ The Garage
...thanks to everyone who came out to the shows on the west coast, it was great time. Now I'm back in philly and I have few shows coming up on the right coast. Also, just got copies of the kensington blues lp and it will be available for sale. If yr interested in getting a copy via mail order, please contact tequila sunrise at email@example.com 25 bux ppd.
Upcoming JR shows:
9/24-Washington DC, 611 florida ave
Free Folk Phantasmagory
9/28-Philadelphia, Standard Tap 9:30
Tequila Sunrise night
w/Micah Blue Smaldone and Alec Redfearn
free motherfuckers, but drink heavily to get micah and Alec paid god damn it
1125 S. Broad St. w/cerberus shoal and oni gosen
10/28-NYC w/Max Ochs, Glenn Jones and Harris Newman
Housing Works Used Book Café
Imaginational Anthem release show benefit tix are 15.00
11/05-Chicago, Empty Bottle
2 million tongues festival
Big Jar shows-all start at 8 pm and we're located at 55 n 2nd st in philly. 5 dollar donation
9/30-Daniel Higgs, Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice, Andy Jiles
10/1-Paul Metzger and Forgotten Works
Pelt is looking to do some shows in the NE and New England 11/19 thru 11/22. If you are interested or know of anyone interested, please get in touch with me.
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