Sunday, February 17, 2013

Interview with Locrian

Over the last few months, I've gotten more and more into noise music on all fronts from drone to harshnoise. I began by asking myself what makes something musical. Is it chord changes? I thought about this a lot because the truth is that we end up hearing the same exact chord progressions in different songs several times a day, but by the nature of effects, vocals, instrumentation and other things, they become "new" songs. So I started to think about the things that were furthest from typical pop songs and I stumbled upon noise of all varieties. Granted, some stuff that gets labeled "noise" is more similar to a pop song and some of it is very far from that. For me, noise is an exercise in the ethic of music as well as a training ground for the ears. I had to learn to listen to music in different ways to understand it. But after I had gotten the hang of it, I found it an extremely rewarding process and experience.

One of the bands that helped me through my sonic journey was Locrian. Locrian is a band spread across a continent. The three members of the band are spread across the United States, but create a precise style of music. It's a darker style of noise that I found to be influenced by black metal a lot, especially the vocals when they emerge from the static miasma. I first picked up their collaboration album with Horseback New Dominions, which introduced me to their music, though didn't ready me for the bleak landscape that accompanies a solo Locrian album, though that album in itself is bleak. What I mean by bleak came from when I heard their album "The Crystal World," which features some seriously impressive vocals that ride the crest of a blackened noise wave. It was unlike most of the noise I had heard before. It's really an incredible album.

I got in touch with Andre from the band. He lives in Chicago and is also a crossfitter/rower like myself, which was pretty cool to see. We talked a bunch and he relayed the email to Terrence, who ended up answering all my questions. I really enjoyed talking to these guys. I was really impressed by how nice these guys were along with how multifaceted their talents are. A really incredible band and I'm honored to have interviewed them.

You can check them out on their FACEBOOK PAGE, check out their horseback collaboration ON SOUNDCLOUD and listen to solo Locrian albums on their BANDCAMP PAGE

Jordan: Where does the name Locrian come from? I saw something on Wikipedia on Locrian mode - like a diatonic scale, but am unfamiliar with it.

Terence:  André came up with the name when we started, but I liked how it was a now extinct Mediterranean people and the connotations of the difficulty of the scale and how dissonant it is.  I guess it set us up in a way.

Their newest album - It's a double
J: Who all is in Locrian? How did you guys start, how do you know each other, and when did you start making music?

T:  Well it just started with André and I, we had been introduced by our pal Aleks (who is now in the band OKO from Germany) and we were in a band together called Unlucky Atlas.  But we just kept it as a duo for a while and we collaborated with Andrew from the black metal band Velnias.  But I guess we had admired Steven's drumming for a while in different groups, like with Haptic.  So it was mutual, he wanted to work with us and we thought he was the only guy out there who could drone on drums and then be a heavy hitter.  Plus it is nice to be around him.  Then we made "The Crystal World" like a few weeks later.  It was crazy.  So its been the three of us ever since.

J: Do you guys come from a musical background? There's a lot of really interesting stuff going on in your records with different textures

T: I played guitar a lot, and was collecting synthesizers.  So I guess a musical background.  I went to school for visual art but always played music.  Even though most of my art is about the music experience in some way.  I think when Locrian makes music texture is the goal, we talk a lot about narrative in the song or even across an album.  I think often to certain progressive rock or kosmiche music was my main inspiration for that, or even like electronic music.  I think with the new record "Return to Annihilation" we really were thinking a lot about some of those influences.

The cover of New Dominions
J: You guys often get called bleak, which I totally get from the music - how'd you guys arrive on that darker style of noise music? Was it a conscious thing or just something that happened?

T: It is deliberate, we shoot for that sound.  For me, at least, I've always been attracted to the darker side of things.  Looking for those notes and tones, but even in what I enjoy listening too I always sought out stuff that was a bit more abject or occult or cast a pall.

J: 2012 saw a bunch of Locrian releases - how do you choose who to work with, like Horseback and Christophe Heemann?

T: Some happen organically like the Horseback collaboration and some are suggestions by labels like Christoph Heemann by Handmade Birds.  All are great learning experiences and creative endeavors, where we get challenged a lot.  They're all just so different, and Mamiffer too, just different people in these scenarios.  I think at the end there is always something about it that stands out, our touch is still there.

J: Contrarily, how do you decide on making a purely "Locrian" record - what do you think is the difference between a record purely from "Locrian" versus one with collaboration?

T:  Well we cut out a lot.  We tend to be very deliberate, like we'll collaborate for some times and then most recently or like when we made "the Clearing" we say "no other cooks in the kitchen".  I mean there are no extra voices in on the process.  Just the three of us and I think the three of us talk a lot even if we're not all in the same city and we discuss and shape what we want to do.  We're a very concept driven group, so we can kind of have this set of ideas and each of us comes with different approaches to instrumentation or structure.  But we can agree and work towards a big idea.  So the new record really is this unique expression I think.  And one thing is we're all very encouraging of each other like when one of us has an idea we always try and put it down and then we can decide if it works or not.  We're also pretty honest with each other so when it doesn't work there's a lot of give and take.

J: The first time I heard you guys was on one of your earlier albums "The Crystal World." The vocals in it blew my mind the first time I heard it. It seemed to take a little influence from a black metal aesthetic. How do you figure out when and where to use vocals?

T:  Well thanks, those are mine.  When we talk about dark music or bleak sounds I think certain black metal releases definitely had an influence on me.  I think probably Abruptum did the most for me or even some Burzum before prison just established these atmospheres.  When we use vocals, I always try and let the larger idea for the album or suite of songs guide me.  Though sometimes I have an idea and other times Steven or André will say they hear something so I give it a shot.  I like to let parts breathe and then fill up a spot with vocals and just try and make it unexpected.  It goes back to this idea about texture.  Like vocals are a texture as well.  So I can use a few different types of vocals or let the music dominate.

J: What kind of music, ethos, events, and ideologies influence the music that you all make? It seems like there is a ton of different stuff that end up finding their way on a Locrian track.

T: I listen to a lot of different stuff, I mean obviously the progressive rock like King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis but also the kosmiche music of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Cluster.  But going back I am a big fan of extreme music like heavy metal and its varied offshoots and that can be from Black Sabbath to Suffocation to Voivod, power-electronics and a lot of early industrial to pure noise and ambient.  I think certain events definitely influence me like the Deepwater Horizon or the Kingston Coal Ash Spill, these cataclysms definitely inspired entire records.  I guess I came of age during a lot of very idealistic hardcore music and saw the failure of many of the ideals and realized a 7" isn't going to save anything or even direct action is pretty useless.  So to me I have a very pessimistic kind of worldview and there is always the struggle between the horror of an event and the beauty it creates.  To me that is sublime in a way.  The convergence of terror and awe.  I'd say most Locrian themes try to fold that in with an obsession with science fiction like Samuel Delaney, JG Ballard or Nancy Kress.  Just like a more confusing occluded vision that may not be positive for the future.  One of more uncertainty.  I mean we live in very uncertain times.

J: I've never seen you all live before, but I'm really excited for your show at the Burlington coming up! What is a live show by Locrian like? What can we expect and how does Locrian live differ or resemble a recorded version?

T: That's a great question: I'd like to know myself.  It's been almost two years since we've played live.  I know we'll be performing some new stuff from the new album.  There'll be no stage banter, I seriously can't stand that kind of stuff.  We tend to blur songs together and extend a lot of parts.  There's quite a bit of improvisation when we play and we try and make it more ritualistic, more of an event and not just another show.

J: Do you guys ever play shows with people that you do collaborations with?

T: No.  We used to intend to but it wound up being too hard to do it - I know we'd like to sometime but it is hard enough getting the three of us together now.  It can be done just needs some determination and organization from some benefactors I think.  But at the moment, especially with the new record coming out I am just excited that the three or us get to do what we do.

J: What's up for the future with you guys? Ideas for releases or live shows? Would you ever go on a "tour"?

T:  Well the new album will be out on Relapse in late May or early June.  And we're planning some shows in mid-June on the east coast.  Maybe something in August, again it is tough to organize with us so spread out.  But we're really committed to the ideas we've put down and playing them live when it works.  As far as releases we always have ideas but our focus is really on seeing "Return to Annihilation" get the treatment it deserves.

J: What are you guys most excited for in 2013 aside from Locrian? I'm simply excited to be in a year where the last two digits are a prime number.

T: My son turned one this year and my daughter will turn four in a few months, that is great - it is an accomplishment.  Other than Locrian I have my first book coming out called "Anno Yersinia Pestis Spiritus" on Kiddiepunk, and a solo LP and zine out on Shelter Press.  Also I am wrapping up a series of art books and cassettes for Accidental Guest Recordings, working now on the third one which is a collaboration with artist Scott Treleaven.

J: Anything else you all would like to say?

T:  Thanks for interviewing us and see you in Chicago.

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