I first heard Coliseum on their Parasites EP, which was released in 2011, right at a time when I was getting into harder and darker music. The first thing that really hit me was the powerful bassline, because the intro to the first song, "One Last Night," features a very prominent bassline that reminded me a little bit of the Australian Postpunk band feedtime. But then the guitar and the vocals came in and I knew that I was dealing with something very different.
Coliseum is a band that has mastered pacing in both song and album. It's a band that totally deconstructs the soft-loud-soft dynamic and applies it to any part of a song that seems like it could work. It helps that all three musicians are very good at what they do, being able to make something minimal seem full before an inevitable crescendo that devolves into oh-so-awesome ruckus.
They've put out a bunch of records, from their newest release Parasites, a release that seems to take the idea of a parasite, in terms of living through something else, and apply it to their style of music, including more psychedelic reckoning and variation. Needless to say, I was very impressed once I heard the record. Their older records like Goddamage and House With a Curse seem much more inspired by many subgenres of metal to me than the swirling postpunk of Parasites. Of course, these are blanket statements, and far from the truth that one gets from listening to any full-length record by Coliseum.
Their new album Sister Faith is available on Temporary Residence on April 30
Jordan: Who all is in coliseum? When did you guys start making music? How did you all know each other?
Ryan: I'm Ryan Patterson, I play guitar and sing. Kayhan Vaziri plays bass and Carter Wilson plays drums. The band formed in late 2003. I met Carter the day he auditioned to be in the band, we had a few mutual friends who put us in touch, and I met Kayhan through Carter, they have been best friends since they were kids.
J: Your music has a ton of different styles in it. Did you approach making music with the style in mind or did it happen organically? What was the process like?
R: Originally the band started as a fairly straight forward dark, heavy punk/hardcore band, with a fairly specific sound in mind. We wrote and recorded our first album before we'd played a show, so once we started touring and playing full time we pretty quickly added more melodic and discordant elements, more influences from bands on the Dischord, Touch & Go, SST labels and that kind of world, music that was very close to our hearts and in our blood. (Our second release, the Goddamage EP, was heavily influenced by Pegboy, for example.) Over the years it changes with us, it evolves, devolves, ebbs, flows, etc. Each record is a snapshot of who we are at the time we wrote and recorded the songs. Just like a snapshot of a person at different points in their life, each time it will be different in some way.
R: I generally write most of the material on my own. I demo blueprints of the songs then give them to the other guys to get familiar with at which point they add their take, make their respective parts better and more interesting and we deconstruct and rearrange the songs if we chose, or just leave them as they were originally written if that seems best. Sometimes we develop songs from small ideas at practice, sometimes songs start out one way and end up completely different, sometimes the other guys bring in songs or parts and we develop it from there. On our new album Sister Faith, Carter brought in an entire song he'd written and demoed. We worked on it, then eventually deconstructed it down to the one riff that stuck out the most for me… That song became "Used Blood." Most of the songs start with my ideas, but it really becomes a Coliseum song when we've all collaborated on it.
J: What lyrical themes do you tackle? What do you think the importance of lyrics are in your music?
R: Anything under the sun, anything that's moving me at the moment. Life and death and everything in between. There is no one specific theme or idea behind the band or the lyrics I write. While the perspective is often dark, it's not usually despairing. I couldn't sum all of our ideas up in just a few words, it's best to let the listener read the words and decipher them for themselves. The lyrics are very important, very personal, and very much a part of the band as a whole.
J: Combining the two previous questions - how do you know when a song is done? Is there a certain feeling you get from it?
R: It just feels right. It's really hard to say, generally it seems to wrap itself up in the right way. I couldn't put my finger on it specifically.
J: Tell me a little about the new album. Is there anyone new on it, including band members, labels, or engineers? What has the process been behind that?
R: Sister Faith is our first album with Kayhan playing bass, he contributed some keyboards and baritone guitar to the record as well. It's our third time working with J. Robbins, who produced, recorded and mixed the album, but it's our first time doing an entire full length with him. He mixed House With A Curse and recorded half of the Parasites EP then mixed the other half. It's on Temporary Residence in North America, who we've worked with since House With A Curse in 2010, but is being released by Holy Roar Records in UK/Europe and Daymare Records in Japan and it's our first time working with those two labels. We're very happy with and excited about Sister Faith, personally I feel like it's the record I've been wanting to make my entire life.
J: Do you guys have plans to tour? Any specifics you can talk about?
R: We're touring a lot coming up and I'm sure we'll be touring quite a bit the next few years. We're touring the UK for a week with Narrows in late April/early May, then headlining the Eastern half of North America with some great bands opening including Red Hare and California X, then we're supporting our longtime friends Baroness for a couple of weeks, then headlining in Europe all summer… Probably more after that.
J: What bands do you guys tend to play with? Anyone you run into a lot?
R: We have a lot of great bands that we've toured with a lot and I'd consider part of our close group of friends on this journey; Burning Love, Torche, Baroness, Russian Circles, Young Widows, Converge, Kylesa, Boris, Doomriders, Victims, and many more. It kind of ebbs and flows depending on who is doing what or what world each band is bouncing around in at the time, but those are some of our closest friends and we've had amazing adventures with all of them.
J: What are some of your favorite albums of all time?
R: Off the top of my head: Bad Brains' I Against I, Killing Joke's first album and Night Time, Fugazi In On The Killer Taker and End Hits, Wipers' first three records, pretty much everything John Reis and Rick Froberg, Soul Side's Trigger, everything Swiz, everything Ignition, Crime And The City Solution's Shine and Just South Of Heaven, Wire's Pink Flag, Gang Of Four's Entertainment, Dinosaur Jr's Green Mind, the first two Big Star records, almost everything Dischord, Touch & Go and SST, X's Los Angeles… I could go on and on.
J: Do you think there's a golden era of music? How do you see the method of music making and releasing now as opposed to when you all started?
R: Music is always the best currently, because it's currently happening, it's real, it's right now. I'm as susceptible to nostalgia as anyone else, but ultimately nostalgia is bullshit… I'm all about right now. Even if you like music better from a certain time or place, that time is over and there's beautiful and powerful art being made right this second that needs your support and passion. I love films from the 70s, the "golden age" of American cinema, but it's my duty to support films that move me now, because without the support now there will be no tomorrow. That's how I feel about music. Would I have loved to have been a few years older and experienced DC in the mid to late 80s? Certainly, that would have been fun. But I have those records, I can pull them out whenever I want. But I can't go back in time, no one can. So I move forward, I look at right now and I look at the future. I buy music, I support the artists that I like and sometimes even the ones that I don't necessarily love but that I think are valid and sincere. Music making is essentially the same as when I was a kid… I sit in a room with a guitar and come up with songs, I go and play them with some other people, we play shows and record those songs. We put them out in a format that someone else can listen to in some way. I've never been a hugely successful musician, at least in terms of popularity or sales, so I can't say that I've seen things change all that much for me personally because I have been most active and most well known since the early to mid 2000s when things were already on the trajectory they're currently on now. I can't lament how things are, I just do my best and move forward.
J: Anything else you'd like to say?
R: Thanks for the interview!