An Interview with Aesop Dekker of Agalloch, VHÖL, Ludicra
Note: The English text of the interview with Aesop Dekker follows a very poignant, perhaps even Biblical introduction in Hebrew.
מעט האנשים שאתה (אתה זה אני כרגע, אחלה? יופי) נתקל באנשים שיוצרים ועושים ומזיזים דברים בעולם היצירתי ואיך שהוא נראים לך יותר בעלי מלאכה מכל דבר אחר – באים לעבוד, לא לשחק. לא, כמובן, כגישה שמבטלת רעיונות מופשטים יותר כמו יצירתיות או אורח רוח, אלא כסוג של ניגוד פילוסופי של הרעיון של יצירתיות כמנותק מהרעיון של לעבוד, להתאמן, ולהתמסר. וזה פחות או יותר אסופ דקר. סוג של ויטגנשטיין, נראה לי, רק פחות חופר ויותר מתופף. אולי העולם היה יפה יותר אם ויטגנשטיין הזה מתופף. נו מילא.
הוא התחיל את חייו כמתופף פאנק/הארדקור בפלורידה, המשיך אותה כמתופף של הרכב הבלאק/פוסט-שקרכלשהוא Ludicra בקליפורניה ועכשיו, מאז 2007, חבר מן המניין בפלא העולם הזה שיש שקוראים לו Agalloch אבל אני פשוט אקרא לו פלא העולם הזה. ואם זה לא היה מספיק, אני מניח שמספיק זה לא ממש מושג שמר דקר מתחבר אליו, אז יש גם את VHÖL, הרכב שכולל, קחו נשימה, את דקר, מייק שיידט, הלוא הוא מר Y.O.B, ג׳ון קובט, לשעבר לודיקרה והיום Hammers of Misfortune וסיגריד שייאה, הבסיסטית של Hammers of Misfortune. ויש כמובן גם את Worm Ouroboros, שהייתי מציין קודם אם הבלוג שלי לא היה מנסה להתנקש בי.
ואחרי שהאיש הדי עסוק הזה הוציא לא מזמן את האחרון של אגאלוך, הלוא הוא The Serprent and the Sphere, הרי שהגיע הזמן להוציא אלבום שני ל- VHÖL, מפלצת רב ראשית של ת׳ראש מטאל ישן וטוב עם אנרגיות דום/בלאק לא ברורות. אה, ודבר אחרון: האיש ארכיביסט מטאל/פאנק בחסד, והבלוג שלו, שלא פעיל כ״כ יותר, מלא אוצרות.
Growing up in the Florida punk scene, were there any specific bands, whether peers of predecessors, you really connected with, that inspired you to be a musician yourself? Did it affect your choice of instrument?
Definitely. The band Broken Talent from Miami were huge to me, they were older guys but always took the time to turn me on to new bands and get me into their shows. They were really the first to show me that punk was a community. I ended up playing drums simply for the fact that the only other punckers in my neighborhood had started a band and needed a drummer. I was the singer at first, but I hated being in front. They tried me on drums, and while I wasn't good in any sense of the word, I could manage and I really enjoyed it.
This may seem like a strange question, but I'll go ahead and try: Why is it that you think Florida, seemingly the least metal/punk place on earth, has been such a fertile metal/punk breeding ground?
Probably boredom, and the strong presence of right-wing and christian ideals. When I was a kid it just felt really powerful to be anti-everything, to be blasphemous, offensive… You just got a stronger reaction. That can be powerful fuel for young people. Of course everyone knows about all the highly influential Death Metal from the state, but people seldom talk about the 80's hardcore scene.
How was the transition into the West Coast scene? Was there a specific experience of band that made you want to transition form punk into metal, or was it all just music and you never really thought of the categories?
It's just music. I have always just gravitated towards darker, heavier sounds. At around 16 I started seeing Metallica wearing Discharge shirts and such, I decided to check out some of those bands and was floored. When I first heard Sodom it was just punk with silly Satanic lyrics. When I moved west I realized that listening to punk and metal kind of branded me as a yokel, I was 18 and wanted to fit in. It's dumb but it got me to start listening to things like SWANS, The Fall, Neubauten, Death in June…Also heavy music but with a sense of art.
Could you describe how your involvement with Agalloch began? Was it difficult fitting into an existing formula or working environment?
I was a fan, Pale Folklore and The Mantle were minor obsessions for me. I was floored that there was folks so close to where I was that were also listening to Black Metal and incorporating Fields of the Nephilim and Death in June (obviously.) When they decided to come play in San Francisco I called the promoter and insisted my band Ludicra open for them. A friendship between the two bands was formed. When they needed a drummer, Jason wrote and asked me to send a recording of me playing to their songs, I did one better and booked a flight, went up there and we just played. The chemistry worked and I already knew I really liked them as people. Yeah, it was a bit daunting coming into something so established with people that had a long history together. I definitely loved their work and didn't want to change the shape of the material too much, so I really just focused on making Agalloch a better live act.
Your work with Agalloch could seem, at least superficially, to be at odds with your life-long affair with punk and hardcore. What was it like to transition into the Agalloch sound for you?
Not difficult at all, I understood and was also big on their influences, we had a lot of common ground musically and it has been a joy to have them expose me to metal albums that I missed and for me to show them punk albums they missed. I really loved John's phrasing and drumming on the albums, so it was easy for me to take that and build upon it. Being in Ludicra primed me for Agalloch, it was with that band that I created the vocabulary that I use in Agalloch, probably because both bands shared influences.
With VHÖL a lot of the old-school punk and metal vibe seems to be placed squarely at the center. Was that a conscious choice for you and Mike? A place where you can take a break from the YOB or Agalloch atmospheres and go with something more straightforward?
VHÖL is the work of John Cobbett of Ludicra mainly, both of us (and Mike) grew up listening to punk and thrash. It wasn't really that conscious. John just wrote the material and we added to it. VHÖL has nothing to do with our previous or current bands. It's just more of a "These are people I love and are the most capable musicians I know so let's do this record."
VHÖL seems to be channeling a lot at once, but there's definitely a hefty dose of early 80s, punky thrash. Were there any specific artists or maybe even moods you and Mike were considering when recording the new VHÖL album?
I think all of us were drawing on different influences. I was definitely listening to a lot of Sabbat (UK,) Holy Terror, Raw Power, and Discharge to inform some of my choices. The new one is more just classic metal than punk. Again, John, Mike, and I grew up listening to the same records, we are all roughly the same age and even though we grew up in different parts of the country, we definitely had very similar musical upbringings.
What's your favorite 80s thrash record?
Probably Holy Terror's "Mind Wars," Of course Metallica, Megadeth, Kreator, Sodom…But I also recently started listening to bands like Atrophy, Vio-Lence, and Forbidden more often.
How important is sequencing in the creation of the mood of the entire album, whether in your past bands and current projects? Do you feel the drum parts have a special role in that respect, the beat of the record, as it were?
Sequencing is crucial, albums should have trajectory, take you on a journey. Choosing the best drum parts is kind of like sequencing within the song. I'm very interested in creating dynamics without using the usual devices of playing quieter or louder or switching tempo. I pay close attention to how the drum parts work in introducing new parts with the other instruments, of course once you add vocals the shapes change, so there is a bit of guess work.
I think I've read somewhere that the recording process, with both Agalloch and VhöL, is something of a long-distance affair, with members living so far apart. Aside from any logistical concerns, do you feel this kind of piece-meal assemblage work influences what kinds of songs come out?
Well it works just so long as, at some point, rigorous rehearsals are a component. The advantage of working from a distance is the time afforded to really analyze the material before sitting down in a room with the other players. VHÖL was able to practice quite a bit without Mike as the rest of us still live in San Francisco. Mike was definitely at a disadvantage but totally rose to the occasion because he is a force.
And finally, what are some of the bands you just have been enjoying listening to lately? Either newer stuff, and bands from your punk/doom/black vault?
Some currently active bands that I have been floored by include Bell Witch, Fen, Rose Gold, Volahn, Morbus Chron, Crimson Scarlet, Alaric, Vastum, Encoffination, Dead to a Dying World, and Obsidian Tongue.