Machine Music's Albums of the Decade: An Interview with Infernal Coil
This is the 36th installment of the Albums of the Decade series of interviews. For the rest of the series go HERE.]
Artist: Infernal Coil
Album: Within a World Forgotten
Label: Profound Lore Records
Favorite Song: "49 Suns"
The Bare Bones: Within a World Forgotten is the debut full-length from Idaho-based death/grind collective Infernal Coil.
The Beating Heart: There is scarcely an album that is as violent, obtuse, stand-offish, warm, human, pained, and communicable as Within a World Forgotten. Teetering on the edge of music and comprehension Within a World Forgotten is a missive sent from the abyss, no doubt, and is as dark and as consumed by terror as its source and yet manages in what is, to me, a miracle, to retain the collapsing human form of its author. Often in contemporary terms extreme music seems occupied with being terrifying, with assuming an inhuman form for the sake of communicating something that is either beyond the human and precedes it. Infernal Coil, in the space of a little over 35 minutes, claim the crushing weaponry of modern death metal, grindcore, hardcore, black metal, sludge, and doom in order to terrify indeed, only terrify through what is intrinsically, and essentially, human. A masterpiece of fallible, horrible, and human pain.
Before we move on to our in-depth conversation with Infernal Coil's Blake Connally (also of grindcore masters Dead in the Dirt, which is also discussed briefly) I would encourage you to catch up with the Albums of the Decade series as well as, perhaps, check out our new podcast MATEKHET (YouTube, Spotify and all that), a place to unload a heady mix of philosophy, aesthetics, and metal. Also, be sure to check out or latest compilation album MILIM KASHOT VOL. 2, which is pretty packed with unbelievable music. Trust me. Finally, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and also, if so inclined, support whatever it is that we do on Patreon. Thank you for your time and readership. On to my talk with Blake.
There's a question I always begin with, which is: Do you remember a moment in your life as a younger person when you heard a song or an album that completely – I guess the professional term would be “fucked you up”? Something you'd never heard before that either shocked or surprised you or made you think of music in a new way?
Yeah, so I've been playing guitar since I was nine. And I'm 33 now and I didn’t know right away that that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I knew early on that that was something that I wanted to do and that I was good at. But when you’re young you listen to so many different things and you're trying to find yourself. I remember enjoying Green Day and things like that when I was really, really young and that kind of thing, but I was always searching for something that was more extreme, or more fast, or heavy, or whatever. But it was really difficult where I grew up because there weren't a lot of people like me that were into that kind of thing. And this was obviously before the internet and things like that. So it was pretty difficult, I relied a lot on weird, or what would be considered weird nowadays, avenues to find those things. And two really stick out to me, and it’s kind of a weird story. I used to live in a neighborhood but I had a really big yard, and I used to play outside all day in the yard and in the trees. It was wooded but right by a street. And I saw something shimmering in the ground and it was a CD. And it was Helmet’s Meantime. I had never heard the band and I didn't even know what kind of music it was, but I immediately went in and put it in and I was like: “This is my new favorite band.”
[Laughs] And I didn’t have a CD player so I had to record the CD to a tape. And then I had my sister's tape player Walkman to listen to it. And then that kind of jumped into right around the timer the Mortal Kombat movie came out, and I was really into Mortal Kombat and so I got the soundtrack at the CD store and I remember hearing…. There was a Napalm Death song on there, “Twist the Knife,” and it scared the shit out of me. I was like: “This is like the scariest heaviest stuff I've ever heard.” But then, you know a few years later I ended up kind of growing into it and really wanting to seek out that more extreme type of music, but that it's kind of an odd avenue to find out about those things off of a video game movie soundtrack [laughs]/
Actually, isn’t “Twist the Knife” off of Fear, Emptiness, Despair?
Yeah, I love that album.
Me too, it’s my favorite one.
Yeah, mine too, though it’s a very unusual one to have as your favorite.
Yeah I know, you're not supposed to like that one, or so the internet says [laughs].
Yeah. I love it. But I think I can kind of relate to some of what you're saying. Also, because I love Helmet, I think Helmet is a shade of color in my brain. So the rifts on Meantime are like a shade of pale grey.
But also…. You grew up in Atlanta?
It was in the country, outside of Atlanta, yeah.
Yeah. I grew up in Israel and that's not necessarily mainstream…. anything. And even though there was kind of an established metal community I was never attracted to that. Obviously not when I was much younger, I didn't even know it existed. And there's all this lore about how death metal so-call ended when Columbia bought Earache, right? The day the music died for death metal. But had Columbia not bought Earache I would never have been able to just find Heartwork in an Israeli CD store. So this idea that you you need to take weird avenues, like finding Napalm Death on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, when you’re in cultural suburbia, that's how you get it. It’s not a cool story.
But it's realistic. That's how you got things to distribute far enough that it gets to you.
I mean, obviously the Helmet story is a weird discovery story.
It was and still to this day I’m perplexed how it came to be there because it was completely underneath the dirt like it was buried. It was really weird.
Someone was really angry at Paige Hamilton.
But what I wanted to say is that it's almost a King Arthur type story, and also the Mortal Kombat seems kind of random, but you know, one of the reasons you remember these stories other than the fact that they are unusual is because those musical moments were significant to you. And so I guess one question I could ask you is: Now you're 33 and you've been a musician for a while. Can you say what it was about Helmet specifically and maybe Napalm Death that was and maybe is inspiring or interesting to you something that was different about them?
Yeah, like I said the only exposure I had prior to that was the radio we did have like a rock station, but it was more stuff like Nirvana, which I love, and Alice in Chains, so more grunge/alternative and that kind of thing. And the grunge was definitely more radio friendly and the composition was more to be palatable. And I think with Helmet it was… I mean, as we both know there aren’t a lot of bands that sound like Helmet, they have a very specific sound and the way they do things and they've been able to keep it, you know more or less relevant and going for a really long time. And I think what drew me into it is the fact that it was just so rudimentary. It was accessible in a way, to where I can understand the composition, but it was really aggressive, especially the Meantime record, but it wasn’t so aggressive to where like when I listened to Napalm Death for the first time, that was like almost too much for my second-grade brain to understand, you know [laughs]. Truthfully, I remember in elementary school knowing who Helmet was, knowing the lyrics, that was a big thing for me.
So with Helmet it was just the aggression, and the lyrics were a lot more poetic, they were more up for interpretation. I think that also sparked a lot of creativity because I feel like most things on the radio are just kind of background noise. And with Napalm Death it does continue to be an inspiration and it is because the continuity and the extremity of the speed and political message and all that kind of stuff has been something that…. Like you said, there was a metal community back then and I've never really felt at home in the metal community or in the punk community for that matter, and I feel like Napalm Death is a pretty good identifier as to: “This feels right to be mad about something rather than pretending to be mad about dragons [laughs] and things like that.
Why would you be mad at a dragon?
It's interesting, and I guess I wanted to get to this later, but I think for me what ties Helmet and Napalm Death to an extent and then to you guys and more specifically Within a World Forgotten is that there's a sense of…. Like, when I talk to some artists that are say progressively inclined, so maybe Kayo Dot, a lot of times inspiration is found in very strange attractions to pop melodies. They grow up to be these intricate musicians that break down music and make it really weird, but really what they would like to do is write a good Phil Collins song.
Right. And it’s really hard.
It is [laughs] and in a way the 17-minute song is a testament to their failure. But there is a relationship there that isn't necessarily intuitive between very simple and very complicated music. And I think there's a relationship that's also interesting in say, hardcore and punk, which is basically a pop based musical form, right? It's very structured, there's a song, there's a verse, it's even in a way, a parody of pop, right? It's taking very simple structures and making them faster and more extreme and more aggressive. But there is a way in which you can still keep that form even very loosely and be so aggressive about it that it itself becomes a kind of undoing of the form, you know, you see what I'm saying?
And I think, to an extent, this is relevant to Helmet. They're not really hardcore, but there's something about them אhat speaks to that aesthetic and there's definitely something about that with Napalm Death Napalm Death. It’s also very interesting to pinpoint Fear, Emptiness Despair because it's the album everyone's angry about, because it's the album where they were indulgent about the fact that they didn't give a fuck about whether or not it's supposed to be grindcore they just made noise. And so I guess I want to ask you, to what extent do you kind of relate to that idea that you're trying to keep a basic structure that is a hardcore, punk, grindcore, and to an extent pop, and push it while keeping its limits?
I think for me the correlation or how it materializes in what I'm doing presently and the undercurrent of how I approach writing music is that in a lot of various avenues. Like you just mentioned how we’re not supposed to like that Napalm Death record, but in my opinion, that's my favorite record because it is a departure from the rules, the rules of “it has to sound like this, it has to be like that.” And, like I said, I don’t feel at home in the punk community or the metal community or the hardcore community because they all have their own set of rules. And for some reason I can't appease people in that way, do what they want me to do, but I feel what I give is as authentic as possible and I think that there's something to be said for that. So, I think that's one avenue. I think the other avenue on just a purely musical way is that if you listen to some of the songs on Meantime they do have a verse chorus or like a tension-release type vibe. But I think I just kind of ignore the tension release and just focus on how they make things tense. That's what I want, I want the song to just remain tense, for the most part, the whole time.
And I think the Hardcore influences of Helmet definitely correlate because I've always felt like there are some metal bands that sound a lot more serious or sinister, but I've always been more drawn to anger rather than like brooding evil type things. More real emotions that people feel on a regular basis rather than this otherworldly kind of thing. And I guess the last avenue, speaking about Helmet is the fact that a lot of the riffs are pretty simple, and they're very rhythmically based. And while we're talking about failures, I don't really view it as a failure now, but when I was younger, like early high school, I really got into hair metal and like, shredding solos and being super technical, but I found that it just doesn't convey the same emotion as being more rudimentary, elementary, more rhythmically based. And so I kind of feel like that thing with Helmet kind of stuck, has always been a backbone thing for me of just pounding, rather than having really ornate, eloquent, theory-based type stuff [laughs].I think those are kind of the three avenues that I think are fairly easy to see for me as to why those have had such a lasting impact on me.
I have 900 million questions to ask you about that, but one of them would be that the correlation between authenticity and rhythm is interesting, that when something is rhythmic it also kind of enables lends itself to the expression of authentic emotion which you're identifying here with anger, but doesn't really matter if it's anger or not specifically or generally, t's that it's human.
Dragons aren't human and shredding like Marty Friedman isn't necessarily human, but being very, very angry or very, very sad, for that matter, one of those primary colors of emotion, those work well with a heartbeat. And I think that's fascinating to me for a bunch of reasons. Also because I think that out of all of the non drummers I know I am the most fascinated with drumming as the core of music. Even when I'm listening to you guys and there's obviously a lot of stuff happening that isn't the drums, the drums are the song, they’re the reptilian brain of the song. And, and so this correlation between authenticity and drumming and beats and rhythm I find very interesting. But I also wanted to say that, you know, there aren't a lot of bands that sound like Infernal Coil, but there are bands that are kind of like in the neighborhood when I think about even just the guitar parts, the sheer aggression. And so one of the bands that I thought of, and you may or may not know them but is Abyssal.
I’m a huge fan of Abyssal!
Me too! I think “Veil of Transcendence” is one of the best metal songs of all time.
So Abyssal is like you in that it is almost an abstraction of heavy metal, right? It's like taking distortion and sounds and making them so crushing and so heavy that it's too much, and in being too much it ceases to be heavy metal and begins to be something else, I don't know what it is right? It's so heavy that it’s classical music, abstracted death metal, right? But, where you're different from Abyssal is that you still somehow, and this is probably the reason I wanted to talk to you more than any other reason that I can think of, because this is like a small miracle to me: You still sound like a band, writing a song. And Abyssal doesn't always sound like that. I'm not saying that as a detraction of Abyssal, I love Abyssal. But Abyssal sometimes takes it as some pretty fucked up places where you're kind of left hanging as a listener. You don't really know where this is going. And it's terrifying and sometimes that's what you want from metal music, right? You want it to terrify you and very, there's a very elite group that are as terrifying as Abyssal. So it's scary to not know what's happening next. Which I kind of think that's why I love “Veil of Transcendence” as much because there's that kind of melodic line towards the end with a keyboard that just breaks from the song, and then the song rages for like five minutes of incoherent riffs until it melds back with that melody. So that's, that's a bizarre thing where “I'm going to fuck with you, you're not going to know if this has a happy ending, it might have a happy ending.” And then when it happens, you're kind of happy as a listener, but for five minutes there, you're like: “What the hell is going on?”
The reason I'm saying all this is as heavy and as crushing as Within a World Forgotten is it never stops being songs. They're always propelled toward what seems like an end, you're always guided by someone kind of telling you: “I know it's fucked up where you're listening to right now. I know it sounds like a lot of shit is confusing right now. But it's going to be okay.” So does any of that nonsense make sense? Did I just speak nonsense for two straight minutes?
No, no, no. It's really nice to hear that someone can hear that in the music. Going back to the first kind of part of that line, that we’re more drawn to like the human experience – that’s a huge thing for us. All of the music that I really, really hold dear to me now seemingly have that in common, where it’s more about human connection, regardless of race or background or whatever it's a matter of finding some sort of common ground. And as you were talking…. I mean, I do think that Abyssal has some pretty lofty ideas that I just accept because I can't presume to understand the process. But, with us…. One thing I kind of always hated about certain metal bands, and we get a lot of comparison to war metal bands like Blasphemy. But for as much as I like and respect Blasphemy, the songs all end up kind of sounding the same, at some point in time. And I always wanted when I write songs, even in my previous band Dead in the Dirt, I feel like I always wanted to write songs that are memorable as being one song rather than relying on it being an LP or an EP worth of music that just has it chopped up with tracks. I always wanted it to be something you could say: “Oh, I love that song” or “I love how that song fits in with the rest of the songs,” rather than it being all of the song titles sound the same, all of the riffs sound the same, and it just kind of is this continuous thing. I wanted to find a middle ground between having basically the pop formula of autonomous songs, and then also having it be puzzle pieces in a greater or larger scope, I guess.
It's interesting that, you know, one of the solutions to that problem, not to say that there’s one way to solve it, it’s still a problem, it's a good problem. But one of the ways of dealing with it is grindcore. And the reason why I mentioned grindcore is because it’s, like we mentioned, a kind of parody of pop, right? “I'm going to, I'm going to take a song that's three minutes, I'm going to make it into 20 seconds. It's going to have the same number of verses and choruses and rifts. But it's just going to be ridiculously short. And someone's gonna be yelling hysterically while it's happening.”
So you’re still enjoying a pop song, but you're listening to a really wrong kind of pop song and the reason why I say that grindcore is an interesting strategy to tackle that, and I think one that you employ. There's a cumulative effect, meaning that when the songs are as fast as that, and as confusing and as violent as that, they keep starting all over again, right? So all you hear is ta-ta-ta-tat and then all hell break loose. And what happens is there's a cumulative effect that the songs begin to kind of layer one over the other. So they exist as autonomous units, but they're almost like a cell structure. All the autonomous units kind of combine into something that's larger, to the point where some grindcore sounds to me like classical music, like movements in a larger symphony or something.
And so I think your albums always kind of did that because you've always had that feel, but I think that with Within a World Forgotten it takes on this bizarre turn, where you have the cumulative effect of grindcore songs because most of the songs are quite short, not grindcore-short, but short, but they're fuzzy and weird and abstract while being kind of extremely violent. And so this one song kind of gets layered on the other until you're overwhelmed. Not by one song, but by all of them at the same time, it's like you're hearing all of them weirdly at the same time. So I guess what I'm saying is that, it seems that you found a way to be completely abstract both in how you write music and how that music accumulates. And keep it like song per song.
Yeah, well, I appreciate that. It was really difficult to write [laughs].
[Laughs] What does that mean?
Oh, it took forever. It took so long to write that record. We were practicing two to three times a week and some of the practices were shorter and some were really long. Sometimes we would just go out there wouldn't even write music, we would just talk for two hours, just to keep the subconscious kind of going But…. I’m really enjoying this conversation, just the fact that somebody can hear those things. It means a lot to me.
I appreciate you saying that, but I guess I wanted to get to… I mean, is Dead in the Dirt still a thing?
Um, it's definitely not over. It's one of those things where Hank and I were the main songwriters of that band, and he still lives in Atlanta. I don't know if he has any interest in pursuing that band any further. But I've been feeling for quite some time to try to dip my toes back in that project and see if there is something there, but I'd rather keep it open ended, rather than being me changing my mind a bunch of times. I just needed time to explore different avenues before I felt like seeing if that was something that I felt like had continuity. I think that from my position a lot of people still talk to me about that band and ask the very same question: “Are we going to see another record and that's kind of thing, which honestly helps me a lot to kind of feel like it might be worth the torture of trying to write another painstaking LP [laughs]. That’s kind of the thing. I don't think people want it to be over so I kind of feel like: Well, I don't really want it to be over either.” It's just been this the weight of Infernal Coil has overshadowed that project and I've just kind of been trying to figure out the next step. And 2020 was actually supposed to be the year where I was like: “Okay, this is how it's going to go down.” But now this virus is kind of putting everything on hold, which should be the least of anybody's problems right now.
I didn't mean to put you on the spot, I didn't mean to do a headline that says “Blake Says Dead in the Dirt Over!” or whatever. I mean, I would love another Dead in the Dirt album, I thought that was a very unique entity, but I actually was interested in…. Obviously I just said earlier that Infernal Coil retains a lot of that human, hardcore spirit, perhaps that would be a controversial to some people, but not for me. But I guess I'm interested in what made you feel like you wanted to do whatever it is you guys are doing in Infernal Coil, since it is quite different. And I also wanted to add to that that you seem to refer to the process of recording music as a kind of hell…
And so I would imagine that writing an album like a Dead in the Dirt album, if you're a perfectionist, who is being tortured into writing these perfect gems of songs, I can see how that works into that because they're small and short and everything has to be perfect. And the instrumentation has to be perfect. But when the boundaries are fuzzed out as they are in Infernal Coil I would assume that would make your life possibly easier, because there's more room for error, but I maybe I'm wrong.
I'm definitely not a perfectionist when it comes to execution or the technical side of things. I definitely am a lot looser, and I kind of see every opportunity to be kind of: “Well, we could do this, let's see how it feels,” and everything kind of just builds on each other. I'm definitely not a Kubrick, where everything has to be exactly perfect before I even come into the situation. But I think guess the thing is…. I've read an interview with Frost from Satyricon, and it sounds like they have a very similar take on how they create their records. And it's more about the only thing that has to be perfect is the skeleton, and then everything kind of else will automatically lean on a perfect skeleton. So therefore everything will just kind of take its own shape as new things are made available. There were times on the record where I had no idea that I was going to use a vibraphone on certain parts, but I was like: “This just works, and it's available and it's here, so, I might as well utilize it.”
The harder part, the torture the the hell comes from having to dig so deep. I think a lot about what I want to say, how I want things to feel, and that's the real work that I feel I do. The riffs and things like that have progressively faded into obscurity. They are important, because they do offer texture and color, and those are important. But the emotion is what I'm really trying to get to the root of, and that is what takes the time, and the effort, and the torture, and really opening up wounds and accepting things that people on a daily basis have a hard time accepting, like the loss of a loved one or failure in their own personal world, being inadequate, things like that are very hard pills to swallow. But I think my skeleton for the music comes from more of an emotional side of things and and that's where I feel like the harder part is [laughs]. But it does make going into the studio a little bit more, I don't know, exciting. I wouldn't say fun, but a little bit more exciting than dreadful. I feel like a lot of people, when they finally go in the studio, they're just stressed to the brim, hoping that they can nail this certain part precisely, whereas I'm like:” It's nice that I get to be able to do this take like a million times, at least it's not just one time like the old days where you have to cut it directly to vinyl.” So it's a little bit more exciting. The hard part is kind of over at that point in time. For me, anyway.
So if I rephrase the first part of the question that the the shift from Dead in the Dirt to Infernal Coil hinged on the desire to express differently or to do different things with your emotions?
Yeah, absolutely. I feel a lot freer in Infernal Coil to be exactly who I feel like I am. Whereas in Dead in the Dirt there were a lot more expectations from everybody involved for it to be a certain way, and that really took the creative wind out of me. And so I think that’s one big reason why I kind of wanted to put that aside and start fresh. And I was actually petrified that whatever I created inadvertently would be “Oh, that sounds just like another Dead in the Dirt record, why didn’t he just do another Dead in the Dirt album” [laughs]. So I think that also helped propel me to get a fair amount of distance between those two projects, and it ended up to be in my favor because I had a higher demand from myself to break free from the requirements. Whether real or perceived, they had the same effects on me, mentally.
So, there are two times on the album in which you quote Michael Ruppert, and as a result I went ahead and watched that series [Apocalypse, Man, VICE]. And, it’s, you know, it’s hard stuff. It’s an emotionally complex experience, let’s just say that.
And one of the things it gave me pause to think about is that there’s a lot of really bleak shit he talks about and what he’s talking about is basically the end of the world or the end of civilization. And these notions, the anthropocene, ecological calamity or preservation, these are topics that have been, to some extent, discussed in, say, the American metal scene of the last 20 years or so, bands like Panopticon or even Wolves in the Throne Room. But the quote you chose is interesting to me, because it isn’t the quote that says “We’re fucked” but more like “It is when we are fucked that we have an opportunity to create something that’s real.”
I, as a person, have dealt with and have been interested in that coupling of seemingly disparate emotions – despair and hope – for quite a long time now. And often when people hear the subject matter that interests me the most they say things like “Oh that must make you very depressed” I say “No, actually the fact that people find a way out when pushed to the point of a physical or mental death through expression or the creation of something new, that’s life affirming.” Now, Michael Ruppert talks about that on a very global scale. But that theme seems to fit what we’ve been talking about on the level of music, about how the music is bleak, but only to a point. And so it sounds like the album, its music, is a testament or an example of what he’s talking about. It sounds like, and let me know if this is too presumptuous, someone was taken to the brink, and found a way. Not in that “I saw the light” kind of way. Shit is still hard, life is still difficult. But somewhere in that pyroclastic cloud of shit…
…there’s a melody, there’s a beat, there’s a life force that’s insisting on staying alive. Does any of this make sense?
Yeah, I see what you’re saying, and it’s definitely a struggle for me on a personal level and that probably came through in ways that I didn’t even really have a cognitive decision to say “This is exactly how it’s going to be.” It’s more like in hindsight I go: “Oh, that’s how it materialized, that juxtaposition….. You know, he says this thing… I cut it out of the sample, but in that moment he says….. One of the things I love about Michael Ruppert is that he’s such an emotional person and he goes back and forth so rapidly between anger or disappointment and then at the very brink he just breaks down and starts crying about how the reason why he’s so angry and disappointed in the world – and this to me is extremely relevant, and something that I feel on a daily basis…. So, in that quote he talks about how the world is ending, this world that he loves more than anything, and that’s when he says “The scout’s knife is sharp on both edges, cuts in both directions” [See from around the 1:10 mark of the below video].
Yeah, it’s a very powerful moment in the series.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s just very complex. And I think that how that translates in the album is that I do think that propelled the tumultuousness, the feeling of “which direction are we really going?” and “What are you really trying to say?” And in the lyrical context, although I’m talking about different subjects, it all kind of links to a central core theme which is “memories” or finding hope in memories, or lasting ripples of things that were done and said and seeing those things….. They’re unattainable, you can’t hold them, you can’t keep them, but they are something that is somehow still with you or that still affects you in some way. And so I think his words were a perfect addition in that “if you can’t understand the lyrics at least you can understand the speaking part” way [laughs]. But I think that’s how it materialized and helped me, in hindsight, review what I said and did and the understanding that it’s really about memories and what you forget and what you remember, you will you be remembered, how you remember people you have lost, consequences of things that are lost forever. Things that are hard to swallow.
One of the things that I have been thinking, and this may sound bleaker than it really is that sometimes people arrive at moments in life, and, again this can be the loss of a loved one, illness, anything that severs your life while being alive, and you feel like you’re dead.
Yes. That’s what “49 Suns” is about.
And that’s my favorite song on the album. So when you feel like you’re dead, that’s a problem. But it has its advantages, namely that when you’re dead you have more options, artistically speaking. So when you let go of something – not completely, since you still want to remember it – you can choose how to remember it. And in doing that you become part of a larger group of people, some of whom had been dead for hundreds of years, who have also, in their own way, tried to remember. So there’s this strange in-between space that opens up, and I hope I’m not getting too abstract here, where you’re dead while alive but suddenly dead people seem more alive and everything is just more agile, and when you’re at that more agile place then that’s a very interesting place to be in, artistically. Because you’re free. And there’s a lot of pain there, obviously, but you can hang in there long enough to do another thing.
And going back to that moment in the movie, one of the striking things about it is that he’s so angry, and it’s not just a regular angry, it’s preacher angry, and then the tone shifts within one sentence, something like “the end of this world, that means so much to me” and then he starts crying. So that’s the 5-second version of Infernal Coil [laughs].
Yeah [laughs]. Exactly.
So, I had a more technical question and that has to do with Billy Anderson, who isn’t necessarily the first person one would think of in terms of producing hyper-violent music, and who is more associated with more atmospheric bands like Neurosis, Agalloch, Eight Bells, and so on. So, why him?
One thing that drew me to him is…. Something that some producers/engineers do, but I feel like they do a very curated tack on it, is that they list the bands that they’ve worked with. And for me the variety that Billy Anderson has, the people he’s worked with, the types of people he’s worked with, the genres, that’s what I needed. Because unfortunately the people who I have allowed myself to afford….. And on a personal note, when I approached Billy Anderson I thought to myself “I sure hope I can afford this shit” [laughs]. But we’ve had a lot of talks about that and he’s had some good points, and you can be your own worst enemy in these things. Like, I’m a very modest person, I don’t think that I’m special at all, I think I’m very regular. And that affects what I spend money on, like: “Oh man, I don’t know if my record’s that good to be working with Billy Anderson” [laughs]. But then I saw certain bands that I really look up to and that he had worked with, and not even from a technical level, like “I really loved the drum sound here,” but more I appreciated that he was willing to showcase the fact that: “Yeah, I worked with Red House Painters but I’ve also worked with Neurosis. And I’ve worked with Amenra, but I’ve also worked with Agalloch.” His stuff is just all over the place, and that was the main thing.
And then upon meeting him and getting to know him through that process I just felt so thankful. I was the most correct decision to have him be a part of that record, because I’ve never worked with a more enthusiastic engineer. He was having so much fun and it made everything feel a lot more alive rather than just carving a gravestone as a creative experience [laughs]. Which is something that’s part of the job, I guess, but engineers always want to condense everything. They don’t want things to be wild, they don’t want mistakes. They want it produced, polished. They want to put their own flex on it. And working with Billy, he’s just as crazy as I am [laughs], and so I was like “This is perfect.” And he gets excited. There were so many parts of that record where we would get on this thing where we wanted to create noises and he would go: “Oh man! I’ve got a great idea!” and run to another room and he would come back with this object and he would start banging on stuff [laughs] to get these weird sounds. I love Billy Anderson. He’s a great guy and I really think he helped us render that the best way it could have been just because he’s very “no rules” and “let’s just keep going” and “keep going until you’re absolutely satisfied with how everything’s turning out.” I think we did like eight days of mixing where we would just listen and go “Oh, let’s try it like this,” and it was work, but it was very rewarding and exciting. Billy’s awesome.
It sounds like a human engineer for human music, right?
Yeah. He’s very human [laughs]. He’s perfectly imperfect.
That’s fantastic. That’s what I aspire for every day of my life [laughs]. Alright, last question. When you look back at Within a World Forgotten, is there a moment, a song, a production choice, a part of the process that you’re especially proud of?
Yeah. Well, as I said, that record was very difficult to make. I was in school, I thought I needed to go back to school. I had that 30-year-old panic of “Oh shit, whatever I’m doing musically isn’t paying the bills, my wife and I are thinking of having children,” just one of those “Oh man, I need to go back to school.” I fucking hated school, to make a long story short, but I was still trying to do that work at the same time, And I also had a lot of people living with me or near me who were also trying to figure out their next step as well. So there was a lot of responsibility, I kind of felt like a dad, even though I’m not, like I was taking care of everybody else on top of trying to better myself at the same time, which is, as you know, being a dad, very difficult, and more than a full-time job. So the thing I’m most proud of is…. We keep talking about the bittersweet and the complexities of life and the human experience, that it doesn’t rain all the time but the sun sure-as-shit doesn’t shine all the time.
So when I look back at that record I feel exactly what I feel the record embodies, that bittersweetness, because I lost a lot of friends during that time just out of proximity. Because, as I said, I have to go to a place in my mind which isn’t necessarily a happy place. You’re not being the smiling support figure that people inadvertently expect from you. And depending on the relationship level, most people can’t…. It’s “fair-weather,” you know? They only want to be around you when you’re happy and smiling, they don’t want to be there for you when you’re crumbling. A lot of big things happened to me and a lot of big thoughts happened to me and a lot of relationships came to an end and a lot of negative consequences. But the thing that I’m most proud of is that at least during that process I have something that I feel like is authentically who I am. And I feel like it is very complex and that it’s practically unlistenable at some times, and I feel like it’s me. I’m not the type of person to take up a lot of space, like I said, I don’t feel like I’m a special person, and I don’t feel like I deserve to have this soapbox or take up this grand space, but I feel proud that I at least was able to render something that was life affirming to me and that we can have this conversation – I’ve never met you before this point and it has obviously reached you in a way that if I lost someone in this arena then maybe I connected with someone by being authentically who I am through that medium. So it’s that bittersweet – one door closes, another opens – and I feel like that has kind of been a monument to that section of my life, and I think that that’s what I’m most proud of.