Pillars of the 90s: An Interview with Neurosis about Through Silver in Blood
Album: Through Silver in Blood
Label: Relapse Records
Favorite Song: "Aeon"
The Bare Bones: Through Silver in Blood is the fifth full-length album from Oakland-based sludge, post-metal pioneers Neurosis, and their debut for Relapse Records after releasing two albums, Souls at Zero and Enemy of the Sun via Alternative Tentacles.
The Beating Heart: Neurosis is one of the most influential American rock bands of the last 30 years, and a foundational force in the underground metal scene of the current century. Along with bands such as Slint, Fugazi, and, later Agalloch and Weakling, they are responsible for what could constitute as a paradigm shift in the American hardcore, sludge, and metal scenes, one which saw the inclusion of spaciousness, reflexivity, and a persistent desire to evade categories and generic tags. Which is really a roundabout way of saying that Neurosis are as big, as good, as important, and as influential as they come, as they still embody that burning DIY spirit that followed them from their start as a crusty hardcore band in the East Bay of the 1980s to their present status as musical legends, both in terms of their art as well as their business dealings – the formation of Neurot Recordings as one important milestone.
The decision to open up this new Pillars series of interviews with Neurosis and Through Silver in Blood was a natural one, perhaps because of their importance in my own life as an avid listener and fan. But it was a natural one because it was my constant thinking about Neurosis and its influence in the last year or so, a product of the recurring "Neurosis theme" in the interviews that made up the Albums of the Decade series. Time and time again bands such as Agalloch, Cobalt, Wolves in the Throne Room and others would conjure the name of Neurosis as a watershed moment in their artistic careers. To the point where I had to come to realization that Souls at Zero was, pun entirely intended, year zero in the formation of a new kind of American heaviness.
What is Pillars? Before I get to my talk with Neurosis' Steve Von Till, a few words about what this all is, and what I hope to achieve in an investigation of the great albums of the 1990s. I feel like what happened, inadvertently with the Albums of the Decade project was a documentation and to an extent consolidation of what it is that I have loved an admired about the music of the past 10 years or so. I began writing this blog as a way back into music and heavy music after something of a hiatus from metal in the early 2000s and it was for me an investigation not only of what I love but also why I love it. And those interviews were instrumental in my own understanding of my appreciation of music and, really of art more generally. However, having gone through that series as long as I have has also pitted me face to face with the understanding that the wellspring of my own musical inspiration as well as that of many of the artists I admire today – that weird, unique confluence of inspirations that made up the musical scene of the 1990s – had to be tackled in some way.
It won't be easy, to be sure. Many of the artists I loved and am still inspired by are not the kind of people you just easily get in touch with. And it won't be frequent, for that reason as well as for, you know, my sanity. But it will be more more avenue of in-depth exploration of heavy music on this blog/site/zine/whatever going forward. Until I get sick of it, I guess. So, if any of that speaks to you, and if you haven't already, please follow follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and support whatever it is that we do on Patreon, and check out our kinda-sorta podcast, MATEKHET (YouTube, Spotify and all that). On to my talk with the wonderful Steve Von Till (who also has an amazing new solo album).
Is there a moment with a song or an album, maybe as a younger person, that really changed what you thought about music or made you want to become a musician yourself? Obviously there might be more than one of these, but anything that stands out?
Obviously there had been an infinite number of those. But I do remember…. I was already into rock music, probably in elementary school. I was quite a fan of things like Kiss and AC/DC and Ted Nugent in the 70s. In fact I got to go and see Kiss live when I was nine years old – all the neighborhood’s guys talked our moms into taking us to the big concert. I have a hard time forgiving [Kiss] musically, but I didn’t know any better then. But I remember the first time I really understood stereo and the stereo image of music. And I think I probably had Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, so I was finally getting into deeper music and listening to that. My parents always had a nice-sounding stereo, and I remember moving the stereo speaker to the left, laying on the floor with one speaker to my left and one speaker to my right and listening to the Black Sabbath record and really listening to the stereo image, and to the panning, the way the guitars sat in the mix, and the way things moved around. And that was pretty eye opening, like a little glimpse into how recordings were put together and how important the stereo field would be for me in the long run, looking back on it now.
That’s really interesting because usually when I ask that question the answers tend to go toward something about the music that shifted something, and not necessarily the way the music is recorded. And it sounds like that even at a very early age you were interested in how things were made.
Sort of, in a primitive manner. I would never take apart electronics, I still can’t solder a guitar cable. But in hearing the way the sound was put together, not necessarily how things were made or the mechanics, but how the sounds interacted with each other. And the stereo, for the lack of a better word, was psychedelic. I think kids are inherently more open to psychedelic experiences without the need for chemically induced altered states, they’re just naturally in that zone, and I think I just hadn’t tuned in to that. I also remember on some of that classic rock that on the fadeout of a track you would hear a phaser or a flanger on the vocal, just as it was fading out. And I’d be like: “Wow.” I liked those moments the best. Or even if when you put the needle down there was something that wasn’t erased from the old recording, like a little amplifier hum before the riff comes in, like an expectation of a sound coming, all those things were intriguing to me – that suspense of a sound coming, the stereo image, the effect of something as it’s disappearing, the fadeout. I love all that stuff.
This is me getting ahead of myself, really ahead of myself, but one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about later is “Aeon.” And the reason it’s coming up now is that…. So, as with a lot of stuff off of Through Silver in Blood, it seems like one of the main aspects in the experience of that album – since I can’t speak to your focus in creating it – is a complete immersiveness. You’re assaulted by sound, it’s coming at you from every direction, and there’s no way out. And that can feel very claustrophobic but it can also be very freeing, because you’re trapped in something which means you need to let go. And one of the interesting things about that song, which I think is one of the most immersive songs there, is that by the end of it the recording seems to whittle down to just a studio sound. All that bombastic nature, this weaponizing of the stereo psychedelic experience and you’re left with a really rudimentary recording of a band in a studio – you can actually hear the echo in the room – as the song fades out.
I haven’t listened to that in so long that I don’t even remember. Are you talking about a cross-fade between the band’s full mics to just the room mics and the drums?
Yeah. I love that moment, and I had to kind of think to myself why I liked it as much as I did. But one of the things that’s apparent about that is that it’s a breaking of an illusion, that there’s so much energy being exerted into creating an all-encompassing sound and by the end it’s almost like you expose the wizard behind the curtain. By going back to the room mics it’s as if you’re saying: “We’re just a band in a room.”
Which is funny because that’s all it has ever been. I know that because it does sound so dense. And, because of the sampler and the keyboards, Noah can sometimes play a couple of things that are very full, and the guitar tones are full, Dave’s bass is full, I think some people have the misconception that there’s some studio wizardry, layering, and trickery going on. But truth be told, in almost all of our records what you hear is exactly what we heard in that room. All of it, except, of course, for the vocals, because we would do vocals afterwards so we would have a clean take and we can concentrate on singing better than on playing our instruments. So really it may just be giving a view on reality. But the close mics are the reality too, we wrote it to be that way. And if you see us live that’s how we sound like. I mean, I know what you mean, that fade out to those room mics is dwindling everything down to just some air moving.
Which is why I like it. Not because it’s a moment of “truth,” as if everyone being on full wasn’t true, I think that’s reality as well. That’s artistic reality, emotional reality, spiritual reality. But I think it’s interesting that there’s almost like a pan there, as if the camera moves and exposes both kinds of reality in discourse with each other – the full artistic reality and the means of producing that reality.
I think it was also that we were really at that time obsessed with the idea of repetition – “If it sounds good four times, well how will it sound after 32 times? Well that was pretty good, but fuck everyone, how about 64 times?” And it was really written as a kind of punishment to whomever would dare listen. But, ultimately we were the ones paying the price for physically having to play it. So I think that was just our way of keeping it sonically interesting. If you’re going to repeat something that many times, how do you carve out an interesting psychedelic sound? I don’t remember the intent behind that, but the way you’re interpreting it sounds intellectually great so let’s stick with that idea.
[Laughs] I appreciate that, I always aspire to be intellectually great.
[Laughs] Don’t we all.
Indeed. So, in the interview series I’m just doing about music in the 2010s Neurosis’ name kept coming up, and not always in the most expected of places. And the reasons you’re mentioned can be roughly divided into three fields. The first is your business model, which we might get to later on, based on the idea that the band is something that doesn’t take over your life. The second is your influence on contemporary American black metal. But one other thing, which I have been lugging around for years, is in the context of a question: Why do bands that start out as punk and hardcore bands morph into bands that play introspective, spacious musical pieces? And there are a lot of bands that you can clump in that question – you guys, Slint, ISIS….
Fugazi comes to mind.
Yes, Fugazi for sure. A lot of short, angry, extroverted music that morphs into self reflection, longer songs, contemplative, and so on.
Well, there’s an easy answer for that – that’s called being young and stupid. What else are you going to talk about when you’re 17 and you don’t have any life experience? Whatever your angle is, you’re just going to be a bunch of raging hormones and testosterone and unspecified anger, with a limited amount of intellect and a primitive relationship with your instrument. I was about to say “cavemen with guitars” but I hope we’ve always kept an element of that with us and that we never lost that. There’s a certain primitiveness, something primitive in that aggressive…fucking rock n’ roll. I mean, yeah, you could say we were hardcore or punk – we were probably second- or third-wave punk – and it all goes back to The Stooges anyway. It’s all fucking rock, right? So I think at some point you want that physical release that is base, that is primitive, that isn’t too heady. So, we tried to keep that element, but evolve it along with some of the ideas maybe higher artforms have. We’re all self-taught hack musicians but we thought: “How can we use our limitations as an advantage?” To express what the origin all of things might sound like – What would the end of all things sound like? How do the internal conflicts of our own minds might feel like, what contemplating our relationship to nature and to each other sound like? What are the sounds of all these things? What are the sounds of war? What are the sounds of peace? What are the sounds of terror? What are the sounds of enlightenment? How does that sound all mushed together into some sonic soup? So we just did our best to find it. If I don’t feel it then no one else is going to feel it, so let’s figure it out.
One of the concepts that comes up in that conversation of punk and hardcore is “authenticity,” which is a concept I find personally very interesting. We talked about it maybe in what you just described as “primitive” or in terms of that “release,” but if it's an authentic release, or if its primitive in an authentic manner it has the ability to move others, to make them feel, which is really what you want when you’re making art. And so when you’re saying that you hope you guys retained some of that caveman mindset then you could think about that as saying: “I still hope we connect to people as people,” that you’re not just making art in the abstract but real people authentically trying to find the sound of peace, war, the origin, the beginning, the end. This is all beginning to sound like an ISIS song…
And what I find interesting about that, if I am to return to that moment at the end of “Aeon” – that’s what that moment is about, to me. That song would have been brilliant even without that shift in sound, that moment being your signal saying “These are real people.” And maybe that’s how some of that ability to connect is retained. Your aesthetic remains grounded in you as people.
I mean, yes, that’s important to me, but did we take any of that into consideration when creating art? No. We don’t usually consider anybody. I find it quite miraculous that anybody likes our strange music, because all it really is is that we’re trying to make the music that we want to hear that doesn’t exist. I know what you’re saying, and being authentic is important, in life in general, it should be to everybody. And coming from punk rock, there’s no reason to put musicians on a pedestal anyway, that would be antithetical to everything that we stand for. We were part of that group of people that rejected the untouchable, arena-rock bullshit and the heavy metal wave of VIPs. We are all just music fans who are also making music, so that should be kind of a given. But when it comes to the actual creation of the songs, I don’t think we give it much thought. I think it’s just a given that of course it has to be honest, true, and emotionally intense. And original.
I should say I don't mean any of these things or concepts prescriptively, or as if you had thought about them when you were making music, but more as a way to think about them afterwards. But, anyway, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is “space.” When you describe yourself as a kid positioning those speakers, that’s a description of space – music as something that happens in space and that somehow fills that space. And when you ask people they would describe Neurosis’ music as being about that, space, being immersed in something. But, again, coming from hardcore, which isn’t necessarily about that, at least not in those terms, and moving into that sphere, I wondered if you ever encountered pushback? Did someone tell you that you were, in so many words, stepping over the bounds?
When we transitioned from being straight hardcore, after The World as Law, and into what would be the Souls at Zero material we lost a lot of local fans. There were a lot of closed minds about what punk rock was and wasn’t. In fact Tim Yohannan, from Maximumrocknroll who I still consider to be a hero for starting that magazine, for Gilman Street, and for Maximumrocknroll Radio, he refused to let us advertise our album in his magazine because he said we were progressive rock and that weren’t punk rock anymore, that we belonged with stuff like Yes. We always thought that punk rock was “Fuck you, we do what we want!” – exactly like I said, honest, original, emotionally intense, and there are no fucking rules. So we were like: “Who the fuck are you to put rules on what we can and can’t do!?” And as it turns out people do like to stick music into little boxes, for reasons I will never understand. So, people did not get it, we were pretty alienated, there was no scene, and metal wouldn’t have anything to do with us – the metal scene wouldn’t adopt us until much later in the 90s. So, yeah, we were alianted from hardcore, we were too aggressive for the goths, too weird for the metallers. We thought we might have some crossover with people who were into that second-wave industrial, the Ministry, Skinny Puppy stuff. But really we just didn’t fit in anywhere. But, whatever – face the front and deliver it, and we slowly started to find our own people.
Was that difficult? I mean, for me that seems like it would be a difficult transition, from kind of having a scene and a home to not really belonging anywhere. Or into a space where even while you’re sure that what you’re doing has value, the outside world isn’t really reciprocating, at least not at first.
[Laughs] That was a hard “no.”
No, it was definitely like “Well, fuck you, you guys are idiots. If you guys want to stay in your little box, that’s cool, but we’re not just listening to these five or six records, we have a whole record collection we love.” Because we felt it, we felt that what we were doing was…. First of all we were making it for ourselves. Music is inherently a self-centered act. As much as other people may benefit from the music that’s entirely secondary. And so we were making it for ourselves, and we were loving what we were hearing, we were super inspired. We were kind of blowing our own minds, for a change.
That’s the best feeling.
Yeah, and when I look back at that time between being 19 years old and joining Neurosis, when we’re still kind of getting ready to record The World as Law, to the time when I’m 23 and Souls at Zero happens, and the amount of growth and transition that happened just in life, the amount of life…. I mean, even going back to 16, not really being able to play guitar but trying to hack around, starting a crappy band, and then seven years later me and some friends have created Souls at Zero and toured all around the States a bunch of times and Europe and playing with some heroes of ours – that’s a lot of life to live in seven years. So I think we were just kind of thriving off of that, that period of time – Souls at Zero, crushing into Enemy of the Sun, and the learning our lessons from Souls at Zero and arriving at our topic of the evening, Through Silver in Blood. It was an exciting time, there was a lot of shit going on. Sonically, it was a lot of trial and error and doing everything we could to just blow everything wide open.
All that excitement and progression, all that opening new frontiers, but Through Silver in Blood is a very interesting moment in that sequence. Because if I had to describe Through Silver in Blood I would not describe it as a very uplifting or excited record. It’s obviously a wonderful record, one of my favorites ever, but there’s something about it that makes me think of it as related to other records that were released by bands I love during that time that I’m pretty sure stand out in those bands’ careers as being weird or even negative experiences, or albums that have an unusual standing in those bands’ discography. I’m thinking here of Fear, Emptiness, Despair by Napalm Death or even Prong’s Rude Awakening. Albums that sound, for lack of a better term, bleak. I loved those albums then, and still do, but if you were, as you say, continuously growing as a band and forging ahead is there a chance that these new discoveries also included a certain darkness? Was there anything different or was it just another album?
It’s never just another album, it’s always the most evolved versions of ourselves that we can be at that moment. But we were trying to push stuff to as dark as they could possibly be, as heavy and as intense as it could be. Being young men in our mid-to-late twenties, there’s a lot of shit going on, and life got complicated, and there was a lot of dark, bad shit going on. I mean, not only, but I think we pretty consciously focused that music on being as intense as we could. We didn’t want to let up, we didn’t want to let you up for air – or ourselves, for that matter. We were trying to crush it, and everything in our path: “If you want to hear some existential angst, have some of this.” So a lot of stuff was embodied in that music, and it was difficult music to play. We didn’t know it when we recorded it, but by the time we had toured that music for a few years…. We’ve always made it our personal standard that we physically have to embody the music as we perform, and that album’s a motherfucker.
In what way?
Physically and emotionally. To physically play it is very difficult. It’s brutal on the body. What we would put our bodies through just to make that music was…not nice. Emotionally, like you said, it’s not nice. It’s not easy listening. I mean, I gave it to a neighbor of mine, a biker who lived down the street. He said he liked heavy metal, whatever that meant at that time. And he’s like: “Oh yeah, you’re in a band, man?” You know, neighbors, just shooting the shit in the street, and I was like: “Oh yeah, we just put out a new record, check it out.” And he came back a few days later – and this guy was a tough dude, the kind that made sure anything wouldn’t happen in the neighborhood without him being aware of it – and he goes: “Man, I think I liked it, but that was a railroad through hell.” And I thought that summed it up pretty well. It sounds so banal, like, it’s an easy descriptor but it does make some sense. If you take away the cliche nature of the train reference and you just think of steel and iron and crushing mechanical things going through some sort of Dante’s Inferno situation.
Usually what happens after I pick albums to talk about in interviews is that I freak out and listen to the entire discography again to make sure I picked the “right” one, even though that kind of doesn’t make any sense. So I listened to Souls at Zero and to Enemy of the Sun, and A Sun that Never Sets, and I went:” No, Through Silver in Blood is still a weird album. And one of the things that stuck out was that some of the melodies that began creeping into your music up until Enemy of the Sun, the same I can only assume that annoyed the hardcore people, that wound a bit new-wavy or cynical. And my impression was something like “arthouse music,” someone who has a Dead Can Dance album somewhere or a Killing Joke album somewhere…
I own all of the records of both of those bands.
There you go, and rightfully so. And so the vibe I got was the one I get from those bands, which is artistic and a bit nihilistic, somewhat pretentious. And then suddenly in Through Silver in Blood those kinds of melodies are still there, but they’re not arthouse anymore, they sound scary. As if you took what could have been a Dead Can Dance-style melodic line and turned it into something menacing.
When I listen to Souls at Zero I can hear our brains trying to figure out our new sound, that was when we kind of blew open the samplers and the keyboards. We had no experience doing it, we were going from making punk-rock songs to “Oh, we want to make a melodic, trippy, mellow break,” and we were just floundering to find it. And, yeah, some of it sounds goofy. Mike [Morask] from Steel Pole Bath Tub said: “Oh, I like you guys but I don’t like those Hobbit parts.”
[Laughs] I always thought that was pretty funny. And I think Enemy of the Sun is where we found the true sound. Because we had learned that it wasn’t about the preconceived notions, you could hear the brain turning too much, and so we needed more unbridled, cathartic rage. We needed to just let it unleash. And so I think we discovered that on Enemy of the Sun and crystalized it on Through Silver in Blood, where we realized that’s not all we wanted to do, that we wanted our music to breath as well. But that was exactly what we needed at the time, that was the portal we had to pass through.
And so, I wanted to get to Neurosis as a business model. This is something that has come up in some conversations with other musicians, namely with Agalloch but also elsewhere, that Neurosis has become a kind of model for how to keep your band going in the long term by insisting that the band not be the focal point of your professional life and your family life. Everyone talks about you not touring as much, how you pace yourselves, and I think a lot of people look up to that but not everyone is equipped to actually accomplish that. It’s hard for some people to stay put and see other bands touring or getting attention. So, my first question is what was that decision made, that the band wouldn’t be full time, and the second would be whether or not it was always easy to maintain that?
Let me preface this by saying that whoever thinks…. No, let me say it nicer: I think it is a very far stretch of the imagination, especially for Americans, to think that you can make underground music or art of any sort of intensity and earn a living. Who ever thought that you can make money from this, [maybe] guys who are 19 or 20 years old who are willing to sacrifice anything, who don’t have any commitments to children or family or whatever. But there are very few bands who can pull that off, The Melvins being the only ones I can think of that really do it well because they have kept things very lean and mean, they always keep their expenses low. But they play everywhere, they tour their asses off.
It seemed like that for us to play enough to try and earn a living for five families, even back when we were considering it, in the late 90s, it would require over 200 shows a year. And how can you 1) be a good father 2) be a good husband and….equally as important, if you take your art as seriously as we do – because we didn’t do the full-time touring model, that doesn’t mean we don’t think of this as our life's work, I think we all still agree it’s our life’s work and our legacy. Basically you watched the types of compromises you see your peers talking themselves into…. Not being convinced, we’re in the underground, we’re not talking major labels and businessmen telling them to change their sound, we’re talking about people’s own fucked-up minds convincing themselves about things they need to change in order to “make it.” And I think they’re all bullshit. Seeing what those lower level bands that were opening for other bands had to do, and we experienced some of that personally, was pretty unappetizing and kind of sad. We would rather play our own shows – with a few exceptions, we toured with Black Sabbath because it was Black Sabbath and it was like summer camp for a month watching all those young bands in rich-ass tour buses and us in our shitty van. But we ate really well and watched Black Sabbath 30 times.
So for us, I think we just noticed that to try to keep on the road that much was to create a life out of balance, and creating a life out of balance would eventually end up in the implosion and the disappearance of our life’s work. You see the way it tears people apart, either based on some sort of ego bullshit or financial disagreements, or anything that felt like it could worm its way to this music that we felt was all important, that this music does come from a deeper place in the soul then what we thought most other music was coming from. And we didn’t want to pollute it with those types of decisions. We also realized the vulnerability of just the practicality – if one of us broke our arm riding a bike or skateboarding on the way to band practice that’s five families who wouldn't be eating for six months. So there’s no safety net, no security. In the United States there’s no art money, no safety net there too, so you have to make your entire living. And we just saw a situation where we were constantly borrowing – before we got Neurot Recordings fully going – from the distributor or from the record label to even afford to go on tour. So even though we were on tour taking care of our families we would pay each other just what we needed to survive: “You’ve got two kids and your wife’s not working, you get that amount of money. You’re single and you’re living pretty cheap, you only need that amount of money,” and just divide it up. Just “How can we make this work where everybody gets what they need so we can stay out there?” And it just exposed itself to be a very fragile situation that didn’t appear to be sustainable because actually we were borrowing money just to stay on tour, and the records would probably never make enough money to recoup all of that. So in a way you’re just digging a hole that at some point you’re going to have to reckon with. I didn’t want to turn 40 years old to have that realization and to have to get some shitty job at Guitar Center because I had no other skills. I wanted to turn around and have us find careers and ways of supporting our families that would allow us to balance our time.
And after a bunch of years we finally were able to find a balance. We actually felt like we were touring a lot in the last couple of years, playing between 25 and 30 shows around the world for the last bunch of years, and that felt like a really good balance. Some years less, some years more, but it felt that we had struck at the right way of doing things, on top of us having our own label where we’re only accountable to ourselves and only operate in the black – we’re not indebted to anybody for anything, we don’t owe anyone anything – as well as the old-school idea that you by the craft from the craftsman or buy the art from the artist and the music from the musician.
One of the things that was important for you in that balance was your parenthood. I’m very much involved in my kids’ life and that used to frustrate me, as if being with my kids was somehow limiting my ability to write and so on, and it took me a while to understand that I’m actually happiest when I’m doing many things at once or, conversely, that when I’m left to my own devices, when I have a day off, it’s usually a horrible day. I’m much better thinking about the book I’m writing as I’m on the move to, say, pick up the kids.
It crystalizes what’s important. You don’t realize how much time you actually waste spinning in your own little nonsense until your children crystalize your priorities for you. But children have been in Neurosis since the beginning. I mean, since I joined there have been children in the band. I myself was late to fatherhood in the band so it wasn’t just me, it was everybody in general. Actually we would have been happy to sacrifice, and most of our partners were supportive, but it just came down to…. Maybe it would have been different had it been more fiscally responsible or viable or if we felt like there were no compromises or if we felt that we were enjoying ourselves every single day of the 200 days out there, but that’s not that way it was. We were grinding ourselves up.
Where I was going with this was…. You’re a teacher, you love teaching, or at least it sounds like you love teaching.
And I’m a teacher, and I find that there’s a relationship between the stuff I’m making that I call “my art” and my parenthood or the love I have for my kids, as well as to my teaching. There’s stuff I learn about my own stuff via teaching, or stuff I learn about my kids from my art, and vice versa. So I guess I was just wondering if there are things that you learned about yourself as an artist from being a parent or a teacher?
Being that my art is always a reflection of everything, of all of life, everything that I absorb and everything that I feel, everything I take in through all my senses, then it has to. It has to constantly inform the art. I find it amusing that people act like it’s almost like I’m in a Jekyll-and-Hyde, Superman-and-Clark-Kent situation in being this heavy musician and a teacher. To me it’s normal because that’s just my life, and to me it makes perfect sense. I mean, if you want humanity in a nutshell then put 30 different kids from 30 different families in a room and talk to them about their experiences, you get the whole range of good, bad, beautiful, ugly, tough situations, privileged situations, mental illness, addiction, brain wiring, joy. You get all of it, you get a microcosm of the world in a room, and if that doesn’t give you some fodder for some emotional music I don’t know what will.
Yup. OK, last question. When you do think back on Through Silver With Blood, also keeping in mind that it wasn’t an easy time making that record, is there anything about that record that you’re especially proud of, or something that you think held up well?
Really just the entire experience – from pushing ourselves to that limit, to the arduous task of getting it recorded, the exorcism of really intense demons that we were able to channel into that music. It was our first attempt at making the artwork ourselves – I had purchased my first Mac computer and we taught ourselves how to scan images and manipulate them. Of course each picture required its own removable drive, it was huge.
It was I think 100$ for a 40-megabyte SyQuest drive. But we were going full multimedia, we were going for it, we were pushing it in every direction and we took what I think is one of the most intense live performances ever out there at that time and we delivered it all, every night, left it all on the stage. Blood and sweat, literally. And it opened a lot of doors for us and a lot of new opportunities. Metal was changing and people were becoming more open minded than punk rock in some ways and all of a sudden you had a label like Relapse, which was putting out Japanese noise as well as all of these kinds of heavy metal – I still don’t know all of these terms [laughs]. So we were able to peek our heads behind all these different curtains and put different tentacles out to different places and find those few freaks who like this band and the few freaks who never expected to see us, and some people over there. That whole era was touring with people from GWAR, Pantera to Black Sabbath, as well as our own theatre tours and club tours of the U.S. and Europe, and just finding the weirdos everywhere we could find them and building our own audience. Really crafting our own thing, stepping out of the box and putting ourselves into some uncomfortable situations, which proved fruitful in the long run. So, really, every step along the way had absolutely, 100 percent been dependent on the step before, and so without Through Silver in Blood there wouldn’t have been a Times of Grace, just as without Enemy of the Sun there wouldn’t have been a Through Silver in Blood, or without me meeting Dave Edwardson one day as a teenager I wouldn’t be living in North Idaho with my children and my wife and talking to you on my computer in my home right now. You change one little thing and everything is different, so, really, I look back at every aspect of our journey so far, even the tough stuff, with gratitude and appreciation.