Neurosis Interview

So itís pretty much straight upstairs from the Voivod interview and out on to the bus theyíre sharing with Today Is The Day and of course, Neurosis. Me nervous. What do you reckon. Awwww fuck. I hope theyíre vegetarians, otherwise they could eat me alive. Cos after all, theyíre a bunch of hardnuts right? They wonít tolerate bullshit questions easily right? Yeah, thatís what Iím thinking as well. And no arsekissing either. But apparently Scott is up for the interview. Theyíve been photographed by Metal Hammer just before this, and I want to try and get it done before Today Is The Day go on.

Entering the bus we sit downstairs where Jason the drummer is forced to abandon the Playstation. Sat by me is Noah the keyboard player, who as it turns out says just about fuck all for the entire time. But he manages to intimidate by doing just that. Next to him is Scott Kelly, and completing the line-up and directly opposite is Pete Von Till. And if theyíre up for the interview, well I donít want to face them when theyíre not. They prove to be perfectly reasonable throughout, but intense. Oh yeah. Mind you, reading the interview in Metal Hammer, maybe itís all their fault. Hey, the temptation to lay blame elsewhere is always great isnít it? Itís never your own fault.

So, looking extremely menacing, we have Scott, Steve and Noah. And me bricking it. 'Scuse the smell.

So, sometimes I try to avoid the same old same old questions and get the bands to think. Good luck. But whether I manage that here is a different matter. But starting with kind of the "new album" questions, you've had a few months now since it was released, so how do you feel about it now?

Still really happy with it. It's rare that we're happy with an album this long after it's been released, the songs have worked out really good live. We didn't really play them live before we'd recorded them, but we tried to keep that in mind when we wrote it, and I think we thought it out pretty good.

You said normally this long after the release you're not really happy with it, and it seems that way with most bands, because come the time of the next album it's always "the best thing we've ever done".

It kind of has to be yeah.

So I was wondering what changes once it's been released so that it goes from being "the best we've ever done" to "we're not happy with how it came out".

It's just personal growth and self criticism. You always want to outdo yourself, because you never want the best thing that you've done to be in the past. You always wants the best thing you've done to still be in the future. So it's like an endless fire that you can't put out. You're always grasping for it. I mean we can already see where we're taking things farther to the next level or to where we think the next level will be the best. It's just that the last one was recorded so naturally and pure that it stands the test of time a little bit better. But who knows, this time next year I might have changed my mind.

You worked this time with Steve Albini. The impression I get of the band is that you would be very focussed, and almost look like you'd be a bit uneasy with outside intervention. So how did working with him change the process?

He's a non-interventionist. He doesn't intervene ever. He's not a producer, he's an engineer in the traditional sense of the word and he understands microphones, pre-amps, all the technology, tape machines. And he tries to capture the most natural sound of the band. People have this misconception of him as somebodoy with a flavour or style and someone who tries to manipulate bands a certain way. And that's a narrow perspective of people who pay attention to gossip and the media and only recognise a few things he's done. But he's done everything across the board. He's done heavy metal, indie rock, noise rock, acoustic stuff, whatever. It's just pure capture of what you're doing. If you sound good and take the time to prepare yourself, he's going to capture that and translate it to the recording rather than colour the sound or letting anything screw up the sound. It's about how not to screw up the sound but getting it to tape pure. And that for us is what we needed. We want to clarify our sound and capture thesound like it is if you're in the room with us.

Could you yourselves working with him again, or would you want to try something new the next time?

It always depends, but I'd definitely like to work with him again. I learned a lot just watching him work.

One of the songs on there that stands out the most to me is Away, which just seems to have that little bit more melody and harmonies. And one of the reviews that I read said something about this being Neurosis "seeing light at the end of the tunnel". Would you agree with that sort of statement, and does the style of the song perhaps tie in with it at all?

I would definitely agree with it. I think that was something that we did literally do. The process of everything that we've done from through Silver In Blood being the culmination of a long time of hard work, toil and focus, real intense focus, and we broke through. And we were sitting there like at the end of the last tour we did for that, which was the tour here with Entombed and when we got home, which was around the turn of the year I think we all realised that we had all actually left some stuff behind in the way that we were, as people. We still have a lot of the same things driving us, the fire is still the same, strong. But there were some places that we didn't feel like we had to go. We'd been there and let it out, dealt with it. If we need to go there the songs were there for us to play. We need to pull this piece out or whatever. Because that's what it's always been about to us, us bringing out our interior as much as possible and expressing. So I think we became pretty tuned into what our music dd to us, the nightly basis of playing at the intensity that we do takes its toll, there's no doubt. It's very intense to play the music.

I'm planning on getting the Grace CD tonight, and I'm intrigued by this play the two CDs together. How did you come up with that concept, or is it something that's already been around.

Other people have done it. I think we came up with the idea independantly, but as soon as we started researching, I mean Flaming Lips have done it in America on a major label with like four CDs. But ours is a different take in a sense because we do have two unique musical personalities which do their own versions of sound of music. And so to approach the same one concept from our two different outlets, and then on top of that making them sync.

I was going to ask, how do you go about doing that? Collect two different styles of music, two different takes on something and getting them to gel as one.

You'll see. is the somewhat enigmatic answer from Steve. And I reckon he had a grin on his face as he said. Wouldn't swear to that, but I reckon it was there. What you do, or we finished Times of Grace and we used that as the roadmap. That was the timelength, that was the emotional flow. So Grace would have to without rock music or traditional instrumentation, would have to match the dynamic ebb and flow. Not exactly because you want them to interweave so sometimes you would downplay one and the other would have the chance to come to the forefront. When one dips down in dynamics, the other one can step forward. The other thing was to create - make sure the emotions matched. Whatever textures and vibe you put into certain parts of Grace, you had to make sure matched the emotions of the "rock" album. And then taking into consideration that CD players will never play CDs the same way twice, you have to give it a margin for error. So your changes have to be smooth instead of rhythmic.

You've just come to the next bit I was going to ask. Maybe me being the cynic asks well why is it not possible to bridge these two different styles into one actual CD.

No because then it would be, the other thing is that it has to come from two different sources because it has to come from four different speakers. It doesn't have to, but you're really going to just get a cluttered mess if you try to make a stereo image from all that information. It really does have to come from 2 different sound sources. In a way it's a poor mans quadraphonic system. Or it could be like watching a movie and listening to the soundtrack.

So I guess starting it at different times generates a different sound each time.

It will be a different sound each time by default, because you'll never get it to match the same. Also it gets the person involved. It makes people get a couple of CD players together, which usually means more than one person involved and it creates a little happening. People can gather around and the can actually effect the outcome of it quite a bit. By mixing, or doing whatever they want with the various systems, and that act in itself is kind of cool y'know. Something to do. People always want something to do.

 

This now leads me on to the next thing, and the new label that you've set up and released Grace on, Neurot Recordings. Is that just to deal with Neurosis and Tribes of Neurot, or do you want to put other peoples releases out?

We'd like to, we need to get our setup so that we're able to do that. We don't want to become a record label in the traditional sense, of running a record label to sell the bands. With that label we'd like to find some like minded artists and do kind of like artists in residency, or we get to pay respects to an artist that we like and put something out by them.

I was wondering what setting up your own label allows you to do that you can't say do on Music For Nations or Alternative Tentacles.

It gives us complete control of every aspect of it. And a lot more of the money. It cuts out the middle man. Yeah, and it makes total sense. I mean if you're going to do this there's the financial reality in terms of supporting families off it. We're far from even on this. The royalty rates are shit by standard anyway. You can be the greatest company, but your rates are still shit.

I don't know if you do the web site yourselves, but the whole idea of selling music via the internet and your web site, is that something that would appeal?

Absolutely. Any sort of direct marketing that we can do with the people who are into us, becuase Neurosis are a fucking cult band y'know, that's the reality of what we do. We don't pretend to be anything else. We want to be in direct contact with the people that are into what we do around the world, and the way that technology is today, you take cool advantage of that. We hope to be right on the edge of all of that.

One of the things that I understand you want to do with the label is to re-release all the Neurosis albums. Alternative Tentacles re-released them.

They re-released them a couple of years ago. They reissued one. Two of them were originally Alternative Tentacles records Souls of Zero and Enemy of the Sun were originally on Alternative Tentacles and we've taken those back.

I thought they got re-issued in this country.

They did get re-issued by Play It Again Sam in Europe because Alternative Tentacles in Europe shutdown years before we left Alternative Tentacles in the US.

I wonder how you feel about the whole re-issues deal.

 

We just want to make stuff available. It's got to be out there. People want it, you've got to make it available. You shouldn't just let your music die.

In this country at least, you could say that RoadRunner are infamous for re-releasing albums only a matter of months after they were initially released, with the addition of a couple of extra tracks. And so as soon as people see "re-issues" then they tend to think rip-off. (Ok, maybe it's just me speaking for people there).

Ours are not coming from the "remix" sort of thing, but more because they'd been unavailable for between 6 months and a year. We did ours so that people are going to get their monies worth, we wanted something special. Like the Play It Again Sam thing was two records coming out together Souls and Enemy, so we put demo tracks and live stuff on and on our re-issues we're doing exactly the same thing. And we're planning on basically trying to release everything that we've ever done, cos there's some old shit.

Yeah, I picked up Word of Law as a couple of weeks ago. Steve has quietly, but firmly corrected me. It AS not OF. Oops. Little thing, but did I mention the intensity thing earlier? It's a fine example of the intensity. A small word, a mistake on my behalf, but it's part of their "art" I guess, and they feel it.

But anyway, yeah, I got it, but I'm still looking for the first album, and some of the earlier stuff. Yeah, because they are little pieces of the puzzle.

One thing, certainly with the Tribes of Neurot, is that I find it hard to listen to all the way through in one sitting. Maybe I don't understand, not being a musician, but I think you tread a very fine line sometimes between experimentation and self indulgence. Yeah. And as a band, I wonder how do you know if you're crossing the line.

Our music in one way is completely self indulgent. We're only in this for ourselves. But we do give a shit about the listener. Really. This music is purely to express ourselves. If the listener wants to say that it's self indulgent, Fine I'll accept that because I'll critique someone elses as that. But in a way it's "fuck you" cos it's got nothing to do with you. Yeah, it's like on one hand we don't mean that as a disrespect to people at all, because we would hope that they would feel the same way about what they work at every minute of their life on. Because that's what this is. It's not even a fucking project or a band, this is everything. It's like when you wake up, everything in life is centered around this, and this is your life you've created. And so to be totally self-indulgent with it, I mean we can be as completely self-indulgent as we want, we're sharing it with everyone. Totally putting it out there for anyone to come and see it. There's money involved, but that's this world. If we're going to live in this world, there's going to be money in it. You're not going to work to make money, then you're going to be part of another world. So, we're part of the world of people who work and make money and pay money for entertainment. And that's what we do to when we go and see bands. So we started as something to do, to keep us focussed and out of trouble, to do somthing positive with our lives as opposed to just wasting away as uneducated fucking slobs. And that's the way the band began. It's just one of those things that we'll always be self-indulgent because we're always be on to whatever trip we've created in our own heads and only that. It's also trying to obey the music and let the music speak for itself. Because in a lot of ways the music guides us. It's not cerebral, we don't think "hey, let's write this 15 minute epic rock song, or hey lets write this trance style 25 minutes drone. This is maybe where I can't really understand as I'm not a musician. Yeah that's cool. It's like, you feel it you let it happen and you know within certain parameters you control it, and you can make arrangements or whatever. But other times you just let it, especially with Tribes of Neurot, you kind of let it be, because it is what it is at that moment. It's a moment captured, you take each accident as a hidden intention.

Coming towards the end now. You were on Alternative Tentacles for a while, and now there's the whole court case pending there. Do you have any feelings on the situation.

No comment. States Scott flatly. Before laughing, we can't get into that one man, it's an ugly situation. We have our recordings on Neurot records now. Yeah, we reclaimed our catalogue from Alternative Tentacles, that's all we'll say about it.

I was going to go for one semi topical subject. The whole spate of gun massacres in the States recently. Any views on it. Is American spiralling out of control?

It's hard to say. It really is pretty scary. I'm a father with 2 kids in public school there, and I know how much it stresses out my kids. It's a problem, it's a problem when you've got that many guns, that much poverty and inequality in the way that people are always feeling like they've got the short end of the deal and that their group or their belief system is being discriminated against. And if you mix that with poverty, drugs, guns, alcohol and everything that America is, and it's sad to say that man because I love American, without a doubt I love the country in which I was born and raised, and I love the poeple there. I don't support the governor or anything like that, but it's the country that I know and I love it, and I love the earth, I love the fucking small time people but I hate to see the culture get so irresponsible which is what it's become, and no-one is willing to take responsibility for anything. That goes for entertainers, to politicians, to athletes, to teachers. And you know I think thewhole world is moving in that direction, because I think the media of here and in American pretty much dictates the rest of the worlds perceptions, and is pretty much the hub of the whole fucking thing. Just be thankful that you don't have the weapons on the streets here that we have there, or it would probably be much the same. Because the media is still like super invasive here as it is there. Just surrounded by it all the time. And if it's not that it's the gangsta shit or whatever. It's true, the kind of television we have, the kind of movies that we have, that amount against anything of quality. It's not interesting to watch violence, but it's what we were raised on. It's gotten much more extreme in our lifetime. I can't deal with the shit on the television, I'm like "holy shit". Mix that with people being raised without any ability to cope with the bullshit going on in our country and people's going to snap. It's a pretty ugly situation.

I find that sometimes when they try to apportion the blame, they completely miss the point, and for me one of the fundamental issues is peoples apparent inability these days to reason about anything or think for yourself.

And it's really fucking sad to see, especially with the kids. That's whats really troubling. Scary. But it's not like you walk around with fear, you live your life. It's been a natural escalation this violence. I mean, it's stupid, but when is somebody going to bomb the Superbowl and kill 30,000 people, because that sort of things going to happen.

And on a cheery note such as that, it's time to finish. And for me to be proud and relieved about the fact that I stepped out of the bus alive. Rock stars shmock stars. Pah. Though the band did look as if they were about to kill people onstage, but that just seems to be the natural persona every time I've witnessed the live spectacle of a Neurosis gig.


Fierce Panda presents .... Where The Wild Nings Are: This one was due in last issue as well, but ran out of space. It happens. But to be honest as well, looking at the bands on here, my first reaction is that this is going to be something that I donít really like. Yeah, should be impartial and all that, but I suspect everyone does it. I mean, I like receiving stuff to review, partly because itís more music for me to listen to, and yeah, partly cos itís cheaper for me than buying, but some things arrive and itís like, er, crikey. But I try to review, so here goes. Thereís is where for those people that know these bands and actually know what theyíre talking about will either piss themselves laughing at the inaccuracy of my statements, or else want to remove my head with the nearest sharp edged implement for making ludicrous or blasphemous statements.

Well, thereís some ok stuff on here, Godís Boyfriend is quite good, reminding me with the melody and some of the vocals of Blondie, Kidnapper are quite catchy, Idlewild are here and the like. But thereís a lot that well, it drifts by me. I canít say itís shite because it didnít register with me enough to say that, but itís either bland or just not my sort of thing, and maybe thatís worse. Maybe it wouldíve been better if I did want to throw the CD on the floor and stamp on it (Iíve never done that yet, I feel cheated, I want to hate a CD so much, sooooo much that I can destroy it in a fit of rage). Low-Fidelity Allstars for example with Diamonds Are Forever, and Regular Fries - just drift by me. Ultrasound have a decent opening to their track, but sorry, me and the vocals donít get on and so we part company. Then youíve also got the likes of Embrace, Campag Velocet, Unbelievable Truth, Spraydog, The High Fidelity and more and the quirkiness of the likes of Toaster and Tiny Too.

Reading the sleeve notes, it seems that Fierce Panda are one of those labels we need. Not necessarily in it for the money, just interested in putting out music by bands that excite them, often one off singles deals, as they explain it, "to give bands some breathing space before signing major details." Itís sentiments I can applaud, even if theyíre idea of exciting bands and my idea are operating for the most part on a different plane. Value for money, just not really my money.