Locrian Interview

Locrian is a band that you will undoubtedly hear more about this year. The Windy City drone monster has just unleashed their new full-length, Drenched Lands, which has seen the group take their patented darkness to an entirely new level of destruction. I decided to talk to the guys about their new CD, the meaning behind the band name, and the future of this massive musical entity.

HSS: Ok, so tell me about the name Locrian. Sounds awesome, and I'm assuming that it refers to the Greeks and their locrian mode (one of the seven modes of music, and considered too unstable by most composers) ?

Terence: André came up with the name actually from a diatonic mode, you know "Painkiller" by Judas Priest right? I thought it had a nice double meaning with the Greek cult and their penchant for pyres and rites.

André: It was actually my wife who came up with it. When we booked our first show, we did so on the spur of the moment. We had less than a week before this show and my wife heard me talking about music scales before and she told me that Locrian was a cool name for Terence and I for this show. When we booked this show, I never would have thought that we would still be doing this project for more than one show let alone for almost four years. I think that we felt the name was appropriate because composers traditionally viewed the Locrian mode as subversive there because a dissonant tone in it.

HSS: So let's get to the early days of Locrian. Was there a specific intent or mindset to the project?

Terence: There was and it was mainly to bring together our interest in metal, noise and drone in an improvisational way. We didn't really think of it as a long term project it just kind of built up that way. We had a ton of support from people.

André: Initially, I just wanted to play music and the style that we started out playing was something that we were both interested in. As we played more shows, we started developing our concepts so that today our concepts hopefully come across as sounding very flushed out since that we’re really comfortable playing together at this point.

HSS: You guys already have a pretty extensive back catalog. The few releases I've been able to find definitely show a sort of evolution, while maintaining the core properties that you began with. Do you feel like your early releases were successful in representing the true spirit of the project?

Terence: Yes, I think when we gathered them together on "Rhetoric of Surfaces" (Bloodlust!) they really worked as a kind of lineage showing our live development. I think the earlier releases are a good document but I would say maybe two years ago we started to really take Locrian seriously and about the time of the 7" got everything together as far as a direction that we wanted to investigate.

André: I think that to an extent they are able to represent the spirit of our project. Each of our earliest releases were live recordings, documents of a moment in time. Our early playing was much less focused and flushed-out than our more recent material. Also, I think that our earliest recordings demonstrate that we were really trying to figure out how to play together with our atypical band structure. Perhaps, it was this different structure that helped us find our own sound. I do, however, still like most of our old recordings.

That’s not to say that our sound won’t change: our core concepts are constantly developing and changing. We recently rereleased two of our oldest on our “Rhetoric of Surfaces” cd from Bloodlust!

Today, we don’t think about playing music. Instead, playing music has become a form of possession and the sound that comes from that depends on the shape that the possessing spirit takes.

HSS: So, do you consider Drenched Lands your first proper full-length? The reason I ask is because it really seems like that was the approach you guys took. It just "feels" like a fully realized musical vision, with much more focus than your older stuff, and while I've heard elements of the different sounds on Drenched before, it seems like all of these sounds were ramped up to the nth degree and coalesce so well.

André: I’m not sure I would say our first proper full-length. I’m proud of “Rhetoric of Surfaces” and that’s technically a full-length, however, one comprised of pieces from older out-of-press cdrs, tape releases, and tracks from the “Something Else” program on WLUW. Although, it wasn’t originally intended to make up a proper album, we assembled “Rhetoric of Surfaces” so that it made sense to us. Jason Soliday helped a lot too in really making all of the tracks sound coherent with the great mastering job he did.

“Drenched Lands”, however, is our first proper studio full-length and our second studio recording. We recorded that in the summer of 2008 and by that time, we were trying to create a very focused musical vision so I’m glad that it sounds like that to you. Actually, I’m not sure we were trying to sound focused, but our playing has become intuitively more focused the more we’ve played together.

I think that our other studio recordings sound very focused as well, but they represent our development at a different time. Our first studio session resulted in three other tracks that I’m really proud of: two of them ended up on our “Plague Journal” 7” from Bloodlust! and one of them, “Visible/Invisible,” ended up on a limited split tape with Daleth as well as on the soundtrack to our friend Scott Treleaven’s video “Last Seven Words” featuring Genesis P-Orridge.

Terence: Thank you. I would definitely consider it the more thought out of the releases. The 7" on Bloodlust was planned a lot as well, with the more harsh and more ambient sides balancing each other. However with "Drenched Lands" we had so much more time to let the piece evolve and the major difference of the studio that we could put to use.

HSS: This version of Greyfield Shrines on the CD...is it just a bonus track? It fits so well, but almost like a postscript... like after the bombs dropped, this is what you are left with.

Terence: It is a bit more extended than the LP and remastered. I think it is a postscript and not a regular bonus track. I didn't want it to just be like filler on the end but once I heard it all together it really worked.

André: We originally released “Greyfield Shrines” on an LP limited to 300 copies on Diophantine Discs. We had it remastered to fit with the “Drenched Lands” tracks and I think that it fits really nicely on there. I’m really pleased with the LP version of that track as well, but I think that each format needs to be taken in on its own terms: there are certain qualities unique to cds and vinyl. For instance, it would be impossible to put a locked groove on a cd.

HSS: Even though it's a musical project, the sound of Drenched Lands seems so literary to me for some reason. To what extent does literature influence your music? Also, if Locrian was a book, instead of a band, what would be the theme or storyline?

Terence: I know for me literature is a big deal when I start writing our lyrics and think of the tone of a recording so books like Don Delillo's "White Noise" or Samuel Delaney's "Dhalgren" were massive for me as well as Daniel Defoe's "A Journal of the Plague Year". I think our plot would be scenes from vacant suburban shopping malls, filling with mold and decay, it would only contain descriptions, kind of like Robbe-Grillet. Descriptions of the atmosphere, weather conditions, slow fogs, mists of contaminants, and lone drifters who find themselves abandoned in it.

André: We both have a lot of literary, philosophical, and social scientific influences to our visual-aesthetics, music, and lyrics, but the beauty of creating art is that we don’t have to say anything directly through our music.

Some scholars argue that music today is only a simulacrum of a traditional carnival that at one point (before capitalism) functioned to make people misfortune bearable through a ritual, a ritual sacrifice. The communal action of the sacrifice affirmed that society was possible and made people forget that they could be free. At this time, noise was essentially disorder and music was the sublimating of violence or disorder. “Burying the Carnival” and “Exhuming the Carnival” (two tracks from our self-released cassette, one of which is on “Rhetoric of Surfaces”) deal with this topic. With capitalism, music became the simulacrum of sacrifice, an ordering which created political integration. Our live performances are séances that seek to exhume the carnival, and to be more than a simulacrum for ritual sacrifice. Additionally, our the aesthetics of our releases evoke the failures of many of the utopian imaginaries that arose with capitalism.

HSS: Drone, noise, ambient, even post-rock, could be used to describe aspects of your sound, but I really hear some blackness in there as well. Do these sounds fluctuate to and fro, or do you feel there's a new direction that you guys are heading in?

André: We’re constantly heading in new directions, at least new for us. All of the elements you mentioned may come across in our sound. Our approach to improvising over certain structures is changing and with that so is the rest of our sound.

Recently, we’ve been collaborating with Andrew from Velnias on percussion. The stuff that we’ve played with him has taken an unique structure as well. We recorded some stuff with him a few months ago and the first track that we’re going to release featuring him will be on a 7” from HeWhoCorrupts Inc. later in the year. It definitely sounds like Locrian, but a different direction, definitely a direction with a blacker emotional feeling to us.

Terence: The blackness is definitely present, but just like when we started we wanted to try and push together our influences and away from any one pole. So we'll definitely pull from drone and post-rock or find ourselves interested in early Industrial or ambient but we don't want to rigidly be either of those things.

HSS: I'm always amazed that such expansive music can come from artists amongst a crowded city.. .as I really feel like this kind of music under an open sky out in the backwoods becomes something else entirely. But of course urban decay is also a beautiful thing. What I'm getting at is how much do your surroundings influence your sound? I'm always surprised at how many musicians have told me that surroundings do not matter. That playing the music is the escape.

Terence: The urban environment definitely makes me think a lot more about the failures of architecture. Being in Chicago you are surrounded by the failed utopia of Modernism and the excessive. You're always around Mies van der Rohe so it's there but so are the ruinous housing projects that erupted from that failure. I think maybe the open space is not ignored but rather that pastoralism is like a memory of a memory among a horrible urban vision; overgrown and rusted.

André: Our music is syncretic in some ways, it evokes both the beauty and horror involved in living in our society, and environment. These elements might seem contradictory, but we live in a contradictory time. There’s decay in very non-urban environments as well. In our time, the decay is something that’s even scarier than the images on our releases, it’s something that you very often can’t see, smell, or taste. Although for us, playing music could be cathartic, it’s not an escape because it doesn’t resolve. Rather, playing music is a form of conjuring and the result depends on what form the spirit decides to take.

HSS: It's 2009, and admittedly, there are a million drone and noise artists out there now. Do you find that this makes it difficult to get noticed, or that it's good to be part of such a burgeoning musical movement?

Terence: No I think one has to just work, there is a great community of misanthropes out there and it is nice to meet people on tour and make connections from mail ordering from them or talking on message boards. It can be hard to stick it out since there are so many people releasing tapes and CDRs and it is hard to know what is worth your time but I love finding a gem in all of the regular stuff and it definitely makes you feel connected. I also think that the whole attitude of how releases are released helps subvert the dominant method of mainstream (and even indie) music culture.

André: Although we both feel comfortable in the drone and noise scene, I don’t think we fit in well there. Certainly, the very presence of a guitar is a bit much for a lot of people in the noise scene. I definitely think that there are a lot of people doing really cool and creative stuff in the noise and drone contexts. If anyone labels us with other musicians who are doing creative things then I’ll take that as a compliment. I certainly enjoy seeing and playing with creative artists.

HSS: If you asked most people about heavy sounds in Chicago, they might just say Pelican... and not much else. Tell people about some of the other amazing things going on musically in the Windy City right now.

Terence: There are great groups in town from people who've been around a while like Bloodyminded, Yakuza and Nachtmystium to more recent groups like Oakeater and Velnias. There are also some new transplants like David Russell too and some other folks who always do something interesting like Jason Soliday. I mean this town has great music, like Indian, Kevin Drumm, Harpoon, Ga'an, and others. It is a great city for music.

André: Wow, big question! There are the people Terence mentioned, but many more. I just went to a great show and saw Bruce Lamont, Mark Solotroff and Right-Eyed Rita collaborate with only vocals. Brett Naucke played as “Faceworker” and was doing some great synth stuff. The Golden Sores also played and they were on top of their game: one of the best drone groups around. I highly recommend checking all of these people/groups out. There are a lot of other people doing cool stuff too.

HSS: In my old age I've become somewhat of a hermit, but will finally be seeing you guys live soon. What can be expected from a live Locrian gig? Do you guys have a set list or general outline you follow or is it all improv?

Terence: Live is our creative process, we do a lot there to try and stretch a lot. There is no set list only a time limit and we normally come up with a few movements that we want to transition between and we try and do that in a timely manner. Amidst candles, incense and fog. Though we're on a live hiatus at the moment.

André: That’s great that there’s someone in the Chicago noise scene who hasn’t seen us live. Expect a conjuring so we can’t predict what will happen.

HSS: Favorite Sabbath song?

André: Ozzy: War Pigs and then Children of the Grave; Dio: Heaven and Hell; Ian Gillian: Trashed; I can’t get behind the stuff with the other singers.

Terence: "Children of the Grave"

HSS: Tell us about the future plans of Locrian, and anything else you guys are involved in.
Terence: Well "Drenched Lands" will be released on vinyl by Bloodlust, and we're working on a limited VHS+3" CD titled "Land of Decay" and a split 7" with Harpoon and then a summer tour we're working on to get to the south and northeast.

André: Other than that, we’re both still involved in Unlucky Atlas. We just recorded with Jeremy Lemos at Semaphore Studios and it came out really well so we need to figure out what we’re going to do with that recording before too long.

Other than that, in the next year, I’m hoping to get to play with more interesting musicians and in places that we haven’t played before. We’d like to start working on a new full-length before too long.

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