Airs Interview

Over the course of the past couple of months, I have been emailing back and forth with Verwüstung of the band Airs, a band that I have come to love and that I have posted about numerous times here on HSS. He was gracious enough to grant me this interview, for which I am greatly appreciative; I've learned a bit about what drives the band and that has helped me to understand and appreciate the music even more.

Harold: I guess the most logical place to start is with the origins of Airs. Talk a little about your history of playing music. Airs was just brought to life last year, but have you played in other bands, or was Airs your first excursion into writing and recording music?

Verwüstung: I've been playing guitar since 2003 and been playing in bands of various styles ever since. Some are better left forgotten. I don't use the Airs name to co-promote these projects, so people will have to do some internet stalking if they wish to identify them. It's really only a Google search away.

Airs started as a solo project. What are the benefits to playing by yourself, and the drawbacks? Any plans to involve others in this, long term or short term?

You will never see another permanent member join this band ever again. Xio was the first and last. I'm sure plenty of guest members will contribute over time, however. Frost from Wervolf did on the 'Kill Yourself on Valentines' demo. Vocals on the title track and the guitar solo on the b-side.

That’s a pretty emphatic statement, that there will never be another permanent member. I don’t want to read too much into it, but is that because you prefer to have control over the songwriting and such, or is there another reason?

It becomes a hassle, really. It's hard to keep everyone on the same page musically. Therefore, Airs will remain myself and Xio. Nobody else.

Are you a self-taught musician, as seems to be common in underground metal circles? Cause let me tell ya, there are some awesome guitar solos, especially on “A Left Turn…”

Entirely self-taught. I refuse to let anyone else tell me how I should play my instrument. I'm very stubborn. To be perfectly honest, my soloing style is very basic. I've never been a good lead player. I appreciate the compliment though. A lot of people seem to agree, but I just don't see it. I'm pretty hard on myself.

Speaking of being hard on yourself… is there a lot of Airs material that has not seen the light of day, and that won’t in the future, just because it didn’t make the cut, so to speak? Have you always been your harshest critic?

Of course, to both parts. Actually, I was just sifting through some material written for the next album that didn't make the cut the first time. I'm finding some of it was pretty good and will definitely be used in some form. One track, 'We're Still Drifting', sounds very much like Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins. I hope it'll be used in the future. Actually, I'm sure all the scrapped tracks are good. I'm just, as you said, my harshest critic.

Your myspace page says that Airs owes a greater debt to shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine than to depressive black metal acts like Silencer, but to me at least, the black metal influence can't be denied. Was a conscious decision made to incorporate a more shoegazey feel to your songs, or is this just what “comes out” when you play and write songs?

When I had the idea to make Airs a real project and not just a collection of unnamed songs I had written for other bands at the time, I wanted to go in a direction that was more real shoegaze than metal. I'm sick of seeing bands like Alcest or Lantlôs labelled as 'shoegaze'. How can this be? I hear an obvious Slowdive influence in Alcest's music, but it's simply not shoegaze. There simply wasn't a band doing this. Songs like 'Touch' and 'A Feeling of Pain' are what these bands SHOULD be churning out if they want that title, but they aren't. However, I'm distancing the band from the shoegaze thing nowadays. We're leaving the sound for better things, so I think 'post-rock' fits better. In short, it started as a conscious decision, but times have changed.

So there's a shoegaze influence, and a metal influence, but it sounds like there's some folk inspiration in there as well. Am I dreaming?

I'm a huge fan of folk music of all varieties. Especially bands like Horse Feathers. 'Words are Dead' is a wonderful piece of music.

There seems to be a lot of crossover between metal and neofolk these days, or at least a lot of influence of one on the other. Artists Like Death in June, Current 93, etc. have made their mark. Have you consciously noticed those artists, or artists like them, having an influence on Airs?

Not too much. I'm a big fan of Death in June, but it's not an influence I openly apply.

What kind of things are you listening to these days, and what kinds of music have you listened to that really got you going, that really told you that you needed to create your own music? Have “bedroom black metal” bands like Xasthur or Striborg been a significant part of your indoctrination?

I'm not a big fan of bedroom black metal except maybe Wervolf or Tvoll. I mean, if it's good music then I'll listen. I just don't usually like it. Bedroom bands of other genres seem to be far superior though. The obvious ones would be Have a Nice Life and Lonesummer, of course.

Recently, I've been listening to a lot of Warning, the Smiths, Dinosaur Jr. and this new band from San Francisco named 'Deafheaven' who just put their first demo out.

Your music was first distributed to people via the internet; the “Kill Yourself…” tape and the CD of “A Left Turn…” are recent developments. So while the internet has helped you, I don't get the impression that you're altogether comfortable with using it as a sole platform for getting your work out there. How do the interwebs fit into your future plans for Airs, and how do you feel about it in general, in terms of its place in the underground music “scene?”

The internet is great when you're just starting, but musicians who cling to it will never make it anywhere. I'm distancing my music from internet distribution recently because it's far too easy for someone to download an album, listen to the first track and then judge the rest of the songs off of that one small sample. This happens far too often with my music, it's painfully obvious. I do watch my Last.FM page, after all.

You've just started adding vocals to Airs songs; while the earlier instrumental stuff was great, I personally feel that the vocals have added another layer or two to your music. The feeling of bleakness has been ratcheted up, so to speak. How much of that would you attribute to your harsh vocals, and how much to Xio's clean vocals?

I take a real backseat to Xio. I hate recording vocals and writing lyrics. It never feels perfect enough for me. Xio was in this other project named N.T.T. FUCKS prior to joining. I asked him if he'd do guest vocals which soon lead to him being a full time member. He writes his own lyrics based on themes I give him. He's the voice of Airs, not me. I do have songs in which I do vocals, but not many.

While on the subject of vocals, I've got to say that your harsh vocals are really excellent, especially on the “Kill Yourself on Valentine's Day” tape. How the hell do you train yourself to scream like that? It's fucking intense!

Last year, I really wanted to sound like Mille from Kreator for some reason. After I failed, I just decided to scream my ass off into a mic. Combine that with a cold Pepsi before each take. It's my drink of choice because I've read numerous times that you shouldn't:
a) drink soda of any kind before doing harsh vocals
b) drink cold things
It's both, so I figure it'll fuck up my voice the most. It's horrible in the long run, but sacrifices must be made. This is part of the reason I despise doing vocals.

Without getting too personal, do you find that you music helps you fight against depression. As someone who has battled depression for almost my entire life, I often feel that just hearing the music isn't enough, that it would so much better to create music to just get this shit out of me… Are you driven by a similar feeling, or does it all come from somewhere else? Besides depression and hatred, what else drives you?

Nature, beauty, hope? I guess. The "what else" is intangible. It's not all depression either, just strong emotions of any kind. 'Kill Yourself on Valentine's Day', named after the day it was recorded on, is mostly drawn from feelings of love and the despair that brings. There's a lot hidden on that release. Lots of messages nobody has caught yet.

The recently released “Untitled” EP features one song, a track that you have put out on the internet and have refused to take any money for. The song is about Phoebe Prince. Can you talk a bit about what how that tragedy inspired the song?

School years are a time for fun, enjoyable experiences. Not driving peers to kill themselves. I have many reasons for pursuing this event as the basis of the EP, but without getting into much detail... I just think it's wrong. It's disturbing, it's sad and it was something both Xio and I felt we needed to say something about. So we did.

When does the world tour start? Seriously, though… any plans to make Airs a live band?

Yes and no. A lot of people don't know this, but Xio lives in Florida. He records and sends me vocal parts over the internet and I put them into the songs. I will never play live without him in a traditional context. Is it something I'd like to try? Yes. Will it happen, say, next month? No. Maybe next year.

For the tech-heads… could you talk a bit about your set-up and your favorite equipment?

It's all kind of a secret, so I'll have to be vague. Jackson guitar, Crate amp, a bunch of pedals and more digital effects plugins than most people have seen in their lives. Some tracks, like 'A Feeling of Pain' or the unreleased track 'Desecration Parade' use fairly unique gear and techniques to obtain that sound. I'd like to let people figure it out for themselves.

What does 2010 hold in store for you? Considering you've only been a band for a few months, and that you've got 4 releases out (3 EPs and one full-length), I imagine we'll be hearing some more from Airs in the near future? Is the plan still to call the second full length “Rainclouds Over the Remains of Hope”?

We have a lot planned, we're just trying to figure out when to do it. The next album, indeed titled 'Rainclouds Over the Remains of Hope', will be out late this year. It's amazing, it really is. A few releases will come between now and then, but only a few.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I hope that fans of the music, not the image, will continue to support us through the coming years. Big changes are coming, some that I'm sure will scare some people off... But, the best has yet to come!

NOTE: At the conclusion of this interview, Verwüstung asked me to make a note of something that I and other fans might find quite interesting, and even somewhat disheartening. It’s best left in his words: “As of today, we've officially stopped all downloads of 'A Left Turn at Happiness' from the Bandcamp page and are, effectively, disowning the album. It's caused us a lot of grief over the past month and we (but mostly I) am sick of it. People have this habit of downloading it, listening to a few tracks and quickly writing the project off as bad instrumental metal. What the fuck? Do these people even have a moment to listen to the other releases? For this, the album is disowned as far as I'm concerned. I'm urging everyone to start with Untitled instead. I'll be selling off the last few copies of the album on CD and that's it. I've already taken it off and the tracks off the Myspace.”

My sincerest thanks go out to Verwüstung for his time and honesty.


Anonymous said...

Fucking great interview, on both ends.

Krumbled Kookie said...

Thanks Beau, it was fun to do.

Frost said...

Tvoll fuck yes!

philanoia said...

Sounds like he's waaaaay too hard on himself. He shouldn't expend any psychic energy on the haters. Should just do what he does and be proud of it.