Good day! For the past few days I have been listening to ATW on repeat, and I find new things every time the songs come by again. All of a sudden it made me wonder how the creators of the music experience their own creation. Do you play your own music and sit down to listen to it?
I don not sit down and re-listen to our albums much after they come out because the whole recording/releasing/touring cycle takes too long. By the time a record drops, I have already spent months listening to the songs and I am already trying to move on to the next one.
How about music in general? Does being a musician affect the way you listen to music at all?
Of course it does, being a musician gives you a certain set of tools to dissect what is happening in other people their music, and that can create tension or release a new facet of music that you had not noticed. Most music that is broadcast to the masses is so one dimensional, and because the masses have no training or experience with music other than it being background noise, it does not need to be deep or moving or groundbreaking. The music industry knows that they can get a good looking artist to sing a hit song that was born out of an algorithm in a computer, that is just bland enough that everyone can understand it and relate. Being a musician basically just gives one the tools to be snobby about music.
ATW takes a somewhat different path than its predecessor. Sleeping Through The War appears to be heavier, louder and faster and ATW at first sounds more stripped down. What is the thought process, if any, that went on between your new album and the one before?
We don not want to make to the same album over and over again. Each year we are different people and that translates to different music for us.
I was a little careful in phrasing that question, because, like I said, each time I listen to ATW I discover new things and looking at the song construction I actually find this album so much heavier in content than the previous one. Especially some of the repetitions - 1st Vs 2nd, HTJC. Would you agree with this?
What is heavier? We get this a lot. I do not think any of our albums has been heavier than the others, they all have their own dynamics. 1st vs 2nd reminds me of songs from other albums like Dirt Preachers and Bruce Lee, HJTC is cousin to Blood And Sand, and Swallowed By The Sea. So no, I would not agree, every album has been heavy for me. I would agree that repetition can have the ability to make a song heavy and it is an underused tool in music. Look at the repetitions in Krautrock, old spiritual music, trance, metal, etc. Repetitions can drag your mind through the mud if you let it.
I mentioned a stripped down sound, and I think that is part of the strength of this album, making the heavier parts hit the listener that much harder. The lyrics as well, they sound simpler yet so much more powerful because of how they are delivered. A great example of this is Harvest Feast. It also has a somewhat melancholy feel. What is this song about?
I have been trying and trying to answer this question but I just don not know how to explain to you what the lyrics mean.
Too bad, let us focus on the music then, shall we? It sounds as though that song could have been an endless jam. Does that happen when you are in the studio or on stage, that you start a jam and find it so enjoyable that you just continue? And if so, what is the longest time you have been able to continue it?
We like to jam a little, it happens in both studio and on stage. Jamming is how we create close to half of our songs because there are no limitations to it. I think the longest recorded jam may be close to an hour but I am not sure. On stage we stretch for usually no more than twenty minutes. It is repetitions again, they build little rooms with repetitions and start rearranging the furniture just slightly, over and over until your room is different, it looks like someone else now, but it still contains your furniture. Does that make sense?
I find a lot of your song titles intriguing. A few of them have a comical ring to it, others sound more straight to the point, but there is always something about them that makes me think. You do not just read across them and forget them. How do you come up with song titles? Or album titles for that matter?
Yeah, some people send hate mail because of the goofiness. Fish Belly, or (Guess I Will Go Live On The) Internet, those titles make me laugh, the concept makes me laugh and cry. I cannot take living too seriously, so I get to make funny songs, and what a lot of people don not get with our music is that in my lyrical universe, the goofy and serious and joyous, is all the same emotion. You cannnot have one without the other. Humor and stoicism exist on the same coin to me.
Speaking of jams and band members, as far as I can tell All Them Witches is a well-oiled machine, shifting gears at the exact right moments and with a perfect timing. Is the way you create music a natural process? How do you guys get attuned to each other so well?
This is my favorite part of playing, it is not the crowd or songs or party, it is the exact moment when you know that you and your brothers have become the same person. Robby and I have pretty different personalities but somehow we must share a musical brain, because I catch the both of us taking the same chances in a song, missing the same parts, driving and relaxing at the same time without being told to do so. I think of it as blocking color for a painting while Ben is doing the fine detail work. I don not know how we get attuned to each other, it hardly feels like a struggle, but I do know that to a musician, it is the best feeling.
Of course, me being a Dutch person and you having certain psychedelic influences, I am curious to know if and what kinds of drugs and alcohol you take when you are busy thinking about and making music. Also, do you have an opinion on drugs, and please tell us what it is.
Sure thing, I am lucky to be in a band without crazy drug vices. I have never really seen any of my guys go for synthetics or pills and any heavy drugs, but we all drink moderately. MJ is a staple (duh), and I will microdose psilocybin every day on the road if I have it but that is about it. I have not done LSD in a few years because I found out that it is just too much of a commitment for me to partake in while on the road. I do not have twelve hours to lose my mind on tour. DMT if you have the right guide (very important). So here is a rough list of drugs and drinks I enjoy while living my life and creating music. Miller High Life, Busch, Old Rasputin, Wild Turkey, Uncle Nearest, Dunkertons Dry Cider, cold unfiltered Sake, champagne, Stiegel Radler, MJ and lots of it, DMT on occasion, psilocybin as a part of daily life when I find it. My opinion on drugs is that if it does not grow naturally from the ground, do not do it.
There are a lot of bands who try to recreate the sounds of the past, and sometimes they end up just replicating what others did before them. There are some sixties and seventies influences noticeable in your music, but adding a big dose of All Them Witches makes it something interesting and unique. What was it that made you decide you wanted to make the music you make and what band(s) had a major influence on this?
We never decided to make the music we make, we just make it. I know that sounds clichÃ©, but it is true, and the major influences question is always tough, because who do I choose who stays and who goes? The Pixies were just as much an influence as Pink Floyd or The Dead, and Soundgarden, and Meat Puppets, and Mozart or Gurdjieff. I have spent the last thirty years loving music of all kinds and I do not see that changing soon, ask me in five minutes and I will give you an entirely different list.
Finally, when I read about you online there is always a lot of talk about you guys renting a shed or a remote cabin and recording an album in six to seven days. What is with the sheds and what is going on in there?
Haha! I do not think a shed is the right representation of where we were, but it is a really funny image. The last place we recorded was more like a huge house out in the middle of the woods. What is with the sheds is that I hate being in a studio. Nothing feels right to me in a studio. I do not like the thought of an engineer on the other side of the tracking room glass, I do not like the thought of messing up in a song and not knowing and having to redo everything. I do not like people telling me how to make music. A shed in the woods is better than a billion dollar recording facility in my opinion.
Well, thanks a lot for doing this interview! If you would like to add anything, now is the time to do so!
Be wary of favor and disgrace, revere calamity as you would revere your own body.