ALCHEMY, MAGIC AND IMPROVISATION WITH DYLAN CARLSON
Earth’s new album, ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II’, will be released next month, followed by a European tour. ZT’s Daragh Markham caught up with founding member and riff lord, Dylan Carlson, to discuss the restoration of magic and a rejection of modernity.
With the release of the second part to ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light’ looming, how are you feeling? Excited, anxious?
I am really looking forward to hitting the road again, and hoping people enjoy it as much as the last album and tour. I really don’t get anxious any more, if people like it, good – if they don’t, then there will always be another one (hopefully). I put my all into each album, as well as the other musicians, so I think it is good and the best that I can do at that point in time.
You’ll be touring Europe in support of the new record. Is there any place in particular you’re looking forward to playing?
I always enjoy touring, especially in the UK/Europe. I am looking forward to Bristol and Leeds. I am excited to finally play Edinburgh, also the Union Chapel in London. I am excited to be in Helsinki again, especially with a day off after the tour. We are playing Bilbao again, a place I like, Lausanne, Oslo, Stockholm, More French shows this year than last. I wish we were playing in Newcastle (my favourite city), but maybe later or next year, although I will be traveling there after the tour for other reasons.
What are the similarities, or differences, between ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I’ and the second instalment? Is it musically and thematically a continuation of ‘… I’? Enlighten us on the theme of this odyssey…
It is much like the title track of part 1 in that it is completely improvised, with the exception of the song ‘Multiplicity of Doors’, which had a couple iterations before the record. It was all done in the studio without any writing or planning, we just rolled the tape and went for it, and then a couple guitar overdubs here and there.
I would say it is the more hopeful conclusion to part 1. The theme for myself (I can’t speak for the other members) is overcoming illness, facing the possibility of death, and transcending it, or finding some kind of peace within. It is about melodic interplay amongst musicians, it is about simplicity, it is about the restoration of magic and a rejection of modernity.
What’s behind the title of the album? And what do the song titles themselves mean or refer to?
The limits of dualism and logic. The titles are evocative to me of older beliefs, alchemy, magic, physick, the world of 4 elements, a world inhabited by spirits. The world of reductionist/materialist science foundering on the shoals of reality (what I think quantum mechanics and other desperate measures by ‘scientists’, like dark matter, string theory, higg’s bosons, etc., are). The universe of a centrally located sublunary world and 7 planets and the sun, moon, and fixed stars and their crystall spheres. Angels, fairies, demons and planetary spirits.
Tell us about Stacey Rozich’s artwork, what does it symbolise?
Well, I am sure Stacey has her own interpretation, but I like to think of it as the modern world eviscerated by the ancient spirits and being carted off to the sacrificial altar.
With the recording of the albums being improvised, can you give us some insights on the experience?
We rolled the tape, we started playing, either singly or together, listening and responding. Then during mixing I added a couple guitar parts where I thought it appropriate, and Adrienne added some extra percussion.
Earth have transformed from the droning, wall-of-sound doom you established, to something unique with elements of free-form jazz and country. The vibe has been much more meditative on the last albums. How did these transitions come about, was it a natural process? What has been your inspiration and influence for the music on ‘…I’ and ‘…II’?
It has just happened naturally. I have never wanted to make the same album over and over again, I think they represent a small slice of time and can not be recreated. I don’t have a master plan. For this record I would say inspiration came from Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Mr. Fox, and Tinariwen, as well as many of the usual suspects (Sabbath, Tull, etc.) .
Word has it one of the new tracks “recalls sounds of the great British Acid folk generation” – care to elaborate? How did you cross into this territory?
I looked into Pentangle back in the Day because of Jimmy Page mentioning Bert Jansch and Sandy Denny singing on ‘Battle of Evermore’, and being a Zeppelin fan… I ended up buying a lot of that stuff. Then as I periodically do, going back through my record collection, I revisit things and something will strike me, and the obsession begins with it.
Tinariwen I just wanted to check out because I like a lot of music from around the world, and the fact that they were an African band with dirty guitars and Tuareg nomads was very intriguing. I loved their music and also I think nomadic cultures have received the shortest end of the stick over the centuries and especially in the modern world – look at how everyone continues to treat the Gypsies or Roma. Also perhaps my brush with mortality [Carlson had a ‘health scare’ before recording ‘…I’, but is fine now] had me thinking about my ancestors in Scotland and England, as well.
Within the last few years cellos have also been incorporated into Earth’s sound. Why have you added this dimension to the music and how has it been integrated within the new album?
Lori was suggested as a replacement for a few shows that Steve Moore couldn’t play, and they worked out well, so when he gracefully bowed out, she was the obvious replacement, and she is a completely bad ass musician. Once again it was an happy accident.
How far do you plan on taking this more stripped-down sound?
As far as it can go, until life intervenes and new musicians need to be found. Til my next obsession changes the course of the next album, who can say?
Do you think it’s possible to reconcile your doom metal moments with the more meditative qualities of your new style? Could they be combined?
Yes. My writing style has actually changed very little, riff and variation, riff and variation. I have always thought metal is large enough to incorporate many elements. It is all ultimately rock n’ roll, which is all folk music, as opposed to ‘high culture’ or ‘art music’. The classic metal bands (before they became acceptable and graduated to classic rock in critics opinions) Sabbath, Purple, Tull, Lizzy, UFO, Maiden, Scorps, etc., were all very different, and very broad in their influences.
How do you think the new sound has translated to the live spectrum?
This is the closest that our albums and live shows have been.
Unlike ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I’, part II is missing a title track. Why is this? When we will get to hear ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II’, the song?
Maybe the next album(haha) maybe there won’t be one.
Can you give us any details on what format you’re planning on releasing the new album in – hopefully a vinyl run similar to that of Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I with the etched disc?
Yes it will be a double vinyl with etching, like the last one, and the album will be available in cd’s, and downloads.
Lastly, what do you make of Sabbath’s recent reunion?
More power to them. May they play on in the fields of the blessed. I just hope that Ozzy and his wife aren’t taking most of the money. Also I hope Mr. Iommi has a successful battle against Lymphoma. I definitely wouldn’t be doing what I do if it wasn’t for Messrs. Iommi, Butler, Ward, and Osbourne.
‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II’ will be released on February 14th of this year. Earth’s European tour will kick off in Bristol on March 3rd, with support from Mount Eerie and Ô Paon.
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