Sunday, October 14, 2007
Interview: WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
Interview for Hails & Horns Magazine
By now, most of those who consider themselves “in the know” when it comes to the dark inner workings of the black metal scene have heard of the enigmatic American entity that is Wolves In The Throne Room, and have more than likely been spinning their first full-length, Diadem of Twelve Stars, non-stop. Along with like-minded black legions Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega, WITTR have risen above the corpepainted masses as purveyors of a new, more adventurous branch of BM that’s been quietly bubbling beneath the genre’s filthy surface for a few years now. Two Hunters, their highly-anticipated second long-player and first for Southern Lord, has been hailed as a masterpiece, and rightly so. The Wolves have been toiling ceaselessly out on the road, playing with the likes of Jesu, Sunn 0))), Earth, Ludicra, and Witchcraft, and are currently out on tour now. Keep an eye out for tour dates, because WITTR live is nothing short of an awakening, and something that cannot be missed. An un-named band member was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Hails & Horns; his answers are thoughtful, sometimes angry, sometimes positive, but always genuine, much like the band itself. Read on.
Why does Wolves in the Throne Room exist?
For me, WITTR is a musical manifestation of a deeper life-vision. I value heathen spirituality, handcraft, reverence for nature, tradition, ancient wisdom and ways of life. Our modern culture values only comfort, ease and material wealth. We put forth the idea that we, as modern people, have forgotten that the earth and the cosmos is filled with divine spirit; we see our planet as nothing but raw material to create our baubles. Wolves in the Throne Room urges people to hear a more ancient and true song. If we do not change our consciousness, mankind is doomed. . This is our last chance to save ourselves. After 1000 years, the forests will return and the seas will be cleansed, but our race will be no more. Perhaps so much the better.
How far to you plan to take this project – will WITTR be around twenty
years from now, or do you think that you will have accomplished what you
set out to do with this band by then?
I cannot imagine playing this music for more than another few years. It is very emotionally and physically taxing to enter the dark and mythic spaces that we explore in Wolves in the Throne Room. We plan on burning our candle bright until there is no light left.
As difficult as it is to pin down something like WITTR at all (let alone in
a sentence), if you had to describe the band in one simple word or thought,
what would you say?
I describe our music as purifying Black Metal.
Much is made of your anti-modernist, nature-oriented worldview, and the
manner in which you live your personal lives. The stylized image of a group
of modern pagans living alone in the deep dark woods is a rather romantic
idea, one that appeals to a great many people and has lent your band a
certain mystique. How deeply does your way of life affect your music, and
WITTR expresses the spirit and the philosophy of how I want to live and what I value.
For me, the music and my chosen lifestyle are one in the same. If anything, WITTR involves a good deal of compromise. I do not think that a traveling rock and roll life is a healthy or sustainable one. It is perhaps a suitable response to our particular modern situation, but I have very mixed feelings about it. I usually feel that I should spend more time at home deepening my knowledge of farming or building or hunting or weaving or any of the one thousand crafts that one might learn about.
So many black metal bands cite nature and the elements as inspirations for
their work, or decry modern civilization and call for a return to our
heathen ways. Then, at the end of the day, they go home to their
air-conditioned apartments, order a pizza, and check their band Myspaces.
Wolves in the Throne Room is quite obviously not this sort of band. How do
you feel about the existence of such hypocrisy within the scene you’re
most often associated with?
Well, we are all hypocrites to some degree or another. We all must decide how much of our souls we will sell to the modern machine. We tour the country in a gas-guzzling tour van and rely on a massive financial/cultural complex for our needs on the road. My wife and I use a tractor to till the fields and spread manure. I cut the firewood with a chainsaw. I have a cell phone. But we strive for a much different existence! My farm provides the majority of my food. Our music attempts to touch a transcendent and ancient spirit. We feel ideologically and spiritually removed from the beastly culture that tries to engulf us.
I really have no opinion about what other black metal bands do. I have no interest in any band who does not attempt to live by the values that they express in their music. I rarely look to musicians for my inspiration for this reason.
The USBM scene has been receiving a lot of attention and validation lately,
due in no small part to Wolves in the Throne Room. What are your thoughts
about the merits and drawbacks of this scene and the musicians within it?
I know little about the USBM scene. In my experience, there really is no such thing. Our band has a rather unique vision and philosophy and we don’t feel connected to any metal scene.
Your sound is very often compared to that of USBM legends Weakling. I’m
sure it must become tiresome to be constantly likened to one particular
band, no matter how influential or worthy they are. Who instead would you
cite as your peers, both ideologically and musically?
There are some bands in the bay area we feel an affinity with, Ludicra and Asunder being two of them. They both share our DIY and anti-commercial spirit.
What inspires you to create?
I am inspired by the anger and hatred I feel towards foolish and greedy humans. It is terrible to watch beautiful forests and farms scraped away to make room for hideous death-boxes. I am equally inspired by deep gratitude and love for nature and a desire to find a traditional and life-affirming way of living.
How did Two Hunters come into being? What is the writing process like for
It was actually a very slow and painful writing process. We were all extremely focused on some of the other things that we do and the music was often left for weeks or months with little progress. This album was unusual in that the story came first, then the central musical themes and then the actual arrangements. Usually, songs are created organically by the three of us.
You chose to use very specific methods in the recording of this album,
shunning crutches like Pro-Tools and astronomically-priced producers and
instead choosing to record on analog equipment and work with Randall Dunn,
a like-minded soul who’s twiddled knobs for Earth, Boris, and Sunn 0))).
Why did you decide to do things this way?
We have no interest in the hyper-produced sound that mars much commercial metal music. Relying on drum triggers, for instance, is utterly anathema to our aesthetic and our ethic. Wolves in the Throne Room is a live band. I think that it is important to capture that live energy in the most direct and honest way possible. Randall is a master at recreating the intense sound of a very loud live band on tape.
Please describe how you came to work with Jessika Kinney on the Two Hunters album, and also with Jamie (Hammers of Misfortune) and
Dino (Asunder), the two guest vocalists on the previous album. Did they write their
own parts, or act more as “hired guns”? Why did you decide to work with
these two particular individuals?
All three of these people brought a great deal of emotion and power to the two recordings. We only work with people who we trust, so we feel very comfortable just giving someone an idea of what we feel the song needs and then let them create.
Unlike so very many other black metal bands, Wolves in the Throne Room shun
corpsepaint, spikes, stage names, and pseudo-Satanism. Such props and
affectations seem as if they would have no place in your world, and many
would say that they are entirely unnecessary within the genre as a whole.
What are your feelings on other bands’ decisions to utilize such things?
Why have you decided not to?
It behooves is to remember that Black Metal was created by a group of disaffected teenagers and the aesthetic that has come to define the genre reflects that. I think that it is inappropriate and even very silly for grown men to religiously adopt the style of pissed-off children. The original Norwegian black metal touches an elemental vein of archaic power – this is what interests us. The trappings are of no importance.
Black metal bands often refuse to play live, for a variety of reasons (some
more legitimate than others). WITTR, on the other hand, is known as a
fearsome live force that has played with such diverse groups as Sunn 0))),
Jesu, Weedeater, Ludica, etc. Why do you play live? Do you feel that your
music translates well ito a live setting?
We exist in order to play music in a live setting. I think that we are most successful in conjuring the energy we seek when we are able to loose ourselves in the deep catharsis that comes with the emotional outpouring of live performance. Recording music is often a more logical and calculated endeavor.
After your upcoming tour, what will be the next step for Wolves in the
We will return to our home to focus on the other parts of our life. I hope to have a new barn built by spring that will create more space for animals and tools. We might try to play some shows in the late winter and it is possible that we may begin work on a new album. We must wait and see if we are inspired or not!
Any last words, thoughts, or messages?
I would encourage people who resonate with the energy of Black Metal to look deep inside themselves to understand why. It is a waste to have transcendent experiences with nature or music and not use it as a catalyst to examine ones life. We live in dire times!
Thanks so much for the interview, it's an honor!