Panopticon’s latest release Kentucky threw up a great many questions as to it’s origin and meaning to creator Austin Lunn. We are honoured to have had Lunn talk to us and explain a little about Kentucky, it’s evolution, his influences and last years stellar Social Disservices.
Panopticon/A.Lunn: The sessions were kind of crossed over. I am one of those folks who writes and records on whim and emotion. When I was recording SD (Social Disservices) I was really pissed off and frustrated with some things and took it out on the recording. Spring came around and I began to feel like I had gotten some things off of my chest, so as I was laying the final touches on SD, I began the writing and recording for Kentucky. Kentucky is a more thought out album I think. I spent a lot longer on it…the performances are a bit more refined and I think I was a bit more clear headed when I was working on the album.
CVLT Nation: The two records have quite different sounds, was this an evolution based on the subject matter or had you made a decision to put out two countering works?
Panopticon/A.Lunn: I tend to tailor the songs to the inspiration and subject matter. SD was angry and dark because the things I was writing about are unsettling issues. Not to say that worker exploitation and mountain top removal are happy fuckin’ go lucky, they certainly are grave issues; BUT the album (Kentucky) has a more passionate, rather than depraved feel to it (unlike SD, which I think is a bit more sinister). I guess you could say the works are countering if you wanted to, but really they are just exaggerations of things I already did, just delving into those aspects a bit more in depth.
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CVLT Nation: The album is clearly on a subject very close to you, can you tell us why you chose this particular issue to speak about and what it means to you?
Panopticon/A.Lunn: Well, I have an interest in worker history and worker autonomy. I also think it is important to dig into the history that surounds you (as well as the history and tradition of your ancestors and predecessors). Lucky for me, Kentucky, which has been my home for these 10 years, has INTENSE history that often gets over looked. It is inspiring to me and close to my heart so I decided to put that into a record. I don’t like to write about things that are “metal” just because that is what is expected. I think my music is something that is not for everybody, and is often over looked or passed on in favor of other more traditional metal bands, so writing about things that don’t mean anything to me just to be “kvlt” or to fit the mold would be a betrayal to the loyal few who really connect with what I am trying to say.
CVLT Nation: Kentucky features some extraordinary and traditional mining songs, what prompted these particular pieces for inclusion on the record?
Panopticon/A.Lunn: Those songs are a part of the history. They are moving to me and really special. Many people of all genres have sung those songs since the 30’s when they were written. They have power, ya know? It is interesting to me…tons of bands do their traditional folk songs as metal tracks, it just made sense for me to do ours. It would be bogus if I tried to take some one else’s traditional songs and claim them, but these songs come from this state and have been sung here for many years. It feels right to me and is simply just what I wanted to do. They fit with the concept and they mean a lot to me.
CVLT Nation: As well as those songs, you also include some incredibly powerful spoken word recordings; where are these from and what are they addressing in particular? How did you come to choose these pieces?
Panopticon/A.Lunn: Some of them are from a documentary on mountain top removal I like. Some of them are from the film “Harlan County USA”. Some of them are from press conferences in Eastern Kentucky dealing with mountain top removal. Some are samples of my friends sharing their stories about how coal has effected them. I just picked the ones that struck a chord with me.
CVLT Nation: There’s a substantial folk/blue grass influence on this record, more so than on previous works, are you influenced by any particular artists? Is there anything else that you are strongly influenced by?
Panopticon/A.Lunn:Well, as far as blue grass goes I like the greats… Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs and so on. I like Tater Tate, Pete Steele, Dock Boggs, Doc Watson. I am also really into song writers like Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, Kris Kristofferson…of course Cash. Lots of old country too. But really, lately Townes has been crushing me. His songs were so true and poetic. I like to play guitar and sing those songs to my son when he is falling asleep at night. He really likes Blaze Foley’s “If I Could Only Fly” and Townes’ “Pancho and Lefty.”
CVLT Nation: You do a lot of traveling and as such influences from the many places you visit tend to find themselves entwined in your music; has any particular place had more of an impact than another? I feel Norway is somewhere you feel spiritually linked to perhaps?
Panopticon/A.Lunn: Norway means a lot to me, it is true. I lived over there for a few months during my internship. I don’t care much for cities, but I loved the country side. I love the people in Scandinavia, in general. I love Michigan. The UP is a special place to me. Also Traverse City. Maine has left a big mark on me as well. I have some dear friends in Portland. I wish I could visit them more often. I have a connection to places with dense forests and vast bodies of water. Maybe it is a novelty to me due to having never lived near the great lakes or the coast. I love the mountains in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. I have said before that I think you can find something amazing whereever you are…but I must admit, these places I have mentioned seem to stand out in my mind. They are places I think of when I am writing. They are total inspiration.
CVLT Nation: Awesome, thanks for doing this Mr Lunn!
Panopticon/A.Lunn: Thanks for everything Cheryl. I really appreciate your continued support. I won’t soon forget it.
Again, thank you to Austin for taking the time to speak with us. If you’d like to order the Kentucky LP you can do so via Handmade Birds and Pagan Flames. A CD version will be available later in the year.