CVLT Nation Interviews: BLACK SHEEP WALL
Following the recent release of I’m Going to Kill Myself two years after the masterpiece It Begins Again, I wanted to ask some questions of California’s Black Sheep Wall. I discussed with Scott Turner (guitar) their line-up changes, the evolution of their overall sound and basically what the band is all about.
“I’m going to kill myself” opens with a deeply melancholic sound and some tortured screams – this all seems like a sad and desperate turn for Black Sheep Wall, doesn’t it?
That was sort of the idea for the beginning of the album, still trying to maintain the feeling of desperation we try to have in our “heavier” songs, but stylistically different. Not so much for the sake of being stylistically different, but rather because it felt like the natural first step for the album.
I could be wrong, but I see some interesting paradoxes between the titles of your releases and your artwork: It Begins Again with a skeleton (reminding of the literal end of life), I’m Going to Kill Myself with colorful puppets. Is that part of the personality of the band, to just do enigmatic stuff?
Our artwork has always felt like an extension of our personalities. What makes that interesting is that it has always been done by someone outside of our band. That being said, especially for our last three albums, I think Jeff Rogers knows us, and understands us a good deal, to the point where he knows what we want before we do. Unless Jeff intended otherwise, I believe the paradoxes you are referring to are purely coincidental.
By the way, the artwork reminds me of the characters in the videos “Don’t hug me I’m scarred” -– is that intentional or purely coincidental ?
Never seen those videos, but again, unless Jeff intended that to be the case, or was inspired by the video, I believe that was also coincidental.
The Tetsuo movies are monuments in the underground/counter-culture cinema movement, and you took it as an inspiration for the title of a song. If you were to write songs for a movie (weird or not), what kind would it be ?
That’s an interesting question. Brandon actually came up with the title after we had written the song, but it really does strike me as fitting when you think of the song and movie. To this day I am still inspired by movies that I guess would be considered out there. Nothing really contemporary sticks out in my mind as far as movies go, but I always wanted to play along to Suspiria. Not that the score needs any help, because it sure as hell doesn’t.
As far as the type of music, that would really depend on the movie, and how it would inspire me.
With this new album, I feel that you’ve really explored other kinds of sounds, and that you’re not just a sludge band – how did you felt about experimenting all of this ?
It’s funny, I keep seeing the first track being referred to as emo or screamo, but that was never the intention. The track to me came just as naturally as all our other material, and wasn’t done for the sake of showing this proverbial different side of us, or trying to shock those who are into our music with a style change. At the same time, we’re not the teenagers who put out I Am God Songs back in 2008. I think it’s only natural that we feel inclined to explore other sounds as long as we’re being true to ourselves artistically.
What drove you to do a 33 minutes long track (that you probably can’t play live)?
Jackson and I had been discussing our interest in doing a long form song like “Metallica” since we were in high school, but never got around to it. Honestly, the idea was to make a track that pushed the limits of taste, in this case being repetition, and from that point Jackson took the reins and really developed the entire song. Aside from a handful of the riffs found in the song, most of the guitar work was figured out as we were recording it. Whether or not we were successful in other people’s minds is up in the air, but I am really proud of the song, particularly Jackson’s vigor to actually see the whole thing though.
Playing the song live would be challenging, particularly for Jackson. We would need all our notes with us on stage and such. It just seems like something that would take the life out of what we do live.
Did you change your writing process with a new lead singer, or was there no need for an adapting period?
Aside from “Metallica,” the album was actually written long before the vocalist switch. We’ve been playing “Tetsuo” pretty much for the past 2 years.
The writing process for I’m Going to Kill Myself was actually much different than our prior albums, in that there weren’t very many formal jam sessions leading up to the recording of it. A lot of it was Jackson and I meeting up to discuss our vision for the songs, and then jamming what we could on a very basic set up through my laptop. As mentioned before, Jackson really took the reins with “Metallica,” and we knocked out the rest of it in the studio. We’ve all known each other for years, so the writing process really hasn’t been affected going forward with the switch in vocalists.
How do you feel about your former singer releasing his own version of “White Pig”?
Him releasing his own version of the song wasn’t an issue. It was the borderline nefarious means he went to to release it that bugs me. I don’t want to divulge too much, because it honestly isn’t that big of a deal, and to debunk every weird thing he said would be a chore. Trae is one of my closest friends, and it’s just a bummer that he would put out inaccurate information that made us sort of look like inconsiderate jerks on a day that was supposed to be pretty cool for us. It is what it is, and it got some publicity, which I’m sure is what he wanted. If it put more eyes on us I guess, that’s cool too.
You seemed extremely open to discuss criticism on your facebook page (notably on the first track), is that an important part of what being a band is to you?
I mean, it’s not REALLY important, in the sense that criticism doesn’t bug me at all when it’s to the extent of “your singer sounds like a pussy bitch screaming,” or like, “what is this emo bullshit? This sucks.” On the other hand, constructive criticism is awesome in any facet of life. I don’t know, we’ve always been open, maybe almost to a detriment as individuals, so it only makes sense that it reflects as a band. Maybe I’m stubborn, but I also think we’ve ingrained it in ourselves that we are purposely playing niche music to an even more niche audience, so when people complain about songs being too long or boring I just think to myself, “well, good, that’s kind of the idea.”
There is a certain spiritual sense in you music, an esoteric connexion that floats above some of your most intense songs. Are you inspired by some spiritual/esoteric ideas?
I’m probably the least spiritual person you will meet, religious or otherwise.
Esoterically speaking, we are self-aware that some of the music we make is only going to appeal, and be appreciated, by a niche section of listeners, as stubborn as that might be. At the same time, we don’t make a specific effort to appeal to that certain audience. It just happens to be the music we make based on how we feel. I hope that makes sense without sounding too lame.
I feel people are less afraid of extreme music nowadays because there are so many ways to get to know the musicians and to see that they are nice guys via social media. Before that, all they had were scary pictures and burning churches for publicity. Do you see it as a good or a bad thing?
It depends on the band, I guess. For us, we have no qualms with people knowing that we’re nice, semi-normal dudes. It would go against everything I had in me to put up scary façade for publicity’s sake, you know? If I were a scary, fucked up guy truly hailing Satan, then that would reflect in the music, because that’s what music has been for me, an outlet to express myself creatively.
Following that, what do you think about the new media panoply that every band now has: Facebook, Bandcamp, Twitter, Instagram?
I think they are all great media to be able to share information with fans, and to attract prospective listeners. I’m personally not big into social media myself, aside from having a Facebook and Instagram account, but I get the value. It’s not just music, either. The whole world is accustomed to instant gratification thanks in part to social media, and everyone and everything’s best chance at keeping up is using social media to their advantage. At the same time, since it is available to everyone, it opens the flood gates for a bunch of shit to permeate through – but then again, some people say we are shit, so fuck it!