CVLT Nation Interviews:
For being an active band since the mid-80s, how do you guys find a way to keep your creativity high, and to keep pushing on as a band?
Steve Von Till: Neurosis has been a band since 1985. Our first album came out in 1987, so we are going to be 29 years old this coming winter. Once we were lucky enough to decipher our true sonic path, we found that true inspiration is limitless and that Neurosis had opened doorways for us that we couldn’t have imagined in a cerebral way. We discovered how to open ourselves up to the sonic flow of the nature of Neurosis and it seems to have no boundaries. For us the only obstacle to creation is time together since we live so far apart from each other and have busy lives.
Scott Kelly: 1985 December. Pain of Mind was in ’87 followed by our first full U.S tour. The creativity just runs at its own pace in its own river. I feel like we made a conscious decision all those years ago to swim in that river. The need to push everything is just a natural extension of who we are as individuals.
The early Neurosis recordings are a lot more punk and hardcore influenced, but over the years you’ve continued to experiment with a more ambient and sludge sound. Some people say you’ve coined the term “Post-Metal”. Obviously all bands progress as time goes on, but was this style change an attempt to see what you could do with music while still having a punk and hardcore background?
SK: We were in our mid and late teen years when we wrote the first 2 records so really what your hearing us digging deep to find the sound that we heard in our heads. We had a really clear vision of what we wanted to do right from the start but we were plainly not skilled enough to do it. More experimentation was needed and more submersion in the waters.
SVT: We have always been striving to simply create unique original music that has raw emotional power. We were very young when this band started and had to spend many years finding our relationships with our instruments and experimenting with creating our own music. It took a while to find out where we were headed sonically and how far we could push it. The raw emotional power created by teenagers is going to be a lot different than grown men in their forties. The early stuff was more immediate and raw, you could hear the growing pains. But you can also hear seeds of the future in there. It always felt like there hints of something more to come.
Was having a strong visual to go along with the music always prominent in your minds?
SK: The imagery and the live visuals have always been a huge part of what we do. We recently decided that we no longer wanted to do live visuals for a number of reasons, the main one being that we felt like 1 less screen for people to zone out on was a better thing. Bring the focus back to the music, keep it simple and stark.
SVT: In the early days we only dreamed of having projections and visual accompaniment to what we were doing. In the early ‘90s we began to compile ideas and techniques to be able to do that with film and slide projections. At one point I think we were using 6 slide projectors and 2 16mm projectors all hot rodded to project our art damaged media assault. Very few bands were doing this at the time. Butthole Surfers, Ed Hall, and a few others, mostly warehouse art scene stuff. At the turn of the new millennium we made the jump to video and met Josh who carried us into the digital age projections which lasted until recently. He helped us develop a cleaner, crisper, more high tech vision of what we wanted without all the media thievery of the past. More original content developed in a very high quality manner. At a certain point, with the overwhelming number of screens we just felt over it. At this point we are content to let our music speak for itself and to deliver it raw and in your face.
As a graphic designer myself, Josh Graham is a huge influence. What was it like being able to work with him, and in my opinion create some of the strongest visuals for Neurosis?
SK: It was great. Josh is a great guy and we worked well together for 12 years. He is absolutely one of the best in the world.
SVT: Josh was great to work with. Compared to our past projection artists, he was definitely more educated in his field and wanted to make something out of it. He also branched out into design work during his time with us and we really enjoyed having one person be responsible for all the visual presentation during the last decade. It gave us a period of very cohesive and consistent presentation.
Photo: Meow’s Imaginarium
It sounds like with your new record “Honor Found In Decay”, and I use that term loosely as it’s over a year and a half old, that you guys took a lot of elements you tapped into with “Given To The Rising” and expanded on them. Is that fair to say?
SK: It is. I think that you will find that with most of our albums. We are usually looking back and pushing forward. That is our typical mode of operation, although we occasionally have a break in this groove.
SVT: I suppose. It is never that clear where it all comes from. Of course we build upon our strengths and past work, but always find new interesting ways to challenge ourselves into new territory. We try to confront some of our own weaknesses in order to find new sonic places to explore. And of course we always enjoy hammering down the riff to bring it all home.
With each release there seems to be more and more layers of additional instruments. My favorite track off the new record, “At The Well” seems to feature Bagpipes about half way through. It’s truly incredible that there’s no limitation as to what instruments you can incorporate in a track. Is that the goal here?
SK: There are no limitations, that is true. That being said we will usually be drawn to tones that we like – bagpipes, violins, cellos, etc. – we have used all of them multiple times over the years.
SVT: Actually, over the last several records I don’t think we have used any layers of additional instruments. On Honor Found in Decay there are no instruments on the album that we do not perform. What you are hearing is Noah. Noah’s abilities to sample, construct, and manipulate crazy tones with his keyboard rig are really out of this world. Everything you hear is performed by him. They are not simply samples either, they are tones that are found or created then actually manipulated into actually playable expressive instruments. That is how Noah plays it live and that is how it is on record.
Photo: Meow’s Imaginarium
Neurosis has released the last couple of records through the band’s own label Neurot Recordings. Was this a way to have even more control over your music and ultimately make all of the decisions yourself?
SVT: It just makes sense in this day and age to have artwork come directly from the artist as much as possible. We were always inspired by the independent labels that put out crazy music when we were younger. This is our way of carrying on the tradition and keeping our art as pure as possible. That being said, even the other labels we have worked with in the past never had any say or input on creative matters. Everyone was always cool with letting us do things our way. We would never allow anyone to have anything to say about how we create our art. With our own label we make sure the business is run in the same spirit as well.
Temples Fest is absolutely stacked from top to bottom, despite being the headliners of the second day, are there any bands you’re looking forward to checking out?
SK: Doom, Wolfbrigade, Tombs, ASOL and Amenra.
SVT: I usually don’t get to watch other bands much when we are playing. We are usually only there for the day and spend our time beforehand getting in the zone. I am looking forward to seeing my friends in Amenra and A Storm of Light. I would like to see Tombs.
What else can we expect from Neurosis in 2014?
SVT: We are doing a few other European shows this summer and hopefully heading to some parts of the world we have not been before.
SK: A few gigs and some serious time in the river. Thanks you guys. Take care.
That’s all I got for you. Thanks for taking the time to do this.