Words: Brian Giffin
Latest release: Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II (Southern Lord)
Drone doom pioneering act Earth are heading to Australia in September for their first ever tour here. Loud recently caught up with band leader and sole original member Dylan Carlson about his influences, how he feels about being an inspiration himself and what he loves about Australia.
Hi Dylan. There is a lot of people who are getting very excited about the prospect of seeing Earth here in Australia at last.
I'm excited too to finally get there. I've wanted to go there for a while. A lot of my favourite bands were from there. The whole reason I wanted to play rock n roll when I was a kid was AC/DC. I was a big Radio Birdman fan, and The Saints, and then at one point in my childhood we were going to move to Perth and it ended up not happening, so I've always wanted to go there.
With that sort of inspiration, how did you come to follow the musical path that you take with Earth?
I grew up listening to a lot of different kinds of music, from my hippie parents and then for me personally, I guess, once I could butymy own records it was definitely the hard rock, heavy metal side of the spectrum. But then I was also really into the early King Crimson and then my mum was a big Velvet Underground fan, so I guess that stuff all kind of congealed. Then through wandering around I learned about La Monte Young and that sort of thing, and that was kind of the genesis of it, I guess. Then I think, what I call my one good idea: take one riff and play it for a really long time! [laughs]
You stopped doing music for a few years for various reasons, but when you started Earth up again, it had changed quite a bit from the way it had sounded the first time out. It's still fairly minimalist, but not really so much as before. How did you come to develop the sound of Earth?
My writing style, or lack of style as some people may say, has always sort of been the same. I'll come up with a riff and sort of work on that riff for a long time. That has always been sort of continuous. I think the influences and interests have sort of gone backwards in lots of ways. It's been sort of like going backward through time to the roots of music. I've always considered us to be a rock n roll band at heart, and we've gone back to country and western and from that to English folk music. I think music is something of a continuum. I think it's funny when someone says that so-and-so invented this. [laughs] I don't think anyone can claim to have invented anything. Everyone sort of channels the music differently. It's new bottles for old wine, I guess. I don't think anyone actually invented it. It's been around for a long time and we just sort of channel it and it changes shape based on who's channeling it.
Your current album Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II is the second part of the album from last year. I believe that it was also recorded at the same time, is that correct?
There was a two week session. The first week was the songs that were mostly composed and written and then we worked them out on tour - we had a two week tour before we hit the studio - and then the second week we would just roll tape and sort of see what happens. So that's the second half; it continues on from the last song on the first album [which] was one of those songs where we just rolled tape and played and so it's really just a continuation of that. So live when we do that material, it's routine that every night, based on whatever, it's just where it ends up. The improv element is a large part of it.
How do the two albums complement each other? Is there a stylistic or emotional difference between them?
I'd say that the first album is a little darker, maybe. And the second album has... you know, you have to think that our stuff has sort of a hopeful cast to it in the darkness. When this album was made I was, at the time, very, very ill. I think that's why I got so much done. I wasn't sure if it was going to be the last Earth record or not and I wanted to get a lot of done. By the ending of the second group of recordings and the mixing and stuff I was starting to get better, so you get that lightening sort of a mood as it progresses. If the audiences hear that or not, I don't know, but a lot of people have commented that it seems a lot lighter in tone.
It seems to me that it doesn't really matter which direction you choose to take Earth it, your fanbase will stick by you. It's like it's expected to you to not do the same thing with every release. Do you feel lucky that you're able to achieve that?
I've been super fortunate that, a) I came back and everyone paid attention. I wasn't one of those people who vanishes and no one cares! [laughs] So I'm extremly grateful for that. And we've managed to keep most of the original fanbase and we've continued to expand and keep people interested. I'm super happy about that and super grateful for all the Earth fans. I think they're a great audience. They've been more than generous towards me. So I'm very fortunate in most of those aspects.
When you stopped doing Earth and music for that period in the late 90s, did it surprise you that bands like Sunn 0))) and Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine sprang up to pay tribute specifically to what you had done?
Yeah, but I mean I wasn't aware of it that much because during my hiatus I wasn't doing music. That's when I met Greg [Anderson - Sunn 0))), Goatsnake] in LA - I can't remember the exact circumstances - but I met him, he took me to a Goatsnake show and all that stuff started happening. It was surprising. When we first started, the reaction definitely wasn't as positive! [laughs] There were some people that liked us, but there was definitely a lot of people who found us baffling. We were always the red-headed step-child of the Seattle scene [laughs].
It was very different from what was perceived as the type of music being made in Seattle at the time, that's for sure.
Yeah [laughs]. It's very flattering, that's for sure. I'm very thankful that people cared when I came back. A lot of it has to do with Greg and Steve [O'Malley] [who've] always been very up-front about what inspired them and whatnot. It's something I'm thankful and grateful for. It's really nice to do something and have people really appreciate it. I remember - I've been quoted saying this before - but Buzz [Osbourne - Melvins], when I first started doing this music and I was a huge Melvins fan... Buzz gave me some advice that was like, You can try and do whatever's happening just then, or you can do what you do and keep doing it, and if you keep doing it long enough, people will have to respect you. I've always sort of followed that advice, I guess. It's not the quick route [laughs]! I've always been in for long haul and it's been very rewarding.
Finally, what are you really looking forward to about coming to Australia, and do you think you might find some inspiration here for future music?
I've always been interested in, you know, like America it's a former English colony so it's sort of a different Wild West in some ways, I guess. I know a little history about it and it seems like an amazing place and my favourite bands are from there, as I already said. I like Australian movies. Some of my favourite movies are Australian, like Breaker Morant, The Proposition and the Ned Kelly movies... It sort of has it's own mystique that's sort of an Eastern quality and a Western quality. I'm looking forward to it. And Adrienne [Davies - drums] is a big Nick Cave fan and we both like The Dirty Three a lot. So it's gonna be interesting.