Thursday, November 17, 2016
Tad Doyle, TAD, and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth: an interview
Has anyone out there missed this? There are presently three TAD reissues available at Vancouver record stores: God's Balls, Salt Lick, and (my favourite), 8 Way Santa, which is one of three albums I know for sure would make any "top ten rock album" list I ever compiled. Other albums come and go off the list - hell, I'm not even sure that Zen Arcade makes the cut these days (!) - but only three have stable, guaranteed places, those being the third TAD album, Mission of Burma's Vs, and the Flesh Eaters' magnificent Forever Came Today - also the subject of a recent reissue through Superior Viaduct. People who buy all three TAD reissues from the same place - and you should, you should - should note that there are coloured wax versions out there as well as straightforward black, and that stores have been sent a limited LP edition of (at least some of) the bonus cuts to give to customers who buy all three albums (these presumably also come with mailorders). Red Cat, as of yesterday, has a couple left (Neptoon is out - Ben gave the last one to me); I don't know about other Vancouver stores. Bonus materials on the LP include demos and early singles, from my favourite non-LP TAD song, "Loser" - which I already had on a 7" and on the German Glitterhouse edition of the Salt Lick EP - to an improbably fun TAD mash up between Black Flag's "Damaged" and AC/DC's "Let There Be Rock," which to my knowledge has never seen the light before. (Wicked demo version of "Wired God," too).
I know that remasters are often contentious - Nick Jones of the Pointed Sticks was only just the other week giving me crap on Facebook for preferring the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St in its remastered version. I can understand why he might have grown attached to the uniquely warm, soupy swampiness of the original, and don't blame him, but I love the clarity of the sound, seeing what present technology can bring to bear: it's like the equivalent of an upgrade from VHS to Blu, and frankly reminds me of what drugs can do to music, helping you notice all sorts of details you had previously missed, but without the inconvenience of having to DO drugs to get there. And it's not like I can't spin the original any time that I want.
So it is with these remastered TAD reissues (because of course I have all three of the original releases of these albums in my collection, in the case of 8 Way Santa in FOUR unique versions: two signed and creatively defaced copies of the original, plus the original on CD, and the 2nd version of the CD with a different cover and all references to Pepsi removed from the art). Spinning these new editions, I'm picking up instruments, details, even words I never noticed or understood before, and marvelling at the big, swirly richness of the sound. I mean, I bought God's Balls almost as soon as it came out (1989? 1990?), and have owned most of it in one form or another pretty much all my life (at some point, when I briefly thought I would leave vinyl behind, only as bonus cuts on the Salt Lick CD). It's one of my most-listened to albums ever, but there are things I can hear now that I could never begin to make out before. Don't get me wrong: unlike with Exile's murk, it's not that there was anything particularly wanting about the original LPs; but these new remasters are like the doors of perception have been cleansed. Perhaps in a nice refrenshing cyanide bath.
Take "Boiler Room," for example I've always been able to hear the line about how "Jesus drank corn squeezin's" one of the easier to discern lyrical details on the album - but spinning the remaster, I can hear the rest of the sentence, the growled, previously incomprehensible, "and had sideburns." (Har). And I had never heard the "jizzin'" in Tad's expletive, "sweet jizzin' Jesus," also in the same song. Another example: I knew from the revised cover art of 8 Way Santa - see below - that Tad had an Ed Gein thing going ("we had been reading about various serial killers and found Ed’s story horrific and note worthy," he tells me of the T-shirt he's wearing), But I never knew that "Nipple Belt" was actually about Ed Gein, despite the rather unsubtle lyric, repeated twice, that "My name is Ed Gein," which I'd never even tried to make out before (it's not toally undecipherable, in fact, but when there's no lyric sheet you don't spend a lot of time on these matters, because you have no confidence you'll get it right and have nothing to check against). In fact, I always just assumed a nipple belt was maybe a belt that you wore across your nipples, like maybe the straps on coveralls, or for some kinky S&M purposes -- because what do I know about bondage? Now that I'm reading the rest of the lyrics of the song, I am pretty sure "Nipple Belt" is about a belt MADE of nipples, sewn together in the manner of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Silence of the Lambs, or, well, Ed Gein himself. Fucking EEK.
So too is the case with Salt Lick. (Pardon my getting the albums out of sequence here). I could always pick out the detail in "Axe to Grind" about a woman approaching with a colostomy bag - to my knowledge, the only rock and roll reference to date to colostomies - but what the hell else was the song about? Admittedly the lyric sheet helps there. And there are lyric sheets with all three albums, new art (inside the gatefold, at least), cool matching spines, posters, and - for those sad geeky journalists like me who would love to make Tad talk TAD for the rest of his fuckin' life, against his will, there are generous liner note interviews with him that more than make up for his reluctance, where he talks at some length about the recording of the albums, and working with the likes of Jack Endino, Steve Albini and Butch Vig.
Anyhow, that's all just a question of packaging.Tad Doyle is currently in a new band, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. It's very very different from TAD - slower, more symphonic, more artful, if still doomy and sludgy and dark; it bears more resemblance to YOB than grunge. There have been two BotSC releases so far: one split 10" EP and a feature length album (which I was very, very pleased to stumble across on a trip to Seattle). Tad tells me that "BotSC will be writing our follow-up record for the next few months," and "will most likely like to do a show in Vancouver in late 2017." See Tad's official website for more information - merch or news or so forth. The following interview ran in somewhat abridged form in Germany's Ox Fanzine (in German); to date, this is the only English language publication of it. The intro - yes, folks, you've been reading an intro to an intro - is as I submitted it to them, back in the spring.
By the way, the Subhumans' Brian Goble was a big TAD fan, too - we had a brief geek out together where I discovered he'd quite likely been at the TAD show I caught at the Town Pump. I really, really liked having that in common with him.
Tad Doyle: Songs of Experience
by Allan MacInnis
I barely remember the one time I saw TAD, at a show I believe took place on March 9, 1991, at the Town Pump in Vancouver. It's one of the concerts I'm proudest to have seen, but - whether it's down to drugs or inattention or just being overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of TAD, about all I remember was the shock and awe I felt at seeing a guy THAT BIG rocking THAT HARD, and admiring the balls it took for him to stage dive into the audience - something I recall him doing on more than one occasion that night. I already had God's Balls and Salt Lick in my album collection, and would soon enough have a copy of 8 Way Santa (with the original album cover) on cassette, but it was only after seeing TAD live that I began telling anyone who would listen that TAD was the greatest rock band in the world at that time - something which I still kind of believe, to be honest.
Bear in mind that this was before the release of Nirvana's Nevermind, which in many ways helped sour my love for the music coming out of Seattle; it was, after all, "The Year Punk Broke," as Sonic Youth would later call it, when the music of OUR SUBCULTURE, defiant and oppositional, simply became one more epiphenomenon in the long tail of popular culture. When I caught Mudhoney and Nirvana at the Commodore later that year, I insisted with proud perversity that Mudhoney was the better band, in part because - though I'd liked Bleach well enough - I didn't really like the watered-down populism of Nevermind, and hated the stink of already-building hype around it. (There was also a dark, damaged aura around Kurt Cobain, on stage that night, that left me kind of uncomfortable, as I recall). I've always kind of wondered if Cobain's eventual suicide had anything to do with a sense of guilty responsibility for having been the man most responsible for the movement from Our Elite Subculture to the newest flavour of radio rock - if he would hear, for instance, Pearl Jam on the radio and wince and want to apologize to someone? It would have been a burden for any punk to bear...
Probably pretty much the same, really, but I would have been happier about it.
Tad Doyle doesn't much want to talk TAD these days - "it's history, it's not going to do anything anymore, so there's really no point in talking about it" - but I managed to sneak a few questions in there anyhow. We spoke on Good Friday, March 25th, 2016, just over 25 years after I saw TAD live, a few weeks prior to his launching a European tour for his new project, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth - an equally awe-inspiring band, but as different from TAD as can be, considering it's still Tad Doyle, front-and-center. I did a pretty good job of not asking all the geeky TAD questions I'd written out - like, why is "Wood Goblins" not on the German Glitterhouse release of Salt Lick, replaced with "Loser" instead? What was it like working with Steve Albini so early in his career as a producer? What did Tad make of Kurt's suicide? What was the full story about Tad holding Kurt Cobain's puke bucket - or was it Kurt holding Tad's puke bucket? - when the two bands toured Europe together back in the day?
TAD fans will still find this pretty interesting, I hope.
So Burning Witch was around when you were young, and I wonder if you ever saw them? They seem like they're a very relevant band to the whole Seattle doom thing.
Y'know, I never saw them. I wish I had. I didn't become aware of them until after they already broke up.So I'm kind of a latecomer to their awesomeness.
Everyone is, it seems. I interviewed Mike Scheidt of YOB as well, and he didn't hear them til that Southern Lord album came out. What were you listening to as a young man?
I grew up in the 60's and 70's, and in my formative years, when I was a teenager, I listened to a lot of AM radio. So I was hearing the Beatles and stuff like that - some really great music. And then when it got into the 70's, I started listening to things like Black Sabbath, K-tel records, believe it or not - I don't know if you remember them or are aware of them -
I loved Elton John, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Parliament/ Funkadelic... I listened to a lot of jazz then, as well, and a lot of symphonic music. And that was the 70's. The 80's broke it wide open, and I started listening to a whole lot of other stuff as well.
Did you ever identify as a punk, as a young man?
Oh, definitely. I loved punk music, and listening to Alice Cooper growing up, he was one of the first... And the Stooges and New York Dolls, things of that nature.
One of the things that strikes me about the 80's and 90's was that there was a kind of aura of romanticized self-destruction back then - there was some freakishness, some darkness, a lot of drugs... some of that really makes it into your early music, like "Wired God" is about drinking and driving, and there's songs about gas huffing and things... was gas huffing a thing in Seattle?
I don't know if it was in Seattle. I've never gas huffed, but I sniffed my fair share of Testor's airplane glue. But that was never stuff I was really into, a lot of it was written about the depravity that comes with doing that type of thing. But I was never sniffing gas.
But some of the songs, like, "Cooking with Gas," it does refer to that, right?
Well, "Cooking with Gas" was pretty transparent and on the level, it was about cooking with propane - barbequing, making illegal drugs and whatnot, y'know?
Oh, okay... so what was your class background? Did you grow up lower class, or with a bit of money, or...?
I grew up in what was probably called at the time middle class to lower middle class - I went to public schools most of my life, then got into college on my own, and did that for awhile, and just realized that what I wanted to do in music wasn't being taught. I learned a lot from it, of course - the fundamentals of music, how to read and write, the classic Italian verbiage for it was something I learned - but I just wanted to blaze my own path with music.
When did you start as a drummer?
Well, my first instrument was actually, I played tuba in grade school, in the 6th grade. The only reason was, my brother was a drummer, he was much older than I was, and I loved to sit around and play coffee cans while he played real drums, and bang along with him. He would play the stereo, and I learned a lot of what to do with him, I learned how to play drums eventually by playing to a loud stereo, just cranked up. But I learned how to play tuba first, because we had one at the house, and my folks said, "if you show commitment to that, we'll talk about doing some drums." So I did that for two brutal years, which I hated. I didn't have a case for it, either, so I was a fat kid walking to school with a tuba, an E-flat tuba on his arm. You can imagine the hilarity of the kinda grief I went through in school because of that. But then I started playing drums in junior high school. I didn't have a set of drums for a couple of years, but then once I showed promise, my Grandma took pity on me and bought me a Ludwig jazz double kick set, with psychedelic finish, and it's the only drum set I've ever owned, and I still have it and I still use it. It's a beautiful piece of work. And then after I moved to Seattle in 1986, my band at the time H-Hour had been together for quite a number of years, and I was just getting bored with playing drums at the time and wanted to play guitar. I was inspired by bands such as Head of David, Big Black, Butthole Surfers, Metallica, Slayer... all kinds of stuff. That's when I decided I wanted to play guitar, and I went and bought one, and started playing to a drum machine I had. That's how TAD started.
What was your first guitar?
I still have it, it's a Fender Jazzmaster reissue, 1962. And it's one you'll see in old pictures of the band, with me playing it. It's a white guitar with a turtle shell pick guard.
The bands you just mentioned, some of them weren't Seattle based, obviously. Who was playing in Seattle at the time,when you were putting together the "Ritual Device" single? Were the U-Men around, or...?
U-Men was around, Soundgarden was just getting ready to break big. Tons of bands, I can't even remember or get into. But like I said, I don't mean to be a dick or nothin', I'm not interested in talking about TAD.
Fair enough, but, uh... I did see you, back around 1990 at the Town Pump... so can I just ask you about stage diving? I had never seen anyone stage dive who was quite as big as you.
Did that ever go wrong? Was there a first time, or...?
I don't remember the first time, but it was a commonplace occurence, and I was doing it frequently throughout the career of the band TAD, but... yes, it did go horribly wrong once, when we were playing in Newcastle, England, and it was our first tour over there. And there were probably 30 or 40 people there in the audience, and the stage was about three feet off the ground. And I decided I was going to liven up the audience. I pulled my guitar off and dove into them, and they parted like the Red Seas, and I hit the ground really hard, to the point of, I saw lightning when I hit the ground, y'know? An electrical brain thing. It was very painful, but I got up and continued the set. But - let's see, how old was I, 28? I could "take a lickin' and keep on tickin'," let's say.
So no lasting injuries from that.
You had lasting stuff, right, though - tinnitus and stuff like that?
Well, tinnitus never really goes away, and I don't know if there's even a cure for it. But I started wearing earplugs in 1999, during the tail end of TAD, so I saved my hearing, and I've actually had a hearing check in the last three years, with the health care provider I have, and surprisingly enough, they said I had better than normal hearing for a man my age, so I was pretty stoked about that.
How's your health otherwise? I mean, my body's starting to break down, I'm dealing with arthritis and shit here, I'm only 48, so... how you doing?
I'm doing good. I've been losing weight, it's a lifestyle choice that I've made, and it's one of the hardest things I've had to do in my life. It's going to be a lifetime of struggle, but... eating right's been really helpful. I basically started taking care of myself, a long time ago, and it's been good for me. I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't do drugs, and it's been that way for fifteen years now, so I'm healthier because of it.
Even compared to the documentary, from 2008, looking at recent footage of you on Youtube, you seem a lot more grounded and solid and healthier.
Yeah. I feel good. There's always room for improvement.
To come back to it, though... do you think, back then, there was a self-destructiveness to youth culture at the time, or was it just because we were younger, a part of our youth? When I think back to the things I did in my 20's, there was a lot of unhealthy shit, and glamourization of unhealthy shit, including in some of your music... maybe you disagree with that, I dunno. But is it because we've gotten older and more mature, or was it kind of a toxic scene back then?
Well, I can only speak from my experience, and my experience was, I wasn't drinking and drugging as a self-destruction mechanism. I did use food that way, but drinkin' and druggin', I purely just wanted to get high. I wanted to get out of my fuckin' mind, I love the spirit of feeling lighter. It wasn't meant to suppress anything, it was about elevation, for me, that's how I approached it. I can't speak for what everybody else was doing. There did seem to be this romanticism in Seattle about certain drugs, heroin and that kinda shit, but it was rampant in the music scene. But I never did like heroin. I smoked it once, and it never did anything for me. I was never an intravenous user. But I would snort, drink, and eat just about anything to get a good rip-roarin' high on, when I was doing it.
Did you do any sort of programs? AA, NA, 12-step stuff, to get off that course?
Well, I did have some help from some people. Definitely. And the thing was, I was willing to be helped at that point. As I guy who has had experience with this thing, if you have somebody that could use help, but they're not willing to accept it, that's never going to work. Somebody who is goin' to keep doing whatever they're doing, because it's working for them. But I got to the point in my life where those things weren't working for me anymore. And that was the catylist to begin a different way of life, and a person actually help me through that. Many people did, actually.
I wonder if Peggy (Doyle, bassist for Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Tad's wife) is one of them? She looks like she's maybe been through a bit, too, like she's got some experience under her belt.
Peggy's done some things. It's more commonplace than anything, for a lot of people my and her age, that have experience of that... maybe it's because we're musicians. I'm not saying everyone is like that, but musicians are more prone to those proclivities than people who go the straight and narrow, go to college, get a career, maybe have a glass of wine on a Friday night with their date. And that's a big night out for them.
Do you have anything in common with Mike, this way, from YOB? He seems that he's had a similar path and put a lot of darkness behind him. Is that something that came up between the two of you?
Certainly I can't speak for Mike, but I can tell you this, a lot of the dark things that we deal with go a lot deeper than outside influences, such as drugs and alcohol. Some of us deal with demons that are darker and deeper than any drug can provide. Certainly I've been there. I can't speak for him. But I do identify with the guy, I think he's an immense creative force, a very talented human being, and I think he and I both identify with each other because we've both suffered at one time or another from depression, whether it be genetic or environmental or brought on by actions we do ourselves, I don't know. But there's a lot of common threads there, and I love the guy's work.
I had not realized until today that the two of you had collaborated, on this Lumbar project... I had never heard of it, I don't know why that's better known.
Well, the spearhead behind that project was a guy named Aaron Edge(above right),He had a bunch of songs that he wanted to collaborate with Mike and I on, and that's what happened. We got together, recorded the rest of the things, the vocals and whatnot. Aaron already had the lion's share of the music done, and then we did the vocals, and I mixed it here (at Witch Ape Studios). And I also recorded Mike Scheidt's solo record, which I think is still available on Thrill Jockey Records.
I did not know that. When did you first see YOB?
What happened was, Peggy went out with a friend of hers who was in town, here in Seattle, and she went to go see her friend, John, who was in a band called Ludicra. And they were playing with a band called Midian - I didn't see them, yet. But when Peggy came home after the show, she was so intensely excited about this band. And her friend was saying, well y'know, Midian is basically where YOB came from, so you gotta check out YOB. And I got on Myspace when it was a thing, started checking out YOB, and I was like, "holy crap, this band is amazing." And that's kinda how I first heard about them, and I started a dialogue with them, through email and Myspace. And we met up a few times, and then we played some shows with them. We played the first YOB reunion show with them in Portland. It's a gift, you know - to play with someone who is your contemporary who you really love, y'know?
Absolutely. Had he seen TAD, back in the day?
I'm not sure. I think he's familiar with the music. I don't know if he went to the shows, but certainly he's familiar with the music. And I of course made sure he was very familiar with it, and gave him all the back catalogue that I had. As he did with me - it was kind of an exchange of wares. Yeah, I think he was aware of the band.
Do you have a proudest moment from that time, or have you moved on totally, or...?
I love all the records. They're all really exciting for me at the time they were being made. They're all like children to me, I don't favour one over the other. They all have things that were fun and unique to them at that time. That's all.
Fair enough. I was a victim of a grunge backlash, myself. After Nevermind broke, I stopped listening to a lot of that stuff. For me, Nevermind really ruined a lot of music. I didn't even pick up Inhaler or Infra Red Riding Hood until a few years ago, and I loved TAD. But I guess that didn't affect you, because you were still playing this music!
Exactly. And another thing is that I never thought that we were a part of that thing. We got lumped in there, because were on Sub Pop records, and we were one of the spearheads for that label getting popular. But I've always felt that anything that I've done, of course - and I'm going to say this from a place of honesty, and not pride: we've always been unique to ourselves, and that we weren't rehashing that any people other people were doing, we were a true original, and I believe that about all the music that I do, even up to today. Truthfully I feel like we do what we do, and I don't think anybody else does it like us.
I would say so, yeah, I agree, though... it's good to have a context, you know? I've seen some bands that stop being that exciting because the context changes. Like, for a time there, DOA were part of this vital punk scene in Vancouver, and then that scene kind of fell apart, and DOA kept on chugging. And there's a space for them again now, there's a context that supports them now, but there's a period where all the scene around them sort of fell away, and DOA in the 1990's were kind of just a bunch of old guys playing old songs. So having music around you - like, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth relates to doom and sluge and stoner metal, and there is kind of a supportive background, even though it's unique. Would you agree?
I would say, context is important as a way of communicating an idea to another human being of what something might be like, so they can have... "Okay, I like this, and this is what they're like." It's just a communication tool. Human beings as a general rule like to put things in boxes. I don't know if you're familiar with the painter Mondrian, but he made a career of boxes - paintings of squares and rectangles. I think that's human nature - we like to buildings buildings and squares, all our windows are square and our roads are straight lines. But I think that music transcends that, and it's just a way of communicating what it might be like... humans want to put labels on things, instead of just letting it be, and it really is just to communicate an idea. That's my opinion - I don't know if that makes any sense you ya!
Uh... I think I see where you're going. Categories can help you keep your mind organized, but they can also separate things that shouldn't be separated.
Yeah, agreed, well-put.
How did you meet Peggy?
Well, we had a mutual friend who is a filmmaker in LA, his name's Michael Dean. He's written quite a few books - $30 Dollar Film School and a number of others. And he was in a band called Bomb. I don't know if you remember them.
No, I don't.
They're a San Francisco punk rock band. They're worth looking up, they're pretty amazing. And he knew both of us through his travels. And he was with Peggy in San Diego, they were hangin' out, they were good friends, and he goes, "I think you should meet this guy." "Who is he, what's he like?" And he goes, well, "His name's Tad Doyle." She pulls out Inhaler and shows it to him and goes, "THIS Tad? Yeah, I'd love to meet him!" She's a musician with a rich background, and that's how it began. We just started talking together and hangin' out and eventually it was just on.
Was Brothers of the Sonic Cloth the first project you were involved in with her, or did you make music before with her, or...?
Brothers came after I had met her, so it was certainly the first project I was in with her.
There's kind of an irony that it's a male band name and, looking at this live footage at Dante's on Youtube, there are actually two women in the band. I don't know who the second woman is, actually...
There's another woman who plays guitar, she's not officially a band member, but we take her out on the road to fill in the extra guitar parts that I've written. But yeah, we like that it's called Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and there's two women in the band. And you think about it, it's no stranger than the Sisters of Mercy and there's no women in the band, it's all guys.
Fair enough. Who is the other woman?
Pamela Sternin. She comes from the hardcore scene, she's much younger than anyone else in the band. I think she grew up in Arizona, maybe, but she's been living in Seattle as long as I've known her. Great player, really talented, and picks up things really fast.
I have a hard time imagining this music live. It seems like such a studio album - I want to turn out the lights and lie in bed and listen to it on headphones, it's one of those.
So how do you make this work live, do you change it? Is the experience live a lot different from the album, or...?
Well, I think it's very similar to the record. Although Billy Anderson did do the production work and the mixing, he's got his inimitable stamp on it, so certainly you deal with live venue situations, we travel with a sounudperson that's aware of what we do most of the time... I don't think you'll ever see anyone who sounds the same as they do on record expect for maybe Pink Floyd, but even that is suspect. We do try to deliver as much, if not more, than what you hear on the record; all the sounds you hear on the record, you'll be able to hear live, as well. It's not like you're going to be missing anything.
How long has it been since you last played Europe, anyhow?
It's probably been since 1991, 1994? I'm not sure. It seems like a lifetime ago, and for some people it is. I'm really looking forward to being "in" it more. When I went over there the first few times, I was basically the ugly American, I totally fit that bill. The reason why French people get pissed off at Americans, I was that guy (chuckles). But I think now I'm a bit more seasoned and experienced and enjoy the culture more, and immerse myself in the people there, and really focus on the music. That's what I'm there for, to share what we have with these people who are going to be so kind to show up for this. Yeah! That's about it.
Do you think European audiences will receive these songs differently than American audiences? I imagine Europeans are more sophisticated, but I haven't been there.
Y'know, I don't know, either, and I've been there a few times. Certainly you notice common threads - "the audience really digs us tonight" or "wow, you know, we didn't do anything for people." And you can't tell sometimes. Some of the shows I thought were really bad in the early days (of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth) where people just stood there, I'm thinking, "man, they're thinking we suck," but then I found out from asking around they were completely immersed in it and were paying attention. I used to equate movement, stage diving, fist shaking, horns up in the air as being well-received, when in actually, if someone is actually showing you enough not respect that they're not doing those shenanigans, that's cool too. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
Have you ever played Japan? The Japanese are just like that, for some bands, like for Godspeed You! Black Emperor they stood there stock still, and only applauded at the end. In a way, it's beautiful to see.
No, I've never been to Japan, and I thought it would have been a natural for a band like TAD to go to Japan.
Do you use effects? Like. "The Immutable Path," you have these very layered, chantlike vocals. Do you use effects to produce that onstage, or...?
Well, "The Immutable Path" we don't play live, that or the piano "Outro" were bonus tracks for the record. But everything else we do, and Dave (French), our drummer, sings as welll; he'll be doing some of the doubling up stuff we do.
There's talk in other interviews you've done about a spiritual dimension to this. If you don't want to go there that's fine, but is there any sort of practice you identify with, any sort of definition to that, or is it just experience?
For me, I'll answer that question with this: I think living life is a spiritual experience, and it has nothing to do with religion or dogma or transcripts. I do identify with Buddhist and Daoist practices, more than anything. I grew up having Christianity forced down my neck, and I didn't like it. I think that whatever works for the individual is the key here. I am adamantly opposed to anyone trying to tell me how to live my life on a spiritual level. And I think that you should be, too - don't believe the bullshit and the hype, find your own path, is key. And as far as there being a spiritual dimension to this music, absolutely. I get a lot of inspiration from huge elemental events. I love the wind, fire, water, earth. I just try to stay open and be in the moment, that's my spiritual practice.
Is there meditation involved in that?
Certainly. And I've found that sometimes the meditation is, just playing music.
Is there any actual religious music that went into this - chant, either Buddhist or Christian or whatever? It reminds me of YOB's most recent album, as well, as an attempt to achieve transcendence through music. Is there other transcendent music you were listening to?
Well, I love symphonic music, and I think you can find your solace and your place of zero-point as a being through it. At least I can. For some people it's books, other people it might be something else - carving wood, whatever. But that's where I find it. I don't really have an identification with organized religion - I always like to refer to this, "If you call yourself a Buddhist, you cease to be a Buddhist." The minute you name yourself, you're not that anymore. That's why I try to practice being at zero point. That's what I call it.
Can you explain that concept a bit, I don't fully understand.
Zero point is basically a place where you're neither here nor there, and you're in the moment. I'm not a certain thing, I'm not a person, I'm just a being, aware of everything and nothing. But I don't know how to put it any better, I'm not very eloquent when it comes to conveying ideas sometimes.
I think I get it. Can you achieve that on stage?
Absolutely, certainly. Musically, I've always been able to be in a place where I'm in the moment. It's really been good for me.
When you say symphonic music, what do you listen to? What do you like?
I grew up listening to Rimsky Koraskov when I was a kid. I love Mozart, I love Tchaikovsky, but my path has broadened on that, and I listen to things like Edgar Varese, he's a late 19th century composer from France who moved to the United States. He created some of the most amazing pieces I've ever heard, he's still my favourite to this day. He was actually the first composer to use a synthisizer in his pieces. And - it's funny, but I love Jerry Goldsmith's Planet of the Apes soundtrack.
It's totally amazing. Seriously. you talk about lying down on the bed with the lights off and headphones on, check that one out sometime!
(Laughing). I will, I will. Is there a connection between Planet of the Apes and WItch Ape Studios?
There could be, but probably not (laughs).
Thank you so much for talking with me, man. Really love the new record, really glad you're playing music again. It was really hard not to ask a bunch of 8 Way Santa questions. I have two copies of that that you and Kurt defaced - two!
But just one last question, to come back to TAD: there was talk of unreleased TAD material that was going to surface in 2008. What happened with that? Is it ever going to see the light?
As of right now, there's no plans for it. There was at one time, but circumstances, whatever they were, it didn't happen. And to a degree, some of those songs have already been released, there were some labels that put out singles. But there's no point to put it out now, at this point, no.
Is it a whole LP's worth of stuff?
There's probably six or seven songs.
You don't work any TAD material into the Brothers of the Sonic Cloth set, right?
Yeah, absolutely not, I feel like it's not fair to the legacy of the band to try to do that, and as well, my heart isn't into that, anymore. I gotta be where I'm at, and make the music that is important to me at the time.