Teddie Taylor interviews ASEETHE
Aseethe bears a rare, serene form of doom. In the midst of never-ending, stomach churning riffs, there exists a calm, enchanting feeling that opposes the generic connotations of their metal categorization. Before any section of one of their monumental tracks can become too comfortable, slight shifts occur to further build and intensify the eternal and inevitable downfall they foretell. The Iowans are like the eye of a hurricane in that at the center of their plodding power there is an unexpected sense of tranquility; Aseethe’s strength lies in the ability to blur the lines of torture and relaxation. In the wake of a February release, Hopes Of Failure, we talked to the trio before their damning set at Austin Terror Fest about the meditative aspects of repetition, Glenn Jones and nature.
Instead of listing bands that have inspired you, how have your favorite bands directly influenced what you do?
Danny Barr: I feel like as a musician, of course when you’re in love with a band and a record, you just pick up stuff.
Brian Barr: I think with some of the bands, just the way it appears they may work or the way they run their aesthetic, or the way they sound, that directly influences how we may operate. A lot of it comes from bands who don’t even sound like us – like Fugazi, who are very DIY. The way they work is very do-it-yourself and that definitely directly influences us. Sound-wise, seeing Sunn O))) and Neurosis and stuff and being completely destroyed by what they’re doing live – that definitely influences us.
Eric Diercks: I think sound-wise you’re always chasing something that you hear. It’s not necessarily something that’s based off of something you’ve listened to forever, it’s always changing. At shows all the time…it’s something new that you see. You’re just always chasing and can never catch it. Yeah, which is also part of the fun of it. I don’t know if it’s necessarily something that’s really influenced me.
Brian: Even listening to stuff in the van, like when we were listening to Majority Rule – I hear elements of a record and I’m like, You know what? I’m going to use my delay pedal more on the next because what they’re doing is awesome! [Laughs] I hear things in records where I’m like, That sounds really cool. Maybe I can think about that. Not aping it completely, but obviously everybody borrows from everybody. Hearing other bands and what they’re doing and maybe taking your own inspiration from there. I do that all the time. Whoever I’m listening to over the months – that’s the way the riffs tend to go. [Laughs]
Eric: Well yeah, because that’s what’s influencing you at that point.
Brian: That would be a direct influence I guess.
What attracts all of you to the drawn-out, slow sound that you have?
Eric: We’re old. [Laughs]
Danny: To torture the audience. [Laughs]
Brian: That was it, right there. That was your answer. Silence. [Laughs] I’m going to take ten minutes to speak and it’ll be ten minutes to the next note! [Laughs] I think it’s meditative. Honestly, playing it and listening to this type of music, as a listener, it’s almost a meditative effect. Your eyes roll back in your head and you kind of just hear the sound and let it take you over. That’s for me, personally. That’s what draws me to it.
Eric: For sure.
Danny: I like the torture.
Brian: The torture? Of waiting for the next note, or the fact that it’s like, Come on, get on with it! Get on with the riff! Goddammit!
Danny: The first one. [Laughs]
Related to what you just said, is there a reason behind the repeated parts other than creating this disorienting, trance-like state?
Eric: I don’t know if there’s necessarily a reason behind it, it’s more of a feeling inside of when we feel that it’s ready to change. It’s hard to explain I guess.
Brian: We use our own intuition. When we write this stuff, a lot of it is just like, Let’s just do every part four times. Just get the song written. A lot of the times four or eight. We usually play it pretty short.
Eric: We usually play it way faster and we play it really short.
Brian: As we start getting more solid we end up being like, I feel like this was too short or this is long enough or it should be longer. So how would that riff sound REALLY slow? REALLY slow it down.
Eric: It’s our own intuition.
The simplicity of your sound is what makes it so heavy and almost suffocating – in a good way. Do you find it hard not to overcomplicate things when you write?
Brian: Actually, we usually overcomplicate things at first.
Danny: Yeah, we always do.
Brian: We do. We come from playing in hardcore bands, so usually there’s a lot more stuff going on and then we just kind of strip it down from there. We don’t start from the other end of the spectrum. It usually starts out more complicated.
Eric: And then we start picking apart, What is the basic part of this riff or this rhythm that makes it stand out to us? What can we pull away from it so we’re not just doing stuff to do it?
Brian: It’s like creating a piece with the least amount of lines possible. That’s the way we strip it down to its very basic necessities where we feel it’s interesting enough, maybe to us playing it. You exactly hit the nail on the head – that draws you in to the power behind it because we’re able to hit these notes with a lot of power.
Since the songs are so expansive, when you write how do you get to the point of it’s finished?
Danny: That’s usually impossible. We don’t even really know.
Eric: We don’t really know.
Danny: It’s up to Eric. He decides.
Eric: A lot of the endings are usually kind of open-ended so they can be a little bit longer. Yeah, I don’t even think we know.
Brian: It’s just on our own intuition again. We’re never really like, I think it’s done. Actually, when we come up with the end riff where we feel like, This is the end riff, then the song is done. It just depends on how long we want to play that end riff. Sometimes five minutes, sometimes ten minutes.
Danny: You always have an end riff.
Eric: That is definitely end riff.
Brian: It’s down on our board when we write. Part one. Part two. Part three. End riff. Dot dot dot. So we know it’s not done until we come up with that riff that ends it. That’s just what it has to be. Otherwise we’re like, we’re just going to keep writing.
Eric: We’re just gonna keep going!
Eric: That’s just going to be another riff!
Thrill Jockey has everything from folk-country to experimental metal. When you were sort of shopping around for labels, was it important that you found somewhere that you stood out and weren’t just another metal band?
Brian: Actually, we’ve had an established relationship with them for the past four years or so, because they distributed our last two records, so we literally only sent our record, done, recorded and mastered, to two labels. One of them being Thrill Jockey, they were the only people that we had worked with and had a good rapport with. It just so happened that one of those was Thrill Jockey.
Danny: Bettina picked it up right away. That was really fast.
Brian: As a musician and a person who likes music, I don’t just like heavy music. I like a lot of other stuff on their label. Sometimes I try to shy a little bit away from in-your-face metal aesthetic. You know? So, it’s kind of nice to be on a label that is eclectic and not just… You go to their site and this is a metal site and definitely a metal label. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s my personal taste. SUMAC and The Body and the heavy bands on that label are just amazing. To be in their company is pretty incredible.
Danny: I think Glenn Jones is the heaviest band on that label.
Brian: Glenn Jones?! [Laughs]
Danny: I do love some Glenn Jones.
Eric: Glenn Jones is great! Nice guy, too.
Danny: Never met him.
Eric: Aw, he’s super awesome.
You mean you haven’t met everyone on the label yet!? [Laughs]
Eric: We met Glenn Jones before. It was four or five years ago. He was playing in Dubuque at a place called Monk’s and we just went and saw him play.
Brian: He gave me some drink tickets for The Mill in Iowa City. He was like, You’re from Iowa City?! I got these drink tickets that I didn’t use last night. Here you go!
Eric: I have not used those drink tickets. They went into the record that I bought that night. That’s the only time I get fanboy-ish.
Brian: I remember when I got these drink tickets. I was in Dubuque! [Laughs]
The lyrics on the new record are environmental-based, right? How does nature inspire you musically, if at all?
Danny: It’s all we care about.
Brian: There’s a reason why we did West coast tours for the most part. Not because the music scene’s great and we know some bands out there, but going to the mountains is amazing. I’d rather drive through the mountains if I’m going to be in a van.
Than the plains of Texas?! [Laughs]
Brian: Yeah! No offense Texas.
Danny: I love Texas.
Brian: He’s a lizard.
Danny: I am a lizard.
Brian: I’ve always had a good time here but when I’m not driving.
Eric: Yeah, when you’re not driving through.
Brian: People try to draw lines between the cornfields of Iowa, but I don’t think that has much bearing on how the way we sound. I enjoy a walk or two. [Laughs]
Danny: You old man. [Laughs] Nature is just important and I feel like it should be brutally pushed in people’s faces. Although no one can understand our lyrics…
Brian: We are but ants, really. Anything can wipe us out at any point and it would normally be nature. All of our buildings. Everything. Being from the Midwest, a tornado could come and wipe everything that you own away. By the same token, we should protect the fact that we live on a blue ball floating in space. And nothing else.
Danny: And respect it.
Brian: And respect it. Especially when you have politicians and corporations who have the most short-sighted view just to make a quick profit. And then people who blindly believe it or for it or don’t see the importance.
Danny: I don’t think anyone actually believes it, they just don’t give a shit.
Brian: Let the other people in the future sort it out, but I can make an extra few jillion dollars.
Danny: We warned you we were bad at this, right? [Laughs]
It’s good! Not the worst, if that’s any comfort. What do you hope people feel or come away with when they listen to you?
Danny: I always answer this question and it’s always ridiculous.
Well what’s your ridiculous answer?
Danny: I want people to be sad.
Eric: Just be sad!
Danny: They always give me that look! That’s why I don’t know why I’m the only person to answer this question.
Eric: I don’t know if it’s necessarily sad, I would prefer that they were somehow emotionally affected. Not necessarily sad.
Danny: Coming from the dude that has no feelings.
Eric: I have feelings dammit!
Brian: I would say probably drawn in enough that they were physically and mentally exhausted. Mentally exhausted, I guess.
Danny: That’s good… That’s better than sad.
Brian: We just want people to be sad. [Laughs] That’s what we’re about – ruining everybody’s day. [Laughs] You know, heavy music is supposed to be dark. To me, it has always been more dark.
Danny: You don’t listen to doom metal to feel like you want to play with a puppy.
Brian: You don’t listen to it to think that everything’s going to be okay.
Danny: It’s there to tell you, No, you’re right, it’s horrible. [Laughs]
Brian: And now you’re going to listen to this crushing guitar and bass.
Danny: But it’s reassurance. If you listen to that kind of music, I feel like doom metal in particular, even funeral doom, like Bell Witch, when I’m really depressed, makes me feel better. It’s like, Yep, I’m not out of my mind. There are other people.
Eric: There’s other people who are also out of their mind?
Brian: It could be on the other end, how they say crying makes you happy in the end because it releases endorphins and all that stuff. Maybe I’m giving doom metal too much credit now, though. It’s not quite like bawling your eyes out and then feeling great in the end. But I guess you got it all out.
Danny: We’re not like that because after we’re done playing people are just trying to get the ringing out of their ears. [Laughs]
Brian: You guys were heavy! [Laughs]
It’s almost peaceful, though. I think it is.
Brian: Oh, well thank you! That’s cool.
Danny: That’s like the best compliment we’ve ever gotten.
The repetitive parts. It’s not like assaulting black metal. The drawn-out aspect makes it peaceful.
Danny: We’re not destructive.
Brian: Yeah, I can see where you’ll listen to a black metal or even a tech metal record and it’s an assault of riffs. You don’t even remember the riff that was three down because it’s just insanity. You listen to Ulcerate and you’re like, I don’t even know what they played just two minutes ago. It was amazing, but I don’t remember! So, yeah, we try to make it flow in a way that pulls people through it. And yeah, we’re into repetition. One of my biggest influences is Swans and they freakin’ play those chords forever.
Danny: Most of those songs are just one riff.
Eric: Like one drum beat!
Brian: Yeah, for twenty minutes! Who oddly enough, is like the heaviest band live. They’re ridiculously heavy live. I try and will never probably get there.
Danny: No one’s Michael Gira. No one.
Brian: Michael Gira.
Danny: Michael Gira is apparently Michael Gira. In my mind, he’s like a god.
Eric: The first time when I got to see them when they came back on that first record, it was like a bunch of dudes in their mid-50s that sound heavier than any metal band I’ve ever freakin’ seen. Every fuckin’ metal band that I’ve ever seen that’s super heavy and dark – it’s like, nope.
Danny: Is that the show I went to? That was intense.
Brian: The most intense band. I don’t know if you’ve seen them live?
Not yet. I missed them and it’s maybe #2 on my list of regrets.
Brian: Definitely catch them. Especially this lineup because I think it’s changing after this. He’s changing the lineup up, from what I read. Not for another year or so, but yeah, it’s pretty incredible. Them and Neurosis. Those two bands live are probably the two that I could say are the most influential. Neurosis doesn’t seem to get into the repetition as much as they used to. Both bands are incredibly cathartic, but powerful and you don’t think about anything else when you’re watching them.
And it’s not complicated. It’s simple.
Brian: No, it’s not! It’s not overly complicated. There’re delicate intricacies in there. Subtle intricacies in there if you just listen to the music. There are subtle changes within there but if you aren’t listening they’ll pass you by.
Eric: I think that type of stuff draws you in more emotionally. Those slight, subtle changes.
Danny: Yeah, they hit you in different spots.
Eric: It more emotionally tugs at you than just straight, forceful, tough guy metal. Beat you to death metal.
Danny: That’s why we try to do little subtle… You do your cymbal scratches.
Brian: There’s not as much on this record. We used to have a lot more noise. We used to be noise and then doom.
Danny: And then I joined and ruined it.
Eric: You didn’t ruin it, geez!