CVLT Nation interviews Josh Graham of A Storm of Light
Nations to Flames is a much more aggressive and visceral album than As the Valley of Death. Was this a conscious effort?
We don’t really look back much at our other records. Most of the change comes from how we feel when we are playing the music live. The super slow stuff gets a bit tedious, and the more rock moments of Valley felt awkward live. We wanted to strip it down, focus our intensity, and filter all of our stress into the music. Now, this music feels like the ultimate cathartic release and feels like a true expression of what we are feeling inside.
The vocals are pretty different on this album too, could you tell us about that change and why?
I used to sing this way in my old bands back in the 90’s. When we started Storm, I wanted to do something cleaner. This record didn’t warrant that approach, and as I found myself singing more aggressively on tour, it felt right to push the vocals harder on the recordings as well.
The biggest difference on this record was that we began the writing with a drummer. Every other record was primarily written before drums were even a thought. I’ll add that this was not by choice, but because it took a while to find a permanent lineup…we functioned more as a collective until this record.
So, beginning the writing process with Billy was crucial to this record. The three of us live in different states, so I would send a song idea with vocals and guitar to Billy. He would then experiment with the songs, and send them back. That process resulted in the songs completely changing several times. I would change guitar parts to feed off
of the drumming and so on. Once we had a somewhat solid idea, Domenic would contribute and the editing process would happen all over again. Some of these songs changed upwards of 6 times…totally different lyrics and vocal melodies, etc etc. As far as recording, it was pretty standard fare. Endless tracking and layering. Intense to say the least.
If you had to describe Nations to Flames as a super or anti-hero, what special powers would it have and what or who would be its adversary?
Anti-hero. I am not proud of it, but I realized long ago that most of the time I fully identify with the apocalyptic anti-heroes in film and books. In the immortal words of Bill Hicks, humanity is a virus with shoes.
If you had to pick one, what would be your favorite Killing Joke album and why?
I have honestly never owned a Killing Joke record. Billy just turned me onto the record with Dave Grohl and that is pretty badass. My vocal influences are more Swans, Motörhead, Ministry, Peter Gabriel and maybe old Prong.
Do you think audio and visual art can help wake up a world owned by corporate greed? Is what you do a part of that fight?
If we can enlighten some people then that is great, but I’d say we’re less about the fight, and more about embracing the end of humanity as whole. To be realistic though, I think something along the lines of Elysium is more than likely where we’ll end up…unless something cuts the civilization back down to manageable numbers. Aside from that, I’d say we have decades or centuries left of more of the same…War. Famine. Fame. Shopping.
The album title and artwork suggests a political and social theme to the album. What can you tell us about the lyrical content of Nations to Flames?
It’s all pretty much summed up in the written prologue. The album is about the failure and ultimate demise of our civilization. The girl can be seen as a spark of hope, trying to enlighten the populous, but ultimately we end up with a few stragglers, living out their last days. The lyrics depict the rise and fall of that struggle.
How does this differ (if at all) from the subject matter of previous albums?
Ehh. They are are political and all end with the death of the protagonist. This one is pretty spot on.
Did your departure from Neurosis influence this record in any way?
Not really any actual influence. It did, however, give me more time to work on the music.
Has this allowed you to focus entirely on A Storm of Light now?
Hahaha. I barely sleep and am working on so much stuff at any given moment, it’s all a juggling act…print design, concert visuals, apparel design, renovating our old house, etc etc.
You’ve been quoted as saying “on this record, we have finally found ourselves”. Could you explain that statement a little more?
I feel like we’ve found our strengths as individuals and also as a band. We’ve finally figured out how to focus on those strengths and write better and more affective music. We’ll definitely continue to evolve but with this newfound clarity it will hopefully just continue to get better from here.
Tell us a little about this album’s guest appearances and what they have brought to the record.
Will Lindsay and Kim Thayil played guitar on the record. I was really looking for guitar work on this record that was outside of my aesthetic. We wanted to round out the sound and give up some control. Will and Kim both nailed it, and really expanded the palate of the record.
Finally, what are your plans regards future live shows and touring?
We are working diligently on tours in Europe and North America. We’ll be in Europe in April/May and hopefully the US/Canada before that. Also at least one date in Mexico and hopefully some more performances in South America.