From The Cauldron’s Bottom: An Interview With Full Of Hell On Their New LP, Trumpeting Ecstasy
CN: By now, you’re a band who needs no introduction. Everyone knows the name Full Of Hell, but it is often apparent that — much like some of your more iconic influences — most do not appreciate (or even understand) the full extent of the complexities within your music, lyrics, approach, and overall aesthetic; and many who think they understand, totally miss the mark. And I’d like to (hopefully) help rectify that with this interview.
Your newest offering, the long-overdue solo full-length, Trumpeting Ecstasy, follows your pattern of constant progression and pushing of your own limits; however, it’s clear that, despite the various evolutions you’ve gone through, you’re still the same band — you’ve kept your core. Before getting to the specifics of your most recent effort, I’d like to talk about that core, and what’s shaped it.
So, after all that lead-in, my first question is this: what artists initially inspired the music you’ve made with Full Of Hell; and have any of those artists remained among your influences? Who are artists who became influential later during your existence as a band, and have stuck with you?
Spencer Hazard: When we first started I don’t feel like we were as well versed on music we were trying to create, so we took typical influences for a young band of our style I.E. Cursed, His Hero is Gone, Entombed (obviously), Crowbar, Sepultura. All of those bands are still great, but once discovering more experimental bands like GASP, The Endless Blockade, Man Is The Bastard, Insect Warfare – that’s when we really started to come into our own. Those bands and bands such as Swans, Neurosis, and Godflesh not only have stuck with us musically, but we also take inspiration from the latter bands on how to still push yourself creatively and have a long lasting, fresh career.
CN: When you started, did you always want to play the relentless amalgam of grind and power electronics you’ve conjured up for the new LP, or has that been a more recent development; have the various line-up changes you’ve gone through had an effect on your writing, methods, and overall sound?
SH: I feel like we have tried to stick with a similar sound since our first LP, but just expand on it and push ourselves more. I feel like we were limited in our song writing capabilities when we first started, and now we are to a point where we feel more confident in our playing and song writing. I don’t really think the line-up changes have affected our sound too much, just wanting to push ourselves more after each release.
Label: Profound Lore
Art by Mark McCoy from the “Golden Light” Edition
CN: Much like the musical aspect of your output, the lyrical content has grown over time, while still holding onto a recognizable core. To Dylan specifically, can you elaborate on some of the concepts and motifs contained within your writing? In addition, are there any writers — associated with music or not — whose work you’ve wanted to emulate?
Dylan Walker: The writing has certainly shifted over the years. I think when we started it was largely introspective. The newest record and EP before it are much the opposite, but the use of veiled metaphor has always been important. I really like the versatility of language and the power of context. There are so many ways to get an idea across through the use of physical objects and general allegory. One modern example of a writer that could be slightly unique to us, perhaps, is Joanna Newsom. I think reading her lyrics early on in the band was a really pivotal influence for me. Her use of antiquated language paints a really vivid picture and doesn’t feel forced. Finding a lyricist like her, that also used so much of the natural world to get her message across, was a huge deal for me. As band, we’ve always had that element. I don’t think the lyrics have ever been limited to one spectrum, either. Some releases are very socio-political, some aren’t. The vaguest way to summarize would be to say that the writing deals with human suffering at it’s own hand and the various lies and trappings of society.
CN: I know that you are all spread out with Spencer, Dave, and Sam in Ocean City, MD and Dylan in central PA, which must make the writing process a little different than what most people would expect. To Spencer: how does your writing process for the instrumental portion of Full Of Hell’s music usually play out?
SH: I’ll usually have a riff or an entire song written before we actually all get together to practice. We will practice the song for months and months before we decide on the final piece. We usually send demos to Dylan as the song writing goes on, and some songs will have 3-4 different versions before we go into the studio to finally record it.
CN: With some of that background filled in, I’d like to shift focus a bit to discuss the new LP.
We talked a bit at your Philadelphia show with Entombed A.D. about how what you are doing with your most recent material is conceptually similar to Assück (i.e. the punks playing death metal approach). Can you expand on that, and on the role it played in writing Trumpeting Ecstasy?
SH: We’ve always obviously been influenced by death metal, but the way we have been writing for almost the past two years it’s just been coming through a lot more in the songs. Discovering more unique and progressive death metal bands really inspired us and pushed us as well. Bands like Demilich, Gorguts, Human Remains really inspired us on the newest material. We aren’t the most technical players, so trying to emulate that style with our hardcore backround really helped push the writing process along and helped shape the new LPs overall sound.
DW: We’ve always favored the rawer styles of metal as well. For instance, when you listen to a record like None So Vile, it seems like it’s close to falling off the hinges the entire way through. In the metal world, precision is integral to the music nowadays. We like it when it feels fluid, loose and REAL. No click tracks, no triggers. Assück is music that was played by real human hands. The passion tends to shine through more when it’s written and recorded in that way. Not to mention that we still tend to run our band more in the DIY fashion.
CN: In addition to taking conceptual cues from deathgrind bands, you also have taken a good deal of musical ones as well. who would you say were your main sources of inspiration when writing the new material, respectively and collectively?
SH: Human Remains, Cryptopsy, Voivod, Discordance Axis, Godflesh, Morbid Angel were the main bands I was trying to filter through our sound on the new songs.
DW: Vocally, the usual influences were there (Chang, Eye, Rahi) but I found it was more interesting to take some cues from vocalists like Glen Benton and Lord Worm as well. Anything with a manic and raw attack.
CN: Industrial and power electronics have always been an intrinsic part of your repertoire, and over the years your aptitude for — and use of them — has certainly improved. On your earlier releases, you utilized more rudimentary, primitive electronics similar to Ramleh and early Whitehouse, but starting around 2014 on your split 12” with Psywarfare, you began to showcase more structured industrial which can be likened to Genocide Organ and some of SPK’s early work; and your subsequent collaborations with Merzbow and The Body demonstrated even more of a mastery. Now, on Trumpeting Ecstasy, the title track is comprised of truly powerful, unnerving industrial, which pulls from both more electronics-based industrial akin to Throbbing Gristle and Haus Arafna; and heavier, rhythmic industrial in the vein of Swans and White Hospital. Aside from the expected improvement that comes with time, experimentation, and practice, are there any influences which helped you hone your craft? Can you also shed some light on the addition of chilling, sung vocals, which is something you’ve played with in your industrial compositions before?
DW: Honestly, the biggest push to a higher understanding of putting these things together came from our peers in The Body, and our friend and collaborator Masami Akita (Merzbow)… Working with this group of people was very educational for us. They write in a somewhat similar fashion, and there is a huge emphasis on improvisation. It’s important to know your equipment and know how to layer in a way that adds sonic texture and expands the overall vibe and emotion of the song/set.. Particularly when recording with The Body, we learned how to build songs from scratch. The full band side of Full Of Hell is very well oiled and rehearsed at all times, as it should be. The other side of things is more happenstance, so it was important for us to watch these guys and take part in the action with them. As far as the addition of Nicole on the new record, I loved her voice, and Spencer and I both felt it would be a unique opportunity to put something a little different on the record. I think as the years go by, we are more open to outside elements, which is nice and makes things feel like there are no limits for the future. It feels right that our greatest tools have come from our friends.
CN: While I did ask earlier about motifs in your lyricism, I’d like to know more about the ones specifically on the new LP. Your previous solo LPs have had themes carried throughout, both specific to each, as well as recurring from one to the next; to Dylan: are there any overarching themes present on Trumpeting Ecstasy, and are there any expansions on previously explored concepts?
DW: This record was the easiest for me to write, thus far. I like the idea of carrying over ideas and “artifacts” from previous releases for those who would read into things. There are parts of this record that tie in ideas from both the Amber Mote… EP and our last LP, Rudiments Of Mutilation. It’s never intentional, but is usually something that works its way into the writing by the end of the process. This new LP is a little more direct. I didn’t feel like it was necessary to write ANOTHER anti-Christian anti-societal record, but it’s what came naturally. We hadn’t done it before in such a direct way. Amber Mote… was a record about the possibility of another plane of being, and the certain doubt of it. That’s expanded upon here. I’ve really enjoyed implementing scripture and religious metaphor into our music for the past few years. Even the record title itself, “Trumpeting Ecstasy,” was inspired by a very Old Testament style sign I saw near my home. It had a trumpet carved into the wood, and below it, the words “perhaps tomorrow”, which is, of course, in reference to the rapture. To which I reply “perhaps never?”. This record is about the lie of Jesus, and it’s a stabbing rage against ALL human beings, who are so woefully destined for violence and death that there’s almost no point in pretending otherwise.
CN: Is there any particular reason why there was such a large gap of time in between solo full-lengths? The first two — Roots Of Earth Are Consuming My Home and Rudiments Of Mutilation came out in fairly quick succession, but it’s been about 4 years since your last; and you’ve put out a plethora of releases — EPs, splits, collaboration LPs, and live tapes — in the time since then.
SH: We’ve just had so many cool opportunities for other unique releases we haven’t had time to focus on our own LP. I rather it have taken us time to make sure we were completely happy with the end result. I also feel with doing so many varying releases, we were able to use all of those writing and recording experiences to help improve our song writing and hone our craft when entering the studio.
DW: Exactly what he said. It was never the plan to do two collaborations, much less with people that are basically our heroes. We couldn’t say no, so the idea for a solo full length just went on the rocks for awhile. All things in time!
Photo credit: Reid Haithcock
CN: Shifting the focus again, for the third section of this interview I’d like to touch on a miscellany of topics.
Are there any artists you’ve drawn from who might not necessarily be overtly apparent?
DW: I said above that Joanna Newsom was and remains a big influence. I particularly enjoy a lot of delta blues as well. Songwriters like Tom Waits have also been instrumental in my writing at an early age as well. It’s also worth mentioning that directors like Ben Wheatley, Shane Carruth, Werner Herzog, and of course Gaspar Noé have been hugely influential to my writing, recently and over a longer term.
CN: I know from conversations I’ve had with you over the years — especially with Spencer and Dylan — that you’re all well-versed in the realms of punk, metal, and noise. Regardless of the influence they’ve had on you, are there any artists — defunct or active — who you feel deserve more recognition and attention?
SH: I feel like Gas Chamber is one of the best bands currently in the entire world. I feel as though they are doing something truly unique and they deserve every bit of praise they have received.
DW: 100% agree with Spencer. Gas Chamber are astronauts. I think it’s also worth mentioning their regional compatriots in Black Iron Prison, Intensive Care, and Abyss.
CN: You’ve gotten to perform alongside some legendary artists, who I’m sure you never thought you’d get to share a stage with — including, but limited to: Bastard Noise, Immolation, Dropdead, Entombed, Agathocles, Pig Destroyer, Vulcano, Circle Takes The Square, Noothgrush, Yacøpsæ, and even fucking G.I.S.M.; not to mention collaborating live with Merzbow. But I’m curious, are there any other legendary artists who you wish you could play with? And are there any contemporary and up-and-coming artists you really want to play with?
SH: Would be an absolute honor to be able to tour or share the stage with Neurosis or Godflesh.
DW: Those for sure. I also think it would be an honor, albeit maybe a little awkward for us and the crowd, to play with Swans or Godspeed You! someday.
Art by Mark McCoy
CN: I would ask if there are plans for any future releases and tours, but I already know there are. So instead, my final question is this: can you detail, or at least give some inkling as to what to expect from you in the foreseeable future?
SH: Be on the lookout for something new with The Body, and a split with a musician that we have looked up to since almost the beginning of this band.
DW: Also in the wake of the album release, there will be a series of remixes of the title track off the record from people we really look up to and appreciate. The touring will continue indefinitely as will the musical output.