DylanCarlsonInterview 8-3-2012 by Steven Dinnie - Interview
Edited highlights – Dylan Carlson will be working on solo projects for different labels including English-Scots fairy songs this year. There’s an Earth tour of Japan and Australia in the summer and a full U.S. Earth tour in November and he likes the Smoke Fairies. He’ll also be doing some sort of solo tour soon hitting smaller cities and venues. We discuss the Earth live show, the support and connections, connections to Sunn O))).
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Steven – Can I just start by saying congratulations on the new album.Dylan Carlson – Thanks.
Karl Blau – Yeah, thanks man.
S – So just talk us through the new album.DC – It’s the continuation of the first one; they were all recorded in the same session from the last song on the first album through this album is the stuff that we sort of improvised in the studio ‘cause we got done with the songs that we had, I mean that we had a coupla older songs that we had written and then we had some riffs that we had worked out on tour. We did a two week tour with Wolves in the Throne Room down the West Coast and worked on the material and then we got done with all that and we still had a week left to record so we just sorta roll tape and went for it. Originally I was hoping to get both of them out in the same year but y’know, labels have their protection schedules and stuff so it got pushed back; but now the full panorama is out.
S – One of the things I think is interesting about Earth; the kind of music that you play now is very different to what you started with, and you’re still doing... like you said you did a tour with Wolves in the Throne Room. How do audiences react to you? Did you go on first or?
DC – No, we switched, depending on the city we’d go, sort of, they were more popular in one city they’d do it like that, and we were more popular in San Francisco so we did it then. Just, we’ve been really lucky, that like the original fanbase seems to have stuck with us and yet each album we get a new broader group of people into the mix and then, I mean, I think that the thing that’s good about a lot of metal fans is that A) they really love music and B) if they really like you they like you and they don’t pay attention to trends so much, so it’s a good core audience to have, I mean they’ve been incredibly loyal. And the new people have found us too so it’s kinda working out quite well.
S – Talking about changing it up: for Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 and 2, you introduced the cello, brought in a whole new instrument, which I thought was really brave and it worked...
DC – It was fortuitous, I mean she’s the best player in the band easily. [Laughs] and um it’s funny ‘cause I think sometimes people think it’s more planned than it is. I mean it just kinda happened, Steve Moore was gonna miss some shows and recommended Lori [Goldstein] and it worked out.
S – So it was just a spontaneous thing?
DC – Yeah, I mean there’s no grand scheme [laughs] I mean everything’s sorta, stuff happens I guess and I mean, I’ve worked, I’m lucky that I know so many great musicians in Seattle.
S – So can you talk us through the live experience? The experience of Earth playing live?
DC – Mostly this tour we’re doing most of the new album. So it’s a lot of improvised stuff on stage and a couple of older songs that we haven’t played in a while added back into the set again and then we couple, well, last night we did a new song that we just learned in the van. [laughs] I don’t know how smooth it went [laughs]. Mostly we play the new album with a coupla old songs.
S – ‘Cause something people always say to me, when I’m introducing them to Earth, and I say I’ve seen them live because I saw you last year in Glasgow, and they say, sort of, what do you do? When you start to play what do you do when you’re standing in the crowd? What’s your advice if someone’s going to see Earth, what would you like to see them do?
DC – Whatever makes them happy I guess. Sit and listen, dance, it’s a rock and roll show!
Vikki Nye – It’s about intaking something that is a kind of sensory overload. It’s not about reaction, it’s about intaking.
DC – Yeah
S – There were stories like when the Melvins did...
DC – Yeah, we don’t do that anymore
S – the Colossus of Destiny tour, with like an hour of feedback
DC – Yeah, we don’t really play that loud anymore, we’re not that punishing.
V – It isn’t punishment, more just...
DC – Well I mean Sunn O))) is an endurance contest! To get through a Sunn O))) show is really, sort of, pleading! For me it’s more about interacting with the audience and the other band members and being able to hear one another.
S – Well it’s a great show. I mean, last years was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.
V – Well you came home, you were...
S – Yeah, I was totally spaced! But it was something that hit me, after about two minutes of playing and what do you do? You hear all these stories of Khanate playing and people starting a mosh pit in the feedback, it’s just crazy.
V – I suppose people feel like they need to be doing something, but I don’t think that’s necessary.
S – Yeah the next question I’ve got written down is something that really specifically interests me, how big an influence, ‘cause I’ve read this in various places, was Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack?
DC – Um, I mean, it’s weird, I like it, I mean, I view it more as on a similar path at the time than a direct influence. I mean I definitely like the soundtrack and I like the movie. But at the time I was listening to a lot of country and western and stuff like that and I think that was the biggest influence at the time. I’ve always liked Neil Young, my parents were hippies so... [laughs] Hence I’m Dylan, my brother was almost named Donavan, I think you can pretty much put it together [laughs]. Luckily for him, it changed. I mean, I like Donovan, but he hasn’t aged well.
S – So what are you working on next, or at the moment? You mentioned...
DC – Earth is touring a lot again this year. Last year we toured a lot and this year we’re touring a lot and in the interstices I’m getting some solo stuff done. I’ve just did a solo release for the Tapeworm, a cassette only thing and then I’m probably going to be doing a seven inch for Touch, and a solo latitudes session for Southern at the end of this tour in April. And then I’m doing a recording thing for this solo project that I just got back through Kickstarter where people like contribute money to get a project funded so I’m gonna spend a month and a half in Northern England and Scotland at the end of this tour and going home in May and then hopefully get most of the music done before we got to Australia and Japan in September I think. October? I can’t remember what’s happening in October. Something’s happening in October. November is probably a full U.S. tour.
V – So it’s pretty non-stop then?
S – Pretty busy.
V - Things you must see though. Must be pretty awesome going to the other side of the globe?
DC – Yeah I’ve never been to Australia or Japan before so I’m pretty excited about that. Although I like the British Isles, it’s my favourite place in the world.
V – I think that’s nice, because nobody likes coming here.
DC – I know, it’s funny like that, I was looking, in Manchester at a Pelicans poster and their ‘English Tour’ was like three dates [laughs]
S – Yeah, that’s the case with a lot of bands, I was really glad, I saw Earth’s tour roster and it’s like a three week tour and you’re playing more dates than some bands play in three months. I thought it was impressive.
DC – Yeah.
V – It’s nice though, especially up in Scotland anyway, it seems you either get Glasgow or nothing.
S – Or you have to go to Manchester or Newcastle.
V – Or London, everybody goes to London but so few people come here. It’s nice to go and see someone that you’ve always wanted to see because we never get that.
DC – Yeah, I’m hoping to do a solo tour at some point where I can get way out, so that’ll be awesome, little places.
S – Aberdeen!
DC – Yeah!
S – No one ever goes to Aberdeen.
DC – I had a good friend from Aberdeen so...
S – Any gig you play in Aberdeen will sell out, whatever kind of music you’re playing, they’ll just be glad someone came to visit!
V – Yeah there’s no gigs in Aberdeen, so whoever comes get’s packed out
DC – Well, I’ll have to remember that.
S – Who are you playing with? I did read but I’ve completely forgotten.
DC – Um, Ô Paon and Mount Eerie. One’s Geneviève [Castrée], she’s a French-Canadian gal that’s soundchecking just now, we toured the East coast of the U.S. and the Midwest with her and then Phil Elverum does Mount Eerie and we did Deep South tour with him. And they’re friends of ours and we’ve played a few times.
S – Really for me that’s become a way of finding great music is, look who’s supporting Earth on tour and go and buy their records. You were touring with Sabbath Assembly last time I saw you, and Mars Red Sky in Europe, and those were two of the best records of last year. What’s the selection process like for support bands?
DC – Well, someone I like I guess [laughs]
S – So you are involved, it isn’t like a label thing?
DC – Yeah, yeah. Sometimes there’s been requests from Greg to tour with certain bands, but they’re always bands I like, like Wolves [in the Throne Room], I’ve always wanted to tour with Wolves. Y’know, we did the Sunn O))) tour, we did the Pelican tour, but they were solo at that point, they weren’t on a label. And then, generally it’s people I like and I want people to hear most of the time.
V – Is music style like a factor in it, would you choose someone similar to you or completely different or is it more about getting the word spread?
DC – Yeah, well I prefer to try and change it up so it isn’t an evening of the same thing, but it just varies.
S – What’s the relationship like with Sunn O)))? Because they started off as an Earth tribute band.
DC – They’re great friends. They’ve been most generous to me. Not a lot of people vanish for a few years and come back and have anyone care so they definitely kept the word out. They have taken it and moved it in other directions and obviously they’re friends.
S – It’s interesting, and I think it’s odd when I hear you’re playing together, which I think you do quite a lot.
DC – Yeah, they don’t play out much anymore, sort of busy doing, [Stephen] O’Malley is busy doing his craziness, and Greg is busy running a label and having kids.
S – Because they all have like a million projects each.
DC – Yeah, O’Malley especially.
S – So is there any bands you want to big up? Give some free advertising to? Shameless plugging, it’s what we’re all about here on the blog.
DC – Right now I’m really into, there’s a British band called the Smoke Fairies who I really like. A guy from Glasgow, Alasdair Roberts who I really like. Um, this guy from Oxford, Rob StJohn who I really like. Those will be the three I’ll talk up tonight. Right now on my playlist. That and U.F.O but they don’t need any help! [Laughs]
S – Well that’s about it, can’t think of any more questions. Thank you very much for your time.
[Interview pro-tip: When the answers get shorter, the interview is drawing to a close].