Thrash Hits

April 2nd, 2009

Interview: Wolves In The Throne Room – “We’re completely uninterested in the idea of entertainment”

Eco-spiritualist black metallers, Wolves In The Throne Room, released an EP last year about a bucket of oats and barley plotting to take over the world. That was reason enough for Tom Gibbons to interrogate Aaron Weaver, drummer with the Washington State-based band, after their recent London show.

How was London this time around?
“I was really pleased with that show. The last time we played London it was a bit more stressful for us – we had played Munich the night before and then we had to get up and get to London  and we got lost. We got left at the airport and no one came to pick us up. We somehow managed to get all our gear into a cab and we just made the show. It was a good performance but we were barely hanging on. More recently at the Underworld I was really pleased. There was a really good turnout.”

People can’t help but just stare at the stage – the crowd is like statues.
“Yeah that’s very true of our music, and even though it’s rooted in metal it’s not the kind of thing for ‘moshing’ or crowd surfing and this kind of thing. I think people tend to listen to our music and journey inwards a little bit and kind of go inside their own minds and become entranced by the sound, rather than thrash about like you would at another kind of heavy metal concert”

How did the rest of the UK tour go? Did you enjoy it out in the provinces?
“Very much so – it was our first time playing any shows outside of London. We played Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester and I really like England. There’s so much great music that has come out of this country and in a lot of ways its like playing in the United States but there’s a more gritty attitude to the music here and I think you have to work a bit harder to be in a band in England. It’s harder to keep a venue open and its harder to just survive. I think we have a kinship with English metal bands”

You’ve just released your third album, Black Cascade– how did the whole experience unfold?
“When you’re recording your album you get so deeply involved in the process you sort of lose all perspective. We spent a solid month writing material every day and that was only after we’d done our individual work coming up with melodic themes and lyrical ideas and so on. And then a solid month in the studio everyday in Seattle, working for 12-14 hours, sleeping in the studio, waking up and then getting straight back to it.  We were away from the distraction of home and the other things in our life and we able to submerse ourselves into this record – certainly much more than we have with our past records. We worked with the same engineer from Two HuntersRandall Dunn – and he’s really a co-designer of our sound. We recorded and mixed the album on an analogue 1973 Neve console with a 2 inch tape and the record has this really authoritative deep, warm, powerful sound which I think serves the music well.”

What path has the band taken this time?
“When we were gearing up to write the new record we looked at Two Hunters and everything we’ve done before and I think we could have gone in one of two directions – expanded more on the dreamy, psychedelic and ambient side of the music or focus more on the brutal, metal side of things. We decided we’re not ready to leave behind the black metal in which are music is rooted.”

Some bands say they view music only as a form of entertainment. How does this sit with you?
“I couldn’t disagree more. A lot of bands work on the level of pure entertainment, but our band is coming from a different perspective. We’re completely uninterested in the idea of entertainment. We demand a lot of ourselves as a band, and we demand a lot out of the listener as well. The reason we make our music is to offer a transcendence of some sort, which I think is important in black metal. I think it’s important that black metal offers an opportunity to touch some kind of ancient spirit – that’s why we do this music – to operate on a different level – not just for the sake of entertainment.”

Watch Wolves In The Throne Room play ‘I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots live

How would you advise a ‘DIY’ extreme band to go about getting somewhere?
“That’s a really interesting question because the music world is changing so and I’m completely out of the loop as to how things go. I guess these days you make a CD, put in on MySpace and it goes off from there. That world is so foreign to me. We come from an underground punk background with underground shows and lo-fi recordings where we put our efforts into building a local community. It’s not about trying to get your music to a worldwide audience – it’s about creating a local scene. I don’t know if I could say what bands are supposed to do today because things have changed so much.”

Are you just a little bit more hopeful for Western civilization now that Barack Obama is in the chair?
“No.  WITTR is explicably a non-political institute, but if you’re concerned about ancient forests in the North-West being cut down then that’s a political problem. George Bush passed the law that allows the public forests to be sold to large logging corporations so that’s politics, but I don’t think [Obama’s] election is important. I think it’s meta-physical – there’s a spiritual war going on. Barack Obama seems like a perfectly nice person but I don’t think the election of a better human being than George Bush is going to affect the state of the world. I’m unsure what’s going to happen and I’m not one to speculate. Certainly in America there’s a sense of apocalypse and a sense of unease beneath the surface that goes beyond an economic recession and people are yearning for another way of life. I don’t know…maybe that’s me and my particular circle of peers.”


The new album from Wolves In The Throne Room, Black Cascade, is out now on Southern Lord.