In the Aftermath
Johnathan Carbon unearths his previous discussion with Aaron Weaver of
Wolves in the Throne Room

by: Johnathan A. Carbon
CoC: _Celestial Lineage_ was mentioned as the ending to a thematic trilogy. Did you always plan to do a trilogy with Southern Lord?

Aaron Weaver: Well, with a label like Southern Lord we had a contract for three records, so of course we were going to do three, but whether or not this record was released on Southern Lord or just released by ourselves didn't really matter as much as how they would fit together. When we recorded _Two Hunters_ we were very much in the moment, and honestly I didn't know what the future would hold for us. We were trying to be as spontaneous and unmediated as possible, which fits into the whole idea of feralness and a certain wild spirit. When it came time for _Black Cascade_ it became more clear that the three records would be conceptually linked.

CoC: How do you see _Celestial Lineage_ compared to _Black Cascade_ and _Two Hunters_?

AW: The trilogy charts a progression. _Two Hunters_ is a very raw and feral record. It's about encountering deities and encountering a spirit of the wild. The record is very raw and personal. _Celestial Lineage_ is the aftermath of that experience. What happens when you come back home after the encounter? The next step, at least in terms of culture, is to build temples, create a priesthood or write liturgies. You begin a culture around that initial experience. So _Celestial Lineage_ is the beginning of that tradition which would have some last impact that is woven into a greater human culture.

CoC: Then how would _Black Cascade_ fit into this concept?

AW: _Black Cascade_ is bringing that initial experience back. It's the return. _Two Hunters_, for me, is very misty; it feels like there is some sort of shadow that was cast over that record. There is something very mythical about the recording of the album, almost something out of a fairytale. _Black Cascade_ feels more concrete and is about pulling that ether together to create something, whereas _Celestial Lineage_ is about the building upon that foundation.

CoC: In press releases Popol Vuh is mentioned as being a strong influence. Is this a part of a larger attraction to krautrock?

AW: Yes. That is actually some of the music that I am most interested in. Krautrock and a lot of music created around that time, in the aftermath of the hippie movement. I'm not super interested in the music created during the late '60s, but more of what happened afterwards when it became dark and weird.

CoC: Are there any other krautrock bands that you are fond of? Perhaps Ash Ra Tempel?

AW: Yes, of course Ash Ra Tempel, and Tangerine Dream. These are all groups that have been influential on Wolves in the Throne Room, not just musically but more with their approach to music. The fact is they had this very spiritual agenda and high concept and how they tried to incorporate minimal classical music theories into rock instrumentation. I think all these things are really inspiring for us, because we are not interested in being a rock band. We are more interested in atmosphere, trance inducing sounds and creating a space for a listener to become involved in.

CoC: Was there a conscious desire to break with tradition in terms of track numbers? _Celestial Lineage_ for the first time has more than the four song format.

AW: Well, two of those songs are just interludes. But yes, what we wanted to do differently was to be focused on songwriting. In the past we used intense repetition to induce the trance effect. That was something that we declared off limits for this record, and even though we love that effect, we wanted to not utilize it in order to push ourselves in a new direction.

CoC: I actually have two questions regarding guest musicians. First off, Jessica Kenny has returned for vocals. Was there any reason why she appears on _Two Hunters_ and not _Black Cascade_?

AW: Yeah, _Black Cascade_ we wanted to be raw and stripped down and we wanted it to be a reflection on how the band sounds live. So for that reason it felt wrong to being Jessica on board for that record. But for _Celestial Lineage_ Jessica's presence was essential, that was our plan from the beginning when we started to conceptualize the record. Jessica's whole world view and spirit fits so clearly into the concept of _Celestial Lineage_. She is a person who's deeply involved in traditional religious music, Persian classical and western religious musical traditions. She's able to bring a very orthodox approach to singing to our records, and I really value her contributions.

CoC: Also Aaron Turner is listed as guest vocalist. How did he become involved?

AW: That was a suggestion from our producer Randall Dunn, who has been recording a lot of Aaron's side projects since he's moved to the Seattle area. Honestly, I'm not a fan of Isis. I've never heard an Isis record. I think I saw them in a club ten or twelve years ago. But then again, I'm not a fan of post rock in general. This record was less about Aaron Turner of Isis collaborating with us and more of a contribution from someone we value as a friend.

CoC: It is actually interesting you mention "post rock", as the term is thrown around a lot when people describe your band.

AW: I think a lot of post rock bands are influenced by Neurosis, and of course we are very influenced by Neurosis. But apart from Neurosis and I guess Godspeed You! Black Emperor -- which is a band that I'm not influenced by but I defiantly like and respect -- I just haven't followed any of the aftermath. It seems that those two bands spawned a ten thousand imitators. I haven't really checked out music that's a part of that post rock movement. Maybe it's just something that rubs me the wrong way. It just doesn't really seem to be particularly intense. All the post rock I seem to glance over. To me it feels to be about this bummed out urban existence, but none of them seem to have the power and gravity that Neurosis had.

CoC: Do you have any thoughts or comments on the growing number of Pacific Northwest black metal bands? Does the geographic region have anything to do with its growth?

AW: Yeah, absolutely. I think that black metal should be deeply connected to place. That's what initially attracted me Scandinavian black metal when I first heard it, because it was clearly emanating from the landscape of Norway or whatever country they were coming from. The northwest has a similar energetic reality. It's very cold, very gloomy, with long dark winters, which really lends itself to the black metal spirit. There seems to be this melancholy darkness which is a part of living in the Northwest. I think you can even hear that in a band like Nirvana. There is this absolute melancholy which is a part of life here.

CoC: Discussing Pacific Northwest black metal: the second wave of Norwegian black metal seemed to tie itself to Germanic paganism. Would it be fair to say the same thing about Pacific Northwest black metal but with connections to native American / Inuit and other regional druid cultures?

AW: I don't know. It seems that most of the people I know who identify themselves with Northwest black metal might be inspired by paganism, but everyone is a part of the idea that we need to start our own tradition. The people I know at least are not interested in reviving some long dead religion which existed in another time and place. That just seems like a fantasy that feels like a role playing game. I think what needs to happen is to tap into to same archetypal realities, the same type of transcendent energy, and then new myths would emerge. I think that is absolutely happening. In the Northwest underground scene there is a consensus that a new culture or mythologies are emerging which are just a reflection of the landscape.

CoC: Do you think the American explosion could historically constitute a third wave?

AW: It's really hard for me to make a judgment call about it. As an artist I try not to concern myself about what other people think of me. We try to create music for ourselves and not let the opinions or trends or things happening in other parts of America intrude into our process. I don't know. That's something commentators or journalists will decide in the aftermath.

CoC: The first time I heard your band mentioned was in the 2007 Slate article about your show in the woods. Do you still play outdoors?

AW: Yes, we do. Not as much as we would like to. There are a number of shows in the upcoming tour where we are going to be playing outside. I remember that Slate article. It was written by Erik Davies, who I am a big fan of.

CoC: What is currently interesting you musically inside the metal scene?

AW: As far as metal, I'm actually really interested in seeing where metal is going to go next -- and I'm not talking about mainstream metal or even melodic thrash, but where the underground is going to go next. What is going to be the next black metal or the new thing which will emerge. Because the underground is where all the new ideas are coming from. I have a feeling that it's going to have some electronic component, but I'm not talking about some cheesy White Zombie techno metal hybrid. I'm waiting for a crew of eighteen year olds that's going to make something which blows my mind.

CoC: Going back to black metal. Is there anything about that specific style as opposed to death metal or doom metal that lends itself to experimentation?

AW: Yeah, I think so, but it's paradoxical. Black metal, on the one hand, is completely wide open for experimentation -- or at least it should be, because it's so much about freedom, iconoclasm and breaking rules. But on the other hand, black metal has become so rigidly dogmatic. I think it's the most rigid form of metal, even much more than death metal in the early '90s -- which is unfortunate, because apart from black metal having a core set of ideas or aesthetic, beyond that you can take it in a thousand different directions.

CoC: What about outside the metal realm?

AW: Outside of Wolves in the Throne Room, my interests remain steady. I have a small farm where I spend all my energy outside the band. Once this round of touring is done in February of next year, I'm looking forward to recommitting to our small quiet rural lifestyle. I don't have a completely apocalyptic world view, but I feel our lifestyle which we have come to expect has become unsustainable and is not going to last forever. I am interested to creating a alternative lifestyle for myself that is as much disconnected from the mainstream economy as possible.

CoC: Do Wolves in the throne Room subscribe to any political beliefs professionally or even personally?

AW: No, not at all. We have always tried to be radically non political. I really never wanted Wolves in the throne Room to become a platform for any ideas or appear that we are trying to convince people to believe in something. We are just presenting something spiritual and energetic, and others can take whatever meaning they want from that. I try to stay away from politics as much as possible. If anything, though, I think we have a pretty strong anarchist streak.

CoC: You and Nathan are brothers, is this correct?

AW: Unfortunately, yes.

CoC: How has your family's reaction been to this project? Have they been supportive?

AW: Yes, they have. My parents are luckily pretty accepting people, and both Nathan and I were lucky not to be raised in some right-wing Christian fundamentalist home. They have been very supportive over the years throughout this project, which I'm very grateful to have.

CoC: Well, thank you again for this interview, and good luck on your upcoming tour.

AW: Thank you.

(article submitted 1/11/2011)

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