Agalloch

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Interviews

Hi, John and nice to 'meet' again! Tell me which are the autumn colours these days in Portland/Oregon? Don't you feel that Fall, nature passing away, has a different supremacy upon us?

    Haughm: "Well we've had a bit of an 'Indian summer' but that is finally starting to turn into very cold, grey days and long nights. It's cold enough to wear winter clothes so I'm content enough with that while I await the snow..."

AGALLOCH was given birth in Montana, Missoula to be more precise... which is David Lynch' place of birth as well. Tell me, how is it down there? A possible 'Twin Peaks'? Which might be the difference between the two places you stayed at so far?

    Haughm: "Montana is a very beautiful state. Half of it is all forests and mountains, the other half is spacious plains. It is the 4th largest state in the US yet there aren't any big cities in it. There are actually more people here in the Portland area than there is in the entire state of Montana. So it is very easy to be completely alone there and the mentality there is quite free and wild. The Twin Peaks series was mostly filmed in and around Snoqualmie, Washington (hometown of Windham Hell). I've been to Snoqualmie several times and it, of course, has the exact same atmosphere as many Lynch films do."

Daniel Breyer is your partner in this project, from the very beginning, but, curiously, he doesn't feature on this last album. What happened? Is he a constituent yet not participating at the compositions? Quite strange, I'd say...or perhaps this is a very polite manner to actually put the "farewell" on the air outside AGALLOCH' field?

    Haughm: "Daniel is still with us. He is just on a sabbatical of sorts since he is extremely busy going to school in New York City. He will likely participate on a future release. Whether it be on an EP or a full-length album release remains to be seen."

AGALLOCH music has deep roots inside familiar issues as for Nordic Black bands melting with riffs of Swedish Doom/Death Metal as well as with Folk Ambient Dark Apocalyptic. Should I understand you were fascinated and caught by the same trend of 10 years ago? What is it that you still listen to from old times? Do you see differently now that Norwegian Black Metal movement (and I refer to firing, crimes, and suicides)?

    Haughm: "10 years ago I was more interested in death metal; especially bands like Entombed, Morbid Angel, Xysma, Carcass, Amorphis, Sentenced, as well as other stuff like Voivod, In The Nursery, Coil, Christian Death, Cocteau Twins, etc. I did listen to Bathory, Beherit, Master's Hammer, Blasphemy, Darkthrone and I knew about the Norwegian scene from reading fanzines and from underground correspondences. But, It was difficult to get a handle on the 'whole story' since I was living in Montana, far away from Norway, you know. I didn't find out about Euronymous' death until around Dec '93. I got more heavily into black metal and the Norse bands in '94 when I met Breyer. Nowadays, I think the glory days of black metal are long gone and I have very little interest in the new wave of bands coming from there or anywhere else for that matter. But, I do still listen to the classics like Ulver, Darkthrone, In The Woods..., Burzum, Bathory, Forgotten Woods, Satyricon, Dissection, and so on."

Once you moved in Oregon, you met Don Anderson and this was the premise for your demo release, "From Which Of This Oak".

I haven't had any chance to listen to it; do you think I have lost a lot? How does it sound? Hello Anderson...

    Anderson: "I don't think the sound is all that bad at all. The compositions are very good for the most part, although the performance may leave something to be desired. I was only available for the solos, which I improvised during recording."

 

The band has completed later on when you assimilated your friend Jason W. Walton. Do you think it is a filled formula?

    Haughm: "Yes of course. We needed a bassist, he liked our first demo, and has been a friend of mine since '92. So to ask him to join was a logical decision."

  

If we take a deeper more accurate look, AGALLOCH' beginning happened in the same time when AEOLACHRYMAE project practically passed away. Moreover, right about that time, two other new bands started to activate: SUSURRUS INANIS and NOTHING. What can you tell me about these bands? Give me as many details as you can.

    Haughm: "Susurrus Inanis is Breyer's project. It is primarily synth-based with dark vocals. It is very similer to the material he has contributed to Agalloch. Nothing is J. William W.'s project and it is purely experimental. Some of his stuff sounds like Autechre and Merzbow, and some of it sounds like Lycia."

SCULPTURED is the other band of Don Anderson. I really wonder how does the knotty Metal get along with the experimental and full of mysticism one?

    Anderson: "We all get along in Agalloch as well as we do in Sculptured. Its pretty much the same three guys, except for Brian who does vocals for Sculptured. The only real difference is Sculptured has yet to evolve into the collaborative effort Agalloch now is. I don't ever see Sculptured becoming collaborative in the future. I think this is also because I play all the guitars in Sculptured, so there is very little room for another musician to add ideas. However, in Agalloch, both John and I play guitar so it's much easier to go back and forth with ideas. The two bands are very different, but the simple answer is, I write all the music for Sculptured, and John is pretty much the visionary behind Agalloch. Also, while John is into a lot of the same experimental stuff that I am, I don't think he would go as far as I do with it in Sculptured."

Back to AGALLOCH, passing over "Pale Folklore". "She Painted Fire Across the Skyline" is a masterpiece which often reminds me of old SADNESS. What is your favourite track? How did this album sell at that time, almost three years ago?

    Haughm: "My favourite track from that album is 'Hallways Of Enchanted Ebony'. I also like 'Dead Winter Days' quite a lot. I'm not too sure how many exactly it sold, a few thousand copies I guess."

Why did you have to wait three long years to release another album? There are bands with one album per year. I could find some reasons like perhaps lack of inspiration, commodity or lots of other business or troubles keeping you away...but I am curious to find out from you what really happened so that you delayed so much. I had information you actually faced some problems at the recording part, last year...but isn't it too much time?

    Haughm: "I don't know why we consistently get asked this question. I would much rather spend three years on a truly great album than spit out a mediocre effort every year. I don't think spending as much time as necessary is neither a bad nor strange thing. Scholomance spent three years between albums, Katatonia spent three years between their first two, Arcturus spent five years on their latest album...and on and on. I think bands should spend at least 2 years between full-length releases, if not more. It might decrease the inane pile of poor quality releases every year..."

The new tracks reach a very-very different side...the experimental one. On "Pale Folklore", the epic dimension outlined a specific Dark Folk Metal...well, for the new album, the very basis is built on Ambient atmosphere where acoustic interludes and some "ruins" of Folk, Ethereal simply dissolve into each other. Are you SWANS fans? Perhaps it sounds strange, but AGALLOCH reminds me of this band...

    Anderson: "I am flattered that we remind you of SWANS. I have to say that SWANS is one of the most important bands in my life. I think they are absolutely brilliant and one of the most prolific bands to ever grace this Earth. When I saw a solo performance by Michael Gira, I gave him a copy of 'The Mantle'. When I handed it to him I told him how much of an influence SWANS has been on all of us. He was very nice and seemed flattered. However, I doubt he would be into it. He seems to be more into American roots and folk music now."

 

Your music's message is a very introverted one; I'd say a grave bleak one, based on white/black contrast, but full of grey or silvery hues. Maybe my sub-consciousness got the picture right from the booklet realm.... but it couldn't be only that...

    Haughm: "Well naturally the imagery can guide a person's perception about the music. That is what we use it for. The music on 'The Mantle' has more of a 'damp, lonely, cold, stoney, and overcast' sort of feel to it so I felt it necessary to compliment this feeling with images which were suitable for such an atmosphere. Much was the same with 'Pale Folklore' and I think the aesthetic result was a success on both albums. Our expression is very multi-elemental. That is to say the music, the imagery, the lyrics, and the production all feeds off each other and makes a complete whole."

Anderson: "I like to think that despite all the depression, some glimmer of hope shines through...some shade of humanity. I don't think we've lost our humanity. That is the most important thing I think."

The instrumental tracks are in a good company with the Metallic ones so that the result is a magnificent one...mysterious, pessimistic and the depressive atmosphere might be exactly the key element of this Dark sound. What does make you feel that way? What is your inspiration? Deceptions, solitude, uselessness, sadness, relinquishment of life...aren't these terms a little too depressing for an AGALLOCH listener? I might even say that your music elegantly communicates with suicide...

    Haughm: "Our first album dealt more with suicidal themes as I was more often in that state of mind while creating it. 'The Mantle' is different. It is an expression of being in a state of longing for something that will likely never come. Finding comfort in this bleak world while watching glimmers of hope pass by; knowing they are fleeting. I guess this is my state of mind nowadays. I don't see suicide as a very intelligent option these days. I feel that this life is the only one we get so make the best of it while you can. Despite the overall darkness and despair life has to offer, there are always small positive things to look forward to."

You use a lot of traditional instruments like accordion, mandolin, trombone, contrabass... what was your intention, in fact? Is there any connection with your lands or any musical regionalism?

    Anderson: "No. I don't think using traditional instruments was at all an extension of our roots as Americans. We just wanted to expand our sound."

Curiously or not, your tracks can be totally instrumental and quite the opposite as well... Music creates for the listener a confusing state of mind while voices seem to be even more baffling. Like being a soundtrack of motion picture. What do you think?

    Haughm: "Hmmm.... we feel that vocals should never be overused. Vocals are just another instrument and if the song does not need them, then we will not use them."

I can also hear a Spanish talking...sounds tragic like if captured from a movie sequence. Can you land me a few details? Could it be any association with Jodorowsky?

    Anderson: "Jodorowsky is one of our favorite directors. The sample is from his first film 'Fando & Lis', which was released in American on DVD by the excellent folks at Fantoma Video."

You are very fond on another art: cinema...Ingmar Bergman or David Lynch are very well quoted and talented film directors...would you find attracting to compose music for them? "Odal" or "The Hawthorne Passage" might be more than just appropriate for such...

    Haughm: "It would be quite an honour if, for example, David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch approached us for a soundtrack contribution. I can't imagine any of our current material being of much interest and we'd rather make something exclusive anyway. Of course, if Mr Lynch wished to use Agalloch's music in the same way Powermad was used in 'Wild At Heart', I would have to decline."

Anderson: "I would hate to intrude on Angelo Badalamenti. Lynch and Badalamenti are perfect together."

  

The Mantle: it's a metaphor for the Earth nature, or a greater sort of entity, that we cannot control, comprehend or fully embrace. This is a very beautiful characterisation for your album and its title! Do you sympathise with Greenpeace Foundation? Can you say that respecting nature means to worship Her?

    Haughm: "No, I don't think one needs to be some fanatical environmentalist to embrace nature. Half the time, I question whose side those people are on! I think people just need to use common sense and quit being so selfish and ignorant. We are not the most important lifeforms on this planet. Fools can believe what they want. The fact is, mankind cannot exist without maintaining balance in nature."

   

One other curiosity of mine, which is the significance of the deer you put on the cover...any connection with your music?

    Haughm: "On 'Pale Folklore' I thought the deer skull in JWW's photo would add to the forest/winter element in a creepy, grim sort of way. For 'Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor' I chose one of my favorite Gustave Dore etchings which happened to be a stag drinking from a stream. For 'The Mantle', I chose my favorite statue/fountain in Portland which happened to be an elk."

What was the feedback for this new album? I've read here and there that it was considered a little too long or somehow boring and even without dynamic....

    Haughm: "The press has been, for the most part, excellent. There are always going to be some negative reviews but that is to be expected. The reaction from fans has been quite divided. People seem to either completely love it or utterly hate it. However, I prefer this kind of strong reaction because it shows that people are at least passionate about their feelings towards this album either way."

 I didn't mention about your MCD. Sol Invictus is one of your soul-bands thus you featured a cover version. What was the purpose of this MCD? I ask you since it seems not to have any connection with none of your albums... It simply seems to be experimental and this is all... am I wrong?

    Haughm: "The primary purpose of the MCD was to officially release the material from '98 which originally was going to be a 7" EP. We also had the Sol Invictus cover which was recorded for the 'Sol Lucet Omnibus - Sol Invictus Tribute' double CD. Breyer had also recorded a new piece. It would seem that it would be a bit cluttered but the MCD actually came together in a nice, cohesive package and ended up bridging the gap between our two full-lengths. There are two songs with vocals and three instrumentals."

What about your free time? Are you married? I know you travelled and visited some European Nordic countries...

    Haughm: "My free time is usually devoted to my creativity or other interests and passions. No, I'm not married and I have no desire to be. I visited Finland in 1999 and was quite taken by it. It is a wonderful country with a marvellous culture, which I enjoyed very much."

I listen again to "Odal" and some frames remind me as well of THE CURE...what can you say?

    Haughm: "Yes, it is undeniable that they are an influence. I'm quite partial to The Cure's mid-period releases, particularly 'Disintegration'."

Anderson: "I love The Cure."

  

I understood you are an anti-Bush fan! Where from such rejection? Don't you approve his expansionist politics? In music realm... a form of protest is quite very vehement, Grind/Crust core... Should we expect an AGALLOCH version for protest?

    Haughm: "Agalloch isn't an outright political band and even if we were, we don't believe in conforming to someone elses form of protest. George W. Bush should never have been elected as president and continues to prove this sentiment every day. I knew from the day he was sworn in that this was going to be a long four years (perhaps eight if he can steal another election - and you know he'll try). His war on Iraq is a fucking joke! It has nothing to do with 'homeland security'. It is for control over foreign oil and a continuance of political domination over a region which has been harassed and demonized by the western world for decades. Frankly, I think America is a much bigger threat to the civilized world than Iraq is!"

Anderson: "It is pretty well known in America that Bush's family has a long history of crime, drugs and other such problems. I think he is a war hungry fool trying to outdo his daddy. This man does not represent us."

  

Well, a full year passed since the terrorist attacks on 11 September...what is America's state ...and what is the Americans' state of mind?

    Anderson: "The most ridiculous thing about the aftermath was the academic blacklisting that occurred in universities where professors attempted to 'enlighten' their classes about America's own terrorism against other countries. People like Noam Chomsky have become demonized as unpatriotic because they are critical of America. This is just plain wrong. If America continues on this path of extreme patriotism whilst supporting a president who talks about 'the homeland' all the time and wants to 'help' out other countries, the more America will look like Germany in the 1940s. I am opposed to the Americanization of any country. I value the America that Jack Kerouac wrote about, or that Charles Ives wrote music about, or that Jim Jarmusch makes films about. That is America. Bush IS NOT AMERICA."

Haughm: "People have become noticeably more political and angry. At first there was a lot of blind patriotism; many US flags flying high everywhere, a demonization of any country or culture who wasn't 'on our side', and many other forms of belligerent American behavior. Now, over a year later, it has progressed a bit. Yes, the blind patriotism is still there. Yes, the jackasses still fly their tattered and torn US flags from their gas-sucking SUVs they can't live without. However, people are becoming increasingly skeptical towards the Bush regime, which is especially noticeable in Portland. I have no doubt that more terrorist attacks will happen in the US and I think our government knows this and wants this - it gives more excuses to attack other countries and focus on changing their governments while 'the homeland' continues to rot from the inside. I think if America would mind it's own damn business, we wouldn't have these problems with terrorism to begin with. But no, America has to be the hero, the big brother, the big capitalist asshole who has to get involved with everyone else's conflict; especially if it involves the interests of our big businesses. 9/11 was a terrible, terrible event but I think it was, overall, a very good wake up call for America. People here had become so callus towards problems abroad and never thought that something like that would ever happen to us. Well it did... will America learn from it or will America continue it's arrogant, narrow view of the rest of the world...?"

 

I guess this should be close to enough... my friend. As far as I could predict, perhaps in 2005 might appear a new album. From this moment... how would you picture your future material?

    Haughm: "Our next full-length will most likely be released in mid 2004. In the meantime, we have a couple 7"s and another MCD planned. Our 7" releases will be more of a pure neo-folk style and the MCD will be a conceptual expressionistic piece. Our next album will likely follow an even more 'dark experimental rock' style than 'The Mantle' but it is too early to say for sure."

 

I do appreciate for your time and for approving sharing with me so many fascinating things. Best luck! There is one single question: where from does this name, AGALLOCH, comes?

    Haughm: "Agalloch or Agallochum is a form of resinous wood that gives an aromatic smoke when burned. Thanks for the interview..."

November, 2002.