Sunday, December 21, 2014

Interview from August 2013

Pretty sure the zine this was for did not see the light of day.

Some of the answers are no longer relevant.

From what I’ve read, it was pretty clear The Endless Blockade had come to an end long before it actually came to an end. What brought about such a definite end?

Well the definitive end was Edgar moving to Bermuda, but the life of Blockade had run out a while before that. I could feel my own interest in what Blockade was growing into become more and more intense whilst at the same time other people’s interest was waning.

I think it’s safe to say that Carroll has no interest in being any kind of a vocalist and live focal point anymore and some of later our shows were became increasingly hostile because of this. The last era of the band was fun, but it was slowly becoming some awful pantomime thing where people who’d seen us before were wondering who would be the first person to get an elbow to the head and at a few shows me and Bloomer would have to keep an eye on who was about to kick the shit out of our singer as he plowed his way through anyone trying to mosh or have some kind of a good time.

The real reason we split is because the genuine misanthropists in the band had absolutely no cause to be playing to people that wanted to see us.

From the fact Column of Heaven use the same logo/font type as The Endless Blockade, I would guess that you want to link the two bands and would want people to view Column Of Heaven as the continuation of The Endless Blockade?

It’s a continuation in the sense that I’m still exploring the ideas I was interested in throughout Blockade, but I think they manifest in a number different ways. This is partly because Column of Heaven is 50% people that weren’t in Blockade and come with their own take on things.

I don't really see as much power violence in Column of Heaven; I think it has more in common with grindcore.

Both the COH releases start with “To those who came before, to those that will come after…” in different forms. Will this be COH’s version of The Endless Blockade title track? 

No, definitely not, both pieces are sections of banishing rituals and I felt both releases needed them, future ones probably won’t.

After the Mission (the start of Mission from God) was performed on the roof of my house in the most intense lightning storm I’d seen in years. I finished it and had to get inside because it was getting dangerous being out there. The sounds that start and end the record is the storm I was standing in.

Altars (the opener to Ecstatically Embracing all that we Habitually Suppress), is part banishing ritual and part acknowledgement that we're just one point on a line that began years before we were playing music and will continue for years after we stop. It's a public declaration of our limitations as individual actors in a larger scene that transcends our own selfish interests in participating.

You’re someone who’s been involved in Punk/Hardcore for a decent amount of time, and in two continents, and I would imagine you’ve witnessed some pretty obvious changes in those times. Do you think things have changed for better or worse, or are just different altogether now?

Honestly I think the biggest changes are that now there’s always a bunch of people gazing into the abyss of their iPhones at every show now, and by the time the second band of the night is three songs in I’m usually feeling like I want to go home and have a lie down.

There’s always been really amazing, life changing bands and people out there; only an idiot who shouldn’t be here would deny that even today that’s the case. And similarly there’s always been dick heads, shit people, terrible ethics, and generally lethargy and moronism present in varying levels in the scene. The trick is to minimise the negative sides impact on your enjoyment as much as possible.

Sort of continuing on from that, since leaving the UK have you kept tabs on the scene over here? What do you think of it today?

I’ve kept very minimal tabs on what’s going on, only really following what my friends are doing and as they’re now mostly middle aged men there’s not too much activity there.

I don’t think it’s really very important what some doddering old fart like me thinks about what the kids are up to these days to be honest. Following that route just turns you into a massive wanker– see Stephen Blush – convinced that the world ended after 1986 and everything that’s happened since then has just been a series of ephemeral events with no significant meaning.

One of the great strengths of punk and hardcore will always be in the temporary – and occasionally semi-permanently like the 1 in 12 – taking of space. Hardcore is an eminently social youth culture and the creation of temporary, yet distinct and meaningful social spaces is something hardcore has always done very well and will no doubt continue to do well at, regardless of old timers deciding things just aren’t the same as back in the day.

Powerviolence is a ridiculous term and incredibly hard to define due to the massive variation in the sounds of the original PV bands, but it seems in the past few years become more and more just used for any hardcore with fast parts. What do you think of the way the term is used today?

I’ve pretty much stopped caring altogether at this point as the debate’s been going on for about 15 years now as to what power violence does or doesn’t mean and what’s allowed inside its borders. The phrase has always been an incredibly territorial one and the arguments are less about how power violence is defined and more about who is the genuine article initiated into the true inner mysteries of power violence. At this point in my life none of this shit interests me or inspires me in anyway.

I think power violence these days pretty much only means a band that plays fast and then plays slow. Tempo is probably the least vital thing to base a band on, let alone an entire genre, so I pretty much glaze over at the kind of talk that attempts to define the audio aesthetics of power violence.

Worst is that there appears to be a significant amount of bands that describe themselves as fastcore now, which just seems like some free-floating mush of nothingness, unattached to any deeper musical tradition (even less so than power violence).

You’ve said you only release things on tape as it’s quick and cheap. Do you think some “dead” formats, such as tape, are glorified now?

We need some context here, 10 people glorifying something is still only 10 people.

We live in the Greater Area of Toronto along with some 6,000,000 other people and would be very hard pressed to sell more than 2,000 copies of a release in any format globally, or play to more than 150 people these days. This scene is of totally marginal interest to the world.

I suspect that behind your question you’re actually asking me if I think people have “honest” motivations in releasing tapes.

Column Of Heaven uses a lot of symbolism, which all has a lot of meaning and relevance around it. Do you ever worry that it will be cast off and misunderstood in a time when a lot of symbols are used, re-used and misused by hardcore bands?

We live in a world of symbols, and some musical genres are just ways of representing the world using a slightly more obscure vocabulary of symbols than the ones in general circulation.

Hardcore and punk have always been about symbols, from the logos of CRASS, Conflict, Bastard Noise, Void, Fucked Up and more. Hardcore and punk have very specific dress codes; even in rejecting those codes people are still generally recognisable as belonging to one of the many faces of our culture. If you're immersed in the scene and its language you can spot others and decode at least a part of them based on how they present themselves. There's often a difference between someone wearing CRASS and Bastard Noise badges and someone wearing CRASS and Exploited badges, and this can be read by the smart observer (though this is obviously over simplified and not foolproof).

I'm not talking about some kind of notion of essentialised character traits (e.g., all black people are great dancers, all white people are shit at basket ball, all English people are professional complainers), but of minute differences in approach to a culture that we voluntarily belong to, and how we, as insiders in that culture, place greater meaning on the symbols we utilise than outsiders do.

My grandma can't tell the difference between Avenged Sevenfold and Brainbombs for example, let alone the difference between a spiked, black denim clad kid in an Amebix shirt and a kid in a leather jacket with Mutiilation painted on the back.

One of the ways people make themselves stand out in our tiny little music world is to use symbols previously untouched by others in the scene and claim them as their own. It’s hard to really own a symbol (particularly if you appropriated it from somewhere else in the first place) and before long others will use them in their own aesthetics as well. Who is or is not the authentic article is a game perpetually being played out in all subcultures; from current accusations of hipsters, to older accusations of sell outs or posers.

The debate on symbols is just another aspect of this back and forth over who is “real” (i.e., whose motivations are pure) and who is somehow a clueless interloper. Sometimes these discussions have merit, frequently they don't, but they always, without fail, look idiotic and frivolous to outsiders.

And if you reappropriate symbols that are not necessarily yours to use, you have to be prepared for outsiders to ask exactly what the hell you're playing at using their symbols in your silly little music game.

Column Of Heaven is a band that doesn’t perform live very much, but you recently embarked on a string of three shows, how were they, particularly the collaboration with The Rita (if that happened in the end)? Also, is it a conscious decision to only play live rarely or is it more a case of real life getting in the way?

The Rita is always amazing and we were ecstatic that he performed with us in Vancouver.

Regarding the lack of live outings, I don't have the energy, money, time or inclination to play a lot of shows, and ultimately, the kind of music we play just isn't all that popular and I'd rather we picked our shows, than play with every crummy positive hardcore band that comes through town simply because we're asked to fill the bill.

Having said all that we managed to play six shows in the  first 12 months we decided to play live (which was originally not a goal), and managed a short tour of the West coast of the US in our second year, which isn’t that bad.

Column Of Heaven has a lot of religious reference, the band name itself, the name of the LP and so on. Is there a religious theme running through COH, or are these titles referring to something in a different way, in fitting with the theological noncognitivism discussed in The Endless Blockade?

The only real religious aspects to the band are my own personal interests coming to the fore here and there. I will invoke theological noncognitivism – which simply means that the word “god” is meaningless – here and proclaim that I don’t believe in a transcendent god, lest anyone think I’m some religious type hiding in a Hatred Surge shirt.

The band name is a reference to the Axis Mundi, and ties into my personal philosophy and approach to music and the culture surrounding music; that it should be something you use to both centre yourself, and also use to access new ways of thinking.

The name of the record, Mission from God, comes from serial killer, pathological liar, sexual sadist, and all round reprehensible human being Peter Sutcliffe and doesn’t really have much to do with religion.

The new album is based around Peter Sutcliffe. You recently put a fairly comprehensive piece about the motivation for choosing this subject matter online, which is of course a very sensitive matter. From how clear you were that this wasn’t another grind/noise release glorifying sexual violence/serial killers, it is pretty obvious you didn’t want to do that. How worried were you that this release would be misinterpreted or cause unwanted offence?

We haven’t been particularly worried about this release causing offense. The fact of the matter is that we’re using a backdrop of genuine pain and misery from recent history to launch our own high falutin’ concept album, thus an accusation of exploitation would not necessarily be without merit I have to say.

Someone could convincingly make the case that as Sutcliffe brought real suffering into the world writing a grindcore record about him is a ridiculous and crass proposition.

Glorification was not our intention and Sutcliffe is only really the backdrop for a wider look at some of the awful stuff out there in the world and how our social and physical environments are intrinsically linked and shape our experiences of the world.

Continuing on the theme of the new record, in the online article it is mentioned that it is a catharsis for those who had grown up in the shadow of Sutcliffe. What made you choose now to write this album, do you feel the subject matter is particular relevant to the current climate or was it more that it was something that had been with you since childhood, and this catharsis couldn’t wait?

The reference to catharsis was Kristiansen’s, personally I don’t really believe that there’s anything valid in catharsis; you empty yourself, you fill yourself up again. Big deal. See the lyrics to Binge/ Purge from Ecstatically Embracing...

On a personal level I think a modified version (modified because I’d make a terrible Christian) of the concept of kenosis is a more helpful way of understanding this idea of emptying yourself of strife in order to reach a better state.

The nauseating waves of misanthropy and disgust I have experienced in my life come from somewhere and have been present for as long as I can remember. When I was younger I internalised the feelings too much, when I was a little older I probably externalised them too often sometimes; neither are particularly healthy ways of being in the world.

Anyway, I shoulder a small part of this busted outlook on the physical and larger social spaces I inhabited as a child. I say a small part, because even if my early world did not have the spectres of Brady, Hindley, Sutcliffe, Fairley, Bell, or Nilsen I’m sure I’d still be exactly the same person I am today.

How long did the record take to write? It seems like a very carefully considered record, and can’t imagine it was rushed together.

The writing was pretty quick, but we get together fairly infrequently so it took time to get everyone up to speed. Recording took a while as I did the whole thing myself and I'm not particularly skilled in that area; this is not a slick grindcore record.

The consideration that you hear is probably that I’ve spent years thinking about this record, and how I was going to deal with the subject and experience of death and misery that I was made aware of (like so many of us are) as a child.

The next release is going to be a split with Radioactive Vomit, what can we expect from that? Is there any set theme for that record?

Our material for that split is two fairly straight forward songs in about five minutes. The record is about the Roman emperor Heliogabalus.

The Holy Things 7" due out on Iron Lung records at the same time has a theme that is a take on devil worship; that the negative sides of our selves are always present and occasionally need to be acknowledged, personified (as devils), and let out and indulged in controlled situations before being shoved back deep inside so they don’t eat us alive from within.

I know besides COH you are involved with other projects, such as Death Agonies, what non-COH plans do you have for the near future?

List is completely out of date and Death Agonies is no longer a going concern. 

I think the Death Agonies/ Sete Star Sept LP will be the final release from that project, time to move on.

This is as full a list as I can think of that all members of Column of Heaven are currently involved in:

            •           Abyss
            •           Godstopper
            •           Urine Cop
            •           Ilmestys (?)
            •           Pick Your Side
            •           Vince Lombardi Experience
            •           Coloniser
            •           Black Iron Prison (?)
            •           Slow Light (?)

There are some one offs here and there that aren't worth mentioning.

I deliberately wanted this band to be people I'm close with, but who had other musical outlets so they wouldn't be frustrated by Column of Heaven’s lack of activity or my autocratic approach to being in a band.