Exclusive Interview: EARTH’s Dylan Carlson

The highly influential Earth just recently released their new full length LP, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II. It is a phenomenal piece of work and is one of my favorite records so far this year. I recently caught up with front man Dylan Carlson to shed some light on the making of the Angels series and more.

-Lane Oliver


Earth recently released part 2 of the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light saga. Could you tell me a little about both albums? Writing process, recording process, the meaning behind song names, etc.

Well the writing process consisted of 2 songs I had around since 2009 (Old Black, and Father Midnight). The other songs I had were riffs that were worked out on a 2 week west coast tour we did with WITTR. The
title track and all the songs (except for Multiplicity of Doors) were improvised in the studio, we just rolled tape and went for it. The riff for Multiplicity had floated around for awhile (originally played in 4/4) it sounded better as a waltz in 3/4, and grew in length in the studio. This album the music came before the song titles (it used to be the opposite. I used to have song titles in a notebook and would assign them to music). I also consciously went for titles that were shorter than in the past. They also seemed to reflect the nature of mortality (something I was very conscious
of during this, since my liver failed in the months before the tour/recording sessions, and I was diagnosed with a life ending/shortening illness). Also the songs reflect my increased interest in magic, folklore, and alchemy. I think we are finally realizing the emptiness of the materialistic/rationalist paradigm, science is foundering on the shoals of reality(hidden under the rubric of quantum mechanics) and the religions of the world are reduced to murderous fundamentalism. The emptiness of the society of the spectacle and endless consumption, are the only materialist options that people are presented with. Aristotelian dualistic either/or logic is at the root of it
all. I think that is why I have always liked titles that reflect the nullification or
juxtaposition of opposites. Also there are many references to lyrics from folk songs I find particularly enjoyable and numinous.

Both albums are distinctly different from each other. Was it a conscious decision to make two separate albums that have two different “feels” to them or did the musical differences manifest themselves organically as you were writing the albums?

They happened ‘organically’. We got to the end of the written material and had studio time left and just started rolling tape and improvising. The title track was the first of the improvised pieces and the lead in to the second part.

What possessed you to release the albums separated as opposed to releasing them in a dual disc set?

It would have been prohibitively expensive to produce for vinyl and
to purchase on vinyl. It would have been 5-6 discs on vinyl. A double or triple cd
The Angels series brought the addition of cello to the table. What influenced you to bring in Lori Goldston to perform cello and what do you think the cello adds to Earth’s music.

It was another happy accident, she was recommended and available
for a few shows when steve moore had other commitments and when he left she was already integrated with us as a player, and she is amazing. It manes us more melody oriented and nuanced. She is a great improviser and approaches cello in a unique way.

Stacey Rozich created outstanding artwork for both releases. How does the artwork tie in with the album’s title and theme?

I love the obsessional quality of the work (they are all demons) and the folkloric elements in her art.

How did you get involved with Southern Lord?

I met Greg during the hiatus when I lived in LA, he invited me to a goatsnake show and we kept in touch. In 2003 he invited us to play at sxsw and liked what he saw and said he was interested in the future of Earth instead of trying to re-issue the past.

Earth has evolved musically over the years. Do you ever have any desire to revisit previous Earth styles (such as the “drone doom”-like style of Earth 2)?

No.

You’ve been active in the music world for a number of years. At this point in your career do you feel you have to live up to any expectations?

Just keep being interesting and putting out something worthwhile.

What are the positives and negatives of being a musician in this day and age?

Live music is becoming increasingly important and the ‘recording artist’ is not as elevated above the live players. It is easier to be in contact with the enthusiasts that like your band. The downside is pirated copies and hacked streams releasing material before the street date, record stores are vanishing, tape and tape oriented studios are
increasingly hard pressed. I think we offer ‘products’ that have a value to them not found in purely digital media which still allows us to sell actual physical copies, something major labels can’t or won’t do. The downside to being accessible is some people hold it against you, it seems to happen more in America, but they feel somehow cheated when they realize you are a ‘normal’ person, some people want the mystique or image over the reality. It has never been an easy road to have a music career, it is a weird alchemy of luck as much as hard work, it is in constant flux.

You are also currently working on your first solo effort. Could you tell me a little bit about it?

It will involve versions of scotch/english folk songs/ballads overlaid with
field recordings around human interaction with the fair-folk, as well as a dvd of the trip and a book illustrating the lyrics and encounters, as well as the english cunning-folk tradition(magical practitioners who often worked with fairies in the early modern era 15-1600′s to the 1800′s). I am speaking of the real fair-folk (ambivalent and potentially dangerous) as opposed to the victorian and modern infantilized tinker-bell like winged thingies. You can read about the genesis of the project on my blog at http://drcarlsonalbion.wordpress.com/ .

You started a Kickstarter project page for your solo album that just recently met its funding goal. Congrats! What possessed you to take your project to Kickstarter?

It ended up that way after discussions with the label and what was possible for them to do, plus the specialist nature of the project seemed like something I should do on my own.

Are there any other upcoming plans for Earth? Any upcoming tour dates?

We are touring the UK/EU in March into April, then possibly Australia/Japan in high summer, full US in the early/middle Fall.

Are there any new music acts or albums you have been into lately? The Smoke Fairies ‘Through Low Light and Trees’, the Unthanks ‘Last’, the new P.J. Harvey ‘Let England Shake’. Also Rob St. John, Alasdair Roberts. James Blackshaw. Graveyard, liked Yob, heard some the other day at tattoo shop. Oh, and of course Wolves In the Throne Room. Jessika and Eyvind, o Paon, Mt.Eerie. Your Heart Breaks. Master Musicians of Bukake. Cold Lake, Lo-Hums. Tiny Vipers.

Final question: What is your favorite thing about being apart of Earth and creating music?

I love music and I love playing it for people, and I love traveling, and it beats coal-mining.

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