This is the first interview for Asva right?! Will you still answer some questions about Burning Witch or your other bands?
Sure, no problem.
What happened to Burning Witch in the end?
Burning Witch was having a remarkably difficult time gaining an audience in the USA. Edgy 59 really craved a great deal of attention and I think was looking for a larger audience. Stephen had taken a job in England and that brought about a long period of down time... Over the course of that time we all found other things to do and just moved on really. For me Sunn came about and then Goatsnake, other stuff followed for all of us. There's still very casual talk of another Burning Witch incarnation but Edgy's pretty hard to find these days and without him there's really no sense screwing around with it at all. We are all friendly towards one another though; B.R.A.D. and I have Asva, Stephen helps with layouts. Asva also has played a few shows with Khanate.
And then Asva arises from the ashes. Tell us more about this project, or should I say band?
Band would be correct. Brad asked if I'd like to do some music with him so I broke out the tape machine and started writing some things. The Caprichos track was just a bunch of shorter pieces I'd written that kind of strung together easily on my recording machine. It ended up being pretty good after we got into a real studio and tracked. We had sent my roughs to Dylan Carlson and we talked on the phone a bit, seemed like we were on the same page so in he came and laid down the wicked guitar you hear on that track. The guy BLEW MY MIND when he did it!
Dylan is busy with Earth right now and that's where his priorities (rightly) lie. Brad and I wanted to have a band and play this music live so John Schuller was a friend of Brad's, a cat I'd met at the studio who really dug the music and we liked each others company... he fit right in. Then Troy Swanson was recommended as a great organist who actually owns a Hammond and he was into the stuff, but I think he felt my organ parts needed help (I admit to being a really bad keyboardist, today I'm writing some new material, putting tape on the keys so I can remember the notes) and really ran with my fairly simplistic ideas. Trey Spruance heard the Asva stuff we were working on when he was in Seattle doing some music for his Secret Chiefs project with Randall Dunn, our engineer, tour manager, sound guy. He liked the clean guitars... Randall asked him if he'd like to play on the upcoming release (Futurists Against the Ocean) and ever since he's been very instrumental in the Asva sound, a very creative, solid, friend. Jessika Kenney was the last addition... I had overdubbed some 11th century chanting by Hildegard on one of the tracks we had recorded. It sounded great! Randall and I talked about just running it as a sample live but Randall also suggested Jessika as an actual member. Oh boy can she sing... beautifully. She's something else. The first time I'd met her she looked a lot like Annie Oakley, a bonnet, long country looking dress, glasses. As we were chatting, mid-sentence she quickly fell into a low crouch and for an instant snarled an oath, something in Latin. Then stood back up and resumed our conversation. She's entirely unpredictable. This group of people is what makes up Asva.
What is a “Asva” actually?
It's a Sanskrit word meaning 'Horse', more specifically a horse that is under the employee of a human, having a rider, plowing, etc.
You have just released a limited picture disk, with on the flipside a track by Burning Witch. Tell us more about both tracks.
The Burning Witch track was recorded at the same time as the rest of the Rift Canyon Dreams LP at Bob Langes place in Seattle. The line up at the time was Edgy, Stephen, Brad, and myself. The track Rift Canyon Dreams was left off the records, we just felt that for one thing we had a lot of material already, enough for a long ass cd and also the performance wasn't stellar. When we dug it out and re-mixed Randall Dunn really thought about it, knew what needed to happen. The fuck-ups are there for anyone to hear but the resulting mix is representative of what BW was about. Heaviness!
Like I mentioned earlier the Caprichos track by Asva came about with a little prodding from Brad. I had some music that just needed assembly and the song was really just a matter of sitting down and doing it. Now Dylan Carlsons take on it was so far removed from the guitars I had originally recorded, really, Dylan just listened to it at home, wrote these two amazing parts and cut the thing in about two hours. That's not easy on an 18 minute long track. We recorded at Aleph Studio, in Randall Dunn and Mell Dettmers basement. There's a 16-track two-inch analogue tape machine in there and the room sounds great. (The new record was tracked almost in total at Aleph, but Jessika, being allergic to cats had to track vocals at The Craft (Matt Chamberlands place) and Avast Studios) Back to Caprichos: So we tracked at Aleph and mixed at Avast, a beautiful place with a fully automated Neve. Even with automation it took Randall, Mell, and I 17 hours to mix that track, a long day!
Why was the BW track on the flipside, why not another Asva song??
I hadn't written another track yet and we wanted the record to be heard. Burning Witch has an audience built in so it seemed like a good idea and in retrospect it was.
Where would you say do you get your musical influences from for Asva?
Krystopf Penderecki, Carl Orff, and there's loads of other artist's whose music carries something for me. The Fall, Radiohead, some electronica, Miles Davis, Zeppelin, Clinton, James Brown, lots of old sappy stuff (I'm a sucker for AM radio oldies, Kingston Trio's 'Scotch and Soda', etc...) I like the repetitive nature of rap, UltraMagnetic MC's, Public Enemy. But really the stuff of life is the primary influence. Books, paintings, the shit that fills my day to day. Girlfriend, house payments, bills, politics. Its all hard to live up to/with... writing and playing this music is a breath away from it all, release. There's a new track I'm working on titled 'A Game in Hell, Hard Work In Heaven'. I think that says it all.
I read some newsgroups and people were a bit complaining about not receiving their copies fast enough… Your chance to elaborate the how and why of this.
Wow! My chance! The split is a labor of love to be sure. Matt Chen (who's original art is what graces the inside of the split) and myself screen printed all of them, seven colors total. Then I hand cut each and put them together one at a time in my kitchen. This takes a long time, really I can only do about 20 in a full day. Besides my job, keeping the house from falling down around us, more of that stuff of life cropping up its just a huge task. But I've finally caught up with the orders and have plans for the new release as well. It's hard work but really fun and I love getting a batch packaged and sent! Only once has some guy complained to the point I sent him his money back; I'm not aware of anybody being disappointed upon receiving it, even with the extraordinarily long wait.
The artwork is amazing, hand folded and all! You find that important, great artwork on your releases?
Yes, I sure do, and we intend to continue releasing packaging that utilizes original art and unorthodox containment methods.
And you also made sure people could only buy two copies only. Why was that?
Have you seen the E-bay prices for early Sunn or Burning Witch releases? We figured if people were limited to how many they could buy letting a copy go to someone you didn't know would be a little harder, so maybe the idea of making big money wouldn't seem all that tempting. I think the people who really want it to keep are the ones who bought it, those who bought two seem to be giving the second copy to friends, and somehow it feels kinder to me. I did hear of a copy going for $135, a real shame considering I still have copies for sale at $20. If that poor (rich?) soul would get a hold of me I'd like to give him or her something; a t-shirt or demo, something to make up for that grand mistake.
Is there any deeper meaning to the lyrics if there are any?
'Caprichos' has vocals but no words, the emotional content I think is embedded in the music and although lyrics could have been in it sometimes words are a distraction and in this case they would have been. 'Futurists Against the Ocean' contains four tracks, two of which are instrumental with only textural vocals by Brad. The two tracks with lyrics feature both Brad and Jessika. 'Fortune' is sung in Latin and is based on a 15th century text, a quandary; to kill the dragon you must first kill the dragon's brother. 'By the Well of Living and Seeing' is an interpretation of the book of poetry of the same title by Charles Reznikoff. The idea behind the music of Asva is to open up an interior dialog within the listener, if there are lyrics they are meant to further establish that dialogue. I would imagine the Asva listener to be sensitive enough to respond thoughtfully or otherwise, but surely to respond.
I think (drone-) doom is on its highest peek nowadays, do you recommend any bands besides Asva?
Well I hope it hasn't reached its zenith! That's a difficult question for me because I really don't listen to much doom/drone music. I would recommend the earlier mentioned composers, reading a lot, paying attention to the political mess. These are hard times, there's a lot out there to be influenced by. Musically anything is possible and its important to avoid the pitfalls of sounding like those that have gone before you.
And would you still recommend Sunn0)))??
You just finished a tour, and with an amazing staff I must say! Have you recorded these shows, plans for dvd's and so on?
Someone has bootlegged one of those shows, Portland I think. We went out with Khanate and Earth, Asva opened the night. We have no plans to release any of it, although there are some pretty descent recordings that I've heard. It was just a few West Coast shows. We have a US tour in the works and hopes for Europe this summer. The above line up is the touring lineup as well.
I also was amazed to hear there's already a bootleg circulating, what do you think of that?
I haven't heard it. If anybody knows how to find it please write, or whoever did it could send along a few copies. If it sounds good, cool. The songs we did on this past tour really were far from worked out.
You have already recorded new stuff, no?
The new full length is called 'Futurists Against the Ocean', the CD is a co-release on Dos Fatales and Web of Mimicry. Four tracks, 'Kill the Dog, Tie Them Up, Then Take the Money', 'Zaum; Beyonsense', 'Fortune', and 'By The Well of Living and Seeing'. It should be out by mid-March and then Dos Fatales will be doing a limited vinyl release as well with Zaum; Beyonsense switched out for a new track that features Randall Dunn on Harmonium and Eyvind Kang doing the string arrangement. I'm working on ideas for the next release now.
Now some few fast questions:
Was the year 2004 a good year for metal?
No, Dime got killed.
What were the highlights for you in 2004?
Seeing and hearing the heaviest music ever, Samba School, in Brazil. Nothing like it, nothing has turned my ears further inside out.
What were the absolute lows for you in 2004?
The man/woman of the year is?
Howard Dean, he struck me as being the USA's only real hope for decency. My girlfriend Kelly. You wouldn't imagine the amount of shit she puts up with and still loves me.
Loser of the year is?
Rumsfeld... what a jack-ass. His legacy says it all.
What would you like to see different in 2005?
I should quit smoking as much as I do. Also would like to see Hummers taken off the market.
Vinyl or CD?
Vinyl... sounds great and much better to look at.
The best piece of vinyl I have is:
Miles Davis - 'Sketches of Spain'. An absolutely beautiful record, and Gill Evans just kills me.
The best piece of music I have is:
Krystopf Penderecki's Polish Requiem. It's just astounding from start to finish.
Doom bands I recommend people before dying:
I'm no authority, best listen to Asva although the label 'doom' isn't really fitting.
Bands I recommend people before passing?
Final question: is there any chance of seeing you in Europe soon?!
I sure hope so, if anybody knows an agent who could give us a leg up please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!