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In navolging van 'The Grey EP' uit 2004 komt het Amerikaanse folk/black gezelschap Agalloch deze maand, precies vier jaar later met de stilistische tegenhanger 'The White EP'. Op dit tot twee duizend exemplaren gelimiteerde tussendoortje brengt de band een prachtige collectie van overgebleven akoestisch en ambient werk uit de periode 2004-2007 ten gehore. Net als op haar reguliere albums weet de band ook hierop unieke melancholische sferen te creëren, maar nu zonder harde gitaren en screams. Alle reden dus voor een korte update met zanger/gitarist John Haughm.

Door: Richard G. | Archiveer onder black metal

Exactly four years after the release of 'The Grey EP', Agalloch released 'The White EP' on February 29 2008. What is the thematic connection between these two EPs? How do the colours in the titles relate to the contents?
The thematic reference was mainly to the colours of their relative albums and the sonic aesthetic of the music. 'The Grey EP' had reworked and destroyed, industrialized and ugly versions of two songs from “The Mantle”. It was something we needed to do, despite the overall negative fan reaction. 'The White EP' represents the white and black outer artwork on “Ashes Against The Grain” and the pure neo-folk aesthetic of the music. Together the EPs create a sonic duality, together with the very similar layouts.

Is there any reason for these EPs being released on the special leap year day of February 29th?
No. I guess that was some sort of creative commerce that Vendlus thought of. You know, leap year occurs every four years and these EPs were released four years apart. Clever…

When can we expect the 'Black EP', or will the series of colour EPs end here?
No Black EP, no Green EP, no Pink EP, and no continuation of the series furthermore. It was meant to be a duality of sonic opposites.

'The White EP' contains folk and ambient work that you wrote between 2004 and 2007. What were your reasons for not using the material on 'Ashes Against The Grain'?
“Pantheist” is the only song that was penned for “Ashes…” and as the album was being created, I realized that song would sound quite out of place so I saved it for later use. I'm glad I decided that because I feel this song works much better on 'The White EP'.

Did you put all the material that you had left on 'The White EP'? How did you make a selection?
Yeah, some material was leftover but a few songs were written specifically for the EP. “Sowilo Rune” and “Birch Black / White” being these songs.

The release of 'The White EP' is limited to 2000 copies, which makes it all the more special and a real gift for the true fan. But this limitation will also leave a lot of fans disappointed. Why not make it a bit more easily obtainable?
Because these EPs are limited studies and they are meant to stay as such. We are planning a vinyl version for both with some nice extras so watch for that...

In the winter of 2007 Agalloch did its first tour through Europe together with Novembers Doom, Saturnus and Thurisaz. How was it? What did you think of the European crowds?
The tour was really, really great. I enjoyed it very much even if our performances weren't perfect every night. It seems like the European audiences care more about the feeling and passion a band puts into their performance, you know, instead of here in the states where you'll have some jerkoffs count how many technical mistakes you made and tell you about it after the show. The venues were all very nice, hospitable, and professional and we were treated like valued artists, which was a nice change. I enjoy playing shows in Europe much more than in the States. Frankly I don't care if we ever tour the USA again. There are select places here that are nice and up to par to what we experience abroad but overall, playing in the USA is pretty awful.

What are your best memories from that tour?
Heh…too many. Denmark had a lot of nice memories. From watching “Terminator 2 – appropriately dubbed in German on the bus during the drive, to having my first Smorrebrod and Akvavit on the ferry ride, to nearly having a heart-attack when I found Thule's “Frostbrent” LP at a record shop in Copenhagen, to getting stuck in Christiania and all the members of the bands physically lifting a car out of the way while yelling “I'll be back!” in German. The day off in Prague was also fantastic. I love that city. Other nice memories included meeting and having coffee with Renate of Amon Duul II in Munich, meeting Nueun Welten in Berlin, and being visited by Anneke and Rene of The Gathering in Hengelo.

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I visited three of your shows in that tour and I enjoyed them all very much! However, I did wonder about one thing: why did you decide to spice or 'metal up' some of the more rustic introspective passage of 'In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion'?
In our rehearsals, we decided that part was a bit too awkward in a live situation so we changed it. The slower, introspective version works better on the album and the faster, more aggressive version works better live. We have made these slight modifications to other songs as well so audience gets treated to slightly different versions of the songs when we perform. Some people like it, some people don't.

Up to that tour Agalloch had only played a handful of shows. It seems you never really were a 'touring' band. Has that changed a bit in the meantime? How do you like life on the road?
For me, touring is a total escape from all of my normal life responsibilities. It's nice to get out and travel on a bus with friends, see new places, experience many different cultures, meet or visit distant friends, and play music. I wouldn't mind doing it more often, though I can't imagine it would be much fun to live out of a suitcase all year round. I certainly enjoy time completely away from music as well…

You are coming over to Europe for a show or two in March, will you be playing some material from 'The White EP'as well, or will you focus more on the 'harder' stuff?
Aye, just the harder stuff…material from the three full-lengths. We will be playing some songs that we didn't play on the last European visit, however…

At the moment part of Agalloch is also busy with a second band, Sculptured. I already heard some tracks and I really enjoyed them as well. How does the music of Sculptured relate to that of Agalloch?
It only relates as a band that shares members of Agalloch. The music and creative vision is completely different. It is the main creative outlet of our guitarist, Don Anderson.

A new Sculptured record will be released pretty soon what does this mean for Agalloch? When can we expect a new full-length?
I hope sometime in 2009 but we'll have to see. We like to take our time and make each album special. In the meantime there are several smaller projects and possible collaborations coming up as well as a DVD release later this year.

Are you already writing some new stuff? Can you already tell how it sounds?
Yeah, I have a lot of ideas, riffs, titles and such already in mind and on various demoed sources. When we return from Europe, Don and I are going to start sorting out this material as well as commence collaborating on more stuff. I definitely have a theme in mind and I want our next album to be a bit more difficult to get into than “Ashes” was.

Ok these were my questions for this short updater, thanks a lot for your time and hope to hear a lot more from you soon!
Thanks Richard for the interview. Perhaps I'll see you at the Biebob…

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