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Wolves In The Throne Room

Het was alweer een behoorlijke tijd geleden dat Wolves In The Throne Room een volwaardig black metalalbum maakte, maar met ‘Thrice Woven’ laat men zien dat men het nog steeds kan. De plaat is opgenomen in de zelfgebouwde studio van de band en word opgesierd met gastbijdragen van Steve Von Till en Anna Von Hausswolff, dus aan sfeer ontbreekt het absoluut niet. Drummer en tekstschrijver was net gearriveerd in Owl Lodge, de studio van de band, voor een dag vol muziek en interviews, toen hij via Skype contact maakte met Lords Of Metal.

Door: Martin | Archiveer onder black metal

Hi Aaron! It seems there was some kind of problem with the connection.
Well, you know how it goes with Skype. Sometimes there seems to be some kind of Gremlin, and imp that messes with you.

Before we start talking about the new album, let’s talk about the past few years. Wolves In The Throne Room have been on sort of a hiatus for a while. What have you done in the meantime?
Well… life. It’s funny that for the audience it may feel like a hiatus, but for us… we live this music. We never really take a break, and we’re always working on it, one way or the other. When we finished ‘Celestite’, which was a studio-oriented, synthesizer-driven record, we knew the next step for us would be to build our own recording studio and record our next album at home. We live in a very beautiful place. It’s our blessing, our energy source, our inspiration, being in these woods. I took a bit of time off to gather some energy and inspiration, just by being in the woods every day. I hadn’t taken any time off from touring and recording in ten years, probably. I used it to recharge and get some visions. When the time was right, we started building the recording studio; building the walls, hanging the sheet rock, doing the wiring, getting the equipment, getting things tuned up. Around December 2015 we started getting serious about playing guitar and drums every day to write ‘Thrice Woven’.

Indeed, ‘Celestite’ is quite a different album. Why did you pursue this direction?
When I look back on it, I realise that this album allowed us to use many of the techniques that we needed for ‘Thrice Woven’. It had a lot to do with the way we approached the studio. We use the studio as an instrument. ‘Celestite’ was the first time that we were having that spark of inspiration in our home, in our own studio, which is this place called Owl Lodge, which is where I am right now. It’s a very special place for us.

It seems like you really needed to have your own studio this time around, right?
Definitely. When I listen to the new record I feel the energy of this home, of this cedar forest. It sits in everything to me.

Did it also change your approach to writing music? Now, I guess you could go to your own studio whenever you felt like it.
It didn’t necessarily change the songwriting. Every time we wrote an album we had a place to go, whether it was a cold basement somewhere or a room in someone’s filthy punk house. We always had a place to write and to make the riffs, the raw material. Recording is just a different phase.

How did you work in the studio this time around? You speak of using the studio as an instrument. Can you elaborate?
You can mainly hear it in the synthesizer parts, the ambient parts that are going on. We also use the guitars to create ambience and atmosphere. We create those sounds in the studio with microphones and effect boxes, tape machines, synths. They’re all working as this organism. We learned many of these techniques from Randall Dunn, who is the producer on this record.

What struck me about the production is that it’s very pure. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of compression going on. It’s almost a seventies sound. Was that intentional?
We were thinking about death metal. There is a certain kind of rawness in some death metal productions from the nineties that was an inspiration for me.

Wow, it’s funny how different our approaches are! Many contemporary metal production are compressed to bits and brickwalled until there’s no more life in them, and that’s just something that seems very far removed from what you did.
I know what you mean. That has a lot to do with the sound of the drums. We didn’t really alter the way they sound. It’s pretty much the sound of the drum kit in the room and me beating the shit out of it. Usually a lot of the guitars and drums get processed by computers to sound a certain way. That’s fine, but it’s not what we do.

How do you record? Is it the two of you trying to record everything in as few takes as possible or do you just gradually build it up?
Ah, now we’re getting technical, haha. You must be a recording engineer.

Well, I do some stuff in my spare time, hehe.
Well, we just piece these albums together bit by bit, because it’s just me and Nathan (Weaver, guitar & vocals) recording everything. Kody Keyworth came in near the end of the recordings and added some guitar, but mainly it was just the two of us.

Well, now that you mention Kody… Maybe I’m being extremely simplistic here, but the album title is ‘Thrice Woven’, there are three band members. That seems to make a lot of sense. I this where that title came from?
I don’t know, man. Naming our albums is pretty much the last thing we do. Me and Kody and Nathan were just driving back from Seattle, where we put the finishing touches on the mix, with Randall at Avast Studio. That was the time to name the record, in that hour that it took to drive home. ‘Thrice Woven’ is the name that came. It’s an image. It’s undeniable, and it is what it is.

band image

Could you tell me something about the lyrical inspiration?
Me and Nathan write all the lyrics. We have different approaches. Once the guitars are done and the album is really put together, I just listen to the record and close my eyes. I write down the images that I see. When I look at the lyrics it’s a journey for me too, because I learn more about them the more I read them. They’re stories that I love. I guess you hear that in the mythological influence, just like the images on the cover of the record. They are stories and myths from really old times, that Nathan and I love. They show us so much about how to live a good human life and how to be in a good way with the earth, and how to have gratitude.

There are several guest contributions on this album. Anna von Hausswolff plays a significant part of this record, and so does Steve Von Till. How did they get involved?
Randall brought them on.

Did they get complete creative freedom?
We talked to them both, explaining the images we had. There were some differences though. In the case of Anna I had written lyrics for that part. I sent her those and then she translated them into her own way of saying them, in English, and then we decided she should sing those same things in Swedish. Essentially, the lyrics got translated three times, but the heart is still there.

She ended up being of significant importance for the atmosphere on the album. Did you expect that?
We did. She is a star and we knew she would bring so much magic to this record.

Definitely. Now the big question is, of course, how will you be able to pull that off live. You would have to bring her on tour.
Hehe, that would be amazing. I think we will play together some time. We’ll see.

I would definitely be looking forward to that! Speaking of live shows, you played at Roadburn earlier this year. How was that?
It was really early in the live band coming together. If I look at it from an artistic point of view, comparing where the band was then and where the band is now, it is a different universe. We are on tour in the U.S. right now. These new songs are coming together.

You played that show with three guitars. Is that the line-up you’re sticking to for shows?
Yeah. Playing third guitar is our friend Peregrine Sommerville from the band Sadhaka, and playing keyboards and percussion is Brittany McConnell, who is in Wolvserpent.

And no bass. Why?
Brittany plays a Moog synthesizes, so that’s where the low end comes from.

Fair enough. You will be playing here in Europe again, very soon. What can you tell me about the tour?
The thing I am most excited about, is our new stage show. We’ve had these five banners with us for… shit man, we painted them back when we did ‘Celestial Lineage’. We kept them with us on stage for years. This is the first time that we will be bringing new banners, and we have these beautiful wooden and metal stage ornaments, that we’ve built from trees out of this forest, to bring around with us in the U.S. We will do the same thing in Europe; we will have to find some really special trees to take around with us to all the shows.

When we spoke quite a few years ago you told me that you had the idea of building your own PA system and organise your own shows in a variety of different locations. Have you made that happen?
Ow man, that takes me back! That was the ‘Celestial Lineage’ tour. We did it. It was insane! I wish we had more video footage of that tour. It was an incredible experience to do it all fucking DIY again. It’s a lot of work to bring your own PA system, set it up, and all. We weren’t playing regular venues, but instead we were playing parking lots, barns, auto welding shops… basically random places. Often there wasn’t enough electricity. Loading that shit up was crazy, but it was a great time.

Did you step away from that approach?
Yes and no. We have a booking agent again, but it’s still pretty much the same thing. It’s always full on with us.

Here in Europe, some bands think out of the box with their shows. Amenra, for instance, organized some shows in the woods, in caves, etcetera. Would that be something for Wolves In The Throne Room? It would be an ideal setting.
That’s a really good idea! Do you have any ideas for places we could go to? We have played in a cave before, outside of Salzburg. It was really great.

Apart from having your own PA system and organising your own gigs, and having your own recording studio, you also have your own record label now. I suppose this gives you a lot more control over every aspect of the band now?
For sure it made our clan a lot stronger. It’s just more powerful, and more true. It’s a lot of work, but it gets easier as you learn the tricks of the trade.

Is there anything else you have planned for the near future?
We have a side project called Drow Elixir. That’s mostly me and Kody working on stuff in the studio. We are going to release something pretty soon. Apart from that, a lot of touring. We will be bringing the new Wolves In The Throne Room stage show to Europe for the first time, so it will be a new era for us.

Anything else beside that?
You just gotta be there!

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