R. LOREN OF SAILORS WITH WAX WINGS/WHITE MOTH: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
It takes cojones to put two drastically different albums together at once, even more cojones to organize the contributions of two-dozen collaborators. In the case of R. Loren, whose two new projects Sailors with Wax Wings and White Moth were both released in October on Angel Oven Records, we’re not talking 24 random kids from the local high school brass band. The sonic mastermind, best known for his blurry experi-metal outfit Pyramids, contracted folks from Swans, Godflesh Slowdive, Unwound, My Dying Bride, Katatonia, Current 93, Frodus and Atari Teenage Riot and more. Many of them he was e-mailing out of the blue. That’s, like, post-cojones. No wonder the lengthy process of completing the two albums nearly drove Loren insane (more on that later).
But the iconic guest spots spread across these two albums are only a small part of what makes them special – indeed, the many contributions are naturally subsumed into each album’s whole, and that’s necessary for their absorbing power. Listen to the rapturous immersion of Sailors With Wax Wings, and the detailed digital anarchy of White Moth, and you’ll detect something greater than an assembly of musicians at work in the studio. Read on for Loren’s thoughts on the creation of, and concepts behind, the two albums.
Well, sort of. Sailors was the first result of the encounter that I had (the hallucinatory encounter) with the dead poet Stephen Crane – as ludicrous as that sounds. After that encounter, when I had envisioned the sound that would be Sailors with Wax Wings, I started to think “well, while I’m doing this and I have a label that’s willing to support me, I might as well execute this second vision that I had had for many years but never had the outlet for.” And so I just decided that I’d tackle both at once in terms of the recording process.
So when you’re saying you didn’t have the outlets for it, you’re saying over (I’m guessing) the 15 winters that you mentioned in the press release that this idea had slowly been germinating?
Yes, it slowly had been germinating, but I thought without the right label behind me, I couldn’t make it happen financially. From my end. It’s just been something that was filed in the back of my brain. As soon as I saw an opening for possibly aiding it to fruition, I decided that I would go for it.
Why was it that Sailors with Wax Wings came first rather than the other way around?
I think that was just because White Moth was probably . . . well I know it was, it had been germinating for so long. It was something that I really wanted to do. Ever since I saw Atari Teenage Riot at the Glass House in Pomona. There were like 50 people there. I had always wanted to execute some sort of digital programming-driven project. We used digital programming in Pyramids, but that’s more of a metal-leaning project as far as the percussion is concerned, and with this I really wanted something that was more electro (for lack of a better word).
That was definitely the older idea. Sailors was something that hit me all at once, and it was something that I really wanted to explore, almost as an extension of Pyramids in terms of lush textures and everything, but slowed way down almost to a tempo of a band like Low, with the male/female vocal dynamic.
I got really excited about that. That was the fire that lit under me to do this, at which point I kind of unearthed that digital concept that I had been wanting to do for so long. It was just an avalanche, I suppose. Sailors was something that I got really excited about and was the catalyst for doing something that I wanted to do for a long time before that.
You mentioned the more digital nature of White Moth. Clearly, there are electronics of some kind in pretty much everything that you’ve done: Pyramids, the record with Nadja, and Sailors with Wax Wings has plenty of electronic texturing in it. Does the kind of electronics that you’re using – like the Atari Teenage Riot stuff on White Moth – does that exist in the same sphere for you as all the more textural stuff that you do elsewhere? Or were you going for something completely different?
That’s an interesting observation that you make because I was initially going for something different. I wanted something with more of a punk aesthetic. More of an electronic/punk aesthetic like, and it just (through my own ideas and the people I surround myself with and collaborate with) morphed into a more textural recording. In a way, it’s the textures (I would say) are the common denominator between the projects. And kind of by default or coincidence, it seems that there are electronics involved.
In both of them.
So yeah. White Moth almost turned into a completely different record than I originally intended. Way back being inspired by Atari Teenage Riot, I thought “one day.” And still I feel like as much as I love the White Moth record, I failed in terms of achieving my goal of doing an Atari Teenage Riot project, because White Moth turned into something so much different than that, and I still applaud Atari Teenage Riot for leaving a void that has yet to be filled by anyone else no matter how hard people try. They really had something unique.
That’s amazing though, that this vision that you had fifteen years ago is now being realized with the very person that had inspired it.
That blows my mind still. I did not think I would get a response to that e-mail. [laughs] Trust me on that.
Tell me about that. Did you know most of your collaborators beforehand? And were any of them skeptical, or did any of them outright refuse to work with you?
There were some people that I was hoping would be onboard and just couldn’t really execute it. They tried, they wanted to do it. I really wanted, for instance, Nina Nastasia.
Oh, I love her so much.
Yeah. I really wanted her on the Sailors record, and I gave her some songs. She really tried for a week to do something with it but typically when she collaborates, it’s the reverse – she gives songs to someone. The process wasn’t quite right for her, and so it didn’t work out. When things didn’t work out, it was more along the lines of that or like Jesse Sykes, for instance, she said that she was about to go into the studio to record her next full-length and it wouldn’t be fair for her to try and crush her part on this project into 48 hours time. Not ever hearing the songs before. That didn’t work out either.
As far as who I knew and who I didn’t, I probably knew about half of the collaborators from each of the projects. And then the others, like Alec Empire, I had never met before but had a tremendous respect for. I reached to him as a fan, explained to him what I was doing and what I hoped to achieve, and he wrote back and was into it. We would just exchange ideas to the point where he felt comfortable tracking something. He laid it down at his studio, which was the case for most of the collaborators. Whatever country or state they lived in, they would record in their respective homes or studios or whatever.
How many of the collaborators were you actually working with in person?
Not a single artist was ever in the room with another artist.
Was there a feeling of isolation or remoteness to you as a result of that? Something that was reflected in the records?
I don’t think so. I think that it only enhanced everything, because I was able to convey lyrical themes, mood, tonality, ideas for direction of the song and things like that. And after that exchange, when both parties felt comfortable and invested in the vision, they were able to flourish in the most pure sense of the word “collaboration.”
I think most bands, even the ones that think they’re truly doing a collaborative process in the garage or the practice space…there’s always some sort of compromise that happens in the songwriting process that just doesn’t exist in this method of recording. Because ideas are exchanged, but the main thing to keep in mind is this list of artists that I envisioned playing these songs. No one else could steal the spot that they filled.
Going into it, I already was convinced that they were perfect for their particular layer in the fabric of sound. It was easy for me to kind of let go in the sense of power or whatever, and let them do what they do best, which is why I approached them to begin with.
It’s interesting that you say that because, to me, it seems like other than as almost an orchestrator, you actually have a rather small role in the records – or at least I don’t get a sense of what you’re doing. You’re credited with just vocals and textures, even though there are layers and layers of guitars, effects, vocals, drums and everything.
How did you envision your role in these albums? And how did that change throughout the recording process?
When I had the initial sound in my mind, I wanted it to be a heavy, lush version of Low. That’s the most primitive description that I can come up with Sailors with Wax Wings, for instance. I was talking to someone else online yesterday, and they were asking about how odd the mix of pairing someone like Marissa Nadler with an artist like Prurient would be, because they are on totally different ends of the sonic spectrum. In my mind they make perfect sense because their aesthetic that is, for lack of a better word, melancholy that they share is just a natural pairing, in my mind. I don’t think a lot of people would quite understand this formula that I was hearing in my head that involved someone from Unwound and yet someone like Marissa Nadler all in one big clump.
When I say “textures,” for instance, I do contribute layers of noise and synth and whatnot, and I would say 90% of the vocals are mine and melodies and whatnot. As far as anything further than that, aside from me trying to explain the sound that I have in my head, when it’s tracked maybe it isn’t the right direction, or maybe I like what you did here, can you do it again here. With the Sailors record, for instance, there was a point in time where the record had drifted in the opposite direction that I thought it would. The whole recording, the entire record, lacked dynamics and lacked emotion and it was pretty flat all the way through. Colin [Marston, producer], who I had worked with constantly on this, and I were both expressing kind of our discontent with the status and static nature of the record as a whole.
Which is when we had a conversation about how we can take guitars to a new place that would add these dynamics that we needed. He went in and added an additional layer of guitars that we weren’t planning on originally. That immediately shifted it back on track. I would say aside from the vocal melodies, I had more of a producer role.
In that regard, do you feel like the two albums are extensions of yourself? Or do you view them more as projects that you’ve overseen and crafted?
I think from a practical sense, it’s the latter, that I’ve overseen and crafted. I get extremely emotionally invested in things that I work on. It’s a tireless regimen of hyper-networking on the internet and daily communications to make things flow on an international scale with all these collaborators that are all over the place, to the point where I lose sleep and develop anxiety and tremendous issues that affect me physically. In that sense, they ultimately are extensions of myself because I feel like without all of myself that I poured into the projects, the end results wouldn’t be what they are.
Very well put. You touched on this, but I read these vague allusions to your ending up in the emergency room while you were recording these records. Talk about sacrificing for your art!
It’s such a clichéd thing. It sounds like some troubled artist type pretentious stuff that I almost dared not ever mentioning that to anybody, but that literally happened. To this day, I’m taking medication. I never thought I’d be somebody subject to panic disorder, for instance. It literally stems from this process. Before these albums became a part of my daily life, I was fine. There’s a point where I’m in so deep with this that it’s literally all I think about. There was a point where I thought the records might not come out for another year/year and a half after spending a year creating them and daily obsessing over them. When I heard the news that the releases might be postponed by an entire year, I literally had a breakdown. I was blacking out. I thought I was going to die. I had to go to the emergency room, and the guy’s like “Look, man, you’re having a panic attack. Chill out.”
I haven’t been the same since. It’s weird how it’s kind of irreversible. I ranted off on another topic. I’m not sure where you were going.
Is there some sense of relief now that the albums are finally out in the world?
There is definitely a sense of relief, but the weird thing is that with everything I’m involved in, the obsession grows more intense and then there’s a little bit of relief when the album goes into the world. I’m almost at this new tier of desire that needs to be satisfied and then I take on even more. Right now, despite all the other stuff, I’m considering starting a small record label.
Despite the economic climate. I’m thinking about all the million other things that I want to do rather than chill out a little bit and take a step back. I seem to be increasing my threshold for obsessing over music projects.
This whole process has irreversibly changed your work ethic.
Yeah, in a weird way it’s kind of an addiction. I’ve never been an addict in a traditional drug addict sense, but I can only imagine. You reach one goal and then it’s become such an obsession that despite the physical decline that it’s bringing you, you still need more. And continue to do things in the same obsessive way.
I would say that your addiction, if you can call it that, is a lot healthier than a drug addict’s addiction.
Right. That’s true.
Both the Sailors with Wax Wings and White Moth records work so beautifully as whole pieces. You were talking about how it involved a lot of work and revision on your part. Especially because those whole pieces are built of so many tiny constituent elements from all corners of the globe. What was that process like going from these micro-contributions to a macro that worked for you?
It’s almost a meta-cognitive thing that you have to wrap your head around a million elements at once. Who could produce this sound perfectly in this big, melting pot? Only Jacob Kirkegaard could do the right field recordings of water to run underneath the entire White Moth album. Nonstop. That track goes the entire 35 minutes of the record. It’s running even when the other songs are playing. It’s between the songs. It’s under all the songs. I thought that from the aspect of this journey of following this metaphorical White Moth that a sound like that would make for a solid, kind of spiritual sound basing for the record. We would build from there.
Kirkegaard produced the songs and the different layers in just the right way. Once that happened…[it was all about] considering who could produce the right sounds perfectly, and then what it would sound like all at once. I don’t know. When you say the micro to the macro, it’s just like . . . it’s not like “okay, let’s write a skeleton of a song and then really spend time thinking about what guitar chords can work on top of the skeleton.” It literally is “who can weave the right mood in just the right way and then build from the bottom up?” So it was Kirkegaard’s field recording of water, and then it was Ashley Scott Jones who does his work at Treasure Fingers these days, and he’s a pretty big electronic success in the underground electronic world. Who could do the beats with the knowledge of both hardcore music and electronic music?
I’m going to take an aside and say: there are a lot of bands that think they’re being experimental, by weaving electronic music into heavy music, for instance. They’re not really doing the heavy music justice because the electronic thread they’re weaving is not legitimate, and it’s not legitimately made by an electronic artist. I feel like most of the time it’s the guitar or bass player who likes to mess with drum machines.
And they try to weave it in too quick, and people are wowed by this. They think it’s incredible. It’s never legit. I wanted an electronic artist that could really work with me to produce the right beats that were legitimate in an electronic sense and also work in a hardcore sense (for lack of a better word). To do that, you need a legitimate electronic artist with knowledge of heavy music. There’s not a bunch of those.
There are only a couple of people, in my mind, who could do it. Of those couple of people, there’re only a few whose egos aren’t so huge that they would actually do it. It’s just this whole selection process. I hear the sound in my head and the sound is the dense layers that you pretty much hear in the end result. Each layer should only be performed by a select few people (in my mind) in the world. Sometimes the songs would start to drift into a different direction than I had thought in my head originally, at which point, we either get the song back on track or we would adapt to the life that this song is taking on.
And I would alter the list, because maybe now someone I had envisioned in the sonic fabric originally wouldn’t quite be perfect anymore and I would need someone else.
So really, there are all kinds of layers of feedback in here. Not literally – by “feedback,” I mean that your collaborators are responding to your requests or your direction, and then you’re adapting the music to fit with what they’re doing.
Right. There’s this gentle balance of give and take. It’s like they’re doing something and we’re doing something. Colin is just a brilliant dude in terms of keeping the mix in mind. There’s just this gentle balance. There’s not a lot of revision that is needed because, again, in the initial short list of musicians, these guys… I already knew they would do it just right. There were very few instances where it was like “okay, you didn’t do what I thought you would. Go back and do something else.”
So it really took shape in a really organic way it sounds like.
It definitely did. I know the whole “organic” word is the cliché right now too in music, but it really did. It was almost synchronicity.
“Organic” is also a funny thing to say about a record that has so much electronic tampering on it.
You were talking about how you were looking for an electronic artist who had some kind of background or legitimacy in the heavy realm. It seemed to me, especially on the White Moth record, that the most violent aspect of the whole record was the breakbeat stuff. It was the most in your face, the most aggressive.
In a way, that flies in the face of the “metal” aspects of these records. I want to know if you can explore what you take from metal for these records? What you love about the aspects of metal that you included on these records?
Okay. That’s a really good question, dude. Props for that. How would I go about this? I guess when I approach these projects in terms of the metal strain, I just want to rethink how it is approached, and when it’s approached all the metal ingredients need to be as sincere as possible. There needs to be a self-awareness from all the musicians in terms of knowing when how much is too much with any given idea. I think in the name of experimentation, people travel so far out of the sphere that it becomes insincere and no longer experimental. Am I making any sense at all?
Yeah, I think so.
It’s a weird question to approach because I’m thinking… at no time do I sit down and say “I love metal. What metal stuff needs to be going on here?” I guess if I was going to say in a way that is free of all tact, look at a band like Blut Aus Nord. And this is in one of my e-mails. I tell Colin, “Dude, these are the guitars that are changing the paradigm. This is where the paradigm shifts – a band like this. What they’re doing with their guitars, nobody else is doing. These guys are one of the most misunderstood bands. We need to be following them because they’re on the verge of something innovative.”
On that 2009 record, Memoria Vetusta II – Dialogue with the Stars, the guitar tone was…I never heard that in a metal record. It almost reminded me of those ringing chords that the Edge from U2 would use, but in a black metal context.
Exactly. Time after time after time, that band hits the nail on the head. I guess I aspire to be that. When I hear greatness like that, it’s just totally fresh and it totally hits the nail on the head. That’s what I want to do.
In relation to that question, what I had perceived is that the most aggressive parts of metal are just completely absent from these albums, especially Sailors with Wax Wings. On both albums you have these gorgeous, melodically, rich guitar lines – tremolo guitar lines like you’d hear on a black metal record. They seem totally ripe for blast beats, but there’s not a single one on either record.
Right. I’m on your page. I definitely see where you’re coming from. I guess I’m trying to, but not in a very eloquent way, get through this whole Blut Aus Nord comment. The stuff that I enjoy in metal is always the stuff that is not metal. I guess what I mean by that is that when I listen to a Burzum record, I don’t hear metal. I hear lush textures that mimic the rainforest, and I can fall asleep to this stuff, and there are tones going on within the density of the layers. I’m not picturing some long-haired guy rocking out to crazy huge chords or whatever. I’m picturing this enveloping sheet of static. It’s the same thing. I listen to Blut Aus Nord and what I notice is not the growling vocals or the fact that they’re from France and no one knows who they are.
Or that there are blast beats going on here or there. I immediately notice the unorthodox guitar work that shares more with Kevin Shields [of My Bloody Valentine] than other things. I guess when Colin and I talked about the guitars, definitely it was put out there that “here’s the direction we need to go.” At no time was it said “don’t be metal about it.” But it was like both of us having that reverence for guitar work like that in Blut Aus Nord, or other bands that are accomplishing metal through non-metal means.
I think you’re talking about the space where there really is no distinction between ambient electronic music and metal.
Absolutely. And whoever thought of it first, we should go down and trace through the family tree and try to figure out what band is legitimately the founding father of all this. It’s just a brilliant connection because they do share the same space.
I think you get that. You can listen to a Burzum record and understand why you could listen to early Aphex Twins and have the similar experience. People that don’t know that or don’t understand those connections think “oh my god, Sailors with Wax Wings is like the most extremely eclectic group of people I’ve ever heard of coming together.” For me, it’s such a logical family.
It’s just layers. Layers of lots of different stuff. That record, in particular, just sounds harmonious to me – just these tidal lappings of voice, guitar, electronics, everything.
Yeah, I’m glad you see that because that is really something that I go for, and it kind of happened after the first Pyramids record. After that, I came to a point in my life where I started realizing that music is very much like an equation. It may not sound profound to you, because you clearly are there right now. You already understand this, but at some point, neither of us in our lives understood that music is actually a series of layers.
If you can view the song as the layers, you understand how the equation works and you can build a great equation – something that makes sense. I’d say about three years ago it started (out of nowhere) — everything I hear feels just like layers. So I listen to a band like Wold, for instance, and it’s beautiful to me because I hear a series of layers all stacked on top of each other. I don’t hear noise. I don’t know.
That’s a really interesting way of looking at the world. You can even take it to the level of physics, where it’s similar to the difference between basic particle physics, looking at things at a very atomic level and dealing those discrete molecules, versus something like string theory, which almost sees it all as a continuous process of vibrations.
I’m trying to apply what you’re talking about to pop music – looking at productions that you’d hear on top 40 radio as a series of layers rather than just hearing the songs as terrible songs.
Right. [laughs] I think the theory translates well into the pop world. So do the theories of layers that I don’t prefer hearing. [laughs]
These albums are so overwhelming – each in their own way (at least to me). Do they feel that way to you?
They do, but maybe in a different sense, different and similar all at once. When I listen to it, there is that emotional investment. When the sounds envelop me, I do have an experience probably similar to yours but I have that connection. Maybe you’re looking in through a window and seeing architecture that you appreciate, and I’m inside looking out, to the world surrounded by the architecture that affects my perception of the world. I don’t know. Maybe we’re getting too deep here. I don’t know. [laughs]
It’s an interesting idea. Maybe that’s part of how you became so obsessive about these records? It was almost like you were trapped by them on the inside.
Yeah, it’s true. Again, man, I almost feel silly discussing it. Because how often have we seen that archetype, the troubled artist archetype? “Oh, he’s a wreck from his painting or music that he’s creating.” I didn’t bottom out and turn to heroin or anything, but I certainly was impacted at a physical level.
I think it’s kind of ridiculous to assume that you’re going to be able to completely separate yourself from your art. I have a very white collared job, and I can go home and I don’t have to face it until the next day. I don’t consider a lot of what I do in my day job to necessarily be an extension of my true self. And yet when something goes wrong here, it hits me emotionally.
I agree. I feel that same way. When I leave work, I’m two totally different people.
Right. I’m just saying that, to me, it makes complete sense that you would be this emotionally invested in your work.
A couple questions about your inspirations for the records. Can you talk briefly about that encounter with Stephen Crane that you had and how it fed into the Sailors with Wax Wings record?
Yeah, I suppose that the music is one thing that compounded this inevitable rise of anxiety that I have been dealing with the last year. I suppose there were other stresses in my life that were contributing to that at the time, just unknowingly.
I became very fatigued, and had been listening to very loud, kind of noise-laden music for the majority of the day. I sat in the front room – I often sit there – and read the poetry of Stephen Crane, who is known for The Red Badge of Courage and his longer prose works. He has two collections of poetry that I just have been fascinated by for at least a decade now. He’s a very unorthodox poet. I’m sure it was…I know that it was completely underappreciated because still, to this day, you can’t just walk into a bookstore and find his poetry. It’s very hard to find.
In any case, I was pretty fatigued, and looking back at the stresses of being a parent and teacher and husband and everything else. I was kind of just roaming within. In my front room there is this huge wall with a big niche that I always intended on putting some big oil painting in but just could never afford to do it. So it sits there white, and the room is red, and the lights were off and the noise was playing, but I was reading this book. I never experienced anything like it. It was kind of a hallucination. I saw like these spots in my eyes, like sometimes when you’re blinking and you see flashes of white, or little threads floating around in your eyeball. I don’t know if you’ve experienced that, but throughout my life I have experienced flashes and spots and strange shapes every now and then.
Yeah, like we all do. [Stephen Crane] appeared almost as if he was swimming in the walls. It was a vague outline of his face. It was moving in a ghost-like fashion. I was hearing the poetry on the page out loud. It was quite riveting and horrific (for lack of a better word). I just…I don’t know, I freaked out. Anyway, I’m calling my wife as my witness. [laughs]
[Aside, to wife] Remember the day when I ran into the front room and thought that my teeth were falling out? Looking back, I think this might have been my first panic attack, but at the time I didn’t know what those were. I legitimately with my tongue started…I felt like my tongue was passing through the spaces in my teeth kind of like after you go to the dentist.
And it’s like… clean. It’s a clean feeling, and you can feel your tongue in the cracks of your teeth. I thought my tongue was passing through my teeth, and so I started picking at my teeth and felt as if pieces of my teeth were coming out into my hands. And I ran to the mirror, into the bathroom, looking into the mirror and trying to find what was going on with my teeth. I ran back out and was telling my wife “Dude, I’m serious right now, I know it sounds crazy, but my teeth are falling out of my face.” I’ve never done any hard drugs or whatever – to this day, I’ve never experienced anything like that hour of my life. I suppose the whole thing would stem from a panic attack. I’m looking back at it now, and that’s got to be what it was. It happened later, towards the end of the recording process, which put me on the medication that I’m on now. [laughs]
How did that weave into Sailors with Wax Wings?
Oh, good question. I was getting there. So after that, I woke up the next morning and was relieved. I no longer had the sensation of my teeth falling out but I was thinking about what had happened the night before. It took almost this musical translation in my head. As I was thinking of the ghost passing along the walls, I felt the textures, the visual textures take on a musical connotation.
So I really think that’s captured when I think about the music now. If I was to go and put on the record right now and listen to it, it does kind of embody a ghostly – especially some of the songs in the middle of the record – almost like a cobweb of sonic density that you can almost touch and wade through. That’s what the experience was like. In that dark, kind of metal ingredient that is threaded throughout is that sense of “my teeth are falling out.” It’s almost an impending doom, an ominous feel of panic that is looming as the ghostly encounter is taking place.
You could hear the tremolo guitars as your molars, rattling in their sockets.
[laughs] Exactly. I can laugh about it now, but man, it was pretty horrible at the time. I can’t believe I thought my teeth were falling out now that I think about it. It was so real to me at the time. I had a serious conversation with my wife. She’s sitting on the couch and I’m like “Dude, I’m serious right now. I feel like my teeth are falling out of my face. What do I do?” I felt completely out of control. It was weird.
I remember reading Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams in college. He makes this connection between dreams about people’s teeth falling out and death.
Yeah. It’s not a predictor of death, of course.
Okay, good. [laughs]
He’s not saying that the dreams are predictors of reality necessarily, but he’s saying that usually there is an anxiety about death that is addressed in dreams that feature teeth and the falling out of teeth.
That makes sense to me, because I’ve had a long running fear of dying. I don’t know what it is. I’m not afraid of death per se, but I don’t want to miss out on hanging out, if that makes sense. I sit here, I see my daughter interact with my wife and I think about my good friends and whatever else. I’m like “man, if I wasn’t here, I wouldn’t get to be in this.” You know? Experiencing these moments. That’s what I’m afraid of – not being here. Not exactly death itself.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Okay, so I have just one more question. The Icarus and Daedalus myth. You reference it in the title of Sailors with Wax Wings. It seems like it’s been such an inspiration, not only to you, but to countless other artists and writers, like James Joyce had Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man and Ulysses. I notice the similarity between that story with Icarus flying too close to the sun, and the metaphor of the moth being drawn to the flame. What moves you about that idea, such that it seems involved in both of the records?
Yeah, you know I got to hand it to you… you are on point. You get all literary up in these interviews. Each in its own sphere, I considered that, but you’re the first guy to make that connection. I think that must have been subconscious, or have something to do with either how I think about things or how I live my life or something. That wasn’t a conscious connection between the Icarus myth and the moth. I would just say that I appreciate you making that connection. And that it’s something that I’m actually going to spend time thinking about now. That wasn’t a conscious decision.
Okay, well, how about the conscious part of it, with Icarus flying too close to the sun. What’s inspiring or intriguing to you about that idea?
Well it was less the Icarus portion of it, and more the story of his father building this grand labyrinth that enveloped him. This was the work that defined him, and he got lost in it. He himself could barely make it through this maze that he constructed. I was thinking of it more in terms of that, and less in terms of the classic the wings are melting, even though the wings themselves are in the actual band name.
But I do appreciate [the Icarus] aspect of the myth too. I think it’s kind of just beautiful if nothing else, in terms of imagery and whatnot.
Are either of these records closer to your heart?
I think so. I think the Sailors with Wax Wings is, because the melodies involved naturally lend themselves to emotion. What I mean by that is you know when you hear some chord progressions and they just naturally give you chills? The kind that make you feel? The ones that make you want to take the long way home instead of driving right into the garage?
The chords and the melodies and the vocals, which I’m very proud of, are probably the highlight of the things that I’ve been involved in. I just think for those reasons I just feel closer to [Sailors with Wax Wings]. In terms of [them both being] my children or whatever, I feel like they’re equal, but in terms of evoking emotions one is just more melodic musically. It connects easier, I think.