On a scorching August day in New York, Matt Bacon had driven through five states just to get to the show. When he got to sit down with the vocalist and guitarist in one of his favorite bands he wasn’t expecting to be given an account of his journeys with the mysterious Peruvian shamans. Interview by Matt Bacon From September 2014 Vandala Magazine READ MORE ARTICLES
How have you been?
David: I’m good, the tour’s been going awesome!
How did you get onto this tour?
David: SubRosa are our labor mates on Profound Lore. As far as the Boris connection asides from the fact that our latest record came out in Japan via the label run by Boris’s manager. SubRosa played on our latest record. But we’ve never played together. Rebecca put us up one time in Salt Lake City.
The Old Believer is a big step from the previous record. What’s been inspiring that evolution?
David: I think we’re still trying to get better at it. But we have three guitarists. By the second record people were starting to find where they fit. We don’t always all have to play at the same time. We’re trying to put more space in there and make it more dynamic. The first two records were more riffy for sure whereas know we’re more atmospheric. We didn’t intentionally do that, we just got better at writing songs. A lot of people didn’t like The Old Believer because of the way it progressed. People liked how our first record was so spastic and changing. Some people viewed that as a negative, to me that’s a positive. We were going in a better musicianship way. It’s a little less riffy and more groovy.
You’ve been on the road a lot more, has been being on the road allowed you to discover new stuff that brought the new sound to life?
David: Being on the road definitely helps figure out what works and doesn’t work. I f*ck myself over a lot. I’ll write something and then figure out how to do it live. I had stuff on the first record where I was tapping and had to sing at the same time. It’s cool if I can do it, but it’s hard to do. We think about that a lot more now that we’ve been a touring band for eight years. On a day like today when you’re stressed out and tired you’ve got to make it easy for you to do, but also listenable.
Being on the road influences how we feel about the world and life. Some of the meaning of the record comes from experiencing life. Being on the tour with Gojira and other bigger bands and looking at them and seeing how they work has definitely shaped what we want to do going forward. We can apply that to our own sound.
You’ve become less technical, but better songwriters…
David: You guys (press) are the ones saying we’re a metal band. I didn’t say we were a metal band. For me we’re just a band. The press and media want to put labels on it. Yes, they’re different records and I can see why people want to describe it that way. I didn’t say we were a metal band, we’re not trying to be a metal band, we’re just doing what we like.
So are you going to pull an Ulver and do an acoustic record?
David: Probably not. But we definitely are going to use an acoustic guitar on the next record, that’s one thing Stavros wants to do. He’s always wanted an acoustic guitar. The Old Believer has the same pace throughout. There was a lot of criticism that it has the same hypnotic pace through the whole record. The dynamics we achieve are from different instrumentations, not actual levels of volume. It would be cool to have just one person playing, or synth and vocals. Some people aren’t going to like that, but I’m okay with that.
It might be less traditionally metal, but in the context of bands like SubRosa it makes sense.
David: It’s heavy, but it’s not shredder metal. There’s a lot of bands who are doing that way better than we would if we tried to do that.
Have you just gone back to the riff as a basic statement?
David: I don’t think you’ll ever see us that straightforward, I think that’s one of the lessons we’ve learned from this record though, we can do more of that. It’s cool for us to all do the same thing sometimes. We never do that and the few times we do it works out incredibly, especially in a live context. It’s hard to have three cooks in the kitchen, you know what I mean? To have tact and taste and not step on each others toes… We do a good job of it but there’s definitely improvement we could do on that. I don’t have to think of myself as the lead guitar, I could play more rhythm. Andrew doesn’t have to play guitar at all, he can just stick to keys. I would like to have more straight up riffs and then expand upon it. I don’t think you’ll ever see us doing just riffs.
That’s a nifty necklace, can you tell me about that?
David: I got it in Peru. It’s actually interesting that you ask about it because my trip to Peru was a big part of the record for me.
Why did you go to Peru?
David: This is too long of a story for this interview but I went there because something pulled me there I can’t really explain it. The past few years of my life all led to that trip in Peru. It was right before the Gojira tour, almost two years ago now. It was like a meditation tour with a psychedelic mindset. It was a group retreat that I went on. We went to all the secret sites in Machu Picchu and all the big monolithic structures in Peru. I had sessions with a shaman and did ayahuasca, hence the song Sacred Vine, it was detailing my experiences. I didn’t go into the jungle, but I went to the Andes mountains and spent a few days drinking ayahuasca.
It was very much a sort of awakening in my life. It’s been going on for the last 5-6 years and it’s very much about who you are and where you came from and what I’m supposed to be doing here. That’s the moral of the story for Peru. In the quest for answers that I don’t think I’ll ever get I was pulled to Peru.
The necklace is quartz from Macchu Picchu, there’s the serpent which represents ayahuasca, the sun which is like their god, the cocoa leaf, an the condor feather which are all sacred objects.
Do you also do DMT?
David: I’ve only smoked DMT once or twice. I didn’t really blast off. There’s a threshold level which if you don’t fast it’s just like trippy mushroomy stuff, I didn’t blast off. Working with sacred plants and going where they come from it shows you you shouldn’t be f*cking around with stuff. You can use it for entertainment or for learning. I’m not into the party-recreational kind of thing. I feel like DMT is very American. Its like, “We’re going to take the active ingredient and just smoke that”. I really do want to have the whole blast off experience, but I’m more interested in ayahuasca at the moment.
Do you also do DMT?
David: I’ve had stuff like that with fasting. Before this tour I actually did a 40 day fast, it was a juice fast so I had no clear water. I would make green juice out of kale and cucumber. When you deprive your body of things you become more aware of what’s around you. All these chemicals floating around in your food, you don’t know what what they’re doing to you until you start taking them away. They poison your body and your thoughts.
I’ve done fasts along the way, never that long though. But that 40 day fast was probably the best thing I ever did. I’ve always been searching for some DMT-like experience without having to do a drug. It’s something you have to work on for a long time with yoga or meditation or something.
What do you love so much about music?
David: I’ve been playing music since I was very young, and I’ve played classical music and orchestral music. The emotion you can get out of people and the experience you can get from talking to people after the show is great. All the other guys love touring, but I kind of hate it. I like to be by myself and hang out with my dog and shit. I just kind of put up with that part of the music. I’m more about sharing the message with somebody. That kind of weighs the scale for me. That’s what matters. Being able to connect with the music vibrationally and projecting this message of opening your eyes and trying to be a good person and all these questions that I have in my head that I wish everybody else would think is important. That’s why I do this.
Last words of wisdom?
David: Go to the jungle of Peru, try ayahuasca, you’ll find where you came from and meet God.
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