Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interview with John Gossard of Dispirit

Nearly anyone who has a reasonable depth of knowledge in regards to black metal and doom metal has surely heard of Weakling, Asunder, and The Gault and probably by now, Dispirit as well. Of course, the link behind these three wonderful creations is John Gossard. I was lucky enough to see (and photograph) Dispirit at Scion Rock Fest, and was originally going to interview John there, but due to time constraints, it was delayed. Anyways, go ahead and take a look at everything John has to say, very interesting stuff.

First of all, thank you for the opportunity to talk to us. How are you doing? And what was your experience at the Scion Rock Fest like?

The experience was great and very strange. I was very hesitant to play this thing because I am not a fan of either corporate sponsorship, nor many of the bands they have had on previous events, but the Adam who put this thing together was really persistent in asking us to do it. Additionally, a few friends who's bands have performed there in the past I asked about the experience, and was told that the folks running the fest treat the bands extremely well at every level, and the company footing the bill is barely noticibale in any of the venues where the shows happen.  The whole concept of corporate sponsorship of this event had bothered me and still does, but in the end, having them cover costs for transportation, hotels ( best hotel I have ever stayed in), providing all the gear we requested, as well as getting to see some good bands like Immolation,  Morbid Angel, Necrite, Dark Castle, and Cough made it a great time. The only negative thing that really stood out was that we couldn't play with our regular guitarist who was out of the country, but our friend Sean did an excellent job covering for him. It was the first time I have played this sort of a festival, and partially agreed to do it just for the experience.  We were all pleased with the sound, lighting. fog that they provided us. In fact most of the time we play local underground clubs we don't get 1/3 the attention to detail. 

How did Dispirit come to be, and how long have you been around, both conceptually and/or musically?

We have been around musically a lot longer than conceptually. Peter and I began playing music around 2000 when The Gault was active. We originally only played improvisational black doom with no plans to form a band from it. After many years  and  a huge catalog of recordings we started thinking about taking the better elements from those recordings to form songs. Of course that meant adding more musicians. Finding the right musicians took several years, partially due to my being busy focusing on Asunder. The first show and debut of our demo tape was in May of 2010. 

What happened in regards to Asunder? 

Who knows? We never actually broke up, but went on hiatus. We had been in a very long period of the typical “creative differences”. Rehearsals became a place to argue rather than create and I was getting tired of it. I was interested in incorporating more of my strange atonal dissonant riffs, and Geoff was more interested in exploring proto-metal/prog 70's doom roots, while Dino wanted to stick closer to straight death doom. We were each trying to move in different directions and everyone seemed dissatisfied to the point that more arguing happened at practice than playing music. Finally we all agreed to take a hiatus, take home our archive of riffs and review it, and if after awhile anyone had an great inspiration on how to move ahead, call everyone up and talk about  it, maybe rent a room and jam. Nothing ever happened. At this point, Geoff is out of the area in grad school going for a masters, and possihbly continuing on for a PHD so it is not too likely he will have the free time to focus on music for a few years at least. I've talked here and there to Dino about starting up something new, but at the moment there aren't any real plans in the works. 

What are your main influences (musically and lyrically) in Dispirit?

Musically the biggest elements of our sound are early 90's black metal, Finnish funeral doom, 80's death rock, random chant music and particularly the stuff Ensemble Organum focuses on, , atonal gloomy death metal, 60's/70's psychedelic rock,  a smidgen of classical Stravinsky “Le Sacre du Printemps” and various Bach works, various noise/drone stuff.

For a short list of bands we dig: Ved Buens Ende,/Virus,  Unholy,l  Thergothon, Mighty Sphincter, Peste Noire, Dawning, early Enslaved, Graveland, Darkthrone, Swans, Slayer, MZ412, Moon Lay Hidden beneath a Cloud, Voivod, Immolation, Demilich, Amebix, Black Sabbath, Bethlehem, Abigor, Univers Zero, Shub Niggurath..Moëvöt, .Belketre,. Master's Hammer,  Grand Belial's Key, Tormentor ...well, shit...tons more. 

Lyrically I am focused on topics like human failures, civilization's collapse, depression, disease, torture, horrific fantasy, but usually in an abstract way focused on a disjointed  stream of consciousness   and  trying to draw from something more psychological while  meditating on these thoughts. It is a work in progress and I am still combining lyrics with incoherent ramblings from the void when we perform.

How much has your songwriting process evolved since Weakling and now to Dispirit (and of course, everything in between?)

If anything it has gotten worse. Songwriting to me now is an unbearable task. I prefer improvising, but know that most of the results of improvising is usually not interesting enough to bother subjecting outside listeners to. I rarely start writing a song now from a calculated  vision, but rather record experiments in the rehearsal space and listen back. Eventually I hear connections and the pieces  begin to fall together into a song..

In Weakling I think we started off with fairly normal  and simpler song structures. From there we elaborated on the riffs and added layers, or discovered new riffs born from the old ones that led us to flow from one ot the other , or overlap them. So from a simple song we developed much longer complex ones. In Dispirit, some is written that way, but Bitumen Amnii for example was half written entirely from an improvisation which we had to relearn and simplify, but then after relearning it, we went back to adding new layers beneath it. 

Could you tell us a bit about your general songwriting process?
It is never the same really. I play music every day and occasionally create something I think is memorable or has some strange meaning to myself. Then I bring it to practice and teach the band the idea and we improvise on the theme and record it. Over time pieces just seem to obviously fit together, while other times we are forced to compose something that connects the dots, Sometimes it is very easy and other times it is very hard. I have a hard time staying focused and end up writing drone music for a few weeks, then switching to death metal , then thrash and so on. The only consistent thing in the songwriting is that I usually try to write secondary counterpoints that pull one riffs style into the style of a previous, or future element of the song so it all stays withing a certain flow. 
Where do you see Dispirit going, and when will we see a full length or EP coming out?
We have a lot of stuff recorded  for a full length, or perhaps a full length and an ep. I think we will self release it when the time comes, although a few labels have been interested so we may do something elsewhere too.. I don't have any date set at the moment. I am hoping to finish it this sooner than later, but I am not in a rush to get it finished.  Other than the album, we are planning a few dates up north later this year as well as a few local gig, including a show with Noothgrush. I am really excited for this as the final Noothgrush show was back 10 years ago on a bill with my old band The Gault. Also this December we are playing the pre-fest night opeing the Rites of Darkness festival in Sna Antonio which is sure to be the best metal festival of the year in the US if not the world. We are very pleased to be a part of it.  

What are your thoughts on the black and doom metal scenes in the US, and in the rest of the world?
There are some good black and doom bands in the US, but historically it has always been pretty weak.
Negative Plane, Volahn, Arizmenda, Bone Awl, Demoncy, Cirrhus, Inquisition, Odz Manouk  Necrite, and Furdidurke  are all good black metal; new Loss , Anhedonist,  Aldebaran, Cough, Evoken, Laudnaum  are all killer doom things too, but considering the largeness of the US  it seems there are relatively few worthwhile releases from here. Finland seems to be the best place for funeral doom. It is nice to see that Trondheim   finally has a resurgence of good Norwegian black metal, of course France is going strong, and Germany has one of my favorite current bands Ruins of Beverast.  There is plenty of great doom, black, death coming out really, it is just not centered in one spot. When I focus on any one scene I notice a lot of crap surrounding whatever gems lurk there.  
Are you currently involved in any other projects?
Nothing else at the moment, though I have been talking with a friend about trying to fuck around with  combining droning blackdoom guitar stuff with oppressive droning pure noise. I am also considering buying a drum set  starting a really shitty war metal band where I play drums, just because I don't think there enough really shitty war metal bands out there yet. 
Thanks again, and do you have any final words? 
Don't support bands that you don't actually like. 

For excerpts of Dispirit's demo tape Rehearsal at Oboroten visit their website at and for more pictures from the bands set as well as Scion Rock Fest, visit


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