Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Interview with Book of Sand



Book of Sand's unorthodox approach to black metal has been a personal source of interest from the digital release of his first album, How Beautiful To Walk Free, onward, with his most recent offering, the free-jazz-inflicted black metal opus The Face of the Waters, set to annoy and hopefully expand the horizons of many basement-dwelling black metallers. D.'s cheeky, honest answers are proof that you don't have to be a pretentious, self-important prick to make groundbreaking music. The Face of the Waters is available in super limited quantities from Antithetic Records. Expand your mind.


With your earlier material under the Book of Sand moniker ("How Beautiful It Is To Walk Free" and "Destruction, Not Reformation"), there was heavy emphasis placed on your anarchist and feminist social leanings, but more recently there has been a lack of any sort of philosophical and/or social connotation to your music. Are those still a part of Book of Sand or have you distanced the project from those ideals?

Since I don't print my lyrics, all one has to go from are my song titles, album titles, and comments about the releases. And so I can see why you would think that;  you're certainly correct that my titles aren't as strident as they were. But, I still approach the band's world from a political perspective, even with the more abstract and theologically focused themes.  For example, The Face of the Waters is an anarchist look at the Judeo-Christian creation myth in the first two chapters of Genesis.  It was interesting to me that the hierarchical division of the cosmos starts at the very beginning of one of the core cultural narratives of our society: all of creation is quickly sorted into dominant and subordinate classes, with man having dominion over the other living creatures of the earth in Genesis 1:26, and over woman in Genesis 2:20-2:24. This commitment to inequality is deeper than religion, of course. Seems like most of the dipshit Satanists in the black metal world have pretty similar political beliefs to conservative Christians.

Anarchism, radical feminism, so on aren't "social leanings" as much as political convictions. There's a tendency in some circles to dismiss anarchism as a punk lifestyle choice, but that's not really correct. Rather, it's a political framework for understanding society as it is, and an idea of what society could and should be. I try to live in line with my politics–veganism, trying to not be a racist/sexist/homophobic shit-head–but the politics come first, not the lifestyle or the aesthetics/image.


So, I still consider Book of Sand a political band, and my politics haven't changed.

In previous correspondence you had mentioned that Face of the Waters is your first fully-composed album. How do you feel shifting from a chaotic, improvised setting to something more pre-meditated?

All of my albums have been composed, but each before this one had some space for improvisation.  HBtWF had those guitar solos, Destruction, not Reformation had a cello solo. TFotW has no improvisation, although I kept a few lucky accidents. I'm equally comfortable composing parts and improvising them, and so I do whichever is necessary for the specific situation. And, I think the composition has ended up at least as chaotic as the improvisation.

When one is improvising, to some extent one is bound by habit. Composition offers the chance to do something that's not natural.  As long as one isn't lazy, composed pieces have the potential to be stranger than improvised.

I do play freely improvised music also, but Book of Sand is overall composed music. So, the improvisation in Book of Sand is within a compositional framework and serves primarily as another compositional tool. Some of my songs are based on riffs, some are textural and improvised, some are written with random number generators. I'm not committed to any one way of working.

What are your thoughts on the seemingly standardized compositional methods in extreme metal? Who do you feel are exceptions to these methods who should or could be used as a paradigm in the future?

Who cares! This week, as far as metal, I'm listening to Bathory, Manilla Road and The Wounded Kings.

I guess you're asking me to recommend some weirdos? Wrnlrd is amazing in every way, and I'm also impressed by Portal and almost everything released on tUMULT. But it's silly to have a problem with "standardized compositional methods" on the one hand and to look for new "paradigms" on the other–the most common compositional structures in metal nowadays were new paradigms not so long ago. It doesn't matter what compositional approach one uses.  If the music's trash, it's the fault of the songwriter, not the method. There are still plenty of great diatonic verse/chorus/verse songs waiting to be written.

Unlike harsher previous releases, Face of the Waters is surprisingly "clean." What made you decide to trim Book of Sand's rough edges?

For that specific album, a clean sound was better to get the right atmosphere and feeling.  Nothing more than that. Each album needs its own sound...

Still, I try to keep a raw approach even when the sound is clean. I almost never do more than one take, and if I make a mistake I generally leave it. I can't stand the modern "black metal" sound, with perfect clicky/triggered kick drums, mid-scooped guitars, synthesizers and so on.  A more natural approach is preferable.

After the extremely experimental leanings of your latest album, do you still consider Book of Sand to be a metal band? Or is it something completely different?

It doesn't matter. The atmosphere and the feeling within black metal are what I like, not the specific techniques;  it's not crucial to me that my music have blast beats and tremolo picking.  I try to keep that weird, eerie ambiance, but of course that's not only found in black metal.

To me, Skip James, Jandek, Sun Ra, Sofia Gubaidulina, etc also have that quality, as strongly as any of the black metal greats. I don't privilege metal over other forms of music. The feeling is what's important, and I'll use any genre I need to in order to try to grab it.

That being said, I still think my latest albums are black metal.  The vocals and some of the guitars are genre-appropriate, at least, and I'm at least as misanthropic as your standard kvlter.  "Black metal" is nowadays more of a marketing slogan than anything, anyway…

Do you see Book of Sand moving further into the avant-jazz direction presented on this album, or will it move back into the more traditional (in comparison) vein of your previous works?

Both.  I have a lot of different musical interests, and I want to follow them all.

My sixth full-length is a collision between Javanese gamelan and black metal.  Still looking for the right label to release this one. Next, I'll be taking on lite-classical and then playing blues-rock.

I noticed a brief mention of a yet-to-be-released album, Mourning Star, on your Facebook. Are you still planning on having it released through Music Ruins Lives, or have things changed since?

As far as I know, it's still in the works with MRL. There should be more information about this in January or February. That album has had a difficult life.

Your previous project, the enigmatic, experimental funeral doom Light, has recently seen a full discography re-release from the killer Crucial Blast label. What brought this about? Will there be any future work with the project, or have you abandoned it for good?

I had sent a demo of my second Book of Sand album to Adam at Crucial Blast.  He was interested in doing something, and I thought he might find the Light albums interesting. He did, and so we did the re-issue. I'm quite pleased about it as the initial releases were very small quantities, and Adam did a really nice job with the packaging.

We had decided early on that Light would only do three albums, and so that was it.  There won't be any more releases from Light, but I do expect to revisit the style. I'm still particularly proud of Worse than Anyone would have Expected, and I don't think I've reached the potential within that sound.

Emily, my bandmate in Light, is now playing drums in a crust/doom band called Ashen (Minneapolis), if you're interested in checking out what she's up to.

-Jon

4 comments:

  1. Excellent interview. Thanks for such thorough explanations and questions. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. I'm guessing you're from the STUFF YOU WILL HATE forum. I thought the whole /b/ subculture died when people started posting memes on funnyjunk and 9GAG. Guess not.

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    2. "expand your mind" lol

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