Author & Punisher – An Interview With Tristan Shone
I first came across Author & Punisher back in 2010 on this very website when reading a review of his album Drone Machines. It referenced Godflesh & Ministry. That alone would normally get my attention, but certain album covers really stand out when you’re browsing through record shops. And this one certainly did. Bold white font and a black and white image. In a small way it reminded me of Godflesh’s debut album, except this one had an image of Tristan Shone (AKA Author & Punisher) surrounded by his so called drone and dub machines. To find out Tristan designs and constructs all his own equipment just took my interest into his brutal soundtrack even further.
Then three years later in 2013 I’m asked to get involved in organising and booking his debut UK tour with Gnod, supporting his then new album Women & Children. It was joint collaboration with myself and The Sleeping Shaman, I can honestly say it’s something we’re still both very proud of pulling off. So whilst a large percentage of us are in lockdown around the world I thought I’d drop him a line to see how he’s doing after coming off an arena tour supporting Tool.
Hi Tristan, thanks for letting me ask you a few questions and I hope you’re well?
My pleasure. I am well, despite the end of all things.
From my perspective since you first toured the UK back in 2013 promoting your album ‘Women & Children’ on Seventh Rule, you have come a long way in seven years and personally it’s great to see, but what’s the reality from then to now, what things have changed personally?
That’s a tough question…I’m not sure too much has changed except that I have a lot more experience and confidence in what I do. I’ve been through so many failures in terms of tours, shows, gear, song writing, etc.; it builds up a rough skin and I feel less bothered by small problems.
I think being on a larger label mainly gives you exposure, which is exactly what Relapse provided…
When you last played here in Manchester (UK) in 2018, you were out supporting your latest release ‘Beastland’ on Relapse Records, and there’s no denying how good it is but how did the whole Relapse deal come about? What difference in terms of support/involvement does a label of their standing bring for you?
Funny enough, Scott Flaster from Seventh Rule, who has become a close friend since those releases, knows the Relapse crew based in Portland, Oregon and he put me in touch with their artistic director who then linked me with their higher ups. It was a smooth process. Right from the beginning, I think being on a larger label mainly gives you exposure, which is exactly what Relapse provided. There isn’t a ton of money floating around with metal labels, so it’s more just that they have a well-oiled, well-respected machine. I’ve definitely seen a bump since signing up with them.
You’ve done a serious amount of touring since 2013, back then driving yourself around and managing everything yourself, how have things changed when it comes to touring?
They’ve not changed too much, except that I don’t sleep in the van as much and try to get decent hotels. I try to be as thrifty as I can and bring 1 or 2 people. I am a bit solitary on tour, and I like that. I understand that this is not a lucrative industry and I need to work for the money I am able to earn. I do have a manager now who helps with getting opportunities and making connections with other artists and festivals.
Before we get on to anything Tool related, you’ve been globetrotting with such a mix of artists from Godflesh, Neurosis, The Body, Cattle Decapitation, Lingua Ignota to name a few and playing various festivals. What’s been some of highlights and any stories you can tell, also do you get involved with who to tour with?
I am 100% involved with who I tour with. I don’t tour with bands I don’t love. I’ve been lucky to tour with some of my heroes. Usually after the first show of a tour like that, I walk out into the audience and just soak it all up. It can be a bit emotional. I’ve really put a lot into this process and had so many failures, it is nice to enjoy that moment; it’s one of the rare times that I relax and let it hit me…
Most of these dudes are very mellow and low key. I think the heavier, doomy, melodic stuff brings the softies out. I hit it off with Justin and Ben from Godflesh right away…just natural hangs. Vietnamese food, Thai food. I was sort of surprised that these 2 English dudes could handle the spice on their food like they could. I’ve never seen anyone put as much hot on their food as these guys.
The same goes for Neurosis, The Body, Cattle, Kristin…I remember the first show I did with Neurosis. As a side note, I met Dave Edwardson from Neurosis at one of my first A&P shows in Oakland at the Terminal (Ryan Jencks from the ORIGINAL Sixes lives and runs it)…this was like 2006 or 2007 right after I built the Drone Machines stuff. There were like 15 people at the show. Anyway, fast forward to 2015 in Tucson at Southwest Terror Fest…after Neurosis’ show I thought I would go join the backstage party in Neurosis’ green room (I had gotten used to the Anselmo backstage hangs which were pretty wild and would go late), I tear into the room, Scott Kelly and a few others were all there sitting in their chairs laying back, sweaty, ruined, eyes closed with incense and mellow music playing (I may have this slightly wrong, but this is what I remember) I was pretty embarrassed. They were just chilling…I think their music is so emotionally draining that they need to come down. Anyway, it was pretty funny.
When I first saw your announcement that you were going to be supporting Tool on their North American tour, I was like WOW! That eventually included Australia & New Zealand, firstly how did this tour opportunity come about?
Danny Carey’s wife and her sister (the Stump sisters) run a festival in Portland, Oregon and they booked me to play back in like 2014 or 2015. After that we kept in touch and Danny came to a couple shows…then Maynard’s wife invited me to do an in store performance in Jerome, AZ near their vineyard at their record store and wine tasting thing (I nearly broke all the glass in the place with the bass! :)) Finally, Adam Jones came to a show of mine in LA (supporting 3teeth), and he got my contact info. It was rad, they just reached out and it happened. After the 1st show of the US leg, they invited me to do the rest. We ended up having to cancel the last 3 shows, but I got 22, so I’ll take it!
You were playing in arenas supporting Tool, how did you find it? Did you need to scale up your equipment in anyway? Were there any changes in the logistics to touring?
I loved every second of it. The few times I’ve been able to play some big festivals on large stages I’ve enjoyed the massive sound. The echo doesn’t really bother me. The only way in which I scaled up was to upgrade my gear quality: sound card, cables, wireless system for in ears…I also decided I would bring a combination of my larger older setup mixed with my newer tourable setup, which ended up being pretty massive on stage. This meant that I needed a couple of stage techs to come along and I had a tour manager, sound guy and lighting guy. So, yeah I guess we went full in. Tool carried my gear, so we just took my van and followed around the trailers and buses.
After the 1st show of the US leg, they [Tool] invited me to do the rest. We ended up having to cancel the last 3 shows, but I got 22, so I’ll take it!
I think the pairing of Tool with Author & Punisher works well, what was the crowd’s response at these shows? And did Tool treat you well?
I think it went very well. I only say a few hateful comments and the merch numbers were better than expected, so all in all no complaints. The crowd at shows was a little quiet, but as it filled in they started to react. I mean, even at my own shows with 200-300 people, there are a lot of stares! 🙂 Tool treated me very well. We kept it pretty mellow in terms of guests and whatnot backstage since they do have a lot of crazy fans and some strict security measures, but once they saw we were chill, it was the most mellow situation. It was a rush every night from arrival at 2pm to passing out at 2am after green room hangs.
So… will the people of Europe/UK get the chance to see A&P support Tool?
I have no idea! That would certainly be rad, but I don’t imagine it…they have a lot of bands they want to support, so I think it will be someone else.
A while back you raised money for the San Diego Rapid Response Network by donating money from the sale of your ‘These Machines Kill Fascists’ T-shirts, what is the SDRRN? Also have there been any other worthy causes you’ve helped over the years?
‘The San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) is a coalition of human rights and service organizations, attorneys, and community leaders dedicated to aiding immigrants and their families in the San Diego border region.’
My wife volunteers there (or did before the pandemic) and recommended it as an organization supporting immigrant families in need of shelter, food and law representation. The other one I have supported was Sunrise Movement, a climate activism group that has a San Diego hub. Their main goal is to get a Green New Deal passed, which would restructure our government to support an economy based around smart climate policy.
In these worrying times, how have you been dealing with the current lockdown situation in the US, what is keeping you motivated?
I’m fine. Lots of people are not. That worries me. Our government is completely fucking useless, handing out bail money to CEOs and huge companies while workers are laid off, or furloughed, and many are seeing no relief other than $1200 that has not come. Once the Trump administration realized the pandemic will hit black and brown communities the hardest (working communities that are forced to work during these times with a healthcare system that has been privatized and operating at a bare minimum of staff and resources), he decided to just ignore it basically and let them suffer and die. It is a slow genocide in my opinion. I’ve been working at my lab at UCSD and doing yard work. I’ll start writing the new album soon.
When we’re all hopefully back to some normality, what are your future plans release wise? Will the postponed ‘Spirituality and Distortion’ tour be rescheduled?
The Igorrr tour has been rescheduled, but I am not doing it. I believe they got Machine Drum. My album cycle is done and I’ll be writing a new album for the rest of the year and working on some new gear…tweaks. I imagine the album will come out mid-late next year…
What was the last book/audio book you read/listened to?
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula le Guin. Nice sci-fi fantasy on a planet where gender does not exist. My first of her books and I’m into it.
What’s the last piece of music you listened to?
Headhunter – Nomad
And to finish the interview, do you have any final words?
I have too many words I want to speak and all of them will put me in jail.
Label: Relapse Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram
Interviewed by: Dave Ward