Locrian, the Chicago-based three headed harbinger of J G Ballard’s apocalpyse has long been a favourite of us here at The Sleeping Shaman, serving as somewhat of a musical palate cleanser from hirsute fuzz-addled stoners, swampy muck-encrusted sludgers and austere, lachrymose doomsters – although still managing to be just as portentous and ominous as any of them, just ‘heavy’ in a different way.
With a new album, Return To Annihilation just out on Relapse and the announcement that they will be making their first ever European live appearance at Roadburn 2014 still fresh in our stunned ears, we figured it was about time that we had a chat to them…
Thanks for your time gents, I guess the first thing I should do is congratulate you on the Roadburn announcement and ask you how it feels to be coming to Europe after all of this time?
Terence: It feels great, we’ve been asked to come for about five years or more, but the time and situation never worked out so it is great all of it has worked out and at Roadburn too! It’s very exciting.
André: We’re super stoked about this. We’ve wanted to play in Europe for a long time.
Steven: It’s definitely exciting to head over to play Roadburn. Things just aligned correctly and we are able to finally do it. This won’t be the final trip that’s for sure.
Any plans for more European dates, or is this an exclusive?
Terence: That is in the works as we speak.
Steven: Yes, it’s in the works.
You seem to be playing out live a lot more often of late, how are you settling into live performance?
Terence: It’s been great to play this past summer and getting ready for the shows this Fall. Certain songs have really taken on their own life.
André: It’s been fun to perform stuff from the new album live, although it’s challenging to perform some of it, since we wrote it without thinking about how to pull songs in the live setting.
Steven: We’ve just had these opportunities to play, not as much as we’d like to and I know there are folks out there wanting to see us, but our schedules have been a bit tight, but that will change in 2014, we’ll be playing live a bit more. It’s something we love to do, and with this new record we really created some tracks that are meant to be heard, and seen in a live situation. As Terence mentioned, some of the tracks, both new and old, have evolved into something very special.
Now that Steven has been with you for several years, how has the dynamic or working practice changed?
Terence: It hasn’t changed, just evolved. I think we have kind of delved deeper into our interests, influences and inspirations more. We’ve shared more and I think it puts us on a good footing to create when we get to create.
André: Our project is always going to change because that’s who we are. Now that we live in separate cities, our working approach has shifted a bit, but it’s good to challenge ourselves to create in new ways.
Has the change in geographical conditions between the three of you affected things at all, musically speaking?
Terence: Certainly we can’t get out and play as often, but we just have to be more deliberate. And honestly it is nothing a phone call or a few e-mails can’t solve. I think we just try and make our live stuff be as special as possible and plan recording when we can.
André: The way we worked was always changing even when we lived in the same city. If this change has done anything, it’s forced us to be more focused when we play live and write music.
Steven: Not really. I mean it’s 2013, right? We can chat about ideas and direction over the phone, and send files via email to swap ideas. But all the recording takes place in one room, with the three of us on hand.
I only ask as listening to the latest album and seeing some recent live recordings it struck me that the newer material seems to be less dense and more geared toward easier live performance – with a leaning toward the sound of your ‘Dort Ist Der Weg’ 7″, more so than a linear progression from The Clearing/Final Epoch material. Am I wide of the mark there?
Terence: You know that 7″ Dort Ist Der Weg was a bit of a guiding light for us when we made Return to Annihilation. To try and think about generating that feeling in a more condensed space. Or to change up the parts a bit more, to challenge ourselves. I do think it is a progression from The Clearing though. But even on The Clearing the A-side is three shorter tracks followed by a full B-side. That B-side is a slab. I liked that contrast. I think with RtA we wanted to try and expand that further, segment it, organize it differently.
André: The “Dort Ist Der Weg” 7″ was the last thing that we recorded as Locrian without collaborators since the Clearing. We liked the idea of doing some more rock-oriented stuff.
Steven: Yeah, we wanted the challenge, that’s for sure. We also wanted this record to be a bit more accessible, but still wanting people to think a bit. Your not going to get everything in just one listen, it’ll take a few focused listens, and I hope people still have the attention span to wait for it. RtA is still very Locrian, but a bit more organized, and stepping forward a few steps… we’ll keep making those steps forward, we have to.
How is being signed to Relapse working out for you? They certainly seem to be providing the support that you need.
Terence: It’s been very nice. I don’t want to slight the labels that supported us though for a long time from Utech and Fan Death to Handmade Birds and Profound Lore. I think in some ways it takes all of these labels to help make something like what we’re doing stand out.
André: Yes, it’s been really nice being on Relapse. They are a really small office that does a lot of stuff. It’s exciting. Also, yes, we feel lots of love for the labels that we’ve worked with in the past.
Steven: I have nothing but great things to say about Relapse. They have been incredibly helpful, and supportive. This relationship will continue forward. I also have to say that every other label we have worked with, or at least since I’ve been part of Locrian, have been supportive and have backed us 100%. I’m a huge supporter of all these labels, and will continue to be. They all work very hard, and pour everything into what they love, releasing music that should be heard by more ears.
All three of you are fairly prolific in a number of areas between you, is it sometimes difficult to get back into the ‘Locrian’ headspace when you’ve been working on something else with different collaborators, or is it just something that comes naturally at this point?
Terence: No, I mean I kind of always have ideas going through my head. And all of our logistics take a long time so we’re essentially always working on Locrian. I look forward to creating with André and Steven and playing live, letting songs have their own life.
André: No, not all all difficult, but for me, it’s challenging to think about what we’ll do next, since I’m interested in continuing to explore our boundaries.
Steven: Not really when it comes to Locrian. It seems like these days I’m thinking and working on various ideas more within the Locrian mindset, even if it’s just listening to music at home and piecing together ideas, or running through new parts that could work at the practice space, which I try to do a couple times a week. But when it comes to working with the other projects I’m involved with – some of those rarely play out live or record that often – it can be a bit tricky at times, but it’s just a matter of staying focused and slipping back into the overall vibe of the music that’s happening. It’s like riding a bike, you know? A little premeditation, homework, and conversations with the other artists involved doesn’t hurt either.
Speaking of collaborators, Locrian is known for, amongst other things, being genuinely collaborative with other artists – as opposed to just doing a straight ‘split’ release – what is it about this process that you all enjoy? What do you look for in a collaborator?
Terence: I enjoy the end result, but I also enjoy how much work I have to put in. It challenges me, I have to compromise and listen. I think it’s hard enough for me to do that as an individual, then put me in a band, but then put that band with one or two, or three people, and that is a lot of voices.
André: It helps me to see how different people approach working on material. I know that our collaborations with Christoph Heemann, Mamiffer, and Horseback really helped me to think about approaching creating music in a different way for this new album.
Do you have any more collaborations on the horizon?
Steven: Not that we know of.
What are your plans as a band, if any, between now and Roadburn?
Terence: Work on new material for the follow up to RtA, and play some dates in the midwest US this Fall.
André: I’m planning to start writing some music and hopefully getting all of my equipment fixed.
Steven: Yeah, we have a few shows in the fall, and then we start working on new material for the follow up record that we’ll most likely record in the summer of 2014. We are still planning to play more shows before that point though. We’d like to head to Europe/UK, and a full west-coast tour in the states.
The influence of JG Ballard is deeply felt in the visuals you tend to use and also, in a more abstract way, in the actual music too, would you say that Return To Annihilation is the culmination of this Ballardian strain?
Terence: I would say obviously we were inspired by Ballard, I had just finished High Rise actually. What a great book. But really it was less about directly referencing Ballard or Delaney and trying to make something that was ours. Our own private dystopia. I think Ballard allowed us to help analyse where we are, what world we live in and hopefully with Return to Annihilation we moved onto our own ideas.
Thanks again for your time guys, any final words?
Terence: Thanks for the great questions, hope to see you when we go overseas.
Steven: Thanks for the questions, to everyone reading this article, and for listening, We hope to see you all very soon. Cheers!
Return To Annihilation is out now on Relapse Records.
Interviewed by: Paul Robertson