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Interview

Krieg's Neill Jameson: "I Felt Alive Again" While Writing New Album

Krieg's "Transient" - a tale of being a stranger in your own mind with no place to call home told through the genre of black metal - is coming out on September 2nd via Candlelight Records (reviewed here).

Both an intensely personal story and a collaboration of creativity with newly recruited members, band mastermind Neill Jameson got in touch with us at Metalunderground.com to explain the process behind the album and what's going on with the lyrical themes and cover art.

In the full interview below, Neill explains what the band will be doing to celebrate 20 years of existence, what happened with the group since the release of previous album "The Isolationist," and how Krieg meshes songs with drastically different sounds in a live setting.

xFiruath: Krieg is actually coming up on it's 20th anniversary before too long – have you guys thought of doing anything special to mark that occasion?

Neill: We’re going to do a recording of some of the older material - “Destruction Ritual” and back - with some covers and a few new songs to mark the occasion. Right now I’m searching for the right place to release it. We’ll also do a few shows where it’s mostly old material. Maybe a commemorative plate that can only go up in value? I haven’t thought too far into it. When I first took a hiatus in 2005 I thought I was finished with Krieg forever and now nearly ten years later I’m doing more writing and performing than I ever thought I would. It’s strange how that sort of thing works out.

xFiruath: It's been four years since “The Isolationist” - can you give a brief rundown of what the band has been up to in that time, and when did you start writing for “Transient?”

Neill: For the first two years after “The Isolationist” we only did a few shows, ended up canceling more than we played, and a few smaller releases but it was also a difficult period in my life as I had made the decision to cease pharmaceutical treatment for bi-polar disorder and my life sort of fell apart and then magically began to sort itself out. In 2012 during the recording of the third and final Twilight record I realized that I was healthy again and my back was strong enough to put the effort both creatively and emotionally into putting Krieg where I wanted it to be. I formed a solid lineup and last year we began playing out constantly and building new relationships while strengthening old ones. Writing started to come to me easier, I felt alive again. We began a cycle of writing and recording which resulted in all of the EPs and finally “Transient.” With the new record, the bulk of the writing began late last Summer but some of the riffs that are on the record have been around since the 90’s, I just never was able to put them somewhere that truly fit.

xFiruath: How did the recording process for “Transient” go?

Neill: We recorded with Seth and Keith at Machines with Magnets in Rhode Island. Krieg had performed twice in their gallery space in 2009 and 2010 and I’d had them in the back of my mind for awhile. When I went up to record the collaboration record with The Body last summer it cemented that I wanted to do this record with them. They’re both very creative but not in an invasive Phil Spector kind of way, but in the way a mentor would guide you. The recording was done in five days in February. Our second guitarist on the record, Dylan, had just officially joined less than a month earlier but fit perfectly. Everyone was in a very creative space and the ideas were difficult to sort through because of how strong everything was coming together. We probably could have recorded another full-length on top of it. It was an incredibly positive experience.

xFiruath: What's going on with the themes and lyrics on “Transient?”

Neill: It’s a document of who I am right now and where my life is. It’s where my life has taken me the last four years. The sense of displacement, of not having a home, not having somewhere to belong, not even within your own mind. Alienation. Anger. Probably the most anger of any Krieg record since “Destruction Ritual” though expressed in a different manner than before. The human condition. My human condition.

xFiruath: Tell me about the photo on the album cover – where was it taken and how does it connect to the music?

Neill: It was done by a Philadelphia based artist named Alex Eckman-Lawn. I met Alex by chance when myself and my girlfriend wandered into a gallery show in Philadelphia a few years back. I found myself drawn to one artist’s work that was at the same time morbid but also really desolate. I got into a conversation with the curator of the gallery who ended up being Alex and we forged a friendship instantly and I made the offer for him to do the record art whenever we finally were able to get back into the studio. He’s also done some shirt designs for me as well. When the time came I sent him the record and told him some of the themes and explained that I wanted him to create what he heard when he listened to it. This was the result.

xFiruath: There are a lot of different sounds on this album, from pure black metal to black 'n roll and even some ambient and acoustic stuff – do you mix up the tracks for live shows, and what does the crowd reaction tend to be when playing these drastically different styles together?

Neill: The lineup I have right now has been with me for the better part of two years, with Dylan joining earlier this year, and we have a fairly consistent rehearsal schedule now so we go through set list ideas several times to try to give ourselves an idea of what works best together from each era of the band. I try not to pay attention to the crowd when we play and just focus on what I’m doing at the time otherwise I feel like I might make decisions based on reaction and not instinct and that’s cheating myself and my audience. So far the last few years we’ve had some great responses and the usual message board warriors who’ll complain if they don’t like what we’re wearing, what kind of instruments are used, or even if my hair is too short for their liking. Either way we’ll continue to do what we’re doing regardless until it’s no longer possible.

xFiruath: Is Krieg going to be playing any upcoming live shows soon to support the new album?

Neill: We’re doing a few shows with Philadelphia based sludge band Sunburster who my drummer plays bass for shortly, as well as another full performance of “the Black House” for that record’s 10th anniversary and our record release show will be supporting long time comrades Black Witchery in Philadelphia early September. Beyond that everything else is in the planning stages currently.

xFiruath: What other musical projects are you active with or have recently completed?

Neill: Right now my next non-Krieg related project is to finish the Le Chant Funebre recording we began last April which is a funeral doom band with myself on drums, bass, and vocals and Jeff Wilson from Wolvhammer/Chrome Waves on guitar as well as Jason Philips from Bringers of Disease on second guitar. I’m also talking to a lot of people about collaborations but it’s the sort of thing where it’ll get brought up to me to do vocals for something and sometimes it happens and sometimes it just fades away.

xFiruath: What's happening in your local metal scene and have you seen any memorable shows lately?

Neill: I spend most of my time musically in Philadelphia which has a very interesting and diverse scene between bands like Sadgiqacea, Angelcrust, Esoterica, Occult 45, Pissgrave, Castle Freak and many more. I haven’t been to a lot of shows this year but my favorite shows this year have been seeing Extinction of Mankind twice, Dropdead and Nails for the This is Hard Core aftershow, Bones when they swung through Philly and probably the best was seeing the final Angelcrust show in a dive in west Philly last month.

xFiruath: We're more than halfway through the year so far – what's been your favorite release this year and what are you looking forward to in metal in the near future?

Neill: Right now my favorite records of the year are split between the new Martyrdod, Earth, and Wolvhammer. I’m really looking forward to the new Mark Lanegan record and the new Leviathan.

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur is a freelance writer who writes for both entertainment and technical instruction sites. An avid fan of many different forms of metal, he has been involved in reviewing music for several years and is currently a contributing editor for Metalunderground.com

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