Steve Von Till Discusses Latest Neurosis Releases And Upcoming Material
Band Photo: Neurosis (?)
U.S. based act Neurosis is a band that doesn't do labels and doesn't care about genres, and the members aren't shy about that fact. While discussing how the band is frequently referred to as sludge or atmospheric hardcore, guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till stated,"The words people use to define microgenres are just ridiculous. Cyber death doom dip, whatever the hell. It doesn’t mean anything. What matters to us is if it has an emotional impact. Does it make you feel something real? Does it feel honest and genuine? Is it intense? Is it original? Nothing else matters."
Steve spoke with me recently about the band releasing the "Live at Roadburn 2007" album, as well as the re-release of the early "Enemy of the Sun" disc. We also discussed the writing of new Neurosis material, and what the group has planned for live appearances in the coming year.
xFiruath: Let’s start out with your own history in music and why you first got into metal.
Steve: I grew up obsessed with rock music. My parents listened to a lot of music and I was just hooked. The second I got my first taste in the mid ‘70s of AC/DC, Ted Nugent, KISS, and stuff like that I was hooked. Rock and roll is in the blood and I never even for a second thought I could shake it. It’s part of my being and in the cells of my body. My body is about guitar and music and sound and appreciating sound. From the time I played my first three chords I was finding people to play with for a band. I grew up in a cool era in the Bay Area where people were making all kinds of strange loud music in the do-it-yourself punk rock scene. You didn’t have to be good, you just had to have some attitude and a fucking amp. That’s what all started the journey right there.
xFiruath: Are you guys actively working with other projects outside of Neurosis right now?
Steve: Several of us have lots of stuff going on all the time. All of us have more than one project at one point or another. Scott and I both have solo projects where we record song writing type material under our own names. I have a more psychedelic guitar based project called Harvestman. Scott’s in Shrinebuilder as well. Jason is drumming for Sleep right now. We’ve got lots of irons in the fire all the time.
xFiruath: I’ve been listening to your latest album “Given to the Rising” and reading a lot about Neurosis recently, and I’ve seen descriptions like “sludge” or “post metal” or “atmospheric hardcore.” How does the band label itself in that way?
Steve: We don’t. What’s the point? What does that do? Is that word going to mean anything in five years? We’ve been together for 25 years. The words people use to define microgenres are just ridiculous. Cyber death doom dip, whatever the hell. It doesn’t mean anything. What matters to us is if it has an emotional impact. Does it make you feel something real? Does it feel honest and genuine? Is it intense? Is it original? Nothing else matters. Why even call it anything? Because of our huge guitars we find a lot of our fan base in the metal scene, but I don’t even think of it as metal. I think of it as some sort of extreme emotional rock music. Those words just don’t mean that much. “Hardcore” doesn’t mean the same thing it did when we grew up with the first wave of hardcore. It means something totally different now. It used to be British bands with mohawks who sound like Discharge. Now it means some sort of East coast metal sounding stuff. The stuff all changes with time. It’s all heavy rock music. It all wouldn’t exist without Black Sabbath and Deep Purple and the forefathers of the genre who probably didn’t call themselves heavy metal at the time. There was no such term. To me, that’s all that matters, is if it moves you. If it doesn’t move you, don’t listen to it.
xFiruath: You guys are about to release a live album that was recorded back in 2007. Where did you record that one at and what took so long for it to see release?
Steve: It was never our intention to put out a live record. We don’t go out and record our gigs for the purpose of releasing live records. In fact, we don’t have that many live recordings, so it’s kind of this odd ball thing that was sitting around for awhile and we were like “Wow, we do have that really nice recording from Roadburn.” Roadburn is one of the best heavy music festivals ever in the world. It’s in a small venue run by people who give a shit. There’s always an amazing amount of underground bands. It’s the ultimate three day gig you’d ever want to see. Everybody all in the same spot, hanging out and having a good time. It’s very communal and an amazing place. So the first time we went there in 2007, it was one of those concerts that sticks out in your entire career of thousands of gigs. That one was special and it just so happened they had a cool multi-track of it they recorded for their country’s national radio program. In order to fill the gap between records we thought we should put out the Roadburn record. We got the multi-tracks and mixed it down ourselves into something worthwhile. It was an idea that kind of bubbled over time and it just so happened that now was the time for it to be released.
xFiruath: You’re also re-issuing the “Enemy of the Sun” album. What’s going on with the re-issue that’s been changed from the original?
Steve: The main thing different from the original is that we updated the artwork to be more in line. When we first issued that on our own label, we issued “Souls At Zero” and “Enemy of the Sun.” We just thought in hindsight we could have done a better job with the packaging and the artwork. Looking back at that stuff and looking into remanufacturing it we had lost a lot of the original art files. That was kind of the first few waves of people using digital instead of film to do the design work. Either the data was corrupt or missing or on some defunct format so we had Josh kind of revisit it, as he’s been revisiting a lot of our back catalog now, and giving it a consistent artwork on the outside so when you see your Neurosis collection up on your shelf it all has a similar feel as an entire history of the band. The music is identical, we haven’t remastered or anything. We’re still happy with the way it turned out sonically, but basically it’s just a visual update and we’re re-pushing it. We never really issued it properly in Europe, so it’s also to give it a “hey here we are” in Europe.
xFiruath: Your last album has been out for a few years now. Are you working on new material at this point?
Steve: Yeah, we’ve been working on some tunes. With us the process is always pretty ambiguous. It’s not like we’re going to say on this date we’re going to start writing and be done by this time. It’s kind of like, however it happens, it happens. Basically right now is the time were its starting to accelerate. We’ve had some pieces on the burner for awhile. We’ve destroyed it, and revisited it, and now the energy is starting to snowball. I’m hoping by this time next year, if not have it recorded, we’ll have it ready to be recorded.
xFiruath: What is the band doing as far as live shows in the near future?
Steve: We’re playing part of Godspeed You Black Emperor’s hosting of the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England, doing two days there and then one London show. Not full-blown tours, but we’re probably playing San Francisco in January. We’ve yet to announce that. Maryland Deathfest next May and hopefully we’ll get to Europe next summer for maybe a week. We kind of take it as it goes and as we can get away from our day jobs all at the same time. We’re always out there playing a few gigs a year. Slow motion world tour is the way we like to do it. We play where we are wanted, when we want, with the people we want to work with. We don’t fill our time with bullshit. Each time we’re actually all able to get out and be away and be invited to somewhere cool, we treat it as good fortune and a special event and we don’t take it for granted.
xFiruath: What bands are you listening to and what bands influence the way you play music?
Steve: A million bands influence the way I play music. With my initial influences, I always wanted my guitar to sound like, and I didn’t understand the sound, but when I heard Deep Purple records and I heard how thick that was, I was like “I guess I want to sound like Ritchie Blackmore.” Then as I got older and I could tell what the different instruments were doing I realized I didn’t want to sound like Ritchie Blackmore. I wanted to sound like what it sounds like when Ritchie Blackmore and the organ player Jon Lord are playing at the same time. I like just whatever seemed original in its own box. Black Sabbath, Joy Division, Black Flag. Everybody who put up their middle finger and sounded like they totally crafted their own sound. They were mimicking anybody. That’s the stuff that really turns me on and gets me going.
I’m a lifelong music fan and I’m always trying to discover things I may have missed over the years. Things that were way before my time or underground gems I never heard of, or some obscure holy grail from somewhere. It’s just fun to tear through music and try to find all those inspiring bits. It’s hard to say what’s inspiring me right now, it’s all different. If I look at the CDs in my truck right now I’ve got everything from Laughing Hyenas records from the early ‘90s to the Ramones first record. Tom Waits’ last record. King Crimson’s “Red.” I’m always out there listening to new stuff. One of my favorite bands we’re actually fortunate enough to have on our own label Neurot Recorings. It’s U.S. Christmas out of North Carolina, they are just stunning. They play some really heavy psychedelic stuff I love listening to. They’ve got a new one coming out in September on Neurot.
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