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Earth’s Dylan Carlson: Live Music Is ‘Becoming More Important’

Joseph P. Traina

Known as the champions of drone and the forebearers to such acts as Sunn O))), the riffs of Dylan Carlson and Earth have gone well beyond just being called influential. Carlson’s mark on metal’s slowest — and most perplexing — of subgenres can never be fully understood. Yet after 21 years, he’s still hard at work. Carlson caught up with Noisecreep to discuss the forthcoming ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1,’ and he revealed that much of the record was done fully improvised.

“In a way, it was kind of a throwback to the old days,” the guitarist told Noisecreep. “Obviously in the old days, we didn’t have as much time in the studio. So things were a little down and dirty, as they say.”

He continued, “With the exception of the title track, the rest were riffs we worked up two weeks before we went into the studio. So they were done in a more live situation.”

Keeping overdubs to a bare minimum — the title track having absolutely none — a sound was captured that’s closer to the open and warm sonic shifts that hover at an Earth live show. Though still keeping to the Americana and jazz that solidified itself on 2008’s ‘The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull,’ this looser recording was part of the plan for full-lengths six and seven (a part two was recorded at the same time). In Carlson’s eyes, it’s a sound more bands are trying to bring back.

“As the way of the industry changes, more people buy vinyl or download — as opposed to CDs, I guess. I think live music is becoming more important, like it was before the recording artist became the privileged one of the music community,” he explained. “Bands seem to be becoming more known for their live performances.”

But maybe bigger acts are getting this message, too. “I was flipping through the channels the other day and there was a Paul Mccartney show from some festival,” recalled Carlson, surprised by what he saw. “It was amazing to me, because it was just him and some guys playing. There was no huge production. It seems people are really excited by that.”

For Carlson, it’s low-key performances like McCartney’s that hold one of his favorite parts of performing: interaction with the audience. “I always felt the audience participates to a greater degree. They’re not passive recipients of a spectacle. They’re active listeners and active participants.”

“I know it’s a dirty word… the Grateful Dead,” Carlson laughted. “I was reading interviews with Jerry Garcia, talking about how the audience was just as important as the band — which a lot of people don’t view it that way. The band is always the privileged member of the equation. I think that’s an arrogant attitude.”

But things may always be different with instrumental music, as is the case for Earth. With no lyrics and bold vocal statements, fans are forced to think and let the music take them somewhere. What’s great, as Carlson admitted, is when he and the fans are on the same page.

“When people talk to me about … what they think about a song is similar to what I think about a song — I always find that cool. There’s something going on here. I’m doing something right.”

‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1′ comes out Feb. 7 via Southern Lord.

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