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You have a number of side projects -- Old Man Gloom, Lotus Eaters, House of Low Culture -- and I imagine a few others [laughs]. You have Isis, you've got your label Hydra Head, and you're heavily involved with artwork and visual representation for all of that.

Aaron: Yup.

How do you balance life in the midst of all that?

Aaron: Umm... I don't. [Laughs] Everything's constantly a mess, basically. I like to think that I have it together at all times, but sadly that's not really the case. I don't feel like I'm ever neglecting one thing or another, but I just kinda have to fit those things in when I can. I'd say that Hydra Head is my "job" -- it's definitely the thing that I spend a lot of time every day doing, but Isis is definitely my primary focus when it comes to playing music. Old Man Gloom, Lotus Eaters, and House of Low Culture basically just occur whenever Isis has down time.

When you're writing music, do you write stuff specifically for Isis or for your other bands? How do you decide what goes where?

Aaron: Old Man Gloom has become the place where I can do things that I can't get away with in Isis -- things like Slayer riffs and stoner riffs, and what not. Basically, when I come up with something if I feel like it's going to be rejected by Isis it becomes an Old Man Gloom riff. Old Man Gloom has sorta become the recycle bin for Isis stuff. There's very rarely a point where I write something and I have to decide where it's going to go. Usually just by the sound of it and following my intuition I take it where it needs to go.

[ aaron turner ]
[ give a listen! ] "Carry" MP3
96kbs/46sec/557kb

Old Man Gloom is also a very spur-of-the-moment kinda thing, so I have a tendency to just write stuff specifically for Old Man Gloom if I know that we're going to be going into the studio. With the last couple of records, Caleb [Scofield] and Nate [Newton] -- who are also in Cave In and Converge -- do as much or more of the songwriting than I do, so these days more of my songwriting efforts are spent on Isis.

Ever since I started playing music 12 or 13 years ago, I've had a pretty big passion for it, and any time I pick up a guitar I end up wanting to write something. I just can't resist, basically. For me it's more a need. It's something I need to do, rather than something I have to make myself do.

The artwork you do is obviously a major component of the music that you write, and I'm sure its creation is informed by the music. But I wonder if you ever find the reverse to be the case, where your songwriting gets influenced by some of the artwork you've been doing?

Aaron: Yes and no. I feel like both the songwriting and the artwork come from the same place. When it comes to artwork, it's inspired by the music but also by other graphic design, paintings, and sometimes film. The same is true of the music. I think that there's so many different elements that influence both that they're essentially drawing from the same place or places. Often with Isis graphics, when we've written music and I'm working on something for the album, there's images that come to me when I listen to the music and I just have an idea where it needs to go. Also, every time we've done an album other people in the band have had things in mind that they've throw my way as well. So it's sort of a collective effort where I come up with ideas and sketch them out, then bring them to the group to see what the rest thinks. It's really kind of a dialogue between the two: having the music go to the art and then the art back to the music, and everything feeds off of itself.

I wanted to talk a little about the follow up to Oceanic. You talked a little about plans for a collaborative remix album, and I'm wondering if it was going to be along the lines of SGNL>05?

Aaron: What our hope is is that with the people we've got involved are not just going to do straight-up remixes. Like Joe Preston, for instance. We've got him committed to doing it, and he says he's going to program some drum tracks. We want it to be more of a collaborative thing, where people are taking our original aesthetic and maybe just warping it a little bit and adding their own sounds and personality to it, rather than sort of reconstructing one of our tracks. We do have so many different people involved who all do different types of things, that it's hard to know what's going to come out of it all, but basically we're just hoping that everyone involved will be excited enough about it to really spend some time on it, and that they'll not stray too far from what we initially did with the material so that it's not a completely incohesive, scattered mass of tracks. But I guess we won't really know until the tracks start rolling in.

Have you been doing any songwriting or recording outside of that for the next proper Isis album?

Aaron: The remix will probably be the next thing the band actually releases. I don't know when that will be, but it takes us so long to write songs that the remix album is something we wanted to tackle in the meantime because it really doesn't require too much involvement on our part other than selecting the artists and sending out the tracks. But now that everyone in the band has moved to Los Angeles, as soon as the tour with Mogwai is done we're going to start writing material for what will be the next Isis album.

[ house of low culture - edward's lament ]

I've been writing stuff on my own, and our keyboard player Cliff [Meyer] has been writing stuff. Aaron our drummer has been working on stuff as well. A few of us got laptops recently, so we're going to try to assimilate that into our setup, and... I dunno. I guess it's time for us to make the next step as far as what we're going to do for the next album, but as of now I can't really say what that's going to be.

I'm assuming it will come out on Ipecac?

Aaron: Yeah. We're happy with them, and they seem happy with us as well, so I don't see being anywhere else for the time being.

I woke up this morning to the radio announcing that Johnny Cash has passed away, and it got me thinking about how they really don't make people of his caliber anymore, and made me wonder who in the current generation of artists will become that kind of icon and have that kind of standing 40 years down the road. As someone who's a label head, a musician, and who spends a lot of time listening to various music from various origins, do you think it's possible... do you think that person's out there? Or is the industry and the climate such today that it's really not possible to have an artist with that kind of artistic longevity and creativity?

Aaron: It's hard to say. I feel like most of the artists who have any sort of substance and anything to say these days are in the underground. It's hard for anybody to rise to the level of popularity that Johnny Cash had, so I think that any of the best artists from our generation are probably going to be forgotten twenty or thirty years down the line. It's a sad thing to say, but it just seems like the music industry is so geared towards selling and towards making people into fashion icons and celebrities, rather than focusing on the content and the quality of their music, that it seems almost impossible to me that anybody who inhabits that realm now is ever going to be remembered as Johnny Cash will be and is now.

For me, personally, I feel like people like Michael Gira or Tom Waits are very important artists, but I just don't see them being remembered or received the same way as Johnny Cash has been, simply because people's tastes are solely dictated by the radio and MTV, which won't play anything that's halfway decent.

So I'm saying... [Laughs] I'm saying there's no hope for anybody good to be remembered from this era of music.

I think there might be some bands that are looked back at as being pretty important, like Radiohead. I feel they're a band that's changed music to a certain degree and has created some sort of legacy. But other than that I see most of the stuff that's out these days as a flash in the pan that no one will give a shit about 20 years from now.

It's too bad.

Aaron: It is.

It just got me thinking if, looking back in hindsight, that actually was the case for artists like Cash back when their careers were starting, or if the industry is really that different. I think that it really is that different.

Aaron: Yeah, I do too. Like I said, I feel that most of the really inspired stuff that's going on in music these days is in the underground, and probably won't extend to far beyond that in most cases.

I don't even feel like there's that many quality rock bands in the mainstream sense. If you look at the really quality bands from the '60s and '70s -- Cream, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and all those bands -- not only were they popular, but they were also very innovative for the time, and were doing some groundbreaking things with their music. Most of the bands today that sort of have that are just terrible and uninspired, and lacking any sort of aesthetic. I just feel like rock these days is pretty lifeless.

On the web:
Isis

Inside Earpollution:
Oceanic album review

[ sgnl>05 ]
[ give a listen! ] "Celestial (Signal Fills
the Void)" MP3
96kbs/40sec/489kb

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