domingo, 12 de mayo de 2013


1. How and why did you decide to form Usnea? Was it your first band, or did you have a project before Usnea?

Joel: Usnea rose out of the ashes of Absence of Light, a project that Justin Cory was playing guitar for. It was more of a doom rock n' roll band in the vain of The Sword or Black Sabbath back then. A bunch of people left the band, JC hit up Zeke and I to start fresh and write new songs. With Zeke and I's influences the band slowed down considerably. We also added Johnny on second guitar which continued our progression into sludgery. We changed the name cause we weren't the same band at all anymore. All of us have been in a ton of bands before. I was in Dopesmoker and I have a solo black metal/dark ambient/post-punk band called Banishing.

2. How was the recording process of your self-titled album? How is the writing process; all ideas or is there a leader who imposes his judgment?

Zeke: Most of the songs on the album were collaboratively written. For example, the first half of "Chaoskampf" started as two riffs I'd been kicking around for a while and the other half came from working through the song at practice, trying out different ideas, etc. We spent a long time on each of these songs playing them over and over, fine-tuning sections, throwing out and re-working parts, etc. This album was really exciting to write - as our first works they represent our evolution from four guys jamming to a cohesive band. We didn't have a particular vision going in as to what we wanted to sound like - it evolved over time as we began writing and it drew upon ideas and influences from all of us. I think we're all pretty excited about our next album as well, which we're about 75% done writing, as it gives us the chance to bring some new ideas into our songs. It's definitely not going to be a carbon-copy of our last album - stylistically the new songs are similar but with some different influences (such as a bit more focus on death doom), etc. 

Joel: We recorded with Fester at Haywire Studios. The dude is a close friend of mine and a musical/recording genius. As far as song writing goes, the first record is primarily a mix of everyone's input. Zeke primarily wrote Chaoskampf (he plays guitar as well), Justin primarily wrote Brazen Bull, but we have a very democratic/everyone contributes style of songwriting in general. All of our songs have influences from everyone on them.

3. The band's sound is quite complex, at times reminiscent of black metal, has a lot of sludge, doom much of which reminds me elsewhere, Neurosis comes to mind. How would you define the sound of Usnea?

Zeke: This is a hard question. I would say we're definitely a "doom" band, but other than that we don't really fit into a specific category, though we're influenced by a lot of different styles. One thing I can say for sure is that during our songwriting process we've tried to inject melodies and harmonies into our music that give the songs feeling - often sorrowful or mournful - but we have also tried to stay away from making anything too pretty. Or putting it another way - we're trying to walk the line between beautiful sadness and disgusting anger.

4. Portland is a hotbed of extreme groups, how is your relationship with the other bands? Does it facilitate the local scene the emergence of new group?

Justin: I personally have my mind blown constantly by the sheer scope of creativity and energy in Portland, OR. We are just very lucky to be surrounded by so much talent and such a thriving and supportive music and art scene. The DIY punk and metal community are so big and diverse that there are more bands and sub-groups within that one could not hope to know/see them all. As for our relationship with other bands, we are really close with Stoneburner and Ephemeros. Atriarch are good friends as well. Pretty much every band with play with from Portland are also our friends who we go out to see and support outside of our own shows as well. We also tend to have some really great relationships with other bands on the West Coast, most notably Bell Witch in Seattle who played our first show with; Badr Vogu and Lycus in Oakland; Yob from Eugene, who pretty much inspired me to play doom in the first place so playing with them was incredible. New bands up here in Portland just have to do what any band does and cut their teeth playing shows and learning their way. We have been very fortunate to have the help of elder bands and our community helping us along the way. Our experience from previous bands we've been in also helps!

5. Tell us a little musical equipment and instruments that you use in the recording sessions and the ones you use live.

Zeke: We pretty much used the same equipment in the recording studio as we do live. The only difference is that during the recording we used an additional guitar amp for each guitar track. For example, Justin plays a 1972 Ampeg V4 live - during the recording process he recorded through the V4 as well as an Orange Thunderverb. And Johnny used his Mesa Boogie DC-10 and the Ampeg V4 I believe. For bass we use an Ampeg SVT and the drums are a big Yamaha kit from the 80s.
But basically the sound we got in the studio is exactly what we sound like live. We added a few things like some atmospheric samples and layered a few guitar parts, but overall the feel of the songs is identical to what we have live.

Justin: Zeke covered it all. The only difference live and on the record is that we were able to experiment with guitar tone and amp pairings to get a really full texture in a way that isn't possible live unless you have a lot of money (for gear) and a lot of room (for said gear). Just wanted to add that we have great speaker cabinets which is crucial in addition to having great amplifiers. If there are any nerds out there curious what we play (we are also nerds haha); I have an Orange 4x12 loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s and an Emperor 4x12 loaded with Eminence Wizards. Johnny has an 80's Mesa Boogie cab loaded with Black Shadows and Joel plays out of this weird but awesome Monolith 2x15 (not sure what speakers are in there). 

6. Your lyrics deal with some issues of some currently, what topics inspire you when composing? The world está muy fucked, right?

Justin: When we first started, Joel and I were really pissed off and politically motivated. The class warfare in this country and the climate here was really tense with Occupy across the US and a real awareness of economic injustice rippling out far and wide. Most of the lyrical themes on the first record deal with greed, capitalism, exploitation, the triumph of the worst possible traits in humanity, torture, inhumanity, etc… bleak stuff. On the new material, Joel and I both kinda strayed from the political despondency we were in before. We never set out to be a "political" band so even though I believe that the personal and artistic is always political even if it tries not to be, we have branched out with our lyrics and the theme of the new songs. Our interest in the human dramas of old and mysticism, dark periods of human reasoning (or lack there-of), the manipulation and usurpation of reason by religion etc… that's the stuff we've been writing about lately. We like to toy with the imagery and poetry of the occult and dark mysticism but from an aesthetic perspective since we are atheists, skeptics and science dorks. 

7. What bands inspired you when forming the group? What are your influences?

Justin: Too many to list. Our local buddies Sotneburner, Ephemeros, Atriarch, Yob, Bell Witch, Badr Vogu, Nux Vomica, Aldebaran, Amarok, Honduran, Knelt Rote, Ritual Necromancy, Hellshock, Tragedy, etc etc… Outside of our friend's bands; Noothgrush, Graves at Sea, Thou, Corrupted, Khanate, Electric Wizard, Moss, Loss, Burning Witch, Thorr's Hammer, Bathory, Weakling, The Gault, Asunder, Anhedonist, Autopsy, Mournful Congregation, Evoken, Trouble, Pentagram, Venom, Ludicra, Darkthrone, Deathspell Omega, Worship, BLACK SABBATH, etc etc… I mean, I could write too many bands here haha. Other influences outside of music would be Carl Sagan, HP Lovecraft, Ursula K Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, George R R Martin, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, etc etc. 

8. What can we expect Usnea shortly about concerts, new material?

Zeke: We're embarking on a west coast tour May 16-31st where we'll be incorporating some new material as well as old. We have a new album mostly written at this point, and we expect to enter the recording studio in October/November. So next Spring we should have a new album out and we're planning on doing a full US tour as well. Unfortunately this Summer/Fall we're all a bit too busy to go on a national tour, but we'll be playing dates up and down the west coast, including Dead Fest in August.

9. How Usnea is being welcomed by critics and the public? Are you happy with the response you have achieved with your first job? How far are you going with the group?

Zeke: We're all pretty overwhelmed with the positive response we've gotten. The reviews of the album have been great, and our reception at our shows has been great as well. We've managed to play some amazing shows locally with bands such as Yob, Bell Witch, Atriarch, Whitehorse, Stoneburner, Black Tusk, etc and we're continually humbled that we've been asked to play such great shows. Moving forward we're just going to continue growing as a band - writing new material, doing bigger tours, and of course inspiring each other and having fun.

10. Thank you very much for your time, if you want to add something for people who like Usnea, this is the place, thanks. I hope the questions are to your liking.

Justin: Thank you for asking them and for your contributions to the DIY music omniverse! Hopefully we will get out of the US at some point and play shows for metal heads elsewhere!! 

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