Neurosis interview by Flox ( Fight For Your Mind ) Answers by Steve Von Till. Originally printed in Sedition Magazine France, reposted with permission.
PE: After 27 years Neurosis is releasing a new album in 2012. Can you let us know what to expect from this new comer ? Will it be the soundtrack to the end of the world ?
Steve: Like every new work we embark on, it is the next step in our evolution, the next bend in our path. You can expect it to be honest, emotional, heavy, and beautiful. We are extremely proud and happy with the way the music has guided us. It explores some new sonic territory for us. Some of the ways we are approaching our heavy riffing is new and challenging, the keyboard sounds are really amazing and powerful and Jason is always blowing us away with his rhythms.
PE: Throughout the years Neurosis has evolved from an anarcho punk background going to a much more metallic post hardcore and experimental outlet. Have you found yourselves evolving alot through musical and life experiences that have made you trespass certain boundries to creat your own monster ?
Steve: To us, the freedom we discovered in our early days of what was called “punk” or independent DIY music back then meant there were no rules. We do what we want and what moves and inspires us. If you don’t like it, tough shit, you don’t have to listen to it then. This is completely self centered expression. We don’t cater to anyone’s expectations. We carry that initial inspiration with us always. We have never fit in a box or category and those names people try to give music are completely meaningless to us. We have outlasted most names, scenes, and categories and I am sure we will outlast all of the current terminology as well. We evolve as human beings expressing ourselves through music.
PE: Of course all of your records have a very deeply anchored philosophy and art! These two aspects of the band as well with live performances have made Neurosis a very unique combo and an influential band worldwide. How does all of this come together ? Where do you draw your inspiration from to make all of these aspects come together to make masterpieces ? Are you all pretty much perfectionnists ?
Steve: We are definitely not perfectionists. This music is very organic and comes from the soul. We don’t labor over it intellectually. There is no such thing as “perfect”. I think when people obsess on trying to reach perfection they often sterilize any real emotion and humanity right out of their art. Any ideas that may come from our brains are inherently less powerful than the natural flow that shines when we surrender to that driven force that exists both outside and within us. We record in a pure manner, live as a band straight to tape, no tricks, no bullshit. The philosophy is the philosophy of being emotional beings contemplating our existence. The artwork tries to give a visual backdrop for the emotional landscapes created by the music. It is hard to describe with words. That is why we use sound.
PE:Speaking of philosophy in your latest album ‘Given to the Rising’ there is a text by Jack London to illustrate the album. Is it the adventurous, social, audacious side of the man that made you decide to take him as food for thought ? What others litterature, writers have influenced you over time and most recently as well ?
Steve: Jack London is an influence for many reasons, but probably mostly as an influence to live an inspired life, to live the way you want to. That quote stands on its own as a brilliant light.
PE: The tribal influence in Neurosis helps to construct the quite mysterious aura that comes out of your music. Is tribalism something you’d like to live as individuals ? What aspects attracks you to these types of cultures ? Are there still ways / alternatives of escaping / countering the 21st century hideous capitalist reign of globalisation ?
Steve: In an ideal sense, I would love to live in a culture that was artistically, economically, spiritually, and naturally tied to a specific landscape and the natural cycles of life. Unfortunately we are living in times that, in my opinion, are very disconnected from our true nature. That is our current reality, however, and we must deal with it as best we can, and create our own reality and find our own meaning in this world of distraction.
PE: Relapse is rereleasing on vinyl two essential albums from your discography ‘Souls at Zero’ and ‘Enemy of the Sun’. Are there any other plans of releasing any of your other albums on vinyl again since the originals are too expensive on ebay and long out of print ? Do you have the rights to your albums out on Lookout! and Alternative Tentacles ?
Steve: We have the rights to everything ourselves except for the few CDs we originally released through Relapse. We have a good relationship with them and like to work together so we will continue to work together to reissue our catalog on vinyl as a joint project.
PE: How did Neurot records come to exist ? What advantages and disadvantages do you have owning your own record label ? Is it a way to still relate to the DIY ethics ?
Steve: In 1999 we formed Neurot Recordings in order to create our own home for all of our recordings. It just seemed better to have everything come directly from us. It somehow seems more satisfying to be able to purchase the art directly from those who craft it. It probably comes partly from our DIY ethics, as well as our longing for more connection to every aspect of what we do. We also wanted to offer other like minded artists that we enjoy a home for some of their works. We manage ourselves, book ourselves, put out our own records, etc. It doesn’t make sense to have it any different. There are no disadvantages to owning our own label that I can see except for since we are small and grassroots, our resources are limited, but that also makes sense to operate a business that exists within its means and not to be come part of the debt culture.
PE: Even though the atmosphere that comes out of the music of Neurosis is quite mournful there is always a great deal of hope, human emancipation, freedom, and a certain will to go forward into a better future. Is this how you interpret things ? Is the fact of having children something that helps to try to be positive ? Does the future seem bright for the younger ones ?
Steve: Overcoming adversity, confronting our demons, dealing with both the dark and light in our music as we move forward in our personal and group evolution, is how we find peace in this world. I cannot predict the future and I don’t know if it is bright or not, every day is a day of hope and heartbreak, but humans are made of strong stuff, or at least they were, so all we can do is live for today in a way that hopefully inspires those will be our future.
PE: Even though a great deal of songs have a certain dark and metaphoric / mystical stand, we also feel a strong down to earth voice of men’s internal confrontation’s and dualities, about life and death, day to day problems of the working class, misery, nature, etc… Is their a very political view that you want to stand out of your music ? What are some of the subjects you feel these days should be coming out of your music ? Do you try to transmit some ideologies through your work ?
Steve:We definitely do not want to put forth a political view or ideology. No two people on this earth have the same exact ideology or politics. It is by its very nature a source of conflict. We are better able through music to deal with the emotional and spiritual forces that lie behind everything else.
PE: Can you tell us a few words on the solo projects you have been doing these last years ( Steve and Scott ). Is it important to create outside of Neurosis and what do you get out of it ? Any projects coming up ? And what about Tribes of Neurot ? Anything happening on that side ?
Steve:Scott, Wino and I will soon have a record of Townes Van Zandt songs coming out on our great friend Ansgar Glade’s label, My Proud Mountain, in Europe and on Neurot in the states. Scott just finished a new solo album and has been touring a lot this winter. I am working on new material for my next album. The inspiration we have from making music seems to be infinite and requires many forms of expression. I think putting ourselves out there in a more exposed manner challenges us to find a more personal voice that stands apart from our work together and in turn gives us new confidence to inform Neurosis and a bring a wider palette of colors to the table.
PE: We can see Scott and Steve talk about Amebix in their own vidéo documentary. They seem to have been a great influence for you two individuals. Is it a band that really got you guys into this kind of music ? Any words to share to them in these pages ?
Steve: Amebix have been a huge influence on Neurosis. When we were just starting out, they were an example of how heavy guitar music with a more earthly spiritual outlook could crawl out of the DIY punk movement without any of the usual trappings. I really cannot sum up their importance with words. It is so amazing to see them make a triumphant return after all this time. We are eternally grateful for their music and influence.
PE: In some of your songs you refer or name ‘God’ quite a few times! What is your poing of view / position on religion ?
Steve: Spirituality is a very individual thing and as a band we do not define it but acknowledge that we all deal in our own ways with the great mystery. ..